Monday, April 10, 2017

Shabbat-O-Gram for April 7


Shabbat Shalom... 
And happy Passover!

Join us for a special Meditative Shabbat this evening.  Services will be at the regular time of 7:30 - it will be primarily our regular service, but with a more reflective flavor. Meanwhile, TBE's Pamela Tinkham will be featuring a sit-down Yoga session beginning at 6:30.  During the service, Pamela will speak about her new book, "Healing Trauma from the Inside Out: Practices from the East and West."

Services will be held Shabbat morning and on the first two days of Pesach, at 9:30 AM. Join us!  Gerry Ginsburg will deliver the d'var Torah on the first day (Tuesday). 

Our congregational Second Seder is now closed to reservations.  We'll have about 80 people here on Tuesday night.  For those who are signed up, please aim to get here BY 6:45 so we can begin on time.  Bring a personal item that tells something about your family's journey - in particular your Jewish journey.  We also are looking for more help in setting up at noon on Tuesday.  We are grateful to the Mann Family Foundation and NJOP for the grant money that has enabled us to do this Seder.

A night at Grace Farms...


Thank you to all who attended our sold-out Interfaith Seder at Grace Farms. It was a marvelous opportunity to get beyond our walls to a place that is all windows, and to hear the concerns of our neighbors.  

If the breathtaking setting and warmth of the diverse gathering didn't inspire us enough, some of the observations made by my colleagues, Rev. Mark Lingle and Imam Kareem Adeeb, most certainly did.  Here are some of the things that they and I discussed:

- The idea that spiritually we are the same, though our traditions may differ
- That simultaneously we are all saint and also sinner.  Each of the four children is in each of us - and we need to conquer our "inner Pharaohs" as well as the external sources of oppression.
- The Narrow Straits that confine us - that narrow our minds - we become
slaves to ourselves
- In a fast-integrating society, we need to develop a new community that extends beyond our own traditions
- Our demons are rooted in ignorance, manifested in darkness

This event has already inspired follow-up.  Several of our congregants sat with folks from St Francis Episcopal, Rev. Lingle's church, and began talking about how our two congregations might facilitate an ongoing dialogue.  And Dr. Adeeb invited us to join them for prayer when they meet.  Plus, a whole new audience from New Canaan and vicinity were introduced to us and to this conversation. It was wonderful to nurture TBE's connection to the people at Grace Farms.

Wait for it...

I shared a quote at the Interfaith Seder from the Rebbe of Gur: 

"The sigh, the groan and the crying out of the children of Israel from the slavery was the beginning of redemption.  As long as they did not cry out against their exile they were neither worthy nor ready for redemption."

I thought of this quote last night when at long last I took my family to see "Hamilton," as we celebrated Dan's birthday. Needless to say, the show did not disappoint.  Given the season, I listened especially for Passover allusions.

In the song "My Shot," Hamilton speaks directly to the Exodus theme, rapping the line: 

"Fools oppose us we take an honest stand, 

Of course Moses never made it to that land.  Nor did Alexander Hamilton achieve much of what he wanted to achieve, including, most notably for Passover, the elimination of slavery.  His friend John Laurens, who died in battle at the age of 27, shared that goal, saying (in the same song):

The overpowering certainty and randomness of death motivates Hamilton from the start:

Opposing Hamilton is the figure of Aaron Burr, who, in the play, takes great pride in rarely taking a stand.  His Hamlet-like inaction, like Hamilton's "non-stop" activism, stems from his fear of dying prematurely.  Burr sings:

For each of them it is the specter of premature death that motivates them, one toward passivity and the other to hyperactivity. While the Rebbe of Gur seems to be advocating an activist approach, Judaism is of two minds on these matters.  "Wait for it," could easily be a song about messianism. Talmudic rabbis and later sages fell on the side of "wait for it" in this eternal argument. How one answers the messiah question is a prime fault line in Jewish conversation today.

But for matters less apocalyptic, little things like responding to the groans of suffering neighbors and crying out against oppression and injustice, the Rebbe of Gur has a point.

Moses died without ever stepping onto the sacred soil of the Promised Land, but at least he set out on that journey.  Aaron Burr never would have left Pittom and Ramses.  At best, he would have been stuck at the shore of the Red Sea, waiting for it.

Curiously, Exodus 12:42 speaks of the night of Passover as a "Night of Watching," "Layl Shimurim."  But some translations call it a "Night of Waiting." On that night the Israelites had to "wait for it," for the Angel of Death to do its thing.  But it was also a night of keen observation - of listening to the muffled shrieks coming from their neighbor's homes, much as we heard those screams from Syria this week.  

Moses was there to help Aaron - his notoriously passive brother - cross the Red Sea. But Aaron Burr had no such brother in A. Ham, who could have helped Burr to throw away his fateful shot. Hamilton did not and paid the ultimate price.  Such is the tragedy of this first chapter of the American experiment.

Passover and other reading suggestions ("Hag'gadah Million of 'em")
Recently I shared a number of Seder suggestions for special Haggadah supplements. You can find them here.  See lots of social action supplements highlighted in 

See also:

Jubilee Haggadah - a new commentary commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Six Day War, which will be a major focus of the next several months.  The reflections by many recognizable Israelis and American Jews help set the tone for this important anniversary.  Ha'aretz will be distributing 100,000 copies across Israel this Sunday.

HIAS Haggadah supplement: the horrific Syrian gas attack this week highlights once again the plight of Syrian and other refugees.  There's a nice reading on p.6 tied into Dayenu.  And speaking of that popular song...

Pardes Companion to the Haggadah - with top notch rabbinic faculty and a message of inclusion.
Dayenu - A Study Guide, a packet that we used during last week's service. By Sh'ma.

Beyond Passover... (there is life after the Angel of Death...)

Pew Research: The Changing Global Religious Landscape  - the latest trends. It's always both humbling and amazing to see where Jews fall on this pie chart.  Let's just say that if I ate only the Jewish sliver of that pie I would never have to worry about putting on weight. We're  0.01 percent of  the world's population, but what a fuss is made over us (and by us).

- I saw the film "The Zookeeper's Wife" and found it very worthwhile in how it portrays the Warsaw Ghetto from the perspective of a very righteous gentile.  Some have called it "Schindler's List" with pets," and there are similarities.  Download a reading guide to the book and movie by the Jewish Book Council.  and don't forget our showing of "Denial" on April 20.
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Passover to you and yours.

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