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Nov
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Idol-Sniffing Camels

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Posted in memory of Yehudah Ben Moshe, Z'L, whose Bar Mitvah Perasha was Chaye Sarah 

On Shabbat, I wished, on behalf of the congregation, a hearty Mazal Tov to Yehuda Yegudayav, who celebrated his 75th birthday over the weekend.  The Bukharian Jewish members are a true institution at Ezra Bessaroth, and we are delighted to share in all of their joyous occasions.  

Hearing about Yehuda’s milestone got me thinking about family; in a couple of weeks’ time, I head once again to Canada to visit my Mom, who just turned 84 years old עד מאה ועשרים שנה.  A few months ago, the doctor told her that her new aortic valve should be good for 17 more years!

502As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not the world’s greatest traveler.  Especially intimidating to me are the bomb-sniffing dogs at the airport.  Speaking of trained dogs, this past week, the drug-sniffing dogs at Sea-Tac airport had their hours slashed with the passage of Initiative 502.  Following the vote, Reuters reported that “prosecutors in Washington state's two most populous counties plan to dismiss scores of misdemeanor marijuana possession cases following passage of a landmark voter initiative earlier this week to legalize pot for adult recreational use.”

Not only are there bomb and drug-sniffing dogs, the Torah recognizes the possibility of idol- sniffing camels! 

The evidence? In this past week’s Torah portion, Avraham’s servant Eliezer arrives at the home of Rivka and is warmly greeted by her brother Lavan, whose hospitality knows no bounds:

 וַיֹּאמֶר, בּוֹא בְּרוּךְ יְהוָה; לָמָּה תַעֲמֹד, בַּחוּץ, וְאָנֹכִי פִּנִּיתִי הַבַּיִת, וּמָקוֹם לַגְּמַלִּים.

And he said, come in, the blessed one of Hashem, why are you standing outside? I have cleaned out the home and a place for the camels.

At first blush, this is a pretty innocent verse: Lavan invites Eliezer in, assuring him that there is plenty of room in his home for both Avraham’s servant and his animals. 

On location, Rashi explains the term פניתי הבית I cleared out the house – as Lavan assuring Eliezer that all traces of idolatry have been removed from the house.  Avot D’Rebbe Natan takes this idea one step further: Lavan is also saying that he has cleared away the idols so that the camels would agree to enter the home.  “I cleared out the house – and a place for the camels – by removing the idols.”  According to Avot D’Rebbe Natan, the camels had previously “sniffed out” the idols and were refusing to enter….. 

So not only are there bomb and drug-sniffing dogs, but there are idol-sniffing camels!

This recalls a Gemara in Tractate Hulin, where we learn of the famous donkey of Rabbi Pinchas Benpinchas Ya’ir: R. Pinchas is on his way on a mission to redeem captives, when he stops at a lodge; the innkeepers place some barley in front of his donkey, but it refuses to eat.  They sift and clean the grain, to no avail; the beast remains recalcitrant!

R. Pinchas asks the innkeepers if they had purchased the barley from someone who may not have tithed the produce; they reply in the affirmative.  R. Pinchas’ response? He reprimands the innkeepers,

“This poor beast is on its way to do the will of its maker, and you are giving it untithed crops? “

The Gemara goes on to question the halachic problem referred to in the story – does one really need to tithe crops fed to animals? It brings a proof that only human food needs tithing.  The Gemara’s resolution? If the crops were initially designated for an animal, they need not be tithed; if they are initially designated for a person - and only later served to an animal - they need tithing. 

The ultimate message of this story?  G-d does not bring about misfortune and transgression through the animals of righteous people – how much moreso does He protect righteous people themselves! In other words, divine intervention prevented the beast from consuming the untithed produce. 

I would like to extract a slightly different point from this piece: When someone is on his way to do a mitzvah, all of his resources, his property: inanimate objects, animals….become subsumed within this mitzvah activity.  The property is viewed as an extension of him.  Just as Hashem wishes to facilitate the performance of mitzvot, He paves the way for all of their resources to aid in that effort.

If that’s the case, then it behooves us to begin to appreciate all of the financial and other resources at our disposal – and to utilize them for the purpose for which they were granted us.

This same concept appears in a Rashi in Perashat Vayishlach.  After Ya’akov crosses over the Nahal Yabok, he returns, and soon engages in the famous wrestling match with the angel.  Grappling with the idea of why Ya’akov would remain alone, Rashi explains that he returned to collect some small earthenware vessels.   At first blush, it seems that Ya’akov Avinu is quite petty!  The deeper understanding, though, is that Ya’akov was aware that every person has a purpose for which he was created; G-d therefore also gives everyone exactly what he needs to carry out his individual mission. These earthenware vessels, as minor as they may seem, Ya’akov saw as essential to fulfilling his life’s work.  Like the donkey of R. Pinchas ben Ya’ir, the vessels of Ya’akov were an extension of him.

This perspective reinforces a very refreshing and inspiring theme that we have developed on previous occasions.  Rambam quotes the verse בכל דרכיך דעהו Know Him in all of your ways…. Should someone, engaged in a mundane activity like shopping, have the intention to purchase and prepare healthy food that will energize him to do more mitzvot– the shopping trip itself becomes an extended mitzvah event! 

Eliezer is an extension of monotheist Avraham and the idol-sniffing camels are an extension of Eliezer; they therefore interact with their reality as would their owner.  

This is also hinted at in R. Pinchas Ben Ya’ir’s words in the Gemara in Tractate Hulin: “This poor beast is on its way to do the will of its maker, and you are giving it untithed crops?” R. Pinchas surely did not believe that this beast had the capacity to appreciate that it was on its way to do the mitzvah of redeeming captives!  Rather, R.  Pinchas was actually saying, “I am using this animal to carry out the will of my Maker…..” 

 

 

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04
Nov
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Storms

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obamastormThe theme of this past week seems to have been “storms”: A political storm, in the form of a hotly-contested battle for the Presidency, as the polls show a virtual dead heat; the big storm on the east coast, Hurricane Sandy, that brought with it billions of dollars in damages and claimed dozens of lives; and finally, the storm in this week’s Perasha: the graphic description of the destruction of Sdom and Amora: “God made sulphur and fire rain down on Sodom and Gomorrah - it came from God, out of the sky.  He overturned these cities along with the entire plain, [destroying] everyone who lived in the cities and [all] that was growing from the ground.”

I would like to use this opportunity to reflect on the Torah response to the latter two types of storms.

We’ve mentioned it before, but it’s such a fundamental point, that it bears repeating:

The Netziv, Rav Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, in his commentary on Sefer Bereishit, asks a basic question: Why would Avraham Avinu, ethicist, the champion of Ancient Near East Monotheism, petition G-d to spare the idolatrous, immoral cities of Sdom and Amora?  Does the survival of these people not run counter to everything that Avraham represents and seeks to accomplish?

Netziv’s answer: Our Avot, our forefathers, were “Yesharim”; they were people who were not just sdmamorahonest and ethical; they were invested in the קיום הבריאה – the maintenance and success of G-d’s creation.  Our forefathers played a key role in the Genesis, the building of the infrastructure of G-d’s world.  Abraham’s intervention on behalf of Sdom and Amora represents just that.

The Netziv’s approach appears in other classical Jewish sources, as well. In his commentary on Pirkei Avot, Rabbenu Yonah states:

שיש לאדם להתפלל על שלום כל העולם ולהצטער על צער של אחרים

A person must pray for the peace of the entire world and feel anguish at the pain of others

In a parallel comment, Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook states

Love of People must be alive in our heart and soul – the love of every unique individual.  Also, love of all of the nations, and the desire to see their economic and spiritual well-being.  Hatred must be directed only at the wickedness and impurity of the world.

The thread of Netziv’s approach to Avraham’s prayer on behalf of Sdom and Amorah, then, runs through a variety of our classical sources.

A somewhat different approach is taken by Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch.  Sensitive to the nuances of language in the text,

אוּלַי יֵשׁ חֲמִשִּׁים צַדִּיקִם בְּתוֹךְ הָעִיר הַאַף תִּסְפֶּה וְלֹא תִשָּׂא לַמָּקוֹם לְמַעַן חֲמִשִּׁים הַצַּדִּיקִם אֲשֶׁר בְּקִרְבָּהּ:

Avraham asks if G-d will spare the city on behalf of fifty people “within” the city? G-d’s response utilizes the same language.

Rav Hirsch: A Tzaddik who is בתוך העיר – in the midst of city – rebuking and correcting the behavior of others –  is the type of person Avraham invests in during tefilah.  A smug and self-righteous person, satisfied with his own religious level, would have no interest in getting the locals on a proper moral track.  

My inference from Rav Hirsch is that Avraham’s intervention on behalf of Sdom and Amora did not flow solely from his concern for the קיום הבריאה – the maintenance and success of G-d’s creation; rather, Avraham Avinu seeks signs of life that there is a potential for moral improvement in Sdom.  If there are Tzaddikim who are בתוך העיר  - in the midst of the city, who care about the moral fabric of the town.

What the two approaches do have in common, though, is that they both focus on Avraham Avinu’s commitment to others.

Millions of people, including many members of the Jewish community, were harmed, physically and financially, during Hurricane Sandy.  Though we should have our eyes to the plight of all the victims, our first priority is of course to our fellow Jews.  Before Shabbat, I received two emails: one from the Young Israel synagogue movement, and one from the OU.  Both are reliable organizations, collecting funds to help members of the Jewish community.   Please donate to my discretionary fund and I will direct the funds to these fine organizations. 

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30
Oct
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Ezra Bessaroth Statement regarding the Desecration of the Rhodes Holocaust Memorial

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Congregation Ezra Bessaroth, founded by Sephardic immigrant families from the Greek island of Rhodes, is horrified and disgusted by this weekend’s defacing of the Rhodes Holocaust Memorial. Dedicated in 2002, the monument stands in the Jewish Martyrs Square with a replica in our congregation’s courtyard in Seattle.

It reads: “Do not ever forget the eternal memory of the 1604 Jews of Rhodes and Kos who perished in Nazi death camps”.

Israel Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, himself a survivor of the Shoah, visited Ezra Bessaroth this past summer. Upon hearing that our memorial is modeled on the original Rhodes monument, Rav Lau stood looking at it in silence, touched it and kissed his hand as if the monument was a mezuzah. "Ze Makom Kadosh" ("This is a holy place"), he said.

This weekend’s hate crime - a pitiful, cowardly attempt to blot out the memory of Kedoshim of Rhodes and Kos - simply serves to strengthen our resolve to perpetuate the profound values and rich way of life of those that perished.

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29
Oct
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Rhodes Memorial to Holocaust Victims Defaced

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A shocking incident in Rhodes:  
See Michael Behar's link at http://networkedblogs.com/E4ulj

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10
Oct
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Inheriting the Torah

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torahA Lonely Torah Portion

Perashat Ve'Zot HaBeracha is a lonely Torah portion - unlike the other Perashot Hashavua, it does not have a specific Shabbat; instead, it's read on Simhat Torah as we transition into Sefer Bereshit.  As a result, very few shiurim or sermons are dedicated to the content of Ve'Zot HaBeracha.

A verse familiar to many of us, that every Jewish child of school-age knows is

  תּוֹרָה צִוָּה-לָנוּ, מֹשֶׁה:  מוֹרָשָׁה, קְהִלַּת יַעֲקֹב

Moshe commanded us the Torah - it is an inheritance of the Congregation of Jacob

 A mishna in Pirkei Avot poses a seeming contradiction to the declaration that the Torah is "an inheritance of the Congregation of Jacob".  In Chapter Two, Mishna 17, we learn:

Rabbi Yosi said: ....Prepare yourself for the study of the Torah, for the knowledge of it is not yours by inheritance.

Is - or is not - Torah our inheritance? A simple solution: The verse is declaring that we are commanded to follow the mitzvot, such that the phrase מורשה קהילת יעקב simply rephrases the first half of the pasuk, "Moshe commanded us the Torah..." But what new information is conveyed through labeling the Torah as a "morasha" or inheritance?

Also, what does the term "Kehilla" connote?  Why did the Torah not say that the Torah is the inheritance of בית יעקב - the House of Jacob? That expression appears no less than 26 times throughout Tanach?

The Gemara in Tractate Makkot, 24a, approaches our verse from a "Gematria" perspective: The Hebrew word תורה has a numerical value of 611.  Says the Gemara: Moshe Rabeinu commanded us regarding 611 of the mitzvot.  Only the first two of the עשרת הדברות - the Ten Commandments - were conveyed to us by G-d Himself.

Although this is an interesting 'derasha' - we should always pursue a deeper understanding of our sages' intentions.   How does the Gematria calculation fit in with the plain meaning and context of our verse?

So we have three questions:

a) Is the Torah an inheritance or not? How do we reconcile the statement from Pirkei Avot with the verse in Ve'zot Haberacha?
b) What does the term "Kehillat Ya'akov" hope to convey?
c) How should we contextually understand the idea that Moshe commanded us 611 mitzvot, while Hashem conveyed only two?

Sukkot in Auschwitz, 1944

A number of years ago, Rabbi Binny Freedman met Ya'akov, a wealthy businessman from Caracas who was spending Pesach with his family at a hotel in Florida. At one point, Rabbi Freedman asked the man if there was anything in particular that stood out in his mind as the reason he had survived. Without hesitation, he responded: “It was one mitzvah; the sukkot I spent in Auschwitz.  When he was a young man, the Venezuelan Jew had been assigned the job of divvying up daily rations in Auschwitz.

One day, while preparing the rations in the dark winter night, he heard banging on the door of the shed, only to discover a man he recognized as a prominent Torah scholar standing in the snow.  His request? Sukkot started that evening, and the man needed two whole loaves of bread for "lechem mishne"; he promised to only eat a small amount, and to return the bulk of the bread to Ya'akov.

"Even more intriguing," Rabbi Freedman continues, "was how on earth this Rabbi had managed to build a sukkah in Auschwitz-Birkenau. As it turned out, that summer and fall of  1944 the Nazis were bringing hundreds of thousands of Jews in a last-ditch effort to complete the ‘final solution’ before the war would end. In the twisted organizational logic of the lager camps world, the Nazis needed to have additional barracks to hold the new prisoners for labor until they could be exterminated. As such, prisoners were dismantling tiers of bunks in the barracks while rows of bunks were being reconstructed in the central parade ground. Seeing the rows and rows of bunks outdoors and realizing the festival of Sukkot was coming, this rabbi had managed to secure some schach and place it atop some of the boards of the semi-constructed bunks beneath the open sky in such a way as to construct a minimally kosher sukkah (booth) for the festival."

Ya'akov consented to dispense the bread if the rabbi would allow him to join him in the sukkah for a couple of minutes. Despite the risk he would be taking, Ya'akov convinced the rabbi to accede to his request. “So together the two of them, and old Rabbi and a student, risked their lives and sat, for a few brief moments, in a sukkah in Auschwitz."

Both the rabbi and the youngster exhibited "Mesirat Nefesh" - a selfless dedication to their Jewishness - in the face of overwhelming danger, in an atmosphere that should have otherwise generated unbridled despair.

Ramban on Ve’zot Haberacha

This story recalls the commentary of Ramban on Ve'Zot Haberacha.  The verse prior to   תּוֹרָה צִוָּה-לָנוּ, מֹשֶׁה:  מוֹרָשָׁה, קְהִלַּת יַעֲקֹב reads:

ג ... כָּל-קְדֹשָׁיו בְּיָדֶךָ; וְהֵם תֻּכּוּ לְרַגְלֶךָ, יִשָּׂא מִדַּבְּרֹתֶיךָ 

3 .... all His holy ones--they are in Your hand; and they sit down at Your feet, receiving of Your words.

 

Ramban explains:

  יאמר שהם מוכים בכל מכה במדבר ללכת אחריך בכל אשר תלך, לא יחושו לרעב ולצמאון ומכת נחש ועקרב, רק יצאו לרגליך ואחריך ירוצו וזה כענין שנאמר (ירמיה ב ב) זכרתי לך חסד נעוריך אהבת כלולותיך לכתך אחרי במדבר בארץ לא זרועה

....this means that they were smitten with every kind of affliction in the desert to go after You wherever You go...they are unconcerned with famine, thirst, snakes and scorpions, but follow your lead and run after you, reminiscent of the verse in Jeremiah, "Thus says the LORD: I remember for you the affection of your youth, the love of your espousals; how you went after Me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown....."

This dedication and trust in Hashem generates a commitment that prompts the Jewish people to "carry" Hashem's words on their mouths, meditating on words of Torah at every turn.  This is יִשָּׂא מִדַּבְּרֹתֶיךָ - they will carry Your words.  According to Ramban, the next verse details the words that Israel will carry: "Moshe commanded us the Torah"   It is this "mantra' that will be an inheritance of the Congregation of Jacob, says Ramban, as subsequent generations remain forever dedicated to G-d's Torah and Mitzvot.

The juxtaposition of the pesukim teaches us that future commitment stems from bouts of Mesirat Nefesh during 40 years in the desert, and thousands of years later ... in Auschwitz.  Bitachon, trust in Hashem, is bequeathed by committed ancestors to their grandchildren and great grandchildren....

Ramban takes this idea a step further;

 ודרשו רבותינו (מדרש תהלים א), שלא אמר מורשה בית יעקב או זרע יעקב ואמר "קהלת יעקב" לרמז שיקהלו רבים עליהם ותהיה התורה לעולם מורשה ליעקב ולכל הנקהלים עליו, הם הגרים הנלוים על ה' לשרתו ונספחו על בית יעקב, ונקראו כלם קהלתו

Our sages taught: It does not say "the inheritance of the House of Jacob" or "the seed of Jacob", but the "congregation of Jacob" - to hint that many people will congregate and join them, such that the Torah will forever be an inheritance for Jacob and all those that "congregate to and join them" - these are the converts that come to serve Hashem and become part of the House of Jacob; they are called its "congregation"...

Ramban's citation of this midrash accentuates the power of the commitment and trust that fuels the eternal utterance of "Moshe commanded us the Torah.."  Although we do not, as a matter of course, proselytize, the pure power of our commitment has a magnetic quality that attracts others in the Jewish community...and beyond.  This is the concept of "Kehillat Ya'akov".

Returning to the Gematria and to R. Yosi

In addition to trust in Hashem, a healthy dose of humility perpetuates Torah and attracts others to Jewish practice and belief.  Perhaps this is the context of the Gemara which notes that Moshe commanded 611 of the 613 mitzvot.  Our level of prophecy at Matan Torah was not sufficiently developed to allow us to hear the mitzvot from Hashem directly; we begged Moshe to serve as an intermediary...

With this, maybe we can reconcile R. Yosi's comment in Pirkei Avot, "Prepare yourself for the study of the Torah, for the knowledge of it is not yours by inheritance." Rabbeinu Yonah understands R. Yosi as stressing the need to develop the kind of character traits that will facilitate the internalizing and retention of Torah.  Only  when we do that, can we inherit the Torah - and transmit it to subsequent generations.  This is the message of the "611 Gematria"; it's also the message of the Ramban and of the rabbi and his student on that fateful Sukkkot in Auschwitz.

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10
Oct
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Speechless on Shemini Atzeret !

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speechlessWhat more can be said? After the intense season of the Yamim Nora'im, I am speechless.

But that's very appropriate because today - Shemini Atzeret - is a Hag that is void of specific mitzvot and minhagim. Aside from the laws of Yom Tov - there is nothing particular that the Torah instructs us to do on Shemini Atzeret. In Eretz Yisrael, where there is only one day of Yom Tov at the conclusion of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret merges with Simhat Torah. So the hakafot, the dancing with the Torah, that we will be engaging in tomorrow evening, takes place on the night and during the day of Shemini Atzeret ; although the Torah does not offer specific mitzvot, the Israel version of Shemini Atzeret is filled with the customs we identify with Simhat Torah.

So I am speechless, because I stand before you to discuss a mitzvah-less and minhag-less holiday!

That said, I would like to share with you an approach that I think helps explain the seeming vacuum left by Shemini Atzeret. It starts with that classic Jewish text, "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People"!

In chapter seven, Steven Covey (alav Hashalom!) tells the story of writer Arthur Gordon.

In a story called “The Turn of the Tide,” Arthur Gordon describes a time when he found his sevenhabitsworld stale and flat. His enthusiasm for life waned, and he was getting worse daily.  A medical doctor found nothing physically wrong with him, but said he might be able to help if Gordon could follow his instructions for one day. He was to spend the next day in the place where he’d been happiest as a child. He was not to talk to anyone, nor to read, write, or listen to the radio. The doctor then wrote out four prescriptions and told him to open one at 9a.m., noon, 3 p.m., and 6 p.m.

The next morning, Gordon went to the beach. His first prescription said only this: “Listen carefully.” After some time, Gordon began to hear more and more sounds that weren’t obvious at first. He began to think of lessons he’d learned as a child from the sea: patience, respect for the interdependence of things. He felt a growing peace. The noon prescription read, “Try reaching back.” To what? He thought of the joyful times of his childhood, and felt a growing warmth inside.

The 3 p.m. message was “Examine your motives.” At first, he was defensive. Of course he wanted success, fame, security - he could justify them all. But then it occurred to him that these motives weren’t good enough, and that fact was making him stagnant. “It makes no difference,” he wrote later, “whether you are a mailman, a hairdresser, a housewife - whatever. As long as you feel you are serving others, you do the job well. When you are concerned only with helping yourself you do it less well .."  When 6 p.m. came, the final prescription didn’t take long to fill: “Write your worries on the sand.” He knelt and wrote several words with a piece of broken shell; then he turned and walked away. He didn’t look back; he knew the tide would come in.

The message of course, is that once you have reconnected to the attributes of patience and respect, have tuned in to the positive dimensions of your upbringing, recommited yourself to the value of serving others, many of the problems that preoccupy you can be put into perspective. Quality reflection helps a person appreciate the transitory nature of many of our challenges.


With this in mind, I would like to share with you an approach to the lack of mitzvot and minhagim on Shemini Atzeret. Onkelos understands the term "Atzeret" to mean a gathering. Quoted in an article by Rabbi Yosef Kalinsky, the great German-Jewish scholar Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch articulates what constitutes the unique "gathering" of this Hag:


“We accordingly think we are not wrong if we take azteret to designate a day which is not fixed to bring new lessons and new truths for us all to accept and assimilate, but which has the mission to keep us still before the Presence of God – with this the idea of עצירה ממלאכה would certainly apply – to strengthen and solidify the impressions and knowledge we have already gained, so that they remain with us permanently, and do not become lost in the hurly-burly of life….The purpose of azteret is accomplished by our realizing once again all that we have gained by the festival, and by the firm resolution not to allow ourselves to be robbed in the turmoil and struggle and work our lives of what we have won….Shmini Atzeret would come to tell us, once again to summarize and gather to ourselves all the thoughts and messages and resolutions which the moadim of the whole year have brought to us and to resolve to persevere and hold fast to them before God, To impress them so deeply in our hearts that they become an unassailable part of ourselves which cannot become lost in the course of the ordinary run of our yearly life on which we are now entering.."

Put another way, the absence of mitzvot and minhagim is deliberate - in order to provide us a time for reflection as we usher out the Yamim Nora'im, the High Holidays. What struck a chord with each of us? Was it the acceptance of Hashem's dominion over the world on Rosh Hashana, the cleansing power of Yom Kippur - or the sense of trust in G-d that we absorbed during Sukkot? Some blend of the themes and emotions of the Hagim?

There are no mitzvot or minhagim on Shemni Atzeret, and no rabbi can stand in front of you and tell you what to think or feel on this day - because, by definition, it is an intensely personal day, a time for each of us to gather in and assimilate our thoughts and feelings.

Once we have engaged in this contemplative process, we can then approach Simhat Torah. With a sense of renewal, we can now direct ourselves to finding our place under the broad umbrella of a commitment to Torah and Mitzvot.

The joy of Simhat Torah comes from a sense that: 

אחד המרבה
Whether you do a lot
ואחד הממעיט
...or a little
ובלבד שיכוין לבו לשמים
..as long as you direct your heart towards heaven..

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05
Oct
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Join Rabbi and Rubisa Meyers at StandWithUs on October 14th!

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04
Oct
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Defacement of Jerusalem Church - A Statement from the RCA

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Rabbinical Council of America on the Defacement of Jerusalem Church

The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the largest organization of Orthodox rabbis in the world, condemns the recent defacement of The Church of the Dormition on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem, as well as other recent acts against the sites and clergy of other religions. The hateful language that was scrawled on its walls are against the respect and decency called for by the Torah whose "ways are ways of pleasantness and whose paths are those of peace."

From the time of the establishment of the State of Israel, then Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog, of blessed memory, declared it an obligation, rooted in both religious tenets and international obligations, to protect the integrity of the minority religious communities, including the persons and buildings of Christianity and Islam in the Jewish State.

Jews, who have suffered from religious persecution and oppression by members of other faiths in in the name of their religions, call on all people of faith to conduct themselves in respectful ways with other faith communities. Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, president of the RCA, said, "We expect the legal authorities in Israel to do all they can to protect these religious sites and to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice. We extend our words of encouragement and support to Fr. Pierbattista Pizzabolla."

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27
Sep
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A World of Clarity - Yom Kippur 5773

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About fourteen years ago, we received a call toward the end of the week saying that the yishuv
(BetEl) where we lived at the time, was making a fundraising video and they needed to capture a family “making Kiddush” on Friday night. Of course, the filming could not take place on Shabbat itself – so it would have to happen before Shabbat. Our mazal, the Meyers family was picked as the feature family! Since candle lighting was slated for 7 pm that week, I asked that the videographer come at 6:45 pm. “He needs at least an hour,” came the reply. “Please be ready by 6 pm….”

Now, most Friday afternoons we worked down to the wire…showering up to candle lighting time. Once we heard that the video man would be there at six o’clock, we rushed to cook and shower – and were waiting by the door by five minutes to six!  When Hashem needed us to be ready by a certain time, we’d been waiting till the last minute, but when a human being says be ready by six, we’re early…

This incident helped me appreciate the tendency of our sages to say, “If you would respond this way to an earthly King…how much more so to G-d, the King of Kings…”  I have since made an effort to understand my relationship to G-d based on simple daily experiences.

In the past, a few of our discussions have been triggered by sporting events.  I am not going to presume everyone is interested in or follows sports, but something happened on Monday night – less than 24 hours before Yom Kippur, that got me thinking.

goldentateSeattle’s football team, the Seahawks, were losing by five points to the Green Bay Packers.  It was the last play of the game and there were eight seconds left to play in the game.  Seattle’s Quarterback, Wilson, in an act of desperation, hurls the ball to the end zone, in – you’ll excuse the term – a “Hail Mary” pass - over the goal line of Green Bay. The Seattle receiver, Tate, surrounded by three members of the opposing team, gets his hand on the ball and thereupon engages in a furious struggle with one of those defenders. As the two fall to the ground, one referee, one judge - signals that the pass was intercepted by Green Bay; the other referee has the opposite reaction, he signals that Tate had caught the ball, scoring for Seattle.

After the dust had cleared, the referees upheld the view of the second judge, and – a touchdown for Seattle.  One of the rules of NFL football is that a simultaneous catch goes to the offense.

Now, if you look at the replay, not only was there lack of clarity and confusion between the refs, but it seems that the final decision was actually incorrect:  It seems that the defensive player had full control of the ball.  Many have attributed the poor call to the fact that the NFL has locked out the permanent staff of referees due to a contract dispute.  

The game, and its timing led to several Pre-Yom Kippur discussions on the internet. Someone designed the following e-card:

ecardyk

Another blogger wrote: “Good thing Yom Kippur starts tonight: NFL owners can atone for their sins.”

Even President Obama took time off from his busy schedule Monday night to relate to the game; according to Bloomberg Business Week, 

President Barack Obama said a controversial ruling by officials at the end of last night’s National Football League game was “terrible” and shows why the league should settle a dispute with the union representing referees. “I’ve been saying for months we’ve got to get our refs back,” Obama said ....

The message for Yom Kippur?  The fallibility of human judgment.  Angry as some are with the replacement referees, a similar incident could have taken place with the permanent referees.  We are mere flesh and blood.

On Rosh Hashana, G-d’s judgment is exact. Before G-d, all is clear, precise, transparent.  

We have an opportunity to have our judgment held in abeyance until Yom Kippur, but today, Ne’ila, marks the end of the period of grace…  

We have been given a Torah with clear directives, and with clear priorities.  For Rabbi Shelomo Wolbe in his book, “Alei Shur”, the Jew has been gifted an  עולם ברור – a world of clarity. The Torah establishes clear values and priorities that at times may not necessarily jibe with the those of the society around us.  In fact, the Talmud (Pesachim 50a) tells a story of Rav Yosef ¸who became ill “fainted and his soul departed. After some time he returned to life.  His father R’ Yehoshua asked him what he saw. He replied, “I saw an upside down world. People who were considered important in this world are not held in high esteem in that world, and people considered lowly in this world were elevated in that world.”  A follow-up midrash (Ruth Rabba 3:1) records that Rav Maysha, the son of R. Yosef,  was dead for three days!  (Maybe the reference is to a coma, and not literal/clinical death…) Rav Yosef asked his son what he’d witnessed in the World-to-Come; he offered a similar report.  

So not only does G-d have an objective, clear assessment of our actions, He allows us to partner with him in the process by giving us His Torah.   Our Torah’s system of values and the accompanying mitzvot present us with a way of life that has ultimate meaning; these values are clear and constant, whether or not they are completely embraced by broader society.  

This theme of “birur” – clarity is very prevalent in Jewish sources.  A well-known verse in the 24th chapter of Tehilim,  reads,

“Who shall ascend to the mountain of G-d? Who shall stand in His holy place? One who has clean hands and a pure heart.”  In other words, only an honest person can forge a close relationship with G-d.  The midrash, however, has a different reading of the Hebrew term בר לבב; instead of someone with a “pure heart”, the midrash understands the term בר as associated with the word ברור – clear.  It cites Moshe Rabeinu, our teacher Moshe, as a prime example of someone who strove for clarity.  Instead of jumping at the opportunity to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt, Moshe politely insists that G-d clarify the many details of this mission: “When they ask who sent me, what should I tell them?”  Moshe’s predisposition towards clarity continues with his appreciation of the value of transparency for leaders.   According to the midrash, Moshe heard murmurings after collecting donations for the building of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, in the desert; some began to accuse Moshe of diverting funds for his own personal use instead of investing them in the building of the Mishkan.  What did Moshe do? He immediately appointed Itamar to run an audit; guiding Moshe is a love of clarity and transparency.   Upon hearing G-d’s plan to eradicate Sodom and Gemora, Avraham asks, “Will the Judge of the entire world not act justly?” Avraham surely believed that G-d is just – but needed to internalize, to “own” the Divine logic for himself. Before he could accept the decision, he needed to have the logic clarified.

This focus on clarity and transparency has important ramifications for our Yom Kippur experience: What are we doing in Kahal on this, the holiest day of the year? 

I would like to submit to you that we must look at Yom Kippur as a day of self-audit.  Our Torah has given us clear guidelines in both the realms of Ben Adam L’makom – laws between Man and G-d, and Ben Adam L’chavero – laws between man and his fellow. 

This internal audit may include the following kinds of questions: “Have I engaged in conversations this past year in which I allowed myself to be drawn into discussions about others that could be classified as Lashon Hara, gossip that reflects poorly on others?  Am I still perhaps holding a grudge against someone else; have I allowed difficulties with certain people to percolate under the surface, with no closure in sight?

In the realm of laws between myself and G-d – we regularly mention the centrality of the two cornerstones of Shabbat and Kashrut observance:  With all of the resources available teaching us how to connect to Shabbat – are we making an effort to join the Kahal for Shabbat Tefilot; are we careful to recite Kiddush and a prepare meal in honor of Shabbat on Friday evening and Shabbat day? When it comes to Kashrut, the Torah has provided us with clear guidelines on permitted and forbidden foods; just as we must take care of what comes out of our mouths, we have to ensure that we are more aware of what comes into our mouths – both at home and outside the home….

We have a tradition that emphasizes the value of clarity and transparency; let each of us use the time that we have left on Yom Kippur to engage ourselves in this personal, private self-audit!

 

 

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21
Sep
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Eulogy for Judy Menashe z"l

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Today, we pay our respects to Mrs. Judy Menashe. Judy is survived by her husband Victor, children Phillip, Shelly and husband Paul, David and wife Shannon, grandchildren Sarah and husband Tygh, Jamie and husband Chris, Jeff, Jacob, Josh Jesse, Kelly, Jamie Marie and great grandchildren Ashton and June.

On the Jewish calendar, we find ourselves in the Aseret Yemei Teshuva, the tens days of repentance.  It is an intensely reflective time of the Jewish year. Just a few days before Yom Kippur, our holiest day - we've come together to share our reflections on the life of Judy of blessed memory. Judy’s children Phillip, Shelly, and David helped me put together these thoughts:

Judy was an outgoing person.  From a very young age, Judy was undoubtedly THE most popular girl in her social circle.  She was also a superior athlete: In fact, many of her contemporaries remarked that when it came to sports, there was no real point in attempting to compete with Judy...Her love of sports continued into her adulthood and married life - she was an avid golfer and tennis player...the list goes on.   Judy successfully passed on her enthusiasm for sports and athletics to her children and grandchildren, it was from Judy that her kids learned the ropes of football, baseball and basketball... A devoted mother and grandmother, she could always be counted on to attend various sporting events, gymnastics competitions and the like...

Judy was also a very talented singer, channeling her love of singing primarily to her grandchildren, whom she treated to a regular medley of folk songs.

These are just some of the reasons those that knew Judy used to say that if they had to live life again, they would love to "come back as Judy"...

Her children recall that the kids playing on the back porch would wait for the honk of Judy's horn so they could help her take in the groceries – their help was not totally altruistice; it was in exchange, of course, for Judy’s generous allotments of popsicles and fudgicles. 

Family was Judy's top priority, and life had taught Judy that  her kids' well-being would be enhanced by a rich circle of friends and social connections. 

The most fascinating aspect of Judy's vivacious personality seems to have been her unique ability to straddle two worlds.  Rooted in the values and customs of her Rhodesli Sephardic heritage, she simultaneously reminded people of an elegant, cosmopolitan Jewish Jackie Kennedy.  While comfortable with the traditional role as wife, mother and homemaker who consistently deferred to her dear husband of 60 years, Dr. Victor Menashe, Judy developed a keen sense of her own place in an ever-evolving American society; she independently acquired the skills to navigate that culture, directing her family accordingly.   In a nutshell, Judy was a paradox: as comfortable on the golf course as she was in formal attire, with meticulous attention to the way she presented itself....At ease as a supportive wife, mother and grandmother, but with a dynamic and inquisitive eye to the broader culture..

I think it's safe to say that those who have come together today to honor Judy understand those who, if they could have a second go-round, would love to "come back as Judy."  Judy Menashe was  truly a complex woman who lived life to the fullest, with no regrets.  And during this time of the Jewish year, we Jews place great value on living a life of no regrets.

Menuchata B'Gan Eden

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19
Sep
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Eulogy for Dave Agoado z"l

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As we prepare ourselves to usher in Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, one theme that appears in the Musaf Prayer on Rosh Hashana day is Zichronot: Memories.  In that section of the Musaf, we concentrate on how G-d remembers all that we did, said, and even thought.  Before G-d, nothing is hidden  - everything is revealed. The slightest nuances of both thought and deed go into His calculation, His final Judgment of each and every one of us.

Two short days ago, none of us imagined that we would getting together to compose our own Zichronot our own memories of a man who was a real legend in the Seattle community, Dave Agoado.  I had the privilege of spending some time last  night, after Shabbat, with Dave’s family – and they helped me compose their Zichronot, their memories of their beloved father, grandfather and great grandfather.

The great Ribi Akiva declared that “Va’ahavta Lere’acha Komach” – love your fellow as yourself – is the most all-encompassing mitzvah of the entire Torah.  Dave Agoado excelled at this mitzvah.  He literally loved all people.  This love expressed itself in many ways – from social interactions with visitors to the Summit, where he was the keeper of the keys in the foyer, to his 17 years of volunteer work at the Kline Galland, where his concern for others triggered the famous Shmoozers program. His dedication to Kline Galland  complimented the hard work of the Home’s leadership, as it became increasingly known over the years as a first class, premiere organization, a home for elderly people that cares for and ensures the integrity of its residents.  

If you were fortunate enough to be a recipient of one of Dave’s Keshes – his love barbs – it just meant that he had a special fondness for you.

Dave’s love for people expressed itself in a more concentrated form in the case of his family. 

As the only grandparent Amy and Jennifer came to know, Dave was the quintessential Grand Papoo. He took on this role with great enthusiasm. Oblivious to the aging process, Dave – at the time I think in his 80’s -  was on time for a party for Amy and Jennifer’s friends – who were 60+ years his junior – donning a the garb of a youngster – including wrap-around sunglasses and a tacky purple shirt.   His joy with his great grandson Solomon knew no bounds, peppering the unsuspecting tike with kisses at every opportunity.  

Dave was a proud, supportive and loving father to Joe.  Dave was a very active father, always looking out for Joe’s best interests.  When it came to his son’s welfare, Dave was an out of the box thinker – he founded a Jewish Cub Scouts pack Ezra Bessaroth back in the early 1960’s.  In the 90’s, when Joe sought his Dad’s advice on whether to take on the position as President of EB, Dave told him he was crazy for considering it.  Once Joe took the position, Dave would walk into the sanctuary on Shabbat mornings, gaze proudly at his son, and give him two thumbs up.  Dave had an unshakable connection to EB – helping youngsters, including three year old Stanley (donning an oversized Tallet up the many steps into the old EB synagogue building some 70 years ago) to serving as a chauffeur, ensuring the continuity of the Kehilla’s daily minyan.  Joe’s love for Ezra Bessaroth to this day flows from his father Dave’s lifelong devotion.

These are the Zichronot, the memories of Dave as an engaged father and grandfather and member of the community.

The strongest theme running through many of the anecdotes, the zichronot of Dave, is that he was a nurturer.

There is a Talmudic principle that asserts Mitzvah Bo Yoter M’beshlucho – it is preferable to perform a mitzvah yourself than to do so by way of someone else.  Dave’s character as a nurturer meant that when he had the opportunity to give to someone else, to care for someone else – he would do everything within his power to give himself, instead of assigning another person to do so on his behalf.

This came out most clearly when his wife, Joe’s mother Anita, became quite ill. For over six years, Dave steadfastly took care of Anita himself.  Only when it became very clear that Anita needed assistance that he could not provide, did Dave agree to have his wife move to the Kline Galland home. But even after Anita entered the Kline Galland, Dave continued his nurturing by visiting with her all the time, every day; he would not leave at night until he gave his wife a kiss.

A similar pattern – of engaging personally in the care of others – characterized Dave’s care for his daughter Joanne; A devoted father, Dave insisted on taking care of Joanne’s every need until the law changed, and her needs could be provided for by Kline Galland, even though she was under the age of 65. Dave’s sensitivity to Joanne’s emotional well-being prompted him to set up regular social outings with Joyce, Amy and Jennifer.  Mitzvah Bo Yoter M’beshlucho – at every turn, perform a mitzvah yourself if at all possible. That was Dave’s guiding principle.

On the eve of Rosh Hashana, as we pray that G-d remember, attend to our mitzvot, our positive thoughts and actions, we ask that G-d take note of our Zichronot of Dave Agoado.

For sister Francis Salzberg,

Children, Joe and Joyce Agoado

Grandchildren, Amy Agoado, Jennifer and Max Strassberg  and Dave’s great Grandson Solomon Strassberg, and for all Dave’s extended family and friends, this is a painful loss.  Dave Agoado will be sorely missed by us all.

Menuchato B’Gan Eden

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10
Sep
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RCA Statement on German Circumcision Ban

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Sep 10, 2012 -- The Rabbinical Council of America, representing more than 1,000 rabbis worldwide, calls upon German Bundestag to expedite the passage of legislation that assures the right of Jews to practice ritual circumcision. Furthermore, we call upon the courts of Bavaria to immediately drop all criminal charges filed against Rabbi David Goldberg, the Chief Rabbi of the Bavarian city of Hof, for performing a circumcision.

We applaud the strong support voiced by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle for such legislation. However, we note that until legislative action occurs, a single maverick German citizen can use a decision by the Cologne court to press charges against those who follow Jewish tradition. Such actions have fanned the the flames for contempt of Judaism and of religious freedom.

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, president of the Rabbinical Council of America has noted that "history has taught us that the use of bans against circumcision are a way of disparaging Jewish tradition. That such action can occur in a democratic Germany of today is shameful."

As rabbis, we pray that this most regretful episode in modern history will soon end and will, through true moral leadership, lead to greater understanding and the full protection of religious rights for all Jews and other minorities.

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24
Aug
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This Shabbat @ EZZY BEZZY !

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21
Aug
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A Must-See Film on Modern-Day Israel !

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21
Aug
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Felix, Melky, and Kosher Fish

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After several weeks in Israel, last week, I once again went through a bit of culture shock upon my return to America. The headlines in the respective newspapers of the two countries are so vastly different!  Israelis are of course fixated on the Iranian threat, while American newsmen prophesy about the upcoming elections. 

felixHere in Seattle, last week's topic was the hot summer weather.  And at the top of the headlines: Felix's Perfect Game.

Until this past week, I had never heard of the concept of a perfect game. Back in my home and native land (Canada) hockey and football are popular; we Canadians have minimal interest in baseball.

But I am now enlightened. I now know that a Perfect Game is not synonymous with a no-hitter.  In a perfect game, the pitcher retires each and every batter, without even giving up a walk!

By the middle of the eighth inning in the Seattle-Tampa Bay matchup,  Felix Hernandez had faced and disposed of 24 consecutive batters.  The announcer declared : "One inning until immortality". 

After the contest, the New York Times reported:

"Hernandez Latest to Achieve Perfection, to Fans’ Delight."

Rabbi Chanan Morrison reviews the approaches of Rambam and Rabbeinu Bachaye on man’s striving for perfection:

According to Maimonides, human perfection is attained though the faculties of reason and intellect. Our goal is to gain enlightenment and knowledge of the Divine, through the study of Torah and metaphysics…..By hiding his face at the burning bush, Moses lost a golden opportunity to further his understanding of the spiritual realm. If our fundamental purpose in life is to seek enlightenment, Moses' demonstration of humility was out of place.

The author of Chovot HaLevavot ('Duties of the Heart'), however, wrote that our true objective is the perfection of character traits and ethical behavior….What Moses gained in sincere humility and genuine awe of Heaven at the burning bush outweighed any loss of knowledge. Since the overall goal is ethical perfection, Moses' action was proper, and he was justly rewarded with a radiant aura of brilliant light, a reflection of his inner nobility.

In the sports and entertainment-focused society that is 21st century America, we vicariously live through the achievements of great athletes.  As much as we admire those who excel in the realms of the intellectual and ethical, the Perfect Game of Felix Hernandez is often the closest we come to internalizing the exhilarating drive for perfection. 

I think I have watched the final pitch of the game, Felix’s flinging his arms heavenward, at least a dozen times.  Though I try to avoid clichés, it was truly….. a magical moment.

aaaaaa

We are now in Hodesh Elul, less than a month before Rosh Hashanah. It’s a time of reflection and self-assessment: We each have to ask ourselves how far we have come in connecting to G-d, whether through the intellectually challenging and spiritually uplifting study of Torah, or through our Mitzvah performance. 

Question: How close have we come to connecting to G-d, the ultimate Perfection?

This past week’s Torah portion was Re’eh.  One aliyah is devoted to the laws of Kashrut; specifically: the signs that differentiate kosher from non-kosher animals, including cattle and wild animals, birds and fish.

Our classical commentaries have struggled to understand the significance of the criteria the Torah sets forth: Why do cattle have to possess split hooves and chew their cud? Why do fish need fins and scales?

A unique approach to the question of kosher fish appears in the works of the late great Lubavitcherfscales Rebbe:  Back in 1941, the Rebbe explained:

As the armor that protects the body of the fish, scales represent the quality of integrity, which protects us from the many pitfalls that life presents. A man of integrity will not deceive his customers, in spite of the financial profits involved. He will not lie to a friend, despite the short-term gain from doing so. He will not cheat on his wife, in the face of tremendous temptation. Integrity means that one has absolute standards of right and wrong and is committed to a morality that transcends one’s moods and desires. Integrity preserves our souls from temptation. Fins, the wing-like organs that propel fish forward, represent ambition. A healthy sense of ambition, knowing one’s strengths and wanting to utilize them in full, gives a person the impetus to traverse the turbulent sea of life and to maximize his or her G d-given potential. It propels us to fulfill our dreams and leave our unique imprint on the world.

Rabbi Yosef Jacobson cites the Talmudic principle that all fish that have fins also have scales.  But the reverse is not the case:

Symbolically, this means that a human being who possesses ambition but lacks integrity is “unkosher.” Such a person may be full of confidence, driven to make an impact on society. Yet educating ambitious and confident children does not guarantee their moral health.

As we strive for perfection in our professional and personal lives, as we exercise those fins that propel us forward, we cannot run roughshod over those values and behaviors that preserve our integrity. 

This message is a meaningful approach to the new year.

The tension between integrity and ambition is quite evident in baseball. One theme that came out in the wake of Felix’s perfect game was his personal integrity and commitment to be a team player and a leader:

"Felix knows the game and he respects the game," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. "He's our leader. To get 27 outs like that, you need a little bit of luck. But he also has the intangibles that separate him from the rest. That's the kind of teammate he is."

This stands in sharp contrast to another Major league player.  Ironically, on the exact same day as Felix pitched his perfect game -  August 15 – Giant’s outfielder Melky Cabrera was suspended 50 games without pay after testing positive for high levels of testosterone, suggesting usage of performance-enhancing drugs. cabreraHe admitted using a banned substance and accepted the suspension.  One of Cabrera's associates purchased a website for $10,000 and faked its contents in a way that would have allowed Cabrera to challenge his suspension by claiming that the positive test was caused by a substance sold through the website. However league officials and federal investigators used forensics to trace that website back to Cabrera.  (Wikpedia).

Cabrera’s suspension is predicted to seriously harm the Giants as the playoffs approach.

Using the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s framework, Felix Hernandez could be seen as someone whose scales are in place; he has a team-centered focus that serves as a springboard for his “fins” to thrust him forward.  Melky Cabrera is preoccupied with his own success, with a focus on “fins” over “scales”….

(I couldn't resist):

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17
Aug
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The IDF Rabbinate....Wants You !

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The IDF Rabbinate Wants You!

idflogoMy good friend, Lt. Col. Rabbi Yedidya Atlas has once again contacted me regarding the needs of IDF soldiers over the upcoming holidays of Rosh Hashana through Sukot.  Here is an excerpt from his letter:

 .... Approximately 40,000 soldiers and officers are scheduled to participate in “Operation Slichot” this year. Among other items, the IDF Rabbinate has leased three locations with multiple lecture halls and rooms in Jerusalem for the pre-Slichot discussions and lectures following the walking tours of the Holy City’s old neighborhoods. 35,000 copies of the special user-friendly Slichot book ….with easy explanations of the T’filot, clear instructions and translations of difficult words and their meanings to clarify context etc. have been printed ....the soldiers and officers walk through the Old City...and end up at the Kotel at 12:30-1:00 AM to join the multitude of their fellow Jews who come every night to recite Slichot. As part of the on-going activities of the IDF Rabbinate to strengthen the IDF soldier’s Jewish awareness and identity and to strengthen the Jewish fighting spirit, “Operation Slichot”, which began 4 years ago with 10,000 participants and last year nearly 30,000 came, and this year there is another increase of some 30%

…..the production and outfitting of another score of Field Beit Knesset kits and Field Aronot Kodesh  for combat companies in the field.. preparing for the upcoming Chagim from new Shofarot to expanded Sukkot; educational projects such as publishing the newly completed and especially written (but as yet unprinted due to lack of funds) book on Jewish family values for married couples where one or both of the spouses serves as an officer or non-commissioned officer in the IDF regular forces.... And third and last, but certainly not least, the on-going Chesed projects, which while concentrate  around Chagim also solve problems of individual soldiers throughout the year. Such cases are the result of the requisite officers dealing with welfare issues in their respective units asking for special assistance for specific cases who cannot get either sufficient or fast enough help through the normal framework in the Ministry of Defense. 

I will take donations from now until Rosh Hashanah for the needs of IDF soldiers—both spiritual and physical.  Last year, we as a Kehilla donated $2000 and provided 3 sukkot for IDF soldiers. Can we rise to the challenge again this year? Any checks should be made out to the EB Discretionary Fund.
On behalf of Lt. Col. Atlas, I thank you!  -
Rabbi Meyers

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17
Aug
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Dr. Levine's Efforts

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waWhile I was in Israel, I was contacted by Dr. David Levine.  He is a Seattlelite who has been working selflessly in West Africa for some years now. His request? A young mother of three needs heart surgery and he is collecting money to make that a reality.  I responded by sending a contribution from my discretionary fund; the sages teach us that we should give Tzedaka to members of the broader world community alongside our own community's needy people.  To the left is a picture of the young mother, Aram with her kids.  Anyone wishing to learn more about David Levine's work should feel free to write him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  His website is www.westafricamedicine.org 

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12
Aug
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Updates from Israel

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09
Aug
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JT NEWS Story on EB's new Live Online Learning Program

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See this link for a great article by Olivia Rosen about our new Live Online Learning Program for kids and adults!

www.jtnews.net_downloads_jtnews_081012_web.pdf

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07
Aug
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Letter to Sikh Community

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lettertosikhcommunity


Our Congregation has just sent the above letter, on congregational letterhead, to the local Sikh community in response to the Sunday massacre in Wisconsin.

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