I was driving along 133rd on Friday night, on the way to Home Depot to pick up some things to fix a broken toilet. As I passed Mission, heading east, I saw this crowd of people converging on the park. I slowed down and let a couple dozen people cross the street. While waiting, I asked someone what was happening. When they told me it was a Shabbat service, I was intrigued.
I am Jewish. However, I must confess that I am not very religious. I don't belong to a synagogue and - quite honestly - that Friday night my thoughts were on overflowing toilets and not Jewish prayers. I didn't even realize that it was Shabbat...that is how non-religious I am.
However, as I said, I was intrigued. There were A LOT of people there. Something compelled me to pull into the parking lot and come over to the park. A nice woman offered me a chair and a glass of water. I knew a few folks there, but it was a different feeling than I have ever had at a Jewish event. Without meaning to be disrespectful about anything else you do, THIS was joyful.
Q. Parking?A. There are 19 parking spaces on the west end of the park, where our Kabbalat Shabbat service will take place. PLEASE save those spaces for folks who have a handicapped sticker and/or those who may have a more difficult time walking. Everyone else....park across the street in the Price Chopper parking lot.
Q. Chairs? Water?A. We ask that folks bring their own stadium/folding chairs or blankets to be comfortable. We will be sitting on the grass, facing the pavilion. We will have a few (just a few) extra folding chairs for those who need them and forgot to bring their own. We will also have a couple of large commercial thermal jugs of water, and cups, if you become thirsty. Our staff will be on hand to help carry chairs and assist you.
Q. Rain?A. We hope for great weather. As of today, there is a 10% chance of rain. If it does rain, we will hold the same service, just in our building in the chapel. If you are unsure, go to our website (www.bnaijehudah.org) and it will tell you if we are moving the service to our building. We plan on a beautiful, COOL Shabbat night!
Q. Who makes this happen?A. We are so grateful to Sisterhood for agreeing to underwrite the costs of Shabbat in the Park this year. Their generosity permits us to celebrate in such a grand style. Thank you Sisterhood!
And I do believe in Sinai. Thus, I believe that I was there.
I believe that something unfathomably powerful connects me to others who choose to walk a Jewish path. There is a knowing and a relationship that is both palpable and yet indescribable. Therefore, I believe that all of us were at Sinai. Together, we heard what it means to be Jewish, what it means to be righteous, what it means to be a "light unto others."
Just as on our birthdays, we celebrate a fact in which we had only so much control in making happen - yet we are the recipients of the wonder that was our conception and birth....so too does Sinai celebrate that moment when Jewish history begins, when we are born and are given the tools to travel that path called Judaism. It has changed over the millennia and it will continue to change, just as we do physically and emotionally year after year.
At this hour, just a few miles from this place, Terri LaManno is being buried. Andtomorrow afternoon, Reat Underwood and his grandfather, William Corporon, will be laid to rest. We can barely comprehend the pain, the confusion, and the grief that consumes their families. They, like we, ask that unanswerable question: Why? Why did such tragedy befall three good souls? Why do bad things happen to good people? We don't know.
And while each of us has a unique theology of life, mine tells me that God did not cause this pain. Rather, God - like us - is weeping for this loss. And God - like us - is silent in God's own grief.
And yet, we know that silence will not heal the wound that has ripped our community asunder. For it is silence that allowed such acts to happen. Silence in the face of hatred. Silence in the face of prejudice. Silence in the face of fear. Silence is no solution.
Love. Love for each of God's children. Love for who we are. Love for those who are wounded and weary. The Bible is clear in this message. In the book of Leviticus, we are commanded not once but twice, "V'ahavta l'reiecha kamocha" - You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Love your neighbor as yourself. How do we do that? It is not a narcissistic approach to life, where we give and do for others only that which you yourself would want.Rather, it is just the opposite: when we put ourselves in another's shoes, and imagine what he or she needs...and we then are able to provide it...that is true love. That is when we love our neighbors as ourselves.
That is what Terri's and Reat's and William's families need today. And it is what our community needs. We need to love each other as ourselves. We need to love life, love faith love people. For that is, as I have read and heard, who William and Reat and Terri were...lovers of life. And if we can love - if we can embrace the opposite of hate - then we stand together and we will be stronger.
There is an ancient Jewish tradition that when a loved one dies, we take a small stone and place it upon the grave. We do so in order to have something to do, some physical act of remembrance. And we do so, also, to remind us of our loved one's values and hopes and dreams. I was taught a small twist of this tradition. Instead of one stone, take two of similar size and shape. Place one of the grave. And place the other in your pocket. Then, wherever you go and whatever you do, a small reminder of your loved is there - literally - in hand, to support you, to heal you, to guide you.
Leaving cinematography critiques to others, I was taken by a specific "midrashic" interpretation by the director.
In Genesis, it speaks of "b'nai ha-elohim," literally "the sons of the God." In the movie, they are portrayed as fallen angels, who call themselves, "watchers."
Both in the Biblical tale and in the movie, the world is corrupt. People saw their own strength and took whatever they wanted. The result was - as the Bible describes - lawlessness.
They - and so often, we - feel that strength comes from ourselves. We are all powerful. Some say: "We control our destinies. We can do whatever we want." Others say: "We know what God wants. And we must do whatever God wants."
But this I do believe: Real strength comes from both within and beyond. That strength of character that tells one what is truly right - not expedient, not self-promoting, not deceptive, but actions that are good and noble and serve to lift another's plight. That strength comes from the Creator (whatever that might be).
This week, we read the parasha, Shemini, from the book of Leviticus. In it, there is a strange story. Nadab and Abihu, two sons of Aaron, were consumed by fire on the day the Mishkan was inaugurated. The Torah states they each took a fire pan and put fire and incense on them and brought before God an "eish zara," a strange fire. (Lev. 10,1). The Torah is very clear what happens next. Fire comes out from God, consumes them, and they die.
It seems that these two "younguns" had their own ideas as to how to communicate with God. They were moved spiritually to do things "their way." The fire they brought was first and foremost, fire. It was their spiritual and emotional fire. But, it was also strange. It fell outside the boundaries of normal practice. It wasn't what everyone expected.
Like these "younguns," we need to find our own voices in prayer, and not just reflect the echo of those who came before us. For some, our prayerbook resonates with uplifting words. For some, meaningful prayer is found in music. And for others, prayer is not palpable unless done outdoors, communing with the world. Whatever it is for you, channel Nadab and Abihu...be the voice of your own prayer...not the echo.
The Torah would go further than the Kansas House. It would permit people to be put to death for homosexual acts. But then again, the Torah permits slavery, denies any rights to women regarding marriage, and permits a defiant child to be stoned to death in the public square. Oh yes, the Torah also permits a man to have multiple wives.
I believe our Jewish tradition is clear. When we encounter the "other" (meaning people unlike ourselves), we are to embrace them, welcome them, treat them as our own. The Torah was written for a specific time and place. Today is different. A new Torah needs to be written and held sacred, a Torah of inclusion and welcome. Take a moment. Write/email/call your legislators. Let them know what you think is the matter with Kansas!
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03.25.2017 10:30 am - 12:00 pm
Shabbat Service (Bar Mitzvah: Elijah Kushnir)
03.25.2017 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
03.26.2017 8:30 am - 12:00 pm
Brotherhood Breakfast Club
03.26.2017 9:15 am - 12:00 pm
03.26.2017 10:00 am - 11:15 am
Yarn Spinners group
The Temple, Congregation B'nai Jehudah 12320 Nall Avenue Overland Park, KS 66209 Phone: 913-663-4050 Fax: 913-906-9544