Friday, February 10, 2012

Shabbat-O-Gram for Feb. 10, 2012

This Shabbat-O-Gram is sponsored by Michael and Ilene Koester
in honor of Jacob becoming Bar Mitzvah this Shabbat morning.

Shabbat Shalom!

Mazal tov to Jacob Koester and family as he becomes Bar Mitzvah this Shabbat.  The Koesters joined me on my most recent Israel trip - which reminds me that now is the time to sign up for this summer's TBE Israel Adventure.  See the information and interactive itinerary here - and check out this lovely time- lapse video of Israel here.

Mazal tov also to our 3rd graders, who will be receiving their siddurim at Shabbat morning's Family Service.

Meanwhile, join us tonight @ 7:30, for an update on the current situation in Israel from AIPAC's Southern Connecticut director, Elana Lichtenstein.  She will address us at the conclusion of our Friday night service.

A Dangerous Neighborhood

Iran, Syria, Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Gaza... People used to say that Israel lives in a dangerous neighborhood and aside from the peaceful boundary with Jordan (and the relative lull in terror from the territories), that remains true.

But the 'hood is changing dramatically.  Imagine living on a street where not only do most of the neighbors not like you, but the shouting and screaming going on inside each of their houses is keeping you up all night.  Some of the families have completely broken up.  A few no-good spouses have been given the boot from some homes and in others the parents are turning on their own children.  Meanwhile, down the street, the neighborhood bully is threatening to set your house on fire, as soon as he can procure a can of kerosene.

Once the families in the neighborhood complete their transitioning, the place will be very different; the upside potential is great.   But right now, there's no doubt that the dangers are even greater, and the ability of Israelis, Americans and other world leaders to navigate through this pivotal period will be vital.

These next few months will change history.  That's why I am going to the AIPAC Policy Conference, March 4-6.  I want to learn about this historic moment from the people who are forging it.  I also want to better weigh options as they are weighing them, by hearing from the experts who are studying this swiftly changing scene.   Mara will be joining me and other TBE members,  along with Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Netanyahu, many Congressional leaders and most likely every significant Presidential candidate. I'd love to see you there too.  Sign up for AIPAC here and come hear Elana Lichtenstein tonight. 

March to Passover

And speaking of signing up, sign up for ConTEXT, a month-long exploration of Passovers past and present that we are piloting with the Jewish Theological Seminary.  We're calling it our "March to Passover."  Each of the four classes will focus on how Passover developed at a different point in history, employing JTS's signature approach to teaching, one that bridges the gap between contemporary scholarship and the quest for personal meaning.  The classes, taught by top-notch professors, journey will take us from the biblical Passover to the Seder of rabbinic times.  We'll view the holiday through the prism of Jewish-Christian relations and then, in the fourth session, taught by Dr. Ellen Umansky of Fairfield U, we'll learn how it has been re-imagined in contemporary America.

Our March to Passover will culminate on March 29 with a community Interfaith Seder, co-sponsored by the Interfaith Council of Southwestern CT.  Together with our neighbors of different faiths, we'll sit down and discuss the impact of the Exodus story and Seder ritual on all our lives.  This Seder is an outgrowth of the highly successful Comparative Religions class taught earlier this year by the cantor and myself.  The Seder will be open to the entire community.   See all the info here and sign up for ConTEXT .

Finally, last week's Temple Rock fundraiser was a smash success.  Thanks to all who worked so hard to make it happen.  Check out the photos on our TBE Facebook page  (and while you are there, like us!)
This week's portion of Yitro features that climactic moment at Sinai where the Ten Commandments were given.  As we explore deeper, personal meanings from that seminal event, let's reflect on this poem by Yehuda Amichai, translated by Amichai Lau-Lavie:

My father was god, but he didn't know it.
He gave me the Ten Commandments, not with thunder or fury, fire or clouds,
but softly, with love, caresses, kind words.
He added 'please, please' and sang the words 'keep and remember the Sabbath day' and cried quietly: 'don't bear false witness, don't lie'. He'd cry, and hug me. 'Don't steal, don't lust, don't kill'.
He'd put his hands on my head like the Yom Kippur blessing. "respect' he's say 'love and live long upon this earth'.
His voice was as white as the hair on his head.
The he turned his face to me, like that last day, when died in my arms, and said: "I want to add two more commandments to the ten. The eleventh: never change. The twelfth: change, change."
So spoke my father and walked away into his strange distances. 

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