Sons and Fathers: Parashat Vayigash

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Parashat Vayigash
Genesis 44:18 – 47:27

What would Father do?

This is a question that sometimes faces a person when they need to make an important and difficult decision. The influence of a father on a child can be enduring, overcoming time and space and even life itself. In a time of need a son or daughter – no matter how old they are at the moment – may reach back toward their parent for guidance and support.

After Joseph and his brothers are all reunited and reconciled in Egypt, it is time for the beloved son to be reunited with his beloved father. So Joseph sends for his father Jacob, beckoning him to descend to Egypt so that he may enjoy Joseph’s support and protection.
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Fly on the Wall: Parashat Miqetz/Hanukah/Rosh Hodesh

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Parashat Miqetz/Hanukah/Rosh Hodesh
Genesis 41:1 – 44:17

What makes a person speak up instead of keeping silent? What makes a person remember after years of forgetting? What makes a person keep a promise when it is so easy to betray it?

The Chief Butler in Pharaoh’s court has been silent and forgetful. It has been two years since he was restored to his position of authority and since he made a promise to use his restored position to benefit the forlorn Joseph, stuck in a dungeon. It has been two long years for Joseph, waiting to be remembered, while, for the Butler, time has just breezed by as he has gone about his duties to the monarch and the court.

But, when Pharaoh has a dream that he cannot understand, this somehow changes the Butler’s consciousness and brings him to remember Joseph and speak up on his behalf. What was it that changed the Butler’s mind and soul?
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Overcoming Jacob: Parashat Vayeshev

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Parashat Vayeshev

Genesis 37:1 – 40:23

The longest story of any of our early founding ancestors, the story of Joseph and his brothers, begins in this week’s Torah portion and continues to the very end of the book of Genesis. It is a very rich and complex story, with many parts. After Joseph is disposed of by the brothers, sold into slavery, conveyed down to Egypt, the Torah’s attention shifts to tell of an adventure – or mis-adventure – of Judah. (We have dealt with this story before. See Sparks for last year and for 2012.) This episode seems to be a tangential sub-plot. After telling this episode will the Torah return to Joseph’s story in earnest.
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Plans for the Rabbi’s Sabbatical

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As you know, Rabbi Greenstein will be away from Shomrei from January 1st through May 31st of this upcoming year. He has been awarded the Daniel Jeremy Silver Fellowship at the Center for Jewish Studies at Harvard University.

For much of this year, a Rabbi Sabbatical Committee, led by Shomrei members Geoff Sadow and Dan Winter, have been working to ensure that our congregation will operate smoothly during our rabbi’s absence. This includes the hiring of guest rabbis to join us for many Shabbatot and to provide rabbinic coverage. This also includes the scheduling of academic and musical scholars-in-residence who will bring to Shomrei some exciting programs.

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Hammering it Out: Parashat Vayishlah

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Parashat Vayishlah
Genesis 32:4 – 36:43

And he said, ‘No longer will your name be said to be Jacob, but, rather, Israel. For you have striven with the Almighty and with people and you have prevailed.
(Gen. 32:29)

Jacob’s name is changed to “Israel” by a heavenly angel, who seems to say that the name Jacob will fall away and be replaced. Yet, immediately following that dramatic statement our Patriarch is referred to by the name “Jacob,” and the text continues to use the Jacob-name for quite a stretch of narrative. I have suggested (- see last year’s Torah Sparks for this portion) that the effect of getting the name of Israel is to change the meaning of the name Jacob. The name no longer connotes deception. Jacob/Israel is the one who struggles and prevails.

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Two Camps: Parashat Vayetze

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Parashat Vayetze 
Genesis 28:10 – 32:3

The beautiful story of Jacob’s dream, in which he sees a ladder reaching from earth all the way to heaven, with God’s angels streaming up and down upon it, has captured the imagination of readers for millennia. That story opens our Torah portion. Less noticed is the story of Jacob’s meeting with angels that closes our portion. After Jacob endures a stressful encounter with his father-in-law, Laban, he is able to resume his journey home: “And Jacob went on his way, and angels of the Almighty encountered him (va-yifg`u bo). And Jacob, when he saw them, said, ‘This is the encampment of the Almighty!’ And he called that place Mahanayim (Two Camps).” (Gen. 32:2-3)
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Dream of Fields: Parashat Toldot

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Parashat Toldot 

Genesis 25:19 – 28:9

And Esau became a man knowing the hunt, a man of the field…And Isaac loved Esau.
(Gen. 25:27-28)

Where do blessings come from? Where do they go? What is their source of power? What is their effect?

While our tradition mandates that we pronounce blessings of all kinds and for all kinds of reasons, the blessings that we utter, as we bless God, invariably begin “Barukh attah Adanai… – You, Eternal God, abound in blessing.” Thus, the blessings originated by our tradition proclaim God to be the origin of blessing. And we pray incessantly that we may be the ones blessed.
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Bountiful Brass – A Fitting Tribute (video and photo gallery)

About 250 people gathered at Shomrei for the second annual “Concert for Eric” a tribute to Eric Singer z”l.  This year’s concert entitled “Bountiful Brass – From Bach to Bernstein” featured Montclair Chamber Brass: Don Batchelder, 
Chuck Bumcrot, 
Anthony Mazzocchi, 
Jeff Scott and 
Kyle Turner.
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Win-Win: Parashat Hayyei Sarah

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Parashat Hayyei Sarah 
Genesis 23:1 – 25:18

– Well, he’s going to need a grave now. That’s for sure. It’s a shame about the old lady, Sarah. Dying all alone like that. Now I hear that Abraham is coming in to Hebron. He’s heard that she died and whaddaya bet that he’s going to want to bury her right here? He’ll want a grave. The question is, do we, as the Elders of the Sons of Het, let him have one? We’ll go around the circle. What do you say?

– I say – Why? He’s not one of us. He’s a stranger. He’s strange, in general. He moves around and leaves his wife all alone?

– You’re right, he moves around. He’s never really learned our ways. He’s never settled anywhere permanent. He’s a drifter. He doesn’t have a piece of land to his name.

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Vigil

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Rabbis Ariann Weitzman, David Greenstein, Marc Katz, and Elliott Tepperman lead 200 members of the religious, political and social Montclair community at B’nai Keshet to mourn the victims of the Tree of Life massacre at a vigil of prayers, song and support, Sat. night, Oct. 27. Photo © Adam Anik

This past Shabbat the worst attack on Jews in American history took place. Many of us were stunned, horrified, angered and grief stricken. What does one do in such a circumstance?

One answer was provided by our rabbi and our community: Congregation Shomrei Emunah co-sponsored a vigil along with congregations Bnai Keshet and Temple Ner Tamid.

Unfortunately, due to the late hour of the email notice that went out to the congregation about the vigil (it could not be sent out earlier because of Shabbat) there were few Shomrei members in attendance. How I wished our congregants could have been there for this special evening – a chance to come together to share our pain and find comfort in one another’s embrace. Having spoken to a number of our congregants, I know many wished they could have attended.

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