Thursday, March 28, 2013

Shabbat-O-Gram March 29


Click here for an explanation of this Kabbalistic Omer Counting Calendar 

 Source: Velveteen Rabbi blog.  

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Last Half of Passover:
Passover Services

Join us for services on Friday night at 7:30 and again on Shabbat morning. we will be in the lobby for both services (in those comfy blue chairs).  On the intermediate Shabbat of the festival, it's customary to read from the Song of Songs, that exquisite bit of biblical erotica.  Here's a background article about the Song and why we read it this week.  

Pesach concludes on Monday and Tuesday mornings with festival services at 9:30 AM(Yizkor's on Tuesday).  Because some of our regulars are away for the holiday, please make a special effort to attend on either or both of these mornings!  It is so appreciated!  There is no 7:30 minyan on those two days.

Special Mitzvah for a Congregant

I'm delighted at the response I received recently when I asked for some help in finding odd jobs for a young congregant struggling to meet rent expenses.  I have one more request, this time on behalf of a congregant in his 60s who recently was required to vacate his apartment through no fault of his own.  Because he is living alone and on a fixed income, housing options are limited.  If anyone in the congregation has a mother-in-law suite, vacant carriage house or something similar that could be rented for below market value, that would be ideal.  I know this person very well and can vouch for his trustworthiness.

A few years ago, during the worst of the economic collapse, I used this space to help match congregants with job opportunities and we also ran a number of seminars.  We serve congregants in need of everything from rides to friendly visitors to baby sitters to shiva meals to hurricane relief.  That's what a congregation does for one another and for its community.  That's what happened once again this week as TBE congregants led a Seder at Atria.  See the photo below and, in the spirit of the holiday, click here for our 2013 Passover album, including our Interfaith Seder and Religious School activity day.  


See also Aaron Patashnik's Bar Mitzvah d'var Torah from last Shabbat, and the booklet of source materials from our Interfaith Seder, including quotes from Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Lau Tzu, the Quran, the New Testament and of course, many Jewish sources.  And click here for the study packet on whether it's OK to eat legumes on Passover ("Give Peas a Chance"). It's the most thorough explanation of the issues that you will find. You can read why some of the great rabbis ages gone by thought that avoiding lentils on Passover was "idiotic."  And yet the custom has persisted for 700 years.  And now, the main reason to keep it is that it has been around for 700 years! For some, with a plate full of rice, Passover would simply not be Passover anymore.  

But old traditions sometimes change, as they discussed this week at the Supreme Court...

DOMA and Beyond

In light of yesterday's gripping Supreme Court arguments, I share once again the column I wrote when New York State legalized gay marriage; I make the case for gay marriage as the right Jewish moral choice, even for those who might have issues with homosexuality.  While the article focuses on equal protection within the state, the argument can extend to federal protections as well, as they were doing yesterday at the Supreme Court.

"All Who Are Hungry, Come and Eat" Homelessness in Stamford

Last week I had the chance to meet Jason Shaplan, CEO of Inspirica, which used to be known as St. Lukes Lifeworks.  This non-denominational agency has been doing fabulous work and I saw it in action at their remodeled Franklin St. headquarters. Homelessness is up by 57% in suburban and rural areas over the past three years.  In 2011, more than 16,000 people used Connecticut's homeless shelters, including 2,700 children.  The good news is that Inspirica is doing something about it, helping to break the cycle of poverty, joblessness and homelessness in significant ways.  I plan to bring Jason here in the near future, but in the meantime, go on their website to see how you can volunteer, and let me know how you might wish to organize a group from TBE to volunteer together. 

And speaking of volunteering, thank you to all who contributed 200 bags to the JFS Passover food drive.

Obama's Visit and Anne Frank's Chestnut Tree

It's been a week since President Obama's return from Israel, but it will not soon be forgotten - both the images and the words.   Images like the welcome at the airporthis being serenaded by children singing "Tomorrow" in Hebrew, English and Arabicthe address to Israeli students in Jerusalem, and last but most certainly not least, the speech at Yad Vashem.

Those words spoken there will have a very long shelf life.  If you have not heard or read the President's speech at Yad Vashem, take a few moments to read it.  Here are a few excerpts:

For here we learn that we are never powerless.  In our lives we always have choices.  To succumb to our worst instincts or to summon the better angels of our nature.  To be indifferent to suffering to wherever it may be, whoever it may be visited upon, or to display the empathy that is at the core of our humanity.  We have the choice to acquiesce to evil or make real our solemn vow -- "never again."  We have the choice to ignore what happens to others, or to act on behalf of others and to continually examine in ourselves whatever dark places there may be that might lead to such actions or inactions.  This is our obligation -- not simply to bear witness, but to act....

...Here we pray that we all can be better; that we can all grow, like the sapling near the Children's Memorial -- a sapling from a chestnut tree that Anne Frank could see from her window.  The last time she described it in her diary, she wrote: "Our chestnut tree is in full bloom.  It's covered with leaves and is even more beautiful than last year."  That's a reminder of who we can be.  But we have to work for it.  We have to work for it here in Israel.  We have to work for it in America.  We have to work for it around the world -- to tend the light and the brightness as opposed to our worst instincts.

So may God bless the memory of the millions.  May their souls be bound up in the bond of eternal life.  And may each spring bring a full bloom even more beautiful than the last. 

The story of Anne Frank's chestnut tree is inspiring.  The tree outside her old house in Amsterdam  died recently, but its saplings were harvested and are being planted at sites all over the world, among them 11 sites in the US.  The venues are deeply symbolic; one sapling that will be planted just outside Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., where African American students braved angry mobs in the fall of 1957 to integrate the school.  Boston Common is another site, where American aspirations for liberty first bore fruit.

The closest site to us is at the Liberty Park 9/11 Memorial.  But we at TBE have our own living memorial.  The Holocaust memorial garden planted just outside our sanctuary windows by a group of 7th graders a half dozen years ago is once again beginning to bloom.  The kids in the photo below are now freshmen in college, but this garden is a reminder of their lasting contribution to the memory of the Holocaust and of their dedication to their synagogue. (Can you recognize who they are? See more photos here). It should be in full flower just in time for the community Yom HaShoah program here next weekend.


Minyan Mastery
What does the word "daven" mean?  Why do we need ten for a minyan?  With our current emphasis on building up our morning minyan,  here is a link to our "Minyan Mastery" feature, with all the minyan material that's fit to print.

Shabbat Shalom!  A Sweet Pesach!

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

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