BEREISHEIT...IN THE BEGINNING
As we begin our Torah reading anew this week, with the story of creation, perhaps we can be inspired by this 500-year-old teaching:
Before the beginning, God filled the universe. When God decided to create this world, God needed to make space for creation. In a great act of love, God drew in God's breath, contracting God's self. It was called "tzimtzum." From that contraction, darkness was created. And when God said, "Let there be light" (Gen. 1:3), the light that came into being filled the darkness, and ten holy vessels came forth, each filled with primordial light.
God sent forth these ten vessels as one commentator described "like a fleet of ships, each carrying its cargo of holy light." Had they all arrived intact into existence, the world would have been perfect. But the vessels were too fragile to contain such a powerful, divine light. They broke open, split into shards (k'lipot), and all the holy sparks (nitzatzot) were scattered like sand, like seeds, like stars. Those sparks fell everywhere in this world.
That is why human beings were created - to be God's partners - to gather the sparks, no matter where they are hidden. God created us so that we could and would raise up the holy sparks. This is our job...le-takein et ha-olam... to repair the world. It is ours to do tikkun olam.
How do we do that? Whenever we bring God's goodness and light into the world...whenever we lift up our fellow human being and grant him or her the dignity of being viewed as created in God's image.
Blood + Vanishing Moons =
Who knew that Sukkot was so important?
Clearly, God. Or nature. Or both!
Because on Erev Sukkot, we will witness an unusual phenomenon: On Sunday, September 27, we can see something that hasn't happened in more than 30 years: a supermoon combined with a lunar eclipse. With that combination, it is called a blood moon! The last time this happened was 1982, and it won't happen again until 2033. According to the Hebrew calendar, tomorrow is the 15th of Tishri - a full moon - and the beginning of Sukkot. As we reach this holiday, the skies will celebrate in a spectacular fashion: In the evening, we will see a larger-than-normal harvest moon begin to dim and turn red, lasting for more than an hour before returning to its normal brightness and color in the sky. Sukkot is THE "nature" holiday of Judaism, a time to think about our planet and our symbiotic relationship. It is not by accident that Sukkot is simply called "He-Chag - THE Festival." On Sukkot, we dwell in temporary spaces (sukkot), we wave the lulav and etrog, and we rejoice at the beauty of nature. It is a time to look up through the open roof of the sukkah, to gaze at the stars and the moon, and to recognize that God has a role to play in the celestial panorama before us.
If you want to enjoy this spectacular Sukkot gift, here are the times for this celestial event:
By the time we end our Erev Sukkot dinner, the lunar eclipse will begin. Let's join together and witness the heavens wishing the world a "had sameach," a happy Sukkot!
Last week, I saw the movie, Selma.
This week, many traveled to Selma to observe the 50th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday."
Yesterday, I received a picture from my friend, Peter Yarrow, with hundreds of rabbisand clergy of all faiths who gathered for that moment.
Today, I share with you words by Rabbi Barry L. Schwartz, who wrote them in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this past January:
"Selma...is a powerful movie that manages to feel epic and intimate at the same time; no easy feat. It is heroic yet nuanced; laudable for Hollywood....One critic accuses the film of "airbrushing" the Jewish presence out of the movie. If one watches closely, two figures can be seen wearing yarmulkes. What is lamentable, however, is the absence of a striking figure with flowing white hair and beard. In an iconic photo from the march, he is one person away from Dr. King. He is Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, renowned philosopher, author and activist.
While it is well-known that Rabbi Heschel, along with several other rabbis, marched with Dr. King in Selma, the extent of Rabbi Heschel's involvement is much less appreciated. Before going to Selma, Rabbi Heschel helped organize a demonstration at the FBI headquarters in New York protesting the treatment of participants in the previous "Bloody Sunday" Selma march. Eight hundred demonstrators converged; onlyRabbi Heschel was
allowed in to the building to present a petition.
In 1968, shortly before his death, Dr. King lauded Rabbi Heschel at a gathering of Conservative rabbis, saying, "He has been with us in many of our struggles. I remember marching from Selma to Montgomery; how he stood at my side and with us as we faced that crisis situation."
...Rabbi Heschel was asked to speak at Dr. King's funeral; he was the only rabbi to do so. It was fitting for the man whom King's supporters often called "Father Abraham" and who Dr. King himself was known to refer to as "my rabbi."
* * *
I just returned from eight days in Israel. As always, it was a remarkable time, made even more incredible when I awoke each day knowing that I was in a place in which my ancestors (literally...my grandfather, my great-grandfather, my great-great grandfather) lived, a place that hundreds of generations of my ancestors prayed for and prayed to see, a place that percolates with new and ancient ideas side by side, figuring out how to make this spit of land on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean a place worthy to be called "ha-tikvah" (the hope).
One of the more interesting aspects of my eight days were the constant conversations being held amongst Israelis regarding the upcoming elections. As in the United States, everyone has an opinion! But unlike our (basically) two-party system, your parliamentary-style government lends itself to a dozen parties, all vying for seats in the Knesset.
The polls suggest that you are going to continue to be prime minister of Israel. I humbly urge you to not be self-serving in this opportunity. Instead, seize the moment and recognize that YOU can heal this country. Not with corruption. Not with prejudice. Not with diminished vision. Rather, by stepping forward and offering to be partners with those who want Israel to be "ha-tikvah" (the hope) for all.
DID WE SEE OUR SHADOW?
With congregations from throughout North America and graduating rabbis from the three HUC-JIR campuses all gathered in Cincinnati, it is an intensive time for both the rabbis and congregations. Rabbis are interviewing with 10-12 congregations over a 3-day period. Congregations are trying to differentiate themselves, so rabbis will remember them. It's somewhat akin to speed dating. Both want to make great first impressions, as they determine whether they want to invite (or be invited) to that "second date."
Lisa and I were bowled over! All of the candidates got it. They understood our core purpose, our core values, and were agog over our BHAG, our Big Holy Awesome Goal. As we pursue our search, Lisa and I felt thrilled and privileged to participate in this stage of our search. We have met the future leadership of Reform Judaism...and we know that we will be well served by this next generation of rabbis.
One of these rabbis will be our "beshert," our match. And s/he will join us for the coming years in nurturing meaning, connection, and continuity for us, our children, and our community.
Stayed tuned, as we discover this new path of our congregation's journey.
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03.27.2017 9:00 am - 2:00 pm
03.27.2017 5:45 pm - 6:15 pm
03.28.2017 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
03.28.2017 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm
03.28.2017 5:45 pm - 6:15 pm
The Temple, Congregation B'nai Jehudah 12320 Nall Avenue Overland Park, KS 66209 Phone: 913-663-4050 Fax: 913-906-9544