Friday, May 26, 2017

Shabbat-O-Gram for May 26

See and share our 2016-2017 Highlight Video

Shabbat shalom and Happy Memorial Day / Shavuot!
Mazal tov to the family of Mickey Flaum-Souksamlane, who becomes Bar Mitzvah on Wed., the first day of Shavuot.  Join us for services throughout the holiday weekend and week, beginning with Kabbalat Shabbat this evening at 7:30.  Don't forget that we'll be having Shavuot lunch on both days of the festival, Wed and Thurs, and that on Thurs we read the Book of Ruth and have Yizkor prayers.

A very special Mazal Tov to Karen Lander on her selection by the Jewish Week to their annual, prestigious "36 Under 36" list.  See the feature here.
Attention College Students and High School Seniors
On Friday, June 9, we will be honoring our graduating 12th graders with a special blessing (and a gift) and also awarding our Men's Club Scholarships.  Additionally, I am inviting our TBE college students to return that night, particularly those who have been on Birthright Israel or wish to share campus experiences regarding Israel.  This conversation during our Kabbalat Shabbat service will be invaluable to high schoolers preparing to head to college campuses in the fall.  Any college student or high school senior who can make it that night is asked to RSVP at this Doodle site.  For those 12th graders who can't make it on the 9th, we're setting up an alternate night for us to see you off with a blessing, on June 30.

Mazal tov to all our graduates, from preschool to post grad!!
Aliyah Ceremony for 7th graders

Last night was the Aliyah Ceremony, marking for our 7th graders the end of one important stage of their lifetime of Jewish learning. See the Aliyah Ceremony program, including presentations by each of the graduates.  The class gift was a gorgeous mosaic art piece, reminiscent of ancient synagogue art, depicting traditional Jewish symbols and the names of each graduate.  Each student's contribution is described on page 8 of the program.  The mosaic will hang permanently in the synagogue.    
Memorial Day and Shavuot
One holiday features dairy foods and the other barbecues.  Unless you are into barbecued blintzes, it seems like a mismatch. 

But Shavuot and Memorial Day have more in common than we would think.  For one thing, both celebrate the unofficial beginning of summer.  For another, they are both curiously neglected and rarely are they observed as originally intended. 

In the case of Shavuot, the celebration of the giving of the Torah at Sinai was a later insertion of history into what was essentially an agricultural holiday.  These days, most Jews are unfamiliar with Shavuot altogether, as it gets the least attention of all Jewish festivals (here's a funny, quick primer, "The Idiots Guide to Shavuot").
For more - see my blog posting: "Subversive Shavuot: Our Most Radical Holiday"
Memorial Day, meanwhile was originally a day to remember war dead ("Memorial" Day...get it?), before it became an occasion for car sales, beach trips and barbecues.  Maybe this year we can regain some of the deeper meaning of each festival, now that we'll be celebrating them back-to-back. 
On Memorial Day, and then three days later on the second day of Shavuot, we will recite memorial prayers.  This weekend, I hope that each of us will take a moment to recall those who have made the supreme sacrifice.
For a history of Memorial Day go to the History Channel website and to the official US Memorial Day site. And as I have in prior years on Memorial Day weekend, I share with you the words of Rabbi Roland Gittlesohn in a speech delivered in dedication of the 5th marine Cemetery on Iwo Jima, in March 1945.  Click here for the speech. It has been called one of the great battlefield sermons to come out of World War Two. 

Other Shavuot links:

Our Common Home: 
Shavuot, Ramadan and the Pope

I know how President Trump felt at the Vatican this week.

When I was a kid, the kind of birthday gift I always loathed was the one that my parents got me not because I wanted it, but because they felt I needed it.  While I wanted tickets for the Sox, they gave me socks.

When Pope Francis handed Trump the official papal gift on Wednesday, I could imagine a Christmas-morning anticipating building as the President unwrapped it.  What would it be?  An Electoral College map signed by God?  Instead, Pope Francis gave him a personally signed copy of his own encyclical on climate change, entitled "On Care for Our Common Home."

The timing of this castor-oil gift was especially apt, from a Jewish perspective, because next week's festival of Shavuot is, like many Jewish holidays, agriculturally based and very green.  Hazon, a Jewish environmental organization, suggests "ten ways to make your Shavuot more sustainable," with number ten shockingly suggesting, "Don't do dairy." The organization also provides a farmer's take on how Jewish rituals connect to the cycles of planting, harvest, and eating. In a similar manner, the Religious Action Center implores us on Shavuot to reconnect to the Land and produce, something kibbutzim have been doing on this first fruits festival since the early days of Zionism.

But it's not just Jews who are feeling green this week.  Next Friday begins the month-long Muslim observance of Ramadan, and Muslim environmental groups are looking to make that month-long fast greener, calling Ramadan "a once a year opportunity to tackle global issues like over-consumption, materialism, poverty, hunger, wars" and yes, global warming." Muslims are being challenged to go beyond thinking of Ramadan as a month of abstaining from food and drink for a part of the day and binge eating at night.

The New York Times ran a series last week on how Antarctica is going green, and not in a good way.  While Americans are being distracted by Russia-gate, the world is continuing to melt at a rapid pace.  And while just about every nation in the world has jumped about the Paris climate train, one small group continues to resist, led by one world leader, which is why the Pope decided to gift him a pair of socks.

Given that one of the world's great moral leaders has chosen to spend his precious few minutes of chitchat with the President focusing on this issue above all others, I decided to download the full encyclical and read it.

Some highlights:

"For human beings... to destroy the biological diversity of God's creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth's waters, its land, its air, and its life - these are sins...."
"I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all. The worldwide ecological movement has already made considerable progress and led to the establishment of numerous organizations committed to raising awareness of these challenges. Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity."

In this powerful document, the Pope deftly synthesizes the scientific and the spiritual, connecting our environmental crisis to a plethora of social and economic issues.  While I don't agree with every point (he ties it into abortion, for instance), the depth of his passionate argumentation is astonishing.

If President Trump were to read this document on the plane ride home, perhaps he would reconsider some of the many dangerous steps his administration has taken over the first months of his presidency.  Maybe he could take a few moments to peruse a running list of environmental abominations being kept by the National Geographic. Or look closely at the 23 essential environmental rules rolled back in the first 100 days, all of this before this week's budget proposal that would decimate the EPA, slashing it by 31 percent.

Fortunately, the Pope is not the only religious leader taking aim at policies causing harm to our common home.  Not only are Jews and Muslims joining hand in hand with Catholics to save our planet, but in fact it's nearly impossible to find a single world religion that hasn't expressed deep concern over the impact of man-made climate change.

Here is a collection of statements, organized alphabetically first by religion, then by denomination.   This list demonstrates the nearly unprecedented unity within the religious community on this important issue.

Have the world's major religions ever agreed so wholeheartedly and single-throatily about anything else?  Undoubtedly a stray pastor or two will buck this overwhelming stampede for stewardship.  There are a few outliers who reject the scientific consensus, though if they've ever read the bible, it's hard to reject stewardship on religious grounds.

From Shavuot to Ramadan to Pentecost (June 4 for the Christian world), from Jerusalem to Mecca to Vatican City, the cry to save our planet will arise over the coming days.
The question is whether, on a single plane flying home to Washington from Europe, that cry will be heard.   President Trump should try on the socks and be grateful that at least the Pope didn't give him a lump of coal.

Shavuot @ Sinai: The Jewish World in 2050
As we look back at the giving of the Torah many centuries ago, on the first night of Shavuot, Tuesday May 30, we'll join with our friends from Temple Sinai at 8:00 to look ahead as well.  We'll imagine what the Jewish world - in particular American Jewry - will look like in 2050.
With meditative music (not a traditional service, per se), discussion and a heaping helping of cheesecake, we'll look at current trends and envision future ones, particularly in these four areas:
  • Communal institutions
  • Prayer/spirituality
  • Diaspora/Israel
  • Identity/intermarriage. 
Though not a prerequisite to attending, we recommend that you take a look at these two resources beforehand: 
Study materials prepared by Rabbi David Markus for his recent class here on change in Judaism:  "Disruptive Innovation, Re-centering and Renewal" 
Moment Magazine's symposium:  "What Will the Jewish World Look Like in 2050?"
So join us at Temple Sinai on May 30 @ 8:00 PM

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