Letter at Length

A new spiritual leader in Ashland

"Through the Thou a person becomes I."

— Martin Buber

Ashland has a new "I-Thou" spiritual leader, Rabbi Joshua Boettiger.

On July 27, John Darling wrote a fine feature story in the Ashland Daily Tidings about Rabbi Joshua, including interesting biographical information.

What struck me most was a quote from the new Rabbi of Temple Emek Shalom. The quote (paraphrased) contrasted two ways to do life, relationships, and community. You can build a fence and decide who's in and who's out. Or, you can build a fire and see who comes.

I've used that image myriad times since, always to a similar effect: a gentle awakening to the truth that we can draw one another to the light and heat of truth and relationship, or play the role of deciding who's in and who's out of our sphere. One unites; the other separates. It was St. Thomas Aquinas who said in pithy fashion: love unites.

Rabbi Joshua clearly favors fire over fences, love over judgment, person over thing.

With his Vitruvian man breadth of interests — timber farming, meditation, prayer, poetry, and social action — Rabbi Joshua brings depth and balance to his ministry. He sees that time and forms are passing, and yet that we must engage in them: we must build things, create even temporary dwellings, sacred spaces so that we can encounter the divine and eternal ... together.

"You will never get the name just right; the form you create with your hands will not perfectly express the eternal and it will return to dust in time. But still you must build," wrote Rabbi Joshua in the online magazine, Zeek.

A member of the faith community of Our Lady of the Mountain in Ashland, I felt wonderfully welcomed into the circle of people at Temple Emek Shalom on Sunday evening, when the Temple hosted a barbecue in honor of Rabbi Joshua, his wife Vanessa and sweet daughter Paloma. Thank you for inviting me and the wider community into yours.

My encounter with Rabbi Joshua was brief, but rich. I sensed that he was a Thou to my I, one person of divine and eternal destiny to another.

Welcome, Rabbi Joshua. We are enriched by who you are and what you will awaken in us.

Daniel Murphy


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