Author of "Embracing Auschwitz" and "Mensch•Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi - Wisdom for Untethered Times." Winner of the Rockower Award, the highest honor in Jewish journalism and 2019 Religion News Association Award for Excellence in Commentary. Musings of a rabbi, journalist, father, husband, poodle-owner, Red Sox fan and self-proclaimed mensch, taken from essays, columns, sermons and thin air. Writes regularly in the New York Jewish Week and Times of Israel.
Thursday, April 29, 2021
In This Moment, April 30: Judaism Embodied; Honoring Alberto
In This Moment
The Shabbat-O-Gram is sponsored by Dana Horowitz and Peter Wolly in honor of their children, Brooke and Jordan becoming B'nai Mitzvah on Shabbat morning. Mazal tov to them!
As we mark what we hope is the concluding chapter of this agonizing pandemic, what better way to celebrate than to bring in the music of Nefesh Mountain, whose very name is a breath of fresh air, and whose music lifts our eyes to vistas of the Shenandoah (even if they actually hale from New Jersey). Their upcoming new album features titles like “In the Wide Open Air,” which is precisely where we need to be right now, and "Wanderlust," which is precisely what we have. Nefesh Mountain will remind us how to find that wide open air.
Katie Kaplan has also been a breath of fresh air. Her musical talents, leadership and spiritual focus have provided us just what we’ve needed in a challenging year, and now, at long last, she is bringing that talent out from behind the Zoom screen and onto our bima. It has been a pleasure to work with her on our clergy team and I look forward to many more years of Cantor Katie Concerts.
At the same time, we are celebrating nearly half a century of service by our most veteran staff member, Alberto Eyzaguirre. What I can’t figure out is how Alberto looks exactly the same as he did when I arrived a mere 34 years ago. I feel privileged to have benefitted from his wisdom, his patience and devotion to our community, and to be his friend.
For many he is the face of TBE, the first person to greet bar mitzvah families entering the building on their big day. He’s sent scores of brides down the aisle of our sanctuary (and prepared all those light bulbs to smash under the huppah). He’s prepared shiva meals and kiddushes by the hundreds. He’s been here nearly every day, rain, snow or shine, never complaining (even when a complaint or two might have been warranted). He’s “bought” more pre Pesach hametz from me than an Amazon warehouse filled with Dunkin's.’ And he’s done it all with dignity and a smile. Alberto is a consummate educator, teaching by example how to be a mensch- putting our best face forward.
Mazal tov to Alberto, Patty and Daniel. We are so grateful for all you’ve done for us all these years.
Reconnecting with the world around us, and within us, here are some examples of how we employed Yoga at our outdoor Religious School classes this past week. What a wonderful way to symbolically join hands with classmates while staying physically distant.
This week's portion of Emor focuses on those aspects of Jewish practice that, like yoga, are sensual, physical and "embodied," bringing us to a greater degree of mindfulness. the portion begins with restrictions related to priests’ sexuality and marriage, then moves to a detailed description of holidays, including Passover, Shabbat, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. A special focus is placed on the the omer period, a time when Israelites were asked to bring food offerings to the priests for seven weeks. Through food, sacrifices and connection with fragrant and tasty vegetation (the four species of Sukkot), all the senses are engaged. We hear the shofar, feel the lulav, smell the etrog, taste the matzah and see the elevated sheaf of the omer. Emor, a word that sounds both like Omer, which itself means "speak," encourages us to look around and see how beautiful our world is. What a perfect time for the masks to begin coming off.
The flames at Mt Meron are juxtaposed by the flames of funeral pyres right now in India, where Covid has struck with an unprecedented vengeance. Lag B'Omer celebrates the end of an ancient plague. May such plagues end completely and everywhere, in our own day.