Friday, December 21, 2018

Vayechi - As Parents and Children

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Parshat YaYechi, “Teach it to your Children” - Just before he is about to die, Jacob summons his children to gather around his bed. He tells his sons, "Come together, that I may tell you what is to befall you in days to come." Then, rather than beginning his list of predictions, he interposes the comment, "Assemble and hearken, O sons of Jacob; ve-shim'u el Yisrael avichem (Hearken to Israel, your father)."  
The Rabbis notice that his words sound like the Shema, the creed of Judaism.  They imagine in the Midrash a dialogue between Jacob and his sons about these words.  He is saying, “recite the Shema, my children” and they respond by doing so, leading him to say, with comfort and relief upon hearing his sons’ devotion, the words we recite next after the Shema, baruch shem k’vod malchuto l’olam va’ed, “blessed is the Name of God’s glorious majesty forever.” 
When we say Shema, we should remember this story.  For “the sons,” us as the younger generation – we need to be able to say it sincerely and gratefully for the legacy of our elders.  Do we say the Shema as the twelve sons did in a way that honors what our elders held dear – candles, Shabbat, etc.? 
And for us as elders, what are you doing to make the younger generation hearken to the call of Judaism as Jacob did?  Are you setting the example for them so they can respond truthfully, “We hear!” 
Pledge with me – when you say the Shema, to think of these things and how you can in the future, bring them out, wherever you stand in the great chain of the Jewish people.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Mikketz - Dumb Enough to Dream

Mikketz: “Being Dumb Enough to Dream” - Dreams of what might come to be in the future and planning for them are the focus in Mikketz.  Our Torah portion continues the exploits of Joseph and sees him rise to authority in Egypt after interpreting correctly the dreams of Pharaoh. 

While in the parshah, it is up to the Jew to interpret the dreams, not to dream them, Joseph is also the one who makes the dreams reality.  We might imagine that the young man Joseph, new to the royal administration, and probably with some sense that his life is directly attached to how well he does at his new job, works extra hard, is extra creative in accomplishing his goals, and is able to bring some new ways of thinking to Egypt.

As we think about fulfilling our dreams, let us have Joseph’s example in mind.  And let me share with you some words from the poet John Andrew Holmes for you to consider as well,
“Never tell a young person that something cannot be done.  God may have been waiting for centuries for somebody ignorant enough of the impossible to do that very thing.” 

“Young,” in Holmes’ writing need not be “young in age” but “young in thinking” and that is something we can all be – it might just help us do the impossible.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Hanukkah Tells You How You're Unique

On Hanukkah, we are required to light candles, and the rabbis are very specific that it not be a torch, that they not be all over but lined up, that basically, each candle be uniquely its own contribution to the menorah, and to pirsumei nissah, to the command to “advertise the miracle” of Hanukkah.

And when you think about it, that is what Hanukkah itself is about.  It’s about the Jews saying, “no, we won’t assimilate and disappear – we have something unique to us to contribute to the tapestry of humanity.  We have a special job to play in God’s world, and we aren’t going to go away or become just like everyone else.”

The lesson of Hanukkah is a lesson to teach you to be uniquely you.  To embrace the things that make you who you are.  As it is taught, a human king will stamp coins and they all come out with the same image stamped on them.  God however, stamps the “coins” of each human being with God’s Spirit and in so doing, each coin comes out unique.  You are, by being yourself an important part of God’s plan for creation.

This is a lesson for the family and our community – that there are some people who are blessed with the skills of leadership, with a talent for building up the community, and if you’re one of those people then you are called upon to contribute your unique blessing to the betterment of the community.

Finally, Hanukkah reminds us of another lesson involving light, which is also the lesson of being a Jew in the greater world – that we have a job, to be an ohr l’goyim, a light to the world, of how to live in a holy, godly way.  Do your part in lighting the way of Judaism in our world.