Friday, January 5, 2001

Shabbat-O-Gram, Jan 5, 2001

 Shabbat Shalom

This Shabbat-O-Gram goes out weekly to about 250 congregants and others, plus, on occasion, to a college student list of about 50.  If you know of any congregant, or anyone else, who does not get this mailing and might be interested, please have them e-mail me at  my temple address, (my home address will be phased out shortly).  For congregants who wish to be "in the know" about what's going on here, it is vital that they be on our list.


Today is the 10th of Tevet, a minor fast day in the Jewish calendar.  In 587BCE, the Babylonians began their siege of Jerusalem on this day.  Given the current situation, it pays to look back at why Jerusalem fell back then and whether it was inevitable. 

At that time, Babylonia was by far the greatest power in that region and Jeremiah the prophet was convinced that they could not be defeated.  Judah was already a vassal state and was craving a return to independence.  Many of the King's military advisors felt that Judah could prevail over Babylonia in battle and urged Zedekiah to challenge the great empire.  Jeremiah called these advisors "false prophets" and dramatized his call for strategic conciliation by walking through the streets of Jerusalem chained in an ox-goad, symbolizing the yoke of Babylon.  Jeremiah's warnings were not heeded, a disastrous confrontation ensued, King Zedekiah fled, was eventually captured and made to see his sons slaughtered before being blinded and led in chains to Babylonian exile.

Not a pretty picture and one that gives us pause for reflection.  Are there lessons to be learned for our situation?  Back then, the militants expected God to come to Judah's salvation, as had happened (in their eyes) a century earlier when the Assyrians were knocking at the door, only to be turned back by a plague that struck their camp.  The Jews could not conceive of their Temple being destroyed, their Jerusalem in ruins.  And us?  As dire as things are becoming, it is equally impossible for us to imagine Israel's downfall, especially in light of the seemingly miraculous victories of 1948 and 1967.  So two lessons are apparent: 1) Don't count on miracles and 2) Yes, it could happen.  Israel is not invincible.

But is the route to salvation conciliation, even at the steep price offered by the current proposals?  I'm no Jeremiah, but it's tough to discount the fact that not once but twice in our history, the path of the zealot proved to be the wrong one, while the path of the pragmatic capitulator turned out to be right.  Jeremiah advocated giving in to the great power in his day, and Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai did exactly the same thing in his.  Because he did not challenge the sovereignty of the Romans in the year 70, Yochanan was given permission by Vespasian to open an academy at Yavne. From that academy emerged a new, rabbinic, Temple-free Judaism that allowed our people to survive 2000 years of exile.  While Jerusalem burned, Yochanan fiddled in Yavne -- and for that we are grateful.

This is not to say that Israel should capitulate to the Palestinians on all counts.  But we all must recognize that, powerful as Israel is,  its only hope of survival is in its special relationship with the US, which needs to be sustained virtually at all costs.  What I fear most about Ariel Sharon is that he, like Zedekiah, seems to believe that Israel can go it alone.  Maybe Sharon is a changed man in his senior years.  Given the current polls, after next month's election he will most likely have the chance to show us.



Candle lighting tonight: 4:25 PM
Tot Shabbat 7:15.; Main Kabbalat Shabbat service: 8:00
Shabbat Morning: Psukey d'Zimra meditations: 9:15
Shacharit: 9:30
Children's Services: 10:30

Torah Portion: VA - YIGASH 
We'll have a discussion on gender-role issues that apply to this portion.  Good preparatory material can be found in this week's Learn Torah With, at
We'll be hearing about an obscure women of legend and lore, Serah bat Asher, and we'll ask the eternal question, "Did Joseph and Jacob eat quiche?"


(Believe it or not, we had four people show up for services during last Saturday's blizzard; still we decided to add another lobby service to the schedule this week, since many could not get here last week)

SATURDAY NIGHT: Sisterhood Family Pasta Night, with Bingo and Havdalah (what a combination: we end Shabbat and immediately start gambling! I love it!), 6:30.  It looks like well over 100 people will be attending this fun annual event. 

Senior's luncheon, 1:00 PM
Kesher (grades 3-5) trip to the New Haven Knights hockey game, 3:30PM. 

We're set to go next weekend to Holiday Hills.  There are still about 5-6 spaces left!   If you are interested in joining us, or if you have signed up but didn't receive your registration packet, please let Barb know immediately ( or 322-6901 X305).  The more I think about this event, the more I am looking forward to it. 

There are basically three types of programs in synagogue life: 1) programs that fail, and I define failure as a program that evokes primarily negative feelings among those who attend, or that generates little response to begin with; 2) Programs that have good attendance and are well-received but have little lasting impact; and 3) Programs with legs, ones that are remembered far into the future.  This Shabbaton will be that rarest of occurrences, the third type of program.  Ask yourself how many synagogue events you can recall from ten years ago?  Odds are that this Shabbaton will be on that list ten years from now.  It will be recalled by our children long after they've forgotten any particular lesson learned in Hebrew School this year.  And it will be recalled by adults long after the topic of my High Holidays sermons has been relegated to the sub-conscious (it was the Shehechianu, by the way).  We are in the business of making memories; that's why our program emphasizes these informal, fun, out-of-classroom Shabbatonim for our kids, and now, at last, for the rest of us. 

And how do I know that a Shabbaton is such a high-impact event?  Because I went on them as a teen, have led them for many groups since, and I remember them all.  Does this mean that someone who attends our retreat next weekend will be a rabbi some day because of it?  Who knows, but that's not the point.  It does mean that everyone who comes will see being Jewish, and being part of our Beth El community, in an entirely new light.        And for all of us, kids and adults alike, it means that a decade from now, one very powerful memory will make us smile whenever we think about it.  With one stroke we'll have won a major victory in the quest for Jewish continuity, without even realizing it.  We'll just remember how fun it was and how good it felt to go away with 150 fellow congregants, and how by the end, we became an extended family.

So what were we waiting for?  There actually have been adult and family Shabbatons here before.  I led a few back when I was Assistant Rabbi and we've had two in-house Shabbatonim more recently.  But frankly, we weren't ready to go away together until now.  Now we are, and the proof is in the numbers, both of those attending (about 3 times the number of our most recent in-house Shabbaton), and those involved in the planning.  There are too many to thank here, but special thanks go to chairperson Eileen Rosner, who simply gets things done, to our president, Mark Lapine who has supported and believed in this project from the start (and will be sending his wife Jennifer as his personal envoy since he'll be out of town and unable to attend), to Penny and Michael Horowitz, sponsors of our guest lecturer, and Caryl and Peter Poser, sponsors of our guest song leader.  We'll be celebrating Caryl's birthday at Holiday Hills.  I also received several substantial donations that enabled us to reduce the cost significantly for all attending.  Thanks to all our donors.  And the biggest thanks must go to Barb Moskow, who has seen this through from beginning to end, combining a broad vision with meticulous attention to detail.

The only question that remains from here is not what will happen B.S. (before the Shabbaton), but how time will be measured A.S.(after it).  For one thing, when will we have the next one?  And, since it is a given that most of the 150 who go this time will want to go back, how will we be able to accommodate all the rest of us, all of us equally anxious to create long-term positive Jewish memories for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren? 

WEB SITES OF THE WEEK (Courtesy of Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins)
Learn about Kabbalah: : : Jewish Mysticism :

Hebrew College - Campus in Cyberspace - Spring 2001
This fall, Hebrew College launched its Master of Arts in Jewish Studies via distance learning the first MA in Jewish studies degree available online.
We invite you to join a learning community that features a full offering of master’s-level courses, ongoing interaction with other students, one-to-one mentoring by faculty (not teaching assistants), and expert technical assistance.  We believe that this program including learning via the Internet, e-mail, interactive video, summer on-site programs, and other forums represents a new chapter in Jewish studies and education.  Find out more about this exciting new way to earn a master’s degree, advance professionally, and deepen your knowledge of Jewish texts and Hebrew language.
Hebrew College has been providing outstanding undergraduate and graduate training in Jewish studies and education since 1921 from its campus in Brookline, Massachusetts.  Now, through its trailblazing distance learning degree program, the College’s premier educational programs taught by its world-renowned faculty are open to anyone, anywhere.
For information about Hebrew College’s Online Master of Arts in Jewish Studies, please visit
For information about Spring 2001 Semester courses, please visit

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 Thursday. Or just attend Shabbat morning and announce the name when I ask for it after the Torah reading.  We would be delighted to help along the healing process in any manner possible -- and this prayer helps.


Beth El Cares has begun a letter writing campaign to the soldiers in Israel to let them know we care and are thinking of them. You can write whatever is in your heart.

Cards are available in the synagogue office, or you can use your own stationery or cards. If you have children, they, too can participate. If they are old enough, they can write a card, or if they are too young to write, they can draw a picture.

Because the Israeli government cannot give out names, you can address your letter or card to “Dear Friend” or whatever salutation you choose.

Please bring your cards and letters back to the synagogue office where they will be sent collectively to Israel.
I look forward to your participation.

Sandy Golove
Chairperson, Beth El Cares Israel Writing Project 322-0295 (evenings)

Because of the situation in Israel leading rabbinical authorities have suggested saying this prayer every day:
Aheinu kol beit Yisrael ha-n’tunim b’tzarah, HaMakom y’rahem alayhem v-yotzi’em mitzarah lir’vahah u-me’afela l’ora, vnomar Amen.
May the Almighty grant mercy and strength to our family the Household of Israel who struggle for peace, and bring them out of trouble into safety, out of darkness into light.
The Chief Rabbinate of Israel has requested that all Jews around the world recite chapter 142 of Tehillim (the Book of Psalms) daily for Jews held captive in Iran:
Asher ben Shaltnat, Nasser ben Poren, Yaakov ben Mohatram, Farhad ben Hamdam, Shahroch ben Shahnaz, Paramaz ben Aseret, Farzad ben Aseret, Arash ben Zolkah, Negat ben Nosrat, Daniel ben Suryah, Omid ben Suryah, Ramon Farzam, Ramon Namati.

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Shabbat Shalom! 


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