Friday, August 29, 2014

Shabbat-O-Gram for Aug 29: P-rage against the dying of the light! Labor Day, Arthur White, Israel and Iceland

This Labor Day weekend we celebrate the end of a glorious summer (weather-wise) by holding services outdoors, camp-style, both Friday night and Shabbat morning.  On Friday we’ll be at that spot just outside the sanctuary windows – well lit, as the service will just about at sunset.  But as it gets darer and darker, signaling the end of summer, we’ll paraphrase the classic Dylan Thomas poem as we (p)rage against the dying of the light – inasmuch as prayer can be a passionate - if not exactly raging – affirmation of life). And on Shabbat morning we’ll shift to our shaded location just across from the Mitzvah Garden (which looks more like an enchanted Mitzvah Forest right now!).  Dress is casual.  If you are around, join us for both!  We’ll have enough shade if it gets warm – and the service will be quick.  For the Torah discussion tomorrow, I’ll be focusing on the laws of warfare, following a tumultuous summer and in the hopes that Israel and her neighbors will now see a period of prolonged quiet.  And BTW, morning minyan Sunday AND Monday will be at 9.

·         I would be remiss if I were not to comment on the passing of Arthur White, whose funeral will take place here Sunday at 11.  Arthur too raged against the dying of the light.  He never gave in to notions of decline or death and in fact, at the age of 90, (a very young 90) was at his desk working to repair the world right up until he took ill last week.  He was a leader and inspiration for all of us, and countless lives were changed for the better because of his efforts. His life was epic, and his Wikipedia page only begins to describe the impact he had.  We will miss him.  I will miss him.

·         During Elul and the High Holidays, we seek inspiration from all those who have departed.  A new way we can do that this year is to contribute a blurb about your loved one to our Book of Remembrance.  Just a paragraph – a few lines to tell us what that person we’ll be recalling on Yom Kippur meant to you and to others.  I’ll make it easy for you: just click “reply” and send it to me.  Take a few minutes over the weekend.  In order to be included in our Book of Remembrance, we need to get these in by September 10!

·         We also seek inspiration from those who still walk this earth.  Lisa Gittelman Udi and I are planning another exciting series of “This American Jewish Life” speakers for our Friday night and Shabbat morning services. This is where congregants share their stories, focusing on key challenges and traumas, crossroad decisions or acts of kindness and love have impacted our spiritual growth.  We’ve had some incredible ones thus far.  Please let me or Lisa know if you would like to share your personal journey with us this year.

·         Speaking of journeys, our Israel trip, as you know, was postponed to next summer.   Not wanting to waste a single minute, we already have booked hotels and have put together a preliminary itinerary.  You can download it here.  A number of those who had been planning to go with us this summer have already indicated a desire to come with us next summer.  We have room for others.  Please give it some serious thought and let me know if you are interested.  I know people plan summers well in advance because camp and vacation commitments need to be made.  My feeling is that the horrific experiences of this summer will make it far more likely that next summer will be peaceful.  In any event, Israel tourism took a hit because of the conflict, and this is the time to make those plans to visit our extraordinary, precious homeland.  Please give it consideration.

·         I’ve been getting some nice feedback to the Judaism’s Top 40 series that I began this week, with the goal of increasing Jewish literacy and connecting us to key concepts and values during this month of soul searching.  Follow the countdown each day when you see it pop up in your email.

·         Finally, next week we’ll be welcoming Cantor Magda Fishman and her family to our community.  I’ve been speaking to her this week, and she is thrilled to be here and can’t wait to begin.  Next Friday we’ll be welcoming them with a special reception at the conclusion of her first service.  We also will celebrate not one but TWO b’nai mitzvah next Shabbat.  I hope you can join us.

And last but not least, I spoke at our Shabbat Experience last week (amazing service – 200 plus people – thank you Beth Styles!) about my visit to Iceland, an island that is constantly churning, bubbling smoldering, creating and destroying, expanding, ever alive and always raging against the night.  And the people aren’t so bad either.  We left just as the Bardabunga volcano was set to erupt.  There were literally thousands of earthquakes while we were there.  We touched the ash that left millions of Europeans stranded in 2010.  We saw the biggest waterfall in Europe, some of the grandest glaciers (yes, shrinking), and actually could see the fissure where the European and North American tectonic plates meet – or, I should say, met, because they are slowly drifting apart.  The entire country is heated by the hot springs that are everywhere – we swam in the legendary Blue Lagoon (sorry, no photos of me), which was like jumping into a soothing hot bath.

And we descended 120 meters into a dormant volcano.  They say it’s the only place on earth where you can do that.  You can see the experience in detail in this video (not mine, but the same volcano) and about 17 minutes into this BBC documentary.  I can’t even begin to describe what it was like being inside the volcano – and being in Iceland.  Ah yes, if I couldn’t be in Israel, why not go to a place that’s about to blow up!

Since pictures are worth lots more than words, below are a few that I took of Iceland’s ancient, churning terrain.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Labor Day.

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

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