DEVARIM IT’S LIKE A TOURIST ITINERARY OF THE DAMNED EL PASO, DAYTON– COLUMBINE, VIRGINIA TECH, SANDY HOOK, ORLANDO, LAS VEGAS, PARKLAND. PITTSBURGH, POWAY. AND NOW EL PASO AND DAYTON THIS HAPPENS WITH SUCH FREQUENCY IN NO OTHER NATION. AND THIS WEEK NEW MOURNERS WERE CREATED TWICE IN ONE DAY.. A NEW RITUAL IS BEING CREATED […]
CREATING PERSONAL KEDUSHA, BUILDING A COMMUNAL KEDUSHA
JEWISH LEARNING-JEWISH LIVING- JEWISH LEADING-LAUGHING AND LOVING.
MY CHILDREN GREW UP ON SESAME STREET. MY CHILDREN ARE MARRIED AND I HAVE 9 GRANDCHILDREN. SESAME STREET IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY A NUMBER AND A LETTER. THIS PRESENTATION IS BEING BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE LETTER L AND THE NUMBERS 4 AND 5.
FOR CENTURIES JEWISH PEOPLE, JEWISH COMMUNITIES AND JUDAISM ITSELF WAS PASSED ON TO OUR SONS AND DAUGHTERS AND TO THEIR CHILDREN WHO FOLLOWED BY FOUR IDEAS EACH OF WHICH BEGINS WITH THE LETTER L. FIRST, WE COULD CHARACTERIZE OURSELVES BY JEWISH LEARNING ON A REGULAR BASIS. THE TALMUD SHIUR IN POLAND, THE CHEVRA MISHNAYOT IN HUNGARY, AND THE CRITICAL STUDY OF BIBLE IN GERMANY WERE FEATURES OF THE COMMUNITY. THE ENLIGHTENED LEARNING AND THE TRADITIONAL TEXTS SAT TOGETHER AND OFTEN STOOD IN TENSION WITH EACH OTHER. IN JEWISH COMMUNITIES, IN URBAN CITIES, IN DISTANT SHTEIBLACH AND IN INTELLECTUAL LEHRAUS SETTINGS, JEWS CLOSED THE DOORS TO THE WORLD AND LEARNED ANOTHER PAGE, ANOTHER PEREK, ANOTHER DAF , ANOTHER MESECHET, ANOTHER SEFER.
AND, THE JEWISH LEARNING LED TO JEWISH LIVING. WE ACTED OUT THE TEXTS THAT WE ABSORBED. IF THE TORAH SAID TO TAKE THE FRUIT OF THE GOODLY HADAR TREE, THE MYRTLE BRANCH AND WILLOW NEAR THE STREAM AND THE PALM BRANCH TO ACKNOWLEDGE GOD’S PRESENCE, NATURE’S BEAUTY AND THE HISTORICAL JOURNEY IN THE WILDERNESS AFTER THE EXODUS FROM EGYPT, WE LIVED THE LULAV AND THE ETROG EXPERIENCE AS A DIVINE IMPERATIVE, A MITZVAH, A MOMENT THAT HAD HUMANKIND REACHING FOR HA-SHEM. IT WAS HUMANITY IN SEARCH OF DIVINITY.
IF THE TORAH STATED SIMPLY,”LO T’VASHAYL G’DEE B’CHALEV EMO”,
WE TOOK THAT LEARNING AND MADE IT VIBRANT AS A LIVING PATTERN OF DIET AND DISCIPLINE. KASHRUT BECOMES A CORNERSTONE OF DAILY JEWISH EXISTENCE IT GUIDES EACH MEAL, DETERMINES EACH MENU, CURTAILS MY APPETITE AND DIRECTS MY FREEDOM IN A PATTERN OF DIGNITY AND CULINARY DELIGHT.
THE JEWISH LEARNING ALSO LED TO A JEWISH LIVING BEHAVIORAL PATTERN IN RELATIONSHIP TO HOW I DISCIPLINE MY CHILDREN, TO HOW I CONDUCT MY BUSINESS PRACTICES, TO MY CONCERN FOR SOIL AND WATER, TO MY DECISIONS ON CONTRIBUTING MY INCOME TO OTHERS LESS BLESSED, TO MY VOCABULARY WITH MY FRIENDS.
BUT I WOULD LIKE TO ADD TWO NEW L’S BEFORE I PROCEED.NO LESS CRUCIAL TO US, AS JEWS, IS JEWISH LOVING AND JEWISH LAUGHING.
WE LOVE GOD. “V’AHAVATA ET ADONAI ELOKECHA”
WE LOVE OUR SPOUSES AND CHILDREN. WE SHARE A LOVE OF MISHPACHA. WE LOVE PEACE AND WE ACTIVELY PURSUE IT. WE LEARN FROM MOSHE’S BROTHER AHARON IN PIRKE AVOT THAT HE WAS AN “OHEV SHALOM, V’RODEF SHALOM. HIS LOVE EXTENDED TO ALL OF HUMANITY AND HIS SINCERE DESIRE WAS TO BRING ALL PEOPLE CLOSER TO THE VALUES EXPRESSED BY GOD IN THE TORAH WITHOUT EXPECTING OTHERS TO DEVALUE THEIR TRADITIONS. AHARON WAS THE QUINTESSENTIAL KERUV, OUTREACH MAN. HE WAS AN “OHEV ET HA-BRIYOT, U’ME’KORBAN LA’TORAH”. A LOVER OF ALL OF CREATION,
OUR NOTION OF JEWISH LOVING KNOWS NO PHYSICAL BOUNDARIES. OUR LOVE OF OUR FELLOW JEWS HAS CARRIED US TO CAMPAIGNS OF REUNIFICATION OF OUR PEOPLE WHEN THEY CALLED TO US FROM THE CONCENTRATION CAMPS OF POLAND, FROM THE PALES OF RUSSIA, FROM THE DESERT OF ETHIOPIA, FROM THE DEPTHS OF YEMEN AND MOROCCO AND SYRIA AND FROM OUR BELOVED ERETZ YISRAEL.
A JEW IS A JEW ALWAYS.
A JEW IS TO BE LOVED REGARDLESS OF THE QUALITY OR QUANTITY OF JEWISHNESS.
A JEW IS TO BE WELCOMED IRRESPECTIVE OF THE LEVEL OF LEARNING OR LIVING.
A JEW IS TO BE LOVED.
AND WE UNDERSTAND THAT ALL OF HUMANITY ARE OUR FELLOW JOURNEYers IN LIFE. EACH OF US IS CREATED “B’TZELEM ELOHIM”, IN THE SPIRITUAL IMAGE OF HA-SHEM.
AND IN ADDITION TO JEWISH LEARNING, LIVING AND LOVING, WE HAVE ALWAYS LAUGHED. THE LAUGHTER WHICH I REFER TO IS THE SIMCHA LAUGHTER AT A JEWISH WEDDING, THE SIMCHA LAUGHTER AT THE TIME OF A BABY GIRLS’S NAMING OR A BOYS’ BRIT CEREMONY. JEWISH LAUGHTER IS THE FREILACH THAT ACCOMPANIES THE MEGILLAH READING ON PURIM AND THE DANCING ON SIMCHAT TORAH.
LOOKING AT OURSELVES IN A MIRROR AND NOT TAKING OURSELVES SERIOUSLY ALL OF THE TIME IS PART OF THE JOY OF JEWISHNESS.
THERE IS A 5THL FOR JEWS AND JUDAISM. LEADERSHIP HAS ALWAYS BEEN PART OF THE FORMULA FOR JEWISH LIFE, CONTINUITY AND CHANGE.
I WOULD LIKE TO OFFER FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION A LEADERSHIP AGENDA IN PROCESS. A FEW THOUGHTS ABOUT DIRECTIONS FOR EACH OF US AS A JEW AND FOR ALL OF US AS A COMMUNITY OF JEWS TO BE SHARED WITH INDIVIDUALS AND FAMILIES WHO HEAR OUR VOICES AND WHO CROSS THE THRESHOLD OF A SYNAGOGUE AS WELL AS ANYONE WHO IS PASSIONATELY OR MARGINALLY CONCERNED WITH BEING A JEW.
WHEN SHOSHANA CARDIN WAS THE CHAIR OF THE UNITED ISRAEL APPEAL, SHE SAID. “LET’S ADMIT IT, WE’RE AFFLUENT AND SUCCESSFUL, BUT OFTEN JEWISHLY ILLITERATE”.
THERE IS A MIDRASH THAT RELATES THAT THE JEWS WITHSTOOD EGYPTIAN ASSIMILATION DURING THEIR SLAVERY BY MAINTAINING THEIR JEWISH CUSTOMS OF FOOD, DRESS, LANGUAGE AND NAMES.
YOU AND I HEAR THAT MIDRASH IN A CONTEMPORARY WAY. WE HAVE ENGLISH AND HEBREW NAMES. KASHRUT, KIPOT AND HEBREW DO NOT ALWAYS DEFINE THE JEWS OF OUR DAY.
IN 2019 HOWEVER,OUR IDENTITY SHOULD NOT BE DEFINED BY ANTI –SEMITISM. IT REQUIRES THE GLORY OF SHABBAT. WE MAKE JUDAISM BEAUTIFUL BY OUR “GEMILUT CHESED”, THE LOVING KINDNESS WE LIVE AT A WEDDING, AT A HOUSE OF SHIVA, FOR A PERSON WHO IS IN NEED OF FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE, BY A CALL OR A VISIT TO SOMEONE WHO IS NOT WELL.
THE CALL TODAY IS NOT THE BIBLICAL “SHELACH ET AMI” LET MY PEOPLE GO.
THE BATTLE CRY OF 2019 IS “LET MY PEOPLE KNOW” …DAH LIFNAY MEATTA OMED”. WE MUST UNDERSTAND AND CREATE A SPIRITUAL AND VITAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.
THE REVERED REFORM RABBI, ABBA HILLEL SILVER MORE THAN 70 YEARS AGO SAID, “NO RELIGION IS WORTH ITS SALT WHICH DOES NOT MAKE GREAT DEMANDS UPON ITS ADHERENTS. TOO MANY OF OUR PEOPLE, HE SAID, WANT AN EASY GOING RELIGION WHICH DOES NOT INTERFERE WITH LEISURE, WITH SLEEP WITH TELEVISON. A RELIGION WHICH CALLS FOR NO STUDY AND NO OBSERVANCE…WHICH DOES NOT CHALLENGE OR DISTURB THEM. NO RELIGION HAS SURVIVED IN THAT KIND OF EMOTIONAL AND INTELLECTUAL VACUUM- LEAST OF ALL JUDAISM”
RABBI JACK SEGAL, THE EMERITUS RABBI OF BETH YESHURUN OF HOUSTON, SAID WE RARELY MAKE JEWISH DEMANDS ON CONGREGANTS. WHEN SOMEONE JOINS A SHUL WE ONLY ASK ONE QUESTION AND THAT RELATES TO THE ABILITY TO FULFILL FINANCIAL REQUIREMENTS.
PIRKE AVOT TEACHES “AMAR ME’OT V’ASHEY HARBAY”SO I HAVE TO BRING MY WORDS TO A CONCLUSION….SOON.
THE KEY IS NOT THE OLD UJA TERM OF CONTINUITY, BUT RATHER CONTENT ANNUITY. IF THERE IS JEWISH CONTENT IN OUR LIVES THERE WILL BE A BETTER CHANCE, NO GUARANTEE, THAT OUR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN CAN DRAW UPON THE INVESTMENT BY LEARNING, LIVING, LEAUGHING, LOVING AND LEADING AS JEWS.
WE REAFFIRM OUR FAITH AS SPIRITUAL JEWS, AS BELIEVING JEWS EACH TIME WE CHANT “SHEMA YISRAEL…”
WE ACCENTUATE OUR LOVE OF OUR FELLOW JEWS EACH TIME WE SING THE VERSE FROM PSALMS..”HINE MA TOV U’MA’NAYIM”.
PLEASE TAKE A COPY OF MY MODEL OF JEWISH PERSONAL ACTIVE LEADERSHIP, LEARNING AND LOVING WHICH CAN ENHANCE YOUR PERSONAL KEDUSHA, THE SANCTITY OF LIFE. USE IT AS AN INSPIRATIONAL TOOL.
JEWS DO NOT LIVE IN A SESAME STREET CHILDLIKE WORLD.
IF JUDAISM IS TO SURVIVE IT REQUIRES ADULTS AND CHILDREN TO MAKE SINCERE, JOYOUS, MATURE DECISIONS.
LIVING a Jewish lifestyle of humility, modesty, dedication, honesty
LEARNING texts and traditions
LEADING by example, by stepping up, by taking responsibility
LAUGHING not taking our selves too seriously
LOVING –HaShemand Humanity…b’tzelem elokimingeach person
MY MESSAGE AS OUR TIME TOGETHER DRAWS T A CLOSE IS
ENJOY. LEARN. LAUGH. LIVE. LOVE AND LEAD AS A JEW EACH DAY OF YOUR LIFE.
THANK YOU FOR AN INCREDIBLE “INTERIM” EXPERIENCE AS YOUR “PART TIME PREACHER, PASTOR CANTOR, TORAH READER, BAGEL STORE MASHGIACH. SHALOM. L’HITRAOT. TILL WE SEE ONE ANOTHER SOON. L’CHAIM
Edelman 6. 15. 19
SHABBAT PARSHAT BA’MIDBAR June 8thNewburgh NY
Today is the 49thday of the Omer. We are celebrating into the 71styear of Medinat Yisrael and the 52ndyear of the unified Yerushalayim I turn to the lessons of the Neviim, the prophets on this eve of Shavuot.
In today’s Haftorah of Parshat Ba’Midbar, we read from the book of Hoshea. “V’arastich Lee L’Olam, V’arastich Lee B’tzedek U’v’mishpat U’v’Hesed U’v’rachamim,V’arastich Lee B’emunah v’yadat et Elokim “
The prophet states that there is a Covenant between God and Am Yisrael, saying, “I am betrothed to you forever, I am betrothed to you in righteousness, justice, kindness and mercy, I am betrothed to you in faithfulness and spiritual knowledge of G-d
This commitment of G-d and Israel has served also as a cornerstone for both my rabbinic and my personal daily behavior with people through justice, kindness and mercy.
And there is another prophet, Micha who has something to teach. He says “G-d has told you, mankind, What is good. What does G-d require of you Kee eem asot mishpat, v’ahavat hesed, v’hatznana lechet eem Elohecha” Only to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your G-d.
This message can be a building block to live by. Incorporating both Hosea and Micha’s wisdom in everyday life becomes a solid value structure base to live by.
BUT let me add yet another lesson for a lifetime. The lesson of the LETTERS.
The ALEF BET letters are more than letters. The letters are truly alive the form of the letters reach out and grab your mind for magical moments.
The ALEFis constructed like a little “yud” on top and another “yud” on the bottom and a VAV connects the two yuds .The “yud” is a “yid” a Jew .And the two “yids” are connected. What is the lesson of the ALEF? Jews need to be connected. Jews need to march together. Jews need to pray, eat study speak disagree(agreeably) but never disconnect from each other.
The BETis the first letter of the Torah. The BET is open. Not like the closed MEM or the incomplete look of the NUN. What’s the lesson of the BET? Jews must be open and receptive to all of the words of the Torah.
And then there is the GIMEL. The GIMEL is slightly bent over on the top and has two legs. What is the lesson of the GIMMEL? The GIMEL is leaning over to hear a child’s prayer. The GIMEL is bent to hear the cry of those in need. The GIMEL bends its head as a sign of personal humility. The GIMEL stands on two strong and secure feet and these feet always strive to go forward.
The GIMEL has the sound of “g” and carries a message for us back to the words of Hosea and Micha.
Today as this magical moment we call Shabbat emerges it holds the promise of yet another moment tonight and tomorrow and the day after with the observance of Shavuot.
- The G is generosity of SPIRIT. It is a smile, a pleasant voice to each person on the phone, on skype on messaging on email and without question in person.
- The G is for generosity of RESOURCES .Supporting the righteous work than can substantially be done with a checkbook.
- The G is for GRACIOUSNESS. Acts of hesed that includes a bride’s and groom’s celebration ,caring for a recent widow or widower checking in with a single mother or single father and children ,or being a voice of support which makes you a part of the Jewish peoplehood .
- The G is for GRATITUDE. Modeh Ani. Thanks for “chaim,for mishpacha ,for avodah ,for haverim ”Life.family,work and friends .This year at Agudas Israel for me !
- The G is for GRANDPARENTING. I have more branches than a menorah. I am blessed with 9 bright lights.
- The G is for GOODNESS and G-DLINESS. Tov L’hodot LaShem. It is good to be thankful for the gifts that have been showered on me and I hope that you agree on each of us.
Let us commit to the prophet Hosea that my Covenant is to increase my acts of righteousness, with justice, kindness and mercy AND to the prophet Micah that my Covenant with G-d is to do better and to do so with humility.
Let us commit to a Covenant to live joyously and look forward to the tomorrows of life.
Let us anticipate remembering the yesterdays and feel blessed with health and a sincere anticipation of tomorrows
To this precious congregation Agudas Israel remember always “Anachnu amcha, bnai britecha;”We are your people we are the children of the Covenant.
“Anachnu chayavim l’hodot l’cha v’latet shevach v’hodaya l’shmecha”we are duty bound to thank you and to praise your name.
“Y’hee ratzon sh’tatzilanu ha’yom u’bchol yom” May it be your will that we succeed today and every day as Jews and as a Jewish Community.
Moshe Edelman 6.8.19
SERMON for Cong Agudas Israel Newburgh Parshat Behar 5779
What is the correlation of today’s Torah reading with the old television favorite, featuring the lollipop sucking Telly Savalas, Kojak?
Many years ago, Kojak was not only a popular show, but it had a run of interest in Israel as well. The episodes in Israel were shown three to five years later than their showing in the States, but Israelis loved the cops and bad guys show.
In one particular feature, Kojak and Crocker were involved in a disagreement when all of a sudden Crocker made an out of left field, outrageous statement. Kojak readied his response, but the Israeli viewers were reading the Hebrew subtitles for the simultaneous translation. Kojak said, “What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?” but the subtitle came from a famous Rashi commentary in the opening verse of parshat Behar today’s kriyat ha Torah.
Israeli television translated “what does that have to do with the price of tea in China” with “Ma inyan shmittah eytzel Har Sinai“, what does the sabbatical year have to do with Mount Sinai?” What does one thing have to do with the other? More specifically, why does the wording of the firstpasuk of the Torah in Behar seemingly add Har Sinaiwhen it is rarely invoked in other sentences. Why talk about shmittahat Mt. Sinai but not other mitzvot?
The Torah states, “And God spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai saying, “And then God commands certain mitzvot about the sabbatical year.” Why bring Mount Sinai into matters of land usage, land conservation, ecology, produce, suspension of annual agricultural procedures, but not with other commandments?
In an 1830’s Torah commentary, the Ksav V’Kabbalah, Text and Tradition, Rabbi Mechlenberg of Koeningsburg, Germany brings a contemporary answer for us. He states that Jewish life requires an understanding of the place of Har Sinai, God’s Divine Revelation and shmittawhich is symbolic of mankind’s power in the world.
The laws of shmitta are among the most profound ideas of the Torah for modern humanity. We are taught that we must rest. We are taught that the land must rest. We are taught that a Shabbat, a cessation, is a necessary and required element of humanity’s understanding of limits and control.
For us, the questions are:
- Where will God be in your life?
- Where will Torah study fit in our lives?
- What place will tzedakah have in our daily life?
- What dimension will tefillahhold each day?
- How will mitzvotbe part of our living experience?
- What direction will be taken to support building a Jewish community?
- What will be done to maintain a vitality in Judaism?
The Torah, by connecting shmittato Har Sinai, teaches that every detail of Torah is significant. Even those specific mitzvot which were not recorded until years after the Revelation at Sinai are to be treated, revered and accepted as if they were given on Sinai. In so doing, the Sages were reinforcing their position of responsibility, power and authority.
The Jew who observed shmitta was a Jew of ultimate faith because in the 6thyear of the 7 year cycle, the produce of the earth had to be sufficient to feed you in year 6, year 7 when you did not plant AND year 8 on the heels of the non planting year – and even the early part of year 9 before the crops came in. A Jew has to believe that what is planted will take hold and keep on producing even after you are no longer seeding the soil.
As Jews, we plant and pray. We seed and we observe Shabbat. We clean the field, prepare the soil, invest time, energy, resources, talent and faith in building Judaism for ourselves, our children and their children, our community and our area, even our country.
We toil within a vision of a Jewish life built on knowledge and observance. We believe in Judaism for ourselves and for our neighbor’s children. We give of our boundless energy and bountiful resources
And Judaism is not limited to Torah and tefillah. We believe in gemiluthesed. Celebrating a brit, dancing at a bat mitzvah, being m’sameach hatan v’kallah, assuring a shivaminyan, bringing sides together in a dispute are the Talmud’s parameters for concern of fellow Jews.
Through checks, open homes on Shabbat, a welcoming sukkahand places at the Seder, we express our humility and concern for humanity.
The Chatam Sofer says that the mitzvaof shmittaproves that God is the author, the giver of the Torah. This parsha guarantees that the year before the shmitta there will be three years of crop until the next harvest. If a human being were inventing such a commandment, she or he would not be so foolhearty to make a three year prediction. Only God would make such a statement.
So too only people of both intellectual acumen and spiritual faith would say Judaism will survive and thrive. Men and women who have the heart, soul, mind and devotion to continue to build when others say you are dead, defeated or living in a midbar, desert.
Our task is to connect to Har Sinai. Our goal is to climb to the mountain’s peak. Pulling, pushing, extending our arms or taking a hand, we must be servants of the Kadosh Baruch Hu while we bless the lives of others through our love and concern for Jews and humanity..
The parsha proceeds from the shmittayear to the yovelyear, the 50thyear, the Jubilee Year when debts are forgiven.
This weekend, Memorial Day, is observed in the United States, but it is TODAY that we read, “Proclaim liberty throughout the land to all the inhabitants thereof.” We should reflect on the blessings of freedom and democracy. We must remember all those valiant women and men who gave the ultimate sacrifice for this country.
While the verse says to “sanctify the 50thyear by declaring freedom inthe land”, which is understood as inIsrael, commentaries teach that freedom and democracy must also exist outside of Israel:
Judaism, like democracy, is the inherited right of all the Jewish people and all the inhabitants of a community or country. We must re-proclaim it, reclaim it, love it and live it.
Why are the two words Behar Sinai included in the very beginning of the parsha today? It comes to teach Jews, that we must do more than put the administrative, governance, infrastructure house in shape. We must re-energize, re-dedicate, re-vise and re-member why we are here –
To bring Sinai to the lives of Jews and to bring Sinai’s ever contemporary message to humanity.
Sinai calls us.
We must answer.
Sinai calls us.
We must act.
Sinai calls us.
Moshe Edelman 5. 23.2019 revised
On August 5, 2012 a gunman entered a Sikh Temple in Oak Park, Michigan and murdered 6 people as they prayed. On June 17, 2015 a gunman entered an African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, South Carolina and killed 9 people as they studied the sacred text of the Bible. Almost exactly one year ago today—on November 5, 2017 a gunman entered a Baptist church in Sutherland, Texas on a Sunday morning in the middle of worship services and killed 26 people. And on October 27, 2018 a gunman entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and murdered 11 people during Shabbat services.
What religious denomination is next?
In the last reading from last week’s Torah portion, Vayera, we read the story of the Akedah, when God demanded that Abraham offer his beloved son Isaac as a burnt offering, a sacrifice.
As they head off to Moriah, Abraham knows what is expected to happen on the mountain; Isaac does not. At a certain point, they separate from the two servants who have made the trip with them.
Genesis 22:5 And Abraham said to his young men, Stay here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come back to you.
Strange that Abraham should say this. If he really believes that he is going to sacrifice his son, how can he say that we will return? Some rabbis say that this demonstrated Abraham’s supreme faith in God, that somehow this would all work out. I think that would be presumptuous on Abraham’s part. But the verbs in this verse are really a form that is called cohortative, expressing a wish or a hope: let us go and let us worship and let us returnto you; better yet, may we go and may we worship and may we return to you. Abraham seems to making a plea to God, “please God, let us go and worship You together, and let us both return from there together.”
Later on in the passage, after the attempted and aborted sacrifice, the text only says that one of them returned:
Genesis 22:19 So Abraham returned to his young men, and they
rose up and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham lived at
Where was Isaac? One Midrash says that Isaac actually did die that day, along with all of Abraham’s hopes and dreams. Another midrash says that he didn’t die, but couldn’t bring himself to return with his father. And who could blame him? After all, his father had just tried to kill him. So instead he went off on his own for a time. Either way, Abraham has lost his son and is returning home alone.
And what awaits him at home? In the beginning of today’s Torah portion, Chaye Sarah, we read the news that his beloved Sarah has died, some say from a heart attack when she learned what had transpired on the mountain. His only remaining son dead or estranged, his wife dead, Abraham is truly alone in the world, left to mourn the loss of 2 people either way.
Though Abraham is 20 generations after Adam, and the Torah has recorded numerous genealogies in the text up to this point, this is the first recorded incident of any character in the Bible dealing with the death of a loved one. Abraham wants to find an appropriate burial place for Sarah and mourn her properly. And so he turns to the children of Heth, the non-Jews among whom he lives, to ask for their help in purchasing a burial plot.
Genesis 23:4 I am a stranger and a sojourner with you; give me possession of a burying place with you, that I may bury my dead …..
Following this, Abraham negotiates with Ephron to buy a field and a cave from him, thus making him now a resident of the land. Once he has completed his mourning for Sarah, Abraham has one more important task to accomplish: finding a suitable wife for Isaac. For this, he enlists the help of his non-Jewish servant, Eliezer, whom he sends back to the land and family from which he had originally departed. There follows a lengthy description of Eliezer’s journey and his selection of Rivkah. Towards the end of today’s parsha, we read
Genesis 24:67 And Isaac brought her to his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.
So how do these 3 passages speak to us today in the wake of the senseless violence that occurred a week ago?
The people of Tree of Life never got to read the story of the Akedah last week. Rather, they actually lived it. Their Shabbat worship was interrupted by gunfire in a sacred space just like this one. God received 11 sacrifices in Pittsburgh last Shabbat.
If we accept the standard interpretation that Isaac did notdie that day on Mt. Moriah, then we might ask who–or better yet, what—did die that day? I would suggest that what died was Isaac’s innocence. Despite all the promises God had made to Abraham about Isaac’s future, he now knew that the world that his father had created for him was no longer a safe place.
In much the same way, we see that the American Jewish community lost our innocence as well last Shabbat. For several hundred years we have told our children that they were safe in this country, that here we can worship freely without threat of violence. In the last 70 years since the end of the Shoah, we have told ourselves and our children, “It can’t happen here.” After the events of last Shabbat, we know that that is no longer true. Just like Abraham, today we come to synagogue and we say, “please God, let us go and worship You, and may we return safely from there.”
But unlike Isaac, who ran away from his father’s world, we have returned to our synagogues today. All across the country we American Jews have come together to defy those who would deny us the freedom of our religion. We resolve that we will not abandon our God.
And we have not come alone. Just as Abraham turned to his non-Jewish neighbors to help him bury his dead, so, too, have we reached out for support from those of other faiths among whom we live. And all across the country, just like here, people of every faith have come to help us mourn and to bury our dead.
And just as Abraham relied on his non-Jewish servant to find a wife for Isaac, someone who could provide comfort to Isaac after the loss of his mother, so, too, do we look to the others who are here with us today to offer us support and comfort to help us through these difficult days.
Let us resolve to move forward together, strengthened in our resolve that no other house of worship should be desecrated by the sound of gunshots; and that we all can continue to worship freely and without fear.
I can’t tell you how that’s going to happen. But I can tell you that today is a start. May the momentum built up today in synagogues all across the country carry us to the voting booths on Tuesday where we can let our voices be heard. And may we continue to live together in peace. Ken yehi ratzon—May it come speedily and in our day.
WHEN I WAS PREPARING TO SHARE WORDS OF TORAH THIS MORNING CORRESPONDING TO PARSHAT VA’YIGASH MANY THOUGHTS FLEW IN MY HEAD.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND FIRST IS NECESSARY. YAKOV IS INFORMED AFTER 22 YEARS AND LOTS OF INTERMITENT INTRIGUE THAT HIS BELOVED SON YOSEF IS ALIVE. NOT ONLY ALIVE BUT IN CHARGE OF THE FAMINE PLAGUED MIDDLE EAST, WORKING OUT OF EGYPT. YOU WILL RECALL THAT PHARAOH HAD TWO DREAMS WHICH WERE ACTUALLY ONE AND THE SAME. YOSEF’S BIG CHANCE TO GET OUT OF JAIL WAS WHEN HE WAS CALLED ON TO INTERPRET THE MEANING OF THE DREAM. HE EXPLAINED THAT EGYPT AND THE ENTIRE AREA WOULD EXPERIENCE 7 YEARS OF SUCCESSFUL HARVESTS, ECONOMIC WEALTH AND AGRICULTURAL PLENTY. YOSEF’S CONTINUED EXPLAINING THAT 7 YEARS WOULD FOLLOW FILLED WITH DEVESTATION, DESTRUCTION AND SEVERE HUNGER. IT WAS WITH THIS BACKDROP THAT YAKOV SENT HIS OLDER TEN SONS AS SPIES TO BUY FOOD, NOT ONCE BUT SEVERAL TIMES.
YEHUDA REPRESENTS THE FAMILYIN THIS WEEKS OPENING VERSES. HE SPEAKS TO THE OVERSEER OF THE LAND. UNBEKNOWNST TO HIM IT IS HIS YOUNGER BROTHER YOSEF. YOSEF WAS NOT ONLY ALIVE BUT HE’S THE MAN! THE MAN THROUGH WHOM ALL FOOD REQUESTS AND PURCHASES PROCEED FOR THE ENTIRE MIDDLE EAST.
THE MOMENT ARRIVES. YOSEF CAN NO LONGER HIDE BEHIND HIS TITLE, HIS BEARD, HIS CLOTHES HIS FANCY JEWELRY AND HIS EGYPTIAN NAME OF TZAFNAT PA’NEACH. IN CHAPTER 45 VERSE 2, “V’YITAIN ETKOLO B’IVCHEE, HE CRIED ALOUD AND REVEALED HIMSELF TO THE BROTHERS. IN VERSE 3, “YOSEF SPOKE TO HIS BROTHERS, BESEECHING, “HA’OD AVI CHAI?”HE ASKS, “IS MY FATHER STILL ALIVE?”
GO TELL FATHER, THAT YOSEF IS ALIVE AND TO COME TO LIVE IN EGYPT FOR THE DURATION OF THE FAMINE. WHEN THE BROTHERS RETURN WITH YOSEF’S MESSAGE THEY ANNOUNCE, “OD YOSEF CHAI”! YOSEF IS ALIVE! AND THE TORAH OFFERS THAT YISRAEL’S SPIRIT WAS REVIVED AND HE STATED (45:28) “RAV, OD YOSEF CHAI”. WOW.YOSEF IS ALIVE AND I MUST GO TO SEE HIM BEFORE I DIE.
SO, WHO ACCOMPANIED YAKOV TO MITZRAYIM?!IN 46:7 WE ARE TOLD THAT HE DEPARTED WITH “HIS SONS, HIS GRANDSONS, HIS DAUGHTERS AND HIS GRAND-DAUGHTERS. AND ALL OF HIS OFFSPRING TRAVELED TO EGYPT AND ALSO IN ORDER TO MEET BROTHER YOSEF, UNCLE YOSEF, WHO IS NOW AN ABBA HIMSELF, THUS MAKING YAKOV, A ZEYDE.
I WANT TO SUGGESTTHAT WHAT APPEARS TO BE AN INQUIRYBY YOSEF “ANI YOSEF, HA’OD AVI CHAI” “I AM JOSEPH, IS MY DAD STILL ALIVE”, I CHOOSE TO READ AS A DECLARATIVESENTENCE AS FOLLOWS, “ I AM JOSEPH AND WHEN HE HEARS ABOUT ME, MY FATHER WILL ONCE AGAIN BE TRULY ALIVE”.
IT IS THE PRESENCE OF G-D THAT IS CRUCIAL AS WELL. IN CHAPTER 46, YAKOV HAS A “MARAT HA’LAYLA”, A NIGHT VISION, IN WHICH HE IS CALLED AND RESPONDS AS DID HIS FATHER AND GRAND-FATHER WITH THE POWERFUL WORD “HINENI”, HERE I AM!
G-D TALK TO ME AND SHARE WITH ME YOUR DIVINE MESSAGE. JACOB IS TOLD THIS JOURNEY TO EGYPT WILL CONTINUE AS A LONG PERIOD OF TIMEIN EXILE. BUT IT WILL EVENTUALLY RESULT IN A RETURN TO CANAAN, TO ISRAEL, THE LAND PROMISED TO AVRAHAM AND YITZHAK AND TO YOU AND YOUR DESCENDANTS.
EACH TIME THAT I JOURNEY TO ISRAEL IT IS A SPIRITUAL RECONFIRMATION OF THE CENTRALITY OF ISRAEL EVEN AS I RESIDE IN THE DIASPORA.
EACH OF USMUST REMAIN PASSIONATE FOR ISRAEL.BY SENDING FRIENDS AND FAMILY TO VISIT. TO STUDY. TO TOUR. TO SUPPORT ITS ECONOMY. TO SPEAK UP FOR ITS SECURITY.
AND FINALLY, LET ME RETURN TO YOSEF’S QUESTION OR DECLARATION, THE PHRASE “(HA)’OD AVI CHAI?” IF WE TAKE AWAY THE LETTER HEY” IT EMERGES AS A SONG WITH ITS LYRICS “AM YISRAEL CHAI” BUT WITH ITS OWN RE-INTERPRETATION “OD AVINU CHAI”.
THEN WE CAN READ IT AS “ISRAEL’S NATION IS ALIVE”. OUR FATHER JACOB’S NATION IS ALIVE.
AM YISRAEL CHAI, OD AVINU CHAI.
MY MESSAGEFRIENDS AND PRAYER THAT I OFFER TO YOU AND TO MY CHILDREN AND MY GRAND-CHILDREN IS TO GUARANTEE THAT THE STATE OF ISRAEL, THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL, THE JEWISH PEOPLE AND THE LAND OF ISRAEL BE A VITAL PART OF OUR HEART AND SOUL.
Harry Chapin died more than 35 years ago in a terrible car accident on the Long Island Expressway. His music lives on and the lessons they offer have resonated for me over the years. His classic song Cats in the Cradle rings in my ears on this Rosh HaShana day, the theme of life’s regrets.
As we read this morning’s Torah portion, I wonder if Avraham felt any regrets about the way in which he treated Yishmael, his son by Hagar. According to the Midrash, he did. In the Torah, Avraham under the influence of Sarah casts Yishmael and Hagar into the wilderness to die. God intervenes and they do not die, but Avraham does not know that! The Midrash, on the other hand, has a narrative in which it imagines a regret over the banishment which haunts Avraham as the years pass. Avraham travels by camel to visit Ishmael. He arrives at midday but only finds Yishmael’s wife. “Where is Yishmael?” he asks. She responds “ Halach hu lirot et ha-gemalim ba’midbar.
“He went with his mother Hagar, to tend to the camels in the wilderness.”
“Amad Avraham v’hu mitpalel lifney HaKadosh Baruch Hu”
“Avraham pauses to pray to the Almighty that Yishmael and his household be blessed with only good.”
When Yishmael returns home, his wife tells him of his father’s visit.’Ve’yada Yishmael sh’ad achshav rachamey Aviv Alav” “And Yishmael knew all this time that his father had mercy upon him”
It is a poignant account by the Rabbis of Avraham’s lifelong regret. Contemporary rabbis, parents and therapists often hear regrets as well.
“If only I had…” If only she hadn’t; Why didn’t I; I can’t believe I didn’t; If I had to do it over again; If only I had known; I should have; I shouldn’t have”
When we look at these remarks now, we realize that we are speaking of yesterday’s regrets, but what about tomorrow? What are our significant regrets not from “the yesterday”, but what will be our regrets a year or five or ten years from now? The Sages of the Talmud ask, “Who is wise?” “Aysey hu chacham?”
And offer the answer. “Ha’roeh et Ha’nolad!” The person who anticipates what is ahead. Let me suggest some personal regrets which exist in many of our lives. Perhaps we can stop short of them before they emerge years from today. Here are three:
DON’T REGRET JUDGING THE WORTH OF YOUR LIFE BY EMPLOYING THE WRONG CRITERION. What is the gauge by which to measure success or failure in our life? I believe that the answer is we should judge life’s success more by life’s personal and interpersonal bonds than by life’s material rewards. Sort of like the connection made in the mahzor at the time of the sounding of the shofar. We say after the blasts “Ashrey ha’Am Yodey Teruah”
“Happy are those who know the sounds of the shofar”. How precisely is one’s happiness to be measured the Sages ask. They answer by connecting this phrase with another verse in the book of Psalms: “Wealth and riches are in God’s house forever.” Does it sound like material goods are the gauge of happiness? Not really. The verse, according to the Sages, applies to a person who writes the Torah, Prophets and Writings, the TaNaKh and then lends those to others. So, how are wealth and riches defined? It is the privilege after one has written to lend to someone else. “Happy are those who really understand the sound of the shofar. The shofar stimulates us to share values, moral teaching, ethical standards and profound ideas.
Actually research supports the definition of success. People are not happiest when earning more and more. At a certain point we are happiest when our earnings are used to assist others. Under-indulging rather than over indulging. What is done with extra earnings makes for happiness? Interpersonal relations with a spouse, with children, grandchildren, friends, and family are more profound than professional success.
DON’T REGRET IN TEN YEARS NOT PAYING ATTENTION TO THIS GAUGE.
The second measure.
WHAT IS AN OBSTACLE TODAY TO EFFECTIVE FAMILY RELATIONS?
In 2018 the flight to technology has become an end in itself rather than a means. Hi tech sometimes interferes with personal relationships. In 10 years, you don’t want to regret that technology impaired rather than helped the rest of life. I-pads, I-phones, emails, texting are to be celebrated for their convenience. We use these as tools to enhance connections and communication.
A few years ago, Thomas Friedman writing for the NY Times wrote about being Drunk on Technology. A while ago he took a trip to Paris. When he got off the plane, he was met by a taxi driver who had been sent to pick him up. The man was carrying a sign with his name on it, but as Friedman approached, he noticed that the man seemed to be talking to himself. Of course, a Bluetooth was clipped to his ear. Friedman pointed to himself as the person he was supposed to meet. The driver nodded and went on talking on the phone.
When the luggage arrived, Friedman took it off of the belt. The driver pointed to the exit. Friedman followed while the taxi driver kept talking. In the car Friedman asked him if he knew the name of the hotel. The driver said “no”. He showed him the address. The driver took it and went back to his conversation. As the driver spoke, Friedman opened his laptop. He was finishing his column while listening to his i-Pod. When he got to the hotel he reflected on this trip. He and the driver had been together for an hour and between the two of them the driver drove, talked, Friedman rode, worked on his laptop and I-Podded.
The one thing they had not done during the entire trip was speak, except for one word.no” Too bad. The two of them in one car but a million miles apart for the conversation they COULD have had.
Being Drunk on Technology can mean the end of education and communication. One teenager had a book assignment but he read only 42 pages in 2 months. He said, “On U tube you can get the entire story in 6 minutes. A book takes too long.”
When a Bar or Bat Mitzvah young person is offered the opportunity to prepare and deliver a D’var Torah for the day of celebration, it often requires assistance to slow the youngster down in the reading pattern. The speech is sometimes so rapidly shared as to be unintelligible. Running from one task to another in tech terms results in no time to pause. Most of our children are in a constant mode of stimulation and the brain is not given the time to have down time.
A Hebrew word for conversation in the Torah is “si-cha”. It is introduced when Yakov, Jacob, goes out to the field “la-su’ach” to meditate on God’s Presence and with Ha-Shem. Conversation with someone requires focus. Texting,”I’m thinking of you” or “I love you” with lots of abbreviations like “lol” or “xoxxes and “oos” does not truly deepen a relationship.
In years from now don’t regret the destruction or minimizing of real relations because the tech side of life overwhelmed the love and care. When we are at a meal or when we are speaking with someone try to silence your technology. For our ancestors and for us, Shabbat is the cessation of manual labor. Our challenge is to be able to “unplug” our tech connections for 25 hours and build human relations and a Divine relationship through study and prayer and meals and rest and refreshing the neshama, soul time.
A third regret that we can avoid is OUTSOURCING TOO MUCH OF LIFE.
Have you seen ads for “Surrogate soccer mom taxi service?” Ads for rent a mom? An ad for ending a relationship, “Breaking up is Hard to do, Let us do it for you”? “Rent a dad”? Even “rent a rabbi” for weddings or funerals. We have “life coaches” wedding planners, rent a friend. We know that there is good reason for out-sourcing some parts of our lives. We are time deprived. We are likely to turn for professional services to finance things we cannot do due to longer work hours. We can rent a closet tidier service. We can arrange for stand in care for elderly parents. We can hire a tutor to assist a child in prepping for college entrance exams or high school tests.
The more we depend on out-sourcing our life the results will be lessening our interpersonal and human relationships.
In Jewish life rather than out-sourcing we need to be empowering. Rather than “Rent a more knowledgeable and observant Jew” or “Rent a Kaddish reciter” we have to try to empower one another and one-self. The task of clergy and leadership is to enable through education to fulfill the sacred tasks.
Changing our life patterns is very difficult. However, these 3 patterns, if they continue…
JUDGING OUR LIFE BY INCOME AND NOT INTERPERSONAL RELATIONS
ALLOWING TECHNOLOGY TO BE A MEANS AND NOT AN END
OUT-SOURCING CRITICAL PARTS OF OUR LIVES…
They can become regrets in years from now. While regrets for yesterday cannot be eliminated, regrets for tomorrow can be mitigated and corrected before they occur. Each of us on this Rosh HaShana day must commit to a personal strategy and each family to a set of goals and a revised standard of life.
Less regrets. No regrets.
Avraham had regrets as a father. The midrash seeks to explain and correct his decisions and to teach us a profound lesson.
Harry Chapin teaches us about regrets and we have a chance to learn from his lyrics and insights.
May this Rosh HaShana have more changes and less regrets for now and for years to come.
Moshe 5779. Rh edited 6.28.18
Every day is a winding road, said Sheryl Crow and the Beatles.
Life changes in ways we are never quite prepared for. As a hurricane visits friends and family, making their lives more challenging, it reminds us of the hurricanes we have overcome.
When tragedy strikes what do we do? Do we hide or fight? Do we help or ignore? It is interesting that some senators and representatives who did not want to support Hurricane Sandy relief suddenly want federal help for Harvey. Should we ask our representatives to ignore them or offer our assistance? As much as revenge is a dish best served cold, I think there is only one answer. We must do the right thing. We must offer our hand to our neighbors and friends. Should they be punished for having representatives who make cruel and vicious choices?
In this time of hope, as we march towards Rosh Hashanah, we must try to forgive.
I’d love your thoughts. Please respond in the comments-as long as you aren’t selling viagra!
We are blessed to be having company for Shabbat dinner this week. We will be asking our guests questions as part of https://onetable.org/togetheratthetable/
We will find a positive spin on the craziness that has been this week. Shabbat is a gift to us. It is an opportunity to be apart rather than a part of the regular news cycle. It is a time to separate from all that drives us berserk and allow ourselves time to recover.
This week let us find calm. Let us find peace. Let us find Shalom.
The root of Shalom is Shalem, שלם meaning wholeness. When we find true peace, we feel ourselves a little more whole.
Tonight we are having a dinner that blends east and west. We will have Sesame Chicken, Veggie Lo Mein, challah, brownies. The recipes are Americanized versions of Asian, Jewish, and wherever brownies came from cuisine. I think it will be delicious. When we come together, we can create new opportunities. Blending these different elments and flavors is not just a hodgepodge, but a statement of identity. It is a reminder that we all look different. We all come from different places, but we can find ways to sit down together. We can talk to one another. We can love one another.
This past Friday night we celebrated Aloha Shabbat together.
With the support of the Jewish Federation of Orange County, the Newburgh JCC organized a beautiful Shabbat dinner. Grilled chicken skewers, salads and more helped bring TBJ and CAI together. Beautiful music from Ross Levy inspired us all.
Rabbi Freedman reminded us what a blessing it is to work together. Too often we live in a society divided. Politics, religion and stubbornness push us apart. We forget our shared values-even among Am Yisrael-among the Jewish people.
Yet here in Newburgh, we find ways to work together. We celebrate our differences and even find time to pray together!
Across our denominational lines, we made beautiful music. We recognized the unity of the Holy One. We sang; we danced; we ate!
Thanks to the blessing of all coming together, finding a moment of unity in a seemingly discordant world. These are the moments that will help us build a peaceful future. When we can come together under one tent, we can find beauty and love.
The world really does change in a moment-and you are a part of it!
Interesting linksHere are some interesting links for you! Enjoy your stay :)
- Rabbi Rosner’s Shabbat Sermon on August 3, 2019August 15, 2019 - 10:31 am
- June 22nd: CREATING PERSONAL KEDUSHA, BUILDING A COMMUNAL KEDUSHA JEWISH LEARNING-JEWISH LIVING- JEWISH LEADING-LAUGHING AND LOVING.June 25, 2019 - 2:50 pm
- June 8th: SHABBAT PARSHAT BA’MIDBARJune 11, 2019 - 2:45 pm
- May 25, 2019: Parshat BEHAR Sermon by Rabbi Moshe EdelmanMay 28, 2019 - 8:26 pm
- November 3, 2018 Parshat Chaye Sarah. After Pittsburgh. (Rabbi Margie Cella)December 20, 2018 - 11:37 am
- Upcoming Virtual Classes, Services and Activities at Congregation Agudas Israel, Temple Beth Jacob and Newburgh JCCMarch 30, 2020 - 8:17 pm
- Join us for fun at the Purim CarnivalFebruary 24, 2020 - 7:54 pm
- The Mikado Play in YiddishFebruary 24, 2020 - 7:46 pm
- Family Shabbat at Congregation Agudas IsraelFebruary 3, 2020 - 8:10 pm
- Join us for Lighting the Giant Hanukkah MenorahNovember 22, 2019 - 4:32 pm