5/29/2014

Shabbat Naso

Candles Friday May 30, 7:59pm
Havdalah May 31, 8:55pm

The reading this Shabbat concerns the ceremony of dedicating the Tabernacle. The emphasis here is not as in the earlier Book of Leviticus on the priests but rather on the elders representing each tribe. The message is that the religious leadership and the nation in general are just as much invested in the fate of the people and the religion must speak to the people not just the “religious ones.” Everyone need to work together. The religious leadership and the lay, the spiritual and the material supplement each other.

SHAVUOT
Tuesday Night June 3, festival begins at 8:02pm

The festival of Shavuot is in a way the orphan. Not as family and home orientated as Pesah and not as full of rituals as Sucot or as solemn as the Days of Awe. The Bible focusses exclusively on the harvests and the first fruits. The emphasis is on nature, ecology, the balance between God, Humanity and Nature and our mission to conserve and protect and value and thank the Almighty. Although this message became less significant when we stopped being a land based agricultural society, it is becoming clear how relevant this message is as the danger of destroying our ecological system becomes more and more significant.

Wednesday morning June 4
Service 9:30am - 11:45am
Candles 8:58 pm

Shavuot is also the anniversary of the Sinai Revelation, the Torah, our Constitution. We symbolically re-commit ourselves to Torah. That is why we read the Book of Ruth because her commitment to a Jewish life and her human kindness symbolizes the importance of accepting Torah and choosing to live a full Jewish life. The consequence of her devotion was to have King David as her direct descendant.

Thursday morning June 5
Service 9:30 am - 11:45pm
Festival ends 8:58pm

Shabbat Behaalotecha
Candles Friday June 6 at 9:00pm
Havdalah June 7 at 9:00pm

Lighting the Candelabrum in the Temple is nowadays remembered by the eternal light we burn in our synagogues in front of the Ark. Keeping the light burning symbolizes how we have and will continue to keep our people and our traditions alive.

 Shabbat Shalom and Hag Sameach!

5/22/2014

Shabbat Bamidbar

Shabbat Mevarchin
Rosh Hodesh Sivan next Friday

Candles, Friday 7.53pm
Havdalah, Saturday 8.49pm

The fourth book of the Torah, Bamidbar, literally means “desert.” It covers the main events of the forty year period of wandering through the desert of Sinai and the Arava into what is Jordan today before crossing over into the Land of Israel.

In mystical terms words have significance on many different levels. The most obvious example is the Hebrew root SFR which means a book SeFeR which involves reading. The same root SoFeR is a scribe, to write and again LiSFoR is to count and finally to speak is LeSaFeR. The same root applies to all different ways in which we communicate and understand each other. Only the vowels change. So that when we look at a text or an object or a person on so many different levels, superficially, emotionally, objectively, with involvement or dispassionately, with commitment or detachment. We can see them, hear them, talk and “read” their minds.

MIDBAR, wilderness, is another example of a word with multiple meanings. It has the same root as DaBeR to speak, and DaVaR an object. On the face of it a desert is empty. It is a silent zone of physical emptiness. But a scientist will be able to see amazing stories and worlds in the rocks and sands. Biologists discover the creatures and organisms that eke out a secret life in what appears to be barren lifelessness. Even silent objects can “speak” to one. The desert is a place of such silence that one can almost hear it. There is none of the constant noises and hums and rumbles and sirens that assail our ears and consciousness all the time in cities.

That is why the greatest of spiritual minds (of all religions) came alive in the desert. You need silence to be able to open your mind to God (just as you need people to be sensitive to humanity). That is why we were taken out of metropolitan Egypt and into the empty silent desert to be more receptive to a Divine message. And its why in today’s busy noisy world we need occasions to take a break and retreat into a religious atmosphere.

5/08/2014

Shabbat Behar

Candles Friday May 9th 7:47pm
Havdalah May 10th 8:43pm

This week the short Torah reading contains a range of laws, from the Sabbatical, to property leases, to the treatment of indentured servants. In all cases there is a common thread that is not immediately obvious. Life is constantly changing and fortunes rise and fall. Change means that we can never guarantee what the future will bring. It is how we treat those either below us or dependent on us that defines us as good human beings.

The Sabbatical and the laws about property leases are part of a theme that we should never assume permanence either in our personal or work lives. To help achieve this we need breaks to our routines, during the course of the day, the week, the month and the year. These “holy moments” or “holy days” all help in getting us to live on a spiritual level as well as a physical one.

Too much dependence on materialism and society is in its way a form of servitude even if it is not imposed. But society gives people power over others. There’s nothing wrong with accumulating wealth and power so long as you are sensitive to those less fortunate. That’s why in the laws about people who work for you or you see enslaved by others the Torah keeps on reiterating “Do not treat them aggressively.” People dependent on you are still human beings who need to be treated with dignity. Too often our secular culture encourages abuse and aggression, the idea that only the strong succeed. The measure of good person is someone who understands that to get the most out of other people you need to respect them.

5/01/2014

Shabbat Emor

Candles Friday May 2nd 7.33pm
Havdalah May 3rd at 8.29pm

There is a very sad story at the end of this week’s Torah reading. The son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father cannot find his place amongst the Israelites who came out of Egypt. In his anger and frustration he publicly curses God. Moses does not know how to deal with him and so he has to consult God. Why? Wasn’t the Law clear to him after Sinai?

The commentators are divided as to why the young man became so bitter. Some say it is because he was an outcast because of his non-Jewish father. Some say it was because his mother was a woman of loose morals. Others say he did not get the support and love of his parents. Perhaps this is why Moses hesitated. He was sensitive to the circumstances that conspired against this young man.

So you see we have always had such problems. The fact is that even the best of parents produce children who go off track or rebel. It may have something to do with the home, or genes or circumstances. Even the most religious of families produce those who reject Judaism and the most irreligious sometimes produce children who become committed. There are no guarantees but there are ways of reducing the odds. Regardless of what our children do we must love them. But it is up to us to do the right thing both in terms of how we train them and in the examples that we ourselves show them.