Friday, December 29, 2000

Shabbat-O-Gram for Dec. 29, 2000

Shabbat Shalom


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.

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."

All the Internet Torah that's fit to print will be sent on an addendum to this e-mailing.

Candles: 4:20
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...

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!

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.

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.

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

Don't forget to go to for all things Jewish, including the following Jewish Web Week chats:
* Thursday, December 28 at 7pm EST join in a live chat sponsored by 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.

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.


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