I am extremely happy to report that Chazzan Nussbaum will be back as our school’s Principal when school resumes after the winter break, on Monday February 22nd. He is getting stronger and healthier every day. It was beautiful to welcome him back these last two Shabbats and to hear him sing from the bima.
I want to thank Bobbi Weinstein and Barry Sosnick for helping out while Chazzan was out. Yasher Koach! I also would like to thank Melissa Kurtz for the extra work and duties she helped out with in this time period. On a sad note, Melissa has resigned as our VP of education because of personal reasons. Melissa has worked endless hours and put her heart and soul into doing the best for our ENJC children. She will be missed.
On a personal note- I want to thank all for your support, kind words, and for visiting me during my shiva, and in supporting the daily shiva minyan (even on Super Bowl Sunday, with 22 people – 15 minutes before kickoff!) Please make contributions to ENJC or Sisterhood's Torah Fund for my Mom’s passing. Thank you and Yasher Koach to all!
An Upside Down World
(this sermon may or may not reflect the view of management)
The portion this week, tezaveh, introduces us to the most beautiful of all accessories that the High Priest would don over his garments–the choshem mishpat, made up of twelve different precious stones, each mounted on a gold frame. In each of these sectors, the gems had one of the twelve tribes etched into it. According to the Bible, the choshen was arranged in four columns of three.
I have always depicted the gems in my Parasha pictures in this fashion, but found, to my distress, that English translations don’t correspond to my depiction. Oddly, the Hebrew word “tur” was translated as rows, whereas I had always translated “tur” as columns. Four rows of three on the choshen isn’t the same as four columns of three; the gems are arranged differently. “What?” I said to myself. “I know that the Modern Hebrew translation of “tur” is column, and a column is vertical! Except that when I checked the Hebrew dictionary for “tur” it states, “generally a column but can also have the meaning of row!” Oy! I frantically checked the Art Scroll Bible, which depicts the Temple and the vestments, and indeed, they were arranged in rows. Then I checked other sources and they seemed to interpret “tur”as rows too. I was about to redo my picture when I came across this commentary in the Aryeh Kaplan Torah commentaries: “According to some authorities, the names were ordered downward in columns rather than across in rows.” Kaplan cites the famous Minchat Chinuch 99, a legal commentary on the Sefer ha-Chinuch, written by Yosef Babad ("Rabbeinu Yosef"; 1800–1874). Therefore, I again was on solid ground! Phew! I didn’t have to change it, and here it stands.
Upwards or sideways is not the only discrepancy in Jewish tradition. There are times, in the Hebrew calendar, like at Purim, when we make the case that everything can be turned upside down. Hafuch! Totally upside down. Purim, which comes in the second Adar this year, reveals that every evil thing Haman intended for the Jews was actually thrust the heads of their enemies. Thus, Purim is a time we can do things topsy-turvy, like men dressing as women and women dressing as men (not that there is anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld would say), and no one, even in frum communities, would bat an eyelash. That is the basis behind the Purim obligation that a person becomes so drunk that he doesn’t know the difference between the curse of Haman and the blessing of Mordechai. On Purim, you can do things not just upwards or sideways, but you can do things topsy-turvy– just for a little bit of craziness. (Our sages implore us not to take this too literally.)
Unfortunately, today’s world shows us a constant Purim–a topsy-turvy world. For instance, Fox News shows footage of Sports Illustrated. Now I am no prude, but this is not news—it’s exploitive! It’s a network’s cynical calculation for holding on to market share during their morning program. Or maybe it’s just me– But what about this: political debates used to be respectful opportunities for candidates to agree to disagree and point out the larger or more nuanced differences with one another’s view and philosophy. But in today’s world they have devolved to food fights and mutual recrimination; calling one another liars and, gads, “Canadian”. This insulting behavior may have engendered a gun duel a hundred and fifty years ago. Dignity and reputation used to mean something! Now candidates threaten litigation. Years ago, good leaders would calm and channel anger and frustration into constructive and productive ends. Called to mind are phrases like “the only thing to fear is fear itself.” Or “it is not for you to ask what can your country do for you.” Candidates spoke to ennoble the masses. Now they aim to mirror and magnify the worst tendencies in their constituency and compete for the most intolerant of postures.
This is always a very active and busy time of the year in our Religious School as we have a multitude of events and programs taking place. I would just like to focus on a few of these.
PURIM SERVICES: WEDNESDAY EVENING 3/23/16
We always have a boisterous turnout of parents and children. Services will begin at 7.15 p.m. for all children and parents followed by an adult service at 8.15 p.m.
EXCITING FIELD TRIP: SUNDAY 4/3/16
I will lead an educational and exciting field trip into New York to the Jewish Theological Seminary. The outing will include busing, a tour of the JTS then lunch at my favorite kosher restaurant in Queens-Chosen Gardens.
SPECIAL "HAVDALAH" SERVICE FOR OUR DALED & HAY CLASSES: SATURDAY EVENING 4/9/16
This special service will conclude with a special Havdala service for all in attendance.
YOM HAATZMAUT-ISRAEL INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATION: THURSDAY 5/12/16
Last year we had a fabulous celebration of Lag Baomer. As this special day this year is after the conclusion of our school year, we will celebrate Israel's Independence instead. Numerous outdoor activities, games, live entertainment, a BBQ, frisbees for all of the children and so much more. My personal thanks to Mark Infald who co-chaired this event with me last year and has agreed to do the same this year.
OUR SHABBAT FAMILY SERVICES
These lively, educational, uplifting and interactive services continue to attract marvelous turnouts of children AND their parents. My personal thanks to the parents for making these services so very special and important.
The above activities are just a few of so many taking place.
How do we elevate the holiness and importance of Shabbat? There are, I am certain, thousands of answers to this question. One obvious answer would be to join the Rabbi and I in conjunction with your fellow congregants at Shabbat services on a weekly basis. The Rabbi always presents a wonderful and uplifting sermon, I attempt to sing uplifting tunes to the prayers (I even include operatic and Broadway melodies) and at the conclusion of services, we all have the opportunity of socializing with other fellow congregants. I encourage your participation! You will depart from the ENJC uplifted spiritually.
G-d's message is a tolerant message–no religion is an island. In today’s day and age, it is easy to believe that certain peoples and certain religions are abhorrent. The path of least resistance is to distrust and to put up walls of intolerance, suspicion and prejudice against Muslims, as we see currently expressed in the presidential campaign. Many folks, jarred by recent events such as the growth of ISIS and home-grown terrorism, take the position that certain quarters cannot be trusted in any way, shape, or form. But it is important to keep channels open, and not paint and condemn whole communities based on the barbaric acts of those who hijack religion.
I am privileged to have signed a clergy petition against terror, circulated by Ransaq, that reads, “We, the undersigned clergy, representing a diversity of religious backgrounds and organizations, are deeply pained by all acts of terror, and especially those acts committed in the name of G-d. Our faiths are designed to promote peace and mutual understanding, not terror or indiscriminate death. Those who believe that such acts are in any way heroic or noble, are the victims of insidious deception. Such acts do not guarantee entry to heaven. To the contrary, those who commit such atrocities walk a road that is divorced from our sacred traditions and alien to G-d. The clerics who convince others to give their lives and take the lives of others are charlatans. They have abused their power and influence, recruiting others to advance their own personal political and military objectives with false promises of eternal bliss. We unequivocally condemn their actions and demand that they cease from further profaning God’s name. We dare not be silenced by those who have distorted G-d’s great message to all of humanity. That is why we have signed our name to this petition.”
This petition was penned by Yousuf U. Syed, Trustee, Islamic Association of Long Island, The Selden Mosque, who also wrote the following in an “Open Letter of Muslims to fellow American Citizens,” The Selden Mosque (The Oldest Mosque of Long Island) stands in solidarity with all our fellow Americans. We send our heartfelt condolences to all the families of the victims, who were murdered and injured in San Bernardino’s mass shooting. The Prophet of Islam said: “A strong person is not the one who throws his adversaries to the ground – a strong person is the one who controls and contains himself when angry.” Such are the teachings of Islam–for those who can understand. Rev. Wes Granberg Michaelson, from The Reform Church in America, has called the Paris incident an “Identity theft of the Muslim Faith.” Islam, in fact, is indeed a peaceful religion. The true blasphemers are those who ridicule and insult other faiths. The killers and others like them who do not understand that by forcing their false and murderous distortion of Islam, which in its truest expression is a religion of peace, do great damage to the image of Muslims and Islam. Islam requires that Muslims possess “ upright character” and deal justly with the entire human race, irrespective of their ethnicity, nationality, creed, and whether they are friend or foe. These are the teachings of Islam. How could a man like the San Bernardino killer, claim to be Muslim, when he has no respect for his own one-year-old innocent baby child, whom he left behind without mercy. I cannot call him an animal, because it would be an insult to animals. They would not abandon their offspring like that, they will fight to death to protect them.”
The holidays we celebrate in the late fall months of November and December are all about family. Relatives travel from far and wide, children come home from college, and we all gather together to share extravagant meals and to cherish this special time with loved ones. Families pull together to meet the challenges of the inevitable ups and downs of life. I’m looking forward to the return of my children, Amanda and Danny, who will be traveling home from college. My mother recently moved from Florida into an assisted living facility in Westbury and adapted beautifully. She is happy to be near our family and we are thrilled to have her near by. My in-laws have struggled with health issues and we hope the coming year will bring them good health.
The ENJC functions as a family as well. We all share simchas and celebrations, as well as life challenges and struggles that also serve to bind us together. While we have lost dear members, and suffered illnesses in our community, we have also been awed by our Bar and Bat Mitzvah children, who are so well prepared and poised on the bima. At times the temperature is too hot or too cold in our synagogue, but the warmth of our congregants coming together for the High Holidays and other occasions is perfect.
The ENJC is thankful you have chosen it as your synagogue for your family, and in turn, have become a part of the greater ENJC family. In times when other synagogues are closing or merging, we continue to grow. Keep attending services and events and bring your friends. Please join us on December 8th for our annual Chanukah Party! It is for congregants of all ages and free for the entire congregation. Bring your menorah too!