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Three days ago, amidst a group of students, a young woman entered Shul and within a short time remarked “you are the first Jew I have ever met.”  It was intimidating to hear such a comment; I felt a tremendous weight upon my shoulders.  I wondered about the ramifications yet to be if I failed to convey adequately the significance of Judaism and Jewish life.  I explained the Yahrzeit plaques and our act of remembering people whom we may no longer know, the Eternal Flame demonstrating the power of one small flicker to illumine a large dark expanse and invited them up to the Bima to see the Torah; pointing out that Judaism does not need  rabbis- only teenagers of 13+  because all children and adults bear the power to instruct and lead a community.  While pointing out that Judaism is not evangelistic and Jews view Tikkun Olam (repairing the whole world) as essential, I noticed her glancing at her smartphone.  My heart felt heavy- had I already lost her attention?

    

They departed and as I escorted Don Berry, a long -time friend of ours who had arranged a field trip of college students from University of Mobile, to the front door, I mentioned my fear that I had not made a difference. He consoled me by telling me that he, too, felt the same disinterest within his college students.   As the rest of Don’s students exited the building, one young man who had appeared engaged and interested, extended his hand and thanked me.  Perhaps there remains hope. 

    

This week we begin to read the third volume of Torah.  Known by its foreign name Leviticus which sounds weird and off-putting, it is also called by its Hebrew name Vayikra which means ‘and he called out’.  It is a gentle word and indicates that God initiated a conversation by calling out to Moses.  Admittedly, the animal offerings described herein are more than off-putting and the act of ritual slaughter as worship is bizarre as much as it appears cruel.  But, instead of critiquing the system of offerings I notice that 6 different categories of offerings are utilized within a greater context; the context of allowing for mistakes and the need to apologize.  Six different attempts at apologizing exist to symbolize that your method of seeking forgiveness may be different than mine and his may be different than hers.

     

Our third book of Torah is two years away from the Exodus and opens at the base of Sinai, to a newly-freed people and instructs them in the importance of seeking and granting apologies appropriate to the varying situations of daily life.  It’s an optimistic and powerful spiritual message.  It is a message whose core is one of hope and of making an impact upon others.  I like to think I made a difference in the learning of this young woman.  I hope so just as I hope that each of us makes a difference in the lives we all touch.  If not by lecturing and explaining then at least by apologizing and forgiving.

Shabbat Shalom


We all shared a beautiful Shabbas evening this past week. With gratitude to our donor, Freida Maisel, and the women who prepared the meal (Ginny, Kathy, Audrey and Jani) and Yvonne & Richard for their help, I write this email. The prayers held a special festive air, thanks to Yehudah Silverwolf for leading the Guitar service and Danielle & Josh Isen for sharing their beautiful voices and love of song. A guitar service followed by a delicious meal with beautiful flowers on the tables and many people mixing, socializing and introducing themselves to newcomers; what could be better? It reminded all who attended how we can be moved spiritually by taking part in a communal event.  And to all who have planned an event it spoke to the need to address many details with attention, preparation, focus and diligence.

Now ask yourself how you would have felt if;

there had been no flowers on the tables?

no Challah or wine on the tables?

insufficient chairs were set up?

food was cold?

lights had failed?

song sheets were crumpled?

20 people had come to Shul instead of 100?

    

It would have been a disappointment instead of a lovely and memorable event. The beauty of the evening emerged from the work and prep by many people known to us as well as by people who worked behind the scenes. That so many joined us elevated the excitement level in the Sanctuary and Social Hall.  Being there made it special!

     

This week we read of the first construction project mounted by the Jewish People.  The Parshah describes everyone in the community as showing up, each with her or his own ability, including weaving, painting, dying, hanging, fabricating, sewing, designing, organizing and more.  The anticipation of the Tabernacle’s being completed soon must have nearly equaled the excitement we felt in our Social Hall last week.  God’s own portable dwelling only came into being because every individual brought something of his/her own making.  For our dinner to be memorable some volunteers cooked, others shopped, others cleaned, set tables and many just showed up.  The giving of the self as well as attending the gathering adds spiritual energy to the group, and in our case, contributed to the worship.  It's striking that each of us has much to offer the community, that one individual can lift up a group.  May we continue to build our community as prior generations have done and may we take to heart the seriousness of just showing up.


Shabbat Shalom.


P.S. Most haftarahs highlight a theme, large or small, in the week's Parshah. Occasionally, a Haftarah brings to mind some other element. This week we read a special Haftarah named 'Shekalim' (shekels) which describes the requirement that every adult male bring a half-shekel to the Temple in order that Temple preparations could be made in time for Passover. These preparations included Temple repair, buying animals, road repairs near the Temple, buying new utensils for the Temple and prep for feeding poor Israelites. Consider the Haftarah being read throughout the entire Jewish world and its similarity to our communal Shabbas dinner.

Feb. 2 - Parshat Mishpatim –

pp. 475 - 480

While Israel is at Sinai, God is described

as sending forth an angel of great

protective power to escort Israel as it

begins to depart. What is the nature of this

angel and its role? Does this surprise you?

Haftarat Mishpatim –

pp. 482 – 484

The Parshah speaks of freedom, but

Jeremiah in the Haftarah witnesses very

painful treatment by the Jews of his own

time. Jeremiah lives about 700 years after

Moses. What does Jeremiah experience? 


Feb. 9 - Parshat Terumah –

pp. 495 – 498

What are cherubim? Why are they

mentioned in 3 different places in the same

Torah reading (p.488 v.18, p.491 v.1,

p.495 v.31)?

Haftarat Terumah –

pp. 500 – 502

The Haftarah describes the building of the

Temple, while the Parshah describes the

Tabernacle. How is Solomon’s work

different from Moses’s?


Feb. 16 - Parshat Tetzaveh –

pp. 513 – 518

The incense altar is described as being

MOST HOLY (verse 30:10), but the animal

altar in the prior reading is not ( p. 497,

verse 27:8). Why?

Haftarat Tetzaveh –

pp. 520 - 522

The Haftarah is a speech by Ezekiel

describing dimensions of an altar and

resembles the parshah. Ezekiel introduces

one small, but distinct, element (p. 520,

verse 43:11). How is Ezekiel’s worldview

different from that of Torah?


Feb. 23 - Parshat Ki Tissa –

pp. 538 - 546 

Famously, after the Golden Calf, Moses

asks to see God’s face before continuing

to escort Israel through the wilderness.

Why didn’t Moses ask to see God’s face

before during the exceptionally demanding

Exodus from Egypt?

Haftarat Ki Tissa –

pp. 548 – 551

Did you know that we Jews once had a

King named Ahab? He was very cruel and

he threatened Elijah. A famous face-off

takes place in this Haftarah. Elijah is nearly

destroyed, but saved miraculously. The

last verse leaves the intriguing Haftarah

and enters the Yom Kippur prayer service.