Many from our recent TBE Israel Group, at the Knesset Menorah
The full-fledged Shabbat-O-Gram is still on summer hiatus, but just a quick note to let you know that it is good to be back and I look forward to sharing lots of stories with you over the coming weeks, beginning tonight at 7:30 and tomorrow morning at 9:30 - as both Cantor Fishman and I are here and looking forward to seeing you.
Meanwhile, a huge thanks to those who led services in our absence last weekend, as well as all those who have pitched in during the summer, reading Torah, leading services, delivering divray Torah and supporting our minyans.
This weekend we begin the month of Elul (entirely too soon, if you ask me), so our month-long countdown to Rosh Hashanah begins. Elul is a time for introspection. Each year I try to focus on ways to help us along in that process. For this year, using the approach of my new book "Mensch*Marks" (and special thanks to all of you who have pre-ordered!), I ask that we each try to recall 42 seminal events in our lives (some might easily come up with that number from the past year). Each of these stepping stones helped us to become who we are today. That number parallels the number of days between now and Yom Kippur, as well as the number of stops made by the Israelites in the Wilderness, as recorded in Numbers 33. (See this chart of the stations of the Exodus). According to the Baal Shem Tov, these 42 stops correlate to 42 stages of a person's life. So think about the formative moments that made you "you." After you've covered the major ones, e.g. a wedding day or the death of a loved one, that's when it gets interesting, because you have to dig deep to remember distant encounters and subtle lessons that ended up making a huge difference.
Let's turn these High Holidays into a time for growth for each of us!
This week's portion of Re'eh talks about the significance holy places (like Jerusalem). Here are some photos that I took of holy places visited during my recent travels to Israel and Southeast Asia. Holy places can be ancient or modern, beatific or tragic, and we saw it all, in places like Angkor Wat and the Killing Fields of Cambodia, Borobudur Temple on Java and the Hanoi Hilton, where John McCain withstood captivity and torture. We went there to pay tribute to that true American hero. And, oh yes, Jerusalem. Anyway, here are some photos for you to enjoy. To see them enlarged, click on the photos individually.
Shabbat shalom - and we can begin wishing people a "Shana Tova" as well!
Rabbi Joshua Hammerman
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