Friday, June 7, 2013

Shabbat-O-Gram for June 7


This week's Shabbat-O-Gram is sponsored by Cheryl Bader-Goldblum and Stephen Goldblum in honor of their son, Daniel, becoming a Bar Mitzvah.

Shabbat Shalom!

A tropical storm? Now?  Really?

This morning I as we waited for the tenth person to arrive, I pondered whether we could count Tropical Storm Andrea in the minyan.  She is coming from Florida, so she must be Jewish, I figured.  And while she is going to dampen things around here for the next 24 hours, we can drown our sorrows in the joy of an INDOOR Kabbalat Shabbat tonight at 7:30, featuring guest accordianist Uri Sharlin and services tomorrow morning too, when Danny Goldblum will become bar mitzvah.  Mazal tov to him and his deep-rooted TBE family!

If you are looking for memories of calmer skies, look no further than our photo album from last week’s service at Treetops.  If the setting looks beautiful in photos, it was even more spectacular to experience the service there. Thank you once again to Don Brownstein and Lisa Tannebaum for their hospitality and to Aviva Maller for her photos.



Last weekend also featured our highly successful and very enjoyable Cantor’s Concert.  See Eileen with Steve Lander above and the complete photo album here. There is still time to get you ad in for the final hard copy journal that will be presented to Eileen.  See the current online journal here.

For those who knew him during his time here in Stamford at Temple Sinai, and I was privileged to be one, Rabbi Stephen Pearce was a beloved figure in our community.  During my early years here, he was a real mentor, a great source of wisdom and support.  This month he is retiring from his post at Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco, where went after leaving Stamford.  Read this fitting tribute to him.

Rosh Hodesh, Korah, Women, L.A. Rabbis and a Deeply Disturbing Question

This weekend is Rosh Hodesh Tammuz, which means that on Sunday morning, another confrontation will likely occur at the Kotel, where the Women of the Wall, last month, were finally granted the right to pray according to their custom at Judaism’s most sacred site and the Jewish people’s greatest symbol of national rebirth.  In an impressive demonstration of mutual respect, leading L.A. rabbis representing many different streams issued on open letter this week, calling for respect, inclusion and tolerance at the Wall and endorsing the work of Natan Sharansky in seeking a solution agreeable to all.  They wrote:

The Western Wall serves as a place to pray for countless Jews. But it also serves as a powerful focus of national Jewish yearning and aspiration, quite apart from religious belief. Somehow, both have to be satisfied, and that is what his plan would try to do, embodying the key Jewish and democratic values of mutual respect, inclusion and tolerance. Sharansky and the Government of Israel should be commended for engaging in this ambitious effort to resolve such a difficult problem.

We believe that this is a message that resonates not only among the Jews of our great city, but among all our neighbors as well. At a time when the Middle East faces increasing upheaval and bitter partisanship has become a norm even within many democratic countries, this is a theme worth amplifying and repeating.

It is impressive that L.A.’s rabbinic leaders could come together in such a powerful manner. We pray for peaceful gathering and fruitful prayer in Jerusalem this weekend.  And this yearning is nothing to be taken lightly.  Things got ugly last month as the women were accosted by an angry mob, and this week we heard of a deeply disturbing question posed to a rabbi in Israel: A 17-year-old Jerusalem yeshiva student asked a rabbi in an online forum whether it’s permissible under Jewish law to shoot and kill members of the Women of the Wall when they gather at the Kotel. The boy was arrested today after Rabbi Baruch Efrati alerted police to the question-which the rabbi answered (firmly and appropriately), suspecting (falsely) that it might have been a plant of W.O.W. supporters.

Accusations are flying in all directions, including one that the Women of the Wall are inspiring death threats against Israel’s chief rabbis.  This accusation was refuted by the Women of the Wall and even in the “The Jewish Press,” normally no friend to Jewish feminism.  But the threats are real. 

This Sunday, as the Women of the Wall carry through on their promise to read from the Torah in the women’s section of the Kotel for the first time, after a decades of begin denied that right, we can only pray that Natan Sharanksy’s optimism and pragmatism, as expressed in a meeting with US rabbinic leaders this week, will lead to greater dialogue and understanding.

This week’s portion of Korah has been used by all sides of this confrontation.  It really is the perfect portion to demonstrate how disputes among Jews should never rely on intimidation and force, but should be “for the sake of heaven.”  But it also highlights the importance of women as propellers of history, even if often behind the scenes.  The fact that it is also Rosh Hodesh, a woman’s holiday, only intensifies this message.  See this week’s parsha packet on Korach, Rosh Hodesh and the centrality of women to the unfolding Jewish narrative.  And see here a lengthy responsum demonstrating why women are allowed to wear tefillin in Jewish law.
The Shoes of Boston  


Visiting Boston earlier this week, I decided to stop and pay respects at what has become my home town’s version of Ground Zero, the memorial to the victims of the Boston marathon bombing, at Copley Square. (See my photo essay here). The personal messages and gestures are both beautiful and heartbreaking. So many children have donated teddy bears.  What must it be like for a child to bring his favorite bear and leave it at such a site? There’s some defiance in the signs, but mostly words of love and support, not just for the victims, but for the entire city.  No one talks at the memorial. People stroll, read and reflect, and then stretch out to enjoy a beautiful June day. The people of Boston have become demonstratively friendlier - really - (I know it's hard for New Yorkers to imagine). Two young women stopped in their tracks to help navigate me into a tight parking spot. And then, when I was tucked into the space, they simply waved and walked away before i colujld thank them.  Acts of Kindness are apparently more rampant than random in Boston these days.

Finally, the shoes. I know the symbolism is different here and comparisons are dangerous, but the last time I saw so many shoes piled up like this was at Majdanek. Granted, those weren't Nikes and they were the shoes of the victims, not running shoes offered up as a symbol of support. Still, it reminds me of the Yiddish poem by Moshe Shulstein that I cited when I returned from the “March of the Living.”     

I saw a mountain
Higher than Mt. Blanc
And more Holy that the Mountain of Sinai
On this world this mountain stood.
such a mountain I saw-Jewish shoes in Majdanek....

Hear! Hear the march.
Hear the shuffle of shoes left behind-that which remained.
From small, from large, from each and every one.
Make ways for the rows-for the pairs-For the generations-for the years.
The shoe army-it moves and moves.

We are the shoes, we are the last witnesses.
We are shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers,
From Prague, Paris and Amsterdam,
And because we are only made of stuff and leather
And not of blood and flesh, each one of us avoided the hellfire. We shoes-that used to go strolling in the market
Or with the bride and groom to the chuppah
We shoes from simple Jews, from butchers and carpenters,
From crocheted booties of babies just beginning to walk ...

Unceasingly we go. We tramp.
The hangman never had a chance to snatch us into his
Sack of loot-now we go to him.
Let everyone hear the steps which flow as tears. 
The steps that measure out the judgment.

And now we have the shoes of Boston. 
The shoes of simple runners,
who heard the explosions and kept running,
not away from the blasts but toward them, 
toward the victims. 
People who have proven that the world
has indeed made strides, long, sustained strides, 
since the Shoah. 
The steps still flow as tears. 
But the shoe army now does not shuffle in despair. 
It sprints in defiance. 
It springs toward the light. 
It leaps toward love.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

No comments: