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On One Foot, Al Regel Echad
When Hillel was asked by a convert to teach him the entire Torah al regel echad, on one foot, he said, “the essence of Torah is, ‘that which is hateful to you, don’t do to others,’ and now go and learn about the whole Torah.” One might have expected Hillel to say, “Believe and pray to the One true God,” or “Study, study, study Torah,” or a whole myriad of other things. But he chose the one mitzvah said in different words but meaning the same thing, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” meaning, be “other oriented.” Just as you value food, shelter, love, reputation, and family, so does your neighbor. Try to show respect to that which your neighbor has as well.
Of course, that is a difficult balance to strike. One cannot pay so much attention and love to ones’ neighbor that one undermines his own station or situation. For instance, a person who is generous will see another and share half with him. That person can start out quite wealthy, but in time, will end up having only a few pennies. We have to look out for number one too, after all. Hillel says it best when he says, “If I am not for myself who will be for me? And if I am just for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” The upshot: We must strike a balance between “other orientation” and “self-assertion” and we must constantly assess if we are accomplishing that balance correctly.
This same balance is at issue when our sages argue about whether Sukkoth and Shemini Atzeret are one or two festivals. On the one hand, the name of Shemini Atzeret ,“the Eighth day of Assembly,” is arguably the eighth day of Sukkot, the same holiday. On the other hand, Shemini Atzeret has its own Amidah and its own Kiddush, which mentions it by its specific name, and on that day, we need not sit in a Sukkah. This would indicate that they are two very different holidays, close together, but not the same holiday that runs for eight days.
Another basic difference is the nature of the holidays. On Sukkoth we invite people in the sukkah to celebrate, and in Temple days, offered seventy bullocks, representing the seventy nations of the world. At Shemini Atzeret we bring only one bullock and need not be gregarious with other people, but rather, find spiritual reflective moments with God privately. One holiday seems to be universalistic in nature, emphasizing the world and many nations. The other one more private and personal. In a sense, then, the dichotomy of “Universalist versus Particular” is explained with this “One Festival” (also called “regel”, and thus also “regel echad”). Judaism is this “Regel Echad,” this one holiday! As Jews we must find the right balance: looking out for number one (the welfare of the Jewish people) and at the same time reaching out to the world (working for tikkun olam; for the continual advancement of civilization as a whole). That balance is still just as hard a one to strike as it was in Hillel’s day.
This season I call your attention to opportunities to reach out beyond the pale of the parochial. Certainly continue your concern for Jewish-oriented charities, as they are important. However, we have three things we are doing this season. We are raising food again for local food pantries at Kol Nidre. Bring your non-perishable goods after Rosh Hashana and before Kol Nidre. Secondly, I hope that you will send to Project Mazon monies you would have otherwise spent on your Yom Kippur meal, had you not been fasting. With your help, millions of dollars are raised in America each Tishrai to feed the hungry and food-insecure, as a result of this project. Thirdly as constituent “Partners in Caring”–congregations partnering with the Federation and the Suffolk Y JCC–we encourage you to contribute hygiene products to send to the Bahamas. This collection will be in the Suffolk Y front lobby and ends October 3. Products such as soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, diapers and wipes are acceptable. Food and clothing are not. Please refer to our website (HERE) for a full list of products accepted or call the Y. What a mitzvah it is to help out the unfortunate victims of such a ferocious storm, who, in its wake, were left in such dire need. What a mitzvah to help Bahamanians, even in this small way, to manage their days until their neighborhoods are rebuilt and communities up and running.
May we always aim at finding the balance Hillel suggests for the God-fearing Jew: If I am not for myself who will be; if I am only for myself what am I? And if not now when?
Beth and I wish you and yours a Shana Tova oo metuka, a sweet year, and a Hag Sameah, a Happy Sukkoth and a joyous Tishrei.
Shana Tova ENJC Family!
By the time these words reach you, the High Holidays will be in full swing, and we may even be into Sukkot. I hope you all have Simchat Torah on your calendars (Monday night, October 21 and Tuesday morning, October 22) as we will be having a grand celebration here, dancing the hora with the Torah! There will be singing, dancing, and some delicious treats to keep our energy up to continue with the aforementioned singing and dancing.
But let's look beyond the holidays, at some of the OTHER upcoming events and activities at ENJC. If you don't get enough music at Simchat Torah, we'll be implementing what I hope is the first of many musical opportunities at the shul. I will be organizing a Klezmer band for those instrumentalists in the congregation. Later on, we will be looking at bringing back the choir. Additionally, after Shabbat services on Saturdays, we will be implementing Shabbat Board Game Afternoons for all ages, as a way to socialize and have a little more fun with your congregational family. For those with a more studious bent, I will also be scheduling some adult education classes. We'll be starting with a class on the Arvit/Ma'ariv Evening service, where you will both learn how to lead this service, as well as some of the deeper meanings inside it. If you have ideas for other topics not currently being addressed by ENJC, please contact me with your suggestions.
May this new year of 5780 be one of health, happiness and joy for our entire community. Read More
The 2019-5780 Yom Kippur Appeal
Young David asked his rich grandfather, Paul, how he had made his money. Paul said, "Well, David, it was 1955, and I was down to my last penny. I went to the local market and invested that last penny in a large apple. I spent the entire day polishing the apple and, at the end of the day, I sold the apple for 2 pennies. The next morning, I invested the 2 pennies in two large apples. I spent the entire day polishing them and I sold them at 5pm for 1 dollar. I continued this system for a month. Then Grandma’s father died and left us two million dollars.”
Six retired men were playing poker one evening in Abe’s house when Shlomo loses $650 on one big hand, clutches his chest and drops dead at the table. The other five continue playing, but this time standing up to show respect for their departed friend. Later, Abe asks, "Who's going to tell his wife, Hette?" They cut cards and Moishe loses. Before he leaves, he is advised to be discreet and kind and to try hard not to make a terrible situation any worse. "Discreet?" says Moishe, "I'm the most discreet man there is. Discretion is my middle name. Just leave it to me and don’t worry about a thing." So Moishe goes over to Shlomo’s house and rings the doorbell. Hette opens the door and asks, "Nu, so what do you want?" Moishe replies, "Your husband just lost $650 and is afraid to come home." On hearing this, Hette yells, "SO TELL HIM HE SHOULD DROP DEAD." "OK I'll go tell him," says Moishe.
A friend was in front of me coming out of the synagogue one day, and as always, the rabbi was standing at the door shaking hands as the congregation departed. He grabbed my friend by the hand and pulled him aside. The rabbi said to him, "You need to join the Army of G-d!" My friend replied, "I'm already in the Army of G-d, Rabbi." Rabbi questioned, "How come I don't see you except for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?" He whispered back, "I'm in the secret service."
This joke leads me to a different aspect of my Yom Kippur appeal. I will get to the money later. My appeal is to make your membership more valuable this year. As Hazzan mentioned during Rosh Hashanah, the goal is to have you come to our facility more times than you ever have attended ENJC or any other synagogue, making the ENJC more than just a building where you come to pray. We will be having activities for all ages. Shabbat afternoon games, Mah Jongg, cooking classes, Canasta, golf lessons. If you have an idea, we will do our best to do it. Get involved – help make ENJC the place to be!!
I want to say thank you to all the new members that haven chosen to join us at ENJC!! Let me tell you and remind the rest of the congregation of the deal that I offer you: We now come to the part on Yom Kippur where everyone is thinking- I can sit back and relax- I do not have to stand up and then sit down every other minute. I am sure all of you have come today, knowing what your commitment for the appeal will be. I will not mind if you take a nap as long as you double your commitment. Since I am a napper- I already doubled my appeal before I began this talk.
Today I want to not only give the Yom Kippur appeal but I want to appeal to each and every one of you. I am very excited to be the ENJC President this year. After a tough chapter in ENJC's history, it is awesome seeing the children learning and enjoying themselves in the Religious School. Also seeing how quickly Hazzan Walvick has adapted to the ENJC family is terrific. You can feel the ruach!
It has been a pleasure being on the bima during the High Holidays this year. The teamwork of Rabbi Silverman and Chazzan Walvick has been impressive. You would never believe that this is their first High Holiday together. Yasher Koach to both of you and we can feel the ruach in the building. We have a wonderful staff starting with Mary, our executive secretary, and our custodians, Todd and Glen. Our Religious School is in great hands led by Ellen, our Principal and her secretary Emily. Next time you are in the building- say Thank You!!
I want to thank all the people of ENJC who have helped make this the Hamish synagogue that we are today. Rather than run the risk of upsetting someone by not naming them, I am choosing not to mention any names individually this year. You know who you are! Whether your help is financial with generous donations; your commitment is in coming to services–for the daily minyan, Shabbat or Sunday morning; being on the board as a VP or trustee, or if you are one of the many that we know can just be called upon and you will be here for whatever needs to be done - Thank You.
A very special thank you to all who have contributed in any way toward this year’s High Holiday services. From chair and book set-up, coordinating babysitting, the various children services, ushering, coordinating all the honors and aliyahs, Sukkot set-up and I am sure that I left off a couple of things. If you are not involved, it is time to get involved. We can never have enough people to help. Everything is easy when there are many to do it.
I want to remind all that our Yom Kippur Appeal is our major fundraiser of the year. Please be generous. Last year I asked that you help by increasing your donation, since we were using a lot of money to make repairs to the roof. I am happy to say that you were very generous and the roof repairs worked perfectly. I need to ask your help in being generous again. We have a portion of the roof still to do and we are in the process of finishing the upgrading of our lighting to LED in the building. I would rather help raise the money during this appeal than have to add an additional surcharge to your bill.
If you fell asleep, it’s now time to wake up. Remember my deal–you sleep, you commit to doubling your Yom Kippur appeal. But doubling your appeal is not limited to just those who fell asleep. Remember the roof project! Your appeal can be paid out over the year and does not have to be paid in one payment.
Have a happy and healthy New Year! Read More