We are Their Keepers: Parashat Ba-Midbar/Shavuot

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Parashat Ba-Midbar/Shavuot
Numbers 1:1-4:20

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.”
(Num. 1:53)

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.
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For Shavuot and Beyond

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There’s lots going on in both the cyber and real worlds. As the world continues to open up a bit, live entertainment has slowly begun again or will soon.

The weather encourages outdoor gatherings.

But for when we are confined indoors, here are some programs and activities available via the Internet.

The Center for Jewish History (https://programs.cjh.org/ ) has a variety of programs, many free. Literature, history, culture, cooking and many more sessions are available. Continue reading

Easy Cooking

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It’s been a while since I posted new recipes. Passover cooking and general languishing (that’s the stage between flourishing and depression, according to my daughter) got the better of me. Then the dishwasher died.

Dinners have been very simple- ad hoc stir fries with lots of vegetables, baked fish or chicken, salads and soup and lots of things from the freezer.

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At the Mountain: Parashat B’har/B’huqqotai

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Parashat B’har/B’huqqotai 

Leviticus 25:1-27:34

The book of Leviticus begins by stating that its contents were conveyed to Moses within the Tent of Meeting that had been constructed by the Children of Israel. Yet, as we draw the book to a close, we read that this Torah portion was revealed “B’har Sinai – at Mount Sinai” (- hence the name of the first of our Torah portions). (Lev. 25:1) We seem to have gone backwards.
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From Washington to Biden

jewish flagAs you know, May is Jewish American Heritage Month.  Since  1980 when President Jimmy Carter at Congress’s behest declared a special week in honor of America’s Jewish residents, the president has issued a proclamation and special events and exhibitions have been held.

In 2006, President George W. Bush declared an official Jewish American Heritage Month. Each year the president issues a proclamation highlighting Jewish accomplishments and contributions to the US.  Continue reading

Superficial Wholeness: Parashat Emor

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Parashat Emor
Leviticus 21:1-24:23

Our Torah portion, Emor, besides a number of other ritual rulings, details several restrictions pertaining to priestly conduct and eligibility. The priestly office demands total commitment, limiting the priest’s relations with his spouse and family (Lev. 21:15). Officiating as a priest thus constricts their possibilities of basic human interaction. Furthermore, just as the Torah mandates physical perfection for all sacrifices, it also requires that the priest be a healthy and complete physical specimen, unblemished by any deformity (vv. 16-24. And see 22:17-24.) Ironically, this very insistence on physical perfection also, in a way, diminishes our sense of the priest’s humanity, for, after all, isn’t imperfection an essential quality of being human? Yet, our tradition goes to great lengths to exclude physical distinctiveness from the priests. The priest must be physically perfect – almost inhumanly so.
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American Notables

April 28 1Jewish American History Month has been celebrated every  May since 2006. Throughout May the library column will concentrate on American Jewish biography and history, bringing to your attention fascinating- though not always admirable- American Jews who have made their mark.

Jews have influenced every aspect of American society. They have been heroes in war and peace. They have made scientific discoveries that saved lives and helped to destroy lives. They have entertained and educated.

Some names you may know; others will be unfamiliar to you.  Yale University has developed a series of short, well-written and well-researched biographies that cover the entire range of  Jewish achievement.  Continue reading

Retirement Announcement From the Rabbi

DSC_0213-EditEditor’s note: This message from Rabbi Greenstein and the response from President Miriam Haimes were originally emailed to the congregation on April 28th.

Dear Members of Congregation Shomrei Emunah,

This year has been one of extraordinary challenges. As individuals and families, as a global village, a nation and as a congregation, we have borne losses and pain, disruption and deprivation. Here, at Shomrei, we have also discovered reservoirs of strength, commitment, creativity and determination.

For the past 12 years it has been my sacred privilege to serve as your spiritual leader. And in this past, exceptionally demanding, year I have been exceptionally blessed to share in the work of sustaining our community with our office staff, educators and custodians, along with all our amazing volunteers of the Moving Forward Committee and our Board, all led by our dedicated President, Miriam Haimes, who have all risen to the occasion in inspiring ways.

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Letter from the President – May at Shomrei!

Editor’s note: This message was originally emailed to the congregation on April 26th.

IMG_0397To the Shomrei community,

It’s almost May in Montclair and Shomrei has a lot of plans for Shabbat services sprouting and about to come to life!  A few weeks ago, I wrote to you that we were reviewing the responses from the Shabbat Services Survey and working on various options. I am really excited to tell you about our plans for May.  We will be gathering in person outside each week and will continue to Zoom and stream so that those that are unable or uncomfortable with in person gatherings can still be part of our services.  We are also working on our plans for June when we expect to begin some indoor services.  As we come back into the building, I want to remind you that this past year we installed new air conditioning with upgraded filters and improved air flow. We will also continuously review safety protocols to ensure that we are following required guidelines.

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Brothers: Parashat Acharei Mot/Q’doshim

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Parashat Aharei Mot/Q’doshim

Leviticus 16:1-20:27

Holiness is the central concern of our double Torah reading. The first Torah portion concentrates on holiness within the sanctuary. The second expands the realm of potential holiness to encompass our entire world and lives. As I have explained many times, the essence of holiness is not withdrawal and restriction, but generosity and sharing. (See, e.g., Sparks for 2017 and 2018)
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