Friday, December 1, 2000

Shabbat-O-Gram, December 1, 2000

Shabbat Shalom. 

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.


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:

Dear friends,

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
something about.

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

Sincerely yours,

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 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, 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!



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 


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.


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.


1. The seminary's all-new Hanukkah pages ( ):
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


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.
Shabbat Shalom!

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