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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
Happy New Year!
It has been a very interesting year at ENJC, and likewise, 2019 will see many significant changes. In the first quarter of the year, we will be rolling out our fob system to better secure the entrance to our building. Please look for your notification in the mail so you can come to the office to get your fob. Meanwhile, the security committee has been working diligently, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on the grant paperwork, so that hopefully, by late spring, we will start to see some of those planned changes to protect our building and property.
We anticipate introducing a new chazzan in July, to be in place in time for the Jewish New Year. The cantor search committee has been very busy, reading resumes, listening to recordings, and interviewing candidates as they become available. We plan to invite some candidates for Shabbat weekends to determine if they are a fit for our shul. Please come down and join us for those Shabbats. It would be nice to have a large crowd, and it would also give you an opportunity form and voice your opinion on these candidates. Please look for notification of those Shabbats in future Weekly Updates and The Bulletin.
We have been discussing the idea of introducing more programming and events for our senior members. If this is of interest to you, please send me an e-mail with your name and what type of programs you would like ENJC to host.
My new year’s wish is to have more congregants attend and support our daily minyan. Our turnout for events in 2018 was wonderful and I would like to see it grow even more in 2019.
Amanda, Danny, Meryl and I wish you a Happy and Healthy New Year, from our family to yours! 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