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05
Dec
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Philipine Relief Goal Met!

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Thank you to all members of EB who donated to the typhoon relief effort!

We surpassed our $1000 goal and will be sending a check to the American Jewish World Service on behalf of those in need in the Philipines!

עזרה בצרות = Help in time of need

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05
Dec
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In Memory of Jewel Capeluto

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Mrs. Jewel Jacquline Capeluto was born on February 24, 1932.  She leaves behind her beloved sister Ina Willner, husband Morrie Capeluto, son Ralph, daughter Linda and her husband Leon, daughter Wendy and her husband Stan, grandchildren and great grandchildren.  Jewel was predeceased by her sister Geraldine and by her parents, Fanny and Abe Danz.

Needless to say, the immediate and extended Capeluto family and our entire community is trying to come to terms with the sudden loss of Jewel. Today, the fifth day of Hanukah, we are in a unique situation: At one and the same time, we are pulled in two opposite directions: We want to show our utmost respect to Jewel and eulogize her on her passing. At the same time, Hanukah is a joyous holiday, and as Jews, we are bidden not to engage in the same level of public mourning as we would during the rest of the year. So if you detect a difference in the nature and the length of our words today, we do not mean, G-d forbid, to detract from the honor we wish to show to Jewel’s memory; we are all just trying to carefully balance the Jews’ national celebration of our miraculous history, with the intense mournful feelings of Jewel’s grieving family and community.

Before I offer various members of the family and a friend an opportunity to speak, I would like to offer a few words of reflection:

Early on in the book of Bereishit, the Book of Genesis, G-d observes that Noah is a wholly righteous person; of all mankind, only Noah and his family are therefore be spared from the desolation of the impending flood.  Essential to the atmosphere in the ark is the “Tzohar”.

G-d commands Noah: צהר תעשה לתיבה  - “Make a Tzohar for the ark”

Rashi cites two approaches as to what this “Tzohar” is:

יש אומרים חלון – there are those that say it was a window

 ויש אומרים אבן טובה המאירה להם – and there are those who say it was a precious gem that lit up the ark for them.

The approach that says that it was  a precious gem suggests that even if there was little or no light coming in from the outside – which was being pelted by the storm – internally…inside the Teva, the ark, there was a self-generating light.  A Tzohar, a precious gem, a sparkling Jewel that lit up the ark.

Some commentators ask: How could one gem, one Jewel, light up this vast area?

There are those that respond: The Torah uses concise language.  In fact, they say, there were many such stones around the interior of the ark and they jointly illuminated the area.

The plain meaning of the text seems, though, to indicate otherwise.  There seems to have been just one Tzohar.  Sometimes a single light source can give off a disproportionate amount of light.

In keeping with the spirit of Hanukah, I would like to suggest that Jewel Capeluto had just this kind of impact. Walking into Jewel and Morrie’s home, you instantly feel a warm glow, the warmth of a self-generating light; a shiny countenance that both came naturally – but make no mistake about it – was also consciously cultivated by Jewel throughout her lifetime. The warmth and the light were contagious, with Jewel’s family and community the beneficiaries of this light. It was a light of confidence. It was a light of clarity of purpose. It was a light of pure kindness.

There is a debate in the Talmud on the manner in which we are to kindle the Hanukah Menorah. One view, that of Bet Hillel, says   מוסיף והולך…we add candles each successive night of the holiday; another approach, that of Bet Shammai, says פוחת והולך…we subtract candles each night.  In the broader Jewish world, this week of Hanukah is joyous – it’s one of מוסיף והולך, of adding light.  For us here today, for her loving family and community, there is one less gem, one less precious light; together, this Hanukah, we are   פוחת והולך: we are jointly experiencing a loss of that light.

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27
Nov
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EB's Philipine Relief Effort in Full Swing

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Below is a letter that we wrote to the local Philipine community last week, in the wake of the devastation of the typhoon.  Those wishing to donate to the EB effort, the funds of which are headed to the American Jewish World Service efforts, should log on to the EB site and donate through the rabbi's discretionary fund. Under "Select Campaign" choose "Rabbi's Discretionary Fund" and write a note that the donation is for Typhoon Relief. Thank you! 

http://ezrabessaroth.net/support-eb

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22
Nov
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A Mirror Image

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Perashat Vayeshev is a very surprising Torah portion on many levels: How could hatred escalate to such an extent amongst brothers all raised in the house of Ya'akov Avinu? Why does Yosef insist on taunting his brothers with his prophetic dreams, all the while knowing the impact of this behavior on them? Why does Ya'akov, who surely understood the depth of the animosity, still send Yosef on a mission alone -to Shechem to see how the brothers and their sheep are doing? This epic story of providence, of the divine Hand that guides the children of Israel into Egyptian exile- has many perplexing twists and turns.

Early on in the story , the Torah introduces us to the relationship between Ya'akov and his son Yosef.

וישראל אהב את יוסף מכל בניו כי בן זקנים הוא לו
Israel loved Yosef the most of all of his sons, because he was the son of his old age

The preferential treatment given Joseph served to inflame the brother's jealousy and hatred of him.

Now, aside from the plain meaning of the text - that Ya'akov Avinu's emotional tie to Yosef stemmed from the fact that he bore Yosef in his later years, Rashi offers two other approaches:

ואונקלוס תרגם בר חכים הוא ליה כל מה שלמד משם ועבר מסר לו

דבר אחר

שהיה זיו איקונין שלו דומה לו


Onkelos translated it as "the son of his wisdom" - everything that he learned from Shem and Ever, he gave to him.

Another explanation:
(It's an acronym indicating that) Yosef's facial appearance was similar to that of Ya'akov.


These two approaches paint seemingly diametrically opposed pictures of what drew Ya'akov to his son Yosef. According to one view, it was the depth of the learning relationship that he forged with his son that drew Ya'akov to Yosef. Whatever the content of the Torah of Shem and Ever consisted of at the time, what bonded them was a deep spiritual connection generated through the Talmid-Rebbe relationship. The second view seems relatively rather superficial: Ya'akov was drawn to Yosef because Yosef looked like him?

I would like to suggest that these ideas are actually two sides of the same coin: A Torah teacher invests his intellectual, emotional, and spiritual energy in his student. The payoff of this investment is the degree to which the rebbe sees his talmid transformed by the Torah taught by the rebbe. A rebbe not only conveys the content of the section of Torah being taught, but educates his talmid on how to think in a logical, disciplined manner. The Torah teacher hopes that well into the future, the student can approach new questions with the system of thinking that he learned in his youth. He hopes to fill the student with the tools to grapple with new circumstances with logic and a sensitivity to the question: What does G-d want of me?

With this in mind, perhaps Rashi's second explanation means just this: that Ya'akov began to see in Yosef a true reflection of himself; Yosef had internalized his father's knowledge and his values. "His face was similar to his."

This could also be the key to understanding one of Rashi's later comments: What held Yosef back from engaging in illicit relations with Potiphar's wife? It was the "image of his father" that appeared to him, pre-empting the sin.

Given what we've said above, Rashi may not literally mean that Yosef had a vision of his father. Rather, the standards and values that his father had taught him had succeeded in becoming part of him. Instead of a mystical vision of his father warning him not to indulge- Yosef dug deep into his own moral fabric, and experienced the imprint of his father's teachings. When Yosef saw a vision of Ya'akov, he was essentially peering into his own face.

Shabbat Shalom!

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08
Nov
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The Continuing Saga of Open Orthodoxy

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I"ve spoken on numerous occasions about my distaste for the denomination concept within Jewish life. The latest in a long list is "Open Orthodoxy" which had its origins in the work of Rabbi Avi Weiss in the late 1990's. I wrote earlier this summer about the comments of Zev Farber, who is an alumnus of Weiss' YCT, and his embracing of Biblical criticism. In conversations with representatives of this camp, I expressed my surprise and dismay at their ongoing trek outside of classical Torah Judaism as I understand it.

Well, the story doesn't stop there. Asher Lopatin, who replaced Avi Weiss as head of YCT, recently wrote a piece in Ha'aretz lamenting the Modern Orthodox reaction to "Open Orthodoxy" and its policies. To read the Lopatin piece, you have to purchase the article as part of Ha'aretz premium, so I can't reprint it here.

RCA colleague Rabbi Arie Folger has just written an article pointing out that the Modern Orthodox concerns are not part of a "witch hunt", but rather a genuine response to the developments in the Open Orthodox camp.

You can read Rabbi Folger's article here: http://5tjt.com/its-not-a-witch-hunt-but-the-expression-of-genuine-concerns/

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01
Nov
0

My Article in the JT NEWS

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For most Americans, November means Thanksgiving is just around the corner. This year, in an unusual confluence of the Gregorian and Jewish calendars, Hanukkah falls out on Thanksgiving. According to my sources, it will only happen again in the year 79,811! This year’s reality, then, offers a unique opportunity to reflect on Hanukkah independent of the atmosphere of the American holiday season. 


We are all familiar with the Hasmoneans’ unlikely military victory and the miracle of the cruse of oil. But if we delve deeper, we should ask: What was the root of the conflict between ourselves and the Greeks? Our sources state that on the Greek agenda was the spiritual annihilation of our people; since the Greeks knew us as the “People of the Book,” they attempted to rob us of this identity. In the words of the Hanukkah prayer Al Hanisim, inserted into the Amidah and the Birkat Hamazon, the plan was “to cause us to forget Your Torah and have us transgress Your statutes.” 

And yet the Greeks themselves, immersed in art, literature and philosophy, were anything but anti-intellectual. Why, then, does Jewish tradition characterize the Hellenistic influence as “darkness?” What was there about the Greek orientation that posed such a threat to Jewish survival? 

The answer may lie in the nuanced language of the Al Hanisim: We don’t assert that the Greeks opposed Torah learning per se, but that they threatened hukei ritzonach, Your statutes. The Hellenists supported Torah study only as a branch of Greek wisdom, as another intellectual discipline. Jewish resistance against such an orientation, and the ultimate rediscovery of the flask of oil, prompted the sages to institute the lighting of the Hanukkah menorah for eight consecutive days. Each Hanukkah night we celebrate “Ki ner mitzvah v’Torah or” — “A candle is a mitzvah, and the Torah is light.” The pure oil with the Kohen Gadol’s stamp mirrors the rekindling of an authentic, Godly Torah that had been withheld from us. 


In the wake of the Pew Research Center survey on American Jews, many of us parents, educators and communal leaders have begun to re-examine the messages we are conveying and the direction in which we are taking our respective Jewish families and communities. Along with an emphasis on Jewish engagement and the appreciation of diversity within our communities, it’s now time to ask some tough questions: Are we, the Jewish leadership, also successfully conveying the eternal, immutable components of Jewish belief and practice? Are we effectively transmitting the profundity and beauty of a personal life built on Torah study and mitzvot? Are we igniting the uniquely Jewish flame in the souls of our fellow Jews? 


In a recent blog post in the Times of Israel, Prof. Jeffrey Woolf of Bar Ilan University remarked on the stark contrast between the Pew findings and a parallel Israeli study. Prof. Woolf notes: 
The findings are almost symmetrical opposites. Israeli Jews believe in God (over 80 percent). There is a Jewish Renaissance (in Study, Culture, and Observance) in Israel that literally boggles the imagination (even as it confounds the usual definitions of Religious and Secular). And, while individualism and individual expression are certainly not absent, the sense of national cohesion, what we call bayachad, is movingly strong.

Woolf observes that while Judaism protects and values the individual, it makes demands upon him. Instead of striking a balance between Jewish particularism and universalism, “American Jews,” Woolf laments, “have attempted to effect that separation by totally recasting and denuding Jewish tradition, in order to align it with contemporary mores.” 

On the eve of Hanukkah 5774, we as a Jewish community must consider certain existential issues that we have been avoiding until now. Comfortable in our respective “denominations,” preaching to the converted, many are realizing that we have been lulling ourselves into believing that everything will be just fine. 


Question: If the Jews of the first Hanukkah took such an approach, what would the Jewish world look like today?

Rabbi Meyers is rabbi of Congregation Ezra Bessaroth, head teacher of the new women’s learning program, “The Midrasha of Seattle,” and a rebbe of Talmud and Chumash at Northwest Yeshiva High School.

 

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24
Oct
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Dennis Prager's Post-Pew Ponderings

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I am reprinting this article as part of our ongoing pondering over the results of the Pew Report. As I have discussed, I do not love the denominational thing; in fact I think it's one big sham, categories that have been devised to divide the Jewish people. But the labels are part of the reality of the Jewish world, and Prager's article should be read in that light.  What he effectively is saying - if I could rephrase it - that the beliefs, practices and commitment of Jews who guide their lives by Torah help perpetuate the Jewish people. This is not a triumphalism, but a call to all Jews to see themselves as life-long learners - RM

Why Orthodoxy is growing

BY DENNIS PRAGER

As almost every Jew knows by now, according to major reports on American Jewry — such as the most recent and most highly regarded Pew report — Orthodoxy is growing, while Conservative and Reform Judaism are shrinking.

Before presenting my explanations, I think it important to note that I have no denominational ax to grind. I was raised Orthodox, and went to yeshivas through the end of high school. But I left Orthodoxy early in life and have always been involved in Jewish life — Conservative, Reform, Orthodox, Chabad, Jewish federations and writing for Jewish publications.

In a nutshell, I wish all Jewish endeavors well.

I believe that Orthodoxy is prevailing and that the non-Orthodox denominations are diminishing for the following reasons:

First, Orthodoxy makes more religious demands on its followers (and they are demands, not suggestions). Orthodoxy demands strict religious ritual observance — at the very least, Shabbat, kashrut, daily prayers with tefillin (for men), and regular attendance at synagogue on Shabbat and all the holidays (how many non-Orthodox Jews can even identify Shemini Atzeret, as much a Torah holy day as Passover?).

I can cite a personal example to prove this point. Non-Orthodox Jews nearly always assume that I am an Orthodox Jew when they learn that I do not broadcast on Shabbat or on any of the Torah holidays. If many Reform and Conservative Jews took all those days off from work — as the Torah demands — few Jews would make that assumption. (I do broadcast on yom tov sheni, the rabbinically added day for Jews outside of Israel.)

Like all other religions (with the prominent exception of Protestant Christianity), Judaism has not been able to survive without ritual observance.

Second, the more Orthodox one is, the more he or she is likely to live among Orthodox Jews. One’s entire social life (outside of work) revolves around fellow Orthodox Jews. That makes it, to put it gently, very difficult to leave Orthodoxy. If you do, you are likely to lose your whole support system and probably most of your friends, as well. You may even risk alienating your family.

Third, the great majority of Orthodox Jews send their children to Orthodox Jewish day schools — usually through high school. The Orthodox child rarely has close non-Orthodox, let alone non-Jewish, friends, thereby reinforcing Orthodoxy both experientially and socially from the earliest age.

Fourth, more Orthodox Jews marry; they marry younger, and they have more children than non-Orthodox Jews. Among other reasons, many non-Orthodox Jews bought the nihilistic nonsense — and the Jewish dead end — of the zero population growth movement. And fewer and fewer of them believe that marriage and children are mandatory. On the contrary, many consider a successful career at least as fulfilling as marriage and family. It would be instructive to conduct a poll among non-Orthodox young Jewish women, asking them this question: “Would you rather have a great marriage and family or a great career?”

I have asked this of many young Jewish women, and at least half have responded that they would choose the great career. Just this week the Huffington Post published a column titled, “6 Reasons Never to Get Married.” The author? A woman named Leah Cohen.

It is hard to get further from Judaism and imperil Jewish survival than having Jewish women value career more than, or even as much as, marriage and children.

Fifth, as if all of the above were not enough, Orthodox Jews believe God chose the Jews and is the ultimate author of the Torah. Very few non-Orthodox Jews believe God is the author of the Torah; but it is inconceivable that Judaism can long survive among Jews who do not believe that God created the world, took the Jews out of Egypt and gave the Torah.

Sixth, Israel is central to almost all Orthodox Jews. Incredibly, and tragically, it is increasingly peripheral to many other Jews.

Seventh, the further from Orthodox Judaism one gets, the more one is likely to adopt leftism/progressivism as one’s moral code and worldview. Just as the Orthodox Jew is steeped in Judaism from the earliest years, most non-Orthodox Jews are steeped in leftism at home and in school from elementary through graduate school. How else to explain the phenomenon of young women thinking career will give their lives as much or more meaning than marriage and family? How else to explain the alienation from Israel among so many non-Orthodox Jews?

I write none of this to make the case for Orthodoxy. I find most of the reasons admirable and a few disturbing. But truth is truth. Any one of the seven reasons would suffice to explain why Orthodoxy is increasing and non-Orthodoxy isn’t. All seven make the case incontrovertible.

Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host (AM 870 in Los Angeles) and founder of PragerUniversity.com. His latest book is the New York Times best seller “Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph” (HarperCollins, 2012).

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20
Oct
0

Would Our Forefathers Have Sanctioned These Relationships? The Latest from "The Times of Israel"

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Here is another in a host of articles detailing the complete chaos in the value system of significant parts of the modern Jewish world. Despite its rather bizarre content, I am very thankful that the Times of Israel has gone ahead and printed the article. I think it beautifully illustrates what happens when we Jews depart from the halachot set forth by the Torah. 

Note the rather frail response by Elliot Dorf to the phenomenon described in the Times: 

“First of all, the depth of the relationship is much greater if it’s monogamous,” Dorff said. “The chances that both partners are going to be able to fulfill all the obligations of a serious intimate relationship are much greater in a monogamous relationship. I would say the same to gay or straight couples: There should be one person you live your life with.”

An example of the halachic reasoning of Elliot Dorf can be found in the famous 2006 Conservative rabbinical assembly ruling you can find here: 

http://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/sites/default/files/public/halakhah/teshuvot/20052010/dorff_nevins_reisner_dignity.pdf

The full Times of Israel article can be found here:

http://www>.timesofisrael.com/polyamorous-jews-share-love-seek-acceptance/

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16
Oct
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Social Changes in the Israeli Haredi Community

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tovposterThis post is a follow-up to the various discussions we had several months ago - in the context of our Fundamentals class - of the political and social changes taking place in the Israeli Haredi community. At the session on yeshiva students serving in the IDF, I emphasized the economic realities - and not ideology - as ultimately determining the direction of this and related issues.  Back at the RCA convention in June, Dov Lipman was a keynote speaker. It seemed clear to me at the time that Rabbi Lipman, now an MK for Yesh Atid, presented a direction that was in sync with the vast majority of the rabbanim at the convention.  Though to some, the economic and political moves initiated by Yesh Atid seemed to be aimed at, G-d forbid, eradicating Torah learning in Israel, to others, the changes are paving the way for a more sustainable religious life for both Haredi Torah scholars and lay people.

Today's Times of Israel reports on another manifestation of the social changes within Israel's religious community. You can see the article at http://www.timesofisrael.com/new-haredi-movement-is-pro-work-military-service/

 

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16
Oct
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Joint EB-SBH Program in Memory of Rav Ovadia Yosef

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updatedravovadiaMy wife Miriam reminded me that the first birthday gift she bought me after we were married was the set of Yabiah Omer by Rav Ovadia ZT"L.  He was truly a halachic genius and a "Gadol Hador"!

EB and SBH are proud to be co-sponsoring a special joint program, starting with Tefilah at SBH this coming Sunday morning at 8 am.  As the poster indicates, this will be followed by words of Torah from the Rabbanim of the Sephardic community, a light breakfast, and three concurrent mini-shiurim on the life and work of Rav Ovadia.

Please join us and pay tribute to the life of this great Talmid Haham!

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06
Oct
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A "P.S." to Wondering about Wolpe

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A short PS to the Wondering about Wolpe blog post: In the course of the Shabbat discussion (and my Derasha earlier that morning) I proposed that the observant Jewish community begin listening more to what our fellow Jews - either unaffiliated or associated with liberal Jewish communities -are saying.  Perhaps if we did so, we could meaningfully impact on a future Pew Forum survey. One EB member asked if I had made a point of entering into a dialogue with my Reform and Conservative colleagues in the rabbinate.  I answered that although I have had some contact with some of the individuals in question, my strong leaning is to follow the approach of joining these colleagues only when it comes to matters of common communal interests, be they charitable, Israel-directed, and the like. I choose not to engage in "interdenominational dialogue" because I do not view myself as a representative of a denomination of Judaism.  In fact, I noted that one of the great strengths of Sephardic Jewry throughout the world is that it never succumbed to the concept of three (or more!) denominations of Jews. We were all at Mt. Sinai, receiving the Torah as one people. The fact that in practice, we hold at different points along the continuum of observance and belief, is no reason to institutionalize those differences. A Jewish community that does so encourages fragmentation and dissolution. In contrast, a classical, Torah-based Sephardic congregation such as EB is uniquely positioned to cultivate the authentic sense of what it means to be part of a nation.

In the course of pondering the results of the Pew Forum survey, I came across these words of Reform scholar Eugene Borowitz, cited by Rabbi Lawrence Kelemen:

When the Bible was G-d’s book and the Oral Torah had been given by G-d to Moses on Mount Sinai, there was no question why one should give them reverent attention. They were God’s own communications and, in a time when there no longer was prophecy, the best way one could be in touch with the Divine. When Reform Judaism insisted that the various books of the Torah tradition were largely human creations, that had the advantage of allowing unprecedented innovation. It also devalued the old texts and made them less sacred. A simple experience brought the point home to me tellingly. I was teaching a group together with… an Orthodox scholar. After reading a rabbinic passage to the group he put his book down on a desk, but so near the edge that it became unbalanced and fell off. He quickly retrieved it, kissed it, and put it more carefully on the desk, not stopping in the development of the theme he was presenting. Kissing books, particularly when they have fallen, is a nice old Jewish custom which reflects very much more than respect for authors and publishers. It is related to our belief that our books derive ultimately from G-d – that in loving G-d one loves G-d’s words, the Oral and Written Torah. I wonder if liberal Jews with their sense of the humanity of our sacred literature could ever come to such regard for Torah that – leaving aside their sense of propriety – they could ever think of kissing one of its volumes.

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06
Oct
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Wondering About Wolpe

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gggggThis week, in the context of our Fundamentals of Judaism class, we engaged in a lively discussion about the Pew Forum Report. To read a full version of the report click here: http://www.pewforum.org/2013/10/01/jewish-american-beliefs-attitudes-culture-survey/

Nationally-renowned Conservative Rabbi David Wolpe responded to the report in a recent blog entry in the Washington Post. Wolpe correctly notes that Judaism “is a behavior-centered tradition.  It is primarily enacted in a language strange to most American Jews (Hebrew) and requires an extensive education to understand its fundamentals. Americans are not distinguished by diligence in acquiring cultural literacy.  That which is continually diluted will eventually disappear. ‘Being an ethical person’ while central to Judaism, is not uniquely Jewish.  ’Fighting for social justice’ while central to Judaism, is not uniquely Jewish.  Wearing Tefillin, praying in Hebrew, Torah study, Kashrut, Jewish communal adherence and activities —….are activities that keep the core of the tradition alive. As Jews have left the latter and profess the former, adherence weakens.” You can see the whole blog post here:http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/wp/2013/10/03/can-liberal-judaism-survive/ 

There is much that needs to be examined in light of the Pew survey, and it’s not a time for halachically-observant Jews to pat themselves on the back; more than any other sector of American Jewry, we should internalize this crisis and work tirelessly to respond to the challenges it raises.

That said, I cannot help but comment on the irony of Rabbi Wolpe calling for a return to traditional Jewish values and practices.  More than any high-profile Jewish religious leader in recent memory, Wolpe has gone out of his way to erode key foundations of our tradition.  Without entering the dilemma of how Orthodox congregations should respond to openly-homosexual members of the Jewish community (a topic that is of great interest to the Modern Orthodox rabbinate) I refer you Wolpe’s recent policy-change.  The July 5th edition of the New York Times speaks for itself: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/06/us/rabbi-takes-a-stand-for-gay-marriage-and-a-segment-of-the-congregation-rebels.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

I asked those who attended to today’s class if there was one recurring theme central to Jewish identity and practice, and several quickly responded, “Yetziat Mizraim” – the Exodus from Egypt.  It concludes the Shema, Shabbat, Passover and the other two Torah festivals.  The Seder night is the “educable moment” of the Jewish year! Yet it’s the same Rabbi Wolpe,  calling on Jews to embrace Torah study and traditional Jewish practice - who has declared the Exodus a sham!  

Blogger Mark Nigro writes Wolpe:”Rabbi, how can you simultaneously accept the falsity of the exodus account while holding onto the 'deeper meaning' of its truths? Either the event happened as Moses declared, and we stand on its historicity with the authority of its teachings, or it did not happen, in which case the integrity of the Pentateuch is lost and the rest of the teaching should be rejected. For if it didn't happen, the best we could say was that someone made a mistake, and the worst, that someone intentionally deceived the masses. And neither of these options offers a very stable ground for the feet of faith or the authority of YHWH.”  I think this response would typify the kind of reaction that a young Jew would have to Wolpe’s theories, which pull the rug out from under the potential for inspired, dedicated commitment to a religious Jewish life.

To see the original LA Times report of Wolpe’s 2001 sermon, click here: http://articles.latimes.com/2001/apr/13/news/mn-50481; to see Wolpe’s 2004 article trying to explain himself anew click here: http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Judaism/2004/12/Did-The-Exodus-Really-Happen.aspx?p=1

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29
Sep
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Seeing G-d, The Jewish Way

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drshahmsuccotThe Yalkut Shimoni records the following conversation between R. Yehoshua and “Adrinus Ceasar”, most probably the Emperor Hadrian.

Adrinus asks R. Yehoshua:
“Is there a master to the Universe?”
Rabbi Yehoshua’s response: “What? Is the world Hefker (without direction, chaotic)?”
Adrinus: “And who created Heavens and Earth?
R. Yehoshua: “The Holy One, Blessed be He, as it says, ‘In the Beginning G-d created Heaven and Earth.”
Adrinus: “Why, then, does He not reveal Himself twice a year so that people can see Him and His fear would be upon them?”
R. Yehoshua: “Because the world would not be able to withstand (the intensity of this vision) as it says, ‘Because no man has seen Me and lived..’”
Adrinus: “If you don’t show Him to me, I won’t believe you.”

At noon the next day, R. Yehoshua takes Adrinus outside and faces him towards the sun; andby staring into the sun, Adrinus would purportedly be able to see G-d.  Hadrian refuses, noting that it’s impossible to stare into the sun.

R. Yehoshua: ’The sun is but one minor fraction of all of the entities that serve G-d.  Let your ears hear what your mouth is saying…..” 

How, then, does the Emperor hope to actually view the Almighty Himself?
After all, G-d Himself declares to Moshe: “No Man has seen Me and lived!”

What’s fascinating about this midrash is not so much its rich dialogue, but the context in which it finds itself - in the same chapter of Yalkut Shimoni that records the dialogue between Moshe and G-d  after the sin of the Golden Calf in today's Torah reading.   

In the dialogue recorded in the Torah, Moshe requests from Hashem הראני נא את כבודך; “Show me your Glory”. 

G-d subsequently places him in the cleft of a cliff and passes by so that Moshe only sees G-d’s back. But the midrash, along with the parallel Gemara in Berachot – understands that Moshe did not literally ask to see G-d in the physical sense, but to understand him in the philosophical sense. The perennial question of Tzaddik v’Ra lo/Rasha V’tov lo – Why do the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper- preoccupies Moshe.  In contrast to a literal vision of G-d, along the lines of Adrinus’ demand, our teacher Moshe is interested in truth.

In a follow- up to Moshe’s question and G-d’s response, G-d shows Moshe the treasure houses of all of the merit set aside for the righteous.

Moshe asks, “Master of the Universe, this treasure-house – to whom does it belong?”
“For those who do Tzedaka.”  

Now, this could refer to either those who directly contribute directly to charities or people who encourage and motivate others to give Tzedaka.  Alternatively, it could refer to those who pursue justice. 

“And to whom does this treasure-house belong?” 
“ To those who support and nurture orphans.”

To understand G-d is to appreciate the very real-world values and mitzvah performance that characterize an authentic Torah lifestyle. Unlike Emperor Hadrian, we Jews “see G-d” by understanding His ways, which we access through philosophical inquiry, Torah learning and mitzvah performance.

The Jewish approach to “seeing G-d” appears in another context that has immediate application to our Perasha.  During the times of the Bet Hamikdash, it is a special obligation for male Jews to perform עליה לרגל – to trek to Jerusalem for the three Torah pilgrimage festivals. The sacrifice offered on these occasions is called an עולת ראיה – literally, the burnt offering “of the seeing”.

The first Mishna in Tractate Hagiga , based on the pasuk that says יראה כל זכורך את פני ה' – says that in order to be obligated in the mitzvah of Olat Re’iya – one cannot even be blind in one eye.  Rashi explains that just as Hashem sees us with His “two eyes” we have to come to be seen with two working eyes.  The concept of “seeing” is so embedded in the terminology and concept of the pilgrimage festivals, that it has an impact on the halacha and disqualifies someone who is blind in one eye.

Now, what kind of seeing is going on here? Certainly, the intention is not that the Jew actually “sees” Hashem upon his arrival on the Temple Mount! The “seeing” referred to involves the trek to Jerusalem and service of G-d in the form of the Olat Re’iyah – the holiday sacrifice.  Far from focusing on a mystical vision of G-d Himself, the seeing of Hashem is identified with serving Him. 

A Postscript

There is a fascinating dispute between Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai on the topic of the age at which one is obligated in the mitzvah of Aliyah L’regel, the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. According to Bet Shammai, a child old enough to ride on his father’s shoulders is obligated מדין חינוך – as part of his education - towards mitzvah performance; in this case: to accompany his father to the Bet Hamikdash.  Bet Hillel disagrees: Only once a child is old enough to grasp on to his father’s hand and ascend the Temple Mount, is he obligated to be educated in the mitzvah.

Two observations:

Bet Hillel is laying the foundations for the Jewish perspective on education: Many authorities note that the mitzvah of chinuch – of educating  one’s child in a given mitzvah – involves giving that child the full mitzvah experience; i.e. exact same opportunity to do a mitzvah in a way that if he were to be an adult, he would fulfill the mitzvah. Translated: one must provide his son with a fully kosher set of the four species with which to perform the mitzvah on Sukkot, a Kosher tallet to don in Kahal.  In the context of the mishna in Hagiga, the mitzvah is for the male Jew to walk to the Mikdash; only if the child can himself go up by foot – by “regel” -- does the father have an obligation to educate him in this mitzvah.

But there’s another more profound lesson here about the Jewish view of education: Certainly, as we educate our children, we must, for a period of time, support them as they negotiate their entry into a full Torah life; we will sometimes have to “carry them on our shoulders” as does the father in Bet Shammai’s approach.   That said, the ultimate goal of Jewish education is to raise a child whose hand we may still hold: a child who is not only able to independently live according to the Torah, but a child who is independently motivated to do so.  A child who will ascend the Temple Mount on his own steam, both physically and spiritually.

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Simhat Torah Night at Ezzy Bezzy

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We are all looking forward to a fantastic Simhat Torah at Ezra Bessaroth!

This year, we are going to put into place a few additions/changes that will both engage all those who join us, and will ensure adherence to Halacha.

First, a note about a practice that is common in many synagogues, but that is on very shaky halachic footing, if any: that's drinking alchoholic beverages in the sanctuary during Simhat Torah services and Hakafot.

This is an issue for two reasons: there is a halacha that one may not eat or drink in a synagogue sanctuary, with the exception of the ritual consumption of wine for Kiddush and Birkat Milah etc. But the consumption of whiskey and other such drinks in the actual sanctuary is an (unwitting) affront to the Kedushat Bet HaKnesset/sanctity of the synagogue as a place of prayer.

Secondly, many people are accustomed to partake of these drinks without having said Kiddush first. Due to the extended dancing, people get thirsty and are anxious to quench their thirst.  Once the Hag has come in, halacha proscribes partaking of any food or drink prior to saying/hearing Kiddush.  The shot glasses of hard liquor, even if consumed outside of the sanctuary, are not appropriate for Kiddush at night, and Kiddush at night involves more than a beracha on your drink.

In addition, through the generosity of Ralph C. each year, we have terrific apples; those, too, should be consumed only after Kiddush. 

In order to make this Kiddush B'makom Seuda, there will be mezonot in two locations: outside the men's sanctuary exit and in the foyer outside of the women's sanctuary door.  One must eat a kezayit of mezonot to fulfill the obligation of "Makom Seuda"/the place of the "meal". This would be, say, three medium-sized whole grain crackers, etc.

In addition, women are welcome to dance in the foyer outside of the women's section during the Hakafot in the main sanctuary.  Any women interested in helping with the "Ruach"/spirit, should contact me Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday day to coordinate our efforts.

Between the third and fourth hakafa, I will be offering a 10-15 mini-shiur for women in the Midrash.

Simhat Torah morning, the Meyers clan is sponsoring the (now) annual ice cream sundae Kiddush in the foyer.  Be sure to avail yourselves of cookies/waffle cones to fulfil the obligation to eat mezonot for the Kiddush "seuda" during the day as well.

Below is a PDF copy of the teshuva/responsum on which the nighttime Simhat Torah Kiddush arrangement is based.  - Mo'adim LeSimcha!

Rabbi Meyers

simhat torah night kiddush.pdf 

 

 

מן י

 

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Sep
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Sukkah: A State of Mind

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An article I wrote some years ago for Yeshivat Darche Noam:

“Mitz’ta’er”: A Definition
The Talmud in Tractate Sukkah 25a cites the Amora, Rav, as declaring that a mourner is fully obligated in all of the mitzvot of the Torah (with the exception of one, based on a special verse.) Next, Rav states that a mourner must dwell in the Sukkah during the Festival of Sukkot. This second halacha prompts the Gemara to exclaim: “That’s obvious!” In other words – after Rav’s initial statement – obligating a mourner in all the mitzvot – why would we have thought that he would be exempt from the mitzvah of Sukkah?

Had Rav not stated this second halacha, answers the Gemara, we may have actually thought that a mourner is exempt from Sukkah. Why? A fundamental principle in Hilchot Sukkah is that one who is suffering from being in the Sukkah – a “mitz’ta’er” – is exempt from the mitzvah; we may have thus thought that a mourner, in his grief, falls into this category. According to the Gemara, Rav’s special stress on the mourner’s obligation to dwell in the Sukkah clarifies that the exemption of mitz’ta’er only applies to suffering that develops ” on its own”. The discomfort of the mourner in the Sukkah does not develop “on its own”; rather, the mourner, says the Gemara, “is bringing the suffering on himself, and he therefore has the obligation to place his mind at ease and calm down [to allow himself to live in the Sukkah.]”

Rashi explains that suffering that “develops on its own” relates to discomfort stemming from the Sukkah itself. Typical examples include: discomfort from the heat of the sun beating down on the Sukkah, the cold temperature in the Sukkah, or a bad odor emitted by the structure’s leafy “schach” roof. Since a mourner’s sensitivity is not directly related to the Sukkah’s temperature or odor, he must put himself at ease so that he can perform the mitzvah.

Why should a mourner find the Sukkah so difficult to tolerate? Rabbeinu Asher (“Rosh”) explains that such a person prefers the dark, secluded atmosphere of a house rather than the pleasant-open air atmosphere of the Sukkah. Far from being objectively unpleasant – the Sukkah is “too pleasant” an environment for the mourner! In other words, it’s the mourner’s delicate and unique emotional state that transforms the Sukkah into a troubling place.

Comparing Sukkah to Tefilin
Sukkah is not the only mitzvah in which the halacha stresses the mental/emotional situation of the Jew. The Gemara in Menachot (36b) rules that a person donning Tefilin must not take his mind off the mitzvah, and proves this by learning a “Kal V’chomer” from the requirement of the High Priest (Kohen Gadol) to mentally focus on his “Tzitz” headdress. Rambam codifies this ruling in his Mishna Torah, stating that a person in discomfort, or one whose mind is not at ease, is exempt from the mitzvah of Tefilin – since it is forbidden to become distracted from the Tefilin while donning them.

In response to the above halacha, Rabbeinu Manoach (cited by Kesef Mishna) states: Even though with all other mitzvot, we require a person to put his mind at ease and perform the mitzvah, Tefilin are different: it’s forbidden to wear them while mentally distracted. Kesef Mishna understands this comment as an implicit challenge on the Rambam: How can Rambam exempt a “mitz’ta’er” from Tefilin, if, after all, the Gemara in Sukkah states that such a person must calm down with the aim of fulfilling the mitzvah of Sukkah?!

To this challenge, Rabbeinu Manoach responds: The mitzvah of Tefilin is different: Since it is characterized by a special “distraction” prohibition, we don’t insist that he put his mind at ease. Why? As much as he calms himself down, he won’t escape the fact that there is a special prohibition of being distracted while donning Tefilin.

In other words, we cannot simply say in the case of Tefilin: “Let him calm down and perform the mitzvah.” Once a Jew has become preoccupied and distracted, the halacha is wary of permitting him to don the Tefilin ; the very real possibility exists that he will again lose his concentration. No such halachic prohibition – and therefore no such cautious approach – exists in the law of Sukkah.

A Second Approach
Another prominent scholar – R. Joel Sirkes in his work “Bayit Chadash” (Bach) – also grapples with the apparent contradiction in the halacha. In contrast to Rabbeinu Manoach’s approach, Bach understands the person in Rambam’s Tefilin scenario as being in a different mental state than the one in the Sukkah scenario: Rambam, notes Bach, is dealing with a person who is simply unable to put his mind at ease. Even if he succeeds at doing so for a moment, he quickly reverts to being a “mitz’ta’er”. He therefore never escapes the status of someone who is distracted and therefore exempt from Tefilin. In contrast, the “mitz’ta’er” of the Gemara in Sukkah is someone – whom – with sufficient effort, can calm down.

Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg (Responsa “Tzitz Eliezer”) notes that according to Bach – were the person in Rambam’s Tefilin scenario to ask whether he is obligated in Sukkah – we would tell him that he is not. This would be our answer to him, despite the fact that his discomfort does not stem from the heat of the Sukkah, nor the odor emitted by the schach.

At first glance, Bach’s approach seems to contradict the Gemara Sukkah (27a): “You must dwell in Sukkot for seven days” says the Torah. Given the principle that we must treat the Sukkah like our home for a week, we need only live in it as long as the it allows us similar conditions we are accustomed to in our homes. Since we would not live in a house that has a leaky roof, or an apartment that is uncomfortably cold – we are not expected to live in a Sukkah under cold or rainy conditions. A person whose discomfort stems mainly from his own mental or emotional state, and not from the Sukkah, however, is not exempt from the mitzvah to dwell in the Sukkah. (The Gemara quoted earlier, as explained by Rashi reinforces this.) How could Bach, then, suggest that a person unable to put his mind at ease – is exempt from both Tefilin and Sukkah? It is not the Sukkah, but his own mental state, that is standing in the way!

Tying it All Together
In order to understand Bach’s ruling, Rabbi Waldenberg notes that the question of what exempts a “mitz’ta’er” from Sukkah is a major disagreement between the Rishonim. Rashi, Rosh, and Mordechai all rule that a person is exempt from Sukkah only when the discomfort stems from the Sukkah itself. This is the view accepted by Remah in the Shulchan Aruch. The Maharik, in contrast, states that a “mitz’ta’er” is exempt from Sukkah even if the discomfort is mainly a product of his emotional state. Maharik cites our Gemara Sukkah (25a) – and notes that it was prepared to exempt the mourner as a “mitz’ta’er” – but required him instead to put his mind at ease and dwell in the Sukkah.

In other words, Maharik reads that Gemara differently than we suggested earlier: That “sugyah” did not intend to definitively rule out a mourner’s state of mind as a relevant factor in defining “mitz’ta’er”: It simply concluded that when the discomfort derives from the Sukkah itself, there’s not much the halacha can demand of the Jew: if the Sukkah is too hot or wet, then the conditions do not allow for the mitzvah of dwelling in the Sukkah to be fulfilled. If however, the mourner’s state of mind is the issue, the halacha asks him to try to “get a hold of himself” before availing himself of the exemption of “mitz’ta’er.” It follows, therefore, that both Maharik and Bach – confronted with a person who is unable to relax, would rule that that he is exempt from Sukkah in the same way as such a person is exempt from – and even forbidden to wear – Tefilin.

Rabbi Waldenberg suggests that underlying the contrasting approaches towards the Gemara – are two contrasting views of the source of the exemption of “mitz’ta’er”. The mainstream view – Rashi, Rosh, Mordechai, Remah – understands the verse “You must dwell in Sukkot for seven days” as the basis of the exemption; we must treat the Sukkah like our home for a week, we need only live in the Sukkah as long as it allows us similar conditions as a regular home. As noted earlier, one whose discomfort stems mainly from his own mental or emotional state, and not from the Sukkah, is not exempt from the mitzvah to dwell in the Sukkah.

The opposing view – that of Bach and Maharik – bases itself on the verse in Vayikra Chapter 23, which states that we must dwell in Sukkot “So that your generations [after you] know that I caused the Children of Israel to dwell in Sukkot when I took them out of the Land of Egypt.” This, says Bach explicitly – indicates that the Torah wants us to experience a special religious/historical awareness while dwelling in the Sukkah. A severe “mitz’ta’er” simply cannot attain this consciousness, and is therefore exempt. It’s irrelevant, according to this view, whether the unsettled state of mind is a result of the heat of the Sukkah, etc, or a personal state of anxiety not rooted in the Sukkah. This explanation helps explain, as well, why Bach equated between the two issues of Sukkah and of Tefilin. In Shmot Ch. 13, the Torah states that we must wear Tefilin “so that the Torah of God should remain on your lips.” Here, as in the mitzvah of Sukkah, a special awareness is required while performing the mitzvah. It is this special state of mind that exempts the “mitz’ta’er.”

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15
Sep
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A Purposeful Yom Kippur

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(My sermon at EB on Yom Kippur owed much to the ideas and words of both Rabbi Barry Kornblau and Rabbi Benjamin Blech.  Here is a written version of what I said on Yom Kippur)


questionmark"…It’s bad news. There are some very bad men on the plane. The men have a bomb and they have a knife. We've had no contact with the pilots, but the men have taken over the plane and have moved everyone to the back of the plane and left us here….I need to know something. One of the other passengers has talked to their spouse, and he said that they were crashing other planes into the World Trade Center. Is that true?…..Now, I need some advice - what to do? Should we, you know, we’re talking about attacking these men, what should I do?... OK, The others and myself have voted to attack the terrorists. I have my butter knife from breakfast.. I’m going to leave the phone here. Stay on the line, I’ll be back."

It is Yom Kippur today, but it is also three days after the 12th anniversary of 9-11.  This conversation I just read to you originated on an airplane on Sept. 11, 2001.  The plane was United Airlines Flight 93 from Newark, bound for San Francisco.

The man on the plane, on the phone with his wife ---  was a 31 year old Jewish man from New Jersey  by the name of Jeremy Glick. Along with three other people, Mark Bingham, Todd Beamer and Tom Burnett, Glick took on a leadership role in his decision to rush the hijackers. Their goal: To prevent an even greater tragedy. For their efforts, these passengers were given numerous posthumous awards.

The more I think about 9-11, the more I appreciate it as a Yom Hadin – as a Day of Judgment. It was a day of judgment for the American people, a day of judgment for all decent people – and certainly, a day of judgment for the passengers of those flights, including Flight 93.  

If you were to be asked, who, from the Torah's perspective, is the star of Yom Kippur?  In the days of the Bet Hamikdash, it was clearly the Kohen Gadol, High Priest.  He trains for seven days; He runs from task to task.  He immerses in the mikveh 5 times. He enters the Holy of Holies. He prays and confesses on behalf of the entire Jewish people.

But the Torah tells us of another co-star.  He escorts the Scapegoat from the Temple to the desert, where, mysteriously, his role is equally as important in helping the Jewish people atone for their sins.

The name the Torah gives to this person is איש עיתי- the “Ish Iti”.

The Talmud explains this term to mean, “the pre-designated man” - the man with an appointed purpose.  There’s another translation of his name, too: he was a “timely man”.   For him, every second counted: Back in the Temple Courtyard, the Kohen Gadol – the High Priest and everyone assembled took a break of about 4 hours in the middle of the day as they waited for him to complete his appointed task.

To make sure that he completed his task, he was even allowed to break the fast!  In fact, Sukkot came a little bit early for him: The mishna records how there were Sukkot throughout the miles and miles of desert, manned by volunteers, offering him OU- approved Oreo cookies and Gatorade to snack on.  According to the Gemara, not once in Jewish history did the “Ish Iti” ever take advantage of the Sukkot pit-stops, but the very knowledge that he could eat and drink if he wanted to was enough to calm him and energize him while he continued his mission.

Most Jews, when asked to sum up Yom Kippur, would naturally say that it’s the ultimate fast day.  As if the fast is the essence of the day.  Now, don’t get me wrong - fasting is central to Yom Kippur, and a person should not break the fast barring a life-threatening reason to do so.  But it’s fascinating that the Ish Iti – the co-star on whom much of the Atonement depended upon – himself – had the option of eating and drinking. 

Here we are, obligated to fast – and the person who is helping atone for our sins – gets to eat??!

I may be going out on a limb, but I am going to say it anyhow – the essence of Yom Kippur is NOT the fast.  The heart of Yom Kippur is the obligation to cultivate a sense of purpose in our lives. The goal, the agenda of the fast is to trigger us to reflect on and rethink our lives and reframe our purpose for being here.

On Flight 93, Jeremy Glick was the Jewish people’s representative, the Ish Iti of that moment. At the same time as he was filled with horror, he was infused with a sense of purpose; fate beckoned him to act. And, like the Ish Iti of the Torah, he did what he did to save the lives of others.

Rabbi Blech:

There was a study published last month in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers from UCLA and the University of North Carolina had volunteers fill out a questionnaire asking them if they felt satisfied with their lives, whether they considered themselves happy, and, if so, to identify the cause of their greatest joy. They follwed this up by looking at the underlying cellular mechanisms that affect mood and health or, more specifically, the gene-expression profiles for the volunteers’ white blood cells.

Genes direct the production of proteins which jump-start other processes that control much of the body’s immune response. And here was the shocker: Different forms of happiness were associated with very different gene expression profiles.

Researchers recognized  a distinct difference physiologically between two kinds of joy.

One is what we would call hedonistic. It’s the result of eating a great meal, enjoying a fine scotch, (drinking Fig Raki (!))... or experiencing physical intimacy. It’s the body’s reaction to self- gratification.

But there is different category of happiness for which we have the term "eudaemonic". It is rooted not in getting but in giving. It is the happiness that comes from the sense of fulfillment that accompanies living a life of higher purpose and service to others. It makes demands on the body and often stands in the way of physical enjoyment, but it succeeds on a higher level.

It is the joy felt by a surgeon physically drained after a grueling but successful 12-hour operation. It is the joy felt by the rescuer of a drowning child, weary to the point of exhaustion by his efforts but overwhelmed by the knowledge that he was instrumental in saving a life.

As the rabbi of this congregation I am going to add on: It is the joy felt by the Ladies Auxiliary after donating $30,000 to put new lights and paint in our sanctuary; by an EB member known for his expertise in building and construction for implementing the plan; the joy of one of illustrious co-Presidents in leading the reupholstering of our sanctuary. It is the joy of those who responded to his “ask”  It’s the joy of those members who bring in renowned speakers, sponsor Shabbatonim and Kiddushim on behalf of the congregation. It’s the joy of those who participate day in and day out, on Shabbat and Festivals in the Minyan and Torah learning at our Kehilla.  It’s also the joy of the founders of this congregation, who, though they have passed away from the physical world, are with us always – and who  labored tirelessly to create this very community. 

The researchers from the University of California and University of North Carolina determined which of the volunteers were happy as a result of hedonistic or eudaemonic reasons. To their amazement, those whose happiness was primarily based on consuming things and physical gratification “had surprisingly unhealthy profiles, with relatively high levels of biological markers known to promote increased inflammation throughout the body. Such inflammation has been linked to the development of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. They also had relatively low levels of other markers that increase antibody production, to better fight off infections.”

And those whose happiness stemmed from acts of kindness, communal service, or commitment to a higher cause? They had profiles “that displayed augmented levels of anti-body- producing gene expression and lower levels of the pro-inflammatory expression.”

Stephen Cole, a professor of medicine at UCLA and senior author of the study, concluded that “our genes can tell the difference between a purpose-driven life and a life limited solely to the goal of self-indulgence, and goes so far as to reward the former and biologically express its disapproval for the latter."

Over the past few days, I had some conversations with some people who noted the parallel between the “afflictions” of Yom Kippur and the laws of Tisha Be’av.  On the surface of things – the days seem to have the same character, as expressed in the shared laws.  The difference is that Tisha Be’av is a day of mourning, and the restraints are geared to trigger mournful contemplation.  Yom Kippur, on the other hand, is a festival.  So how do we explain the imperative of refraining from food, drink and other pleasures? In line with the study we’ve been discussing, we Jews are withdrawing from self-indulgence to make the statement that we are people driven by a higher purpose! 

In fact, Rabbi Blech suggests that we reframe the Day of Atonement as the“Day of At-Onement”, the day in which we become one with God, “by heeding the still small voice of the pure soul that God has implanted within us, we achieve the greatest blessing of all-At-Onement with the deepest recesses of ourselves and the spark of Godliness within us.”

Each one of us can transform him or herself into an Ish Iti – a person with a purpose. As we continue our communal Tefilah on this Yom Kippur day, let each of us meditate on we are going to implement this imperative in our personal lives.

Tizku Leshanim Rabbot and Shabbat Shalom!

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Sep
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Pre-Yom Kippur Notes

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Just a reminder that the Seudah Hamafseket - the final meal before the fast - should start in plenty of time to have a meal before the fast.  Candlelighting in Seattle Friday night is 7:06 pm and Kal Nidre begins a 6:45 pm.  

Unlike the Seudah Hamafseket before Tisha Be'av - which is a mournful meal - eggs and lentils and sitting on the ground - the meal prior to Yom Kippur is a festive one. One should wear Shabbat/Hag clothing at the meal; the meal should feature rich foods typical of Shabbat and Festival meals. 

Since it is not Shabbat at the time of the meal, there is of course no Kiddush and no need for Lechem Mishne/(specifically) two loaves of bread.

See you at EB for Kal Nidre!

The Five "Afflictions" of Yom Kippur 

  • No eating/drinking
  • No washing past the knuckles
  • No perfumes/colognes
  • No leather shoes
  • No marital relations

 

 

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27
Aug
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Birthday Wishes and Support for Congressman Reichert on his visit to Israel

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Rep. Dave Reichert, serving his fifth term in the 8th Congressional District in the State of Washington, is currently visiting Israel.  In honor of his birthday this coming Thursday, I wrote the following letter to him; it will be delivered to him during his trip.  EB will continue to proudly support politicians from both parties who openly declare their support for the State of Israel.  We were delighted to co-sponsor the Derek Kilmer talk at Herzl on August 13th and look forward to our continued alliances with members of Congress. 

Birthday Wishes to Rep. Reichert:

http://ravron.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/rep-reichert-birthday-wishes-1.pdf

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26
Aug
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Rabbi's New Office Hours

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As of this week, Rabbi Meyers' new office hours are as follows:

Sundays 11 am - noon
Mondays 1- 3 pm
Wednesdays and Thursdays 1-3:30 pm
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12
Aug
0

Special Shiur for Women Sept. 1st

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A number of women throughout the Greater Seattle Jewish community have already received a Paperless Post invite to the upcoming Sept. 1st shiur entitled "Rosh Hashana: Coming Home". The organizers of the new program - to be unveiled on Sept. 1st - want to let all the women of the community know that they are all invited to attend, and can RSVP to the email address on the attached invite.  (We had a limited number of email addresses and therefore could not send an invitation to everyone!

midrashainvite

 

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