How does one feel when one receives a present? Often, one feels very happy and fortunate. But sometimes one feels humbled by the gift and by what the gift may signify. Is the gift a sign of merit? Is it something earned and deserved? Or is the gift a token of love, unexpected but affirmed anyway? Is the gift something to be used up or is it something to be cherished forever? Is it a source of pleasure, or a challenge?
Our monthly Wednesday evening minyan wrapped up another successful year. That’s 13 years – not bad for a minyan that was supposed to last only one month. We will take a summer break and resume in some form after the High Holidays.
It was quite a year: a Presidential election, a pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, an insurrection on our Capitol where we added the Prayer for Our Country to our regular evening service and a war in Israel. More than ever, we needed to be together and to feel a sense of community. The Zoom minyan gave us that opportunity.
Thanks to all the participants who made the virtual minyan possible. Special thanks to Rabbi Greenstein, Lisa Z., Geoff, Michael Finck, John Lasiter and Andy Silver for their hard work, often behind the scenes.
Three times in our Torah reading the Jewish people are challenged to take ownership of some entity that is before them. The first time is the challenge of taking ownership of the land that God had promised to give them. However, the report of the scouts, meant to be a preparatory step toward taking ownership of the land, became, instead, the trigger for the people to refuse that challenge, to repudiate it and run from it.
The following generous Tributes and Donations were made this past month.
Make a donation or send a tribute online! visit: http://shomrei.org/donate
As we all know, there is a wealth of information on the internet and much is actually available after the original showing…and for free. Visitors, however, are encouraged to donate to help support programming.
Here are a variety of resources, including some travel sites to help you plan a trip or take one virtually. While the locations are all of interest, the quality of the travel webinar depends on the skill of the guide- especially on the English language skills for an English speaking viewer. Continue reading
“It’s been really lovely. But the time has come, and we must be going.”
The Children of Israel must be going, leaving the only real home they have known since freedom, Mount Sinai. Moving on is a challenge for everyone, always. Certainly it was a wrenching experience for the Israelites. Could Sinai really be left behind? Was all that had happened there, especially their experience of closeness to God, to become a mere memory? What would be lost and what could be taken along? (And, as we try to move out of this past year’s reality, this is still a challenge for us, today.)
Sometimes a person goes through and even seems to inhabit a period of feelings or experiences in which they hardly recognize themselves. Maybe they are able to leave that time behind. Sometimes they may sense relief as a result. But sometimes that strange time and the strange person who they were during that time remain ensconced in that other dimension, their strangeness undiminished. It is as if part of themselves has been placed in a special time capsule, preserved but isolated from the continued flow of life.
Such a personal experience might have been depicted by our Torah portion in its treatment of the nazirite. (Num. 6:1-21) A man or a woman may be moved to adopt a way of living that sets them apart (nazir) from others – from their friends and family and community. For some reason they seek a state of holiness with a fierceness that leaves them unsatisfied with the pious ways of everyday religion. For a while they resolve to endure separation from the familiar, to become ascetics and recluses.
By chance Jewish American Heritage Month shares space with Asian Pacific Heritage Month. While the connection might seem tenuous, it’s a lot stronger than one may think. After all, Israel is in Asia.
There have been Jews in Asia for hundreds-even thousands- of years, even if Jews in what is now Israel are not counted.
Countries that now have few if any Jews had large, vibrant communities with a culture that included literature, language, and ritual. Countries such as India, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Yemen and more had flourishing communities until modern times while the countries of Europe and North America were mere backwaters. Continue reading
The Lampert Library has lost two staunch supporters in the last few months: Herman Gollob and Jerry Weiss.
Herman Gollob’s recent passing leaves a real void in the Lampert Library’s friends. Herman was a well-known editor who began his career as a theatrical and literary agent. He moved over to publishers such as Little Brown, Harpers Magazine, the Literary Guild, Atheneum and Doubleday where he was editor-in-chief.
Shomrei’s Herman was, indeed, a big shot in the publishing world. But to Shomrei members he was the guy who had his bar mitzvah at the age of 53, the participant in Torah study who wasn’t shy about voicing his opinions, the person who encouraged Shomrei’s nascent writers, and the man whose southern manners could charm anyone when he wished to.
At Shomrei, Herman served as chair of the library committee for several years. But more importantly, Herman used his contacts in the literary world to bring outstanding authors to Shomrei as part of the Lampert Library Lecture series.
“And the Levites shall encamp around the Tabernacle of Testimony so that there be no wrath upon community of the Children of Israel; and they shall engage in the guarding of the Tabernacle of Testimony.”
This is one a numerous verses that charge the Levites with the job of protecting the sacred shrine from inappropriate incursions while thereby also protecting the Israelites from the mortal consequences that could befall them should they attempt to enter the Tabernacle at the wrong time or in the wrong state of being. This role of guardianship is the direct result of the special status of the Levites. God says: “The Levites shall be Mine.” (Num. 3:12) God assigns to the Levites the role of protecting the holiness of the shrine and the wellbeing of the people. Both are especially precious to God.