Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Rabbi Edwin Goldberg (Temple Judea)

Books & Books at 25

Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, a renowned philosopher of the twentieth century, used to ask people he met a single, important question: “Where do you belong?” One might think that a philosopher’s question would be “What do you believe?” but Rabbi Kaplan understood that, when it comes to significance in life, belonging trumps believing.

It is not easy in Miami to feel a sense of belonging. So many people here are transplants. Miami’s urban culture, at least as presented in the media, reflects the emphasis on the superficial, the transitory, the values of eternal youth, and often the vulgar.

Even after living here for 12 years, I find myself feeling on the defensive when new acquaintances throughout the country (and world) ask where I live. Don’t get me wrong: I love Miami. But sometimes it is hard not to be embarrassed for Miami.

But I know that, if I could ask said acquaintances to spend a couple of hours in a place like Books & Books, then they would begin to understand the “hidden” qualities that make this place so special. To put it simply, walking into such a place makes we want to belong, and makes me feel that I do belong.

I remember as a teenager growing up in Kansas discovering the New York Times Book Review. We never received the paper at home – I doubt that back then one could – but occasionally you could find the Book Review at a local bookstore – and one day my mother brought it home for me to read. I can still see myself in the backyard hammock, reading about serious books and the ideas they contained. A new world opened up for me that day.

I get that same feeling when I walk into Books & Books. Every time. When an author appears at the store (or at Temple Judea) I also experience that same old thrill of connecting to people and ideas beyond myself.

The bottom line: there is a “great conversation” out there, open to anyone interested in expanding their minds and challenging themselves with new ideas. For those of us who enjoy participating in this great conversation, Books & Books has been a blessing beyond words.

Rabbi Edwin Goldberg
Temple Judea

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