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Sunday January 12, 2014
Congregation Beit Chaverim religious school students and parents will visit the Washington Hebrew Congregation to see the 'Voices of the VIgil' photographic exhibit of the Vigil and struggle for Soviet Jewry. There is a history of the vigil and it includes a photo of me conducting a choir across from the Soviet Embassy. The photo was originally in the Washington Post and is now part of the Jewish Historical Society collection. The poster for the vigil includes one of the photos I took during those years to document what we were doing. A collection of my photos and description of those years was given to the Historical Society for their archives.
Our students will read through the exhibit and and think about the importance of these events: How many years did they go on? Who participated? What was the role of our government in opening up emigration?
About the Washington Hebrew Congregation - Its history; tour the building; Sanctuary and Chapel; What is the Reform Moevement? What did you like most? Would you join a congregation like this if you lived in the city?
Coming from communities where there no synagogue buildings, we have taken the view of a school without walls, by visiting a number of congregations and learning from other communities.
These visits are a follow up to our visit to 6th and Historic Synagogue in Washington, DC
Part II: Visit Adas Israel - Review the history; Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke here; What is synagogue architecture? How is this different from Washington Hebrew? What is Conservative Judaism? Would you join Adas if you lived in the city? What should a synagogue accomplish during a year?
Last Saturday, I co-officiated at a beautiful wedding ceremony at Curtis Farm in Wilton, New Hampshire. The bride is Catholic and the groom is Jewish, and I co-officiated with a wonderful and welcoming Priest from Bedford, NH. The wedding was in an open field with a view of the mountains and fortunately, the weather was warm and sunny, even though rain was in the forecast. I believe that both families were very happy with the ceremony, and a great time was had by all.
I was the m'sader kiddushin (officiant) at the marriage of Shannon Reed and Alex Iosevich. It was an intermarriage in more ways than one -- Shannon's family is from rural Missouri and the wedding was held on her parents' farm outside of Jefferson City, MO. Alex is from the former Soviet Union, and most of his guests were, as well. It's quite a sight to see so many people from the FSU sitting on hay bales at an outdoor wedding! But many people on both sides were not very familiar with Jewish traditions, and all seemed grateful for the explanations I provided. I look forward to more such happy occasions.
One day, Sam, a poor man came home from work tired and exhausted. He begged The Creator for just a little treasure. All of a sudden, Sam noticed a little purse lying near his feet. A heavenly voice said to him: "Take this purse as a gift from Creator. You will find a single coin inside, and the moment you take it out, another coin will take its place - until you throw the purse into the river. The moment you spend the first coin, the purse will lose its magic powers." By that evening, Sam had succeeded in gathering a full sack of coins from the purse, but there was no bread left in the house, because he would not spend a single coin to buy food for himself. "I will gather another sack of money, and only then throw the purse into the river and begin to spend the coins." That day Sam asked a neighbor for bread and on the following day he went out to beg for bread in the streets, because, as he said, "It won’t do me any harm if I fill another sack with coins before I spend the money and throw the wonderful purse into the river." And so he continued to beg for bread and to gather coins until the end of his days, never spending anything because he did not want to part with his wonderful purse. Sam died a very rich man and his home was filled with sacks of coins - but he died still a poor beggar.
Sam did not realize that in order to truly change his life, he needed more than just money and material possessions. He failed to realize that what he really needed was a different outlook, a change of direction. Even when his wishes/prayers were answered, he was "stuck" in a rut and couldn't see beyond his negative feelings of fear, greed, the self perception that he was nothing but a poor beggar.
Often, like Sam, we don't realize our potential and strengths. We wish to have this, and hope to become that. Then, when our prayers are answered, we forget to enjoy what we have. As a result, we keep it all to ourselves and forget to share with world.
It's easy to get caught up in negativity and self loathing, sometimes it may even give us comfort. But consider this; instead of thinking about what you're missing, try thinking about what you have that everyone else is missing. The positive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible. The difference between can and cannot are only three letters. Three letters that determine your life's direction.
Share your inner light without fear and or doubt. Light is good from whatever lamp it shines.
Wake up & Hear the Shofar!
The sound of the shofar at the giving of the Torah has never ended. It continues and becomes stronger from generation to generation. It calls upon Israel and the people of the nations of the world to fulfill the commandments of Creator, to be loving and kind, which gladden the heart and enlighten the eyes.
This year especially, let us use the sound of the Shofar as a wakeup call - a way to bring us back to civility and compassion, love and light. Let us reach out to those in need; those in physical need and those who need our extra love and support emotionally.
The time has come for us to stop labeling people as “this” or “that,” and start putting ourselves in the other’s shoes. Love does not discriminate and neither should we! The Almighty created each and every one of us as we need to be (in the Divine image). We need to embrace diversity and realize that true/pure love has no boundaries.
Let the Shofar remind us that we should Never under estimate the power of love & light. A little word of encouragement, a hug, a smile, are just a few of the actions we can take to make someone else’s life better and ultimately enrich our own journey. Hot heads and cold hearts never solved anything, so think before you say something or take action. Survival requires a source of self-respect, self-awareness, and self-honesty. Find a balance point before reaching out, and fill your heart with warmth, passion and compassion.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev said: “Some people hear the shofar of Rosh Hashanah all year, and some hear the sound of the shofar which was blown when the Torah was given all the days of their lives.”
Let us stop hitting the snooze button any longer so that we may fully experience the joys of living in peace and harmony as brothers and sisters.
Remember us in Life, Ruler who creates our lives; inscribe us in The Book of Life, Creator of Life.
The Maharal of Prague said, "All the month of Elul, before eating and sleeping, a person should look into her/his soul and search her/his deeds, that he may make confession."
As we approach the Jewish High Holidays, we spend some time reviewing the past year. Where am I on the path of spiritual transformation? Am I still as passionate about it as I was when I first began the journey? It's easy for us to fall into patterns of routine and to become bored, even when it concerns bettering ourselves and our world.
All too often we tend to focus on what we don't have, rather than the beautiful things we do. See the things you take for granted just as you did in the beginning - before you got used to them and forgot they were there...
A Wise Rabbi (Teacher) once taught me that:
We must learn not to disassociate the airy flower from the earthy root, for the flower that is cut off from its root fades, and its seeds are barren, whereas the root, secure in mother earth, can produce flower after flower and bring their fruit to maturity.
Happiness does not always mean some event that puts a big smile on our faces. It means moving toward goals that help us live the kind of life we think is in our best interest at the time. So that is the sense in which our actions are always aimed at making ourselves "happy."
Our whole work is to reveal the love within us, every single day.
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and she that wins souls is wise.
The tree of life is the miracle of silence, peace, Love and Oneness.
The tree of life, Loves us not just unreservedly but also unconditionally.