Monthly Archives: December 2016

Happy Hanukkah and Shabbat Shalom

This Shabbat is  unique as it comes during our celebration of Hanukkah.  The miracles and beauty of each are precious.  As we sing and light candles (ten of them in total this evening, including the Shamash and the seven and the two for Shabbat), experience the joy and beauty found in the glowing flames.  Remember the words we were taught, “Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit.”

This particularly interesting moment in history is an important occasion to rededicate ourselves to our ideals and the values we profess.

Tonight as you watch the candles, hold someone in your heart or in your arms,  and be grateful.

Experience Hanukkah and Shabbat together.

Below are a couple of more great tunes from two great a capella groups the Maccabeats and Six13.

Chag Urim Sameach and Shabbat Shalom.

 

Whether you prefer Six13 or the Maccabeats, enjoy these tunes and celebrate Hanukkah!

Chag Urim Sameach!

 

 

 

Beyond UN 2334- A Message of Hope and Peace

The UN Resolution 2334 has us engaged in a fiery back and forth that is divisive for the world Jewish community, the relationship between the US and Israel, and most importantly deflecting from the important issue at hand; creating a real peace between Israel and the Palestinian people. Let us step back and reflect on the larger issue.

The Israelis and the Palestinians must figure out how to coexist and live side-by-side, respectful and tolerant of the other. Regardless of any UN Resolution, the ultimate responsibility for peace between these two people resides with them. Both sides must want peace enough. This includes each side acting in good faith, building foundations for peace within their respective Peoples and societies and doing things to promote good will instead of things that would be viewed as obstacles to peace. Until and unless both sides can come to the table and have the important and very difficult conversations that conclude in an agreement, peace is not possible.

Those of us on the outside can have our opinions, but only the Israeli and the Palestinian voices truly matter.   It is time for those voices to speak out and be heard.

May we hope and pray that in the coming year, 2017, both sides will find a way to reach out to the other, building bridges that ultimately result in both Peoples living peacefully together in the region.

Ken Yehi Ratzon

Shabbat and a Hamilton Hanukkah

This Shabbat, Shabbat Mevarchim, we celebrate and bless the start of the new month of Tevet, which starts next week. And at the end of Shabbat, the Havdalah candle will make way for the Hanukkah candles. The days are now getting longer. Light is entering from everywhere.

Leonard Cohen, z”l, wrote in his poem song, Anthem, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Although each of us has cracks, that gives each of us the chance to let the light in.

This Shabbat and this Hanukkah, embrace both joy and hope.

Enjoy this wonderful Hanukah music as Six13 and the Maccabeats go head to head.

Shabbat Shalom

 

A Hanukkah throwdown!

 

What does that Safety Pin really mean?

I have been wearing a safety-pin on my lapel since the election. But its meaning has evolved. Initially, I put the pin on to let others know they should not fear or be anxious. The pin was a symbol that many of us understand the trepidation that came with the election results but those who feel unsafe or threatened and safe with us.

 

The pin takes on new meaning as the inauguration of our 45th President nears.

The Pin means I will not be diverted from core beliefs, distracted by a tweet in the moment or potential challenges to my principles. But I will step back and understand what is important and what is a diversion. The Pin means I remain focused on what is important.

The pin means I will remain alerted, focused on issues that are meaningful and deserve a response. We should not be wringing our hands in despair, but holding each other’s hands in hope and vigilance moving forward the American agendas of justice, opportunity and equal protection under the law; a world safe for our children and a conservation of resources that protect our planet. These are principles we are willing to fight to achieve and maintain.

The Pin means I will not protest against Mr. Trump just because he is becoming the President. Instead, I will work to uphold the things we hold sacred that need to be made better and stronger, that continue to make this country great.

The Pin means I stand strong as an American for American ideals and for all Americans. The Pin means I am prepared to engage in the process to preserve, protect and defend the things I believe in. The pin means that together we are strong and we are the change we wish to see.

A Hanukkah of Darkness

 

We enter Hanukkah from a place of deep darkness. I write this as the remains of the city of Aleppo are reduced to rubble. The people are trapped inside, with death raining down on them from above. The similarity to the gas chambers of the Shoah is unmistakable.

We have watched as this modern mass murder unfolds. I reluctantly refrain from the word Genocide, as it would ignite a conversation about the word rather than cold look at the harsh reality of the death and destruction that is occurring, where innocent civilians are being systematically destroyed. But the word resonates for me nonetheless. What are the lessons of the Shoah?

We must ask ourselves what is our role in the world. This question is for us as Americans and for us as Jews. It is too late for the remnant of Syria however. The United States provided some support to the political opposition of the Regime and we have provided limited aid to those who have escaped. But we have failed to protect the innocents, permitting the most brutal weapons of mass murder to exterminate. Hundreds of thousands have been killed; the savage death machine indiscriminate, women, children, and aid workers are victims as well as political opponents. The United States’ opportunities to assert itself as a provider of sanctuary either here or there have been squandered. A modern holocaust has occurred as we watched.

What did we learn from the Shoah? Was it merely a particular tragedy to befall the Jewish people? Wasn’t the Shoah also supposed to be a lesson to the world that “Never Again” was a cry to universal humanity? Sadly in the face of the Syrian crisis, we turned away, as the world turned away from the Jewish people in our time of greatest despair. I am overcome by the realization of all that we did not do, of all that I did not do.

Hanukkah is supposed to celebrate the light of freedom and God’s miracles. But they came in that order. The Jews wondrously won the improbable victory, and then the lights of the Menorah miraculously lasted for eight days. The miracle of the oil could only have happened after the people fought to overcome the injustice of the world where they lived. Sadly I think we did not merit God’s miracle this time. Let us use this coming year to commit ourselves to that most basic Jewish value; that we will no longer stand idly by while our neighbor’s blood is being shed.

Amen.

 

Shabbat Shalom

 

Ana Becoach, or Ana Becoaj, is a Kabbalistic prayer invoking the power of the Divine Name.  The prayer is seven lines of six words each, the first letter of each word spelling the 42 letter name of the Almighty.  Written in the  second century by the Kabbalist Rabbi Nehonia.  It is traditionally sung before Lecha Dodi during Kabbalat Shabbat.

The phrase “untie the knot” may refer to exile in both its physical and spiritual sense.  As we enter Shabbat we hope to begin experiencing its expansiveness.  The plea reflects the mystical view that the forces of judgment, constriction, and negativity should not have power or authority on Shabbat. ( Siddur Lev Shalem, p. 22)

Shabbat Shalom

Celebrate vs. Participate

Christmas raises the perennial questions in the American Jewish community: Can we be part of holidays that are not our own? Natalie Portman demonstrated a way for our interfaith families to do it as she explained to Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show, November 29, 2016 (the 28th or 29th of Cheshvan, depending).

We Jews invite others into our tent all the time. The Jewish sense of hospitality is to welcome the stranger, without regard to their particular beliefs. We welcome everyone into our Sukkah; the Shabbat dinner table is open as well. So what happens when the tables are turned? How do we accept the mitzvah of their hospitality, even when particular beliefs do not coincide with our own? When the Jewish world meets other faiths or traditions, there are borders and boundaries that need to be navigated.

How might we participate if we are not able to fully celebrate?

American Christmas begs this question. The basis for the holiday is, of course, the Christian belief in the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a powerful and beautiful message of God’s love and hopes for the world. But it is not our theology. However, the commercial interests in our country have continued to secularize the holiday and as traditional boundaries between religions have become more porous, Christmas has permeated the American landscape. All in all, a holiday dedicated to “peace on earth” and “goodwill toward men” is not a bad thing to embrace and arguably the real problem with these sentiments is that they do not endure throughout the entire year. Furthermore, although many Jews have spouses that convert to Judaism, Jews are intermarrying. Both of these realities create a space in which non-Jewish family traditions and beliefs come up against Jewish traditions and beliefs. And in an increasingly open culture, many Jews would like to enjoy the spirit of the holiday.

Christmas has become an American holiday for many, including many American Jews. The theology has been all but completely stripped away for many, and for the others, the theology is greeted as something non-threatening. The question for us is whether we engage. And if we engage, how do we do so while keeping our own sense of authenticity. For couples that come from different faith traditions, such as Natalie Portman’s, she shows us how to honor our birth families and celebrate together. Although Ms. Portman’s husband, Benjamin Millepied, converted, his family has not. The two of them have respectfully brought the two families together without sacrificing their chosen identity. For some Jews, this is not a conversation in which they care to engage. But for those of us who live in this space, and those numbers are steadily increasing, it is incumbent upon us to find ways to connect, build bridges, and find common ground. If we do, the possibilities are extraordinary.

Happy Holidays!