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The Importance of Civility
It's always been a bit ironic that as we move into the more carefree summer months, in which we hope to relax and to live a life of leisure, that the Jewish calendar calls for us not to relax but to move into a three week period when we don't eat meat (except for Shabbat), and when we limit swimming, weddings and shaving. The three week period commences this year on July 1 and ends with Tisha B'Av July 21-22 (beginning after Shabbat). All this quasi-mourning-like behavior is due to the fact that we twice lost Jerusalem and the Holy Temples on this day. Our sages taught that we were exiled and destroyed, not because we were outmatched militarily, but also because we were weak inside.
One of the people's flaws was that of sinat chinam, unwarranted hatred of our fellow man. The classic story is told of a host, Kamza, who was not ready to forget the dislike of his guest, Bar Kamza, even though the guest had come to Kamza's home thinking he was forgiven. The story's pathos is the missed opportunity of civility, forgiveness and friendship. In its place, the host humiliates the person who tried to build a relationship with him. Our sages compare the act of shaming another as the equivalent of shedding blood (murder), because humiliation drains the blood from the face or fills it with redness. Rabbi Shammai, a great rabbi, humiliated a potential convert by throwing him out of his Yeshiva when the convert challenged Rabbi Shammai to tell him about Judaism while standing on one foot. When the convert came to Rabbi Hillel with the same challenge, Rabbi Hillel responded, “That which is hateful to you, don't do to another, all the rest is commentary.” “Receive everyone with joyful countenance,” he says elsewhere. Anger and impatience get the best of even the greatest among us. Moses doesn't get into the Promised Land because of it and even God, at times, is held back and talked down by the righteous. Rabbi Meir once prayed for the death of sinners. “Pray instead,” says his wife, Bruria, “ for their repentance and change, and there will not be any sinners and wickedness will cease.” Rabbi Meir admits that his wife's solution is far better.
Another of the people's flaws was the way they spoke to and about one another. Lason Hara, or evil speech, is a grave sin, even if what we say is true. Motzi Shem Ra is badmouthing another. It's not even permitted to praise a person in front of someone who dislikes that person because it will often elicit words to the contrary! These laws are not easy to follow. All the more difficult is to hold one's tongue. Our sages tell us that we have one mouth and two ears, so that we can listen twice as much as we talk, and that we have teeth and lips to restrain our tongue from what we shouldn't say. There are even rules against rebuking another. It is an important mitzvah to call out another when they are doing something contrary the the Torah, but it should be done in private so as not to embarrass them. And if one knows that it will only entrench the bad behavior, it too, should be avoided.
I am amazed that it is a month since my last article; nothing goes quicker than a summer in New York! I feel that my summer is over before it began. Although the temperature is warm between the high holidays and the start of the football season, Summer is over–GO GIANTS! As you are reading this article, I will be burning the midnight oil and working on my Yom Kippur Apeal speech.
There has been a whirlwind of meetings during the summer. The ENJC team has accomplished so much in a very short time, but September will be awesome. Our Ritual VP, Ed Isaac, is dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” to make sure that all the honors are in place for the High Holidays. Our Education VP, Brad Becker, has been working with our new Principal, Fran Pearlman, on readying the teachers, schedule and new Religious School program. We are all excited about the exciting new ideas, staff and year ahead.
We will be increasing our security for the Holidays. We are asking our congregants to help us help you. All of our ushers will be checking tickets at the front door, so we ask your cooperation by having your tickets in your hand every time you want to enter the building. We will be making no exceptions - all board members must show their tickets too. The only way we can be 100% compliant in making sure we have a safe and secure building is with everyone helping.
Last year we experimented with accepting credit cards, and the board has decided to continue to accept them this year. Please be advised that if you choose to use credit cards to pay your yearly dues, there will be a 2% fee charged. When you make a donation using charge cards, we waive the 2% fee.
Arnie Carter is heading up our Cantor search committee. Arnie and his committee has and will be interviewing many candidates so that they can make the best selection for the future of East Northport Jewish Center.
The Holidays will be different in the Brecher household this year, as both of my children will be home. The last time both were home was 2012. Wow - a lot has changed in 6 years. And it will be nice not having to pay for college this year!
On behalf of my family, I would like to wish all a L’Shannah Tovah! I want to wish all a healthy new year. As we know, nothing in this world can replace health. As my mom always said – “Have a happy and healthy New Year!” –with the emphasis on health. Read More
Musings About the Fast Day in Tammuz
Beginning on July 1, we enter into the period of Bein HaMeitzarim (between dire straits). We begin with a day of fast on the 17th of Tammuz, and we end on the night of Sunday, July 22 with Tisha B'Av. This year, we extend an extra day, due to Shabbat falling on the 9th of Av. This period of time, according to tradition, includes certain restrictions– in music listening, in eating meat (except Shabbat), swimming and purchasing new items, and the restrictions ramp up after the new month of Av begins (Should you be interested in these details, please contact Rabbi Ian). The day of fast, with no food or drink, begins with first light and ends with starlight, and is quite demanding because of the long days and heat of summer. Those who attempt to fast should stay in air conditioning and drink, if they feel their health at risk.
Here are some historical events that are associated with the 17th of Tammuz:
1. Moses broke the tablets when he saw the Jewish people worshipping the golden calf.
2. During the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, the Jews were forced to cease offering the daily sacrifices, due to lack of sheep.
3. Apostomos, a Roman ruler, burned the Holy Torah.
4. An idol of Zeus was placed in the Holy Temple.
5. The walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans, in 69 CE, after a lengthy siege (Three weeks later, after the Jews put up a valiant struggle, the Romans destroyed the second Holy Temple on the 9th of Av).
6. The Jerusalem Talmud maintains that this is also the date when the Babylonians breached the walls of Jerusalem and would, in three weeks time, finish destroying the first Temple.
It is interesting that the formative event at the time of Moses, was the smashing of the tablets upon seeing idolatry. Tradition tells us that the first Temple was made into rubble because of the same sin of idolatry. Anther midrashic legend connects the spies giving a bad report and convincing Israel of its inadequacy to the 9th of Av. One begins to think that certain days of the calendar have bad karma. But this cannot be in Judaism, because we know that all is in God's hands, except reverence and faith in Him, and if this is so, when we are penitent and pray and are charitable, we avert the evil decree. Thus, in Jewish belief, misfortune can be undone, but so much of that depends upon our choices and our mindset. Read More