Congregation Beth Jacob

What it means to be a good human being

Rabbi Avram Bogopulski: “If I believe that the Torah, the law, is divine, then I have no reason, permission, or desire to change it.”
  • Rabbi Avram Bogopulski: “If I believe that the Torah, the law, is divine, then I have no reason, permission, or desire to change it.”

Beth Jacob Synagogue

4855 College Avenue, College Area

Membership: 150

Rabbi: Avram Bogopulsky

Age: 49

Born: Brooklyn, NY

Formation: St. Thomas Aquinas College, Sparkill, NY; Yeshiva Shaarei Torah, Suffern, NY

Years Ordained: 25

San Diego Reader: How long do you spend writing your sermon?

Rabbi Avram Bogopulsky: Usually, I develop a theme or idea over the week and usually it follows either sometimes politics or something about Israel, and generally speaking about the Jewish people and society at large. It takes about an hour to get it down exactly [to] what I’m going to say, but with the formation of it over the week; and the delivery takes only until the last person falls asleep. But, seriously, I try to limit it between 15 and 18 minutes.

SDR: What’s your favorite subject on which to preach?

RB: I would probably say the potential of the human being that God has given to every person and our mission in life to really live up to that potential as every human being should, and to contribute to the ongoing creation of fulfillment of the world. That’s one of man’s purposes in life. We’re here for others, not for ourselves — not exclusively, but as a message, as President Kennedy said, it’s not what our country can do for us but what we can do for our country. In fact, that’s one the underlying problems in the country — that we’ve become more takers than givers in society at large.

SDR: Why Judaism?

RB: I was inculcated with this as a child and brought up in the schooling and now on my own I can look at those same teachings myself. In Orthodox Judaism, we’re stricter on the law and tradition. It really depends on what you believe. If the Bible was written by a man, then I believe I could change it, because why do I have to listen to another man? But if I believe that the Torah, the law, is divine, then I have no reason, permission, or desire to change it.

SDR: What is the mission of your congregation?

RB: First, we want to serve our membership at large in a spiritual way, and in physical ways to help out the needy. Second, we want to be a participant as much as we can within the general community — within the College Area — for the betterment of the community. Ultimately, we want to be a light unto the nations so that when people see us they will say, “That’s what it means to be a good human being.”

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

RB: We believe in the afterlife, but I can’t tell you what it’s like until I come back and tell you. No one has come back to tell me. We have teachings that lead us to this concept. We’re comprised of two things — a body and a soul. Upon death, the body will physically die and shrivel up in the ground while the soul will live on. So it’s a spiritual type of life…. To answer the question directly, we believe there is a spiritual world after life, and it’s an eternal one…. In a sense, everyone is going to go to both heaven and hell. The soul can’t go to the paradise unless it’s cleansed first. We don’t typically believe in eternal damnation as a principle of Judaism. So, we believe the person will be cleansed and after that period of time the soul will go into paradise.

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