From the Rabbi's Desk
Our Bread and Torah artists in residence Shabbaton will begin in just a few days. Please see the schedule of programs later in this bulletin. You will likely find something interesting, delicious, or both throughout the weekend. Thank you to the Bread and Torah team that helped plan and organize our weekend: Sherry Barnes, Hillary Goldstein, Courtney and Ben Miller, Erica McCaffery, Emma Zelken, and Scott Zettler. And thanks to you as well. Because of your ongoing support, we can bring engaging Jewish programs to our community. Every gift is a gift of the heart, building our vibrant community.
One of my favorite verses in the Torah is Exodus 25:8. Just before this verse, Moses ascended Sinai and approached the cloud enveloping the summit where God was dwelling. After seven days, God called out to Moses, and Moses entered the cloud. God’s first instruction to Moses was to tell the Israelites to bring gifts to God and that Moses should receive them on God’s behalf. Then God tells Moses what to do with these gifts. “וְעָשׂוּ לִי מִקְדָּשׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתוֹכָם – v’asu li mikdash v’shachanti bitocham – let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among/in them.” During our Kabbalat Shabbat service, we often sing this verse as the closing for the Amidah blessings. The melody seems to have a Shaker origin but became popular in the 1950s as a Christian spiritual. Our song blends our spiritual tradition (Ex 25:8) with words we borrow from those spiritual traditions, “Adonai prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true.” Wherever Jews go, we pick up things from the cultures and religions we dwell alongside. Sherry and I aren’t the only ones bringing this melody infused with Hebrew verses from Torah and Psalms into our sacred space. Two of the most influential congregations in New York, Central Synagogue and Romemu, have also included versions of this song in their liturgy. This song has hit a spiritual chord that crosses denomination and faith lines. Why?
Who we are as a people is embedded in the stories that we tell each other. We are builders. Our God built a beautifully complex universe by speaking it into being. Abraham and Sarah followed God’s voice and sojourned throughout the land, gathering people around them and building altars. Joseph helped build an empire for the sake of feeding the world. David and Solomon built a spiritual center in Jerusalem that has resisted destruction and capture for thousands of years. A couple of thousand years later, a group of sixty families gathered on the sands just north of Jaffa and laid out plots to build their homes in what would become one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, Tel Aviv. We are Divinely called to be builders.
Exodus 25:8 transforms a call to individuals – Abraham, Sarah, Joseph, David, Solomon, and others, into a call to people. The call is also clarified. It is revealed to Moses that the most extraordinary building we do is from the inside out. God beckons us to bring gifts as our hearts are moved, and we are able to do so. Rabbi Menachem ibn Zerach, in his work T’zedah laDerech (Provisions for the Journey), wrote, “The Divine presence does not rest in the sanctuary on account of the sanctuary, but on account of Israel, for they constitute the Temple of God.” The building begins in our hearts so that God can dwell in and between us. The physical structures we build are only necessary in that they ground each of us in place and time, so that we have a shelter where the world’s chaos can melt away, and with us prepared, we can find each other, and God can find us and. Let’s keep answering the call, opening our hearts, giving all we can, that we may dwell together and God may dwell in us.
Be Happy it’s Adar!! There is so much to be happy about in this upcoming month!
The Bread and Torah program on March 8-10 is going to be amazing! I was able to sit in on my first meeting a few weeks ago and I was happy to see how much the team planning this event had accomplished and how many wonderful things will be going on from Friday through Sunday. There really is something for all ages. From feeding our physical body with challah that we make ourselves, to feeding our soul with words of Torah. From the art and care of feeding the larger community to the solitude of the art of scribing the sacred letters and words of Torah. I’m sure it will be a fulfilling Artist in Residence with Rabbi Linda Motzkin and Rabbi Jonathan Rubenstein. Please make sure to read your bulletin and check the website for more information about RSVPing for this extra special event.
Please notice that our regular Shabbat Dinner is being moved to Friday, March 8, in conjunction with our Bread and Torah weekend. Make sure to RSVP for the dinner by March 3.
March 15, will be a regular 6:30, Shabbat Service. It will be led by Rabbi Emeritus, Aaron Rosenberg and me. Rabbi Marc will be away at the wedding of his oldest son Michael, and he will officiate! That’s a lot of happiness!
What else is happy about the month of Adar? It’s Purim!! We are so lucky to have Sam Winograd write our Purim Spiel this year. I know I’m looking forward to seeing it performed. We are also blessed to have Roz Etra leading music in between the spiel and community members entertaining us with the Megillah reading. It will be a fun evening. Guess I need to start thinking about a costume! Mark your calendar for Saturday, March 23, at 7:00 pm.
Thank you to Jeff Elkin for reading Torah on March 29.
There are dates still available in March, April, May, and June, if you are interested in chanting Torah.
There is always something to make you smile, even if it is on the saddest of days. The happiness over a lifetime, friendships, or a memory of a moment in time. These are things we hold close and can always bring a smile. Look for the happiness of Adar.
I recently read an insightful blog about community. It criticized the now very outdated dictionary’s definition of the word, which describes it as a group of people within a location sharing a characteristic or interest. The writer was prompted to look up the definition when he saw on the back of his salad bag the invitation to join its Facebook community. He said this marketer’s definition was not real.
A true community, he argued, should instead be defined as: “a group of people who care about each other and feel they belong together.” What’s the difference between the two? The second definition points out that there is a relationship between the people in the group. They have found their tribe – a shared identity – and feel accepted for who they really are. Our mission at Temple Emanu-El is to keep on building a vibrant community through Reform Judaism. It’s shared action. Guided by our values, we are constantly reaching out within and beyond our own circles to foster a true sense of community.
The first step is to step out of our busy lives, to find some calm in fellowship. The rain, wind, and snow certainly did not stop our congregants from gathering for our winter activities. One hundred of us gathered happily in the social hall for our 9th Annual Cabaret Night on February 3rd. It was a spectacular time for everyone to catch up and be entertained. What a fun evening!
On Friday, February 9, we enjoyed a very special oneg that included fresh baked varieties of babka, rugelach, and a challah from Williamsburg, New York. There was even Chayim Mayim branded black cherry and ginger ale soda. Many thanks to our members Ricardo Kleinbaum and Jeffrey Engel, who sponsored the oneg in memory of their friend, Mitchel Bloom’s mother, Helen Bloom. Mitchel’s family were founding members of Temple Emanu-El before they arrived at Fort Street. It was lovely to hear Mitchel reminisce about his youth during his time at Temple Emanu-El.
On February 16th the brief but meaningful Shabbat service followed by dinner attracted another fantastic showing of over 70 delighted participants. Each month, more congregants join in to experience this new format for the first time while many have made it a routine to catch up with friends. It has proven to be quality time for people to get to know each other better or to meet some new fellow members and friends.
Thank you also to Keli and David Levine who sponsored a special oneg on Friday, February 23 in memory of David’s mom Joan Levine. This is a generous and loving way to pay tribute on the occasion of loved ones’ yahrzeit. It can also be a great way to celebrate other milestones like anniversaries and birthdays
We are finally about to experience the fruits of the amazing collaboration between the members of our Bread and Torah Shabbaton planning committee. Please check out the fabulous itinerary for next weekend, when we welcome artists-in-residence Rabbi Jonathan Rubinstein, a master bread maker and baking teacher, and Rabbi Linda Motzkin, a Soferet (scribe), parchment maker and scribal artist, from Saratoga Springs, New York. Join us for as many of the activities as you can. Most of the programs are at no cost except for Shabbat dinner ($20 per adult and $12 per child, as usual) and a suggested donation of $10 for the special Havdalah Israeli wine and local cheese Torah art talk.
So please RSVP as soon as possible because the deadlines to participate are super early this month. It promises to be a soulful, intellectually enriching, and gastronomically satisfying weekend!
See you at the festivities,
Top Board of Trustees Highlights
DID YOU KNOW?
…If you own or run a local business, you can advertise in the Temple Emanu-El Bulletin for only $18 per month or $165 for 11 issues (summer is a double-issue). In other words, it will cost only about 7 cents to reach each reader household each month and if you advertise in each issue, for 6 cents per reader household, your ad will be seen 11 times. Contact the Temple Office at (860) 443-3005 if you’re interested in advertising.
…If you’re planning a birthday party or baby shower but don’t want to host a large number of attendees in your own home, you can rent the Temple’s social hall, kitchen, and/or classrooms for your event. If you do want to plan the event at home or in your backyard but find you need to rent tables and chairs, you can also rent those from the Temple (tables are $5 per table per day and chairs are $3 per chair per day). Contact the Temple Office at (860) 443-3005 for more information.