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Join us for our Tu B'Shvat Seder
On the 15th of Shvat, we have the privilege of celebrating the holiday of Tu B’Shvat, the New Year of Trees. Traditionally, Tu B’Shvat marks the date at which the earliest blooming trees of Israel, the almond, or shkediah trees, begin their new fruit-bearing cycle, with sap beginning to rise and buds to appear. (Halacha instructs that a tree must be four years old before one can dedicate its fruits and then consume them.) The Kabbalists of Northern Israel established a “seder,” in which trees and fruits, which the rabbis associated with the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, were celebrated. As of the last century, Tu B’Shvat became connected with development and expansion of Israel’s forests and the greening of the semi-arid slopes of the Judaean Hills. Note that what is a fiscal legal holiday has been transformed into a more general celebration of nature.
Many today are of the opinion that we must broaden the significance of Tu B’Shvat beyond its current
Israel-centric scope. We surely must continue a glorification of the natural habitat of Israel. And certainly the holiday takes on even greater cogency in view of the recent arson attacks on natural conservations and farmlands in the South, with acres of land going up in smoke from the incendiary “kite” and balloon bombs flown into Israel by Hamas terrorists. But Tu B’Shvat should encompass a broader agenda.
A recent report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and by our own Federal Government is alarming. The citizens of this planet are doing damage that will soon be irreversible, if not lessened and checked in the next decade. I used to think these warnings sounded a lot like Chicken Little. However, it appears that all of us need to understand the gravity of these reports. Oil spills and the dumping of plastic and debris in our oceans threatens our marine life. The run-off of fertilizer into our waters has resulted in brown tides and the blanching of coral reefs, which is killing off even more sea life. The carbon dioxide emissions of industrial nations (China and our United States) will raise ocean temperatures another 2 degrees by the year 2050, causing massive coastal damage due to flooding. And our Federal Government is wrestling with itself policy-wise, as many in the EPA and Trump Administration are unwilling to implement policies that should be dictated by their own scientific findings.
Rabbi Yohanan, in the Talmud, said that if the Messiah comes while you are planting a tree, you should first finish planting and then go out and greet the Messiah. This is because neither God nor the Messiah will rescue us from ourselves. In a midrash, God says to Adam in the garden “Keep it and tend it, because if you ruin it, there will be none to repair it.” Safeguarding nature is our task and our task alone. Our agricultural laws, in the book of Leviticus, stress again and again that we are tenants on God’s good earth, and we have an obligation to prevent it from exhausting itself. Let us utilize the consciousness of Tu B’Shvat to redouble our efforts on behalf of the environment, not only in our nation but in the Land of Israel and for the planet as whole. Recycle with a vengeance. Plant trees in Israel and in your back yard. Consider purchasing electric cars and solar for your homes. And, make sure to reinforce your thinking and spirit with our annual Tu B’Shvat Seder, which this year will be January 18th, immediately after services. You and your children are invited to enjoy the fruits and grains once again, and to reflect on our precious natural elements. Read More
Last month we evaluated the significance of events at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and mourned the loss of our fellow Jews engaged in prayer. Naturally, we turn to our own synagogue and ask questions of ourselves. "What are we doing to protect ourselves from a similar attack?" "Am I safe at ENJC?"
Of course these are the right questions to ask. For those who attended the rally at the Dix Hills Jewish Center, you heard the Suffolk County Police Commissioner discuss a program called SHIELD, Suffolk County Police Department's Counter-Terrorism and Anti-Crime program. Over the past two years, Rabbi Silverman and members of our Security Committee have attended Suffolk County Police Department's "Safety in the Sanctuary" active shooter seminar. Based on this seminar, with visits by Suffolk Police Department's Counter Terrorism Liaison to the ENJC and our own initiatives, we have taken a number of steps to enhance the security in and around the building.
Some of our actions are clearly visible, while others are not. We have added high intensity LED lighting around the exterior of the building–the first phase of our lighting upgrade. We replaced all the classroom doors with steel doors, and we have installed security cameras throughout the building to help us monitor and track suspicious activity. We are in the process of developing a Building Emergency Action Plan to address emergencies that include fires, bomb threats and active shooter situations. Once finalized, portions of the plan will be shared with clergy, staff and ENJC members so that everyone understands their role in various situations.
The one thing we have to recognize is that physical security is not simply a matter of installing locks. Locks only work when properly utilized. In our case, the open door policy, whereby we unlock doors during services and events MUST come to an end. The building can no longer be freely open to anyone that walks onto the property. Although no one wants to wait at the door to be let in, the safety and security of our members and guests must come first. We must be alert when opening doors and be aware of who is coming into the building. Key fobs will be issued to the entire congregation in order to control access to the building. More information will be provided as we move forward with this project.
This past June, members of our Security Committee applied for a grant from the New York State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, and I'm proud to announce that we were successful in our efforts and were awarded a grant to be used to further strengthen our security posture. The effort to utilize the grant will take time as we identify and prioritize the needs of the building and our congregants.
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