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Friday, 10 July 2015

Who owns the shul?

Daf Yomi Nedarim 46
What do you do if you want to kvetch about the shul?  You call the president, of course!  What if you can’t get hold of the president?  Call one of the board members!

Mishnah: If partners vowed to abstain from one another, they may no longer enter their shared courtyard.  Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov says:  This one may enter his area and that one may enter his area, i.e. either one may enter anywhere in the courtyard because each step he takes, we may assume is on his own property while other sections then belong to his partner.

Gemara: Raba quoted Zeiri: Their debate is only when the area is large enough to be divided.   But if it is not sufficiently spacious to divide, all would agree that they may both enter the courtyard.
Rav Yosef responded: How about the law of a shul?  It is considered (regardless of size) to be undividable property jointly owned by the members and we learned ‘both are forbidden’! 
Rather, said Rav Yosef, quoting Zeiri:  Their debate is when the area is not large enough to be divided.  But if it is sufficiently spacious to divide, all would agree that both are prohibited from entering. 

As a shul member, you are a part owner.  At Beth Israel, we recently moved away from calling people members, referring to them instead as ‘owners.’   That reframing creates a whole new dynamic.  Rather than calling the president or board official to kvetch, members/owners are empowered to try to do something about it on their own.  They are not consumers, with the board providing a service; they are equal partners in the ownership and success of the shul.

You own the shul.  You have in your hand the deed to a small part of the destiny of the Jewish people.  Nobody on the board owes you anything.  You have the power to step up and help steer the great ship of the synagogue in its service of Klal Yisrael!  May you merit becoming a full owner, not just in name alone but in action, by dedicating some part of yourself to creating the most incredible shul the Jewish people has ever seen!