Friday, February 21, 2020

"We've Got a Psalm for That!" Shabbat-O-Gram for Feb. 21

Shabbat-O-Gram 

Shabbat Shalom! 

This Shabbat we welcome the first of our cantorial finalists, Hazzan Brian Shamash, who will be joining us for services and other events throughout the weekend.  Kabbalat Shabbat is at 7:30 and Shabbat morning services at 9:30 AM; both are in the sanctuary.  The schedule has been sent in another email.  We look forward to welcoming Cantor Shamash, to be followed by Cantor Katie Kaplan next weekend.

Also this weekend, join me and an interfaith panel at Ferguson Library at 3 PM, for "Religious Voices and the Climate Emergency."

Those who traveled on our 2018 Israel trip will recall meeting IDF Captain (Res.) & Golan resident Yaakov Selavan, who gave us a superb strategic overview of the Golan Heights as we watched Russian planes bombing a Syrian city just a few miles away - and saw the streams of refugees flowing to makeshift camps on the Israeli side of the border.  Captain Selevan will be speaking here in Stamford next week, on Wednesday Evening February 26th at 7:15 PM at Chabad of Stamford 770 High Ridge Road.  He is an excellent presenter, and he'll explore Israel's challenges facing the Iranian, Syrian, Russian and ISIS neighbors, and how they affect the U.S. and all Israel's borders.  

Next Tuesday's "Beyond Dispute" adult ed class at 7:30 (in the chapel) asks when is it OK to modify tradition, to go against the way it has been done for centuries.  the example we'll focus on is whether waging war on Shabbat is kosher, something we might take for granted, but in the days of the Maccabees it was a raging controversy.  Feel free to join the class, even if you have not yet registered (or register here).

We've got lots of great events on the horizon, including Shabbat Across AmericaRuth Messinger, "From Service to Advocacy," our Purim Family Celebration, the March 13 sendoff for our Cuba group, and July's Eastern Europe trip - and so much more!


Recommended Reading

- For in-depth perspective on Middle East Peace Plans, see  this interactive map by the Washington Institute.  This useful tool allows you to zoom in on individual settlements and then zoom out to see the parameters of the different plans that have appeared over the years.  And see David Makovsky's analysis, Continuity vs. Overreach in the Trump Peace Plan (Part 1): Borders and Jerusalem   










Middah Yomi: A Daily Dosage of Jewish Values for 2020

"There's a Psalm for That!"

Elizabeth Warren has a plan for everything. Apple has "an app for that." And we have psalms.  Psalms are under-utilized tools for restoring a sense of balance to our tumultuous lives. And there's a psalm for everything.

For those seeking to be calmed from panic or soothed from pain, there are psalms for that.  For those wanting to stay vigilant in the face of unceasing assaults on bedrock principles of justice and equality, there are psalms for that too.  I highly recommend Psalm 82, which is the Psalm of the Day for Tuesday.  I happen to lead minyan every Tuesday, and I often read a couple of verses of this poem in English, simply to remind myself of the task at hand:

In your judging,
Consider the modest, the orphan.
Find justice for the destitute
And the oppressed.
Assist the poor, the down and out.
Save them from the bullies' hands.


When I read those words, I'm not asking God to remember them for me, but rather that I remember them for God, that I become God's hands.  I seek the strength and fortitude to act on God's behalf.  

If you are looking for a sign from heaven that corruption might soon be removed from our land, there's a psalm for that too. Psalm 109 is God's way of assuring that the swamp will soon be drained, particularly verses 7-8.  If you ever want to sit behind home plate or behind the end zone holding up a biblical sign, you can trade in that ever-popular "John 3:16" for something a little more Jewish.  Hold up "Psalms 109:8," and you'll get lots of clicks - and maybe a few dirty looks.

Rabbi Shefa Gold, a leader in Jewish renewal (we use her prayer book at Shabbat in the Round) offers this companion guide to the daily psalms.  With that aforementioned Psalm 82, she focuses on the final verse in fostering mindfulness: 

Kumah Elohim Shaftah Ha-Aretz 
Arise God and judge the land. (Psalm 82:8)

She adds: As we explore the inner landscape, we find places of shadow - corners of the heart that are unhealed or hidden in shame. We call on the God-force within us to rise up, to reveal the Divine perspective so that the entirety of our inner landscape can be bathed in Awareness.

There's a psalm for Thursday too: Psalm 81: 

Sound a shofar at the New Moon.... at the moment of concealment/potential for our Celebration Day. It is a statute for Israel; it is a rule for Jacob. (Psalm 81:4-5)

Gold comments:

We live our lives in the holy cycles of exile and return, forgetting and remembering, going out from ourselves and returning again to center. We cycle between being Jacob, the ego struggling to manipulate the world, to being Israel, the one who encounters God directly. Through our calendar and festivals we attune to the cycles of the moon whose waxing and waning reflects our own spiritual cycles. As awareness of those cycles deepens, the circles of our lives become spirals, connecting the mysteries of the universe with our own Center

For Psalm 93, the Friday psalm, Gold focuses on verse 2: 

Your throne was long ago secured; beyond eternity are You! (Psalm 93:2)

And then she adds: 

As we prepare for Shabbat, we gradually release our grip on personally mastering this world. No matter how we have struggled, succeeded or failed during this past week, today we prepare ourselves now to let go of the illusion of control and surrender our cleverness to the vast Intelligence that has been in charge all along.

So if you are in need of a moment of sweet surrender and humility, Psalm 93 is the one for you.  

That psalm can also provide a moment of hope for the ultimate triumph of good over evil, of sacred aspirations over profane realities.  Which is why a perfect interpretation of this psalm was to set it to Shlomo Carlebach's Krakower Niggun, in which Carlebach envisions the souls of the martyrs of a Krakow shul returning home, dancing.  Cantor George Mordecai set this psalm to that melody, and when I returned from my first trip to Poland in 2010, I prevailed upon him (and a very reluctant choir) to descend from the bima on Kol Nidre night that year, which happened to be a Friday, and to dance.  Dancing on Kol Nidre night was not something this congregation had remotely considered before then.  And while at times I felt like Kevin Bacon in "Footloose" avoiding John Lithgow's icy stares, the message was powerful and enduring (and dare I say, liberating)- celebrating the triumph of life in the face of death, which is, in itself, the prime message of Yom Kippur.



Each of the Psalms of the Day can become anchors for moments of mindfulness to direct us and ground us before we head out on our ventures of world conquest - or simple survival.  

At the onset of Shabbat there are seven psalms chanted, known as Kabbalat Shabbat. 



For unbounded exuberance, there's Psalm 95.


L'chu N'ran'na - Joey Weisenberg and Hadar Ensemble
L'chu N'ran'na - Joey Weisenberg


Or Psalm 96, to sing a new song unto God.

שירו לה' שיר חדש - מתוך
שירו לה' שיר חדש - מתוך "פני שבת" קבלת שבת ארצישראלית = Psalm 96, sung by a group of progressive congregations in Jerusalem - 


If you are feeling supremely grateful, Psalm 92, the Shabbat Psalm, is the one to sing.

Nava Tehila - Tov L'hodot (Psalm 92: 2-3)
Nava Tehila - Tov L'hodot (Psalm 92: 2-3)
If you wish to express sheer awe in the face of nature's wonders, try Psalm 148.

Nava Tehila - Halleluya הללויה - נאוה תהילה
Nava Tehila Psalm 148- Halleluya הללויה 

To express more joy and wonder at the world around us, head right to Psalm 8

When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars that You set in place
what is man that you have been mindful of him,
mortal man that you have taken note of him?

Let's look at some psalms recommended by a great Jewish spiritualist of the 19th century, Reb Nachman of Bratzlav. There are stories of how, as a boy, Reb Nachman of Bratzlav would escape to a small loft in his father's house that was set aside as a storehouse for hay and feed.  All day, he would hide himself and chant psalms.  Nachman said that the key is to be able to find yourself in every psalm.  Many of the psalms are about enemies and war. Nachman would see these as being equivalent to the war we are fighting within our own souls. 

Take Psalm 105, which is part of the collection of ten healing Psalms prescribed by Reb Nachman called the "Tikkun Ha-klali."  

Here the psalmist fires off ten staccato charges in five sentences, saying essentially: Stop feeling sorry for yourself and treating yourself like a victim.  Here's what you need to do to get out off the mat: Be thankful, call to God, sing, give praise, seek, remember, speak of the Sacred and search for the divine presence.  

Where illness or depression makes us passive, this Psalm activates us. 

Or take a look at Psalm 90, verse 12: 

"So teach us to number our days so that we may gain a heart of wisdom."  

I think about that psalm every day.  On the wall in my office is a paper cut with those very words on it. 


Our Sages said (Avot 2:10), "Repent one day before you die." The Meiri writes, "A person should really examine his deeds every day." For we can never know when that last day will be. 

We need to ask ourselves, as role models to children, what will matter more to them thirty years from now, that trip to Hawaii or that trip to Israel?  Last Saturday's rained out soccer game or bringing the kids here on Shabbat?  Plastic or paper? Native Americans, when they make a key decision, ponder what the impact will be on the 7th generation.  We need to take the long view as well, to make each day count.

We need to live in the moment but also take the long view.

Psalm 126 is perhaps the most familiar of the "Psalms of the Steps," those psalms chanted originally as pilgrims ascended the fifteen steps up to the temple.  This one is from the grace after meals on Shabbat and festivals:

When the Lord restores the fortunes of Zion-we see it as in a dream-our mouths shall be filled with laughter, our tongues, with songs of joy.
 

Laughter leads to joy and joy to acceptance.

Another of those Psalms of Ascents is Psalm 130, which cries out to God "from out of the depths."  We wait, and wait, and wait, for an answer to our pleas.  Idan Raichel's midrash on that psalm has become an international hit.

Mimaamakim - Idan Raichel Project ממעמקים - עידן רייכל
Mimaamakim - Idan Raichel Project ממעמקים - עידן רייכל

Break Destructive Habits.  There's a psalm for that too.  Psalm 118 states, "Min ha-Metzar Karati Yah."  "From out of the straits I called upon the Lord."  The plural for metzar, metzarim, found often in the Bible, is equated to Mitzrayim, Egypt.  So when we call to the Lord from out of the straits, we are calling from slavery -- the slavery of habit and addiction.  See this article for more.

We are pleading for a very personal liberation.

Unity and Community:  For community to work, everyone must be willing to make difficult sacrifices.  I'm proud that Beth El has always been willing to do that. When the less affiliated see a community that works together and avoids sniping, they are much more likely to come aboard. Psalm 133 is one we all know.  "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity." "Heenay mah tov u'mah nayim, shevet achim gam yachad."

Sample these videos below to see the fabulous diversity of Jewish musical expression of these immortal sentiments.

 
Hine Ma Tov
Hinay Mah Tov - by a dance troupe in Argentina
      

Hine Ma Tov .song by Israeli army
Here's a version sung by Israeli soldiers
 flying to Uganda to free hostages, 
from the film, "Mission Entebbe."

שיר עד - הנה מה טוב - מילים: מהמקורות | לחן: ידידיה אדמון | ביצוע: צמד הפרברים, 1961 - Parvarim Duo
Vintage Israeli version שיר עד - הנה מה טוב - מילים: מהמקורות | לחן: ידידיה אדמון | ביצוע: צמד הפרברים, 1961 - Parvarim Duo

Sephardic version Stefani Valadez
Sephardic version Stefani Valadez



Hine Ma Tov | Dallas Chamber Choir
Hine Ma Tov | Dallas Chamber Choir


THE MIAMI ALUMNI CHOIR - Henai Ma Tov (debut video)
THE MIAMI ALUMNI CHOIR - Henai Ma Tov
Hasidic

Hine Ma Tov - Nefesh Mountain - a new genre:
Hine Ma Tov - Nefesh Mountain - a new genre: "Jewgrass!"

If you are looking for courage, we've got a few psalms for that.  Psalm 147 says, "The Lord gives courage to the lowly."  Many psalms speak of overcoming fear, the 23rd being the most obvious, but of the most inspirational is the Penitential Psalm, Psalm 27.  The poet asks only one thing, "Ahat Shalti ma'et adonai," that he may dwell in the house of the Lord all his days.  And the psalm concludes with a message to all of us at this precarious time - "Be strong, take courage and hope in Adonai." 

These lines from Psalm 102 speak to us at a time of illness:


O LORD, hear my prayer;
let my cry come before You.
Do not hide Your face from me
in my time of trouble;
turn Your ear to me;
when I cry, answer me speedily.
For my days have vanished like smoke
and my bones are charred like a hearth.
My body is stricken and withered like grass;
too wasted to eat my food.

Yearning for connection to Israel?  Whenever I bring a group to Israel, we stop off at Mt. Scopus on the way in and recite Psalm 122:  

"I rejoiced when they said to me, 'let us go unto the House of the Lord.' Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem."  

Psalm 128 works well too:  "The LORD bless you out of Zion; and you'll see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life; and you will see your children's children; peace unto Israel" 

Y'varechecha Hashem (May God Bless You) by the Hava Nagillah Band
Y'varechecha Hashem (May God Bless You) by the Hava Nagillah Band
Only through an intensified link to Zion can we live lives of fulfilled blessing.

Psalm 121 "My eyes look to the mountains, from where will my help come?" lends itself to diverse musical representation, from this classical choral version...

Salamone Rossi: Psalm 121
Salamone Rossi: Psalm 121
...to one my all-time favorites:

Yosef Karduner (2018) Shir Lamaalot ft. Ari Goldwag שיר למעלות יוסף קרדונר עם ארי גולדוואג
Yosef Karduner (2018) Shir Lamaalot ft. Ari Goldwag שיר למעלות יוסף קרדונר עם ארי גולדוואג

...or this version....
Sheva - Shir Lama'alot ~ להקת שבע - שיר למעלות
Sheva - Shir Lama'alot ~ להקת שבע - שיר למעלות

Finally, 
Mi ha'ish hechafetz Hayyim, we read in Psalm 34ohave yamim lirot tovWho is the person who desires life, the one who loves each and every day and sees that it is good?"

The answer is provided in the very next verse: avoid gossip, seek peace and pursue it - be a mensch!

MI HA-ISH (WHO IS THE MAN) Psalm 34: 13 - 15 English subtitle
MI HA-ISH (WHO IS THE MAN) Psalm 34: 13 - 15 English subtitle
Whatever your spiritual needs, we've got a psalm for that!



And finally...



May we be the poppy seeds in each other's hamentaschen
this year
may the world be sweet to the taste
  soft to the touch
    and moonlight to the eyes
      and redemption to the soul
may we design contests in which we all win
may we design beauty contests to which each moment
  is a contender
may we all be blessed with cousins who have our backs
  and who would fast on our account
may we recognize when we are Esther
  when we are Mordecai
and when we are Aḥashverosh
may we keep remembering to forget to remember
may we each and may all of us appear at the party of our lives
  wearing the crown of our royalty
and whatever the hell else we choose


Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

Embracing Auschwitz:
Forging a Vibrant, Life-Affirming Judaism
that Takes the Holocaust Seriously 
Now Available on Amazon!

 

I'm happy to announce that as of this week, my new book is now available for pre-order on Amazon. Here is the link to the Amazon page

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Moses Primary (Times of Israel)

FEATURED POST

The Moses Primary

Which Democratic presidential hopeful would the Torah pick to run against Trump? The one with money...and the one no money
With the primary season upon us, people naturally are asking who among the Democrats running the Torah would pick to contest Trump for the presidency.  Well, in this week’s portion of Yitro, Moses makes his choice.  And it’s…. (drumroll, please)…well, everyone.
You see, Moses’ father in law Jethro (not the guy from “Beverly Hillbillies”) suggests to Moses that he delegate some of his leadership responsibilities, so that he won’t continue to be overwhelmed by the many cases being brought to him by the rank and file.  The criteria they establish for choosing these new leaders is illustrative. If you take a look at this page of commentaries from the portion, you will see that one of the qualifiers is that the nominees be “capable people,” (“Anshei Hayil,” in Hebrew).
What does that expression mean?
Well, pick a commentator and you get a current candidate.  Rashi says, “Rich men,” who are beholden to no one.  He would clearly be a Bloomberg supporter. Rashbam focuses on the quality of fearlessness, one we can certainly ascribe to Joe Biden, who has never backed down from a fight.  Ibn Ezra looks for physical endurance – think of Klobuchar in that blizzard.  Nachmanides is looking for wisdom and honesty, which frankly, means he is possibly thinking about writing in Larry David, but these qualities could define any number of candidates, including Buttigieg, whose birth chart reveals that he is “wise beyond his years.” And then there’s the next line in the Torah, the next qualification, “who spurns ill-gotten gain,” which Ibn Ezra immediately defines in one word: “money.”  So he would be the Sanders or Warren delegate.
All of which goes to show us that political eligibility is in the eye of the beholder. And Moses will probably wait until at least Super Tuesday before deciding.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Shabbat-O-Gram: Which Candidate Would Moses Pick? Love, Jewish Style

Shabbat-O-Gram 


Hebrew School graduation and old confirmation pics have been moved to the school wing, to make way for our new elevator!

 
Shabbat Shalom 

OK, so it's my birthday.  I'm only mentioning it because this morning Judy Aronin (whose birthday was yesterday) gave me an all time best birthday present.

A Red Sox Afikoman bag! The best thing to get me through what looks like will be a crummyseason!

As I sit back and relax this holiday weekend, Rabbi Gerry Ginsburg will be co-leading with Cantorial Soloist Katie Kaplan on Friday night and Cantor Debbie Katchko-Gray on Shabbat morning.  Join us (them) for this, and over the coming weeks, for our cantorial candidates' guest appearances.  It means a lot for you to take in interest in this process that is so important to our future.  Also note that morning minyan on Monday's holiday will be at 9 AM.

Some recommended holiday weekend reading...

"To bigotry no sanction..." George Washington's letter to the Jews of Newport (1780) Here's some background on that famous missive.

This story really made me proud to be a Jew - that a congregation would both 1) take care of one of their own in a time of great need, and 2) stand up for what is right at a time when taking a stand has become increasingly uncomfortable. There should be no controversy here.  Vindman did what is right, for all the right reasons. The smear campaign against him should only cause more people to stand up for him, and as we can see, at least one synagogue, his own, unequivocally has. To which I add another. Lt. Col Vindman, if you are ever in the area, you are welcome here any time as an honored guest. The only issue I have with this article is that the shul is fundraising off of this, which doesn't smell right, even if it is at the family's request.

The Jewish Nightmare of Bernie vs. Trump (Yossi Klein-Halevi, Times of Israel).  While I don't agree entirely with him, Yossi gets us thinking about this choice from the perspective of a right-of-center American immigrant in Israel.

Ganz Maintains Lead in Latest Israeli Polls (Ha'aretz)  A consequential Israeli election is just a couple of weeks away, the panel of judges has been selected for the Netanyahu corruption trial (including some notable toughies), and Israelis are, by and large, yawning.

-  Interfaith Group Renames Itself - Bluish, Jew-ish, and Jew-theran (Forward) 
We've had a longstanding relationship with InterfaithFamily, having participated recently in a pilot project called the Interfaith Inclusion Initiative (IILI). This week they re-branded
 themselves and launched a new website: "18 Doors."  See their brief video introduction below, and here's a link to their new site. 

18Doors: Unlocking Jewish
18Doors: Unlocking Jewish
Is Bernie vs. Bloomberg Good for the Jews? (Jonathan Tilove, Austin Statesman); also, New Hampshire Just ushered in a Bernie vs. Bloomberg Title Fight (The Intelligencer: New York Magazine) and  Is 2020 Really the Year for the First Jewish President? (JTA)  Something must be in the zeitgeist this week.  As Allison Kaplan Sommer wrote Jan. 27 in Haaretz: "For some American Jews, (this match) evokes two uncles feuding across a Friday night dinner table." Bloomberg and Sanders "embody two very different classic modern Jewish archetypes: the rumpled socialist and the buttoned-down capitalist," she wrote. Or, as the trolls will translate it, Trotsky vs. Rothschild.


Could make for interesting seders this year.  Are we ready for this?


Embracing Auschwitz:
Forging a Vibrant, Life-Affirming Judaism
that Takes the Holocaust Seriously 
Now Available on Amazon!


I'm happy to announce that as of this week, my new book is now available for pre-order on Amazon. Here is the link to the Amazon page. The early response has been very positive. You can read the advance praise here, including this:


"Starting with a jarring book title, Joshua Hammerman captures our imagination and re-pivots our approach to dealing with the horrors of the Holocaust. As a gifted journalist and spiritual leader, he makes his case with a clear voice and open heart, showing us that we can fulfill the biblical mandate to 'choose life' by doing so with new forms of joy and sanctity. Hammerman's brave new vision challenges us and demands our attention."
-Gary Rosenblatt, Editor At Large, The Jewish Week

The Moses Primary

כא  וְאַתָּה תֶחֱזֶה מִכָּל-הָעָם אַנְשֵׁי-חַיִל יִרְאֵי אֱלֹהִים, אַנְשֵׁי אֱמֶת--שֹׂנְאֵי בָצַע; וְשַׂמְתָּ עֲלֵהֶם, שָׂרֵי אֲלָפִים שָׂרֵי מֵאוֹת, שָׂרֵי חֲמִשִּׁים, וְשָׂרֵי עֲשָׂרֹת.Ex.18:21 Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating unjust gain; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.
With the primary season at last upon us, people naturally are asking who among the Democrats running the Torah would pick to contest Trump for the presidency.  Well, in this week's portion Moses makes his choice.  And it's.... (drumroll, please)...well, everyone.
You see, Moses' father in law Jethro (not the guy from "Beverly Hillbillies") suggests to Moses that he delegate some of his leadership responsibilities, so that he won't continue to be overwhelmed by the many cases being brought to him by the rank and file.  The criteria they establish for choosing these new leaders is illustrative. If you take a look at this page of commentaries from the portion, you will see that one of the qualifiers is that the nominees be "capable people," ("Anshei Hayil," in Hebrew). 

What does that expression mean? 

Well, pick a commentator and you get a current candidate.  Rashi says, "Rich men," who are beholden to no one.  He would clearly be a Bloomberg supporter. Rashbam focuses on the quality of fearlessness, one we can certainly ascribe to Joe Biden, who has never backed down from a fight.  Ibn Ezra looks for physical endurance - think of Klobuchar in that blizzard.  Nachmanides is looking for wisdom and honesty, which frankly, means he is possibly thinking about writing in Larry David, but these qualities could define any number of candidates, including Buttigieg, whose birth chart reveals that he is "wise beyond his years." And then there's the next line in the Torah, the next qualification, "who spurns ill-gotten gain," which Ibn Ezra immediately defines in one word: "money."  So he would be the Sanders or Warren delegate. 

All of which goes to show us that political eligibility is in the eye of the beholder. And Moses will probably wait until at least Super Tuesday before deciding.  


Love, Jewish Style

 
Touching photo of Rabbi Vicki and Harold Axe in the
Stamford Advocate this week. Read the article

A few years ago, I wrote this about love in a High Holiday sermon - words appropriate for Valentine's Day.  Some of these thoughts came back to me this week, as in our "Beyond Dispute" class we studied the famous Ben Azzai - Akiva debate (presented below).

Reb Shlomo Carlebach said, "If we had two hearts like we have two arms and two legs, then one heart could be used for love and the other one for hate. Since I have but one heart, then I don't have the luxury of hating anyone."
For ours is a religion of Love. Ours is a God of Love.

There's an argument in the Talmud between Rabbi Akiva and Shimon Ben Azzai, over which is the most basic principle of the Torah. Akiva says, "Love your neighbor as yourself." He was a big fan of love. He LOVED love. He's the guy who put the Song of Songs into the Bible, and his late-blooming romance with his wife Rachel is maybe the greatest Jewish love story of all time.

But Ben Azzai trumped him by saying, "No, even more important than 'Love your Neighbor' is the verse from Genesis that states, "On the day that God made human beings, they were made in the likeness of God, male and female God created them."

Rabbi Arthur Green, whose book "Radical Judaism" is must reading for any post-modern Jew - and we'll be teaching it here this year - thinks Ben Azzai was on to something important. It's not enough simply to love your neighbor. Anyone can love a neighbor. Azzai says that's not enough! We have to love everyone. Not just the person who lives next door. Not just a fellow Jew. Every human being is in God's image. True, some are harder to love than others. Some are nearly impossible.

And we all know who they are!

Some days you can love them, and some days you can't. Even if you can't love them, you have to treat them with dignity. 
The Sh'ma is our most important prayer and the prayer that commands us to love - V'ahavta - "You shall love the Lord your God." So, one may ask, how can you command love?

Well, it's not really a command, as professor Reuven Kimelman has pointed out. Read properly, "V'ahavta is a response. An instinctive reaction projecting love out into the world. Projecting back what we have received."

In both the morning and evening liturgies, the Sh'ma is immediately preceded by a prayer about love. In the morning, that prayer is Ahava Rabbah - "A Great Love," a transcendent love, an UNCONDITIONAL love. The word for love, "Ahava," appears in various forms no fewer than six times in that single prayer, including the first, middle and last words. Love, love, love, love, love, love. Six times! Like a mantra.

We are loved by an unconditional love - a boundless love, as we say at night, Ahavat Olam. When you've been loved in that way, when the world has loved you in that way, the only way to respond is to give love in return.
V'ahavta - We will love. Not we MUST but we will. We will love because we've been loved. Even at times of enormous suffering, we've been touched by an Ahavah Rabbah. We will love because our God is a God of love, our Torah a Torah of love; every ounce of breath that comes from us is a breath that was given to us in love.

This is the journey we all need to take, the journey from receiving to giving, the journey to unconditional love. Let us make the passage from Ahava Rabba to Ahavat Olam, from a great love, to the greatest love of all, the love of all with whom we share this earth.

It is easy to be cynical. It is easy to be suspicious. It is easy to throw up our arms and disengage.

It is easy to hate. But IF WE HATE - THE HATERS WILL HAVE WON. They will have turned us into them.

No, they don't all hate us. And in the end, it doesn't really matter who hates us and why. All that matters is that we love. Why?
Because we have been loved.

Two Special Interfaith programs this coming week:

1) The first event in the Sharing Sacred Spaces Initiative

THURS., FEBRUARY 20, 2020 6:30-8:30 PM Guru Tegh Bahadur Foundation 633 West Avenue, Norwalk CT 06850 203.857.4460 ● www.gtbf.org  Everyone is welcome! Join us, and find out all about the Sikh faith. Our turn to host will come in June.

2) Religious Voices and the Climate Emergency

  

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman (and reserve now for our 2020 Eastern Europe trip!)