A blog renewed

I have struggled for a long time to figure out what would be a good approach for this blog. I think I have an idea. I have been learning a lot about the idea of curation, sharing knowledge from different sources to one place. I do a lot of reading in preparation for my sermons and articles, and for just my own learning. I have often shared my conclusions. This is a way for me to share my process, so you can come to your own conclusions, as well. I will still post my own ideas and creations from time to time.

Many of the articles that I curate will focus on Jewish culture, art, music and technology. These ideas are too often neglected, but provide so much of the richness and meaning in Jewish life.

 

Four Questions to Connect the Generations

Four Questions to Connect the Generations

Elections by nature are always divisive. It is part of the democratic process. This year seems different. There is more anger and frustration than I have seen in a long time.

We are in the middle of one of the biggest generational divides in decades, if not longer. This includes the Jewish community, which is internally divided in so many ways. There is no consensus on issues like Israel, intermarriage, race, gender identity, good financial practices and the role of institutions such as synagogues, schools and federations. There are very few good conversations between people. There is a lot of blaming and yelling, but not a lot of talking.

The Purpose of the Passover seder is to create peace between generations.

It allows us to sit together, to question, to answer, and to listen. The goal is not to agree with each other, but to make room for each other. We put aside our egos and take a genuine interest in each other.

Here are four questions for your Seder to help with the conversation:

1-Who do you think are today’s liberators, our Moses, Aaron and Miriam, and who do you think are today’s oppressors, our Pharoah?

2-What makes a country into an Egypt and what can turn it into a Promised Land?

3-For the older generation, what would the child you were ask the adult you are today? For the younger generation, what will you ask the older person you will become?

4-When have you been wise, when have you been difficult, when have you been confused, and when have you been silent?

Ruth and I and our family wish you a very sweet and happy Pesach.

Creating Places of Joy


I will be forever grateful to Rabbi Efry Spectre z’l, one of my beloved predecessors at Adat Shalom Synagogue, for introducing me to the works of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel zl.

I was an undergraduate at the University of Michigan in the early 1980s. Rabbi Spectre gave a class at the Hillel House on Heschel. I was intrigued and started reading Heschel on my own. His work spoke to me in a deep and profound way. It fueled my interest in becoming a rabbi and still influences me to this day.

One of Heschel’s great teachings centered on Shabbat, and how it was one of the great contributions of Judaism to the world, not just in having a day of rest, but in thinking about what mattered most in our lives, and how we could be partners with God in creating beauty and meaning in the world.

This is what Heschel wrote about Shabbat:

“The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation, from the world of creation to the creation of the world.”

This approach to Shabbat is key in understanding our Torah portion. It begins, “Moses then convoked the whole Israelite community and said to them:
These are the things that the Lord has commanded you to do: 2 On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. 3 You shall kindle no fire throughout your settlements on the sabbath day.” (Exodus 35:1-3).

The rest of the reading is a detailed description of the Tabernacle and the articles of the priesthood. Why is Shabbat juxtaposed with the construction of the place where God’s presence will dwell with the Israelites? As Heschel indicates, time is just as sacred as place. Without creating sacred time, a place cannot be holy. It will just be a building.

I talk to a lot of couples about the kind of home they are establishing. I tell them the single most important factor in the happiness of their home is whether they make sacred time for each other. This means that they give the best of what they have to each other on a regular basis, and not just the dregs that are left after a long week of work. A vacation to the fanciest place a week or two a year cannot make up for a lack of quality time spent together on a regular basis.

Even a modest home becomes a palace when people who say they love each other spend time in a relaxed and happy way. Our homes become like the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle and Temple.

This is why Shabbat is such a gift. Every week we know that we will have a good day. That is rare in our tense and stressful times. We light candles, have a good meal, and express our appreciation for all the great good in our lives.

Heschel said, “With our bodies we belong to space; our spirit, our souls, soar to eternity, aspire to the holy. The Sabbath is an ascent to the summit.” Thanks to Shabbat, no matter where we are, we can create a place of beauty and joy.

For the Jews in France who are suffering in so many ways, from grief and fear and isolation. This is one of the most unusual versions of Hatikvah that you will hear.

 

I pray for the hostages in the kosher supermarket in France, the family who just wanted a peaceful and happy Shabbat, and pray for all those suffering from terror at this very moment.

I also wonder how much of what we are seeing today is a result of European indifference to increased anti-Semitism, and anti-Israel rhetoric?

I was reminded of this passage from the last world war.

MARTIN NIEMÖLLER: “FIRST THEY CAME FOR THE SOCIALISTS…”

Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

The Ten Commandments as Path to Spiritual Liberation-This Sunday 6/1 at 9:30 am at Adat Shalom

This week is the celebration of the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. The Hebrew word, though, is not really Commandment, but great precept. The purpose of these Ten Great Precepts are to liberate ourselves from so many things that prevent us from living our life fully.

 

We will study them together and develop meditations that can help us through our day in a better way.

 

This Sunday 6/1 at 9:30 am at Adat Shalom

 

Everyone is welcome

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