A community of communities

September 2014

Fri, 09/19/2014 - 3:03pm -- Rabbi


Shofar BlowingIn order to make this coming year truly new, in order to leave behind the habits of heart and mind that have led us away from our true selves, we first have to clear away the old by asking for forgiveness.  We ask forgiveness from God, the ultimate standard of truth and justice against which we measure our actions.  We ask forgiveness from ourselves, who have had to live with the consequences of what we have done.  And we ask forgiveness from those around us, who have sometimes found themselves dragged down by us.  None of this is easy. We need a space in which we can delve into our hearts and identify the work we need to do this High Holiday season.  This Saturday night, we have two opportunities to find that space.  First, there will be a Selichot program of devotional music with me, Rabbi Lewis, Nina Peskin, Jonathan Singer, Elliott Seif, Justin Fink, and Gary King, in the the Charry Sanctuary from 8:00 to 10:00 PM.  Next, there will be a traditional late-night Selichot service in the Maslow Auditorium led by Dan Werlin from 11:00 PM to midnight. In between, there will be refreshments in the Charry Lobby so that we can have a chance to interact with each other and wish each other well on our journeys.  May we each find a truly new path as we enter the New Year.

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Fri, 09/12/2014 - 5:29pm -- Rabbi


Shofar at sunset

"Only one thing I ask of you, O Lord:  That I may dwell in your house all of the days of my life" - Psalm 27


During this month of Elul leading up to the High Holidays, we recite these beautiful words at each service.  But what does it mean to dwell in God's house?  The psalm mentions visiting the sanctuary separately, so it seems that the sanctuary is not what is being referred to here.  Instead of a location, God's house seems to be a state of mind or being.  When we consciously imbue our lives with meaning, when we feel hints of a higher source and a sense of purpose for our lives, when we connect to transcendent values of love, justice, and mercy, then we are living in God's house.  We may experience these things only for a moment; it is hard to capture these experiences and make them last.  Perhaps the psalmist is asking not for a continuous feeling of living in God's house but for a succession of such moments .  "May I connect to something beyond myself," the psalmist seems to be saying, "even for a little while, each day of my life."  As we enter into the High Holiday season, let us take time to cultivate our awareness of these moments of connection and meaning.  Let us do what we can to dwell in God's house.  L'shanah tovah!

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Fri, 09/05/2014 - 12:59pm -- Rabbi


Israeli flag mosaicOne of the most striking things
about being in Israel in the past weeks (I came back to Philadelphia Monday
night) was how much greater are the possibilities for understanding all of the
complexities, joys, and conflicts of Israeli life when you are actually there,
on the ground.  Although we can stay informed about Israel in a variety of
ways, there really is no substitute for being there, meeting the people, and
hearing it all first hand.  From sharing a meal with an Israeli Druze
family to meeting an Israeli Arab coexistence activist to talking with Israeli
Jewish friends, my eyes were open further and further just in the three weeks I
was there, despite my feeling of being an "insider" about Israel for
most of my life.


This is why it is so important
for us to visit Israel now and to encounter all of its diversity and
complexity.  Especially now, when Israel is encountering great
challenges and when Israelis are in the midst of wide-ranging discussions of where
the country is going, we need to be a part of the ongoing dialogue.  I
want to introduce you to the places, people, and issues that are shaping the
Israeli future.  I want you to see with your own eyes what is happening
and to experience it in three dimensions and in a 360 degree view.  I want
you to learn and to grow in your relationship with this place that is so
important to Jewish life.


How can you do this?  The GJC Israel Trip is scheduled
for December 23 through January 1.  This is not your standard Israel tour.
 Instead, it is an opportunity to really engage in the issues facing
Israel at this challenging time, in addition to having a lot of fun.  All
of the details are available here.  The deadline for
group airfare is on September 10, but there is still time for you to sign up
even after that date.  Join me and other GJC members on this amazing
journey.  You have to be there!

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