5/30/2013

Shabbat Shelach Lecha

Mevarchin Rosh Chodesh Tammuz

Candles Friday, May 31, 8:00pm
Havdalah May 1, 9:00pm

The episode of the spies who returned from Canaan showed beyond doubt that the Children of Israel were not yet ready psychologically to start the invasion of Canaan. A whole generation had to pass before the actual invasion under Joshua.

But after they had all crumbled when ten of the spies said they faced the prospect of a hard battle, a group of them decided to try nevertheless and go up on their own initiative. Moshe warmed them that the time was not right. God had decreed that the people were not ready and would have to wait before trying again. There was no point, he said in a desperate attempt to try now. It would not succeed.

And in fact they were decisively beaten by the Amalekites and the Canaanites who forty years later they had no problem seeing off.

And so it is with us. Sometimes we fail, either in our personal lives or our professions and business. We do not achieve what we hoped for, a deal collapses or the person we are pursuing rejects us. There are those who would say one should go back and try again right away. But this story seems to be saying that if the time is not right, it is better to pause and redirect ones energies than just blindly trying again and again. To be sure sometimes perseverance does pay off. But one must not be afraid of just walking away and trying something different.

5/23/2013

Shabbat Behaalotecha

May 24th, Candles 7:54pm
May 25th, Havdalah 8:50pm

The seven branch menorah that stood in the Tabernacle and the Temple, made of solid gold, was the symbol of God’s presence amongst us. One light, the westernmost, was kept burning all the time, the wicks were changed, oil added once every twenty four hours. In the desert where the people wandered after they left Egypt, this Divine presence was represented by cloud during the day and fire at night, both of which had practical functions, shade and illumination. But once they were settled the single light replaced them both.

The difference was that the cloud and the fire were provided for them. The menorah on the other hand, they needed to take care of themselves.

And so it is with us. When we start our lives our parents are responsible for keeping the flame of our tradition alive and tending our needs both spiritual and physical. But as we grow and become independent, we are then responsible for making the effort ourselves.

So too as many of our community head off to their summer homes and away from the support structure of our community, one will have to try that much harder to make sure the Jewish component of our lives us not diluted and suppressed by the material delights and distractions of our summer lives.

This message is also reinforced by the famous phrase we read this week “Vayehi Binsoah HaAron” "When the Ark begins to move we say, “Arise God and scatter your enemies.”” When we are on the move we are more vulnerable, not just physically but spiritually, unfamiliar territory, new challenges. That’s when we need to reinforce our Jewish life.

5/09/2013

Timetable for the next ten days:

Shabbat Bamidbar
Rosh Chodesh Sivan Friday
Candles Friday May 10th, 7:40 pm
Havdalah May 11th, 8:35pm

Shavuot May 15 & 16
Summer Harvest Festival and the Anniversary of the Ten Commandments

1st Day Tuesday Evening May 14th, Candles 7:45pm
Wednesday morning May 15th, Service 9:30 am
Shavuot 2nd Day Wednesday Evening, Candles 8:35 pm
Thursday Morning May 16th, Service 9:30 am
Thursday Evening, Festival ends 8:45pm

Shabbat Naso
Friday May 17th, Candles 7:50 pm
Havdalah 18th 8:40pm

5/02/2013

Shabbat Behar-Behukotai

Candles Friday May 4th, 7:34pm
Havdalah May 5th, 8:30pm

Rosh Hodesh Sivan Friday 10th May

The last chapters of the Book of Vayikra (Leviticus) seem to have no common thread. Behukotai is dominated by the ‘Toheha,’ the frightening warning to the Israelites about what disasters would befall them if they strayed from the path of the Torah. It is harsh, brutal and sadly accurately predicts what did in fact happen. We have always been a “Stiff necked people” and our individuality has been both a strength and weakness. Yet as the Torah says, we have always returned from the brink of extinction.

And then after chapters of crushing condemnation comes the seemingly irrelevant piece about valuations. One could symbolically dedicate oneself to the Temple as an act of religious charity, and the amount one had to pay to release oneself from this commitment was laid out in the Torah. What’s the connection?

I suggest it is a message for us as parents and teachers. We need to set standards and demand discipline. How else can we pass on any positive values? But this comes across as harsh and even sometimes cruel. If you tell a child to stop gorging on chocolates, it will consider you to be cruel by its standards. You know what’s best for its diet and health. But it still thinks you’re being harsh.

We need to be the parents who rebuke and warn our children of the consequences of over indulgence. But at the same time we need to appreciate their good points, how valuable they are. They are after all the children of God as well as ours.

It is these two aspects of education that the Torah is teaching us. We must be firm and strict but it should be balanced with love and appreciation of the importance of each person, regardless of his or her strengths and weaknesses. God values them even if they disobey him and so must we.