Friday, February 16, 2001

Shabbat-O-Gram for Feb. 15, 2001

Shabbat Shalom!

Honesty and Policy

In honor of President's Day weekend and the birthdays of our two most truthful political leaders this side of John McCain, and in honor of the 9th Commandment (all ten are in this week's portion), look below for a special D'var Torah and Web Pilgrimage on the subject of honesty.  Speaking of honest, I joined several local clergy for a tete a tete with Rep. Chris Shays this past week.  It gave us a chance to air concerns about a variety of subjects, ranging from Florida (he showed us how tiny a chad is), to Ashcroft to school choice and religion-based government funding.  It was, as they say in diplomatic circles, an honest and frank exchange.  We applauded him on his courageous efforts for campaign reform and appreciated his candor in his supporting some (though not all) Bush initiatives, even those least popular to a group of primarily liberal clergy.  There was some nice give-and-take, and I must say, disagreement among the clergy on the whole faith-based charity issue.  It appears that this plan will help worthy organizations, like our Council of Churches and Synagogues, to cut through red tape more efficiently to acquire government grants.  But not all religious organizations are as meritorious as our Council.  Is it possible that some government funds might be used, even indirectly, to support missionary activities?  I expressed that concern to Shays, adding that the sectarian, exclusionary comments made by two ministers at the Inauguration did not auger well for the President who wants to be a "uniter, not a divider." 

Our special Kids Shabbat-O-Gram will also be sent out today, so send me your child's e-mail address -- and let your kids of all ages know that they can now add their rabbi to their buddy list on AOL; screen name: 


on Friday: 5:14 PM
Kabbalat Shabbat service: 8:00, in the chapel

Shabbat MorningFamily Service at 9:30 AM, followed by lunch (If you would like to sponsor this or any other Shabbat lunch, please contact Roberta Aronovitch at  As is our custom, approximately once each month a service is led almost exclusively by congregants.  We call it a "Family Service," although a more appropriate title might be "Lay Led Service," or something like that.  But "Family" just sounds right.  Of course, all members of the family are always welcome in our services.
Children's Services: 10:30 (in the Chapel and Kindergarten room).

Torah Portion: Yitro, featuring the Ten Commandments.  The Learn Torah With commentaries can be found at  There are three of them this week, all interesting.  Click on the name on the author to select them.  Ismar Schorsch's commentary and the text of the portion and Haftarah are available from the JTS Web site, at        

Shabbat Ends: 6:14 PM Saturday

There is no Religious School this coming week.  Happy Vacation!

Daily Minyan: 
Sunday at 9, weekdays at 7:30, Monday (President's Day) at 9:00 (note later time).

We've had a request for a "guaranteed minyan" for this Friday, Feb. 19, as someone is saying Kaddish.  Please let me know if you can be here!!!!


The following are the names of the seven IDF soldiers and one female civilian who were killed in Wednesday's terrorist attack at Azur junction:

Staff-Sgt. Ophir Megidish, 20, from Kiryat Malachi;
Sgt. David Azoulai, 21, from Kiryat Malachi;
Sgt. Julie Weiner, 21, from Jerusalem;
Sgt. Rachel Levy, 19, from Ashkelon;
Sgt. Kochava Polanski, 19, from Ashkelon;
Cpl. Alexander Manevitz, 18, from Ashkelon;
Cpl. Yasmin Karisi, 18 from Ashkelon; and
Simcha Shetrit, 30, from Rishon Lezion.

Our hearts reach out to their families and to the whole house of Israel at this time of crisis and sadness.



We'll be having our annual Shabbat of Sharing with Temple Sinai on Feb. 23-24. Our guest speaker will be Arthur Magida, 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.

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

A GALA DINNER SOMETHING-OR-OTHER (I have no idea what this is all about, but they told me to ask that you get your reservations in) -- 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.

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.

A BITE OF TORAH: "I Cannot Tell a Lie"

It is fitting that on this weekend when we celebrate our first President, the original G.W., he of the cherry tree, and our 16th, Honest Abe himself, we also read the Ten Commandments, including that final one instructing us not to bear false witness.  The ancient sages understood that civilization can be sustained only when it rests on a foundation of honesty and trust.  They also understood that truthfulness is not inherited through genetics, but through conscious parental modeling.  Take this amusing Talmudic story (Yevamot 63a) for example:  The sage Rav had an interesting marriage.  Whatever he asked his wife for, she gave him the opposite.  So when he asked for lentils, she would cook peas, and when he asked for peas, she would cook lentils.  Maybe Rav should have learned his own way around the kitchen, but that's another story.

Rav's son Hiyyah watched these shenanigans going on all his life, so when he grew up he figured out how to beat the system.  When Rav would tell his son to inform Mom that he wished to have peas for dinner, Hiyyah would tell his mother, "Dad wants lentils."  She would prepare peas and everyone would be happy.  One day Rav commented to his son, "Your mother has improved!"  To which Hiyyah responded ,"Dad, I cannot tell a lie, I chopped it down." Wait...wrong story.  Hiyyah replied, "Dad I cannot tell a lie, I told a lie.  In fact I've been telling them for some time.  I reversed your messages."

Now, as they say on TV, YOU MAKE THE CALL!

As Hiyyah's parent, would you: a) appreciate Hiyyah's attempt to maintain Shalom Bayit,"peace in the home," (or in this case, peas in the home) with manipulations that one might easily call harmless "white lies?";  or b) would honesty take precedence over tact in this case?

Well, the answer here is "b," although in other cases "a" might have been the choice.  But when we are dealing with teaching a child, we need to remember the old saying that "people who tell too many white lies can become colorblind."  The Talmud (Sukkah 46b) instructs us never to promise a child something and then fail to deliver, because as a result, the child will learn to lie.  From this, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin suggests that the Talmud is also telling us never to have our kids answer an unwanted phone call and say, "Daddy's not home" when Daddy is standing right there, and certainly never to lie about a child's age when buying tickets in a movie theater, in order to take advantage of a cheaper ticket price

Rav thanked Hiyyah for his consideration but instructed him to be truthful from then on.  In almost every case, and especially where children are watching, honesty is the best policy.  Something to think about while filling out our tax forms.


SPIRITUAL JOURNEYS ON THE WEB: Truth and Consequences:

1) This week we jump off from Rav and Hiyyah directly to  What is Radical Honesty?  According to the site, "Radical Honesty is a kind of communication that is direct, complete, open and expressive. Radical Honesty means you tell the people in your life what you've done or plan to do, what you think, and what you feel. It's the kind of authentic sharing that creates the possibility of love and intimacy."  It's an interesting concept, though I am wary of radical anything and would not cough up a cent for anything here.  It's interesting to look at the site's "Ten Tips to Living a Radically Honest Life" and compare them to Jewish values regarding gossip, business ethics etc.  There are some clear parallels, but the Talmud came up with these ideas 2,000 years ago.

2) To find material specifically on Jewish ethics, a good place to begin is the site, "What Would a Mensch Do?", which posits several ethical dilemmas and asks your response.  Good for teens or adults.  Looking for more advanced material?  Check out the articles at, the Institute for Jewish Medical Ethics, which is having its annual conference this weekend.  For business ethics see the articles at Jewish, at  This site is part of the (Orthodox) Project Genesis Network.

3)  Finally, let's tie all of this together (and it even ties in to last week's Web journey about Kashrut) at  This article, entitled "Bearing False Witness: Pork Leaves Bad Taste at Eatery," details a year-old incident where a California chef decided to cut back on expenses by serving pork in the guise of veal.  He said it made for "superior scaloppini." The restaurant tried to contain the situation by hiring a publicity firm and contacting local synagogues in efforts to apologize to people "whose religion prevents them from eating pork."  Which is very funny indeed, since any Jew eating veal at this restaurant would be violating the Kosher laws anyway, pork or no pork.  I suppose there now are two new categories, "treif" and "glatt treif," with the latter being those who eat pork, but only outside the home.  Talk about your classic Kosher Pig stories!  The most appropriate line of the whole article came from a Moslem woman: "When you go to a restaurant, there is a basic trust that you will get what you ask for," she told the San Jose Mercury News. "That trust has been broken."

If ever we needed to be reminded that those who are habitually honest maintain the moral high ground, while those who live a lie lose all credibility, all we need to do is look at today's newspaper.  Did Yasser Arafat really call yesterday's terror attack a simple "road accident?"  It boggles the mind.  We close our exploration into ethics and honesty with two Talmudic quotes about honesty:

When a person is brought before the heavenly court for judgement the first question he is asked is whether he was honest in business.

Talmud Tractate Shabbat 31a

A person who doesn't tell the's as if he worships idols.

Talmud Tractate Sanhedrin 92a

Shabbat Shalom.  Honestly!

This Shabbat-O-Gram goes out weekly to about 450 congregants and others, plus to a college student list of about 60. Please feel free to forward it to your friends, and if you know of any congregant, college student or anyone else who might wish to be included, please have them e-mail me at my temple address,
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