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24
Oct
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Shemini Atzeret: Make the Most out of Today by Anna Jacoby

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Shemini Atzeret: Make the Most out of Today By Anna Jacoby

Honored Rabbi, Madame President,

Today, of course, is Simchat Torah, the second day of Shemini Atzeret. Simchat Torah is the Yom Tov Sheni Shel Galuyot, and the last day of the “holidays.”And at this point, many of us are getting tired of the holidays --the cooking, missed work, and time off from school.So, today, it’s easy to think “Shemini Atzeret?Great, one more day and I’m done!”

This morning I would like to share with you an idea that will hopefully change how you think about Shemini Atzeret.Shemini Atzeret literally means “the assembly of the eighth day.”Atzeret comes from the same shoresh as Atzar, which means “stop.”Some have thought this means refraining from work. Our sages, however, have interpreted this as “detaining” or a deliberate extension of the prior seven days.

This idea of extending the holiday makes sense when you also consider the number of sacrifices on Shemini Atzeret. During the time of the Temple, 70 bulls were sacrificed during Sukkot. 13 bulls on the first day, 12 bulls on the second day, 11 bulls on the third day, and so on. Believe me, it adds up to 70.However, on Shemini Atzeret, only one bull is sacrificed.

Our sages explain why Shemini Atzeret is on the eight day, and why only one bull is sacrificed with the following beautiful parable:Hashem is like a host who has invited his whole kingdom to a huge party lasting seven days. After the party was over, and everyone left, the king felt lonely. So, he invited his closest friend to stay an extra day and eat together. This is a small private party, just the king, and his best friend, the Jewish people.

This is why only one bull is sacrificed. Shemini Atzeret is a small party of close friends. In this case, more is not merrier.

This Midrash shows the special relationship between G-D and Israel. The story tells us that G-d loves Beni Yisrael as the king loves his best friend.

I know that many of you are tired and are looking forward to the holidays ending. But I ask you to take advantage of these remaining few hours of Shemini Atzeret, and think about our special relationship with Hashem and what that means to you.

Mo’adim L’Simcha!

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24
Oct
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Simhat Torah Devar Torah by Shoshana Menashe

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Simchat Torah Dvar Torah

By Shoshana Menashe

Moadim L’Simcha – Chag Sameach!

Be’reshut Rabbi Meyers, Greetings to our Madam President, and thank you to the entire congregation for giving me the opportunity to share a few words of Torah this morning that are based on an article by Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Sacks.

We are finishing up the Chagim – an amazing month of holidays – Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Hoshanah Rabah, Shemni Hatzeret, and Simchat Torah.

As we get ready to leave the Chagim and go back to our regular schedules, I want to share some thoughts about my personal favorite, Sukkot.

We were lucky this year that the Sunday before Sukkot it did not rain and I spent pretty much the whole day helping my dad put up the Sukkah. I held up walls and took doors using the power drill. Once we had the walls up, I climbed up on the roof of our house to make sure the Schach was placed correctly across the top of the Sukkah. (My mother does not like to watch that part of the Sukkah building!). Then after I helped put up all the beautiful Sukkah decorations I even finally convinced my father to put up the Mariners lights. He wasn’t eager to do that because he said the Mariners sometimes don’t bring him happiness but in the end he agreed!

My father and I were especially happy that during the windstorm in the first days of the Chag our Sukkah stood strong and nothing really moved or flew away so we were able to have all our meals in our Sukkah.

Since we put all this effort into our Sukkah it made me wonder why do we have to put up our Sukkah every year? With all this effort shouldn’t our Sukkah be permanent so we do not have to rebuild every year or shouldn’t we build with materials that are a little sturdier?

I guess my question is what exactly is a Sukkah? What is it supposed to represent?

I learned with my parents that the question is important to the Mitzvah itself. The Torah says in Vayikra :

בַּסֻּכֹּ֥ת תֵּשְׁב֖וּ שִׁבְעַ֣ת יָמִ֑ים כָּל־הָֽאֶזְרָח֙ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל יֵשְׁב֖וּ בַּסֻּכֹּֽת׃

You shall live in sukkot seven days; all citizens in Israel shall live sukkot,

לְמַעַן֮ יֵדְע֣וּ דֹרֹֽתֵיכֶם֒ כִּ֣י בַסֻּכּ֗וֹת הוֹשַׁ֙בְתִּי֙ אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל בְּהוֹצִיאִ֥י אוֹתָ֖ם מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם אֲנִ֖י יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃

in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in Sukkot when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I the LORD your God.

In other words, understanding and being aware that we are in a Sukkah and the reasons for the Sukkah are very important. For that reason, it says in the Talmud that a Sukkah that is taller than twenty cubits, which is about 30 feet, is not kosher because when the schach, the “roof,” is that far above your head, you might not even be aware that you are sitting in a Sukkah!

So if you have to be aware you are sitting in a Sukkah, what is the meaning of the Sukkah itself?

Rashbam, Rashi’s grandson, says the Sukkah was there to remind the Israelites of their past so that, at the very moment they were feeling the greatest satisfaction at living in Israel, when they were able to bring their beautiful crops up to the Beit Hamikdash, they should remember that they were once a poor group of ex-slaves traveling in the desert. Sukkot, says Rashbam, is very connected to the warning Moses gave the Israelites at the end of his life about the danger of feeling too secure in your home and your resources. Everything that we have, including our money, comes from Hashem’s blessings and protection.

So perhaps our Sukkah has to not be permanent to remind us that everything we have in life, all our possessions and material wealth, are because of Hashem’s blessings and that what we have can be taken away in an instant. While hard work is important, we cannot accomplish anything without Hashem’s Beracha, His blessing. Just like the Jews wandering in the desert and living in Sukkot could not have survived without Hashem’s protection, and our Sukkot in Seattle (no matter how hard we work on them!) are subject to the winds of October, all we can ever really count on is the commitment to Torah and Mitzvot, not material things or structures.

In addition to understanding the message of the temporary nature of the Sukkah – I think there is another important aspect of Sukkot – the Mitzvah of v’samachta b’hagecha – to be with “Simcha” on the Chag. What does that mean?

The Rambam says in Hilchot Yom Tov that the ways that Jews rejoice is by inviting guests to our house for a meal on the Chag, including the widows, the orphans, and people who don’t have a place to go or cannot provide for themselves. That’s what real “simcha” on the holiday means – to share what we have with others.

The Rambam says this very clearly, and I quote:

A person who spends time on the Chag with only his own family, eating good food, enjoying a fine meal but does not invite people who have no other place to go or do not have the ability to provide for themselves good food, then such an individual who isolates himself from the unfortunate does not having the “Simcha”/joy of the holiday; he’s only having the “Simcha”/joy of his own stomach.”

Sadly there are so many in our community who do not have shelter and food. In honor of the Mitzvah of “ v’samachta b’hagecha “ my school, the Seattle Hebrew Academy, purchased over 600 pounds of food for the JFS food bank and I went with the SHA middle school to help package the food and get it ready to distribute to those who do not have enough to eat. Our very own Mrs. Lea Hanan makes it her own personal year round Mitzvah of collecting food from the entire school for the JFS food bank.

To conclude, Sukkot is an amazing holiday because it teaches us both to appreciate all the material blessing we have in our lives and to share what we have with others who are not as fortunate. I hope this lesson and all the other amazing things we learned over the Chagim continue to inspire us to higher levels of Torah and Mitzvot in the year to come.

CHAG SAMEACH!

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14
Aug
0

RCA Proclamation on Racism

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For the record, the Rabbinical Council of America formally adopted a "Torah Proclamation on Racism" back in Oct. 30, 2015.I am reprinting the main points of the proclamation given recent events in our country:

  • Whereas the Bible teaches that all humans share one heavenly Father who created us in His Image (cf. Genesis 1:27, 5:1, and Malachi 2:10); and
  • Whereas the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 4:5) teaches that God created Man as one individual human being to promote harmony among people, so that no one can claim that his origins are superior to those of another person; and, that God's Greatness is manifest in the diverse and unique appearances of His creatures; and
  • Whereas the Jewish people began its history as a persecuted, enslaved people, and is repeatedly adjured by God to remember its lowly origins and to be kind to others in similar circumstances; and
  • Whereas the Jewish people has experienced both great acceptance as well as significant discrimination in the United States and, more broadly, has a continuous history as a persecuted minority; and
  • Whereas the centuries-old American problem of white racism against African Americans continues to be a disgraceful, explosive contemporary reality, with both overt and insidious manifestations

Therefore, the Rabbinical Council of America reaffirms its absolute condemnation of racist speech and deeds.

The statement goes on to say that we should voice our objection to racism in the name of Torah ideals, embrace Jews of all racial backgrounds, and work towards fostering warm relationships with our fellow Americans of races different than our own.

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25
Jul
0

Donations to Michal Salomon and Children

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http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?m=1103480764942&ca=0d7980ac-17cc-46ff-9952-5ca24498e5e9

You can also call the EB office at 722 5500 and donate using your credit card or existing account at EB

Thanks

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26
May
0

Introducing Sephardi Fest!

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18
May
0

Lea Koenig Tablet Magazine Article

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26
Apr
0

Mekonen: The Journey of an African Jew

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28
Mar
0

Three Events Hosted by Ezra Bessaroth

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24
Mar
0

Sephardic Trips to Israel!

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JERUSALEM UNITED MISSION TO ISRAEL MAY 16-29


FREE SEPHARDIC BIRTHRIGHT TRIP FOR 18-26 YEAR-OLDS THIS AUGUST
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15
Mar
0

Correction to this week's schedule

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I've just been informed that the Ladies Auxiilary will NOT be baking this coming Monday March 20th

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07
Mar
0

PURIM SCHEDULE MARCH 11-12

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07
Mar
0

EB Launches Customized Meldado Shiurim

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11
Jan
0

Shabbat Yerushalayim Schedule!

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Click the "clipboard" on the home page for the full schedule

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30
Dec
0

SHABBAT TIME CORRECTION FOR MIKETZ/SHABBAT HANUKKAH

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Shabbat ends at 5:13 pm and not 5:08 pm as written in the newsletter

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30
Nov
0

See our new "Story of a Sephardic Congregation Website"!

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...And buy the book - a great Hanukkah gift! 

 

https://sephardiccongregation.wordpress.com/

 

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30
Nov
0

See our new "Story of a Sephardic Congregation Website"!

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And buy the book - a great Hanukkah gift!https://sephardiccongregation.wordpress.com/

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22
Sep
0

Will Wonders Never Cease?

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19
Sep
0

Sneak Preview of our New Book!

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12
Jul
0

Register Here for the "Lost Voices" Program July 21st

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11
Jul
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Spanish Citizenship for Sephardim: Recent Reflections

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Earlier today, I received a private message from a good friend of mine regarding my posting of Ezra Bessaroth's role in facilitating the first step in helping those descendants of the Jews expelled from Spain obtain Spanish citizenship under the new law.

First, I want to praise my friend on his choice to message me privately and not engage in a back-and-forth debate on Facebook over this issue; he felt that this would unnecessarily expose me to public criticism. Here’s what he wrote:

Hi Rabbi. I didn't want to write this on your wall because I didn't want to even imply a public criticism of you, but I have to say I'm surprised given what I know about your attitude toward Eretz Yisrael to see you encouraging Jews to become citizens of Spain. Do you need see nothing problematic about that? Isn't Spain the wrong country for Jews who want to add a second citizenship? Has Ezzy Bezzy made a similar promotional push (maybe you have) for its members becoming citizens of Israel (i.e. aliyah)?”

The point is well-taken.

Some background: When my good friends, Joe and Doreen Alhadeff, approached me with news of their involvement in promoting the new law – and having Ezra Bessaroth approved to attest to a person’s Sephardic ancestry – I asked myself whether I wanted at all to be party to encouraging Jews to become citizens of Spain.

Over and above the issue of promoting this path (instead of encouraging Aliyah to Israel) there’s the question of whether we should align ourselves with a campaign that tries to redress the wrongs of the past – specifically, the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 and all that this tragedy entailed. In June of 2014, Rabbi Marc Angel, himself a native of Seattle and a student of Sephardic history posted a critical piece on his blog. In part, it read,

How can giving a few passports to descendants of Spanish Jews undo the untold sufferings of Sephardic ancestors? How can even giving every living Sephardic Jew today a Spanish passport serve as atonement for the humiliations, persecutions and expulsion of our ancestors? Yet, how can we shut the door to genuine contrition and reconciliation? How can we allow past injustices to fester eternally, without finding ways to overcome those horrors?....It is fine for Spain to offer Spanish passports to Sephardim; but this does not in any way address the root problem or atone for the injustices committed against Spanish Jews of the middle ages. Spain needs to be at the forefront of civilization’s struggle against anti-Judaism, anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism. Spain needs to be outspoken in its opposition to religious fanaticism where ever it manifests itself. Spain must become a moral voice for strengthening the lives of contemporary Sephardic Jews, most of whom live in the State of Israel or strongly identify with the Jewish State.

Why promote Spain at all without full teshuva?
Shouldn’t we first prioritize assisting Jews to become citizens of Israel?

My personal response to both questions: I, too, am troubled by the failure of nations – many of them European – to learn the lessons of the past. I too, feel that Spain should show its concern for Sephardim by supporting the State of Israel. For whatever it’s worth, though, I do feel that the public declaration of responsibility for the expulsion from Spain is of significance. Though it falls short of what we would like to see – in my view, it does have some incremental value. It may at least qualify as “Hirhurei Teshuva”….if not complete teshuva!

To my friend’s point: Last time I checked, there is strong basis for saying that we fulfill a Torah mitzvah by living in Eretz Yisrael…and not in Spain. As someone whose offspring and offspring’s offspring presently live in the Land of Israel, and who himself hopes one day to return even if the Mashiach has not yet arrived by that time….I personally spare no efforts in making it a priority to financially support pro-Israel causes as well as assist those who have been victims of Arab terror. I am also a proud trustee of the Samis Foundation, whose meaningful philanthropy works to address some of the core social issues in Israeli society. Our congregation stands at the forefront of the Seattle community in its Israel programming, even in the face of expressed disdain by so-called “progressive” elements in our community who would prefer to see us make room for organizations which overtly and covertly undermine the IDF and the Jewish state……

Our involvement in helping establish Sephardic identity for those interested in pursuing Spanish citizenship should not be seen in a vacuum, but against the backdrop of what I’ve written above. The messages delivered in our local Orthodox Jewish day schools, in synagogue shiurim, from the pulpit, in yearly programming - including scholars-in-residence throughout our community – are unequivocal. Anyone wishing to make Aliyah knows exactly where to go and would not only be fully supported - but publicly applauded for making the commitment! (One of my mechutanim is even a Nefesh B’Nefesh counsellor….I have her phone number and email!)

But alas, we live in a very complex age. With all the good work of our Jewish schools, only 5% of Seattle’s Jewish children are enrolled in day-school Jewish education. Intermarriage rates across the country are soaring, and the Sephardim of Seattle and elsewhere are not immune.

I reflect on my own decision, 35 years ago, to become more Jewishly connected. It started with a bowl of chicken soup at the Shabbat table of Rabbi and Rebbetzin Pritzker in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. It continued with Herman Wouk’s “This is My G-d” and Prager and Telushkin’s “Nine Questions.” It could have stopped there, with the soup and the interesting reading…..

For the Sephardim of Seattle and around the world, Sephardic culture plays a huge role in the formation and maintenance of identity. Do I believe that bourekas and bulemas are the essence of Sephardic Jewish identity? Of course not! But do these foods play some role in maintaining even a tenuous link to tradition …. that could eventually blossom into a deeper connection?

Absolutely!

Faced with the reality of the Spanish citizenship option for Sephardim, I think that the question for a community rabbi becomes: Is facilitating the Spanish citizenship process a potential portal of entry for less affiliated Jews to open their eyes to the past, to look at themselves anew as a link in the chain of Jewish history? Perhaps the applicants had not grappled with the devotion of those ancestors who resisted the Inquisitor’s threat of death and the commitment to living a Jewish life implicit in this sacrifice. How many unaffiliated Jews have truly meditated upon the evidence of a Divine hand guiding Jewish history both before and after the expulsion?

And so, I feel that the necessary research involved in uncovering the details of one’s Sephardic Jewish roots may well be an eye-opening experience that paves the way for some more profound introspection.

I'm comfortable being a partner in this process.

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