Saturday, July 4, 2015

Top 10: When July 4 and Shabbat coincide

Top 10: When July 4 and Shabbat coincide

JULY 3, 2015, 8:05 PM 
This year, Independence Day coincides with Shabbat. I’ve done some research to see what Jewish practices are in order, and came across a little known rabbinic source related to “Ethics of the Fathers,” called “Ethics of the Uncles.” There I found the following, attributed to “Dod Sh’muel,” or “Sam, the Uncle.”
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1) We begin the Shabbat with not 2, but 3 candles. The third is to be lit by remote control from a safe vantage point at least 100 feet away.
2) At the Sabbath meal, 2 hallot are served, each with apple pie filling.
3) Cookouts are allowed, as long as the charcoals are lit before sunset and the food is prepared beforehand. In other words, cookouts are not allowed.
4) It is customary to sing Adon Olam to the tune of “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
5) When reciting the Amida, instead of facing Jerusalem, we face Washington D.C. Or if Joe Lieberman is in town, we simply face him.
6) When walking around with the Torah, it is customary for the cantor and rabbi to do a do-si-do with the president, singing “Turkey in the Straw.”
7) At the beginning of the Torah reading, the Gabbai (sexton) shouts, “Play Ball” and the reader takes the yad (pointer) and tries to knock a knish out of the park.
8) The popular Shabbat afternoon dish known as cholent, featuring simmering vegetables and chunks of meat, is pureed so that all the items blend together and then simmered in a melting pot.
9) NASCAR runs the “Shabbat 500.” Precisely at sundown, all the drivers get out of their cars and run for the finish line.
10) Finally, for one day of the year, Lubavitch Hasidim replace their furry shtreimels with red and white striped top hats, and then go around to Jews imploring, “We want YOU.”

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Shabbat-O-Gram July 2 A "Fast" Fourth

TBE High School grads honored here last weekend

Shabbat Shalom

Since I indicated that Shabbat-O-Gram would be on summer hiatus, let's call this a Not-O-Gram.

The Fourth of July...a FAST day?    Well, not exactly.  But the fast of the 17th of Tammuz, which falls this year this Saturday, is postponed until Sunday in order to avoid a conflict with Shabbat (the only fast day that can occur on Shabbat is Yom Kippur).  It's a minor fast, with lots of obscure historical reasons for it. The most important thing to know is that it begins the Three Weeks of mourning and reflection that culminate in Tisha B'Av, which commemorates the fall of Jerusalem (twice) and other national disasters.

How sobering, to be celebrating American independence, on the one hand, while simultaneously commemorating the loss, several times, of Jewish national independence.  I guess the prevailing message is that with nationhood comes responsibility. There is a fine line separating the flaming fireworks of celebration and the flames of a burning temple.  The Star Spangled Banner itself was written during a massive British bombing, not a pyrotechnic Pops concert.  So there is reason to be sobered even within our celebrating, and to eat one less hot dog, perhaps, as a means of recalling the 17th of Tammuz.

In the middle of all this stands Shabbat, which is, after all, the only thing that keeps us from having a fast day ON the fourth.  On this Shabbat, with the weather forecast a good one, we are planning to do services BOTH Friday evening and Shabbat morning OUTDOORS. We will park ourselves just across from our mitzvah garden, giving families with kids a chance to wander over to our playground if need be.  If the weather takes an unexpected turn and plans change, we'll send an email out on Friday. 

What better way to celebrate our freedom then by praying together, camp style, at one with nature.  We'll begin on Friday night at our new/old time of 7:30, and on Shabbat morning at 9:30.

And morning minyan (indoors) will be at 9 AM on Friday AND Sunday this week. With so many people away, we definitely can use the help at our minyan!

Shabbat Shalom, Happy Fourth of Jew-ly... and an easy fast!

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

Friday, June 26, 2015

Forgiveness: The Best Revenge (Times of Israel)

Forgiveness: The Best Revenge

JUNE 26, 2015, 8:13 PM 
On a day when the headlines scream of innocents being brutalized throughout the world and of a revered pastor being buried in South Carolina, at the same time we see signs, here in America, at least, that society has become more inclusive and caring. This week’s landmark rulings by the Supreme Court have only intensified that sense, including today’s approving same-sex marriage nationally.
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I attended a local vigil this week for Charleston victims, with people representing several different faiths coming together in shared sadness and love.   Nothing that comes as a result of such madness can ever be called good, but the fact that this tragedy has brought communities closer is one positive that can’t be denied.
I’ve always had trouble with the idea of forgiving someone who does a heinous act, especially when that person is so filled with hate.  Turning the other cheek is not a Jewish thing – we forgive, but not instinctively, and especially when the act is so evil.
Still, a speech at my community’s vigil by Inni Kaur, a representative of the local Sikh community, helped me to understand what this is about, as she reflected on her own faith group’s experiences.
It should be noted that the Sikh community suffered a similar massacre, at a temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin in 2012. Unfortunately, no religious group is immune to such attacks.  Among the most appalling recently was the shooting at the Jerusalem synagogue in late 2014.
Mosques too are often attacked, including today’s massacre in Kuwait.  In many cases, it is Muslims attacking Muslims, just as the Charleston attack involved a Christian attacking Christians.  But whether the attacks are racially, ethnically, religiously or nationalistically motivated, attacks on houses of worship are simply unacceptable in a civilized society. And I also include the so-called Price Tag attacks by Israeli Jews against mosques and churches in Israel and the West Bank, the most recent being the torching of a famous Galilee church (the place where the miracle of the loaves and fishes is said to have occurred) just last weekYou can see the full list of Price Tag attacks here.
The image of people at prayer or study seeing their sanctuary violated, having the pastoral serenity and love of neighbor represented by the prophet Balaam’s vision of the “goodly tents of Jacob” being rendered instantaneously into a garish nightmare, is one that cuts across cultures.
Here is what my Sikh friend said, recalling Oak Creek, and how for the perpetrator there, “Our turbans and brown skins were foreign and threatening.
”“We forgive you,” were the words that resounded in Oak Creek.

“I forgive you,” said the daughter of one of the nine victims that were killed at the Church in Charleston.

But let us not make the mistake that their forgiveness is forgetting. Rather their forgiveness is freedom from hate.
In both cases, these acts were not random and they were not isolated. However, the way the families of the victims and their communities chose to respond, have raised our consciousness.

In Wisconsin, the community rallied together and preached love over hate, and even forgave the perpetrator of the violence.  Similarly, the noble community of Charleston and the Emmanuel AME Church has humbled us with its compassion and its incredible acts of forgiveness.

We marvel at these communities’ generosity and strength because it helps us draw some inspiration from such a tragedy. These communities’ have shown us that: Faith helps endure any hardship, even the most unspeakable suffering. Faith does not mean we forget pain or grief. Faith means that we live free of hate.

These monumental acts of forgiveness compel each and every one of us to work towards ending the racial terror that exists in our country today; to find ways to look beyond the boundaries of race, color, ethnicity and see the Oneness in all.
So forgiving enemies is not about letting them off the hook – it’s about telling them, loud and clear, that they have not succeeded in driving a wedge between groups.  They have not succeeded in forcing us to hate.
The best “revenge” against the Charleston perpetrator (aside from not mentioning his name), is that he must be positively bristling to see how his act effectively accomplished what people had been unable to do for 150 years.  He singlehandedly took the Confederate flag off the grounds of public buildings and off the shelves of Walmart.  Imagine how he must be tortured to know that his act brought people together as never before.  Perhaps the lowering of the stars and bars from state capitols, not just South Carolina, but even Alabama, could be a better deterrent for the next hate crime than any form of punishment.
This crazy young man accomplished in one evening what Martin Luther King could not accomplish in a lifetime, at least with regard to the shunning of this symbol.
The removal, with bipartisan acclamation, of a great symbol of hate, and the Supreme Court’s officially ending discrimination against a long-persecuted group.  Not a bad week for the survivors and descendants ofSelma, Stonewall, Seneca Falls – and Sinai.
For the first time I understand what it means to forgive one’s enemy – and why forgiveness can be the best revenge of all.