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Tezaveh – The Scene is the Same
(Rabbi’s opinion, which may or may not reflect the management)
One year since Parkland. The scene was the same… A young man who remained under the radar, in spite of momentary erratic messages on social media that should have raised suspicions, but didn’t. A young man who recently had a loss in his family. A young man who was a loner with no friends and who loved firearms. A societal system thin on background checks and fat on permissiveness, allowing one to buy any and all guns, even before he reached the age that a person can buy a six pack of beer. Finally a breaking point and a moment of opportunity that was well planned and executed. The result: 17 dead– two teachers and 15 students, and scores injured all within a time frame of 6 minutes.
Can it be different this time? Unlike the last time, few approached this tragedy with kid gloves off to first allow for grief and sympathy. This the time the parents were mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. And this the time the students were articulate, and eloquently accused Democrats and Republicans alike for cowardice in the face of lobbying to do the needed thing. Besides demanding more extensive and far-reaching background databases, they pointed to the need for limiting or banning the purchase of semi-automatic weapons–the killing machines which have no purpose except strafing the oncoming enemy on the battlefield. It is not a defensive weapon, it is an offensive one, and most police will tell you that it has no place on the family gun shelf. Where do our freedoms legitimately end? May I own an Army tank, or an F16 if I’m a billionaire?
Here’s what we can learn from the parashas of the mishkan in Exodus. No altar or holy temple is to be made through the use of iron tools. This is because iron is used for weapons. Even the stones of the Holy Temple were fashioned by a stone cutting creature, the shamir, but not by iron tools. Knives are removed from the table before birkat Hamazon because they can be fashioned as weapons. Only the Kohain’s garments could be made of wool and linen because he was a pursuer of peace. We cannot wear this mixed fabric because it reminds us of the first homicide, when Kain killed Abel. Kain was a flax farmer and Abel a shepherd. Because the two mingled and violence resulted, we don’t wear this mingled fabric of linen and wool.
In Jewish law it is legal to have a gun for protection. Certainly the Talmud teaches ba laharog otzcha ku ve ketal oto, if someone comes to kill, you certainly may kill him first. But it also teaches restraint. It is one thing if a thief comes into your house at night. In such a situation, you have the right to kill since he knows you’ll be home. If one kills a thief who breaks into your house in the daytime, however, when he thought you’d be out, you stand trial. In the long run, we cannot kill indiscriminately. This month, before Purim, we read the scripture that tells us to “kill all of Amalek.” But in the actual story of the Megillath Esther, there is no indiscriminate mayhem. Only those threatening the Jewish people are whom we single out to eliminate. All others must be left alone, for their lives are precious. Why was it that the Holy Temple could not be built by King David? Because he had too much blood on his hands.
We recently had a very busy weekend when cantor candidate Steven Walvick and his family spent a few days with us. The turnout at all of our events was outstanding–from Game Night on Thursday, January 31st, through the World Wide Wrap on Sunday, February 3rd. Everyone who attended Game Night had a great evening. It was fun playing a game in shul! The game was not Jewish, but it was nice to see multi-generations of congregants playing together as a team. (Look for an update to follow when the Men’s Club hosts a game night in the spring.) Next up, the Search Committee, Rabbi and Beth joined the Walvick family for a lovely Shabbat dinner, followed by a well-attended Tot Shabbat. We then had a very upbeat Kabbalat Shabbat that was attended by over 90 people.
Our Saturday Shabbat service, which was enjoyed by all, was highlighted by our “Souper” Shabbat. Over 85 congregants participated in celebrating Shabbat together. A very special thank you to our chef’s – Steve Alberti, Beth Silverman, Ilene Glatman, Karen Tyll and Allen Berman. Look for their recipes in the March Bulletin. My family enjoyed all the soups we tried, and our only regret was that we did not get a chance to try them all. YASHER KOACH!!
On Sunday morning, it was time for East Northport’s participation in the national World Wide Wrap, and the Daled and Hay students made their presence felt with a large turnout. Scott Keiser had to run out and get more bagels. Over 50 people got up early on Super Bowl Sunday to attend!
Yasher Koach to you, the congregants of ENJC! Over three hundred people attended the events of that cold winter weekend! We were represented by all age groups, from a newborn to ninety-year-olds. The hamesh shul shined bright! The Search Committee continues to review all candidates that become available and will continue until we have a chazzan signed to a contract!
The next two big ENJC events in March will be the March 1st Shabbat Across America – join us for ice cream, and March 20th will be our Purim celebration. See you all then! Read More
A Plea to the Congregation from Rabbi: Support Our Minyan and Worship With Us On Shabbat–We Need Everyone To Pitch In
There is an old joke about a young man who walks into the High Holiday Service and is greeted by the usher. The usher asks if he has paid his dues. He replies, “I’m not a member. I’m just here to give my grandfather a message.” After a short reflection, the usher tells him, “Okay but don’t let me catch you praying.”
This is about hoping that we will catch you praying. We want you to pray in our lovely Friday night and Saturday morning Shabbat services, our brief evening weekday and our Sunday morning services. To not pray, you see, is no laughing matter, for you miss something significant by not making prayer a part of your life. You miss helping our synagogue fulfill its basic function to comfort our mourners, and you miss in our communal effort to celebrate the world at large, the Torah and God, each Shabbat.
Rabbi Hana tells us that in the Talmud, the prophet Bilaam, seeing Israel’s true power and majesty, blesses not only the tents and dwellings, but the streams and rivers. Why are streams and rivers part of the description of Israel? To stress that just as streams and rivers purify, so too does Torah study and prayer purify us. But I would add a second element: Just as streams and rivers are the circulatory system of a geographic region, so too is prayer the circulatory system of the Jewish people. Prayer nourishes us and uplifts the spirit. It allows us to move from station to station as the days fly by, and it allows us to mark our journey through the calendar year, from Rosh Hashana to Shavuot and back again. Our minyanim are the pulse of our institution. Prayer is heart work and each of us must keep our communal heart pumping.
Our liturgy offers multiple reasons for prayer: to express gratitude to God, to praise God, to petition Him– Prayer seeks to establish a connection, a dialogue, with the transcendent force we call God. Prayer affords us different things at different times. It can foster a sense of reflection and perspective. It roots us to our ancestors. At other times it offers us a sense of renewal, recommitment and re-involvement. But most of all, we pray for two reasons: 1) To provide the pulse of our Kehilla Kedosha, our Holy Community. In so doing, we take care of the needs of those who are grieving, provide a format to hear a little Torah and to celebrate our children and fellow congregants; and 2) We provide proof to God that our hearts are still open. A midrash tells us that each of our souls is a God’s candle. When we bob up and down while praying, we are mimicking the flickering flame. Show God you are still flickering, in spite of disappointments and failures, in spite of efforts of enemies to crush us, in spite of old habits, in spite of all our heart’s wrestling. God hears the prayers of a broken heart, but also the happy heart. Keep all lines open and relish the heavenly connection, ushering God’s presence as a part of our minyan.
We are in urgent need. We need more effort from every single member. Many of us resolve, each new year, to exercise on a regular basis. In this new year of 2019, exercise your soul muscle on a regular basis too! Let us catch you praying! This year make it your resolution to attend once or more a week, so that our minyanim will be transformed from challenged to a vibrant pulse.
Minyan takes place each weekday at 8:15 pm, at 7:30 pm the first Friday of each month and 8:00 pm on other Friday evenings, at 9:15 am Shabbat morning, and 9:00am on Sundays Read More