Friday, October 26, 2001

Shabbat-O-Gram for Oct 25, 2001

Shabbat Shalom!

This week's highlights feature our Scholar in Residence and a historic Web cast on Monday night.  Don't miss them!


Scholar in Residence Weekend: October 26-2
8: "The Shape of the Human Spirit: Bringing Kabbalah into the 21st Century" with Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Keiner.

Friday, Oct 26, at 8:00 PM: "What's All This About Jewish Mysticism?" (lecture after services)

Shabbat morning, Oct. 27 during services: "Learn Torah Like a Mystic," followed by lunch

Shabbat afternoon at 4:00 PM : "Meditative Mincha," featuring niggunim, chant and contemplation to enjoy the quirt day of rest; followed by seudah shlishit (a traditional third Shabbat meal). RSVP 322-6901 X307 for this program.  Saturday night:  "An Evening of Jewish Renewal" at Normal and Milton Mann's.  Seating is limited.  This program requires an RSVP to 322-6901 X307.

Sunday morning at 10 AM: Rabbi Cohen Keiner leads "A Contemplative Service."



Friday Night:

Candles: 5:40 PM
Kabbalat Shabbat: 8:00 PM, in the lobby.
Scholar in Residence (see above)

Shabbat Morning:
P'sukey d'zimra: 9:15
Shacharit (Morning service): 9:30
Scholar in residence -- Family Service -- lunch
Torah Portion: Lech Lecha (The Abraham story begins)
D'var Torah recommendation:   You can't go wrong with the selection at The Torahnet Page:  The text of the portion and haftarah are at

Children's Services: 10:30, with Nurit Avigdor (through grade 2) and Bert Madwed (grades 3 and up). This week, our 4th grade will be "hosting" the older service.  Last week over 30 kids came to the service that was sponsored by the 5th grade.  Let's keep this up!   Religious school and Bi-Cultural students of all grades are naturally most welcome, as are parents.

Shabbat Afternoon: 4:00: Meditative Mincha (see above)
5:15: Mincha Havdalah service, and MAZAL TOV to Carly Falkoff and her family as she becomes Bat Mitzvah.


“We are not fighting against a Palestinian state; on the contrary, we are for a Palestinian state. We don’t want the downfall [of] Palestinian autonomy; on the contrary, we would like to see the [Palestinians] successful. We don’t want the Palestinian people to suffer; on the contrary, we would like them to enjoy freedom and prosperity. And we are not conducting a personal war against Arafat. Arafat himself used to say, ‘I don’t ask for the moon.’ He doesn’t have to arrest the moon. He has to arrest 10 or 15 troublemakers, which are really initiating most of the terror. And he has to have his police force, which is 50,000 or 60,000 strong, to prevent the incursion of suicide bombers into Israel…”—
F.M. Shimon Peres (Jer. Post, Oct. 23)

"We were “walk-ons” in this political and generational struggle playing out in Araby. America and Americans have a hard time coming to terms with those unfathomable furies of a distant, impenetrable world. In truth, Atta struck at us because he could not take down Mr. Mubarak’s world, because in the burdened, crowded land of the Egyptian dictator there is very little offered younger Egyptians save for the steady narcotic of anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism. The attack on the North Tower of the World Trade Center was Atta’s “rite of passage.”

In the same vein, bin Laden and Abu Gheith can’t sack the dynastic order of the Gulf. (Were they to do so, they would replace it with a cruel reign of terror that would make the yuppies of Jeddah who have been whispering sweet things in the ears of foreign reporters about bin Laden yearn for the days of Al Saud). So the avengers come our way. Our shadow, faint and mediated through hated rulers and middlemen, has fallen across their world. They struck at the shadow, but it is the order that reigns in their lands that fuels their righteousness. And it is the sense of approval they see in the eyes of ordinary men and women in their societies that tells them to press on.  The military campaign against bin Laden is prosecuted, and will surely be won, by the U.S. But the redemption of the Arab political condition, and the weaning of that world away from its ruinous habits and temptations, are matters for the Arabs themselves.

A darkness, a long winter, has descended on the Arabs. Nothing grows in the middle between an authoritarian political order and populations given to perennial flings with dictators, abandoned to their most malignant hatreds.  Something is amiss in an Arab world that besieges American embassies for visas and at the same time celebrates America’s calamities. Something has gone terribly wrong in a world where young men strap themselves with explosives, only to be hailed as “martyrs” and avengers. No military campaign by a foreign power can give modern-day Arabs a way out of the cruel, blind alley of their own history. " -- 
(Fouad Ajami, WSJ)


1) New York Magazine Cover Controversy:  How could a reputable magazine allow blatant anti-Semitism to adorn its cover?

2) Reviews of Important New Book On Chabad: “The Rebbe, the Messiah, and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference” by David Berger

a) Jacob Neusner in the Jerusalem Post:

“In the name of Halacha, which it claims to carry out authentically, Chabad proclaims its deceased rabbi to be the royal Messiah and the embodiment of God, who will rise from the dead to do what he did not do in his initial life on earth.
“Chabad wins followers by programs of impeccable philanthropy, and uses those followers in a sectarian mission of false Messianism. Chabad Messianists present themselves as the true Judaism, teaching that their Messiah, now dead, will soon rise from the grave. To this, the Messianic Jews and Jews for Jesus and even Episcopalian bishops respond, “Right idea, wrong man.”

b) Allan Nadler in the Forward:

“[O]ne of the most prominent movements in the contemporary Jewish world - Lubavitch - is preaching a form of messianism that is, theologically speaking, almost indistinguishable from Christianity. To make matters worse, Rabbi Berger writes, the vast majority of Orthodox Jews don’t seem to mind.”
Your opinions???  I plan to read this book in the near future and will be review it at an upcoming adult education session.  Stay tuned...

3) Osama Hate Sites -- They are proliferating, including the very amusing  Calypso song at that I've gotten from several people.  That's about the mildest thing out there.  Why do we need to demonize someone who has already done a good enough job of demonizing himself.  "Kill Osama" video games and t-shirts tend to trivialize the very sacred and solemn act of engaging in a war of self defense and survival.  There's nothing funny about that.  Or is this just a harmless way of letting off steam?  Your comments are welcome...

4) Should Jews Celebrate Halloween?  Here for me is case where, by all means, yes... for in fact we do need to LIGHTEN UP...  I'd rather do it at the expense of golems and dybbuks ar whatever they're wearing this year, than with Osama bin Laden masks with fake bombs attached to them.  For some links on this spooky subject of eternal debate among Jews, what's known as "The October Dilemma," go to, and


This week's portion begins with the "call" to Abraham to uproot himself from his ancestral home and head "to the Land that I will show you."  The new Conservative Humash Etz Hayim notes that this is the basis for the "preference" of Jewish tradition for aliyah to the land of Israel, though, quoting Maimonides Mishna Torah (Kings 5:7, 12), "It is permissible for Jews to live anywhere."  Very smart move on the Rambam's part, as well as Etz Hayim's.  David Ben Gurion learned long ago that by calling Jews de facto sinners for not living in Israel, you're not going to get very far.  Aliyah is barely on the radar screen of the major religious and Zionist movements of the West, although lip service is usually paid to the idea.  Still, it is important to point out that aliyah is indeed a mitzvah and that it enables us to perform a number of other mitzvot.  See the Jewish Agency's take on this at

But I see another issue here, not of permanent aliyah, but rather of obligatory pilgrimage, not to move there, but to visit Israel.  What I see as a modern Jewish imperative is more akin to "Aliyah l'regel," the festival pilgrimage, than permanent relocation.  But it doesn't have to happen just at festivals.

On November 4, I'll be going on such a pilgrimage with about 20 from our community, including most of its rabbis.  Not a few have questioned to me the logic, if not the sanity, of such a trip now.  To that my answer, is the Hillelesque, "If not now, when?  And if not me, who?"  If logic were the issue, then Abraham did the most illogical thing of all, leaving the Land of the Two Rivers for what is basically a desert, leaving the familiar and the comfortable for the unknown and distant.  Not long ago the Connecticut Jewish Ledger wrote in an editorial, (,"The five million brave people of Israel are on the front lines every day. They go about their lives, but with an extra bit of caution and care. They deserve our support. If Americans stop going, then the terrorists have gotten their way. Little could weaken the link more between the people of Israel and American Jews than our not going to Israel in its time of peril."

Take a look at David Clayman's comments of last June in the AJC "Inside Israel" series, at  "The cancellation of trips to Israel by American Jews young and old unfortunately is seen by Israelis as abandonment and has left a bitter taste of disappointment. Pronouncements by Israeli leaders and articles in the press have been acrimonious. The failure of American Jews to come to Israel these past nine months is tearing the fabric of relations between the State of Israel and world Jewry."  Take a look at the massive layoffs at the Dan hotels described in today's Jerusalem Post, at   While America is living in a very different world since 9/11, Israel's world hasn't changed that much.  It was bad before and it's bad now.

It is precisely because of America's War on Terrorism that I need to go to Israel at this time.  We'll be bringing a reporter with us and every encounter will, hopefully, be transmitted to our neighbors and friends back here.  Americans need to understand that Israelis are in the same boat -- and Israelis can help Americans gain the moral courage to survive in that boat.  So while it's a mitzvah to be going to Israel at any time, it is especially now.

But is it safe?

Is it safe to open our mail?  Safety is a relative matter.  If anything, I am more concerned for those who will remain back here than for myself.

Let's look at a collection of midrash on the first verse of the portion  to help us understand why, for Abraham, safety was a moot point.  This is taken from Leonard Kravitz' d'var Torah at

"Why was Abram told to leave his home and family and go out into the wilderness? (Genesis 12:1)  1) One rabbi, noting that Abram had already traveled from Ur Casdim, suggested that on the journey Abram had deduced something remarkable: Like a wanderer in a wilderness who, coming upon an illuminated city, concluded that someone must be in charge, so Abram on his way to Canaan looked at the world and concluded that there must be someone in charge, namely the One God. 2) According to another rabbi, that conclusion forced Abram to leave his idolatrous homeland. 3) Yet another rabbi saw Abram as a man who faced martyrdom for his new faith and, therefore, was compelled to leave his homeland. 4) Still another rabbi compared Abram to a precious perfume whose aroma cannot be enjoyed until the stopper in the flask is removed; so Abram had to move from his homeland in order to have an effect on the world."

So, based on these midrashim, why "go forth" to Israel now?

1)  Through our wanderings to our Israeli homeland, we come to better understand our destiny, as individuals and as a people.   As Rabbi Brad Artson writes, "The Land of Israel is not merely a change of address. It is a shift of orientation, a place which can nurture deeper spiritual insight by virtue of the events and institutions which will emerge from its soil....As Rabbi Eliezer explains in Midrash Beresheet Rabbah, "If one walks in a field, whether along its length or its breadth, one acquires it." By renewing our connection to the Land of Israel -- by traveling to Israel, by studying there, by living there -- we establish our claim to the Land, and allow the Land to exercise its claim on us."

2)  To see the culture of our American homeland through a different lens.  Perspective is so important at a time like this, and although madness seems so pervasive right now, both here and there, maybe there are oases to be discovered.

3)  We remind ourselves that martyrdom is not a prime Jewish virtue -- such a journey helps turn our focus to survival, and renewal, and away from despair.

4)  To have an impact on the world.

In two weeks, I have no idea what crazy things will be going on.  But I know one thing:  If I get on that El Al plane, I'm going to make a difference, a positive difference, much more so than if I decided to plant my tush in front of the TV for five days.  At a time of heightened existence, where every breath is suddenly endowed with extra meaning, there is no more meaningful deed I could perform than the mitzvah of aliyat regel, pilgrimage to Israel.

That's why I'm "going forth."  So now we know about me and we know about Abraham. 

What about you?


Cynthia & Ira Hoffman, who have a new grandson - Jake Eli Rosen, born to Dana & Eric Rosen. 
Mitch and Lisa Pomerance on the birth of their son Tyler Chase, born last Sunday.
Ken and Deb Goldberg, on the birth of their son, Andrew Evan, whose bris took place here at Beth El today (Thursday)
Megan Elkies, who is becoming Bat Mitzvah this weekend.


1) Midrash: Adding Color to the Bible -- Adult ed series with Rabbinical Student Greg Harris.  Continues,  Wednesday, Oct. 31.  There was a very nice turnout at the first session and a very positive buzz about the class!  It's not to late to sign up!  We will continue to study the creative genius of our Rabbis as they enrich the biblical text with stories, legends and lore.  These inspired texts blend the sacred position of the Torah with the real human struggle for spiritual understanding.  All texts will be in Hebrew and English.  The feel for the whole course is $18.  To reserve a spot, RSVP to Bonnie at 322-6901 X306.  

2) Shabbaton reservations are coming in, fast and furious! I expect the demand to be greater than the "supply" this year, given the enthusiasm shown by those who attended last year, when we were sold out. Don't be left out in the cold this MLK Weekend! Sign up now!

3) Lunch and Learn at the JCC -- this Thursday., November 1, I'll be discussing "Abortion and Stem Cell Research" at 12:30.  Cost is $15 for the session, which includes lunch.  The final two sessions of the series, on Nov 1 and 15, will be on the topics of abortion and the death penalty.

4)  STAR--Synagogue Transformation and Renewal Announces LIVE WEBCAST

Don’t miss an exciting opportunity to join in a national discussion from a Jewish perspective with other members of our congregation and well-known panelists without ever leaving your home or office.

A Discussion of Fear and Courage: A Jewish View,” featuring well-known Rabbis, Irving “Yitz” Greenberg and David Wolpe, moderated by Nessa Rapaport.
Monday, October 299:00 p.m. Eastern

Log on to and participate in this interactive dialogue about fear, courage, mourning and other issues related to the September 11 tragedy.
Immediately after the webcast, please follow the links on your screen to our chat room so that we may continue the conversation within our synagogue community.
* You will need Microsoft Windows Media Player version 6.4 or higher, and Microsoft Internet Explorer version 5.0 or higher. If you do not have these programs, a free download link is available at

The LIVE WEBCAST to take place on the 29th at 9:00 will truly be historic.  Congregants from all over the country hearing (and seeing) two of our most prominent rabbis, and then our congregation will have a chance to chat about it online immediately after, along with others who might opt to visit our chat room.  This could the beginning of something very big -- a whole new model for participatory adult education.  Be part of this exciting new venture from the very beginning.  You can now go the STAR web site to register.

5) I'll be teaching a class on "Judaism and Jihad: Jewish Laws of Warfare," Nov 1, at 8:00 PM.  The session is free of charge.

6) If you are interested in some basic information on Jewish customs, history and prayers, why not take our Judaism 101 class, taught by myself and Barb Moskow. The class meets as part of the B'nai Mitzvah group curriculum, but it also can be audited independently. Meets Thursdays from 7-8. Also see the Adult Ed brochure that was sent out this week for material on other offerings, including Hebrew classes, upcoming classes with our rabbinical student Greg Harris and opportunities for home group study.

7) Read Hebrew with Shirley Fish: Begins Sunday, Oct. 28: 9:45 - 11:00 AM.  Cost: $50.00 for a ten week session.

8) On Sunday, Nov. 11, at 7:30, I'll be giving a first-hand report on our community Solidarity Pilgrimage to Israel, at the November meeting of our Discussion Group (a monthly "Havurah" of  Beth El families that has been meeting for years).  It's open to everyone.  For info and directions, call Elliot Tuckel, at 967-9441.


1) Our Sisterhood plans to send out Chanukah packages to all college freshman. Laura Markowitz is in charge of this effort. Names and addresses of students should be forwarded to Laura at: or call 968-2598. I also would LOVE to have the e-mail addresses so that I might include them on my college e-mail list.

2) Temple Beth El Sisterhood   Proudly Presents   A Concert of Israeli Music
Featuring Ofri Salam
, direct from Israel, Tuesday, November 13 at 7:30 p. m.  Followed by Israeli dancing led by Yossi Elmani
Of the 92
nd Street Y and the New Haven JCC
Refreshments will be served
Ticket Prices:
Adults $12 Students and Seniors $8
Sponsors (includes 4 tickets)  $100             
Remaining tickets sold at the door  $15
For information: Temple Beth El 322-6901 Ilene Madwed   968-257

3) Sisterhood Paid-Up Membership Brunch
Sunday, November 18 -- 10:00  12:00

“You Can Do This”

Lori Guttman, from The Robert Nevins Plan, will help us start the new year with ideas for healthy eating from your refrigerator.
We would appreciate your RSVP by November 13
Mary Sue Gilbert 322-9372
Ilene Kirschner Madwed  968-2570
Volunteers needed.  Please call to RSVP and to Volunteer.
Sisterhood dues of $25 may be paid at the Brunch.
Bring a friend.  New members welcome to join.

4) Mercaz and the Zionist Elections: MERCAZ USA is the Zionist Organization of the Conservative Movement, the voice of Conservative Jewry within the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Zionist Movement and the Jewish National Fund to support religious pluralism in Israel and strengthen the connection between Israel and the Diaspora.  Go to to see how you can sign up to vote for the upcoming Zionist Congress elections.  The deadline is fast approaching,  Do it now!

5) Another great offer of Israeli TV in your home -- this time via DVD.  It's new, and it's called Drishat Shalom.  Chekc it out at .

If you are 18-26 (post high school) and have never before participated in a peer Israel experience, KOACH the Conservative movement's college student organization, provides an uplifting and enriching Israel experience, offering first time travelers the requisite spiritual and educational framework for a truly transforming journey as well as a lot of fun.  Koach "Birthright Israel" trips are booking for this winter!  More information and registration are available at the Koach website,


Please check the bulletin for information on the Birthday Closet project we've just initiated.  We're looking to collect unopened children's gifts for the closet, to be housed here and used by local agencies to support needy children.

Person to Person has sent me a lovely thank-you letter, indicating that the Jewish community collected over $29,000 worth of food products these past High Holidays!  Kol Ha-Kavod (well done) to all of you!

8) High Holiday sermons are available in hard copy from our office, or online at our Web site,

Shabbat Shalom

This Shabbat-O-Gram goes out weekly to hundreds of Beth El congregants and others. Feel free to forward it to your friends, and if you know of anyone who might wish to be included, please have them e-mail me at To be taken off this e-mail list, simply click on "reply" and write "please unsubscribe" in the message box.
For more information on the synagogue, check out Beth El's Web site at To check out some previous spiritual cyber-journeys I have taken, see my book's site at

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