A community of communities

March 2017

Fri, 03/31/2017 - 12:29pm -- Rabbi

People often ask for advice on which Hagadah they should use for their Pesach seder, and there are indeed a wide variety of hagadot coming from every conceivable angle and expanding the story of the Exodus in a myriad of directions.  But even more important than choosing a hagadah is deciding how it will be used.  Too often we read through the Hagadah word for word, hoping this will somehow make the story and the experience come to life for us.  Unfortunately, this approach can shut down the very voices at our seder that we most need to hear:  the voices of children, the voices of guests unfamiliar with the story, the voices of adults reengaging with the story for the first time in years.  Every voice, every viewpoint holds the potential to change our understanding of the meaning of this ancient story and to help us grow in new ways.  So whichever hagadah you use, try to find away to take everyone's eyes off the page and let them find the eyes and hear the voices of those gathered around the table.  You can ask provocative questions (way beyond four), engage in role-playing, act out the story, or ask guests at the seder (in advance) to come prepared with a contribution in story, poetry, or song.  Whichever way you choose, the more voices get to express themselves at your table, the more engaging and rich your seder will feel, and the more everyone will learn.  As the Hagadah teaches, "All who expound upon the Passover story shall be praised."  May we all be blessed to learn something new from those at our seders this year.

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Fri, 03/24/2017 - 9:40am -- Rabbi

On Tuesday we will celebrate Rosh Hodesh Nisan, entering the month of Pesach, which tells us that our seders and celebrations are only a few weeks away.  One of the key teachings of the holiday is that the move from slavery to freedom is not just an historical story, and it is not just a story that's relevant to Jews.  In every age, people of all kinds confront oppression and are called to work for freedom, and such work is most effective when we join forces with others.  Next Sunday, April 2nd, at 3:00 PM at GJC we have an opportunity to join together with people of many faiths - Christian, Muslim, and Jewish - for a musical performance of "Mothers of Moses" - with libretto by our own Ellen Frankel - and a multi-faith seder and discussion about how each of us can nurture freedom in our lives.  I urge all of us to take part in this unusual opportunity to see the Pesach story through other eyes, especially in this time of division and discord in our country.  "Now we are slaves..."  Next year, through all of us joining together across all that seeks to separate us, may we all be truly free.

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Fri, 03/17/2017 - 1:41pm -- Rabbi

Jewish teachings deal directly with a central fact of human existence:  human life is short. The reality that our time on this earth is limited prompts two key imperatives.  First, we must use our precious time wisely, doing our best to use our talents to help others, to act with kindness, and to move the world just a little bit forward toward a more perfect future.  Second, we must carry with us and pass on to those who will succeed us the memory of the work others have done in the world, work whose impact extends beyond a single lifetime and whose importance can only be realized over the very long term.  The Jewish engagement with ancient texts teaches us to expand our time frame beyond the tens of years given to an individual to the hundreds and thousands of years of history that records those who preceded us, those who struggled to amass wisdom, to advocate for justice, and to shape the world to be more like the divine vision enshrined in Torah.  Whatever challenges we face in our lives, we draw strength from the knowledge that we are part of a great chain of being, a vision of a world redeemed that existed for thousands of years before we were born and will, God willing, stretch on beyond our lifetimes for thousands of years into the future.  May that knowledge, and the blessings of the memories we carry, ennoble our all-too-brief time on this earth.

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Fri, 03/17/2017 - 1:40pm -- Teena Robinson

 

Jewish teachings deal directly with a central fact of human existence:  human life is short. The reality that our time on this earth is limited prompts two key imperatives.  First, we must use our precious time wisely, doing our best to use our talents to help others, to act with kindness, and to move the world just a little bit forward toward a more perfect future.  Second, we must carry with us and pass on to those who will succeed us the memory of the work others have done in the world, work whose impact extends beyond a single lifetime and whose importance can only be realized over the very long term.  The Jewish engagement with ancient texts teaches us to expand our time frame beyond the tens of years given to an individual to the hundreds and thousands of years of history that records those who preceded us, those who struggled to amass wisdom, to advocate for justice, and to shape the world to be more like the divine vision enshrined in Torah.  Whatever challenges we face in our lives, we draw strength from the knowledge that we are part of a great chain of being, a vision of a world redeemed that existed for thousands of years before we were born and will, God willing, stretch on beyond our lifetimes for thousands of years into the future.  May that knowledge, and the blessings of the memories we carry, ennoble our all-too-brief time on this earth.

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Wed, 03/15/2017 - 10:10am -- Rabbi

In this month of Adar, and especially on the holiday of Purim, we are taught that we should be at least twice as happy as we normally are.  How can this be?  As I have often noted, it is not because we expect that on Purim the world and our lives in it will suddenly be transformed and perfected.  Instead, we are asked to find a double measure of happiness at this time despite the brokenness that we still see in the world around us. This seeming paradox speaks to our human experience that joy and sadness are often matters of focus.  We can find hints of sadness in even the most joyful moments, as when we shatter a glass at the conclusion of a wedding ceremony.  So too, in the midst of sadness - whether in difficult times that we are going through as individuals or in times of stress and conflict in our society - we can find hints of joy, moments in which we can let laughter and warmth well up inside us and spill out to those around us.  So on this Purim, no matter how you are feeling, search your heart for joy.  Find a reason to laugh and rejoice, if even for a day.  And may that joy, in some way we can’t completely understand, also push us and the world in the right direction. 

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