A community of communities

May 2017

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 4:23pm -- Rabbi

This Tuesday night, we will begin the festival of Shavuot, a holiday that celebrates the giving and receiving of Torah. Jewish tradition teaches that, in each generation, we
re-receive Torah. So, how might we ready ourselves to receive such a holy gift this week? Among the Jewish rituals for readying ourselves intellectually and emotionally is the custom of studying Pirkei Avot (Teachings of the Sages), a section of Mishnah, each Shabbat between Passover and Shavuot. This Shabbat, the final Shabbat between Passover and Shavuot, Rabbinic Intern Becca Richman will share highlights from the end of Pirkei Avot. Weaving together insights from Pirkei Avot and from this week's Torah reading (parshat B'midbar), we will explore what it might mean to be "ready" to re-receive Torah in this generation, this week.  The service begins as usual at 10:00 AM in the Charry Sanctuary.  Please join us!

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Fri, 05/19/2017 - 4:55pm -- Rabbi

In the mystical Kabbalistic way of counting the Omer (the days between Pesach & Shavuot), we are in week 6, the week marked by the quality of y'sod.  The word y'sod literally means "foundation," but to the mystics, it also suggests the idea of "connection" and is associated with the Biblical figure of Joseph.  Sold into slavery in Egypt by his brother's, Joseph manages to connect to those around him and to God, allowing him to leave behind both slavery and prison and rise to a high position in Pharaoh's court.  At the same time, Joseph never lets go of his connection to the traditions of his family and his people.  The ancient rabbis teach that Joseph fully follows both the ritual and ethical laws of Torah even through he is the lone Israelite in a society whose values and laws are very different from his.  This ability to retain a deep connection to our highest values while at the same time connecting to those around us who are different from us is at the heart of the quality of y'sod.  May we aspire to follow the example of Joseph in holding tight to the transcendent teachings of Torah while holding out our hands to those in our diverse society.  Only through connection to both can our foundation stand firm.

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Mon, 05/15/2017 - 10:37am -- Rabbi

This week's Torah portion, Emor, begins by addressing the Israelite priests, the sons of Aaron, and giving them a long list of restrictions they must follow in their service of God and the people.  This emphasizes a theme in the Torah: leadership is about service, sacrifice, and humility, not power, privilege, or pride.  In the Kabbalistic counting of the Omer, we are contemplating the quality of Hod (literally, "splendor") this week that is associated with Aaron.  In the mystical tradition, Hod is the quality of yielding and flexibility.  Like the palm tree bending nearly to the ground in the face of a strong wind, Aaron is willing and able to bow down before the people and before God, yielding to a force far greater than his human strength, however exalted his position.  Jewish texts emphasize again and again that such an ability to yield and to humble oneself is the true measure of of a leader.

Unfortunately, we see little of that attitude toward leadership in our contemporary world, as politicians, business leaders, and others act in ways that are a far cry from the humility of Aaron.  We must hold them to account, but we must not stop there.  Instead, we must watch out for the same tendencies to valorize power, privilege, and pride over service in ourselves, whether in communal leadership, in our work, or in our families. May we all see the splendor and strength that come from yielding, from bending to forces and values that soar far beyond us and lead us toward something divine.

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Fri, 05/05/2017 - 9:12am -- Rabbi

In 1954, Congress drew a careful line for religious institutions, legislating that religious leaders and organizations could speak out on social and political issues but could not endorse or oppose candidates for office. Although a small number of religious leaders have recently been advocating against this rule, as has the White House, the rule is overwhelmingly supported by both liberal and conservative clergy.  Why?  They realize that allowing churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples to endorse or oppose candidates has the potential to undermine their missions in many ways.  It can damage their spiritual and social aspirations by dividing congregations along political lines, and it can dilute their moral voices by making them little more than tools of political parties and candidates.  For these reasons - even more than the law - GJC has striven to draw careful lines for our community, ensuring that we speak out about the social and political issues of our day from a Jewish moral perspective but drawing the line at endorsing or opposing any candidate for office or any political party.  With so many members with robust political commitments and identities, these boundaries are not always easy for us to follow, but they make us stronger as a community and better able to fulfill our mission in the world.  We should reaffirm our commitment to holding to them, no matter what Congress ultimately decides.

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