Monday, April 13, 2020

From the Rabbi's Bunker April 13: The Blessings of Home

From the Rabbi's Bunker

A Passover Like No Other

While Many TBE Families Zoomed their Seders...

....and many joined our seder and services

Some also prepared masks for Stamford Hospital

...and many lined up to donate food

See more of our recent TBE photos at this link
...and send me more photos of your family Zoom Seders and mitzvah projects.

There is still much more that we need to do!!!

Stamford Health sent notification that their frontline hospital workers are in urgent need of donations because they are unable to go home or get to a store. The pick up or drop off is very easy and safe. If you're able to drop off go to Tully Health Center, 10 AM - 2 PM, M-F. We just dropped off several boxes of supplies requested in the letter below. This is real and desperately needed. Signage will guide you once you enter the Tully campus during that timeframe. Tully is at 32 Strawberry Hill Ct, Stamford, CT 06902. It's curbside drop off.
They would appreciate any donation of the following items: Food Essentials 1. Non-perishables (grains, rice, oats, pasta, nuts, granola bars) 2. Canned foods (beans, tomatoes, pasta sauce, tuna, soup, fruits) 3. Bottled water Non-Food Essentials 1. Toilet paper 2. Paper towels 3. Tissues 4. Shampoo 5. Body wash 6. Hand soap, sanitizers, and disinfectants 7. Laundry detergent, dish detergent & soap If you need pick-up or have ANY questions please contact the people below. Chris Riendeau - 203-276-5977 or Andy Bisselle - 203-276-2533 or Remember: there is curbside drop-off zone located at Stamford Health's Tully Health Center - 32 Strawberry Hill Ct. Volunteer staff will be available to accept donations Monday through Friday from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. Please note that items should be in their original, unopened packaging.

Blessings of HOME


Traditional home blessing by artist Mickie Caspi - Traditionally the Birkat ha-Bayit  (Blessing of the Home) is hung on the wall next to the front door or next to a window: it is meant to drive any evil spirits out of the house and protect the occupants within.  In that sense, it serves much the same purpose as a mezuzah, or other protective amulets that have appeared in Jewish history, like the so-called "magic bowls" popular during the Talmudic era, that were buried at the front door of a home to keep out demons.

"The world is like an inn, the world to come like home." ~ Talmud, Mo'ed Katan 9b

As we continue to make our way through the intermediate days of Pesach, a theme that keeps returning is how much of a homecoming this unique period has become.  Even those who live thousands of miles from loved ones have found their way back, via social media, while most of the world has been forced to remain stationed in place, and for most, "in place" means "at home."

Home has been central for Jews since the beginning - and I mean the very beginning.  In fact, the word Bereisheet  "In the beginning," which begins the entire Torah, starts with the letter bet - a letter that itself means - and is shaped like - a house.  The Hebrew alphabet began as pictographs, and as you can see below, bet clearly was designed to look like a house, with an opening, which it maintains in its current form.

So the basic building block of the Torah, and in fact of all Creation, is the letter that both symbolizes and literally means a home.

And now, we've never been more acutely aware of the protective and nurturing nature of home.  Home has its pitfalls as well, and no doubt this month's close quarters have spawned some strife.  But when we see what is happening around us, we realize that, in the words of Robert Frost, "Home is the place that when you have to go there, they have to take you in" (see the full poem here). And never before, at least since the night of the 10th plague, has home been more needed as a sanctuary, a place to return to, where we can stay.  

T.S. Eliot expressed in his poetry how many of us are feeling right now.

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."

And so let's pay tribute to what home means for us, as Jews and as Americans - and also anticipate this weekend's massive concert for the World Health Organization, "One World: Together at Home..."

One World: Together at Home

No musical tribute to home can even hope to begin without this classic sung by Frank Sinatra. "The House I Live In" was a short film made in 1945 at the end of World War II to promote racial tolerance starring Frank Sinatra. It received an Honorary Academy Award and a special Golden Globe award in 1946. It's a (more diverse) Norman Rockwell painting, come to life.

Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra - music " -The House I Live In"
The House I Live In - full documentary - with Frank Sinatra
The House I Live In - full documentary - with Frank Sinatra

Here are some more "home" songs, beginning with this new Passover classic...

Dayenu, Coming Home - The Fountainheads Passover Song
Dayenu, Coming Home - The Fountainheads Passover Song

Israeli and Palestinian teens sing about home - in three languages.

"Home" (Phillip Phillips) - Sam Tsui & The YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus | Sam Tsui

Another great "home" song, about the recognition that home is where the heart is.

The Greatest Showman |
The Greatest Showman | "From Now On"

The classic Yiddish yearning for the hearth and home.
A song of longing made more poignant by the recognition that 
some homes may never be regained.

Israeli children sing Oyfn Pripetshik | Holocaust Day
Israeli children sing Oyfn Pripetshik 
Holocaust Day

By the Fireplace

A fire burns on the hearth
And it is warm in the little house.
And the rabbi is teaching little children
The alphabet.

Remember, children,
Remember, dear ones,
What you learn here.
Repeat and repeat yet again,
Komets alef-o.

Learn, children, don't be afraid.
Every beginning is hard.
Lucky is the Jew who studies Torah.
What more do we need?

When, children, you will grow older
You will understand,
How many tears lie in these letters
And how much crying.

Learn, children, with enthusiasm,
As I instruct you.
The one who learns Hebrew better
Will receive a flag

And finally, my personal favorite, "Bless this House," recorded by my father, Cantor Michal Hammerman. (You can also find it here).

What is your favorite "Home" song / passage / poem / insight? What is giving you strength at a time like this?

For in the end, every journey is a journey home.

Interfaith Heroes

I was taken by a story referenced today on Twitter by interfaith leader Eboo Patel.

The story referenced here is one that deserves retelling for as long as religion exists on this planet. You can find the full story here, but here's the short form: In February 1943, a torpedo from a German U-Boat hit the USS Dorchester. The Four Chaplains aboard - a Catholic, a Jew and two Protestants - handed out life jackets to the frightened soldiers. When there were none left, the men removed the vests from their own bodies and gave them away. Witnesses saw the four arm in arm, each whispering their final prayers according to their respective traditions, going down with the ship. We can now add Muslims, Hindus and others to the mix of interfaith partners and heroes. And I am exceedingly proud of the interfaith community we have nurtured here in Southwestern Connecticut. Which reminds me that you are invited to join me and by Muslim and Christian colleagues (some call us the "Three Amigos,") next Monday night, as we discuss - with you - these unforgettable holidays.

Hag Samayach from the Bunker
Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

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