יודע לפני מי אתה עומד
KNOW AT ALL TIMES BEFORE WHOM YOU STAND!
As you can see above, this particular quotation is utilized frequently in synagogues, above the Aron Hakodesh (the Holy Ark) and numerous other places. Among the other tens of thousands of meaningful quotations that can be found in the Torah and Talmud, why particularly this one? As always, I am certain that when researched, there are thousand of explanations and commentaries that can be found in this regard. I would share with you just a few:
• When in synagogue and we are reminded to remember before whom we stand, the message is especially powerful and meaningful. We realize how holy the sanctuary is, the Sifrei Torah (the Torahs) that are in the Aron Hakodesh, the Ark, and the aura of sanctity and holiness that prevails and can be felt in the sanctuary.
• Quite obviously knowing before whom we stand refers to G-d, the Almighty King, who is always watching over us, in good times and, unfortunately, challenging times as well. Most certainly there are people who believe that when they are in synagogue, they should be respectful and thankful to G-d but conversely, when they leave the holiness, they can act in whatever manner they feel is appropriate. They can be less than honest and respectful to others, ignore the Torah, it's commandments and rituals, show a lack of kavod (honor) and respect to family and friends, etc.
There is much we can learn from this quotation. It is essential to strive to lead lives that are based upon Torah and the observance of good deeds and mitzvot, both when in synagogue and most certainly in our daily lives. Look to be charitable both financially and in our actions, volunteer on our CHESED COMMITTEE to deliver a meal to those in OUR Congregation in need on a Friday once in awhile, help out with our evening minyanim (minyans), volunteer in our growing school to help out in the numerous and ongoing programs and activities, participate in community events, etc. By so doing, you will be living a life as a KIDDUSH HASHEM, a sanctification of G-d's name at all times!
Candle Math: One little candle, two little candles…
The ladino song says it well: “Una kandelika, dos kandelikas, tres kandelikas, kuatro kandelikas, sintju kandelikas, sysh kandelikas, sieto kandelikas, ocho kandelikas para mi.” One, Two, Three, Four, five, six, Seven, Eight candles in front of me. Why do we light the Chanukah candles beginning on the first day with one candle and proceed through the Chanukah holiday adding one more each day? Is that not the opposite of what took place with the miraculous little cruse of oil? After all, it is only logical that there was more oil in the little cruse when it was found on the first day, than the oil it contained on the eighth day when it ran out? This was the contention of the students of Rabbi Shammai, who made the point that we should begin lighting with eight and proceed downward, a light each day going forward! But our sages, like Hillel, argued that each day the spirituality deepened, the holiness increased, and therefore we start with one and work our way up. That argument stuck and Chanukah stands for ח' נרות וכן כדברי הלל “eight candles and so it is in accord to the words of Hillel.”
But here is another argument for the School of Hillel, starting slowly with one candle and working our way up. Rabbi Ishak of Berdichev notes that we light, in total, 36 candles on all eight days of Chanukah. And because we “stir the heavens,” the “menorah on high” also illumines 36. Thirty-six is an important number. There is a legend that there are 36 truly righteous people roaming the earth, and at all times and through their actions, the world is rescued and redeemed. Thirty-six times does the Torah tell us to show love and concern for the “stranger.” A lamed vavnick is person who shows compassion to the most marginal and the least regarded among us. That is not an easy attitude to develop. Logic would have it that we treat our friends and family right. But the Torah is concerned that we not end our compassion there. The Torah wishes that each of us develop this attitude. Step by step, one act, then two, then three….
Others note that with the Shamash there are in total 44 candles lit! On High, inspired by our enthusiasm in lighting below, the mirror image of another 44 candles shines from Heaven. Together our sages note that that equals 88! The number eighty-eight spells out the word Pach in numerology ((פח, recalling the phrase from Psalms mi pach nishbar nimlatnu, “from a broken trap did we flee.” This is the trap that Antiochus and his Hellenists sought to set for us–having us becoming fully assimilated Greek citizens at the expense of our Judaism. Today, we are also confronted with such a choice: should we disguise our Jewish practices and identity, suppressing them and dispensing with them to “fit in?” Or, should we allow Jewish values, practices, identity markers, and mitzvoth to proliferate; to consolidate our Jewish identity and fortify our Jewish faith?
Beginning with one and moving up the scale is a good suggestion for how we develop as Jews. We cannot light all cylinders at once. If we are dormant in terms of our social activism, let’s start with one act of being kind to the poor and the stranger and build from there. If we are lagging in our Jewish involvement and have donned the robe of assimilation, let’s remove it, and take upon ourselves to link to our faith and our Judaism. This can be done by learning Hebrew, coming to more to services, helping with the minyan, and joining the Sisterhood or Men’s Club. These things can break out in a fiery way, but we are better off getting the kindling going first. Start with your first mitzvah today. Disengaging with our outer society is not a good idea. Disentangling ourselves from our lifetime of accommodating the society around us is not realistic. But putting in place Jewish markers of prayer, community building, and learning, step-by-step, is the challenge of Chanukah. Like a dreidel, we start with a flick and the momentum carries. Let’s get going, because even one little light chases darkness away.
Chag urim sameach– May your Chanukah be joyous and bright
A QUICK TALMUDIC THOUGHT
I was recently teaching a class and asked the question: "What makes Shabbat holy, restful, peaceful and uplifting?"
My students mostly said that as part of creation, G-d instructs us that the seventh day of the week (Shabbat) should be holy. In the Kiddush prayer that we chant on Friday night, it ends with "Blessed are you G-d, who sanctifies Shabbat....” As is my minhag and custom, trying to always teach in a positive and interactive manner, I complimented all of them and confirmed that all of their answers were "spot on" and beautiful.
I then offered them an explanation shared with me by one of my many teachers who offered the following insight. Shabbat, in of itself, is not really holy as it can be like any other day of the week. In actual fact, it is our actions and committment to G-d that elevates this seventh day of the week to a day of holiness and sanctity! What am I referring to exactly? All other days of the week, we may eat dinner in the kitchen with our cell phones ringing and beeping, everybody rushing to make the next appointment, music and TV blaring in the background, etc. On Friday/Shabbat evening, we can choose to have our dinner in the dining room with a beautifully arranged table, a special and sumptuous dinner, the chanting of the Kiddush, reciting the blessings over the candles, challah and the washing of our hands. Singing beautiful z'mirot and so much more. Consequently, it is our actions that elevate Shabbat to a level of holiness and sanctity.
NOTES FROM OUR RELIGIOUS SCHOOL
I reported last month that we would probably signup approximately close to twenty-five new families, which would relate to twenty-five plus new students. My estimation has reached fruition!
People often ask me as to what I am most proud of as it relates to our growing school. My answer has never changed. Last year we had seventeen teens, graduates of our Religious School, who chose to come in once or twice per week, to help out as either tutors or class assistants! None of these teens are paid or participate in order to receive community service hours needed by their schools. I have already been contacted by a number of students from last year's graduating class requesting to become tutors in our school. Off the top of my head, I would estimate that if I accepted all of these newly graduated teens, we would have approximately twenty-five plus teens involved in this amazing mitzvah.
Read Rabbi Silverman's Kol Nidre sermon HERE
Hashomer Achi Anochi – Am I My Brother’s Keeper?
Presented at Friday Shabbat services October 9
Parashat Beresheet (with thanks to Rabbi Mitch Wahlberg for some ideas included in this sermon)
The Jewish people are now conflicted, as is the rest of the world, by the recent swamping of Europe with refugees from the Syrian crisis. No one can be inured to the suffering that we see– tens of thousands of desperate refugees scrambling into rickety boats to cross the Mediterranean Sea, with many failing to arrive in Turkey or Greece, and then making their way through these regions to get to Macedonia and to points west, into Hungary and beyond. Many of us were disturbed at the position that the Hungarian PM took in saying “we don't want more Muslims,” requiring them to be detained until being transported to Austria and Germany. We are seeing babies who have drowned and how smugglers have taken refugee’s money and then abandoned them, locked in trucks along the highways of Western Europe. These sights are shocking to our senses. The idea of Hungarian police putting up razor wire to detain these people in order to prevent them from entering Hungary, and insisting they board trains to Germany and Austria conjures horrible imagery for the Jewish people.
Beyond this we have the strong values of hospitality stressed at the time of Sukkot. Strangers and friends should be invited in to take part in the festival. The sukkah is a symbol of how God gave us shelter in unkind and dangerously hot conditions. Further, we read point blank in our portion this Shabbat, the condemnation of Cain for his callousness. In trying to avoid all responsibility for his brother, even after he has murdered Abel, he answers God, who asks where Abel is, “hashomer achi anochi”– “Am I my brothers keeper?” You’d better believe you are! is the message of this text, and Cain is punished and made to wander the earth as a marked man after acting in the way he did. Rabbi Jonathon Sacks rightly points out that it’s an even higher standard, ve ahavta et Hager–love the stranger (not just the brother), for you once were strangers in the land of Egypt. This not only reflects back to our enslavement, it rightly points out that when we were needy refugees from a famine, in the time of Jacob and Joseph, the Egyptians did take us in and fed us, and we should learn from their example. Here, close to a time of Thanksgiving, we remember the hospitality of the Indians in those first years and an attitude of welcoming they gave the pilgrims of old. And certainly we can learn from our history of being tossed, exiled and refused entry in the last centuries by many nations in our time of distress, and thus the need to take a proactive position when needy refugees need a safe harbor.
Having said this, some other words, too, need saying. Why is Europe, the US, and Israel alone being criticized for not being welcoming? Israel actually has helped over 1000 seriously injured men, women, and children on the northern border in Israeli field clinics, but that’s not being publicized, and why? –to protect the Syrians! And Europe shouldn’t’ worry about its demographics? The most popular name for baby boys in London now is “Muhammad.” There are parts of Sweden and Denmark that are being overtaken by Arab immigrantion, and are being pressured to adopt Sharia law. We have seen the problems of high Arab population demographics in France (even from earlier generations) that occurred at this time last year during the Gaza and Charlie Hebdo affairs. It is not so simple when Europe is dealing with immigrants who don’t wish to integrate into society but who prefer to remain aloof and idealistically detached, affiliated instead with Middle Eastern society and fundamentalist Islam. Countries need to proceed carefully in these matters.
Below is Frank's Yom Kippur Appeal:
I was recently out for dinner with friends and we all ordered drinks. After the toast I said, “Good Health- that is what is really important.” Then I turned to Meryl, my wife, and said, “I have become my mother.” That is what my mother always says. Mom is 89.
I have learned, in the last 6 months, between dealing my in-laws' health issues, Chazzan’s battle with his illness, and not being able to attend services on the second day of Rosh Hashana myself, that a wish for a “HEALTHY NEW YEAR’ is most important.
When I realized that I was not going to be able to atttend services, I was at first, concerned, but quickly realized that I shouldn't worry–“Team ENJC” would handle things. As a team, we ar able to accomplish anything. We all miss listening and singing along with Chazzan Nussbaum, but fortunately the team was able to have Chazzan Epstein join us and lead our services this year.
I am glad that Chazzan Nussbaum and his family are with us and looking forward to a full recovery and leading us next year. As my mother says, “Good Health – that is our New Years wish.”
The health of the East Northport Jewish Center has never been better ! We have, 20 new members this year, after 17 last year- THANK YOU for choosing ENJC. This is truly an incredible fact, when all you read about is decling membership in Conservative synagogues, especially in Suffolk County.
I say – Thank You Team ENJC
Prior to my involvement in synagogue life, I coached youth baseball, soccer and basketball as well as a Men’s softball team. In my business, we have a sales rep team of 25 strong. In all that I am involved with, there must be a team effort. WE, at the ENJC, have a winning team of talented individuals. It is a pleasure to work with this amazing group of intelligent people. I know that there are more talented members with skills that we can tap. Please get involved– our team can always use more players.