Friday, February 6, 2015


Mazal tov to Emily Marrinan and her family, as Emily becomes Bat Mitzvah this Shabbat afternoon and our thanks for sponsoring this weekend’s Shabbat announcements and Shabbat-O-Gram.


While we find ourselves in the midst of a ridiculous string of snowstorms, we can be grateful at least that major events have not been affected.  Last weekend we came together for events both joyous and sad.  On a bone-chilling Friday night we joined together for services downtown.  Saturday night’s Temple Rock was incredible fun

Saturday night’s Temple Rock was incredible fun -see our online album here.  You can also see our Tu B’Shevat album here, featuring last week’s seder for the younger grades and our Thursday “Top Chef” competition for our older grades (see photos above and below).  Oh yes, and there was that football game on Sunday night.  My prediction, alas, was incorrect.  I had the Patriots winning by 3, and as we all know, they won by 4.


This week’s Torah portion is Yitro, which includes the Ten Commandments.  See this source material comparing our “Big Ten” to similar colelctions from other world religions.  You’ll find many similarities, a needed reminder that no moral code - and no religious group - exists in isolation.

Judaism: Shaken and Stirred

In the midst of all the joy and fun of last weekend, on Sunday we had two funerals in our sanctuary and an additional one in our cemetery.  Many, many turned out to honor Penny Horowitz, a woman loved and admired by our whole community.  Among Penny’s pet causes here at TBE were two events that ironically are occurring this weekend.  One is our Scholar in Residence program, which she and Michael created here many years ago as an ongoing, annual event.  This year’s guest is Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin, a noted author and speaker, who promises to shake and stir us with his brand of “Martini Judaism.”  Read this interview with Salkin in this week’s Jewish Ledger. 

His Friday night topic (service begins at 7) is “Israel without Apology.”  Given the great concern so many of us have about Israel, along with the ambivalence many feel, I am hoping that this lecture will lead to some honest, constructive conversation.  Here’s what Salkin says in the Ledger interview:

There are three steps to effective Israel advocacy, according to Salkin. “First of all, people have to know the facts - the history of the Arab-Israel dispute, the origins of the Palestinian issue, and what Zionism means and has always meant,” he says. “Second, we need a communication strategy. It doesn’t work to simply fire back our perceptions and our truths; we need to engage others who might not agree with us on everything, but who might, nevertheless, be partners in dialogue. Finally, we need to defend Israel unequivocally.”

On Shabbat morning, Rabbi Salkin will speak on, “What They Never Taught Us in Religious School.” What are Judaism’s most controversial teachings and why don’t we talk about them more?  And after our sit-down Kiddush lunch, he’ll speak on “The Gods Are Broken” - The legend of Abraham breaking his father’s idols is Judaism’s most famous (non-biblical) story. Do Jews still have the courage to break contemporary idols?

I mentioned that this weekend there would be two programs near and dear to Penny.  For many years, she handled bar mitzvah related matters at our gift shop, including invitations and the sale of tallises.  Every year, our seventh graders learn all the ins and outs of tallit and tefillin - and they get to try them on.  We call it the “World Wide Wrap.”  Bar Mitzvah class Parents and students will wrapping this Sunday morning (we're inviting 5th and 6th grades too) and then Rabbi Salkin will speak on “Putting God on the Guest List: How to Reclaim the Spiritual Meaning of Your Child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah.”  Our men’s club is providing breakfast.

So it promises to be a great weekend for everyone, and one where we will be able to honor the memory of Penny Horowitz by promoting the living, vibrant Judaism she was so instrumental in perpetuating here at TBE.  See the full scholar in residence schedule here.

Jews and Marijuana

Next Tuesday night at 7:30 I’ll be exploring what Judaism has to say about the ongoing debate on the legalization of marijuana.  Just to give you a little sampling, check out this article on the biblical roots of this topic.  Our “Hot Topics for Cold Months” series will continue with a conversation about Israel and Democracy on the eve of their elections, on Feb. 25.

I hope you'll be able to dodge the snowflakes and spend some time with us over the weekend.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

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