By Rabbi Malcolm Cohen 

Rabbi Malcolm Cohen

Rabbi Malcolm Cohen

I can hear the clanking of heavy machinery outside my window. Construction workers mill about. Since this is Las Vegas, I’m not sure what the equivalent would be of the great British tea-break.In any case, they are building a new campus for my shul.

A local philanthropist donated the money for the building and then, heart-warmingly, refused to have his name anywhere on it. Las Vegas is notorious for being superficial. The new building will bring publicity and interest, whether we want it or not.

In some ways, it might be easier if we just rented space in a church hall or a musty back room somewhere. There would be no pressure, no one would really think anything of us. We must confound their expectations, though. Our commitment to passionate worship must be as deep as our new ner tamid will sparkle.

Our interest in Jewish learning must be as endless as the tiles in our new lobby are smooth. Our pursuit of social justice must be as persistent as our new pews are comfortable. Our belief that relationships are at the core of all of our work must be as unshakeable as the shine on our stained glass is bright.

Ultimately, we should be grateful for how far we have come as a community family. When Solomon dedicated the first Temple in Jerusalem, he gave simple thanks to God and acknowledged the gifts bestowed on him and the people.

Imagine a noble king clothed in great power in the midst of a sea of humanity, in the ancient city of Jerusalem humbling himself before the Creator of the universe. It is that humility we must take into our new home so we can go and double and redouble our efforts to make our congregation even more meaningful in our lives, so the spiritual beauty on the inside will match the physical beauty on the outside.

Moreover, there is a challenge to me as a rabbi. The physical environment changing around me will help me avoid drifting and shake me into bringing our mission to a new group that has been caused to rubberneck by the bricks and mortar.

• Malcolm Cohen is rabbi of Temple Sinai, Las Vegas