Friday, January 23, 2015

The Bread of Deflation - Shabbat-O-Gram

Shabbat Shalom

With wintry weather in the forecast for Shabbat morning, a reminder of our policies.  Shabbat (adult) services are never officially cancelled.  Obviously, we want people to stay safe and use discretion in deciding whether to come.

On the other hand, when we have children’s programming, such as tomorrow, when our Hebrew School is scheduled to meet on Shabbat, that could be cancelled.  In that case, parents will be informed and an announcement will be sent out.  Because we do not send out email announcements on the Shabbat, we will make that call by mid afternoon on Friday.  Because of having to decide the day before, we will typically lean on the side of safety.

Regardless, Tot Shabbat (5:30) and Friday evening services (7 PM) are definitely ON for tonight.  Last week we had over 100 people for our service and the Oneg at my home.  It was wonderful.  Tonight our special musical guest will be David Bravo, long time accompanist for the immortal songstress Debbie Friedman.  Let’s keep things rolling!  And let’s pray for good weather next weekend, with our service downtown on Friday night, followed the next night by Temple Rock.

Mitzvah Opportunity: Used Car Needed

Jewish Family Service seeks a car donation for a client, one who happens to be part of the TBE family. Cars in any condition will be accepted and donations are tax-deductible.   If you have a car to donate, or know someone who does, please contact Rebekah at JFS: (203)921-4161 or 

The Bread of Deflation

As a lifelong New England Patriots fan, this has been a painful week.  I won’t go into all the details of the so called “Deflate-gate,” some of which are widely known and many of which are as yet unknown.    The public has not yet heard from the NFL or Patriot’s owner Bob Kraft.  I’ll be listening especially for Kraft, because the guiding light of his life is his late father Harry, a man who was a tremendous role model for me as well.  He was a true “mensch,” a man of the utmost integrity and moral stature.  And humility.  All the kids at Kehillath Israel looked up to him.  My father, whom Harry helped to hire as cantor, loved and respected him.  Harry Kraft used to work with Bar Mitzvah students and he wrote my Bar Mitzvah speech with me… actually for me – in those days, that’s what they did. 

So I know one thing, that when Bob Kraft weighs in on this, Harry will be looking over his shoulder.   If anyone is responsible for compromising the integrity of the game and the reputation of his team – his family – he won’t let that slide.  But he also knows his quarterback and coach better than just about anyone.  If he is defending them, that will mean a lot too.  In the meantime, my inclination is always “innocent until proven guilty,” but we’ll see how it plays out.

This week’s portion of Bo includes the Torah’s most detailed description of the night of Passover, introducing us to that most deflated of foods, matza.  I’ve written much about matza’s symbolism, but the most important aspect of matza is that it is not allowed to inflate – to ferment – beyond a certain amount.  The stipulations for making matza are even more precise and strict than those for inflating a football.

So why that precision and strictness?  The Chatam Sofer explains that hametz (leaven) is symbolic of the inflation of the ego, and also a metaphor for negativity.  Perhaps this whole “Deflate-gate” controversy also revolves around inflated egos and cynicism, whether on the part of the Patriots, their legion of haters, the league, the media – whose feeding frenzy on this reminds me of some old family seders when the matza balls come out (and I must say, I prefer my matza balls inflated and fluffy rather than dense and pebbly).  All around, this is a story about ego.

One modern commentator delinates Hametz from Matza in this manner:  Chametz is nothing but puffed up matza. But what chametz is actually made out of is nothing less than matza itself! So too there is an idea that the ego is nothing but a corrupt twisted desire that actually has its basis in a drive coming from the soul. For example:

·         The soul wants only to give, to help humanity and fix the world. The ego's perverted version of this noble drive is the desire for power and control, the urge to conquer the world.

·         The soul wants to connect with the Divine. The ego wants to use spirituality to serve its needs (this is the basis for idol worship).

·         The soul wants to connect with other people meaningfully. The ego corrupts this desire into a drive to manipulate and take from people.

By seeing that the ego is often nothing but a corruption of a noble desire we can easily move past it and bring even the ego to serve God.

Some interesting lessons about the need to deflate our egos, to be “Matza Mensches” in all we do. 

Which brings me right back to Harry Kraft.

Shabbat Shalom

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