Temple members enjoy our annual December 25th Chinese luncheon
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
“Where the rubber meets the road is the most important point for something, the moment of truth. An athlete can train all day, but the race is where the rubber meets the road, and they’ll know how good they really are.” (The Rock Group, Meatloaf)
My one-time cab driver father would quip when I got a flat tire, “Yes, but it’s only flat on the bottom!” As we will have emerged from the High Holy Days with its hopeful promise of transformation, the time ahead is daunting. After the spoken words, the lofty expressions of hope and the promises uttered to do better the proof of its implementation is when the “rubber meets the road!”
The mood of this seasons shifts dramatically after Yom Kippur with Sukkot. It is a joyous holiday though some elements are somber. Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) speaks of the transitory nature of all our lives, the impermanence of all things. “Vanities of vanities,” Kohelet declares in references the accomplishments and endeavors we cling to. A somber bit of solace is offered threaded through the pages of how living in the moment should be our ongoing concern. “To everything there is a season.” Long before Pete Seeger made those words popular through a musical offering (and don’t forget The Byrds’ version) Jews have taken heart from its imperative to find gratitude in the now.
Sukkot is a time to breathe. To take in the gifts of what is and focus less on what was and even on what will be. Not a mood of fatalism to be sure, but one of hopeful surrender, a faithful view that things may have happened and will happen for a reason. It is that realization that impels us to be more charitable as we notice those who have less for which to show gratitude. As our Thanksgiving observance of Sukkot arrives I hope that it will be one of joy for you and all your loved ones!
Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz, D.D.
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They have mouths, but cannot speak; they have eyes, but cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear; nor is there breath in their mouths. (Psalm 135: 16 -17)
As one who is a movie-a-holic (a lover of films) I tend to quote lines from films but far less than I quote the Bible I assure you! One of my favorites is White Men Can’t Jump, both a positive study in racial cultural dispositions and more importantly an exploration of gender differences. Those differences are summed up in the line, “Just listen to the woman!” Focus less on the male question, “So, what do you want me to do?” In another exploration of racial cultural differences came this quote about Jimi Hendrix, “You listen to Jimi, but you don’t hear Jimi!” This was one character’s inability to really get what his music is all about. As I write this message, I am reviewing one of the most consequential passages in the Torah. It is one of which we will repeat in the Yom Kippur morning service.
“You can therefore see that I am placing before you both a blessing and a curse. The blessing will come if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I am prescribing youtoday.” (Deuteronomy 11:26-27)
It occurs to me that everyone has a case of myopia, a narrow vision of what is the correct view on this or that matter. We speak more and listen less because we see less and view more. In these challenging times, the tribal inability to at least understand other points of view is contagious. That is our nation’s political reality. On a personal level, the High Holy days are an invitation to open our eyes and see the world in a different and new way!
I have a wonderful book on my shelf called “A Whack on the Side of the Head!” One of its charming stories is about the Manhattan project physicist Richard Feynman. Finding himself in a rut at Cornell he was having lunch in the cafeteria. He noticed students were tossing and spinning plates in the air. He mused: “What would be the physics of a plates’s wobble?” After figuring out the mathematics, he brought it to the attention of a fellow academic who said, “Interesting, but what good is it to know
that?” Feynman took his question to heart and then applied the mathematics to the motions of electrons, for which he ultimately earned a Nobel peace prize.
How often we all wobble through life, gyrate back and forth, failing to reconsider our view of the world. The High Holidays are an invitation to do something new, see and hear something new. On my desk is a gift someone gave me long ago. I look at it from time to time. It reads, “God is not finished with me yet!”
May all of you have a wonderful Rosh Hashanah and a New Year of discovery!
Rabbi Yossi J. Liebowitz D.D.
In every generation a person should see themselves as if they were personally redeemed from Egypt! (Haggadah)
My father, alav Hashalom (May he rest in peace!) conducted the family seder. Though not religious he did an decent job and repressed his annoyance when his wife, my mom aleha Hashalom (May she rest in peace!) would complain at his sly attempts to skip over various parts of the traditional Haggadah. One time as my father was complaining about wanting to get on with the meal the very next words he had to read were: “and the evil son says: When do we get to eat already?” thus hoisting himself by his own petard much to the amusement of all gathered. Whatever discomfiture dear dad experienced was certainly lessened by the slivovitz that he generously imbibed dulling both his senses and leadership skills. We were aware of the progression of the seder when the yarmulke he sported would slowly but surely make its way from the back of his head to the front of his brow, a precious comical image which remains in my heart and head.
The Passover seder is unique and the many iterations of the Haggadah speak to the wonder of its messages. To name but a few creative ones:
~The Feminist Haggadah (Shechinah – the feminine Devine presence is intoned)
~The Eco Haggadah (noting our task to liberate the environment from humanity’s excesses)
~The Adoption Haggadah (for adopted children who search in vain for their biological parents— Moses was adopted!)
~The Velveteen Rabbit Haggadah (with its different mixes of new age language and customs).
~The libertarian Haggadah (Let’s not leave out those to the pollical right of the spectrum).
~The DIY Haggadah (for the creatively minded “I want my own personal stamp!”)
~The ten-minute Haggadah (for those with ADD or simply for those who have what my father called shpilchus in tuchus, ants in your pants— though that is not the exact translation – call me
if you want an exact rendering ) And many, many more!
Which do you prefer? You may not know it but the traditional Haggadah (and there are many which are claimed to be the real one) does not include Moses, this to diminish any idea of a intermediary between you and God. It is a bit shocking. It is as if you took out all the scenes with Charlton Heston in Cecil B DeMille’s
The Ten Commandments.
Of late I have come to understand the greater importance of the seven-week counting of the Omer which concludes with the holiday of Shavuot (Remembering Sinai and the giving of the Torah along with the celebration of the first fruits of the land). In some ways, they constitute one big holiday of nearly two months in length, a time of meditation and inspiration. By way of analogy, it would be like observing Rosh Hashanah and forgetting about its conclusion Yom Kippur. In this case, it is celebrating freedom without considering the impact of Torah commitment, for freedom is not an absolute but entails responsibilities.
As your Seders are upon you, I hope the precious memories of those who helped laid the foundation of your lives will come to mind. I hope as well that you will create for yourselves and for those coming after you ever new memories to be cherished.
A sissen and a kosher Passover,
Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz D.D.