Tuesday, November 25, 2014
An early Shabbat Shalom
As we brave our way through the storm for our Thanksgiving destination, you can get some inspiration from Sara Gatz's bat mitzvah speech last Shabbat - her topic was travel. You also be inspired by Josh Pickel's remarks on acting earlier in the day. This Friday night we are welcoming and naming Sydney Gella Friedman daughter of Matt and Diana Friedman and granddaughter of Susan and Bob Friedman. Mazal tov to the Friedmans!
Last week's Ugandan Jewry themed service was fantastic in all respects. Special thanks to Julie Trell, daughter of Gail and Steve Trell, who provided - and took - the stunning photos of the Abayudayan community. See this video tour of the community's first synagogue, also done by Julie.
An Attitude of Gratitude: Shabbat Hodu
On Thursday, we'll set at our tables and pat our tummies, looking around at all our loved ones, and echoing Rabbi ben Zoma, who said, two thousand years ago, "Who is wealthy? The one who is happy with what she has."
And then on Friday we shop 'til we drop.
Yes, there's nothing wrong with shopping, giving gifts and wanting more for ourselves. But Thanksgiving weekend demands that we cultivate an attitude of gratitude, not just a gumption for consumption. This Friday night we'll be doing just that at our 7:30 service, which we are calling "Shabbat Hodu" (Hodu being the Hebrew for "thank you" as well as "turkey." Go figure.
Join us and if you have any out of town guests for the weekend, this is the perfect time to show them what all the excitement surrounding our Kabbalat Shabbat services is about!
This service packet could also be very helpful at your Thanksgiving dinners. You'll find passages, prayers and quotations. You might consider placing quotes about thankfulness on cards at each place around the table. At our service, we'll be singing an alternative prayer for food, found in the Talmud, called Brich Rachamana. You can read the interesting back story and hear it chanted here.
The Pope's 10 Tips for a Happier Life
In a recent interview with an Argentine publication, Pope Francis released ten tips for a happier life. I thought they were perfect for all of us as we head into a holiday weekend dedicated to preserving the precious balance between "satisfied with what I have" and "striving for more." I've added my annotations in italics.
1. "Live and let live." Everyone should be guided by this principle, he said, which has a similar expression in Rome with the saying, "Move forward and let others do the same."
"LIVE AND LET LIVE" IS NOT REALLY A JEWISH VALUE, ACTUALLY - WE ARE OUR BROTHERS' KEEPERS, AND WHAT HAPPENS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF A FENCE, OT THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD, IS STILL OUR BUSINESS.
2. "Be giving of yourself to others." People need to be open and generous toward others, he said, because "if you withdraw into yourself, you run the risk of becoming egocentric. And stagnant water becomes putrid."
NO ARGUMENT HERE!
3. "Proceed calmly" in life. The pope, who used to teach high school literature, used an image from an Argentine novel by Ricardo Guiraldes, in which the protagonist - gaucho Don Segundo Sombra - looks back on how he lived his life.
SEE THIS PACKET ON THE JEWISH VALUE OF TRANQILLITY. "A person who has mastered peace of mind has gained everything." (Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv, the Alter of Kelm)
4. A healthy sense of leisure. The Pope said "consumerism has brought us anxiety", and told parents to set aside time to play with their children and turn of the TV when they sit down to eat.
5. Sundays should be holidays. Workers should have Sundays off because "Sunday is for family," he said. WE CALL IT SHABBAT - SAME DIFFERENCE
6. Find innovative ways to create dignified jobs for young people. "We need to be creative with young people. If they have no opportunities they will get into drugs" and be more vulnerable to suicide, he said.
WE'RE THE ONES WHO DREW THE CONNECTION BETWEEN WORK AND WORSHIP, UNDERSTANDING THAT LIFE IS DIGNIFIED THROUGH HONEST WORK
7. Respect and take care of nature. Environmental degradation "is one of the biggest challenges we have," he said. "I think a question that we're not asking ourselves is: 'Isn't humanity committing suicide with this indiscriminate and tyrannical use of nature?'"
8. Stop being negative. "Needing to talk badly about others indicates low self-esteem. That means, 'I feel so low that instead of picking myself up I have to cut others down,'" the Pope said. "Letting go of negative things quickly is healthy." THE POWER OF JEWISH POSITIVE THINKING
9. Don't proselytize; respect others' beliefs. "We can inspire others through witness so that one grows together in communicating. But the worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyses: 'I am talking with you in order to persuade you,' No. Each person dialogues, starting with his and her own identity. The church grows by attraction, not proselytizing," the Pope said.
I GUESS TORQUEMADA DIDN'T GET THE MEMO. NICE CHANGE FOR THE CHURCH
10. Work for peace. "We are living in a time of many wars," he said, and "the call for peace must be shouted. Peace sometimes gives the impression of being quiet, but it is never quiet, peace is always proactive" and dynamic.
COULDN'T AGREE MORE
Share these around your Thanksgiving table and see how many you agree with - and how many we can resolve to integrate into our lives over the coming weeks.
Happy Thanksgiving, Shabbat Shalom and Safe Travels!
Don't forget that our morning services are at 9 AM on Thurs, Fri. and Sunday, 9:30 on Shabbat.
Rabbi Joshua Hammerman
As many of you know, travel is one of my favorite things. From the moment I could walk, I loved to travel. Actually, even before I could walk, I’ve been told that, instead of crawling, I used to scoot across the floor on my butt.
I’ve have been to lots of places, like Italy, France and California. So I was thrilled when I found out that not only does my portion talk about Jacob’s travels, but the actual name of the portion, “Vayetze,” means “he went out.”
How much do I love to travel? Well, I have this interesting custom: Everywhere I go, I take a picture of my feet. I started doing it about three years, when we went to Washington DC. I have a photo of my feet in front of the White House. At this point, I have about fifty photos of my feet in some of the world’s most exotic locations. I can’t wait for my class to go to Israel, so I can photograph my feet in front of the Kotel.
It’s interesting to note that the Hebrew word for a pilgrimage is “regel,” רגל which also means foot. The three pilgrimage festivals, Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot, are called sh’losha regelim literally is the three feet.
That tells us that there is something spiritual about travel, especially when you are travelling to a holy place at a special time.
My portion tells us that too.
Jacob wakes up from his dream and says “G-d was in this place, and I- I didn’t know.” He’s so overwhelmed that he said the word “I” twice.
He was not in any special place, just a clearing with a bunch of rocks that he put under his head. But that is the place where he dreamed about a ladder to heaven and where God promised to protect him on his journey.
This verse teaches us that everyplace we go is special. The important thing is that we need to appreciate its greatness.
At this time of year, the week of Thanksgiving, we make a different kind of pilgrimage, one that we do, fittingly to honor the people we call the pilgrims. For many, that journey is a trip back home, or to any place where our family and friends are gatherings. For my family, Thanksgiving has always been the time when we would make a pilgrimage to California – we’ve done it every year except for two: Rebecca’s bat mitzvah year was the first. The second is mine.
Sometimes what’s most special about traveling is that it helps us appreciate what’s special about home.
Jacobs dream also teaches us that what’s most important about pilgrimage is not just about the destination but the steps along the way. Each rung on that ladder to heaven was as important as making it to the top or bottom.
That’s why photos are so important. They can help us appreciate where we’ve been – each step along the way. Now there are some people who just can’t stop taking pictures and it can get annoying at times. But when we look back, we always appreciate them!
It’s interesting that one of Gods’ names is makom which also means place. So Jacob was right. God is in this place, but we usually don’t realize it. Every place we go is connected to God.
For mitzvah project, I’m going to be working with special needs children at Friendship Circle. I’ve already completed the training process. I chose this project because I am inspired by my cousin Tyler, who is here today. I can tell you that whoever I end up working with, when we get together, God will be in that place – and I will know it.
Many of you know that I’ve done a lot of acting. For instance, I was in a couple of episodes of “Law and Order,” also in “Royal Pains,” and did a voice over for a commercial for Heinz ketchup that was shown during the Little League World Series.
I liked doing it – A LOT – but acting is not as glamorous as it’s cracked up to be. It can be really EXHAUSTING work, especially for my mom who has to SCHLEP me to all of my auditions and calls to the set.
I was happy to hear that my portion contains one of the greatest acting roles in the entire Torah. Jacob plays none other than his brother Esau in a high stakes game to convince his father, Isaac, that he is the one who should get the blessing and NOT his brother.
It’s also funny that even from when I was really young, I always wanted to become bar mitzvah on a week when we read about Jacob.
Jacob is arguably the GREATEST actor in Jewish history. His name even means DECEIVER. And, later on, he gains a new stage name as he enters the stage of history, “Israel.” What becomes clear about Jacob is, that through his acting, his true self emerges. Even as he pretends to be his brother, he learns a lot about himself and the power he has to change things.
So in the commercial when I said, “Heinz, proud sponsor of Little League,” I helped people to draw a connection between America’s national pastime and a company that makes ketchup.
Does that make the world a better place? Probably not, BUT, it helps me to know that the words I speak CAN change things. Other actors can make people laugh and cry. For now, I know I can make them like ketchup.
Becoming a bar mitzvah is very similar. I recite words on a stage that make people cry – ESPECIALLY my parents. I have to memorize lines and work on how to present them. And when all is said and done, I CAN make a difference.
In this case, though, I’m not pretending to be someone else. I’m showing people who I REALLY am. I’m doing something I love and showing all of you the role I want to play in the Jewish community. This is one of the most important roles I’ll ever play.
So here’s another role that I once played, for a theater at camp: Peter Pan. I think it’s safe to say that Peter Pan never became a bar mitzvah. He NEVER wanted to grow up. AND, I must confess that there’s a little Peter Pan in me. But by taking on this new role as a bar mitzvah, I recognize that I HAVE to grow up. Still, I hope I can combine the two roles in some way. I never want to lose the playfulness of Peter……but at the same time, I need to gain the sense of responsibility of a Jewish adult.
Which brings me to my mitzvah project. Some of you already know that I’ve been selling chocolate and raising money for UNICEF in order to pay for the cost of one of car to carry supplies for children in need. I need to sell 1,500 candy bars to reach the $3,000 goal. I’m well on my way – BUT… if you have a sweet tooth and want to buy some, email me after Shabbat!