Welcome Shabbat with Six13’s rendition of Lecha Dodi
Shabbat Shalom to everyone on this Tenth Day of the Omer!
Nava Tehila performs a soulful rendition of Yedid Nefesh, the beautiful poem we use to welcome Kabbalat Shabbat. Written by Eleazar Azkiri in the 16th century, Yedid Nafesh is considered to be a love song to God based on an acrostic for God’s name, each stanza begins with one of the four letters of the Divine Name. (the youtube link will take you to other Nava Tehila songs after Yedid Nefesh- enjoy them all)
Wishing everyone Shabbat Shalom
Although this piece was produced last year, it is worth sharing with you now as we welcome Shabbat HaGadol, the Shabbat immediately preceding Pesach. This is the Key Tov Orchestra featuring Elliot Dvorin at their schmaltzy best. It’s a little Vegas combined with tunes from our wonderful holiday. It seems somehow fitting that this East meets West happens in Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago. Enjoy!
Wishing everyone Shabbat Shalom and a zissen Pesach!
It would have been enough for us.
This is our response to each of the many miracles we enumerate at the Seder table. Thank you God for doing each of these great things; if you stopped at any point along the way that should have been enough to satisfy us.
But our response is incomplete.
We celebrate God’s presence in the miracle of the Exodus. However, we cannot forget our role. It is as if God continue to tighten the string, pulling back on the bow further and further until the people are ready to spring forward into action. God is preparing us, inciting us, readying us to take on the challenge that lies ahead. It is as if God is saying, “get ready,” I am handing this off to you as you engage as my partner in the active unfolding of history to create the world that should be.
This message has never been more important.
As we go to our Seder tables next week, we will recite God’s miracles and recount the tale of our liberation from the life of slavery to the hope of freedom. But freedom requires work to overcome the forces that would return us to the days of old, the days of slavery. We must use this modern-day Seder as our rallying point to commit ourselves to pursuing the freedoms that started with a miracle, back in Egypt or here in Philadelphia. The values that we hold dear of life, liberty, and justice are under threat by hostile forces. The miracle of our freedom is done, the time for our action to fight for what our freedom means is at hand.
So at this Seder, when you say Dayenu, mean it; be grateful for the miracles and express your gratitude by becoming a partner in the ongoing work of bringing our values forward so all may be so blessed.
Wishing everyone a zissen Pesach!
Shalom Aleichem- Peace be with you, our traditional liturgical greeting of Shabbat dating back to the mystics of Tzfat (Safed) from the 16th or 17th century.
The story goes that two angels accompanied us on our way back home from the synagogue for Shabbat Dinner on Friday night. If the home was ready for Shabbat, the good angel blessed that next Shabbat it should also be so, and the bad angel would respond “Amen”. If the house was not ready for Shabbat, the roles were reversed.
Being a rabbi in Turbulent Times was the theme of the annual convention of reform rabbis. Indeed we live in particularly turbulent times. But it is times like these that can give us perspective and renewed commitment to our ideals.
Life in modern America is arguably the best that Jews have ever experienced. Our liberty and prosperity are superior to any other time in our history. Our forebears fought for our place here and American Jews have now full access to the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of being a citizen. We embrace these blessings and have worked toward expanding them to include others. However, the path forward has not been smooth. There have been times when our achievements and extraordinary blessings have been threatened. But these threats are opportunities that challenge us to do better, examining our resolve and commitment to our values.
Living in turbulent times forces us to ask difficult questions. How do we champion ethics and morals, protecting and preserving them when civil conventions are challenged or dismissed as unimportant? Ethics and morals, however, remain the fabric that keeps us together, binding us, enriching us and keeping us strong. Promoting these is the work that needs to be done now more than ever; this is the seminal and imperative challenge of our time.
The contemporary American landscape has parallels in Judaism; like the Jewish people, America is a nation of laws. The law’s purpose is to create a civil society where people live together respectful of differences and all citizens enjoy equal rights and protections. These laws are also a reminder of the work yet to do. Judaism teaches that changing hearts and minds is an evolutionary process. Compassion in our tradition has developed from the laws we are commanded to follow. We pray that the teachings underlying the laws will eventually be inscribed upon our hearts, but until then, the laws guide us. We recognize these laws and uphold them.
We rely on strong institutions and deeply ingrained principles to safeguard against assaults on these laws, believing that they will withstand the pressures. However, based on the history of our people, we are naturally wary of threats to our way of life. Even for those who believe in this New World, the idea that history might again repeat itself gnaws at us. Our patriotism is deeply intertwined with our Jewish identity. Therefore we become activists to protect and preserve this remarkable American way of life against threats, foreign or domestic, internal or external.
We have learned that however strong our institutions, they require dedication and nurturing by we the people, lest they wither. So now is our time to recommit to the noble purpose that is our country. We affirm the prophetic vision of the Promised Land. Despite all the progress we have made, we know we have so much farther to travel before the dream is fully realized for all. We stand at the threshold, challenging us to move forward toward a vision of what still could be. This dream gives us the courage and the strength we need at this moment in our Jewish and American history to move onward together. So now we redouble our efforts with renewed vigor and purpose to keep forging ahead. Let us be the change we want to see.