Thursday, May 23, 2013

Shabbat-O-Gram for May 18, 2013

Sanctuary picture
 Our 7th Graders just before their "Aliyah" service on Tuesday evening

Shabbat Shalom

With Shavuot behind us, this week we are blessed with not one but two ufrufs at services on Shabbat morning, celebrating the upcoming weddings of Matt Miller and Jamie Morvitz, and Alexis Kraus and Marc Steinberg.  I can't recall having two ufrufs at the same service here before.  We are doubly blessed! It's giving me dreams of filling Yankee Stadium with TBE couples - but mass weddings really aren't our thing.

And thank you to their families for sponsoring our weekly announcements.  Mazal tov!

Speaking of blessings....

Is it just coincidence, or was it divinely ordained that the new Star Trek film open on the very weekend when we read the Torah portion most directly associated with the series?

Although I've never been a real Trekkie, I've always been intrigued with the Jewish connections with Star Trek, the most famous being that Vulcan hand salute which mimics that gesture of blessing made by the high priests in ancient times, a blessing found in Numbers 6:23-26 . The new Spock, BTW needed special training to get that salute down.

Jewcy, a hip Jewish site, now chimes in with "Jew Trek", which claims that the new film version of the old TV series has been rendered Judenrein. As he writes, this is what "the Jew of Star Trek has been reduced to: A cultural heritage, a memory of a series long past. Now, we look to the future. Too bad J.J. Abrams is such a goy. 

Thank you to congregant Beth Madison for alerting me to following site, created by a rabbi and Trekkie, with a link to an entertaining essay titled, "New Star Trek Movie: A Vulcan Holocaust?"

This is an opportune week to reflect on the meaning of blessings.  Tradition instructs us to try to utter 100 blessings every day, whether spontaneous or not.  Many can be found in the daily prayers, and some can be found in the grace after meals (see Birkat Hamazon explained in Wikipedia and in the Jewish Virtual Library); it can be downloaded at Birkat Hamazon [pdf]).  Some more spontaneous blessings can be foundhere.

Twenty years ago, in 1993, I asked a confirmation class to come up with 100 blessings of their own, a list of what they are most thankful for.  Read their list here (and it's amazing to see some of them are teaching the same lessons to their own children).  Two weeks ago, our 3rd and 4th graders were sitting in my office and I asked them to do the exact same thing.  Their list of 100 blessings  includes dogs, Doritos, family, Laffy Taffy, teeth, the beach, clapping, our feet, the seasons, aliens, love, justice, Connecticut, Israel, t-shirts, baby brothers, and aardvarks.     

Admittedly, it's not easy to achieve the 100 blessing threshold each and every day, even if the reciting the Amida alone, three times daily (with its nineteen blessings on weekdays) brings us nearly two thirds of the way.  

We all have so much to be grateful for.

A student once asked Rebbe Elimelech the following question, regarding the famous statement of our sages: "How is it possible to bless God for bad news with equal fervor as for good news?

Go to the study hall" replied the Rebbe," and ask your question to my brother, the saintly Reb Zusia."

When the student laid his eyes on Reb Zusia, he could easily imagine the suffering this man must have experienced in his lifetime. The pain of illness and poverty were etched on his face. The student proceeded to ask:

"How is it possible to bless God for bad news with equal fervor as for good news?"

Reb Zusia's reply: "Why are you asking me? How do I know the answer? Nothing bad has ever happened to me!"

So, what am I grateful for? In a week, I'll be watching my eldest child graduate from college.  Ask me then!

Shabbat Shalom!  And mazal tov to all our graduates, brides and grooms, and anyone else celebrating life transitions this month and next.

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

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