4/27/2017

Shabbat Tazria & Metzorah

Candles Friday, April 28 @ 7:29pm
Havdalah, April 29 @ 8:25pm
Yom Ha'zikaron - Monday, May 1
Yom Ha'atzmaut - Tuesday, May 2

Kiddush this week sponsored by Clement & Hannah Salama
In appreciation of the community, rabbi, and hazzan

The double portion of the Torah this week deals with what are called laws of purity but purity is a very misleading translation. In ancient Israel, there were a lot of laws that required people to be in a special, elevated state, before they could enter the Holy Sanctuaries such as the Tabernacle of the Temple. This had nothing to do with what we call cleanliness. People had to be perfectly clean before they went through the process that enabled them to return to a higher state.

These chapters are concerned primarily with events that caused disruption or displacement to the normal functioning of the human body, both male and female. Sometimes this applied to sickness or disease. Other examples were the flow of bodily liquids. In addition, touching or being in the same room as a dead person also put one into a different state.

Such states primarily affected priests who could not perform their duties in the sanctuaries until they went through a process of purification. But it also prevented ordinary Israelites from coming into these special areas. Otherwise outside, and in the normal course of daily activity, being in one of these different states had no impact on daily life. One was not a pariah or forced out of normal life unless one had a contagious disease. One of the roles of the priests as the medical experts of those days was to examine and evaluate states of illness and displacement and recommend cures or corrections.

For most of Jewish history all this has been inapplicable. We have had no Temple and therefore the laws of Temple purity have lapsed. Technically today we are all in this state of not being able to enter holy places. But otherwise, despite our state of “impurity” we all lead normal lives.

So why do we spend so much time reading and some studying these ancient rules? Part of it is simply our interest in and commitment to our cultural and religious history. An interest in our past and how we have changed. There is a poetic nostalgia in recording and looking back at how our ancients acted and what mattered then. But it is also important as a lesson for us now.

It teaches us to be aware of our different physical and mental states. And this should make us more sensitive to the states that others might be going through. These chapters include sections that deal with how the body changes during childbirth, how relationships can be destroyed through deceit, how some of us choose to be more particular or punctilious in our personal lives. It is a lesson in awareness of the varieties of human conditions, states and behavior and how we can, if we choose, raise our games, try to be better and more sensitive people.

These ancient rules all focus in the end on how to be a better, more aware human being. The methods change over time. The goal remains the same.

4/20/2017

Shabbat Shmini

Friday 21st Candles 7:23pm
Shabbat ends 22nd at 8:20pm
Mevarchin Rosh Hodesh Wednesday & Thursday

Kiddush this Shabbat sponsored by
Yassi Gershoony, in memory of Moshe Ben Ezra
Tony Zand, in memory of Esther Bat Rahamim

The laws of what animals, birds and fish are permitted are given this week as part of the Book of Vayikra which deals with issue of personal purity. Purity in Biblical Hebrew has nothing to do with cleanliness as we understand it. Quite the contrary, no matter how clean a person might be, certain actions and states placed them in a category of what we would call secularism. And the contrary state would be what we call spirituality.

It is common to hear people say “You are what you eat.” So if you are a carnivore, this is supposed to say something about your character. If that were so, Hitler who was a vegetarian, must have been a very spiritual man! But there are some Jews who believe that if you eat forbidden foods, this degrades your body. This is illogical. First of all, we see that you can be perfectly healthy physically on a diet of forbidden foods. Secondly you can make yourself sick purely by eating kosher food if you eat too much or do not have a balanced diet. Meat and wine like many foods have therapeutic qualities but they also carry within them the possibility of gluttony, alcoholism and hardening the arteries. And by over indulging, sickness and disease.

Really the issue is not WHAT you eat but HOW you eat. Do you control, discipline your intake or do you simply indulge. Animals eat and excrete. Human animals do too. But what makes a person rise to a higher level is HOW he or she eats and whether they think before they eat and exercise thought and self-control. And this according to Maimonides is what lies behind the laws in the Torah, governing food.

4/13/2017

Hol Hamoed Schedule

Friday April 14th, Shabbat Hol Hamoed
Candles @ 7:15pm

Sunday 16th, April 7th Day Pesah
Candles @ 7:17pm

Monday 17th Morning Service @9:30am
Candles @ 8:14pm

Tuesday 18th Morning Service @ 9:30am
Festival ends 8:14pm

The core difference in Jewish Law as written in the Torah, between Festivals and Shabbat is that on Festivals one is allowed to cook on flames (ovens etc) that have been kept alight from before the Festival. It makes sense of course in that there is a limit to how much food one can prepare in advance for a large family. And in hot climates before the age of refrigeration preparing for Shabbat is one thing. But preparing for Shabbat and for two Festive days in the Diaspora, would put unreasonable strains on family catering. If it was tough then, it’s so much easier nowadays.

Yet the implication is that Shabbat is stricter and more significant than Festivals because we simply cannot cook on Shabbat at all. Indeed Yom Kipur is described in the Torah as the Shabbat of Shabbats. Yet most of us nowadays treat Festivals as more important. In our community more of us come to pray on festivals than on an ordinary Shabbat.

I guess it is because most Jews find the weekly timetable of Shabbat too much to cope with and so fall back on making more out of Festivals. Of course, you might suggest that it was fine to take two and sometimes three days off work in an agricultural society but in our modern societies only professional Jews or those retired or self-employed can take so much time off.

People decide for themselves how much they are willing to give Judaism priority in their lives. No one suggests its easy. It isn’t. But the rewards are not just spiritual. Getting off the treadmill, taking a break to spend time on one’s soul is incredibly beneficial to our souls, our families and one state of mind. It is not easy I agree. But its worth it in more ways than most people realize. If a medical doctor recommended it you’d do it!

4/07/2017

Shabbat Parshat Tsav, Shabbat HaGadol

Friday April 7th Candles @ 7:07pm
Havdalah, April 8th @ 8:03pm

The Shabbat before Pesah is called Shabbat HaGadol. It records the first command to the children of Israel in Egypt to take actions to prepare for their freedom. So it was a “great” positive event. But Shabbat HaGadol also came to be “great” for distinguishing the Rabbinic Jewish identity as against those who challenged it.

It was a matter of dispute within Judaism two thousand years ago as to whether Pesah had to be celebrated, not on the 15th of Nissan but on the Shabbat before it. The dispute threatened the unity of the tradition. And Christianity recorded the death of their founder as taking place on that the Sabbath for which they blamed the Jews and led to the cataclysmic schism and enmity.

Thus this Shabbat came to represent the greatness of our tradition, as well as the hope that, as the Haftarah says, Eliyahu will one day bring about the reunification under one God.

We face challenges from within of sectarianism and different ideologies. We face external antagonism from other religions. But it is when we come together by taking steps to safeguard our freedoms that we can maintain our integrity in a divided world.

Shabbat Shalom

Pesah:

You can still sell your Hametz by emailing me before midnight on Sunday.

Sunday Night 9th April - Bedikat Hametz. Search for Hametz by candlelight.
Monday 10th - Erev Pesah. Biur Hametz. Burning leftover Hametz.
One may not eat Hametz after 10:45am.
Candles 7:10 pm, followed by Maariv and 1st Seder.
Tuesday 11th - Morning Service 9:30am.
Candles 8:05pm, followed by 2nd Seder.
Wednesday 12th - Havdalah 8:07pm

Shabbat Hol Hamoed Friday April 14th

Last two days April 17th & 18th

Hag Sameah