When Eco Chavura was first formed, we conducted a survey with respect to the top issues at the temple that members thought we should address. The number one response: RECYCLING; and for understandable reasons. For years, although the Temple may have had blue bins placed randomly in different areas within the building, there were no signage indicating what could go in them. Exacerbating the situation was the fact that if one came upon a blue bin and there was no accompanying trash bin, people simply threw their trash in the recycling bin. What does that do? It contaminates the recycling bin’s integrity and everything ends up going to the landfill. Landfills are BAD!
On Rosh Chodesh, the new moon of the Jewish month of Av, I found myself in Jerusalem, in the plaza near the Kotel (the Western Wall of the Temple) surrounded by hundreds of people—and barricades.
I almost didn’t find myself there. When I first arrived at the Plaza, I was enveloped by a throng of curious Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) girls who tried to see what was happening as they approached the Kotel for their morning prayers. Still looking for a way in, I rounded the corner of the barricades and encountered a large, angry group of Haredi men, whose jeers rose louder and louder. But the sound of women praying in song rose above their taunts, and soon an Israeli soldier parted the barricades so that I could go inside.
This Fall we are offering a brand new class in Temple Sholom’s Adult Education curriculum, “Mostly Midrash.” It has two educational goals.
First, we want to help people learn the process of “text study.” If the Torah were written plainly and with no poetry or ambiguity, it would be much simpler to read it and know what it means to be a Good person. But it would also be so boring that we would have left it behind thousands of years ago.
Now that I have your attention…!
I have to admit that when I first heard about the Breast Oasis project at Temple Sholom, spearheaded by Pam Bondy, I was very skeptical. Bras are expensive and very personal, and, really, who would want my used (even gently used) bras?
Possibly encountering some similar resistance from others, Pam followed up on her initial request with a blog post which explained that bras are the most needed and least donated clothing items. “Women who worry about where they will be sleeping at night, how they will put food on the table for their children, and who will be there for an emergency,” she said, “also have to also think about how they will purchase a bra.” I thought back on my clothing donations in the past and remembered not one bra donation. I was really taken aback and not a little ashamed – that made perfect sense and I had never thought about it.
If your Shabbat practice allows, join Andrew Keene (NFTY President), Governor Quinn, Mayor Emmanuel and thousands of others this Saturday, October 5 at 9am for a rally immigration reform at Union Park.
On this Shabbat, we read a story with which many faiths are familiar: the story of Noah. The iconic dove– graceful, beautiful and brave– has come to symbolize the peace movement. I believe she is a fitting symbol for immigration reform as well.
You know the tale: God brought a flood that destroyed all living things on earth save Noah, his wife, children and the animals on the ark. After the rain had stopped, first Noah sent out a raven who never to returned from his search for dry land. Next Noah sent out the dove. She circled and circled, looking anywhere and everywhere to land. Finding no dry land, she returned to the ark.
In his famous 1966 essay “No Religion is an Island,” [Union Theological Seminary
Quarterly Review 21:2,1 (January 1966) Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote:
Our era marks the end of complacency, the end of evasion, the end of selfreliance.
Jews and Christians share the perils and the fears; we stand on the brink
of the abyss together. Interdependence of political and economic conditions all
over the world is a basic fact of our situation. Disorder in a small obscure country
in any part of the world evokes anxiety in people all over the world. Parochialism
has become untenable. …
Horizons are wider, dangers are greater. No religion is an island. We are all
involved with one another. Spiritual betrayal on the part of one of us affects the
faith of all of us. Views adopted in one community have an impact on other
communities. Today religious isolationism is a myth.
** An edited version of this article is available in our newly printed D’var**
The upcoming beautiful new D’var is a paradigm shift. It reflects rethinking how we present what is happening at Temple Sholom. In this spirit, the following remarks, adapted from my installation address in September, present my take on the future of synagogues in general and Temple Sholom in particular.
When the phone rings during the dinner hour, it is usually a good idea to just ignore it.
Chances are pretty good these days that the caller on the other end is someone trying to sell you life insurance on your credit card, solicit a donation for some charity fund, or poll your opinion on some topic you really don’t care to discuss with a stranger.
These telephone solicitors have so perfected their techniques into an art form over the last few years, however, that once you answer the phone it is virtually impossible to escape their clutches.
Has anyone here ever heard of SCOTT GINSBERG? On a whim one night in college nearly 14 years ago, he decided to wear a name tag that said: “Hello, My name is Scott” 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He never takes it off. He carries spares in in his pockets. Just about five times a day someone asks him: “What’s with the name tag?”
And here’s his response: “It represents friendliness in the midst of strangers.”
So today, we sit in this beauty of this awesome sanctuary. We pray this day together, but I am sad to say that sometimes, even amidst so many others here, we still feel like strangers. That is not a way to start a new year. We are not wearing name tags, so in just a moment, I will ask you to introduce yourself to those sitting around you. And if you already know your neighbors, ask them this question: “What do you hope this sermon is about?” Put another way: What message do you need to hear at this season this year?
You may be familiar with the Biblical character Nachshon. We know little about him from the Torah other than his lineage and station. It was a Midrash that catapulted this obscure character to enduring popularity. The rabbis of old credit him with leading the Children of Israel into the parting waters of the Sea of Reeds during the exodus from Egypt. They imagine that the Israelites were paralyzed with fear, and that Moses, halted by the watery depths confronting them, seemed unable to move them toward safety. Nachshon alone plunged into the water, says the Talmud, and THAT’S when the sea began to part. In a moment of abject terror, Nachshon was able to move forward and bring everyone else with him. There is an old Jewish expression: “Be Nachshon.” Be the first one to step up and get others moving in the right direction. To be able to martial that kind of inspiration and courage requires an array of qualities. One essential characteristic is the ability to see clearly what is at hand.
In these past few weeks I have greatly enjoyed learning stories about the congregation in general and about so many of you in particular. I am grateful to have shared my story with you on Rosh Hashanah.
Speaking of stories, here is one that I love:
A religious man who had reached the age of 105 suddenly stopped going to synagogue. Alarmed by the old fellow’s absence after so many years of faithful attendance, the rabbi went to see him.
He found him in excellent health, so the rabbi asked, “How come after all these years we don’t see you at services anymore?”
“I will tell you, Rabbi,” the old man whispered. “When I got to be 90, I expected God to take me any day. But then I got to be 95, then 100, and then 105. So I figured that God is very busy and must’ve forgotten about me…and I don’t want to remind him!”
The logic of this man may not make sense but his desire is understandable. He wanted to hide from the inevitable. And we must admit there are times when we would all like to hide.