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New Torah Presentation

Notes for remarks by Hon. David Kilgour, M.P., Edmonton Southeast
to the Beth Israel Congregation
on the occasion of the presentation of a New Sefer Torah
Edmonton, February 28, 1999


It is a great honour to share with you this joyous and historic occasion of the presentation of your new Sefer Torah. On behalf of the federal government, I congratulate you on the achievement in acquiring this new Torah.

I commend especially the Beth Israel Sisterhood and its hardworking co-president for your work and dedication in making this day a reality.

This occasion bespeaks the tremendous power of community: of common values, common goals, and common tasks. A huge undertaking such this, from ceaseless fundraising to the painstaking process of inscription and every step in between, is a testimony to the capacity of people to pull together when inspired by a vision. I trust that each of you will feel proud of your new Torah – all 304,805 letters of it – and cherish the memory of the hard work and the spirit of solidarity that guided you through the process of making it part of your synagogue.

And I think the word "process" is key here. The Torah, your forebears and community can be seen as processes, as journeys and not destinations. In the same way the Sefer Torah, with its oral tradition, flexibility and breadth, is a living scripture of interpretation rather than a text bounded by time and place, so too is community.

Community is much more than the sum total of social structures. It is the ongoing current of people’s interactions and relationships; as paradoxical as it sounds, a perpetual work in progress. But this current does have a source. And that source is humanity’s unique capacity for will, and for conscious activity to realize this will. And this current does have a path; it does not flow willy-nilly; rather it takes its direction from people’s shared vision of how best to live and this obviously is the process of the living Torah.

Community then, no matter what the scale, be it that of a particular Jewish congregation on 119 Street in Edmonton or that of the global community of all humanity which encompasses all faiths, is quite simply what we make it. And herein lies our responsibility.

You, the congregation of Beth Israel, exemplify the beauty that can emerge when the responsibility to community is taken seriously. From your task of getting this new Torah you know first hand how community is strengthened through common commitments, how it thrives with attentive nurturing. And how it is a living legacy, the thread of commitment that connects us with each other and with those who came before us and those who will follow in future generations.

As one of the great sages of antiquity, Rabbi Tarfon, cited in that great Talmudic book of Jewish learning, the Ethics of Fathers, said "(Even though) it is not for you to complete the task, yet you are not free to desist from it." On this most historic day I salute the commitment to community of the Beth Israel congregation and I look forward to hearing of your future shared successes in the years to come.

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