Friday, July 17, 2020

Knives & Chicken Parmesan or Passion for Being Different

Knives & Chicken Parmesan or Passion for Being Different

Do the remarkable circumstances in which we find ourselves give us freedom to make any innovations we want in Judaism? Never would I have imagined streaming services for Shabbat - not that it couldn't be done, that's been possible since radios - no, I mean that it would seem acceptable to do so. I don't thin it's the circumstances though, I think it's how we understand what Judaism wants of us.
How great it was to find new strength and resolve for passionately observing the mitzvot in ways outside the norm addressed in the daily study of the Talmud. A few days ago the Talmud discusses how in one small community the rabbi allowed them to eat dairy and chicken together and how in another it was allowed to perform a brit milah on Shabbat even if it meant you had to smelt the iron for the knife on Shabbat to do it. Not only are we told that the other rabbis of the time, though they disagreed with these outlier positions, respected them; we are even told that these communities, because they were so careful and diligent in performing the mitzvot, even though they did so in ways others did not, their dedication was rewarded by God.
Let us never mistake a creative, innovative or lenient position with a half-hearted, apathetic or disdainful one. We will make it an integral part of who we are at NSJC to remain steadfast in our devotion to God, Torah and Judaism, even as I pray we never stop looking for new and relevant ways to connect our community members to them. While I won't see you this Shabbat in shul, I hope you'll be streaming and you'll see me as we all celebrate together!

Friday, July 3, 2020

To Err Constantly

When even making the right decisions about health and safety come at the expense of relationships, livelihood and sense of purpose, maybe we need to consider not the choices themselves but how to make them:

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

A Lesson from a Loaf of Bread

"If one forgot a loaf of bread baking in the oven as Shabbat began, it can be removed with a knife or in some unusual manner. This is allowed, even on Shabbat, because: שֶׁהִיא חָכְמָה וְאֵינָהּ מְלָאכָה - 'baking is an art not a labor.'"
(Shabbat 117b, today's page of Talmud Study/Daf Yomi)

The Jewish People have faced terrible, lonely, tragic conditions in our history with bravery and hope just as we must today. Our tradition has always been there as a source of strength and comfort, so let me share the following:

To all of you wearing masks, distancing, helping others, working under daunting conditions, and even joining us online or in the parking lot for services and programs, from the bottom of my heart,
you have my respect and love.

You are doing what Jews have always done, what God teaches us through a loaf of bread - to adjust in times like this with wisdom and creativity. To treat life not as a labor but as an art. Art which while it may reflect the times also helps us transcend them.

In the name of the sources of our strength, God, Tradition, and Community,
I bless you all to have creativity, strength and hope, Amen.