Friday, January 31, 2014

Terumah, Napoleon & Stein

This can be such a challenging parshah with all the details, details which often repeat, about the Tabernacle.  But what if we thought of it like this quote from Gertrude Stein's famous poem about Picasso, If I Told Him:

"If I told him would he like it. Would he like it if I told him. 
Would he like it would Napoleon would Napoleon would would he like it. 
If Napoleon if I told him if I told him if Napoleon. Would he like it if I told him if I told him if Napoleon. Would he like it..." 

I've heard a recording of Stein reading it and it "works" even better as the word, the sounds, do something to you beyond just their usual ability to convey meaning.

Maybe there is something to reading these "repetitive" sections of the Torah not like instructions for a model kit but as - poetry.

Come to shul tomorrow morning and hear more about where that might lead us.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Benson

Friday, January 17, 2014

Which is Most Important? Yitro

This Shabbat morning we will discuss which of the Ten Commandments is most important.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts and will share my own as well.  Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Benson

Friday, January 10, 2014

Parshat Beshallach - God Says, "Be a Heretic!"

In chapter 14 of Exodus, the Jews are attempting to escape the Egyptians, the Egyptian army is bearing down on them, everyone is in a panic, Moses calls out to God for help and God tells him, "why cry out to me?!"  He tells Moses and Israel to get moving themselves!  Of course then the Red Sea parts, but it seems to happen only after the Jews start to take their salvation at least a little into their own hands.  Consider the following about this striking passage from the writings of Rabbi Israel Salanter:

“Why did Moses cry out?  Did he doubt that God would fulfill his promises and instead fail to save the Jewish people?  Didn’t he trust God?  Rather, when it is at the expense of the Jewish people, one should not live on trust.”

“Every Jew should be a little bit of a heretic – for if someone in need comes to him, the Jew shouldn’t trust that God will help the person.  Instead, the Jew must do whatever can be done to help the person in need.  The rule is, “one should worry about another’s body but one’s own soul, and not vice-versa!”

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Benson

Friday, January 3, 2014

Parshat Bo and Snow

Sorry to make a bad rhyme in the title.  Since the snowfall here in Suffolk County caused us to cancel morning minyan today and also led me to reschedule the "Who Wants to be a Minyannaire?" program for tonight to next Friday (the topic remains, "Objects in the Synagogue") I thought I would try to pull all that together into a little message:

We are told at the end of this portion about wearing tefillin.  In 13:9 we are told to wear them "as a sign".  Rabbi Akiva asks about this - "if so, why not wear them on Shabbat and holidays?"  The answer is that Shabbat and holidays are signs in themselves.

So those of you missing the program tonight - you learned something here about tefillin - that we only wear them during the week.  Those of you missed minyan this morning (and thus couldn't wear your tefilling here, though I hope you did at home!), you can come tomorrow and enjoy the "sign" of Shabbat.  And those you looking to learn something in the blog about the weekly parshah - well, you're set, too.

Be safe and Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Benson