Friday, October 5, 2001

Shabbat-O-gram for October 4, 2001

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Sukkot

It's very hard to fulfill the commandment of Sukkot that it be a time of rejoicing ("z'man simhataynu"), given the state of things.  What's foremost on my mind today is how the world is attempting once again, to declare that Jewish blood is not worthy of being called innocent, and that Jewish victims of terror are not victims of terror.  Speaker after speaker at the U.N. seems to be spreading this great lie, trying to make legitimate acts of terror perpetrated in Israel (  At the moment, it appears a flight bound from Israel to Russia was shot down by a missile, which ultimately may be proven to be a terrorist act.  The idea that it was an error of Ukrainian war games seems far fetched.  There was also an attack on our sister city, Afula, which we'll be visiting.  Will the world excuse this incident because many of the victims are Israeli?  We need more than ever to be repeating to the world the words that American leaders were saying so clearly a few weeks ago.  There can be no compromise with terrorism.  True to his calling, Rabbi Avi Weiss has organized a prayer vigil for America and against terrorism for Sunday, Oct. 21, at 11:00 AM, close to the US Mission to the United Nations, on 45th St and 2nd Avenue.  Concerned Americans will gather in prayer and solidarity with the victims of both countries, and shofar will be sounded, the traditional "wake-up call" to action.  For more details, call 718-796-4730. 

Our community journey to Israel takes on even greater importance now.  Americans and  Israelis feel a real affinity right now, joined in a common destiny, a common victimhood.  The more that can be reinforced on a human level, the stronger that bond will become and the better it will be for both countries.  To that end, it is very gratifying that there will be extensive local media coverage of our November trip.  If you would like to journey to Israel with the leadership of this Jewish community's congregations and major agencies, it is still not too late (but it almost is).  The safest place in the world right now just might be aboard an El Al plane -- it is important to note that El Al shifts its flight patterns and schedules and takes other precautions so that what might have happened to the Russian plane today, if it was a terror attack, could simply not happen on El Al..  The group will be taking all necessary precautions and will not be taking public transportation on the ground in Israel.  Call or e-mail me with any questions you may have about the trip. 

And one more point:  Pardon me if I don't say "Shehechianu," but that blessing is almost appropriate in's report on today's attack in Afula.  And I quote:  "The Afula bus station, not far from the West Bank, has been targeted for terror attacks several times in recent years."  Yes, they used the word "terror" in describing the attack; not "militant," not "violent," not simply "attack."  Must have slipped through. Or maybe, just maybe, something is getting through.  CAMERA, are you listening?

Judaism and "Holy War" -- Lunch and Learn

In light of current events, we've adjusted the schedule of the lunch-and learn "Moral Flashpoints" series that I'll be teaching beginning next Thursday, Oct. 11, from 12:30 - 1:45 at the JCC.  The topic next week will be "Terrorism and Holy War: The Jewish View."  The cost of the session is $15.00 for Beth El and JCC  members, which includes a scrumptious "Thyme for Kosher" lunch.  I apologize for some misinformation on the details that appeared in last week's O-gram and am deeply grateful for the JCC's partnership in co-sponsoring and hosting this program.  Future sessions will take place on Oct. 25, November 1 and another date to be determined (no session on Oct.18), with future topics including genetic engineering and cloning, abortion and the death penalty. 


"If it makes sense to call on religion in times of trouble, it is not because religion abolishes spiritual pain, but because religion acknowledges spiritual pain. When all the political and military and economic and psychological and cultural analyses of the slaughter are exhausted, there remains the question of the justice of the world. Whether or not it has a religious answer, this is a religious question. About this question it is not easy to be brilliant. Silence is often a surer sign of mental progress than is articulateness.
For some people, a house of worship is useful for such a reflection because it is God's house; but there are those who repair to a house of worship because it is Job's house, and therefore the natural setting for their objection to the order of things."
-- Leon Wieseltier, writing about Sept. 11


Friday Night:

Candles:  6:11 PM
Tot Shabbat: 7:15 PM

Shabbat Morning: Family Service, followed by lunch
P'sukey d'zimra: 9:15
Shacharit (Morning service): 9:30
Services include Hallel, Hoshanot and the reading of part of the book of Ecclesiastes.  Lunch follows.
We also celebrate the ufruf of Matt Field and Gale Greenstein (and Matt's birthday!)  Mazal tov to them and Joe and Barbara Field on this simcha for our entire community.
Children's Services: 10:30

Shabbat Mincha-Havdalah: 5:30 
Molly Aronica becomes Bat Mitzvah -- Mazal tov to her and to her entire family (Molly is descended from a founding family of the temple, and of the family she is the first girl to become Bat Mitzvah!)

Saturday Night: 6:30  USY Sukkah sleep-in

Regular Religious School sessions
Minyan: 9:00
Youth Programs:
ATID (grades K-2) will enjoy a Sukkah lunch at 1:00 PM and then travel on to Silverman’s farm. KESHER (grades 3-5) will have an overnight on Sunday, October 7 at 7:30 PM, including dinner and breakfast in the Sukkah.

TBE Senior's Group kickoff program: 4:00 PM

Hoshanah Rabbah services (morning minyan): 7:30 AM
Columbus Day.  No special additions to the liturgy, although, as we all know, Christopher Columbus WAS Jewish.  See for more.

Shmini Atzeret festival services (featuring Yizkor and the prayer for rain): 9:30 AM
(there is no early morning minyan on Tues. and Wed. and our offices are closed for the holiday)
Children s services: 10:30 AM
Simhat Torah services: 7:00 PM, with Hakkafot (circles round the sanctuary dancing with the Torahs) and other goodies.

Jews of Silence No More: A Simhat Torah Plea

We always have lots of kids at our Simhat Torah service -- here's a special call for everyone else!  Teens!  Young couples!  Singles!  Seniors!  Everyone in between!  In the Soviet Union, Simhat Torah was the one time when Jews celebrated a heritage they knew almost nothing about.  Defiantly they paraded in front of the Moscow Synagogue.  Today (and especially today), the Russian Jewish community of Israel has been very hard hit.  We are all in despair.  But so were they in 1965, when Elie Wiesel saw them dance in Moscow and was inspired to write "The Jews of Silence."  Wiesel himself was born on Simhat Torah (read more about him at and  Now, like Wiesel and the Jews he "discovered," we show that the only proper Jewish response to tragedy is to dance with the Torah.  As they say "davka" this year, we must dance.  All ages!  Be here, please, on Tuesday night AND Wednesday morning.

Simhat Torah services: 9:30 AM
This year many of the parts for the Hakkafot and other prayers are going to be led by our Bi Cultural students on Simhat Torah morning.  The Hakkafot will begin just after 10 AM -- so be here early!  We'll have children's services concurrent with the Torah reading and Musaf.


The Torah portion for this Shabbat morning is special for Sukkot.  On Simhat Torah we read both the last and first portions of the Torah as start the cycle all over again.  As a celebration of Torah, this is a good time to choose study resources that suit your needs for the upcoming year.  With that in mind, a great site to bookmark is, the Divre Torah link site of Congregation Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, CA.  Many of the sites listed there have been cited in previous Shabbat-O- Grams; here they are in one nice, neat package.

Reading this week's haftarah in light of world events, is going to be a positiviely eerie experience.  It's about the mythic apocalyptic battle of  Gog and Magog, from Ezekiel 38.   There is a nice introduction to it in our new Humash, Etz Hayim: "The haftarah is a spectacle of disaster wrought against the enemies of Israel.  In hordes, they swoop down on Israel from the northlands -- only to be destroyed in a surge of divine fury that shakes the earth with quakes, pestilence and bloodshed.  IN the end, the Holy land will be strewn with the bodies of the dead, and squadrons of Israelite searchers will scour the Land to bury the slain.  After seven months of searching and burying, "the land shall be purified."

Have a nice day.

Roughly translated,  "Gog of Magog" is the Mother of all Battles of good vs. evil, the Bible's version of the "Thrilla in Manilla."  The Sukkot tie in relates to this Haftarah's similarity to battles described in Zachariah 14, read on the first day of Sukkot, as well as the notion of renewal and the messianic overtones of this cataclysmic battle.  For me it's just plain scary, especially if, as my sister recently suggested, you add an apostrophe to the Hebrew "gimel" in "Gog," thereby turning it into "George." 

Yes, the new ones are in and yes we are already enjoying them and making good use of them.  They will be dedicated as part of our services on Oct. 13, Shabbat Bereisheet.  If you would like to dedicate one or more, please contact our office.  While we say hello to the new, we also say good bye to the old.   Our collection of Hertz humashim are being stored in our library for two weeks.  If you would like to rummage through them to find one that you've dedicated in the past, or if you simply wish to take one home (it's still a very nice, though not-too-contemporary  commentary), please stop by soon.  In two weeks, we'll be sending them along to new homes in needy congregations.  One of the congregations we're assisting is the new Conservative shul in Wilton, which we are helping to get off the ground in this manner.

REQUIRED READING  The War: A Roadmap, by Charles Krauthammer How the other side sees us, courtesy of Radio Islam.  Featuring the good old "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," and other anti-Semitic classics - A prescient and chilling Auden poem. -- Netanyahu speech before U.S. Govt. Reform committee.  The Great Communicator communicates. - Rabbi Daniel Gordis moving diary entries from Israel, reprinted in last Sunday's NY TImes Magazine -- New poll: US Israel ties stronger then ever -- On today's "accidental" downing of a plane from Israel bound for Russia.

A PLETHORA OF SUKKOT SITES (For your Sukkot Surfing Pleasure)  - two stories for kids - JComm's exhaustive Sukkot links page - a different view of Sukkot customs (discussed here on the 1st day) - traditional perspective, background on the Sukkah and the 4 species - Mystical, meditative lulav movements - What is an etrog, really? - Tishrei Guide - Mishnaic material on Sukkot (more advanced, but in English translation and fascinating) - Sukkot through the ages.  Nice historical overview from WZO

1) "Is Tragedy Required for Jewish Unity?" Sunday, Oct. 14, 5:00-7:00, at the JCC; co-sponsored by the JCC, Beth El and other local synagogues.  Speaker: Rabbi David Geffen, chairman and founder of "Common Denominator," bridging the differences between Jews in Israel and here.  Find out more about him and his work  at

2) Red Cross: to donate blood, call 1-800-GIVE LIFE; for other donations; 1-800-435-7669

3) Americares: 800-486-4357

4) Scholar in Residence Weekend:  October 26-28:  "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
Sunday morning at 10 AM: "A Contemplative Service."

5) New Program for Pre-schoolers!
Mechina, with Nurit Avigdor, begins this Sunday. For 3 and 4 year olds, an hour filled with singing, arts and crafts. Two sessions available -- call our education office for info (322-6901 X306). Open to members and non-members of Beth El. SPREAD THE WORD!

6) Karov
A very special program for developmentally challenged students, ages 5-10, meeting from 10-11 each Sunday morning, beginning this week. Taught by Special ed. specialist Marcy Nirschel, this entry level Jewish enrichment program will include stories, arts and crafts, music, holiday celebrations and a weekly Shabbat experience. Class size is limited to 10. Please spread the word about this to your friends. Open to the entire community. For more information, contact the education office (322-6901 X306)

7) 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!

8) Lunch and Learn at the JCC -- see above

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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