A community of communities

June 2014

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 4:24pm -- Rabbi


In our parsha, the Israelites mourn the loss of leaders Aaron and Miriam. The Talmud teaches that Aaron, Miriam and Moses each were responsible for bringing a unique miracle to B'nai Yisrael in the wilderness. Moses brought the manna that sustained them. On account of Aaron, clouds of glory protected the people from heat and from battle. Finally, through the merit of Miriam, the people had water to drink. Upon her death, the people cannot find a source of water and they cry out in their thirst and grief. Moses strikes a rock and water gushes forth. However, as a consequence of this forceful gesture, God tells the surviving sibling that he will not be permitted to enter the land of Canaan. Later on in the parsha, the people try another tactic for drawing water. They pour out their voices in song, in praise and petition, with gratitude for the gift of water. As the summer sun grows stronger, we are reminded of the way our lives depend on water. May we follow Miriam's legacy and be granted the ability to attune ourselves to the songs of the natural world. May we do all that is within our power to guard and sustain the precious resource of water.

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Fri, 06/20/2014 - 2:17pm -- Rabbi




For nine long days now, three Israeli teenage boys have been missing after they were kidnapped on their way home from school. Communities in Israel and around the world have been pouring their hearts out in prayer for the safe return of the students. I was particularly moved to read about an interfaith gathering that was held on Tuesday at the site of the kidnappings at the Alon Shvut Junction. Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians, came together to pray for the teens and for their families. At a moment when pain and loss can so easily lead to more violence, it is comforting to know that there are people reaching out across divides. They are standing together and calling out to God to protect the children who are left vulnerable in the face of this ongoing and excruciating conflict.


As we turn to prayer in this time of uncertainty, I want to share the words of Rabbi Tamar Elad Appelbaum, a Masorti Rabbi in Jerusalem.


God of Israel,
Beneficent sovereign of all Creation,
enable us now
to have true faith
and to pray and to call out to You
with plea after plea,
so that our cry might rise
to the very Gates of Mercy,
to Mercy itself.
And all reality shall be turned around
so that relief, rescue, and life
may be the lot of those young men,
Ya'akov Naftali ben Rahel (Frenkel),
Gil-ad Micha'el ben Bat-Galim (Shaar)
and Eyal ben Iris Teshura (Yifrach).
Act on their behalf, Lord,
take up their cause without delay,
and may You grant them life and blessing forevermore.  
So may it be Your will, and let us say: Amen.


This Shabbat, as the light lingers in the sky, may all children everywhere be held with compassion. May they be protected from harm and violence. May the Holy One help us to bring about a world of mercy and peace. 

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Fri, 06/13/2014 - 9:02am -- Rabbi

LGBTQ pride

June is the month to celebrate LGBTQ Pride in many places in the world, and it is a good time for us to take stock of our own progress in moving along the road toward celebrating each of us in all of our diversity and multiplicity.  As this week's Torah portion teaches, it is not easy to move from fear of the other to celebration of the richness of the human family.  When encountering the other-ness of the land of Canaan, the scouts are afraid, a feeling that may be familiar to us, whether we are confronting difference in those around us or coming to terms with unacknowledged parts of our own souls.  The scouts continue to walk through denial, confusion, and questioning before arriving at tolerance, acceptance, welcome, and finally, celebration and pride.

We are all mid-way on this journey.  The progress we have made in letting go of our fear of difference in our own GJC community, in Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania, and in the United States is stunning.  Yet we still have so far to go.  Let us walk with compassion for those on the journey with us as well as fierce determination to continue to learn, discuss, engage, and work for our vision of a future in which we truly see each unique soul as a beautiful stripe in the rainbow flag of humanity.  Ken y'hi ratzon - may this be God's will.

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Fri, 06/06/2014 - 3:34pm -- Rabbi


Broken glassIn the Torah, we read that Moses prays for healing for his sister Miriam when she becomes covered with white scales after speaking out against him (Numbers 12:13).  But Miriam is not sick; the white scales are a punishment, not a sign of illness. So why doesn't Moses ask God to forgive her instead?  Why is this moment about healing?

Moses recognizes that there is something broken deep inside of his sister.  Apparently, she has been carrying resentment of her brother for a long time, and this has caused cracks in the clear mirror of her soul.  The Torah hints at this in saying that most people to whom God speaks see God as if in a mirror (Numbers 12:6). When the mirror is cracked, the image is distorted.  Moses's prayer for his sister is for refuat ha-nefesh, a healing of the soul, a restoration of her ability to encounter the divine in herself and in each person she meets.

When we pray for healing, we always pray first for healing of the soul and only then for healing of the body.  All of us carry cracks within us, and sometimes it can feel as if we are completely shattered.  But we, like Miriam, are not alone.  We have the blessing of living in community with others who can see the wholeness in us even in the midst of the cracks.  We can come together on Shabbat and pray for healing for each other and for ourselves.  Together we can reach for the clarity that can allow each of us to be a reflection of the divine.  May we always have the vision to see that reflection shining in each other's eyes.

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