Friday, January 20, 2017

Shabbat-O-Gram January 20

The Shabbat Announcements are sponsored by Lieba and Steven Lander in honor of the brit milah, this Shabbat in Israel, of their new grandson.

Wine, Cheese and a New Song

This evening's service will be preceded by wine and cheese at 7.  

The service itself will feature some of the new music Cantor Fishman has been working on, assisted by TBE's Artist in Residence Assaf Glaizner.  You can listen to their beautiful new melodies at the cantor's Soundcloud site, which will prepare you to sing along and be full participants.  

The Psalms of Kabbalat Shabbat implore us to "Sing unto God a new song."  These new melodies enable us to do just that.

Check out this brand new version of "Shalom Aleichem," a dreamlike melody composed by Cantor Fishman and Assaf.  It gently escorts us into Shabbat, as we escort our inner angels, our better angels, into the experience of joining with our loving community in prayer.

Or this new melody for "Lecha Dodi," which for me evokes some of the more wistful pop songs of Stephen Schwartz, translating the longing of 16th century Kabbalists for 21st century ears.  Simply lovely.  And then toward the end, it swings into an all-out Debka dance, combining traditional Israeli folk styles with an Eastern European, Hasidic abandon.  Any liturgical melody that conjures a Kineret campfire, a shtetl wedding dance and the last scene of "Wicked" is going to ring authentic to our ears - and it does. It brings the experience of this prayer to life in an entirely new way.  I think it's destined to become a synagogue standard.  

Plus, you may already have heard this new version of V'Shamru if you have been to here for services recently.  It contains all the energy and pure joy that this celebration of Shabbat is intended to connote.

Putting my music critic hat aside, later in the service I'll pick up my rabbinic kippah and discuss the elephant in the room, which is, in fact, elephants, and the news this week that the circus is leaving town - for good.

Tomorrow morning we'll welcome the B'nai Mitzvah Club and discuss the beginning of the book of Exodus - and what happened when a new Pharaoh came to the throne.

A Prayer for Our Country

Bill of Rights, photo taken at National Archives, 2008

This is a weekend when all Americans need to be praying to reflect on the coming years.  At services, we will be reciting a prayer for our country, one that should resonate as much with those who are celebrating in front of the Capitol today as with those who will be marching on Washington (or New York, Stamford or elsewhere) tomorrow.  That prayer can be found in our new Siddur Lev Shalem.  You can see it here or below:

Our God and God of our ancestors, grant to our country the will and wherewithal to fulfill its calling to justice, liberty, and equality. 

May each of us fulfill our responsibilities of citizenship with care, generosity, and gratitude, ever conscious of the extraordinary blessing of freedom, ever mindful of our duties to one another.

Bless those who volunteer to labor on behalf of us all; may they find the strength and courage to complete their tasks and fulfill their dreams. 

May our judges, elected leaders, and all who hold public office exercise their responsibilities with wisdom, fairness, and justice for all. Fill them with love and kindness, and bless them that they may walk with integrity on the paths of peace and righteousness.

Creator and protector of all, watch over our armed forces and all those entrusted with our safety, as they daily put their lives at risk to protect us and our freedoms. Be with them in times of danger; give them courage to act with honor and dignity, as well as insight to do what is right in Your eyes. Fill us all with the gifts of love and courage, that we may create a world that reflects Your glory. 

May we each respond to the charge of Your prophet, "For what does Adonai demand of You, but to act justly, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with Your God" (Micah 6:8). 

May the one who brings peace on high bring peace and prosperity to our world and keep us in safety. 

And let us say: Amen.

The new prayer was composed by Rabbi Jan Urbach Associate Editor of Siddur Lev Shalem and Director of the Block/Kolker Center for Spiritual Arts at JTS.  Needless to say, since the book was published last spring, this prayer was not created with any particular leadership scenario in mind.  It simply reflects a shift in emphasis.  Rabbi Urbach explains:

 "The prayer's emphasis and content is significantly different from prior iterations of the prayer for our country.  As the note  on the bottom right corner of page 177 points out, earlier prayers asked that the monarch be compassionate to the Jewish people. Although Prof. Louis Ginzberg in the 1920's shifted the focus to a prayer that the country's leaders be fair and just to all, and included a prayer for the country and its people as a whole, the public is generally portrayed as the passive recipient of Divine blessing, rather than as active co-creators of society.

The new prayer - while including in the third paragraph a prayer for the country's leadership - focuses primarily on the active engagement of the public as a whole, emphasizing the importance of civil society and public service. Thus, it evokes the responsibilities of citizenship, highlights the duties to one another that come with freedom, and offers a blessing to those who volunteer on behalf of the nation. It also includes an explicit prayer for the well-being of the armed forces and others entrusted with the public safety."

Rabbi Urbach adds,  "The occasion of the inauguration of a new U.S. president might be a particularly appropriate time to offer the alternative prayer instead of the older version and to use the occasion as an opportunity to reflect on the relationship between our prayer lives and our roles as citizens of our country - whether the United States or elsewhere. An especially fruitful avenue of discussion opened by the text might be the extent to which a sense of communal obligation - so central in Jewish thought - is or is not part of our secular culture.a sense of communal obligation - so central in Jewish thought - is or is not part of our secular culture."

And so, as we embark on this new national journey together, we will recite this prayer.  May it give strength and resolve to all who need it, so that together we can work toward fulfilling its lofty aspirations.

In addition to the prayer itself, here are some additional resources for your own study, compiled by Rabbi Danny Nevins:

And may all of us be up to the enormous task ahead, whether as leaders or simply as citizens.

Secrets of the Warsaw Ghetto

Save the date of Feb 9 for a fascinating talk by Dr. Samuel Kassow, who discovered a hidden archive of material from the Warsaw Ghetto (see flyer here).  Kassow also helped to design the exhibitions at Warsaw's new Polin Museum of Jewish history, which we will be visiting on our Jewish Heritage tour this summer. The registration deadline is fast approaching:  For more information on the trip, see the group's website.
Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

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