Friday, February 24, 2017

Shabbat-O-Gram for Feb. 24

Shabbat Shalom! 

Join us for an exciting end-of-month Shabbat.  Adar begins on Sunday, and as the Talmud tells us, "When Adar enters, our joy increases."  If March comes in like a lion, Adar comes in like a hyena - a laughing one.

Tonight our joy will increase with Cantor Fishman's return, accompanied this week by Beth Styles - we look forward to it!  On Shabbat morning, we'll be in the sanctuary celebrating a very special birthday for Carol Sander, with a d'var Torah being given by Hank Silverstein.  Happy birthday, Carol!  We've also got our B'nai Mitzvah Club Shabbat and the ever-popular Shababimbam for tots! Followed by lunch, and then Comedy Night in the evening.  A very busy final Shabbat of Shevat it will be!
Keep in mind that next Friday, March 3, is Shabbat Across Stamford, so there will not be a service here that night. The service (which will be at 5:15) is open to all who wish to come, but you can also register for the meal and the whole evening by signing up here.
Finally, some recommended reading. If you can't stand the suspense and want to just cut to the chase and see what the Jewish people will be like in 2050, check out this free download from Moment, which includes essays from a number of noted scholars.

Europe Trip Deadline is 7 Days Away! See our revised itinerary

Sign up for the trip now!  More than 90 percent of Poland's Jews were murdered during the Holocaust, and most of those who survived emigrated or were driven out long ago. The result is that a land that once was home to 3 million Jews - 10 percent of Polish society, the largest Jewish population in Europe - is now more than 99.9 percent non-Jewish. Millions of Poles have never knowingly met a Jew. But oh, how enraptured they are with the genius that was Israel!  See the rest of this article about contemporary Poland's infatuation with Jews and Jewish culture.  And better yet, see for yourself this summer!

Passover Second Night Seder

Passover is just six weeks away!  For the first time in several years, by popular demand, we are doing a Passover Seder here on the second night of the festival, thanks in part to a grant from the Mann Family Foundation.  Despite the high cost of Passover food, we've kept the price as low as possible.  Note that the start time is going to be 7 PM, to give people a better chance to get here.  Space will be limited, so please sign up early!  And let me know if you would like to serve on a committee that will plan a very special evening.   SIGN UP HERE.

67 Bomb Threats.  One Cemetery Desecrated. 
Absolute Kindness Revealed.

It has been very comforting to see the response of so many to the revolting acts of hate committed against Jews and others this past week.  VP Pence's comments at the desecrated Jewish cemetery in St Louis were especially reassuring.  So too was the following release from the National Council of Churches.  We are not alone in or effort to eradicate anti-Semitism.  No one should be in confronting senseless hate.

The cemetery that was vandalized goes by the name "Hesed Shel Emet," which is also the expression for the mitzvot of caring for the dead.  These acts, which include the ritual washing of the body and the participation in a timely burial, are considered acts of "absolute kindness" in that they are the only favors we can do for someone that cannot be thanked or repaid.  When we perform a "Hesed Shel Emet," we are truly paying it forward, knowing that some day, people will be called upon to exercise such kindness toward us.

In this case, the acts of kindness not only involve what is being done to restore the cemetery, especially by Muslim and Christian groups, but the kindness is manifested also the ways religious groups are supporting one another.  The statement below from the National Council of Churches illustrates my point.

See also the website Values and Voices.  Religion scholars from across the spectrum of religious groups have gotten together to send a daily letter emphasizing the core values that all religions share.  

Finally, note that Stamford has a Chevra Kadisha, a burial society, whose mission is to perform "Hesed Shel Emet" in preparing Jews for burial.  Several TBE members represent us, but the society is always looking for more.  Their annual dinner is being held next week, on the seventh of Adar, traditionally Moses' yahrzeit, a time when such groups have often been honored.  To read more about the dinner, click here.

And let's aim to fill our lives with acts of Hesed - and ultimately with the ultimate form of Hesed: Hesed Shel Emet.

WASHINGTON: The National Council of Churches denounces recent anti-Semitic incidents and condemns rhetoric that has fueled such acts. We stand firmly with our Jewish brothers and sisters during this difficult time. As a community of 38 Christian communions in the United States, the National Council of Churches continues to pray and work for a nation in which all persons may freely worship as they wish without fear. In this, we are not alone.

For months now there has been a sharp rise in threats made against synagogues and Jewish community centers.There have been at least 67 incidents at 56 Jewish Community Centers in 27 states and one Canadian province since the beginning of 2017. This week, bomb threats were called in to Jewish organizations across the nation, and a Jewish cemetery in University City, Missouri, was vandalized.

We are encouraged to see acts of love, moral courage, and solidarity among faith groups in response to these hateful acts. When a mosque in Victoria, Texas, was destroyed by fire in an apparent arson, Jewish leaders from the community gave Muslim leaders the keys to their synagogue. In response to the Jewish cemetery vandalism, Muslims have launched a campaign to raise funds to repair it, more than tripling their goal of $20,000. We encourage churches to reach out to Jewish communities being threatened and offer similar acts of friendship and solidarity.

Anti-Semitism has no place in our society. Eradicating it requires keeping constant vigil. The National Council of Churches is committed to this effort. 

Reinventing Judaism, Re-imagining Ourselves

According to Wikipedia, no one has ever proven that the phrase, "May you live in interesting times" has origins as a Chinese aphorism, as many have surmised.  Some have even suggested that the phrase has Jewish roots, although no one can guess as to whether, if it was originally Jewish, it was meant to be a blessing or a curse. 

Most likely, the answer would be "both."  These certainly are interesting times, here, in Israel and around the world, times that demand our full attention and engagement.  

But stressful times also demand that we dig deep within and center ourselves, to regain a sense of balance and firm footing, a rootedness that can sustain us through the challenging days ahead.  Never has it been more important to find strength wherever we can, and for Jews that means going back to our sources.  It means striving to activate the inner wellsprings of the soul, through prayer, meditation, reflection and mitzvah.  It means utilizing the full toolkit at our disposal, so that Jewish wisdom might be more meaningful to us - and it means doing it with a loving, non-judgmental community around you, as we help one another each step of the way.

It is with that mind that we are intensifying our focus on Jewish Renewal at TBE.  Jewish renewal is not a movement per se, but an extension of the intensified, out-of-the-box spiritual encounters that included the great Kabbalists of Safed, the early Hasidim and the Havurah movement of the more recent past.  We have seen glimpses of this intensified spirituality in our services of the past several years, as well as some classes and meditative sessions.  

Recently I have been strengthening our connection with this network, and over the next several weeks, those efforts will begin to bear fruit.  Rabbi David Markus, who is the co-director of Aleph, a hub for Jewish Renewal, will join us at Men's Club Shabbat on March 4 to give a d'var Torah.  Then, on Wed., March 8, he will begin a four part adult ed series exploring how Jewish spirituality can enrich our lives and heal our burdened souls.  This series is sponsored by Michael Horowitz in loving memory of Penny Horowitz, Bessie Silver and Millie Reiss, all of blessed memory.  There is no charge for these sessions - and they may change your life!

Also join us next weekend as Rabbi Markus will participate in our Men's Club Shabbat and on Sunday, Rabbi Michael Uram will help us to develop strategies in reaching out to those seeking the kind of re-imagined Judaism we are growing here.

And as we we bring to life a new vision of Judaism, we'll also bring new potency to TBE's central role in helping all of us navigate these "interesting" times.

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