Shabbat Shalom! It's good to be back and I look forward to seeing everyone at our outdoor Kabbalat Shabbat service this evening at 6:30. I want to thank everyone for holding the fort while I was away, including those who gave divrei Torah and led services. I'm especially appreciative of Cantor Mordecai and Rabbi Michelle Dardashti for their efforts. BTW, you can see a nice welcoming piece on Rabbi Dardashti in this week's Jewish Ledger.
If you haven't had the chance to take a look at some of the photos I took in South Africa, you can find them here. I've thrown in a few more (but thankfully not all 3,000).
Since the last O-Gram, several pieces I've written have appeared and may be of interest, including one highlighting our Friday night service: Laugh. Cry. Love: Liberal Judaism Lives. JTS Chancellor Arnold Eisen has also addressed the issue of worship renewal in a two part essay: See Meaningful Tefillah in the Synagogue and Meaningful Tefillah in the Synagogue, Continued, and join in the conversation that follows his comments.
One suggestion he makes is that we take time to learn about the prayers. I'll be doing that during Shabbat morning services this month. Join us tomorrow for the first of the series, "Prayer and Purpose," where we'll be focusing on "Prayers of Light and Love," the two prayers that precede the Sh'ma in the morning service. In this way I hope people will begin to feel more connected to our traditional liturgy, able to find personal meaning in our ancient words. Join us in the chapel. And tomorrow morning we'll also have an ufruf for Laurel Schwartz and Harlan Neugeboren, who will be married next week. It's especially fitting because they met at services here last High Holidays and they will be married just before Tu B'Av, the Jewish Valentines Day.
Also, see these recent articles from the Jewish Week's "Hammerman on Ethics" column:
Q - I have always been under the impression that cremation and tatoos are forbidden by Jewish law. Yet the recent funeral for Amy Winehouse was very Jewish in nature although the singer - who was amply tattooed - had asked to be cremated. Is cremation now accepted in Jewish quarters?
Q - The recent police detainment of prominent right wing Israeli rabbis accused of incitement has been in the news lately. At issue is the halachic tract "Torat Hamelech," (the "Torah of Kings") which allegedly condones the murder of non Jews in some circumstances. This is horrible, but how is it different from any artist or politician making an outlandish statement? Certainly those on the left have said equally inflammatory things. Are we discriminating against the rabbis? Aren't they entitled to freedom of speech?
Q - Is the release of Gilad Shalit worth an exchange of a thousand Hamas prisoners, including some who have blood on their hands and could well kill more innocent Israelis (and others)?
Q - I frequently use a 10-trip punch card on the LIRR. Often the conductor fails to appear to punch the card before I get off. What is my obligation here? Should I tear up the card before it runs out to make up the difference or am I free to use it again as it is the responsibility of the railroad to collect the fare? This does not involve deception since I am ready to pay the fare.
Q - I have some sympathy for gay marriage, just legalized in New York, but I can't understand how anyone who takes the Torah seriously could consider it the proper moral choice. I mean, the book of Leviticus is rather explicit in describing homosexuality as "an abomination." How can anyone get around that?
This Monday evening is Tisha B'Av, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar. In Israel right now, there is much reflection on the basic of social justice, how a society should take care of its own. It has led to mass demonstrations and growing tent cities of protesters. See this Masorti Statement on the Israeli Social Justice Movement and Tisha B'Av. For the basics, see, from My Jewish Learning, Tisha B'Av 101. And join us in the social hall on Monday at 8 PM for the traditional chanting of the book of Lamentations with gorgeous slides of destroyed and rebuilt Jerusalem displayed on our huge screen (no, I won't sneak in some cute photos from my safari). Bring a flashlight! Also, for the first time ever, we'll be having an afternoon service on Tuesday, Tisha B'Av day at 1:30 PM, in addition to our regular morning minyan.
Warm wishes to you and to the entire Jewish people for a Shabbat of deep meaning and reflection on this Shabbat of Vision, Shabbat Hazon.