At Shabbat services on Friday, we recognized our Religious School graduates, Josh B., Amanda T., and Stav D. Our 10th graders, William C., Oren D., and Dalia D. were also confirmed. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was especially moved.
Last year around this time, William and I were chatting on our way home from Lehrhaus as we are wont to do. In Lehrhaus we learn from the texts of our tradition, the sage rabbis and scholars who came before us, our engaging teacher, Mr. Rosenberg, and from each other. It was 9 January 2018 and we were talking about the year ahead and what makes us happy. I had one of those special parenting moments that are precious and too rare.
The future of Judaism is secure! We started off the new year strong with William Gorstein being called to the Torah as a bar mitzvah on 6 October. All of us who know William know he is Mr. Personality—thoughtful, funny, generous, kind and always so stylish. It was wonderful to see him lead the service where all of these traits were evident as he led us in davening and shared an impressive d’var on B’reishit.
It’s the return that’s the hardest. A friend of mine recently came back from a trip to Europe. After being back for four days, he told me he was finally able to sleep through the night and feels more acclimated to the Central time zone again. I have been back and forth to Europe several times and can transition to wherever I go really well. But it’s the return that is hard for me.
It's August, and you know what that means. School is right around the corner! Squeeze in the picnics, the swimming pools, the fishing, camp, camping, and camp outs.
9 August, Israeli dancing at 7:30pm at our synagogue
17 August, Shabbat in the park with us at Devonshire Park next to our synagogue at 4422 Greenwood St, in Skokie at 7pm.
22 September, Back to school! Register now.
We have sprouts! So many that I have transplanted our parsley to a new pot. The lovely planting project during religious school on Tu B’shevat has resulted in parsley sprouts growing for Pesach. They grow a little more every day. I can’t help thinking as I watch them grow, that they are a metaphor for us, who also take weeks to get ready for Pesach.
Purim is upon us, so that means things are a bit mixed up and not everything is what it seems. So what else is new? I’ve noticed that it’s not just me who has been lamenting these topsy-turvy times in which we live. Are our times really unique or, now that we are the adults, is this just our turn? Both are true.
Ah, the famous saying of parents. Time really does fly. Religious school starts in a month. Public school for my children begins in 10 days. It’s hard to believe that we are already in mid-August. We were talking about this today at the beach with our friends. What, pray tell, do you like about religious school, I asked. Darling Dalia chimed in immediately, I like studying big questions with good friends.
There are many things I love about Judaism. One of them is the premium Jews place on education. The Talmud states it is a parent’s responsibility to see that children are raised and educated in Judaism. I’ve drawn on a lot of resources to live up to my responsibility.
Saturday was a fun and productive day in our Bet, Gimmel and Dalet class. First, we discussed this week’s Parsha from Exodus titled Va’eira. Rabbi Weill discussed the story of Pharaoh, and the turmoil Jews experienced in Egypt. No matter how bitter their lives were, the Parsha still teaches us an important moral, the importance of being grateful for the things we have.
As the High Holy Days approached, the congregation needed a shofar blower. The rabbi rushed off an email to the congregation: Shofar Blower Needed! Tryouts: Monday, 5 pm.” She had no idea if anyone would come at such short notice. But three congregants were waiting in the sanctuary at the appointed time. The rabbi sat in the first row and said, “Please give me one tekiah gedolah and an explanation as to why you believe you should be our shofar blower.”
We are in the midst of an intense week on the Jewish calendar. Today is Yom Ha'Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. We have commemorated this day with two excellent speakers from well-respected organizations: American Jewish Committee's Charlotte Bonelli and B'nai B'rith International's Eric Fusfield.
Days after this mournful remembrance is another sad day, Yom Ha'Zikaron, Israel's Memorial Day, which honors Israel's war dead. It begins on Tuesday night, 3 Iyar.
וַיַּקְהֵל מֹשֶׁה אֶֽת־כָּל־עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל
Moses assembled the entire Israelite community (Exodus 35:16).
So begins this week’s double Torah portion, Va’Yakheil-Pikudei. Why does Moses assemble the entire Israelite community? For a very good purpose: to engage the Israelites in the building of the Mishkan, the holy sanctuary that we carried with us through the desert.
This week's Torah portion is Mishpatim, "Statutes." These are statutes with a loving spirit, for they protect the vulnerable -- the widow, the orphan, and the stranger who dwells among the Israelites.
Sometimes we delve into our sacred literature and a word, verse or story enthralls us. This is how I felt today when our congregation’s Bible class came to Joshua’s bold command to the sun: “Stand still, O sun, at Gibeon!” (Joshua 10:13).
But the Hebrew verb in this verse is not usually understood as “stand still.” Rather וַיִּדֹּם הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ can be understood as “Keep silent!” Why would Joshua call for the sun’s silence? After all, he was in the midst of battle and his goal was more daylight.
Our holidays are not merely points on a calendar; they are interlinking narratives. On Purim we feel precariousness; a month later we celebrate G’d’s redemption. Passover’s redemption climaxes with Shavuot’s revelation of Torah. Yom Kippur’s vulnerability is capped by Sukkot’s belief in divine providence.
This Shabbat evening we will distribute our Ad Book, a tribute to Rabbi Neil Brief and his beloved Erica, may she be remembered for blessing. We thank Judy Frank, Ada Rabinowitz, and Debbie Reich for their hard work in making this Ad Book a reality.
Each week brings challenges: professional, personal, financial. You may feel besieged by others. You may feel your old patterns (the bad ones) returning. You may feel nervous or confused.
And then that awesome exit sign appears: "Shabbos: Next Right". Or perhaps, "Shabbos: Tomorrow Night!"
Yes, the week may weary us, but Shabbat surely refreshes us. Please join us tomorrow evening, 7 pm, for Koleinu, our musical Shabbat evening service with guitars, djembe, and, of course, koleinu, " our voice".
An unusual idiom appears in this week’s Torah portion, Va’Yetzei.
וַיִּשָּׂא יַֽעֲקֹב רַגְלָיו וַיֵּלֶךְ אַרְצָה בְנֵי־קֶֽדֶם
And Jacob lifted his feet and went on to the land of the Easterners (Genesis 29:1).
Torah has many examples of someone lifting his or her eyes, but it is unusual to find someone lifting his or her feet. Rashi suggests that Jacob “lifted his feet” because he was still elated – as in, walking on air – after his theophany, his vision of God, at the side of the road.