Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Source Sheet for Second Afterlife Class

Text from my Second Afterlife Class - Rabbinic Understandings of the Afterlife:
For video click here - Second Afterlife Class Video

Terms & Concepts:
Mechiyat ha-metim – “the resurrection of the dead” views differ in Judaism but eventually it comes to be understood that the souls of all who have died will be judged and their fates determined.
Nefesh, ruach, neshamah – the three levels to the soul, roughly can be thought of as: life-force, personality, and spirit.
Yom ha-Din – Judgement Day, which may or not be associated with the end of time, but rather may follow for each person upon his or her own death. 
Resurrection of the Dead - Sanhedrin 90-92 All Jews have a share in the World to Come, as it says, (Isaiah 60:21), “Thy people are all righteous; they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.” These have no share in the World to Come: One who says that [the belief of] resurrection of the dead is not from the Torah, [one who says that] that the Torah is not from Heaven, and one who denigrates the Torah. Rabbi Akiva says: also, one who reads outside books, and one who whispers [an incantation] over a wound, saying, (Exodus 15:26) “I will bring none of these diseases upon thee that I brought upon the Egyptians for I am the Lord that healeth thee.” Abba Shaul says, also one who utters the Divine Name as it is spelled.
And why such [severity]? — A Tanna taught: Since he denied the resurrection of the dead, therefore he shall not share in that resurrection, for in all the measures [of punishment or reward] taken by the Holy One, blessed be He, the Divine act befits the [human] deed…
How is resurrection derived from the Torah? — As it is written, And ye shall give thereof the Lord's heave offering to Aaron the priest.  But would Aaron live forever; he did not even enter Palestine, that terumah should be given him? But it teaches that he would be resurrected, and Israel give him terumah. Thus resurrection is derived from the Torah. 

It has been taught: R. Simai said: Whence do we learn resurrection from the Torah? — From the verse, And I also have established my covenant with them, [sc. the Patriarchs] to give them the land of Canaan:  '[to give] you' is not said, but 'to give them' [personally]; thus resurrection is proved from the Torah.  (Exod. 6)
The Romans asked R. Joshua b. Hananiah: Whence do we know that the the Holy One, blessed he He, will resurrect the dead and knows the future? — He replied: Both are deduced from this verse, And the Lord said unto Moses, Behold thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, and rise up again; (Deut. 31.16)
It has been taught: R. Eliezer, son of R. Jose, said: In this matter, I refuted the books of the sectarians, who maintained that resurrection is not deducible from the Torah. I said to them: You have falsified your Torah, yet it has availed you nothing. For ye maintain that resurrection is not a Biblical doctrine, but it is written, [Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken his commandment], that soul shall utterly be cut off  [Heb. hikkareth tikkareth]; his iniquity shall be upon him.  Now, [seeing that] he shall utterly be cut off in this world, when shall his iniquity be upon him? surely in the next world.  R. Papa said to Abaye: Could he not have deduced both [this world, and the next] from he shall be utterly cut off? — They would have replied: The Torah employed human phraseology.
This is disputed by Tannaim: That soul shall utterly be cut off [hikkareth] he shall be cut off in this world and [tikkareth] in the next: this is R. Akiba's view. R. Ishmael said: But the verse has previously stated, he reproacheth the Lord, and that soul shall be cut off are there then three worlds? But [interpret thus]: and [that soul] shall be cut off — in this world: hikkareth, he is to be cut off — in the next; whilst as for [the repetition] tikkareth, that is because the Torah employs human phraseology.  How do both R. Ishmael and R. Akiba utilize his iniquity shall be upon him? — For that which has been taught: I might think that [this is so] even if he repented: therefore Scripture saith, his iniquity is upon him: I decreed [that he shall be cut off] only if his iniquity is still in him.

The Way of the Soul – Shabbat 152:  R. Isaac also said: Worms are as painful to the dead as a needle in the flesh of the living, for it is said, But his flesh upon him hath pain.  R. Hisda said: A man's soul (nefesh) mourns for him [after death] seven whole [days]. for it is said, And his soul mourneth for him; and it is written, and he made a mourning for his father seven days.
Rab Judah said: If there are none to be comforted for a dead person.  ten people go and sit in his place. A certain man died in the neighborhood of Rab Judah. As there were none to be comforted, Rab Judah assembled ten men every day and they sat in his place. After seven days he [the dead man] appeared to him in a dream and said to him, 'Thy mind be at rest, for thou hast set my mind at rest.' R. Abbahu said: The dead man knows all that is said in his presence until the top-stone [golel] closes [the grave].1  R. Hiyya and R. Simeon b. Rabbi differ therein: one maintains, until the top-stone closes [the grave]; whilst the other says, until the flesh rots away. He who says, until the flesh rots away. — because it is written, But his flesh upon him hath pain and his soul within him mourneth.2  He who says, until the top-stone closes [the grave]. — because it is written, and the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit return unto God.  (Eccl. 12:7)
Our Rabbis taught: 'And the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit return unto God who gave it': Render it back to him as He gave it to thee, [viz.,] in purity, so do thou [return it] in purity. This may be compared to a mortal king who distributed royal apparel to his servants. The wise among them folded it up and laid it away in a chest, whereas the fools among them went and did their work in them. After a time the king demanded his garments: the wise among them returned them to him immaculate, [but] the fools among them returned them soiled. The king was pleased with the wise but angry with the fools. Of the wise he said, 'Let my robes be placed in my treasury and they can go home in peace'; while of the fools he said, 'Let my robes be given to the fuller, and let them be confined in prison.' Thus too, with the Holy One, blessed be He: concerning the bodies of the righteous He says, He entereth into peace, they rest in their beds;  while concerning their souls He says, yet the soul of my Lord shall be bound up in the bundle of life with the Lord thy God.  But concerning the bodies of the wicked He says, There is no peace saith the Lord, unto the wicked; while concerning their souls He says, and the souls of thine enemies, them shall he sling out, as from the hollow of a sling.
It was taught, R. Eliezer said: The souls of the righteous are hidden under the Throne of Glory, as it is said, yet the soul of thine Lord shall be bound up in the bundle of life.  But those of the wicked continue to be imprisoned,  while one angel stands at one end of the world and a second stands at the other end, and they sling their souls to each other, for it is said, and the souls of thine enemies, them shall he sling out, as from the hollow of a sling. Rabbah asked R. Nahman: What about those who are intermediate? Had I died I could not have told you this, he replied. Thus did Samuel say: Both these and those are delivered to Dumah (the guardian angel of the departed “Silence”) these enjoy rest, whereas the others have no rest. R. Mari said: [Even] the righteous are fated to be dust, for it is written… 'But it is written, for dust art thou, and unto dust thou shalt return? (Gen. 11:19).

Judgement Day – Rosh Hashanah 16b:  It has been taught: Beth Shammai say, There will be three groups at the Day of Judgment— one of thoroughly righteous, one of thoroughly wicked, and one of intermediate. The thoroughly righteous will forthwith be inscribed definitively as entitled to everlasting life; the thoroughly wicked will forthwith be inscribed definitively as doomed to Gehinnom, as it says. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to reproaches and everlasting abhorrence. The intermediate will go down to Gehinnom and squeal and rise again, as it says, And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried. They shall call on my name and I will answer them. Of them, too, Hannah said, The Lord killeth and maketh alive, he bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up.

Wrongdoers of Israel who sin with their body and wrongdoers of the Gentiles who sin with their body go down to Gehinnom and are punished there for twelve months. After twelve months their body is consumed and their soul is burnt and the wind scatters them under the soles of the feet of the righteous as it says, And ye shall tread down the wicked, and they shall be as ashes under the soles of your feet (Malachi 3). But as for the minim and the informers and the scoffers, who rejected the Torah and denied the resurrection of the dead, and those who abandoned the ways of the community, and those who ‘spread their terror in the land of the living’, and who sinned and made the masses sin— these will go down to Gehinnom and be punished there for all generations.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Rabbi Benson on the Election

At the expense of those who will hear me share much the same words tonight at services, allow me to share with all of you some thoughts on the election.

Throughout this particularly bitter election cycle, I have largely resisted offering an opinion, rabbinic or personal, on the state of the race.  As some of you may know, my own leanings are such that my first, second, third and fourth choices for president all failed to be the two we had choose from in the end, so the outcome was, for me, always going to be something of a letdown.

But beyond that essentially trivial point, speaking to you as your rabbi, I want what I have to say to you to be of value, and given our congregation’s intelligence and character, I don’t want to waste your time telling you things you already know or telling you things you don’t know but you have no way to make matter in your lives.  So to say at this point, we must learn to listen to each other, to be gracious in victory and dignified in defeat, to stick to our principles while recognizing others will be doing the same – you know all that, you don’t need me.  And I hope your parents should have already covered the part about calling people names being bad and not saying anything if you can’t say it nicely. 

And for those of you on either side who would say that those rules just don’t apply in a situation like this one, again I say, your parents should have already covered the bit about not calling people bad names and not saying anything if you can’t say it nicely.

So what do I presume to think I can share with you that matters and that you can do something with?  In the real version of the prayer for the country, not the sanitized and frankly unctuous version that appears in our current prayer books, the tone is very different, but it tells us the one truth I want you to learn from me regarding all this. 
The prayer prays for the king, or president, or officers, whoever, of the country in which Jews live, and prays the nicey-nice stuff we all like such as, “sustain them and deliver them from distress and misfortune” but it goes on to say, “in mercy, inspire them to deal kindly with us and all Israel.”  Jews knew that it was far from certain that any country in which Jews lived as a minority, that the government was going to make Jews and Judaism a top priority, unless it was to persecute them, and so that there was a real need to pray God spare the Jews from those who held them at their mercy.

But that’s not it, the prayer goes on to say, “in their [the leaders’] days and our days may Judah be saved and Israel dwell secure and a redeemer come to Zion.”  This is the key passage and the lesson.

The prayer was composed with the good sense to recognize that earthly things like governments and leaders can come and go and are all, good and bad, subject to the frailties of humankind.  What matters the most, for us from a Jewish perspective, is that we remain champions of, yes, Jewish values such as acting with respect for others and caring about the poor, but really, truly, most importantly, of Judaism. 

I hope that this election will not dampen your civic spirit however you may feel about its outcome.  But more than that I pray that it ignites in you a passion and commitment to the timeless and eternal mission of Judaism in this world, the power and the poetry of Jewish practice and Jewish living; that even if we are taught to “pray for the welfare of the country where I have sent you into exile” (Jer.29:7) we will live our lives strengthened and enlivened by the knowledge that as Jews we are part of the millennia old project for living life as a reflection of the Divine Will.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Benson

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Two Important Events at NSJC

Tisha b’Av • Ninth of Av
Service Schedule
 August 13th-14th

• Saturday Minchah (Afternoon) Service at 7:35pm

• Tisha b’Av Service & Lamentations at 8:35pm, outside on plaza

• Sunday Shacharit (Morning) Service at 9am

• Minchah (Afternoon) Service at 1:30pm

• Maariv (Evening) Service at 8pm

• Fast Ends at 8:35pm

Shabbat Under the Stars
*Join Rabbi Benson & Cantor Kramer for a special Friday night service,  beginning at 7pm on Friday, August 19th, outside with music and song, weather permitting.
*We will also hold our special Lech Lecha Going Forth” ceremony for recent high school graduates in our community.
*Special DAIRY oneg (reception) will take place following services. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Shavuot at NSJC!

Saturday, June 11th 8:00pm – Minchah Service, Vav Tikkun Presentation – our Vav class is invited to a special ceremony at which our graduating students will receive their Torah reading books.

9:05pm - Havdalah/Maariv (Candle lighting no earlier than 9:06pm)

Tikkun Leyl Shavuot follows, “The 'Ten Commandments’ from Jews by Choice” – members of our congregation who have converted to Judaism share their insights and observations about Jewish belief and practices that should inspire on this holiday of embracing the Torah.

Sunday, June 12th, 9am – Shacharit Services, stay for ice cream

Sunday, June 12th, 8:05pm - Minchah/Ma’ariv (Candle lighting no earlier than 9:06pm)

Monday, June 13th, 9am – Shacharit Services & Breakfast with Ruth – once again we will share breakfast with the heroine of the Shavuot story during services. Yizkor will also take place.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Team Malachim Reminder (Do An Extra Good Deed the 18th of Every Month)

It's the 18th of May which means it's Team Malachim Day.  Time to do an extra good deed today.  Here is a short film to help inspire you:

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Israel Independence Day - One Community!

In a show of communal unity for Israel Independence Day, we are sharing with you both our own program for the holiday as well as that being offered by Temple Isaiah (they are doing the same).  Please show your support of Israel at these great, local, programs:
North Shore Jewish Center

Yom Ha-Atzma'ut 
Israel Independence Day Celebration

Thursday, May 12th beginning at 5pm

Guest Speaker,

His Excellency, the Chief Rabbi of Poland,
Rabbi Michael Schudrich

"The View of Israel from Poland"

Service & Israeli Refreshments will follow

Originally from Patchogue, Rabbi Schudrich was ordained at JTS.  He served a congregation in Japan before becoming rabbi in Poland in the 1990s.  A well-known world leader of Judaism, he has been responsible for the rebirth of Judaism in Poland.  From 1973-1975 he was also a Hebrew School teacher at NSJC.


Yom Ha'atzmaut Film at Temple Isaiah:  Mekonen

 Wednesday, May 11th

We first met Mekonen Abeba in our highly acclaimed documentary Beneath The Helmet, as a raw recruit in the IDF Parachute regiment.
Now we meet him again and learn his incredible and emotional life journey as he immigrates to Israel from an Ethiopian village after his father's death.

Falafel and Salad: 7:00 PM
Movie: 7:15
$10 donation/person
RSVP to Morgan:

Temple Isaiah
1404 Stony Brook Road

Stony Brook, NY 11790

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Yom Ha-Atzma'ut at NSJC, May 12

North Shore Jewish Center

Yom Ha-Atzma’ut / Israel Independence Day Celebration

Thursday, May 12th beginning at 5pm

Guest Speaker,

His Excellency, the Chief Rabbi of Poland,
Rabbi Michael Schudrich

“The View of Israel from Poland”

Service & Israeli Refreshments will follow

Originally from Patchogue, Rabbi Schudrich was ordained at JTS.  He served a congregation in Japan before becoming rabbi in Poland in the 1990s.  A well-known world leader of Judaism, he has been responsible for the rebirth of Judaism in Poland.  From 1973-1975 he was also a Hebrew School teacher at NSJC.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

"Hangover Shabbat" This Friday

Image result for casual shabbat
Join us for "Hangover Shabbat" - a casual shabbat experience, this Friday at 8pm as we recover from Purim.  Some special things will be on offer at oneg shabbat.  We hope you'll be there and we promise the davening won't be too loud : )

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Team Malachim Alert, Do an Extra Good Deed, Friday, March 18th

Tomorrow, Friday, March 18th is our next Team Malachim Day.  Do an extra good deed for someone.  This inspiring video can help get you started:


Rabbi Aaron Benson

Friday, March 11, 2016

This Shabbat at NSJC, March 11th-12th

Conversion to Judaism - Friday, March 11th at 8pm.  Get all your questions answered about this important topic.  Part of our ongoing series on Intermarriage and Interfaith Relationships.  

Saturday, March 12th starting at 9am:  Come for meditation with Melissa Kurtz, study with Rabbi Benson, a cup of coffee or private time in the sanctuary.  

Services start at 9:15am.

There is also Family Kehillah at 10:30am.  

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Team Malachim Reminder for February 18th

A little video inspiration for Team Malachim tomorrow, February 18th.  Be sure to do an -extra- good deed on the 18th!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Shabbat This Week at NSJC - February 12th & 13th

 Friday, February 12th, 8pm:  Advice & Discussions for Grandparents of Intermarried Families. This is the next in our series surrounding this topic for this year.  

  Extra Soul Shabbat Morning NEW:  
9am-9:15am,  Four Choices to Start Shabbat Morning:
1.  Enjoy a cup of (good) coffee.
2.  Join a guided meditation with Melissa Kurtz.
3.  Engage in a short study session with Rabbi Benson.
4.  Pray silently or just experience the quiet of the sanctuary.
9:15am - Services 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Two Special Events This Week at NSJC

Art of Shabbat - Friday, Jan. 29th at 8pm
NSJC Youth Lounge
Rabbi Benson speaks on "Art in Judaism"
Enjoy pieces from our upcoming art auction
"Gala" Oneg Shabbat to follow

Israel Trip Information Meeting
Wednesday, February 3rd at 7pm
Come hear from our Isram Tours Coordinator
Questions Answers, Details Given

Monday, January 18, 2016

January 18th Team Malachim Reminder

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'" - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Remember to do an extra good deed today, January 18th, for Team Malachim and MLK Day!