O - Gram
25 years ago, (April 6, 1993, Passover) Daniel Max Hammerman was born.
Here he is at his bris a week later (the "cut heard 'round the world")
Happy Birthday, Dan!
So proud of the mensch you have become!
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Passover
Passover ends this weekend. On Friday morning our festival service at 9:30 will feature a D'var Torah by Gerry Ginsburg. Shabbat morning's service, the 8th day of Pesach, will include Yizkor prayers. Keep in mind that our office is closed on Friday and that phone calls and emails will be answered after the festival. There is no early minyan on Friday, just the later, festival service. If you are planning that traditional Post-Pesach Pizza, the festival ends at about 8:30 on Sat. night.
On Friday night, I'll be joined by special guest speaker, David Camner. David is a health care expert, who will lead a brief discussion at the end of service, on "Health Care: Jewish Dimensions, Practical Solutions." David, who attends our Shabbat services regularly, has developed healthcare plans at about 100 companies, including Xerox, Olin, Citibank, and Ben & Jerry's. He has also inspired me and others in the courageous way he has confronted his own serious health challenges. I'm very appreciative that David can speak here this Friday night.
Yom Hashoah 5778
Next week is Yom Hashoah, this year we are commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Above is a photo of last summer's TBE group standing at the Ghetto Fighters' monument in Warsaw. Read about the uprising here, and come to two important events this week:
On Sunday at 10 AM, TBE Sisterhood welcomes author, Georgia Hunter, who will describe her family's extraordinary journey out of Poland during WWII, which was the inspiration for her book, "We Were the Lucky Ones."
On Wed. at 7 PM at Temple Sinai, at our annual community Yom Hashoah commemoration, Jeannie Opdyke Smith, the daughter of Irene Opdyke, a Righteous Gentile (and subject of the Broadway play "Irene's Vow") who risked her life to save the lives of Jewish people during the Holocaust, will speak about her mother's legacy, and the power of one person to make a difference.
And Wed night would be the best time to light the yellow candle sent to you by our Men's Club.
The Yellow Candle™ was created in 1981 by FJMC clubs in Canada, New England and elsewhere to keep alive the memory of the Six Million who perished in the Shoah. The Candle is modeled after a traditional Jewish memorial Yahrzeit candle that burns for 24 hours during periods of mourning and on the Yahrzeit anniversary of a family member.
The candle's yellow wax serves to remind us of the yellow arm band which Jews were forced to wear during the Nazi regime. A photo on the candle container shows young people visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. This reflects the importance of teaching our youth the lessons of the Holocaust and of remembering the Six Million. See the Yellow Candle home page for more information, and thank you to all who helped to prepare and distribute the candles this year.
Wandering and Welcoming
Photos of the Interfaith Seder at Grace Farms by Adrian Fernandez and News 12
Welcoming the stranger is a key theme of Passover. It was the theme of last week's Interfaith Seder at Grace Farms. Click here to see the supplement we put together for that Seder.
At services on the first two days of Passover, I dug down into the topic of migration, Jewish values and the Exodus. I shared an excellent source packet, "Immigration in the Haggadah and in Jewish Law" created by Rabbi David Siff, which intersperses Haggadah quotes and specific laws from the Middle Ages about migration between communities.
Also see "Loving the Neighbor/Loving the Stranger," a packet by Rabbi David Seidenberg, which includes every Torah law that mentions the stranger. I shared all three of these packets with our board at last night's meeting. Given that the topic of migration is both timely and timeless, and given the clear connection between this topic and Passover, it felt right to discuss it last night.
At services last week I also reviewed the new book by bible scholar Richard Elliot Friedman, "The Exodus: How it Happened and Why it Matters." I highly recommend this book. Friedman analyzes all the literary and archaeological evidence and states that the real question should not be whether it happened but whether it was big. Nearly all scholars recognize that there were Western Asiatic people in Egypt, including Semites. They were everything from lower class and slaves. He states, "Most scholars agree that the biblical narrative has a historical core, and that some highland settlers came, one way or another, from Egypt."
His theory is that the only tribe that left Egypt were the Levites. Only Levites have Egyptian names, main characters are all Levites. He backs up his claim with lots of evidence from biblical and other sources. What's important to know about the Levites is that they were perpetual outsiders, sojourners both in Egypt and then, later on, among the tribes of Israel. They never had land holdings of their own. The word Levi in fact means "attached" or "joined." And it is because of their unique experiences that the Torah speaks of the need to not mistreat the alien 52 times - that's 52 more times than such a claim is made in all other ancient near eastern law codes and texts combined!
Friedman even demonstrates that the command to love our neighbor is speaking less about the guy next door as the sojourner, the alien among us. We should love the stranger because we know his soul, for we were strangers in Egypt.
"The exodus led both to monotheism and toward this exceptional attitude toward others." Friedman writes. "The two, ethics and monotheism, went hand in hand from the beginning....The exodus of a group of people from Egypt happened. It made a difference. It still makes a difference."
If you belong to a book group that might be interested in an accessible biblical who-done-it that is relevant to Jews and non-Jews alike, I recommend this one - and I would be delighted to come and facilitate the discussion.
Rabbi Joshua Hammerman