Friday, February 23, 2001

Shabbat-O-Gram, Feb 21, 2001


It appears that at least a few of you are receiving two different versions of the Shabbat-O-Gram in the same mailing.  There is a simple explanation for this, but, to my knowledge, no simple solution.  Eudora gives me the option to send it out either in plain text or "styled."  Since the O'Gram contains some advanced e-mail features (colors, hyperlinks, etc.), I must choose the "styled" option.  However, there are many out there whose computers are not set up to recieve these features; they require the "plain" setting.  In order to make it possible for everyone to recieve the Shabbat-O-Gram, I mush select a third option, "plain and styled," which sends this mailing out in BOTH formats.  The perfect rabbinic solution!  If you are recieving both, all I can do is apologize for the inconvenience and suggest that you delete one of them.

"WHEN THE MOON IS IN THE SEVENTH DAY" -- and other taxing matters
It may not be the dawning of the "Age of Aquarius," but this Shabbat is the Jewish equivalent of a lunar eclipse.  It so happens that Rosh Hodesh Adar, the new moon, is neatly aligned with a special Sabbath, Shabbat Shekalim, meaning that we will be reading from three Torahs.  This almost never happens, outside of Simhat Torah, when it always happens, and Shabbat Hanukkah, when it coincides with Rosh Hodesh Tevet.  This week's alignment last occurred in 1994, which, incidentally, was also the last time that Passover began on a Saturday night -- until this year.

We know that Rosh Hodesh is the New Month; but what is Shabbat Shekalim?  Why name a Shabbat, of all days, after Israeli currency?  As Rabbi Yitz Greenberg writes in, "The Jewish Way," "More than any other holiday, Shabbat reflects the changing moods and concerns of Clal Yisrael (the collectivity of Israel).... In the weeks before Passover, four special Shabbat days prepare the community agenda: Shabbat Shekalim, the occasion to to give the annual gift to the national treasury for Temple sacrifices;  Shababt Zachor (Remember), a reminder of the Amalekite genocidal assault on Israel and the ongoing dangers of anti-Semitism; Shabbat Parah (Red Heifer), the declaration of the need to purify in preparation for the Paschal lamb sacrifice and the central national feast; and Shabbat Hachodesh (the Month), an announcement of the arrival of the month of Passover, the new year of liberation." 

The fact that Shabbat Shekalim always comes at the time when I need to be reminded to get my own taxes in order is one way that I have tried to imbue even the secular calendar with the rhythms of Jewish sacred time.  It also reminds me that the giving of taxes is in itself a sacred activity.  Corny as it seems, I actually improvise a bracha when I put my completed tax forms in the mail, realizing that this money is going to help people who are in need, and help this nation maintain its position moral leadership, not to mention the fact that some of this money also helps to preserve Israel's security.  If you're looking for a blessing to recite, take a peek at the "Birchot Ha-Shachar" the morning blessings (p.14 of our Shabbat prayer book); almost all of them work.  Speaking of the mitzvah of paying taxes, this week's Web Journey is dedicated to none other than Marc Rich.

The week's portion, Mishpatim, often referred to as the "Book of the Covenant," is a treasure trove of laws, many bearing a resemblance to the famous Code of Hamurabi as well as other ancient Near Eastern law codes.   In it, the festival cycle is introduced, as well as the Sabbatatical cycle for the land.  What better week, then, to reflect on the cycles of our own days, months and years, and how we might come to elevate our lives by reclaiming these sacred moments.  As we raise and dress three different Torah scrolls, this is truly a week for us to reflect on the words of Abraham Joshua Heschel, that "the way to nobility of the soul is the art of sanctifying time."



on Friday: 5:22 PM
Kabbalat Shabbat service: 8:15, AT TEMPLE SINAI (SEE BELOW)

Shabbat Morning: Shabbat of Sharing continues at 9:30 AM (P'sukey d'Zimra at 9:15)
Children's Services: 10:30 (in the Chapel and Kindergarten room)

Torah Portion (Mishpatim).  The Learn Torah With commentaries can be found at    Ismar Schorsch's commentary and the text of the portion and Haftarah are available from the JTS Web site, at
Shabbat Ends: 6:22 PM Saturday

Religious School resumes on Tuesday and Thursday

Daily Minyan: 
Sunday at 9, weekdays at 7:30

For several years, Temples Sinai and Beth El have taken one Shabbat each winter and held services in unison, on Friday there and on Shabbat morning here, as a gesture of Jewish unity and communal solidarity.  This year we welcome Rabbi Liz Rolle here for the first time.  We also welcome our guest speaker, Arthur Magida.  As has been our custom, choirs and individuals from both synagogues will be participating in the services. 

Our guest speaker is a noted columnist on religion for PBS and Beliefnet, and author of "Prophet of Rage: A Life of Louis Farrakhan and His Nation," "How to Be a Perfect Stranger: A Guide to Etiquette in Other People's Religious Ceremonies" and several other books. The topics:

Friday night 2/23 (at Temple Sinai -- 8:15PM)
“We WILL Overcome!”
The Black-Jewish alliance of the 1960s was followed by almost three decades of tensions exploited by separatists and hate-mongers. Now, the decline of leaders like Louis Farrakhan, the shared calamity of the Florida elections and the renaissance of a newly strengthened NAACP gives hope for a redefined Black-Jewish relationship.

Shabbat morning 2/24 (here)
“A Meeting of the Ways: New Interfaith Realities in the 21st Century”
As increased immigration boosts Islamic, Buddhist and Asian populations in the U.S., and as Jews and Christians seek more amicable relations, barriers between religions are lowering. The new atmosphere not only enhances public dialogue,it gives all faiths a chance to better understand others -- and themselves.



: to Mindy and Allen Grafstein on the birth of their daughter, Casey Marsha, grandaughter of Marsha Gladstein of blessed memory, Gary and Judi Gladstein and Ralph and Rachel Grafstein.

ANNUAL TEEN SERVICE (Shabbat morning service for the congregation led by about 90 of our teenagers) -- March 3

SEVENTH GRADE FAMILY PROGRAM -- Sunday, March 4, 8:45 - 10:45 AM
For all parents and students of 2001 Bar Bat Mitzvah class. Through videos and discussion, we'll explore what it really means to become Bar and Bat Mitzvah.

By popular demand, we'll be organzing an adult Bar/Bat Mitzvah class within the next few months, with the goal of completing the course in about a year and preparing for an adult Bar/Bat Mitzvah service in May of 2002. The course of study will be taught by our senior staff and include some synagogue skills and a basic overview of Jewish history, customs and ceremonies and texts. We will gladly accomodate all levels of Hebrew proficiency. If you are at all interested, please contact the education office (322-6901 X306).

YOM HA-SHOAH: The Legacy of the Generations
This year's community-wide Holocaust Remembrance Day program, to be held here on the evening of April 19, will focus on the second and third generations of survivors.  If you are a child or grandchild of a survivor and would be interested in sharing your story, please let me know.  How have the stories you grew up with changed your life?  What do you feel is your special legacy or obligation as the descendant of a survivor?  The program will feature brief testimonies given by people of all ages, including children, and we will be collecting additional written testimonies to be distributed that night.

A series of 16 pamphlets on the various crises and trials we all face in life, is now on display in our lobby. Feel free to take from this wide selection, which is being sponsored by our Sisterhood, for yourself and for your loved ones. Notable Jewish writers touch on topics ranging from "Taking the Time You Need to Mourn Your Loss," to "Finding a Way to Forgive," to "Easing the Burden of Stress." When we first put these on display last week, we ran out of the stress one (in other words we were "stressed out") almost instantly. But we're replenishing our supply. By using "Life Lights" and giving them to loved ones in need, we all can help to show the caring face of Beth El.

Last week's Torah Bite included the Talmudic story about how Rav asked for peas and his wife kept giving him lentils, until Rav's son Hiyyah got into the mix and "fixed" matters, only to be reprimanded by his father for his white lies (see last week's O'Gram for the details).  I asked whether you agree with Rav's approach.  To which Marsha Colton responded:
Hiyyah was not instructed to lie.  In fact, he was an insightful and
sensitive person.  He knew what his father wanted, and knowing how his mother
operated, he gave instruction to his mother to get the desired result for his
father.   No harm to his mother, and everyone is happy -- there's peas in the
house!   Isn't this a case of no harm, no foul?  In fact, perhaps the
greatest transgression is that of the mother.  What lesson is she giving be
disrespecting her husband's wishes constantly -- and in front of their child
to boot?  It's not called lying, but I don't know the name of this
transgression which I find MUCH more egregious than the child trying to
create shalom bayit.
Thanks, Marsha, for your response.  I tend to agree that peace in the home is valued even higher than truth, but I think what the Talmud is gettign at here is that neither should be seen in absolute terms.  We can't have peace at all costs, if it is leading impressionable children to think that lying is the only way to achieve it.  Sometimes we need to confront domestic problems head-on.

SPIRITUAL JOURNEYS ON THE WEB: On the trail of Marc Rich

1) And what a mess it is!  Here's a fugitive charged with massive tax evasion (he must never have observed Shabbat Shekalim) and aiding the enemies of America and Israel, who is pardoned in part because of the lobbying efforts of prominent American and Israeli Jews!   This one hits very close to home, as one of Rich's pet causes is none other than Birthright Israel, of which we are a pilot community.  It is said that only days before his pardon Rich was seen weeping at the massive gathering of thousands of Jewish college students in Jerusalem, rekindling the spark of Judaism in their souls thanks in large part to his investment.  But what kind of Judaism would condone criminal behavior of the Rich variety?  That's the question asked by Reform movement leader Eric Yoffie in last week's Jewish Week.  Read his article at

2) Yoffie's words are disturbing, to say the least.  And this is not the first time that prominent Jewish institutions' reputations  have been tarnished by taking massive donations from tainted sources.  A few years back The Jewish Theological Seminary had to change the name of their spanking new "Ivan Boesky Library."  But the donation was not returned -- not that it would have been possible to say whose money it really was.  It certainly wasn't Boesky's, although he donated it.  So in search of the Rich debris, I took a gander at Google and came up with the "Marc Rich Annual Seminar at the Disapora Museum," at  This year's topic? "The Jewish Experience in the 20th Century: its Main Events and Icons - A Personal Perspective"  A little farther down on the Google list is an unsubstanitated claim that Marc Rich dollars have gone to support, of all things, Israel's "Movement For Quality Government," a grassroots organization fighting government corruption.   More articles detailing the Rich family's extensive philanthropy can be found at the Foundation Center Web Site,  There is little doubt that some of this money actually saves lives, which presents us with another Jewish dilemma: Since the saving of a life supercedes almost every other Jewish principle (even Sabbath observance) could not tainted money be used at least in this case?  And, by extension, doesn't Birthright Israel save Jewish souls, if not actual physical lives?


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