Friday, November 3, 2000

Shabbat-O-Gram, November 1, 2001

 Shabbat Shalom (X2)

This O-Gram will cover two the next weeks, as I will be leaving for Israel on Sunday.  By the time I return, it will be too late to get next week's out. 

First, some old business: the STAR Webcast on Monday was spectacular.  About 1,500 participated nationally and over 40 congregations set up chat groups, including ours.  We were able to hear two eloquent theologians speak of the human implications of these difficult times, from a Jewish perspective.  One comment by Yitz Greenberg that sticks with me is the quote form our sources, "The beginning of wisdom is the fear of God."  In truth, the fear that we face now can lead us to lives of greater wisdom and deeper meaning, if only can we can face those fears with courage and conviction.  As Gary Rosenblatt writes in this week's "Jewish Week," "Fear at times is understandable and normal; but the real enemy is not fear, it’s panic. So we have to react with our heads as well as our hearts, turning our would-be alarm into steadfastness."

While the rabbis were presenting, our chat room was humming with concurrent discussion.  It was, to quote a certain 10 year old who lives in my house, "cool."  There were glitches, and many were unable to receive the streaming video or enter the chat room of choice.  STAR is working on those and I apologize to any of you who were frustrated in your efforts.  You can still view the archived lecture at, and once you've seen it, feel free to e-mail me your questions and reactions.  I'd also like some feedback from any of you who participated on Monday.  How was it for you?

The second bit of old business is that the response to our scholar-in-residence of last weekend has been phenomenal.  There clearly is a need for more spirituality and variety in our prayer experiences, and more teaching of Kabbalah from a liberal perspective.   We are looking for ways to bringing you more of what so many clearly are seeking.  Along those lines, we're going to be setting up a Woman's Rosh Hodesh Group that will celebrate this women's monthly semi-festival together.  An organizational meeting will be held with Barb on Thursday , Nov. 8, from 6:30-7PM


Friday Night:

Candles: 4:30 PM
Tot Shabbat 7:15 PM, in the lobby.
Kabbalat Shabbat: 8:00 PM, in the chapel.   The service will be led by our Junior Choir.

Shabbat Morning:
P'sukey d'zimra (psalms and meditations): 9:15
Shacharit (morning) service begins: 9:30
MAZAL TOV to Eric Weinstein and family, as Eric becomes Bar Mitzvah
Torah Portion: Va'yera
D'var Torah recommendation:   You can't go wrong with the selection at The Torahnet Page:  The text of the portion and haftarah are at

Children's Services: 10:30, with Nurit Avigdor (through grade 2) and Bert Madwed (grades 3 and up). This week, our 3th grade will be "hosting" the older service.  Last week over 30 kids came to the service that was sponsored by the 4th grade.  Let's keep this up!   Religious school and Bi-Cultural students of all grades are naturally most welcome, as are parents.

Friday, Nov. 9
Candles: 4:23 PM
Shabbat Shalom service (for grades K-4 and families): 7:15
Kabbalat Shabbat: 8:00 PM, in the chapel

Shabbat Morning, Nov. 10
P'sukey d'Zimra: 9:15 AM
Shacharit: 9:30 AM
Torah Portion: Hayye Sarah
MAZAL TOV to Natalie Simon and her family, as Natalie becomes Bat Mitzvah.
MAZAL TOV to Adam Siegartel and Lisa Rabinowitz on their ufruf and upcoming marriage (and to Adam's parents Sandy and Alvin Siegartel)

Children's Services at 10:30, with the older service hosted by the 6th grade.


“…[I]f Americans go [approximately] 5,000 miles to find this terrorist group who killed their citizens, we have to go…the distance of one mile…I want you to understand, my house…is half a mile from the president's house, in the very center of Jerusalem. I hear every shot in Beit Jala, because it's only two miles from our house…And so we…go there for…24 hours, 48 hours. If you call it occupation, well, that is the obligation of every government to defend its citizens…”--
Deputy P.M. Natan Sharansky during his U.S. visit (National Press Club, Oct. 29)

"It is not a revelation that large segments of the Arab world--at all levels of society--are not just anti-Israel, but fanatically anti-Semitic. Bernard Lewis wrote in 1986: "The demonization of Jews goes further than it had ever done in Western literature, with the exception of Germany during the period of Nazi rule. In most Western countries, anti-Semitic divagations on Jewish history, religion, and literature are more than offset by a great body of genuine scholarship... In modern Arabic writing there are few such countervailing elements."

So why did I look the other way? Why did I discount this anti-Semitism on the grounds that these are alien cultures and we cannot fully understand them, or because these pathologies are allied with more legitimate (if to my mind unpersuasive) critiques of Israeli policy? .... We in the West simply do not want to believe that this kind of hatred still exists; and when it emerges, we feel uncomfortable. We do everything we can to change the subject. Why the denial, I ask myself? What is it about this sickness that we do not understand by now? And what possible excuse do we have not to expose and confront it with all the might we have?"  (
Protocols, by Andrew Sullivan, The New Republic; see the full article at


1) Response to Last Week's Issue:
"Hate Bin Laden" Web Sites:  Are they helpful? -- This from Beth Boyer:

As one of the people who forwarded you the Day-O spoof, I must say I debated sending it. It depicts Colin Powell, the son of Caribbean immigrants, singing the Day-O calypso song while bombs fall video-game style around Bin Laden. But then I figured, ok, so it isn't sensitive, it could even be called racist. But let's face it, it's funny and I need something to laugh at. Someone had way too much time on his or her hands, probably up late at night worrying about anthrax and put this together. It relieved steam for me, that's why I sent it on. I have to assume Powell and Bush, if they saw it, would laugh too.

2) Alan Dershowitz, on the parallels between American and Israeli experiences of terrorism:

3) On the Red Cross and its blatant anti-Israel policies.  (Thanks to Craig Price for forwarding this one -- it later appeared in the Stamford Advocate)

4) The Uri Regev flap:  Rabbi Regev, a leader of the Reform Movement in Israel, was quoted to have said some rather controversial things about Jewish extremism in comparing it to extremists of other faiths.   I've yet to find a transcript of his original speech.  What follows is a JTA report of the event, a commentary by the noted Orthodox (and vehemently anti-Conservative and Reform) columnist Jonathan Rosenblum, Regev's own response, and some background from Regev's organization, the Religious Action Center of Israel, indicating what he's been up against over there.  Read it all and decide for yourself. 
report from JTA --
Rosenblum  --
Uri Regev responds -- 
R.A.C --


-- Jewish educational and other links:
-- Also try:
-- This is the most moving tribute to the victims of 9/11 that I have seen on the Web, with a collage of photos set to a haunting Enya melody.  You'll have to wait a few moments for it to download, but it is absolutely worth the wait:

6) THE GOOD SIDE OF ISRAEL:  Since I'll be there in a few days, i need to be reminded that the true Israel is not what's on the front pages of the newspaper.  Check out these two sites and you'll see what I mean.  A photographic bonanza is to be found at  While you're in a photographic mood, heck out the classic shots of the famed news photographer, David Rubinger, at
Finally, try out this fantastic brand new site and see Israel behind the headlines: the good news --
And if you want to prove to your friends that the American people have never felt closer to Israel, read them the results of this Jerusalem Post, Chicago Sun Times poll, at


Sheila and Gordon Brown have a new granddaughter!  Shoshana Laura born to Sheryl & Russ Ambers.
Amanda Matthews and Michael Lapides, who will be married at Beth El on Saturday evening, Nov. 10 (and to Amanda's parents, Marsha and Neil Matthews)

1) Midrash: Adding Color to the Bible -- Adult ed series with Rabbinical Student Greg Harris.  Continues,  Wednesday, Oct. 31.  There was a very nice turnout at the first session and a very positive buzz about the class!  It's not to late to sign up!  We will continue to study the creative genius of our Rabbis as they enrich the biblical text with stories, legends and lore.  These inspired texts blend the sacred position of the Torah with the real human struggle for spiritual understanding.  All texts will be in Hebrew and English.  The feel for the whole course is $18.  To reserve a spot, RSVP to Bonnie at 322-6901 X306.  

2) Shabbaton reservations are coming in, fast and furious! I expect the demand to be greater than the "supply" this year, given the enthusiasm shown by those who attended last year, when we were sold out. Don't be left out in the cold this MLK Weekend! Sign up now!

3) Lunch and Learn at the JCC --  Thursday., November 15, I'll be discussing "The Death Penalty" at 12:30.  Cost is $15 for the session, which includes lunch. 

4) Temple Beth El Seniors: Stem Cell Research:  A Panel Discussion with Dr. Fran Ginsburg, Dr. Justin Schechter and Rabbi Joshua Hammerman -- this Sunday at 1:45 PM  RSVP to the temple office, 322-6901 X300.

5) Book Discussion, co-sponsored by TBE and the JCC, at the JCC.  November 13, at 9:30 AM.  Rabbi Joshua Hammerman will be discussing "The Bee Season," by Myla Goldberg.

6) If you are interested in some basic information on Jewish customs, history and prayers, why not take our Judaism 101 class, taught by myself and Barb Moskow. The class meets as part of the B'nai Mitzvah group curriculum, but it also can be audited independently. Meets Thursdays from 7-8. Also see the Adult Ed brochure that was sent out this week for material on other offerings, including Hebrew classes, upcoming classes with our rabbinical student Greg Harris and opportunities for home group study.

7) Read Hebrew with Shirley Fish: Begins Sunday, Oct. 28: 9:45 - 11:00 AM.  Cost: $50.00 for a ten week session.

8) On Sunday, Nov. 11, at 7:30, I'll be giving a first-hand report on our community Solidarity Pilgrimage to Israel, at the November meeting of our Discussion Group (a monthly "Havurah" of  Beth El families that has been meeting for years).  It's open to everyone.  For info and directions, call Elliot Tuckel, at 967-9441.

9)  Don't forget: "The Rothchilds," Nov. 17.  A one man show, cocktails, dessert and a fun social evening with your TBE friends.

10)  "Learn to Read Torah" with Hazzan Rabinowitz.  9:45 - 10:25 in the organ loft, beginning Sunday, November 11. Call him at 322-6901 X309 to register.

11) Women's Rosh Hodesh Group, organizational meeting: Thurs, Nov. 8, at 6:30 PM, in the library, with Barb Moskow.

12) Our Sisterhood plans to send out Chanukah packages to all college freshman. Laura Markowitz is in charge of this effort. Names and addresses of students should be forwarded to Laura at: or call 968-2598. I also would LOVE to have the e-mail addresses so that I might include them on my college e-mail list.

13) Sisterhood Shabbat will take place on Dec. 15 and all members of Sisterhood are invited to take part. They should call Linda Simon at 324-2246 or me at 322-8842 or mail in the form which appeared in the October bulletin.

14) Temple Beth El Sisterhood   Proudly Presents   A Concert of Israeli Music
Featuring Ofri Salam
, direct from Israel, Tuesday, November 13 at 7:30 p. m.  Followed by Israeli dancing led by Yossi Elmani
Of the 92
nd Street Y and the New Haven JCC
Refreshments will be served
Ticket Prices:
Adults $12 Students and Seniors $8
Sponsors (includes 4 tickets)  $100             
Remaining tickets sold at the door  $15
For information: Temple Beth El 322-6901 Ilene Madwed   968-257

15) Sisterhood Paid-Up Membership Brunch
Sunday, November 18 -- 10:00  12:00

“You Can Do This”

Lori Guttman, from The Robert Nevins Plan, will help us start the new year with ideas for healthy eating from your refrigerator.
We would appreciate your RSVP by November 13
Mary Sue Gilbert 322-9372
Ilene Kirschner Madwed  968-2570
Volunteers needed.  Please call to RSVP and to Volunteer.
Sisterhood dues of $25 may be paid at the Brunch.
Bring a friend.  New members welcome to join.

16) Mercaz and the Zionist Elections: MERCAZ USA is the Zionist Organization of the Conservative Movement, the voice of Conservative Jewry within the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Zionist Movement and the Jewish National Fund to support religious pluralism in Israel and strengthen the connection between Israel and the Diaspora.  Go to to see how you can sign up to vote for the upcoming Zionist Congress elections.  The deadline is fast approaching,  Do it now!

If you are 18-26 (post high school) and have never before participated in a peer Israel experience, KOACH the Conservative movement's college student organization, provides an uplifting and enriching Israel experience, offering first time travelers the requisite spiritual and educational framework for a truly transforming journey as well as a lot of fun.  Koach "Birthright Israel" trips are booking for this winter!  More information and registration are available at the Koach website,


Please check the bulletin for information on the Birthday Closet project we've just initiated.  We're looking to collect unopened children's gifts for the closet, to be housed here and used by local agencies to support needy children.


Shabbat Parashat Vayera - November 3, 2001 - 17 Heshvan 5762
Freed From the Trap of Experience
Torah Reading: Genesis 18:1 - 22:24
Haftarah Reading: II Kings 4:1-37

Personality is molded by experience. How we live our lives and the events that we confront individually serve to shape our very beings. We respond to each new situation by referring to previous ones -- always seeking to avoid past mistakes, always looking to improve upon earlier interactions.

In this light, our response almost always comes one event too late. We become trapped by our most recent experience. The story of Hagar and Ishmael conveys that essential insight into human nature. Expelled from the security of the caravan, Hagar takes her young son, Ishmael, into the desert. Unwilling to watch him die, she sets him down under a plant and then wanders to a distance, where she sits and sobs. God hears the wailing of the boy, and tells Hagar to have confidence, that her son will become the ancestor of a vast nation. "Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water."

The Torah does not claim that God created a new well for her. The miracle of the well is that Hagar had not noticed it before, and now she is able to see it. Trapped by her own despair and her own past, she was unable to recognize possibilities for her own survival. Her awareness of God, and of hope, liberates her from the shackles of her own experience.
Modern scholars have applied this same insight in their own fields of expertise as well. Professor Ernest May of Harvard University, in his book, "Uses of the Past," argues that the errors committed in America's last several military conflicts all spring from the fact that our generals applied the lessons of the previous war to the next conflict, always operating one war too late.

In Korea, we tried to rectify the errors of World War II, but those errors (and insights) didn't apply in such a different environment. Then we tried to correct the errors made during the Korean War in Vietnam, again with disastrous effect.

May argues that the dynamics of history itself leads people to seek to apply a model to each new situation, and that logic and memory dictate that the model they apply is the one they best remember, the most recent occurrence that seems relevant.

Sigmund Freud perceives a different motivation, arguing that each of us strives to correct deficiencies or painful encounters from our childhood. The way we do this is by constructing similar situations as adults, over and over again, desperately trying to master our pain and frustration by engineering a new resolution. Generally, however, we simply repeat past encounters, perpetuating a cycle of trauma and disappointment. This phenomenon he calls "repetition compulsion." We are compelled, says Freud, to constantly recreate scenarios of childhood pain and frustration. And most of the time, we are unable to emerge any differently, or any better, then we did as children. Thus, children with abusive parents often wind up marrying abusive spouses. To escape the enslavement of past experience requires a radical openness to the present, a willingness to see the world afresh each moment that we live.
As the Midrash Beresheet Rabbah notes, "All may be presumed to be blind until the Holy Blessed One opens their eyes." Until we learn to open ourselves to the marvel undergirding existence, we smother ourselves in convention and expectation and experience. But the liberating vision of a humanity redeemed and of a God who cares, in the present, can sunder those restrictive bonds.

Amen. Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson is the Dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism, a rabbinical school for the heart, mind and soul. Please feel free to forward this message to anyone who you think might enjoy joining our Torah community.  If you have received this e-mail via another person and would like to be added to the list for automatic receipt: Send an e-mail to with the following in the body of the message: SUBSCRIBE torah


These announcements were found in shul newsletters and bulletins.  In lieu of a Web journey this week, let's just lighten up a little and enjoy.

1. Don’t let worry kill you. Let your synagogue help. Join us for our Oneg after services. Prayer and medication to follow. Remember in prayer
the many who are sick of our congregation.

2. For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.

3. We are pleased to announce the birth of David Weiss, the sin of Rabbi and Mrs. Abe Weiss.

4. Thursday at 5:00pm, there will be a meeting of the Little Mothers Club. All women wishing to become Little Mothers please see the rabbi in
his private study.

5. The ladies of Hadassah have cast off clothing of every kind and they may be seen in the basement on Tuesdays.

6. A bean supper will be held Wednesday evening in the community center. Music will follow.

7. Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the JCC. Please use the large double door at the side entrance.

8. Rabbi is on vacation. Massages can be given to his secretary.

9. Goldblum will be entering the hospital this week for testes.

10. The Men’s Club is warmly invited to the Oneg hosted by Hadassah. Refreshments will be served for a nominal feel.

11. Please join us as we show our support for Amy and Rob, who are preparing for the girth of their first child.

12. We are taking up a collection to defray the cost of the new carpet in the sanctuary. All those wishing to do something on the carpet will
come forward and get a piece of paper.

13. If you enjoy sinning, the choir is looking for you!

14. The Associate Rabbi unveiled the synagogue’s new fund-raising campaign slogan this week: “I Upped My Pledge. Up Yours.”

That's all for this week.  As I head to Israel, I pray that we find peace and security on both sides of the ocean, in my going and in my returning, in our home country and in our homeland.  I look forward to sharing the stories of this journey when I return.  You will be able to follow the steps of my journey next week in the pages of the Advocate.  Wherever I go, I'll convey your love and support for the people of Israel.  And at the same time, wherever I go, I'll be thinking and worrying about all of you back here. 

"Hold the fort" while I'm gone!

"Shabbats" Shalom

This Shabbat-O-Gram goes out weekly to hundreds of Beth El congregants and others. Feel free to forward it to your friends, and if you know of anyone who might wish to be included, please have them e-mail me at To be taken off this e-mail list, simply click on "reply" and write "please unsubscribe" in the message box.
For more information on the synagogue, check out Beth El's Web site at To check out some previous spiritual cyber-journeys I have taken, see my book's site at

No comments: