Friday, February 23, 2018
The start of today's Tel Aviv Marathon - photo taken by TBE's Pinchas Gross, who writes,
Despite all (!) that is going on now in Israel and around its borders,
40,000 runners, and many tens of thousands of spectators
attended today's marathon.
A wow for the vibrancy and resilience of the Israeli society!
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Shabbat Zachor and next Wed. evening, Purim!
Join us for Kabbalat Shabbat at 7:30 tonight and don't forget our monthly Shabbat-in-the-Round tomorrow morning, featuring meditation, chant, conversation...and food - in a very informal setting. Breakfast and schmooze at 9:30!
Given the sadness that has filled our country since last week's school shooting in Florida, it is hard to shift our sights to the merriment of Purim. Fortunately, Purim itself shows us the way. teaching us how to survive in a dangerous world. All too often, Jewish communities have faced catastrophe. Occasionally, miraculous interventions have enabled us to avert certain doom. Based on the Talmudic idea of saying blessings at places where narrow escapes have happened, the custom arose for communities to celebrate anniversaries of Purim-like events. These became known as "Special Purims."
Pardon the Purim pun, but there are lots of them.
The list below, which is just a partial list, comes from the Jewish Encyclopedia. Take your pick.... and as you do, think of all the Purims that could not be celebrated - and the Purims yet-to-come. Destiny seems to ride on the luck of the draw, for Jews and others. Where will the next school shooting occur? What will happen next in Syria? Will the next big political indictment come in Washington or Jerusalem? What will that mean for our future? We just keep on drawing those lots. Check out a few of these Special Purims.
Purim of Abraham Danzig (called also Pulverpurim="Powder Purim"):
Purim of Ancona:
Purim of Angora:
Purim di Buda.
Purim of Cairo:
Purim of Candia:
Purim of Chios (called also Purim de la Señora = "of the Good Lady"):
Purim de los Christianos (called also Purim de las Bombas):
Purim Edom (called also Purim al-Naāra):
Purim of Florence:
Purim di Fuoco.
Purim Fürhang (Curtain Purim):
Purim of Gumeldjina (popularly called Purim de los Ladrones = "Purim of Bandits"):
Purim of Jonathan b. Jacob of Fulda:
Purim of Lepanto:
Purim of Narbonne:
Purim of Padua:
Purim Povidl (Plum-Jam Purim):
Purim of Rhodes:
Purim of Saragossa:
Purim of Shiraz (called also Purim of Mo'ed Ḳaṭan):
Purim of Tammuz at Algiers:
Purim of Tiberias:
Purim of Tripoli:
Purim of Widdin:
Purim Winz (called also Purim Frankfurt):
Purim of Yom-Ṭob Lipmann Heller:
Purim is coming on Wednesday evening. Join us for our family Megilla reading - Karaoke-style, following by our world-famous carnival. (OK, maybe not world famous) Thank you to everyone signed up to help with the carnival (and teens, we definitely could use some more help!), along with Talia Raich, who will be reading Megilla for us at our 5:30 family service and the 8 PM Purim-for-Adults up in the chapel.
And come in costume!
Here are some of the costumes I've worn over the years... Which one is your favorite? I couldn't find photos of some of them, like my pig outfit (Rabbi Ham) or the time I came as Barney the Dinosaur.
we dress up in the video below
With the Oscars AND Purim coming next week, here are my 5778...
Best Picture nominees
"Call Me by Your Name" - Uncle Louie comes up for an aliyah and forgets how to say "Louie" in Hebrew.
"Darkest Hour" - Looking for three stars for Havdalah, but OMG, it's cloudy!
"Dunk-Irk" - Sarah tries her patented cannonball dive into the mikva, but Sally, who's immersing, is rather pissed about it.
"Get Out" - Jerry declares that he is gay at the very moment his Jewish divorce becomes final.
"Lady Brr-ed" - Esther shivers while waiting for Mordechai to get the car.
"Phantom Thread" - A mysterious purple strand emerges in Yossi's tzitzis.
"The Post" - Thousands of new menorah-shaped wrought iron lamp posts cause acute bulb shortage
"The Shape of Water" - Intermarriage with sea monster OK'ed by Chief Rabbinate, since Fishy is never not immersing; until sadistic government operative attempts the first-ever aquatic circumcision and things get messy.
"Three (OK, Four) (Jewish) Billboards (Way) Outside Ebbing, Missouri" - There were many nominees, but here are four that can spark some Purim conversation.
1960s ad campaign
from the New Yorker, October 1938
New York, 1950s
Which billboard do you like best?
And the winner for the worst anti-Semitic billboard of the year? Hands down, it's what our group saw in Hungary, where the authoritarian government used George Soros as a scapegoat - as antidemocratic governments tend to do these days.
Also for Purim:
See MyJewishlearning's Purim archives, where you can discover which kind of hamantaschen you are: apricot, poppy or prune, and learn why Esther was a vegetarian.
Also see the exciting archaeological news, announced this week, of the possible discovery of Isaiah's signature in this clay seal:
SHABBAT ACROSS STAMFORD on March 9
I hope you can join me and our fellow congregants in two weeks at Shabbat Across Stamford, New Canaan and Darien, United Jewish Federation's annual celebration of community and Shabbat featuring guest speaker Professor Jonathan Sarna. You can easily register at www.ujf.org/Shabbat or by contacting Lauren Steinberg at email@example.com or 203-321-1373 ext. 108. Early bird pricing ends tomorrow! We are proud to be partnering with UJF in creating this community-wide event and look forward to coming together for a memorable and enjoyable evening.
Time's a Fleetin'...
Reserve NOW for these Pesach events!
- Women's Seder, Tuesday, March 13
- Interfaith Seder at Grace Farms, Thursday, March 22
- Chocolate Seder and Family Shabbat Dinner, Friday, March 23
- Congregational Second Seder, Saturday, March 31
Have a joyous Purim! and BE HAPPY, IT'S ADAR!
Thursday, February 15, 2018
Attention college students and recent grads: TBE's Jan Gaines reports from Netanya that her granddaughter Michal Goldstein is leading a Birthright Israel trip this summer and her bus is only half full. This is a bus especially for unaffiliateds - those not coming with Hillel or Young Judea groups. Jan writes: "
Michal would be happy to welcome anyone to her group and all they have to do is contact Birthright to sign up and to request her name. She's fluent in Hebrew and is an Occupational Therapist which could match someone interested in medicine and science."
With the cantor away this weekend, Beth Styles will be joining me on Friday night. Let's bring in Shabbat together! What else to do this weekend? You can honor President's Day, as I do every year, by reading George Washington's historic letter to the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island.... where he speaks of "a Government, which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance - but generously affording to all Liberty of conscience..."
Then you can catch up on the complexities of Bibi-Gate with this comprehensive guide put together by Ha'aretz's Allison Kaplan Sommer. I must admit - and I've been following these scandals closely in the Israeli media for a long time - the bombshell revelation of Yair Lapid's testifying against Netanyahu nearly tossed me off my couch. While we in the US have to focus on our own increasingly complicated internal situation, and Israel needs to focus also on it's increasingly complex neighborhood, the Prime Minister's pending possible indictment is very important news for all of us.
Thurs. and Fri. are Rosh Hodesh for the month of Adar, called by the Talmud the most joyous month of the Jewish year. It is very hard to be joyous, given the horrible events unfolding in Florida.
If you visit the Gun Violence Archive, you will see that the incident in Parkland was just one of approximately 25 incidents nationwide over the past 72 hours. There have been 6,573 since Jan 1., resulting in 1,827 deaths and 3,142 injured, including 69 children killed or injured. No less than 30 of these incidents would be classified as "mass shootings," with four or more shot and/or killed.
Jewish sources abound regarding this life-and-death issue. We can start our conversation with these passages:
Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.
(Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5; Yerushalmi Talmud 4:9, Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 37a)
The opposite of good is not evil; it is indifference (Elie Wiesel)
Some are guilty, but all are responsible. (Abraham Joshua Heschel)
Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor (Lev 19:16)
See more resources from a group I've had some involvement with, Rabbis Against Gun Violence. You can also look at this interesting and nuanced Talmudic passage along with this source sheet, which I'm hoping to use for a discussion on Shabbat morning. I can't say for sure, though, since that's nearly 48 hours from now, and who knows how many more horrific events will happen between now and then. Also see this community resource guide prepared by the Religious Action Center, and in particular Rabbi David Saperstein's explanation on why this is a religious issue, which includes this important passage:
Our legislators and the gun lobby want to blame everyone but themselves. The problem, they say, is mental illness. On the one hand, tautologically, mass murderers are emotionally disturbed. On the other, the compelling evidence testifies that the overwhelming percentage of those with mental illness are not violent and those who are violent are far more often a danger to themselves than to others. More compellingly, in Canada and Japan, there are people with the same mental illnesses as here in America but they don't pick up their mother's legally obtained Bushmaster and randomly shoot people.
And for those who wonder why bring up these matters while families in Florida are grieving, I reply with the words of the sage Hillel:
CHEVRA KADISHA DINNER @ TBE!
With so much happening, I don't want to "bury the lede" as they say in the news biz. Next Thursday will be a very big day for us at TBE. For the first time, we will be hosting the annual dinner of the local Jewish burial society.
It is Adar 7, traditionally the yahrzeit of Moses (and also his birthday). Some say that the timing has to do with the fact that next week's portion, Tetzave, is the only one in the last four books of the Torah that does not include Moses' name.
Moses' yahrzeit is also considered a time when communities call attention to the important work done by the local burial society, the Chevra Kadisha. Why? The most common explanation: When Moses led the Exodus from Egypt, he carefully brought Joseph's bones out with them. Then in return for that act of kindness (which Judaism considers to be among the greatest acts of kindness of all - a Chesed Shel Emet), tradition says that when Moses died at 120, God Him/Herself served as the Chevra Kadisha for him, preparing his body and burying Moses with love and care.
This Thursday evening, our local Chevra Kadisha will gather for its annual dinner, and for the first time it will be held here, at TBE. I am proud of the ongoing support TBE lends to this community organization and of the several TBE members who are actively involved in this loving work. Two of them are being honored this week:
Jim Benjamin and Wendy Miles. At a time when cross-denominational cooperation is rare, it is wonderful to see our congregation listed right up there on the Stamford Chevra's website. "Love is as strong as death," says the Song of Songs, and for Jews, love extends not only beyond Valentine's Day, but also beyond the grave.
Now for some Old Business from last weekend:
INDIA SLIDE SHOW
For those who missed last week's slide presentation
on my recent trip to Jerusalem, India and Nepal, fear not!
RABBI BARB MOSKOW, Z'L
In my tribute to Rabbi Barb Moskow z'l, I spoke of her "Letters to Bubbie and Zaydee." People often refrain from asking questions because they don't want to sound Jewishly uninformed. She solved that problem by posing questions to these prototypical Yiddishe grandparents that were in fact, dumber than anything anyone could possibly ask, sort of like Amelia Bedelia meets Yenta the Matchmaker. Anyway, Mindy Rogoff in our office has compiled a number of the "Ask Bubbie and Zaydee" columns that Barb wrote when she worked here. So here it is, the definitive edition of "Bubbie and Zaydee's Guide for the Perplexed...Jewishly."
Here's a one page example...
HOLY LETTERS, SACRED SCROLLS
Last Friday night I spoke about the symbolic significance of a Torah scroll and the mystical impact of its letters. I asked whether any of us would be prepared to run into a burning building to save a Torah scroll, as a Druze (not Jewish) firefighter did recently in Israel. Here is that news story, as well as other recent news items I mentioned,highlighting the Torah's role in contemporary life. I made reference also to the fascination non Jewish guests always have with the Torah and I related it to the exoticfascination I had watching Buddhist monks at prayer on my recent trip and seeing the strange (yet somehow strangely familiar) Sanskrit of their prayer book.
Then I asked, what is most important about the Torah, the words within it, or the scroll itself? I quoted several Hasidic sources showing that in fact the two are equally holy. Some of these were taken from Jewish Spiritual Practices, by Yitzchak Buxbaum.
The holy letters of the Torah are repositories of divine light - and they in turn release the light in our soul. It's enough to rekindle some of the awe that we've often felt about the Torah, but so often we take it for granted.
Finally this week, take a look at the flyer below and come to Rabbi Markus's first class next Wed. This four sessions course promises to be informative and inspiring, as he is a wonderful teacher! So let's be "joyish."
It's Adar, after all.
Rabbi Joshua Hammerman