Enjoying the first day of Hebrew School
Mazal tov to Maddie Winarsky and family as she becomes Bat Mitzvah this Shabbat morning. My co-leader on Friday night will be the one and only Judy Aronin (who is also Maddie's tutor). Join us as well for Selichot services at Congregation Beth El of Norwalk, 109 East Avenue, on Sat. night at 9 PM.
For some nice pre-holidays inspiration, check out Jewels of Elul, a collection of inspirational passages assembled by musician Craig Taubman. This year he asked writers to compose letters to themselves. Here's an excerpt of one written by Naomi Ackerman:
You are a fierce stilt walker, but not forever. Turns out, lessons we learned walking on those stilts are rules to practice in life.
- Don't be afraid to fall.
It's scary but inevitable. Fall, breathe, re-group, continue. It's not as hard as it looks to get up. You simply do. People fear falling, so they don't move forward. Don't be that person.
Without balance you can't walk on stilts. Without balance you can't live. Focus on your core. Center yourself from inside not out. Balance.
- Reach out to people.
From the height of stilts don't forget that the best way to interact is to lean into people. That is your job and will turn into your best asset.
What is The Fast of Gedalia?
At last night's Hoffman Lecture, the Unorthodox cast chided me for not teaching my congregants about the unheralded fast day known as Tzom Gedalia. Now, as a public service, here it is explained in Unorthodox's new book, the Newish Jewish Encyclopedia. Click here for a clearer pdf version of the page. Our sellout crowd had a great time at the live podcast!
Israel's Election Puzzle
Israeli party voting slips configured to spell "Unity Government"
Thank you to Pinchas Gross for his expert analysis of Israel's very complex election process on Tuesday evening. We also watched live coverage on i24 while trying to figure out what it all means. You can see the election results at this site, and then try your luck at getting to 61 seats to form a government. A unity government seems the best bet right now, and the Netanyahu era may be coming to a close. The losses of his party combined with his upcoming potential indictment do not bode well for him, since he most likely will no longer have the possibility of immunity. But much remains to be seen, including the true intentions of kingmaker Avigdor Liberman. For American Jews, it could mean the beginning of a new era of religious acceptance for the non Orthodox - or not. Stay tuned.
TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary - Class of '19
Over the past two weeks, our Hebrew School Class of '19 completed their B'nai Mitzvah cycle with the B'nai Mitzvah services of Sydney Marks and Michael Luther. See Sydney's speech here and Michael's here. And then click here to see highlights from each student. They've taught us a lot this year, with topics ranging from playing bass guitar to raising chickens. Mazal tov to the class of 5779!
High Holiday Message of JTS Chancellor Arnold Eisen
Below is an excerpt of the High Holiday message of Arnold Eisen, who announced this week that he will be stepping down as JTS Chancellor:
...So much remains undone, unchanged, unmoved despite our best efforts. We have made mistakes as individuals and as a society. The Ashamnu and Al Het confessionals that we recite over and over on Yom Kippur are too often and too painfully on the mark. Plans have gone awry, we have hurt people we love, and we have neglected others who needed our attention. Goals we were sure to have reached by this point in the year, or in our lives, still lie ahead. In some cases, we can be confident that we are almost there. Others will have to be put off to another day, another year.
In the midst of reckonings like these, I am grateful for Maimonides' assurance, in his brilliant and ever-relevant meditation on teshuvah in the Mishneh Torah, that each and every human being has the ability to choose wisely, do good, repair mistakes, receive forgiveness, and build a better world. He takes great pains to contest and even ridicule the determinists in our midst who say that all is fated, and our best efforts doomed. He tries to shout down the doubts we ourselves may harbor about our chances of making real changes in ourselves or the world. "Freedom is granted to every human being," he insists. We can do better than we have in the past and finish what is still undone. Those who want to turn to a good path have that ability, he insists. Those who want to go in the opposite direction are free to do that as well. And because this freedom of action is in our hands, we should "examine our ways and probe ourselves deeply and return to the Lord." This is the work of teshuvah. Read Eisen's complete message here.
Eastern Europe Trip 2020
If you are interested in next summer's Eastern Europe trip, know that the site has now gone live. Check the itinerary and sign up now! Click here for the trip's home page - and see the flight information, which has just been posted. Note that the early bird deadline is approaching quickly. So reserve online and share the link with your relatives and friends! And please note that we will be providing scholarships of $500 (or more) for all teens and college students who come with their families.
Rabbi Joshua Hammerman
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