A community of communities

December 2013

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 12:00am -- Rabbi

In my article in the Jewish Exponent this week (you can see it here), I talk about how Israelites were suffering in Egypt from much more than the physical torture of their enslavement.  As the Torah points out, even when Moses comes to the people to assure them that God is with them and that freedom is imminent, the Israelites cannot hear him because of their "shortness of spirit" (Exodus 6:9).  The people's spirits have been crushed.  The very difficult task facing Moses is not only to free the people from physical bondage but also to find a way to lift up their spirits and to allow them to become fully human once more.  In our world and our time, we face many difficult challenges that require real, physical solutions - the problems of poverty, hunger, and homelessness, among many others.  But like Moses, we too face the challenge of lifting people's spirits and turning them from despair to hope.  Freedom of the body and freedom of the spirit are equally pressing concerns for us, and the two are always intertwined.  May we have the courage to address both as we turn toward another sort of new year.

Tags:
Comments: 0
Mon, 12/23/2013 - 12:00am -- Rabbi

This has been a difficult week for our community, in which a number of our members have been touched by loss. The basic Jewish teaching concerning grief is that mourners must not be left to bear their burdens alone. At this time more than any other, we rely on each other for support and comfort.  We can be the arms to embrace those struggling with shock and grief, the ears to hear their words and their tears, and the bodies that stand with them in solidarity.  There are no magic words we can say to take the pain away, but our plain expressions of sympathy - "I'm sorry" is a good one - and our simple presence in the lives of those who have lost loved ones are powerful antidotes to despair and withdrawal.  So please reach out to those who have suffered loss, whether you know them well or are only passing acquaintances.  Let them know that they are part of a caring community that will walk with them on the path of grief.  And may the memories of all who have been lost become continual blessings in the lives of those who love and miss them. 

Tags:
Comments: 0
Fri, 12/13/2013 - 12:00am -- Rabbi

Midrash teaches about Serach, the daughter of Asher, who is the keeper of collective memory for her people. Legend has it that Serach is the one who breaks the news to Jacob that his beloved son Joseph is still alive in Egypt, when Jacob has long believed him gone. This life-altering news could have been too much for Jacob to bear, but Serach delivers it in song so that Jacob can hear it. In return for her gifts  in communication, Serach is rewarded with the ability to live forever.   

   In our parsha this week, we read the end-of life accounts of Jacob and Joseph. As the family of Israel settles into life in Egypt, Joseph has one final instruction. "We will not be in this place forever," he tells his relatives. "The moment will arrive for us to return to the land of our fathers and mothers. When that time comes, take me with you. Remember to carry my bones out of Egypt." For generations, Serach bat Asher holds the memory of the location of Joseph's burial and that of his final wish. As the people of Israel cross the Sea of Reeds, the remains of Joseph and the stories of their ancestors are a bridge to carry them across. The memories of who they have been hold the promise of who they may become.   

  Today, when we see the endless stream of images of gun violence in our nation, when we mourn the loss of life and lament how little has changed since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary one year ago, the stories of our ancestors can hold a life-affirming power for us.  The resilience of the Jewish people can remind us of our own resilience. In the stories of those who came before us, we can find the life force gifted to human beings to survive the unthinkable and the courage to reshape society. May we hope in one another and in our ability to bring songs of healing to a world that is hurting. 

Tags:
Comments: 0
Fri, 12/06/2013 - 12:00am -- Rabbi


As we move into the darker and colder time of the year, we are all looking for ways of bringing more light into the world.  Heart to Heart, a program of the Klein JCC, has given us an opportunity 
to bring light into one family's life this winter through their Adopt-A-Family program.  Through this program, we have a chance to buy items for a needy family from their wish list, while maintaining anonymity of both givers and recipients.  Heart to Heart has matched us with a family it is referring to as "Family P." You can learn more about this family here, and you can access their wish list here.  (Once on the webpage, use the drop-down at top left to choose Family P's wish list.)  Please consider helping this family  
and bringing more light into the world as we move toward winter. 

Tags:
Comments: 0
Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:00am -- Rabbi

The coincidence of Thanksgiving and Hanukah has resulted in much ink spilled about this unprecedented phenomenon.  I connected the two holidays in one way in my article for the Jewish Exponent this week, which you can take a look at here.  But I wanted to say something else about how the stories of Thanksgiving and Hanukah connect.  In one way of telling their stories, both holidays are celebrations of religious freedom. The Pilgrims left their homes in England and came to America to find a place where they could worship freely in their way, a way that was outlawed in their native land.  The Maccabees fought for the freedom to worship in their way against a governing power that had similarly outlawed their religious practices. However, following their successful struggles for religious freedom, neither group was exactly a model of religious tolerance toward others, and concerns about relig 

ious freedom and equality for all religious groups continue in America today and around the world.  It would be wonderful if this once-in-a-lifetime overlap of Thanksgiving and Hanukah could focus our attention on our obligation to ensure religious freedom - not just for ourselves, but for all whose religious  

practices differ from our own.  May the light of that message continue to shine for us during this Festival of Lights. 

Tags:
Comments: 0