MIRACLES OF HANUKKAH?
As I write this, it appears that the blasts today in Tel Aviv have resulted in relatively few injuries, something that is being seen as a bit of a "Hanukkah miracle" over there. Otherwise, we seem to be running short of miracles this year. Even our electric menorah in the chapel has blown a couple of bulbs -- maybe we should go back to olive oil. The miracle of peace now seems more elusive than ever in Israel, leaving us all the more disillusioned and confused in the wake of this week's dizzying events. I've been studying all the information I can gather on the Web as to exactly what the Clinton bridging plan entails and I still can't get a handle on it. At the center of it all lies the old city of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. How ironic to be considering giving up the very place whose capture and rededication we are in the midst of celebrating during Hanukkah. Ironies abound, of course. Jews bemoan the fact that Jerusalem was "originally" ours and that the Temple plateau was razed and the Dome of the Rock put there only after it had been taken by force by the Moslems. Yet that very spot was also taken by force by David (it's the Jebusites that really have a gripe here) 3000 years ago. In fact, Jerusalem has never really belonged to anyone but God. I've never been in favor of internationalization of the city, but some form of shared sovereignty has a certain appeal to it, as long as all people have the freedom to worship there in peace. I don't know how the Clinton plan might work this out, but if it provides the framework for doing just that, it could just be the catalyst for another Hanukkah miracle, not the Maccabean kind involving conquest and revenge, but that espoused later on by the rabbis, one where the oil made from the leaves of the olive branch, that universal symbol of peace, might enable the flame of peace and harmony to burn brightly from Mount Moriah.
BDT (BRIEF D'VAR TORAH): "CUE GUY LOMBARDO"
In this week's portion, Mikketz, Joseph rises from the depths of prison to become Vice Pharaoh, thus becoming the archetypical Diaspora Jew. He takes on a new name, an Egyptian wife and new style of dress, losing contact with his family. His silence regarding his father, according to Ramban, is a grave sin, though Abravanel excuses it on grounds of political considerations. An Egyptian proverb states, "A foreigner who drinks the waters of the Nile forgets his native land." Memo to the reader: I've been on the Nile. You DON'T want to drink the water!
By the end of the portion, however, Joseph's tune is changing. He is testing his brothers to see if they have gained compassion for their brother Benjamin and their father, but it truly is a test of Joseph himself. In Gen. 42:21-24, the first signs of remorse by the brothers regarding what they did to Joseph are followed almost immediately by Joseph's first tears. And in chapter 43:27, Joseph asks how their aging father is, a remarkable turning point. Then he sees Benjamin and is overcome by emotion.
Sometimes all it takes is a brief encounter with an old friend or relative to trigger a rush of old memories and a profound emotional response. That's what happens to us on the High Holidays, or even on New Years Eve for many (although I never did quite understand that song about all those old acquaintances being forgot). It's also what happened collectively to the Jewish people in 1967, when we were reunited with our ancient Temple Mount and the Kotel. We began to feel things we hadn't felt since the days of the Maccabees. It affected all of us, including those in the Diaspora. When Joseph felt those renewed ties to his tribal family, he brought them over to settle with him. He never returned to the land of his birth until his bones were brought back centuries later, after the Exodus. When American Jews renewed old acquaintances with Israel in 1948, most, like Joseph, elected to stay in Exile. Now with those family ties weakening again, we have to redouble our effort to reconnect to our people and to Israel in whatever ways we can. Even if we choose to remain here, we've got to give our descendants reason to want to carry our remains (i.e. our ideals and values) over there, in some manner, when they return. And we have to ensure that, for them, those old acquaintances will never "be forgot."
MORE DIVREI TORAH:
All the Internet Torah that's fit to print will be sent on an addendum to this e-mailing.
Kabbalat Shabbat Services: 8:00
Shabbat Morning: Family Service in lobby (Sweater Day), followed by lunch: 9:30 AM
There is just one scheduled children's service this Shabbat, as Burt's service will not be held.
Weather permitting, Nurit's service will be held.
Which brings us to...
WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY:
We never officially cancel Shabbat services, so it doesn't pay to be listening to the radio for such notice -- nor is it a good idea to be calling our office (or home) for that information. There's no information to be had. It's as simple as this: the password is "Sechel." If it's snowing heavily in the morning, children's services will almost certainly not be held, we quite likely won't have a minyan of adults and our parking lot will likely be inaccessible to most vehicles. But if the snow has stopped, our snow removers have been very conscientious about getting here fairly quickly and ploughing us out. If you can't get here because of the weather, simply print out (before or after Shabbat) some of the Torah materials I send or are otherwise obtainable on the Web, open up the portion and study. Shabbat is both weather-proof and transportable. A quiet snowed-in Shabbat in the house might could end up being quite the spiritual experience Shabbat was meant to be. It sure beats sliding on the highway and shoveling snow.
If we do get snowed in you manage to have one of those special Shabbat experiences, I'd love to hear about it!
MINYAN MUDDLE -- 8 ON THE 7TH:
And on the 7th day of Hanukkah, we had 8 at our morning minyan. The S.O.S. I sent out on Tuesday worked -- for exactly one day. We had 12 yesterday (Wednesday). Clearly the "on call" solution I proposed two weeks ago also will not work. It only helps when we have 9 and can reach someone no later than 7:40. Susan Eitelberg has volunteered to help us seek out more permanent solutions to this age-old problem. For now, it might be best for those who plan to be here in the morning for Yahrzeits to let me know if you wish to have it announced via e-mail so that people will make plans to come. I can begin that process right now, because I happen to have yahrzeit tomorrow (Friday) morning. It would be nice to have a minyan.
GET WELL WISHES:
To Hazzan Rabinowitz and Frank Rosner, both of whom have been under the weather this week.
If you wish to have a name, in English or Hebrew, added to the list for our healing prayer on Shabbat morning, please e-mail it to me by mid-day on Friday. We would be delighted to help along the healing process in any manner possible -- and this prayer helps.
To Larry and Sue Holzman on the engagement of their son Jonathan, to Judy Tenzer
and to Lisa and Joel Zartisky, who had a baby girl at Stamford Hospital just yesterday.
SISTERHOOD FAMILY FUN AND PASTA NIGHT:
Pasta and Bingo: an unbeatable combination. This dinner has been a highly successful event over the past few years, with lots family fun. On Sat. Jan. 6, at 6:30. To reserve, contact Ellen Gordon: 968-8029 -- and sign up SOON!
In preparation for Sisterhood Shabbat (Feb. 10). First rehearsal: Jan. 3, 8-9 PM
JEWISH WEB WEEK:
Don't forget to go to www.jww.org for all things Jewish, including the following Jewish Web Week chats:
* Thursday, December 28 at 7pm EST join in a live chat sponsored by Shma.com with Tom Smerling, Vice President of the Israel Policy Forum on the situation in the Middle East.
* Thursday, December 28 at 10:30pm EST join Dr. Egon Mayer, founder of the Jewish Outreach Institute for a chat on "Interfaith Hanukkah in America and the Who, How, Where, and Why of Intermarriage for the Year 2001" Dr. Mayer will be Beth El's Scholar in Residence this coming June.
Last call for reservations. There is still room, but barely, for the January 12-14 Congregational Shabbaton. The theme is "Being Jewish in America," and we'll be going to beautiful Holiday Hills in Pawling, New York, a veritable Winter Wonderland, but very accessible via main roads. Contact Barb or Eileen Rosner ASAP if you are thinking of coming. It might be best to speak with one of them first before sending in the forms, just to be sure we haven't closed out registration.
A FINAL THOUGHT ABOUT HANUKKAH:
As we approach the last night, here's a final thought on Hanukkah and the dreidel, from Rabbi Lori Forman of UJA-Federation:
The rabbis teach that each letter represents one of the four kingdoms that dominated and exiled the Jewish people from the Land of Israel: Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome. As we spin the dreidel, there’s a still-point amid the turning circle. All four sides, which symbolize these oppressive powers, blur into nothingness as the dreidel spins. The Jews’ survival against much more powerful forces also is a miracle.
In gematria (Hebrew numerology), the letters in dreidel add up to 358, the equivalent to those in the word “messiah.” So, as each kingdom that has oppressed the Jews falls, we pray that the messiah and ultimate redemption will come to our people. Tonight, as Chanukah ends, reflect on how you can spread its light by bringing redemption to your small corner of the world.
Author of "Embracing Auschwitz" and "Mensch•Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi - Wisdom for Untethered Times." Winner of the Rockower Award, the highest honor in Jewish journalism and 2019 Religion News Association Award for Excellence in Commentary. Musings of a rabbi, journalist, father, husband, poodle-owner, Red Sox fan and self-proclaimed mensch, taken from essays, columns, sermons and thin air. Writes regularly in the New York Jewish Week and Times of Israel.
Friday, December 29, 2000
Shabbat-O-Gram for Dec. 29, 2000
Friday, December 8, 2000
Shabbat-O-Gram, Dec 7, 2000
This is the weekend of the 30th Cantor's Concert, a moment of history for our congregation. As, we think back to the incredible quality and diversity of what we have seen here over the years, I'm sure all of us will have our favorites. As we compile this list, I suggest that we save room for the Zamir Chorale very close to the top. I have followed them since I was a child and had the pleasure of hearing them just a year ago. If you haven't yet decided to join us, I believe there will be tickets remaining at the door. But get here early! We all owe Hazzan Rabinowitz our deepest thanks for all that he does here, in particular, on this occasion, for introducing us to the wide spectrum of Jewish music.
We'll be visiting B'nai Jeshurun on Shabbat morning. About 25 of us will be there, as of now. There is still room on the bus, which will be leaving from the temple at 8:15 AM sharp, returning around 1:30. Call to reserve a spot, or, if the spirit moves you that morning, just show up. Or meet us there. Anything you need to know about B.J. can be found at their Web site, www.bj.org.
SOME INTERSTING READING
Educator Cherie Kohler Fox's eight ways to celebrate Hanukkah meaningfully:
An article explaining how Israel's election laws are making for unusual bedfellows. You think it's confusing here??
Last Shabbat a roudy group protested outside of Joe Lieberman's home in New Haven? Did the right wing protesters resort to anti-semitic sloganeering? See for yourself in the New Haven Register, at http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=1138747&BRD=1281&PAG=461&dept_id=7592&rfi=8
for the original report, and http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=1147699&BRD=1281&PAG=461&dept_id=7592&rfi=8
for George Jepsen's response. More disturbing than the rally itself, perhaps, are the reader's opinions that follow the stories.
Beth El Cares Starts A New Season!
All aboard! We’re rolling forward at a good clip and we need YOU to hop on the Beth El Cares bandwagon. We’re planning a number of programs and coordinating Mitzvah Projects with the Religious School. With a little of your time we’ll be able to accomplish a lot. See what we’re planning and take your pick of activities…no contribution of time or effort is too small…then, please call the committee chairs to find out how you can help us to help others.
Call Shelly Wunderlich at 968-1195
Friday, December 1, 2000
Shabbat-O-Gram, December 1, 2000
As I write this, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments and might decide who our next President will be. Meanwhile, Israel's government has fallen and new elections are being planned. If the Supremes are really looking for a Solomonic solution, I've got one. This might be the perfect time to say that Gore and Bush both win, only one of them gets to be President here and the other gets to be the Prime Minister of Israel. Think of all the problems this would solve. Everyone would be happy. Israelis love American imports -- and Joe Lieberman, especially, would go over well. Arafat and his friends would have hard time dealing with this new reality, especially when the new PM appoints none other than Bill Clinton as Foreign Minister. Meanwhile, I think Ariel Sharon would be just peachy as Prime Minister of Florida. Here's a guy who will attract both the Jewish retirees of the Gold Coast and the gun-toting rednecks up north. He'll be more popular there than Disney World. Hmm... this idea has real possibilities. It certainly can't be more bizarre than what we're dealing with now.
On to other matters...
PORTION: TOLDOT: "The Generations of Isaac."
Brief D'var Torah (BDT):
Toldot means "generations," referring to Isaac's line, leading to the births of Jacob and Esau. Isaac, Jacob's father and Abraham's son, plays a relatively minor, transitional role in the epic of the ancestors, sandwiched between his illustrious co-patriarchs. Most of the deeds connected to Isaac actually were done by other people, and what he did seems almost to be a repetition of his father's life. He even re digs Abraham's wells, and reexperiences his father's encounters with Avimelech and Pharaoh. Adin Steinzaltz comments that Isaac's task was actually a difficult one. It's not easy to be a successor. As he states, "All beginnings are difficult, but continuation can be more difficult." The State of Israel had no shortage of Abrahams and Sarahs, but following the death of Prime Minister Rabin, the last of the old guard of founders, it has been unable to find an Isaac or Rebecca to fit the bill. And we need them or the whole experiment could be in jeopardy. As unromantic as is the task of the successor, to hold steady and consolidate, Abraham needed Isaac to establish his name forever, and to prepare the way for Jacob and his progeny.
STANDING WITH ISRAEL
The following important message was written by Rabbi Jack Riemer. This is a very difficult time for Israel, and we need to look for ways we can help -- even small gestures have great meaning. Beth El Cares is now working on a project where we'll be able to extend Hanukkah wishes via mail and e-mail to Israeli soldiers. Here is another way that we can help:
Like me, I am sure that you watch the news that comes from the
Middle East every day with ever increasing anxiety. We watch from a
distance as our people in Israel are trapped in a war that seems to
have no end. And it is all the more frustrating and all the more
painful because this summer we seemed SO CLOSE to a peace
agreement. The Israeli Prime Minister offered more concessions at
Camp David than any previous leader of Israel ever even dreamed of
making. And then Arafat turned the proposal down and the Arabs
went to the streets instead, hoping that by throwing rocks and putting
children in harm's way, they could win more than they could at the
negotiating table. And ever since, there has been attack and
reprisal, counter attack and counter reprisal, and lives have been lost
and the dream of a new middle east has come crashing down.
I am not going to say anything in this column about politics or
diplomacy, or about short term or long term goals for Israel. There
are enough diplomats both here and there who are working on these
questions and this is not my area of expertise. And besides, by the
time this column appears, who knows how the situation may have
changed? And so, I want to write instead about one small facet of
the situation which is within our power to do something about, one
small microcosm of the situation which we do have the power to do
I want to tell you about the three children in the Cohen family who
were on that bus, heading home from school at Kfar Darom recently.
Their names and ages are Orit, age twelve, Tehilla, age eight and a
half, and Yisrael, age seven. They had a younger who, fortunately
had a cold and stayed home from school that day. The. bus was
blown up, two children were killed and nine were seriously injured.
Among the injured were all the Cohen children. One had to have her
leg amputated, the other two lost parts of their legs. As one of the
Israeli army medics who tended to them put it: "We were trained in
how to help heal wounded soldiers; no one ever taught us how to
deal with little kids parts of whose legs have been blown off."
Let me ask you to join me in helping these kids by sending a
donation of whatever size you decide to the bank account below. If
If you want to send a note of encouragement to these kids too-that
would be nice. And if you want to share this request with others
whom you think may want to help, by all means.
We can't do much from here to help the people of Israel militarily.
We can do a little, not much but a little, to help Israel get a fair break
from the media, and to insure that the American government stays
firm in its support. But we CAN do something that will help a broken
hearted family raise the funds that they need for the medical
expenses of their three children. And that is no small thing to do.
You can send your checks to Bank Account Number 07l0l0, Bank
Mizrachi 20, Branch 426, Beersheva, Merkaz Asakim. Mark the
check: for the Cohen Children. And you may write to the family if you
wish, care of Rabbi Lippy Friedman, head of Yeshivat Bnai Akiva,
POB 4537, Beersheva, Israel, 84144 (IL).
There is an old Jewish blessing with which you are supposed to sign
letters like these. It is 'tizku limitsvot" which means: "by virtue of
doing this good deed may God bless you with many more
opportunities to do good".
This is my wish for you who respond to this request.
With gratitude in advance for any help that you can give to this
family, and to our brethren in Israel, who need to know that we are
with them, I am
Rabbi Jack Riemer
P.S. I have to include this story which I just heard from my friend,
Rabbi Bernhard Presler. He is on his way to a wedding of a nephew
which is to take place this week in Gush Kativ, which is located in
Aza. The other day one of the young people in Gush Kativ was killed
by an Arab terrorist. Gush Kativ is a small village, where everyone
knows everyone and where everyone cares about everyone. And so
everyone in the village was going to not attend the wedding and to
spend the time with the family which is sitting shivah instead. The
Rabbi of the community issued a ruling that the family that is sitting
shivah must lock its doors and admit no one. Further, they must not
observe shivah on that day, but postpone shiva for one day, so that
the community can go to the wedding instead. I find that a very bold
halachic decision and a very moving story. The Rabbi correctly
understood the tension the village was feeling between the mitsvah
of honoring the bride and groom and the mitsvah of helping
mourners, and he made the wise ruling. And this story makes real
for us the pain and the determination to continue living despite all
obstacles that characterize the people of Israel today. May we share
in their determination!
FRIDAY NIGHT SERVICES AND DINNER:
Friday night at 6:15, Nurit will lead a Tot Shabbat service for families. Dinner will be at 7 Our regular Kabbalat Shabbat service will be held at 8. If you would like to sign up for dinner, please let Bonnie know in the education office immediately. We have over 100 people coming thus far, and our Shabbat dinners have been exceedingly successful this year.
SHABBAT MORNING AND MINCHA:
Shabbat morning, we begin with Psukey d'zimra at 9:15, then the morning service at 9:30. The sermonette/discussion will center around the eternal efforts of Jacob and Esau to campaign for their father's blessing and the mantle of leadership, and what lessons we might extrapolate from the Torah for our current never-ending Presidential campaign. At Mincha, beginning at 3:45 PM, Allison Bernheimer will become Bat Mitzvah. Mazal Tov to Allison and her family!
B'NAI JESHURUN VISIT ON DEC. 9
That very important journey has been rescheduled for next Shabbat morning, Dec. 9. A bus will leave from here at 8:15 AM, returning in the early afternoon. Congregation B'nai Jeshurun in Manhattan is truly at the cutting edge of the movement, and our board, ritual committee as well as all interested congregants are vigorously encouraged to join us. Transportation is free. If you would like to come, bus reservations are being taken on a first come first serve basis. There will definitely be a bus. Contact Roberta Aronovitch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CANTOR'S CONCERT DEC. 10
Get your reservations in for the Cantors Annual Concert (and the delicious dinner to follow), scheduled for December 10. The world famous Zamir Chorale of Boston will be here. Don't miss it! This event is for the entire family, and tickets are going fast.
Our January Shabbaton is fast approaching, and the reservations are pouring in (over 90 at last count). Space is limited! We need to hear from you very soon! The group signed up thus far is remarkably diverse, reflecting all our generations, from the youngest children to the most seasoned empty-nester. We'll do lots of eating, playing, singing, spirited praying, learning and discussing. Our guest song leader will be Cantor Debbie Kotchko. Our guest lecturer, Jack Wertheimer, Provost of the Jewish Theological Seminary, is one of the foremost experts on American Jewish life, and the theme of the weekend will be "Being Jewish in America." On Friday night he'll discuss the topic, "Jews on the Move - the Transformation of American Jewry,” on Shabbat morning, "Walking the Tightrope -- the Tensions Between Jewish and American Values," and later that day, the summation session will be entitled, “De-Mystifying Jewish Continuity.”
The AIDS quilt is here this weekend, at UConn Stamford. New panels were dedicated on Wednesday night in a beautiful ceremony, memorializing local residents who have died of AIDS recently. Our seventh graders will be visiting the quilt on Sunday morning. Contact Debbie Goldberg at the Council of Churches and Synagogues (348-2800), if you would like to help read the names on Sunday morning.
HANUKKAH FOR ADULTS
On Wed. December 6, the Board of Rabbis will be sponsoring a community-wide event, "Chanukah for Adults." Find out what this sizzling holiday is all about. Chanukah will never be the same. Or is it Hanukkah? Or Chanooookah? At Agudath Sholom, 7:30-9:00 PM.
HANUKKAH LINKS FROM JTS
1. The seminary's all-new Hanukkah pages ( http://learn.jtsa.edu/hanukkah ):
The pages include resources for families and thoughtful adults for the
upcoming “Chag Urim,” including: articles by JTS faculty, activities for
kids, recipes, and book recommendations. In the spirit of the holiday,
they will add more material each week.
2. JTS's book of the month club discussions :
This coming month, over 400 Jews around the world will share in a
discussion of “A Different Light,” the twin-volume compendium of
Hannukah resources. It includes everything from engaging activities for families with small children to
thought-provoking articles from important modern Jewish writers.
For more information, you can point your web browser to
ADULT ED and other SUNDAY MORNING PROGRAMMING
Rabbi H. on WNBC Sunday Morning Today in New York -- 6:00 AM (God willing!)
Sunday seekers with Eric Hoffman -- 9:00 AM
Shabbat Sking Along Class with the Hazzan -- 9:30 AM
Learn to read Hebrew -- 10:00 AM
Seniors Group Chanukah Lunch -- 1:00 PM
As of now, we are most definitely planning to send a group of teens to Israel next summer, on the heels of our fabulous teen tour of last summer. We are aware that people have legitimate concerns about security there now, and we wish to address those and other issues at a Beth El Teen Tour organizational meeting, Sunday, Dec. 10, at 10 AM. If you have any interest at all, please make every effort to attend.
That's all for this week.