A community of communities

April 2017

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 3:24pm -- Rabbi

We read in the Torah this week about tzara'at, an affliction that can affect not only people but also objects that come from the natural world.  The idea that both humans and nature are tied together, susceptible to the same afflictions and benefiting together from the same blessings that God showers on the world, is a constant theme in the Torah.  In Genesis, humanity is created last to emphasize that we must fit into the pattern of creation, to tend and care for it, if we are to thrive on the earth.  Sadly, human pride and selfishness have too often led us to ignore the effects that our actions have on nature, and we now find ourselves in peril through climate change because of our lack of attention to how we are overturning the ecological balance that allows humanity to survive.  The severity of what we face is urgent and new, but the mandate of Jewish tradition that calls us to raise our voices in defense of the earth that has no voice is ancient.  May we do what we can to take on this very difficult task so that all of God's creation can thrive together.

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Fri, 04/21/2017 - 2:01pm -- Rabbi

The obligation to remember the Holocaust calls on us to grapple with the horror and tragedy of the destruction of European Jewry and the individual stories of the six million Jews who lost their lives to a murderous ideology of hate directed at Jews for being Jews.  In Israel, this day is known as Yom HaShoah v'ha-G'vurah - a day of destruction and strength or heroism.  As we remember the tragedy of the Holocaust, we must also remember the stories of those - both Jews and non-Jews - who stood up against hatred, who risked and often lost their lives in order to oppose and undermine the Nazi regime and to save Jewish lives.  Their heroism is just as much a part of the story of the Holocaust as the death camps and the gas chambers.  At a time when we see hate on the rise in Europe and at home, we must take extra care to internalize the message of the Shoah for our time, knowing that we must recognize hate for the danger it is and raise our voices against it right away, before it is allowed to grow and spread.

At GJC, we will be having a special service and program on Sunday morning beginning at 9:00 AM in the Charry Lobby, and the city-wide commemoration will take place at 1:00 PM at Congregation Rodeph Shalom.

May we be strengthened in our resolve never to forget the Holocaust and never to shrink from our duty to confront hate in all of its nefarious forms.

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Fri, 04/14/2017 - 9:21am -- Rabbi

Tonight, our Friday night service will be abbreviated in honor of the Pesah holiday, as we omit the Kabbalat Shabbat portion of the service and begin with Ma'ariv.  As it is told in the Midrash, when the the Israelites were fleeing Egypt, Nachshon was the first to dip his toes into the Sea of Reeds, and only then did the waters part. Human bravery, manifest through stepping into unknown waters, preceded the Divine splitting of the Sea.  In her teaching tonight, Rabbinic Intern Becca Richman will use story and midrash to provoke our own ideas abou the steps we must take in our own lives to make liberation possible.  The service will begin at 6:00 PM in the Magil Chapel and will end at about 6:30 PM.  All are welcome!

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Fri, 04/07/2017 - 2:30pm -- Rabbi

The Talmud (Gittin 41a) takes up the strange case of a person who is half slave and half free.  What can such a person do, and what can they be?  How can they interact with others?  While the Talmud may sometimes confound us in its delight in exploring such odd and marginal cases, the idea of someone who is half slave and half free has something important to teach us about how we should approach the holiday of Passover that begins Monday night.  In the Passover Hagadah, we recite both "we were slaves; now we are free" AND "now we are slaves; next year may we be free."  How can we say both things?  How can we be both free and slaves at the same time?

On Pesah, we enter into the story of the Exodus from Egypt with our full selves.  We become the slaves in Egypt so long ago, experiencing both the injustice of slavery and the hopelessness of being an oppressed people.  And we become the free people who march out of Egypt, ready to carry the message of freedom and hope to the world.  If we are to truly carry out the teachings of Passover in our lives, though, we cannot lose either part of the identities we take on.  We cannot recognize injustice around us only to fail to take action because we have lost all hope.  And we cannot enjoy our freedom only to fail to remember those who are still oppressed.  We must hold on to both parts of our history, letting our intimate knowledge of oppression mix with the hope for change to propel us forward.  We must, in our hearts, become half slave and half free. May these two halves of ourselves and our history come together to renew our commitment to freedom as we gather around our seder tables this year.  Hag Sameah!  

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