Sunday, January 10 at 10:00
In Appreciation of Martin Luther King
Rabbi will host Story Time via Zoom for everyone. Look for an email with the Zoom link.
Join the Rabbi this Sunday, December 6 at 10:00 for Story Time. This is for kids of all ages. There will be Kiddish Yiddish and the book The 8 Knights of Hanukkah. This will take place via Facebook Live (and not Zoom as in Temple Topics).
Friday, December 18 at 6:00
Join Rabbi Liebowitz for Kabbalat Shabbat followed by an interview and discussion via Zoom with Pastoral Counselor at First Presbyterian, Kirk Neely. This will feature Kirk’s latest book, December Light 1916, and auto- graphed copies will be available for $22.
December Light 1916 is an historical novel that takes place in Georgetown County, South Carolina. Set in the early twentieth century, the book gives insight into the social history of the Deep South. It also presents a fascinating look at the natural history of North Island and Winyah Bay. Here is master storyteller Kirk Neely at his best.
Kirk’s book is available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
Zoom link: Yossi Liebowitz is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
Topic: Shabbat Service with Dr. Kirk Neely – December Light 1916
Time: Dec 18, 2020 06:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 836 2891 1208
As I was raised in a Yiddish speaking home, I was blessed with various colorful expressions, most of which were a little bit R-rated. This one was not! Mitn derinin! It roughly translate as “In the middle of it all!” As in you finally settle down for dinner after a long day and Mitn derinin! The phone rings and it is a long-lost cousin who just so happens to be in the neighborhood and wants to come over a visit. Or, you have just paid all your bills for the month. You breathe a sigh of relief and Mitn derinin! The car breaks down. This expression was always followed by another expression, “I need this like a lochen cup that is to say like “a hole in my head!”
At this time of writing, Yom Kippur is just a mere six days away. I am mindful of all the efforts that have been made to make possible our services, albeit remotely. Mauro (and if you will forgive a filial boast) my son Avi have been techno wizards, allowing us to do the best we can with what are incredibly difficult times of the pandemic. I also wish to acknowledge Dr. Mark Packer, Sharon, and our President who were Johnny on the Spot showing up and supporting these liturgical efforts. A big shout out does go to Lynn Strait and Nancy Rosenberg who served tirelessly as readers. (Not to forget our Shofar sounder Dr. Britanisky!) A last note goes out to Jan, our office administrator who in addition to putting up with Rabbinical gyrations and improvisations made possible the mailings, emails, and more. There are others, board members, flower providers that warrant acknowledgement and thanks. I list only a few for fear of neglecting one or more.
Mitn derinin! No sooner does Yom Kippur draw to a close, we are bid to start preparing for Sukkot. What a crazy calendar! Yet from a spiritual point of view, the Yamim Noraim, the High Holy Days require the balance that is Sukkot, a holiday characterized by a certain degree of melancholy coupled with gratitude for what we have. We move from the harsh imperative to repent to a degree of acceptance of our human condition. (Ecclesiastes – Kohelet tempered our existential need to change with a mood-altering view that “all is vanity, like a breath,” which fades away.
One other yin to yang of these holidays is of course the fact that we deny sustenance on Yom Kippur but indulge on Sukkot, a holiday of abundance. (I look forward to your being with us on October 9th for our Sukkot Simchat Torah Drive in dinner and celebration. See page 7) This balance is quite needed in these unbalanced times. I once took a quiz in which a young man was a crossing a bridge. He noticed a sign that forbade anyone weighing more than a hundred and fifty pounds. He weighed a fairly light one hundred and forty pounds. He was on a mission to bring to the King three valuable jewels, each of which weighed five pounds each. Oy! What did he do? He crossed bridge juggling the three jewels so that at no time he held more than two of the jewels.
I pray and hope that all of you will find balance in the days ahead, given all the challenges we face. May it be so that our heritage which has stood the test of time will bring you a sense of purpose and peace in the days ahead, health and happiness to as well!
Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz, D.D.
“If a person uses broken vessels, it is considered an embarrassment. But God seeks out broken vessels for his use, as it says, ‘God is the healer of shattered hearts.’ Vayikra Rabba 7:2
We live in a broken time; lives have been taken, jobs have been lost, and faith in our institutions has waned.
At times I think the last of these broken realities is perhaps the harshest of all. As a well-known saying goes: “Man
can live 40 days without food, three days without water, eight minutes without air, but only one second without hope.” The great psychologist and Survivor of the Shoah, Victor Frankel, reflected as much in his landmark book Man’s Search for Meaning: “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one’s own attitude in any given set of circumstances—to choose one’s own way.” And what was that way? The way was to maintain a sense of hope, and from that would spring our yearning for life and its meaning. Meaning can be found through giving something back to the world, altering our attitudes. Many of his thoughts found expression in his practice of Logotherapy.
Some practical suggestions were articulated by the writer Arlin Cuncic. She urges that we apply these efforts our daily lives:
• Create something for creating something (e.g., art) gives you a sense of purpose.
• Develop relationships. The supportive nature of spending time with others will help you to develop more of a sense of meaning in your life. (more difficult in this Zoom world)
Our people have from time immemorial been practiced in looking for hope. No mistake that the National Anthem of Israel and of all Israel is Hatikva – The Hope. I pray we will all find hope in the New Year – the time of renewal, a time of anticipation for a better world, a world that God dreamed of us creating from the beginning of time. May the words of the Psalmist resonate in each and every heart! And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. (Psalm 39:7)
L’Shana Tova Tikateivu!
May you be written for goodness in the coming year 5781!
Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz D.D.
One cannot overestimate the importance Sh’ma Yisrael has in Jewish heritage throughout the generations. In many cases, these were the only “Jewish words” that Jews, who lived in remote places and who heard them from their ancestors, knew. The “marranos” in Spain and Portugal passed them on from parent to child, sometimes without knowing, their actual meaning but with profound understanding of their value. Many Jews, beginning with Rabbi Akivah and up to the victims of the Holocaust recited the Sh’ma with their last breath.
The centrality and profound importance of the six words that comprise Sh’ma Yisrael could not be encapsulated in a short essay such as this (or in any form, to be honest). I will confine myself to one story, one that is documented in more than one version, and has to do with the special place that the Sh’ma had in the minds of young children. After the Holocaust, Rabbi Eliezer Silver of Cincinnati went to Europe to look for Jewish survivors and especially for children who were hidden in monasteries during the war. The story tells that he entered a certain monastery in Krakow, where he heard that there were many Jewish children and asked the priest in charge if he could see the children for a couple of minutes before they went to bed. Standing in the large dormitory, he recited loudly but tenderly the words of Sh’ma Yisrael, the room was immediately filled with children’s cries and excitement. Rabbi Silver looked at the Priest and they both understood the meaning of this encounter. The children had recited these words every night with their mothers, who were no longer alive, before their world turned dark, and they were indelibly engraved in their hearts. And these words were the gate through which they returned to their people.
Sandwich of love
The Sh’ma verse and the response to it (barukh shem kvod malkhuto l’olam va’ed) are encased within two readings of love, as if they were a sacred sandwich of love – Birkat Ahava (the blessing of love) just before, and the rabbis teach us that one should not interrupt between the blessing and Sh’ma Yisrael, not even for saying “Amen” after the blessing, and V’ahavta(you shall love), the first portion of the Sh’ma – verses from Deuteronomy – just after it.
The Ahava Blessing is a heartfelt thanksgiving for the abundant love God has for us. Note that in the morning we recite “Ahava rabba” (with abundant love) and in the evening “Ahavat olam” (with eternal love), both contain similar content. After the verse of Sh’ma Yisrael we continue with the command to ourselves to love Adonai our God, with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our might. In between these two declarations of love that stand as powerful gourds, we find the words of the Sh’ma.
The words of V’ahavta contain the order to love God (and some may ask how can you force someone to love), but the demand is made, as it were, only after it guaranties God loves us and after mentioning the precious gifts that the Divine has given us – in the morning we mention God’s “gracing us with surpassing compassion” and in the evening we are more specific thanking God for the “Torah and Mitzvot, laws and precepts” given to us.
The Sh’ma verse is a meeting point, an intersection, if you will, between God’s love for us and our commitment to love God in return. Reciting it with our eyes closed we address not only our own soul but also our fellow Jews and remind ourselves that although our world seems dispersed and disintegrated, there is one unity behind it – “Adonai ehad”, and it is our duty to find this harmony in a broken and suffering world. Maybe the children in the Krakow monastery had a sense of it (probably without being able to explain it) on the night that Rabbi Silver gathered them before going to sleep.
Rabbi Dalia Marx (PhD), the author of “When I Sleep And When I Wake: On Prayers Between Dusk And Dawn” (in Hebrew), is an associate professor for Liturgy and Midrash at the Jerusalem campus of HUC-JIR.