Shavuot: Where E’er You Go

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Shavuot (5780 – 2020)
The Book of Ruth

This year the holiday of Shavuot falls of Friday and Shabbat, preempting a regular Torah-portion reading and calling for special readings instead. Our Torah readings are taken from various parts of the Torah. One reading tells of our amazing experience – once in all of history – of receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai and the other day’s reading tells about the yearly cycle of holidays – including Shavuot – that we have adopted in perpetuity. In addition, as with every pilgrimage festival, we add a reading from a special scroll. For Shavuot the reading is the Book of Ruth. Continue reading

Helping Myself by Helping Others

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It was the end of March. Except for some walks around the block, I hadn’t gone anywhere or even left the house for several weeks. And then I received an email from the County Freeholders — We Need Your Help! Support Toni’s Kitchen.

The email continued:  We urge you to support Toni’s Kitchen as they are being overwhelmed with the growing demands for their services. Toni’s Kitchen provides food and other critical services to those in the greater Montclair/Bloomfield Community. They are now providing groceries and fresh produce to students who receive free or reduced priced meals from the Montclair Public Schools as well as Senior Citizens and medically at risk residents.

I made a donation.

And then I signed up to help.  Continue reading

Shavuot Nature Wall

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Celebrate Beautiful Nature on Shavuot!

A Message From Rabbi Greenstein:

There is a wonderful custom of decorating synagogues and homes with flowers and leaves and pictures of nature on the holiday of Shavuot, the festival celebrating our receiving the Torah. While we are still not able to celebrate within the walls of our synagogue, we can create a wall of photos and images of nature’s beauty to enhance our joy.

Thank you to photographers in our community, Judith Antelman, Bruce Baff, Nancy Breslin, Aimee Brooks, Sarita Eisenberg, Aileen Grossberg, Rabbi Richard Hammerman, Laura Monka and Merrill Silver who have submitted their images in honor of Shavuot.

What a beautiful way to welcome our holiday! May we always take to heart the world’s great beauty!

view the gallery

Shavuot Resources

shavuot1Shavuot was frequently called the forgotten holiday. Religious schools had often closed by the time the holiday came around in late May or June.

Shavuot didn’t have the newness of the fall holidays; it lacked the gift giving and competition with Christmas of Hanukkah; and it’s missing the nostalgia of family gatherings that Passover brings.

However, Shavuot is one of the great pilgrimage holidays that along with Sukkot and Passover that drew ancient Jews to Jerusalem for sacrifices. The holiday also marked, for an agricultural people, the summer harvest and presaged the bounty that was to come in the fall. Continue reading

New Vistas: Parashat Bamidbar

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Parashat Bamidbar (5780 – 2020)
Numbers 1:1 – 4:20 

The fourth book of the Torah begins by setting the location of God’s communication with Moses. It states that “The Eternal spoke to Moses in the desert of (b’midbar) Sinai, in the Tent of Meeting…” (Num. 1:1) The Tent of Meeting is the very same place in which God has been speaking to Moses for months. The first verse of the third book of the Torah begins: “And God called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting.” (Lev. 1:1) The conclusion of the Leviticus tells us that the Tent of Meeting was at the foot of Mount Sinai. But the opening verse of Bamidbar changes the name of the location of the Tent from being t Mount Sinai to being in the wilderness of Sinai.
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Israeli Flavors for the Weekend

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This weekend is Memorial Day which marks the official start of the barbecue season and unofficial start of the summer.  While there won’t be any parades, you might be able to catch some sort of tribute to our war dead on a webinar or in a classic movie.

But back to barbecue. If you are looking for something different for a Memorial Day meal, try the following recipes with a Middle Eastern twist.

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Reading in Difficult Times

Stone CarvingsAs I sit at my computer,  so-called normal times seem so distant.The coronavirus pandemic has altered the way we act, where we go, even how we eat. We hope that soon we will return to a semblance of normal. If not, books may bring us entertainment, escape and solace, as well as, challenge.

While the synagogue library itself with all its treasures may not be accessible, this is the time to investigate ebooks borrowed from the public library, from an online  bookseller. or a local bookstore.  Brick and mortar bookstores also are doing their best to serve their customers with curbside or home delivery service.

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Stand By Me: Parashat B’har/B’chuqqotai

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Parashat B’har/B’huqqotai (5780 – 2020)
Leviticus 25:1 – 27:34

“Though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me (`imadi).” (Ps. 23:4) This verse from Psalm 23 is recited in times of sorrow and crisis as a source of comfort. We are sorely in need of such comfort and such prayers during this grim time.

The psalmist gratefully states that God “is with me.” The more common Hebrew words for “with me” are “’itti” or “`immi.”  But the Psalmist forgoes those usual words for the word imadi. The usual word “`imadi” can be found in the Bible here and there. And it is found on our Torah reading this Shabbat, as well. Is there a reason this rare term is sometimes chosen? What does this rare word seek to convey?
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New Alternatives to Traditional Jewish Marriage Ceremony Adopted by Conservative Movement

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I am delighted to share that the Conservative Movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards has officially accepted a teshuvah (responsum), by Rabbi Gail Labovitz, that offers egalitarian alternatives to the traditional, non-egalitarian, marriage ceremony commonly in use. This new responsum offers two possible ceremonies. As the responsum acknowledges, one of them is based substantially on my own writing and teaching on this topic over many years.

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A Special Month to Celebrate Us

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By Proclamation, May is Jewish American Heritage Month. While it does not get the attention that Black History Month or Hispanic Heritage  Month get, we can make it important in our lives.

It is amazing how many programs are available while we are confined. Jewish organizations and museums have a wealth of programming on line, much of it more than just talking heads or a sage on a stage.

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