Wonder Years: Parashat Eqev

 Parashat Eqev 2016

Parashat Eqev
Deuteronomy 7:12 – 11:25

When Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was still a young man, before his fleeing the Shoah and before he became known as one of the leading spiritual voices of the middle of the twentieth century, he wrote these words: “Never once in my life did I ask God for success or wisdom or power or fame. I asked for wonder, and He gave it to me.”

For the rest of his life Rabbi Heschel taught that cultivating a feeling of wonder is essential for living a life of meaning and holiness. I believe that the consciousness of this value can help us read a piece of this week’s Torah portion.

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Heart to Heart: Parashat Va’et’hanan/Shabbat Nahamu

 Parashat Va'et'hanan 2016

Parashat Va’et’hanan/Shabbat Nahamu
Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11

Two texts that are central to Judaism are found in our Torah portion this week. One is the Ten Commandments and one is the Sh’ma – its first verse and first paragraph (of three). Of these two texts, one has gained almost universal acceptance, at least in the Western world. That text is the Ten Commandments, which is seen by many as the very backbone of Western society. The Sh’ma has not gained the same degree of acceptance.

It may be surprising, therefore, to review how our Tradition has approached these two texts as it strove to find their appropriate places in Jewish life. There is a huge imbalance between how much we focus on one of these two texts as compared to the others.

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Olympic Madness

Olympic ringsFrom the Lampert Library

As the 2016 Summer Olympics wind down, it is interesting to note that this is the 80th anniversary of the notorious Berlin Olympics of 1936. Sometimes called the Nazi Olympics, the Nazi propaganda machine was at full throttle as the world watched a precisely choreographed event whose showmanship blinded much of the world to the realities of the Nazi regime.

In fact, that Olympics was the first time that the Olympic torch was relayed from Olympia to the game site.

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Crossing Water: Parashat D’varim / Shabbat Hazon

 Parashat Dvarim 2016

Parashat D’varim/Shabbat Hazon
Deuteronomy 1:1 – 3:22

These are the words (d’varim) that Moses spoke to all of Israel on the other side of the Jordan…” (Deut. 1:1) The Torah locates the place of Moses’ farewell speech to his people, a speech that constitutes the Book of Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Torah, as taking place on the banks of the Jordan River. After outlining the route that the Israelites had taken to go from Egypt and to reach this point, the Torah again states; “On the other side of the Jordan, in the land of Moav, Moses began to explain this Torah…” (v. 5) It is important for the Torah that we understand that Moses’ words were spoken at the threshold of the Promised Land, a threshold marked by the flowing waters of the Jordan. This threshold would have to be crossed in order to enter the land and Moses sought to prepare the people for this crossing.

As we know, this moment of entering the land was supposed to happen a generation earlier. But the people were not ready and their fulfillment of God’s promise had to be postponed until the next generation could undertake it.

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Together and Apart: Parashat Mattot/Mas`ei

 Parashat Mattot Masei 2016 august

Parashat Mattot/Mas`ei
Numbers 30:2–36:13

The “founders” generation has passed away in the wilderness. Almost no one who was an adult in Egypt has survived. Moses himself knows that his days are numbered. But the Children of Israel will now enter the Promised Land, though it has taken them a generation longer than originally planned. There is no turning back.

Or is there? At the threshold of entering the land two tribes – Reuven and Gad (later joined by some of Menasheh) – confront Moses and inform him that they do not want to cross the Jordan with their brothers and sisters. The land upon which they are encamped right now is much too good to pass up.

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Introducing @nourish, Conversations and Activities for Adults on Shabbat

@nourish2

Nourish your brain, body and being on Shabbat at Shomrei.  Open to the public. The Shomrei Jewish Learning Center is introducing a series of topical conversations and/or activities for adults to be held on alternating Saturdays. Meeting from 10:30-11:30 am @nourish will offer great coffee, great noshes and great conversation!  The topics will relate to current events, Jewish living in a modern world, food, history, or anything, well, nourishing!

Dale-Russakoff

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Window on the World

Eleanor reading in Culloden TowerFrom the Lampert Library

Mason Cooley, an American aphorist, once said “Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”

In that spirit, here are some books that will take you somewhere while staying where you are. Find them either in the synagogue library or your local public library. If you have trouble locating a book you want to read, please ask the librarian. Continue reading

Stand Up and Be Seen: Parashat Pinchas

 Parashat Pinchas 2016

Parashat Pinchas
Numbers 25:10–30:1

As they prepare to enter the Promised Land, the tribes of Israel are each assigned what will become their tribal holdings. Each tribe is to receive a section of the land. This allotment is then divided up into smaller pieces, to be given out to each family. Again we read a text that is repetitious in the way it conveys detailed organizational information. To be honest, the allotments were of no interest to anyone unless it was their own allotment. So we can imagine the masses of the Israelites hanging around while the lottery announcements are proclaimed, killing time.

But then something extraordinary happens. A group of five sisters challenges the proceedings! They notice, correctly, that the law does not give daughters a chance to inherit family estates. Such a feature of the law should not be surprising in a world in which women were expected to be taken care of by the menfolk of a family. But the sisters – the “daughters of their father Tz’lof’had” – are not ready to accept the status quo. They argue that the system is unjust because it excludes them from partaking in the heritage of their people and, significantly, it unfairly debars their late father from having a portion in the land that he had dreamt of entering.

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True Blue

blueberriesThe modern cultivated Jersey blueberry turns 100 this summer. Developed by Elizabeth White and Frederick Coville on White’s farm in southeastern New Jersey, native bushes were cloned from cuttings and were cross-pollinated to develop the large sweet berries we find in our markets today.

We probably don’t think of blueberries as being a “Jewish “ food like lox and bagels, apple strudel, or noodle kugel. But if you dig a little, you’ll find many delectable Jewish inspired dishes like blueberry blintzes, blueberry cheesecake, blueberry noodle kugel and even blueberry bagels.

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