Song of Peace
Cantor Lee: When Tropical Storm Eta hammered South Florida the weekend after the election I felt as though I was in Noah’s Ark! We certainly have lived through plenty of tropical storms and hurricanes. In fact, two months after Rabbi David and I moved to Florida in the summer of 1992 we needed to evacuate from Miami due to Hurricane Andrew.
But Eta seemed different. After two days of non stop rain the water from our canal was the highest we had ever seen it over the past 26 years in our home! Even the tree trunks were submerged. I kept saying this is a major cleansing just as the biblical flood was . A major cleansing for all of us.
And no, this cleansing is absolutely NOT referring to the results of the election or the political leadership of the last four years. It is referring to the divisiveness in our country, in our communities, in our families. It is heaven crying out that we have forgotten to listen to each other's views rather than blame and call names.
This divisiveness has been an ongoing issue. I still remember in 2008 when Rabbi David gave a High Holy Day sermon about leadership in the Bible. Several people thought he was referring to the current political situation at that time with Sarah Palin and walked out. Ever since then, he makes sure to tell people that his sermons are not hidden political messages.
As Jewish people we have been given the responsibility to live at a higher consciousness, to be a Light in the world. Part of this responsibility means being extremely careful with what we say as each word we utter carries a vibratory energy that affects all of us. With the way this works, a derogatory insult can affect our children even if we are speaking about someone else!
Rabbi David: Ill speaking about anyone under any circumstances is called “Lashon Hara”, which translates as evil tongue. And this includes ridicule and insults. Our sages were very clear about it. Our demeaning language is like a boomerang that comes back at us by way of perpetuating hatred in our own hearts as well as going out to be part of the collective consciousness. When Miriam spoke against her Brother Moses G-d knew to nip it in the bud before her words contaminated others around her. She was given leprosy which required being isolated from the community.
In the political arena this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t express our views or take action with issues. But there is a difference with doing so without ridicule and insults. Of respecting that others can have differing political opinions.
So what can this cleansing do for us? I see it as a gift, a reminder to remember who we are. A reminder to go back to practicing it.
A year ago on Yom Kippur I made a vow with this very subject. I vowed to completely refrain from speaking Lashon Hara in the political or any other area, not even in a suggestive manner. Perhaps you will consider joining me.
We all need this cleansing reminder. Let us turn back into the compassionate Jewish nation that we have always been.
Our wonderful country well deserves it.
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Cantor Lee: I was recently asked how G-d could be so cruel. This wasn’t the first time her family suffered greatly. In fact the woman had walked out on G-d for many years and only recently came back. But now again, she was so angry! It brought to mind Rabbi David’s Yom Kippur sermon from last year...
Rabbi David: Moses, as we all know, the holiest man, master of the prophets, led the Israelites through the desert for forty years. Along with the physical difficulties of desert life that the Israelites had had to endure, he also had to deal with constant complaints, and rebellions. He had to worry where to get water for more than two million people. .
But he had a dream. A dream which probably kept him strong and steadfast for 40 years. A dream to enter the Promised Land with his people.
But he was punished with the most severe punishment he could have possibly received. He died just when the Israelites were ready to enter the land of Israel.
What was his awful mistake that caused his life long dream after forty years of struggle shatter into pieces?
Well, G-D said to him, “In the desert on one occasion I asked you to talk to the rock so water would flow out of it. But you instead hit the rock with your staff.”
And for that Moses was not allowed to see his lifelong dream come to fruition? Scholars have struggled with this question from time immemorial
I don't know the answer. I don't think anyone will ever know for sure.
But maybe for a brief moment in that tense situation Moses wanted to make sure that water would indeed come out of the rock. And that just talking to the rock, asking the rock to produce water, wouldn’t be enough for the water to gush out of it.
Maybe for a brief second Moses doubted his own faith.
Recently I was sitting in a waiting room in the Boca hospital off of thirteenth street. A few people were sitting with me. Suddenly a man turned to me and asked, “Are you angry?” Surprised and a little confused by the question I finally answered, “I am not particularly angry.” “Well, I am!” he practically screamed. “I am angry at G-D! I am furious!”
I was not sure if this was the time and place to begin a philosophical conversation about G-D or life and death. And why did he turn me, a complete stranger, in the first place? Certainly he didn’t know who I was.
“I am mad at him! I am furious!” he insisted. “Does he even listen to our prayers? Does he even care? Does he even exist?”
The man proceeded to tell me about this wife who was stricken with several kinds of cancer and was now fighting for her life. There was so much agony in his words.
After a brief silence he continued with tearing eyes and said quietly, “She has no chance to survive. I don’t even know why the doctor is sending her for another another cat scan.”
He continued, “You know, she is such an amazing person. Such a good sweet soul who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Why her? Why make her suffer so much?”
Don’t get me wrong, I am not usually approached by strangers in public places with such agonizing issues of life and death. Maybe he approached me because he saw my Kippah and wanted to talk to a fellow Jew.
Knowing that there really weren’t adequate words of wisdom to sooth his tormented soul, I said, “I don’t have an answer for you. I don't understand it myself.”
He continued as if he didn’t hear my response. “I was diagnosed with lung cancer. But you know what? I don’t care about me at all. But why her? Such a beautiful soul. I just want some kind of sign! Something! Even the smallest thing that shows me that he exists, that he listens, that he cares, that makes some sense. I just want a sign!”
I put on my rabbinical hat and said, “I know it is hard to hear but maybe we should consider that which does not make sense to us.”
He looked at me puzzled. I continued. “Maybe the struggle itself to make sense of that which makes no sense is what we are all about. Maybe that struggle with the unexplainable, the struggle with so much suffering of your wife and yourself, which is so unfair, is our strongest expression of our belief in G-D.”
“Who knows, ”I continued. “ As strange and unfair as it sounds perhaps G-D is communicating through you and your wife to remind us all how vulnerable we are and how precious life really is. Maybe you are the chosen messenger for everyone.”
He listened and then said, “I give him back this dubious honor. I don’t want it. My wife and I are no messengers. Let him take it back if he even exists or cares.”
I answered, “You need your faith, sir. It’s a powerful gift and can help us get through the toughest of times.” He looked at me. “Are you a rabbi or something?” Seeing my cover was exposed I said, “May G-D send you a your wife a Refua Shleima, full recovery and may He give both of you the spiritual and physical strength to get through such tough times.”
At this point we were already beginning to attract the attention of people around us who were now listening to our conversation. We both became silent when his wife was wheeled into the waiting room. He thanked me for listening to him and they both left.
As I was driving home, I remembered a story I heard from Elie Wiesel of blessed memory. He was describing a scene that happened in Auschwitz. A group of Jews barely alive, starving and weak decided to put G-D on trial. They appointed a prosecutor, defense attorney and judge.
At the end of the trial, the judge read the verdict. G-D was found guilty of abandoning his people. There was silence among the people. Finally someone said, “Well, fellows, it is time to pray mincha, the afternoon service.”
What unwavering faith…
As I was driving I also recalled the pogroms, the persecutions, the endless suffering of Jews in Europe and the Middle East. And yet, none of it has ever shaken their faith in G-D and the belief of the coming of the Messiah.
One of the most profound songs of the Jewish Underground during the Holocaust was “Ani Ma’amim” “I Believe” which quotes the thirteen Jewish principles of the Rambam, the great Jewish scholar and rabbi. It says, “I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Messiah and even though he is delayed I nevertheless will wait for him everyday until he comes.”
Maybe with that rock episode back in the desert, G-D saw the hitting of the rock by Moses instead of talking to it as losing faith and therefore trust in G-D even if just for a few seconds. Maybe this wasn’t about punishment at all but G-d using Moses as the messenger for us, to remind us of the importance of our faith and trust.
There is a saying in Hebrew that “a man can be more fragile than glass and tougher than steel.” Faith, no doubt, is the divine gift given to us to give our spirit the strength of steel, even to the point that nothing can break it. We can then navigate our lives during times of vulnerability and turbulence.
And most importantly, faith brings about Hope another tool in our spiritual toolbox.
One of the best stories that demonstrates this isn’t even Jewish, it’s Greek, the famous story of Pandora’s box. After being told not to open the box she was given, Pandora could not overcome her curiosity. As the box was opened ugly little creatures representing all the diseases and suffering flew right into our world. Pandora closed the box quickly but it was too late.
As she sat on the closed box dismayed, a faint voice asked her to open the box one more time. At first she refused but eventually opened the box. And a beautiful little creature flew out. It was Hope, given to mankind to strengthen our spirit.
In this time of uncertainty, of division among people even more pronounced, it seems the Answer is to return to our Jewish spiritual roots and become the Messengers of Faith and Hope. Only then can we create a World of Peace, Prosperity and Harmony.
A pioneer in the field of energy medicine, Donna Eden, tells a story of a man who would stand in the back of the room during some of her seminars. He hadn’t registered but she just allowed him to be there suspecting he was homeless. He looked unwell.
When she had a chance to speak to him she learned that he subsisted on food scraps from the local 7-11 store. Donna urged him to begin to eat more nutritious foods to improve his health but he didn’t have the resources. So she told him to begin speaking to his food. To thank it for bringing him excellent nutrition, that it was such healthy food, that he was so grateful for it, bless it. You get the idea.
She saw him a few weeks later and couldn’t believe the difference in how he looked on the outside as well as the inner flow of his energy which she could see. He went on to take further steps to improve his health and life.
In Judaism we are taught to always say a blessing before eating. I can just hear Rabbi David now, “Make sure they know we don’t bless the food, we bless G-d for providing the food!” Yes, in the Hebrew that is exactly what it says, Blessed are You Adonai, Ruler of the World, for creating all kinds of foods. Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha-olam boray meenay mi’zonot.
Before eating I usually prefer to use the traditional Hebrew blessing as I know how powerful it is. But there are times that I just send Light to the food, thank it directly or bless it for providing me with such good nutrition. Just as Donna Eden advised the homeless man to do, I speak to my food!
During the holiday of Sukkot when we express our gratitude for G-d's bounty we are filled with Joy! I personally think the Joy is the way G-d is expressing His/Her gratitude back to us! So inside the sukkah when we eat the delicious fruit waiting for us we will be saying the traditional blessing, Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Haolam, Boray pre ha-eitz. Blessed are You Adonai, our G-d, Ruler of the World, who creates fruit from the tree.
It is so amazing how much better everything tastes with a blessing beforehand!
When we left slavery in Egypt the Bible counted more than 600,000 men. Considering the similar amount of women there were 2-3,000,000 Hebrews entering the land of Israel in the estimated 1300 BCE.
As a comparison the Zhou Chinese dynasty which took control of China about the same time at 1200 BCE counted 13 million Chinese people living in China.
The Hebrews were one fifth or 20% of the population of China at that time.
Today, 3200 years later there are a billion and a half Chinese in the world. That is 1500 millions.
There are maybe 14 million Jews.
From being 20% of the Chinese population we are now 0.00052 of the Chinese population.
Compared to the Chinese growing curve of the last three thousand years and keeping the estimate of about 20% of the Chinese population, we should have numbered many hundreds of millions at least.
In fact, we are dozens of times smaller than the Chinese margin of error in any census they take.
We all know the reasons for this awful disparity. The Roman empire of 2,000 years ago murdered about one million Jews. It is estimated that over the millennia in Europe about three million Jews were either slaughtered or forced to convert in masses.
Just in South and Central America alone there are many millions of descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jews who were forced to convert to Catholicism between the 15th and 17th centuries.
All that translates to about 100-150 million Jewish descendants of all the Jewish victims over the centuries who could have been with us today.
We cannot afford to lose more Jewish souls to other influences.
Generations of Jews since then have changed. Their religious as well as Israel outlook has changed.
With the chaos, killings and destruction in the many cities Anti-Semitism begins to stink to high heavens. it is used as an important part of radical actions against America
Nothing new here!
Jews have been caught in the middle of civil chaos and destruction for hundreds of years with very dire consequences.
Anti-Semitism is being bred in many campuses in some of the most prestigious schools. And it is getting a stronghold among young impressionable ill informed students, many who are Jewish students.
In the name of this perverted agenda what is really being ignored purposely is the honest and real details of the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. Its origin, its true reasons and goals are being purposely ignored
The agenda is simple: to deny Israel the right to exist as a Jewish state. Also to remove Israel from being a close ally and best friend to the USA.
A whole generation of students, many of them are Jewish, is being bombarded and poisoned with distorted information. This happens even in traditionally Jewish colleges like Brandeis or colleges with a large Jewish student body.
And these are our future congress members and leaders!
Using unfair influence on our students for an intentional Anti-Zionist agenda discourages students from arriving at their own independent conclusions.
What is claimed to be lessons in critical thinking which is a common course in college amounts to almost brain washing.
This is a gateway to Anti-Zionism which in some places has become institutionalized and tolerated.
Make no mistake: Anti-Zionism, denying Israel the right to exist as a Jewish country or not at all - is absolutely Anti-Judaism.
The land of Israel is a central part of Judaism. It’s like Mecca to Islam or the pope to Catholicism.
Judaism cannot exist without it. The hope and yearning to return to Zion in the last 2000 years has been a central component of Judaism.
Anti-Zionistic activity is an act against Jewish survival.
In 2019 there were 2100 reported cases of assault, vandalism and harassment against Jews in the United states alone including schools, synagogues and community centers.
The problem is even more compounded because for many of our Jewish students it’s a gateway to losing their Jewish identity.
What concerns me is that we have become complacent in the face of those who wish to hurt us the most. We simply do not think it is a major problem.
While, of course, not all of our young people leave their heritage because of college influence,
We cannot afford to lose anyone.
We cannot be complacent. Let's continue doing what we, the community of Shirat Shalom have been doing for many years.
Let us continue bringing Judaism of the heart and souls to our children. Instill in them love and pride in our heritage and in Israel. That is the best remedy against detrimental influences and assaults on our heritage.
It’s about Jewish identity much more than Jewish or Hebrew knowledge.
Children as we all know, get from us their parents the sense of pride in our heritage and commitment to our Jewish homeland in Israel.
When our children sense that both Israel and the Jewish tradition are a crucial part of our own identity they understand that Zionism is an existential part of Judaism and in turn, Judaism is an existential part of the welfare of the world.
They then will be more inclined to make the effort and seek the honest truth about the Israeli Arab conflict and explore Judaism further on. We cannot afford losing any more Jewish souls.
Senator Daniel Moynihan said in 1974 in a rally for Soviet Jewry: One cannot eliminate a tree which has its roots in the center of the earth.
It is our duty to ensure our children’s Jewish continuity.
May G-D inscribe all of us in the Book of Life. Let us pray for a much better year next year. A year of health and healing.
A year of tolerance and unity. A year of love and prosperity to all of us. A year of elimination of all viruses and social turmoil.
Recently I was asked to sing the Lord’s Prayer at an interfaith wedding. I didn’t know too much about the prayer except that my girlfriend recited it every day growing up in her church and that it is a central and revered prayer in Christianity. Well, I certainly wanted to sing it with the reverence it deserved so I began learning it.
I didn’t get too far though and stopped after the first line as a beautiful sacred Presence had entered the room.
Wow, I thought! Does this prayer have the same power as many of the Hebrew prayers I sing? They are meant to connect us with the Divine which can come in many energetic variations. Or was it my intention to sing the prayer with reverence that called this Divine Presence? Yes, our intentions can be that powerful!
Intrigued, I went on a YouTube search and listened to several videos of people singing the prayer. Hmmm.. most of the videos invoked the Presence.
The next day, my Catholic neighbor, Gina, posted the prayer on her facebook page and wrote: "I hope everyone who reads it answers Amen and sticks it on their page. Prayer chain for world peace and end of the pandemic. Amen."
Gina's Facebook Post:
This certainly caught my attention. I mean, what are the chances my neighbor would post this the day after my experience with the prayer! I knew this was a message to me to explore further. Intrigued again, I went on a google search and discovered what is just basic knowledge for most Christians. That Jesus taught this is a prayer in how to pray and that it covers everything.
Well that made sense why so much of the wording seemed familiar to me. The same concepts are in the Jewish prayers. And Jesus after all, was Jewish.
A week later as I sang the prayer during the wedding I could see how touched the Christian family members were that their tradition was honored. This filled me with such Joy! Even in these days, it isn’t always so easy for everyone when there is an interfaith marriage.
Two months later as I finished my preparations for the Jewish holidays I realized I never formally added my Amen to my neighbor’s post!
So now, just before Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people, I offer my prayer. “May ALL our Sacred Prayers from ALL Hearts come together bringing World Peace and an End to the Pandemic. Amen!”
The Divine Presence that has come in now certainly seems happy with this! I feel a smile in the midst of all the Love that is present!
May we all be sealed in the Book of Life for a good year!
I heard the story from the mother the week before but I wanted to hear it in the boy’s own words. So he told me that when casting his fishing lure, it caught a dragonfly trapped in a spider web causing its wings to break. He used a pair of tweezers to set the wings back together. Afterwards he put the dragonfly in a jar in order to nurse it back to health and fed it moths each day. Under his watchful care the dragonfly lived for another few days.
When he finished telling the story, his mother exclaimed “What child does this!” I knew the answer but I just smiled.
When I first met the boy a year and half earlier to prepare him for his Bar Mitzvah ceremony, I immediately understood he is one of the amazing children who have come to help heal the planet. So many of these kids don’t have an easy time in our left brain educational system or fitting into our paradigms and this teen was no exception.
When we had his rehearsal months later and he could read Hebrew which traditionally uses left brain teaching techniques, his mother called me a miracle worker. But I knew the child is really the miracle. For these kids are impelling us to “think out of the box,” to reframe our perspectives when it comes to their education. The Infinite Child Institute is certainly a result of this thinking. It didn’t surprise me when this teen excelled in the program.
As we got close to his Bar Mitzvah, everyone was so excited that the boy’s great grandmother would be able to attend. What a blessing!
But with the pandemic postponing his Bar Mitzvah day for five months this all changed. His great grandmother passed away three weeks before the new date at the amazing age of 107.
The boy’s mother continued her part of the story. That during the great grandmother’s funeral, a dragonfly stayed with them the entire time. She would have never noticed it if her son hadn't rescued the first dragonfly and knew there had to be a connection.
I told the teen that dragonflies have one consciousness. That the essence of his dragonfly came to say thank you! But there is another message too. His mother continued, “Now, whenever you see a dragonfly your great grandmother will be present!”
Before they left, I took the boy aside and asked him to promise me that he would never forget how special he is, of what he came here to do.
On the day of the Bar Mitzvah, the mother displayed a quote saying, “Dragonflies Appear when Angels are Near.” There were certainly many angels in the room that day.
And the great grandmother... well, she had the biggest smile of them all!
High Holy Day Services
There are certain numbers that Judaism considers sacred as they occur over and over again in the Torah. Well known of these numbers include 4, 7, 10 and 40. The number 40 is especially intriguing. We read about 40 days of rain during Noah's flood, 40 days Moses spent on the mountain receiving the Torah, 40 years spent wandering in the desert, 40 days Elijah fasted and others. Forty seems to signify a time of purification that leads to transformation where we build to a higher consciousness.
As we begin to prepare for the High Holy Days, our tradition also asks us to offer 40 days of inner work or purification throughout the 30 days of the Hebrew month of Elul and ending with the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This work is so important that each day during Elul which begins on August 21st this year, the shofar is sounded, reminding us to wake up and judge our deeds. The intent of this self judgment is not to promote guilt but to help us discern what would like to keep in our lives and what we would like to discard. The daily process of inner reflection is meant to also help us become more aware of our emotions and perceptions allowing us to eventually have control over them rather than having the emotions and perceptions control us.
In Jewish meditation circles, there is a popular teaching story that illustrates this. A retired Air Force Colonel was standing in the express line at the grocery store and found himself getting quite agitated. At the head of the line, the cashier was not only speaking to a customer with a baby but was cooing with the baby and tickling her. While everyone in the line waited, the colonel found himself getting more enraged by the minute. Fortunately he had taken an anger management class and was able to use the tool of focusing on his breath to help his anger subside.
Once he got to the head of the line, he was even able to remark at how cute the baby was. The cashier responded, "Oh, you think so? The baby is actually my baby. My husband was an Air Force pilot who recently died in an airplane crash. I needed to go to work to support myself and my mother takes care of the baby for me. She comes into the store to buy something several times a day so I can see my baby."
Especially as we continue to deal with issues arising from our situation with Covid may we learn to shift our perspective and truly be examples for our children.
May we all be blessed with awareness, discernment, peace and joy as we begin the High Holy Day season! May we radiate out this Light to all inhabitants of our world!
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From Cantor Lee
Here's to Tu B'Av, the Holiday of Love! I know, you probably haven’t even heard of this holiday! I certainly didn’t growing up! But yes, we have a Jewish Valentines Day! In Biblical Days the maidens would dress in white and dance in the vineyards of Jerusalem, the idea being to find their soulmate. In modern times we really don’t have rituals to celebrate Tu B’Av so people are creating their own celebrations including community gatherings or just giving loved ones an additional “I love you” during the day.
Love is actually already a huge theme in Judaism. When we follow the prayer book for Shabbat or weekdays, a whole section is devoted to prayers about Love. The prayer, “V’ahavtah,” “You Shall Love,” is inside our mezuzzahs and is traditionally used as a bedtime prayer for children. The Hebrew word for Love, “A-ha-vah” has much power and is used in Kabbalistic Healing. It isn’t an accident that each syllable has an “Ah” sound which is the universal vowel sound for our hearts. What do we do when we see a baby or a puppy? AAhh……… And our hearts open…
In honor of Tu B'Av, I decided I too would create my own personal observance to celebrate the holiday. I asked myself, “How can I connect to the Love energy of the holiday? How can I bring more Love into the world?”
After some thought I decided the focus for my personal observance would be Loving everything that came into my awareness. I already have a mindfulness practice of gratitude and would just add “I Love You.” So for example when walking up steps… I might say, “Thank you feet, I love you. Thank you shoes, I love you, Thank you steps, I love you, Thank you sound of walking, I love you…etc.”
I was quite happy with this idea and called my friend to discuss it. I told her, “Not only will this connect me to the increased energy of Love from the holiday, but it will bring more Love into the world!” (Yes, it really is true that whatever we do personally does energetically affect others.)
My friend wasn’t so sure. “Thank and Love everything? What if you experience someone with road rage or read about something on FB that upsets you” I answered, “If that comes into my awareness on Tu B’Av, I will be very grateful. It just means G-d is asking me to be the instrument to send Love to the situation.”
My friend replied, “That is really a good answer!” I just smiled and thought, “Love is always the answer!”
Happy Tu B’Av! Thank you, I Love you!
From Rabbi David:
The 15th day of the month of Av, Tu B’Av, the Holiday of Love, is a little known yet very significant Jewish holiday. This year it begins sundown Aug. 4th and goes to sundown Aug. 5th. While it does not have any specific religious ceremonies associated with it other than the omission of one particular prayer, it is considered a very festive and happy occasion. It originated during the second temple when Jews returned from their Babylon exile and Judea was just a small province within the Greek empire and later on within the Roman empire.
The holiday is an happy celebration of the first day of the grape harvest as well as a biblical occasion which has to do with celebrating women’s specific biblical marriage rights. It therefore became a happy celebration of love and marriage.
The 15th day of Av, is also the time of the full moon which in Jewish tradition brings hope and festive feelings. It therefore became an antidote to the national yearly mourning day of the 9th of Av, Tisha B’Av, the day the Temple was destroyed which is observed six days earlier.
According to a biblical prophetic description, love and marriage is also a symbol of a national redemption in which Judea will flourish again. “The joyful voices of bridegrooms and brides will be heard again, along with the joyous songs of people bringing thanksgiving offerings to the LORD , Jeremiah 33:11” The holiday of the 15th of Av combines both the redemption from the disaster of 9th of Av with the celebration of love and marriage, so much so that it is considered the happiest of all holidays.
In modern day Israel Tu B’Av is known as the Holiday of Love and is an auspicious time for weddings and finding one’s soul mate. In Biblical days unmarried women would wear white dresses and dance together in the vineyards of Jerusalem while young men would choose brides for themselves.
So in that spirit , I am inviting all the single young ladies of our congregation to dress in white on the 15 day of the month of Av and dance. Since we do not have vineyards around us, the streets of Boca Raton will do just fine... According to the tradition it would be a great way to find one's True Love...
May we all be blessed with an abundance of Love!
Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av falls on July 30th this year. It is a day of fasting and mourning. Very few events in our history are considered to be such a powerful memory to the Jewish people as this day represents. The Holocaust of course, is another one.
Officially it marks several calamities in our history including the destruction of the first Temple by the Babylonians as well as the destruction of the second Temple by the Romans (who went as far as plowing the entire Temple area.) This day also marks the expulsion from Spain in 1492 as well as the Jewish expulsion from England in 1290.
Tradition has it that on the ninth day of Av the spies who were sent by Moses to tour the land of Canaan when the Israelites were about to enter it, returned from their journey to deliver a negative report about the country and its people. As a result, the people dipped into fear wanting to return to slavery in Egypt. To enable them to mature to a state of trust, of accepting and navigating freedom, G-d had the people wander in the desert for another 40 years.
Tisha B’Av is therefore a day when Jews gather in synagogues all over the world to recite the scroll of “Eicha,” Lamentations, a text of mourning believed to be written by Prophet Jeremiah who actually witnessed the first Temple’s destruction.
The Ninth of Av is not an easy day as we remember Jewish suffering throughout our history. But it also represents an amazing truth. It is a symbol of our eternity. Remembering the day we lost our independence in the land of Israel also brought the Tikvah, the Hope for the Jewish redemption. That hope was burning in our great, great grandparents’ hearts. It is that two thousand year old hope which held us together and eventually helped us to reestablish our independent life in modern Israel.
So if we now have Israel, a proud, very prosperous and independent Jewish state why keep mourning on the ninth day of Av?
The message of that day is not only a message of Jewish survival. It is also a message of world peace and harmony. The great rabbis of the Talmud taught that when the world lives in peace, when there will be no hate, when antisemitism and bigotry vanish from the world, then Tisha B’Av will turn from a day of mourning to a day of celebration.
This year, as we observe Tisha B’Av may we use the powerful energy of the day to offer a special prayer to the creator, G-D of all mankind, to help us put an end to the awful pandemic that is ravaging the entire world. Let us all pray for Israel’s and the world’s safety and peace. Let us pray for all the turmoil and divisiveness we are experiencing here in the US to end and ask for peace to be restored in all the cities across the nation. Let us pray that we each find compassion and tolerance within our own hearts. For only then can G-d truly help us.
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It was going to be the first event for our congregation since the quarantine began. A puppy naming where any dog without a Hebrew name would receive one. It really isn’t part of our tradition to give pets Hebrew names as we do humans. But it has become a Shirat Shalom tradition. I guess mostly because it is just so much fun! Here was the invitation:
Although connected in our hearts,We've been physically apart,So we’re hoping seeing you in person can now gently start!
Our yard is Huge, so please stop by, We’ve missed you and just want to say Hi!
If you don’t have a doggy, just bring a stuffed one!Or come by yourself, and join the fun!
If your puppy needs a Hebrew nameRabbi David will bestow one with Love, Or you can pick a Yiddish one And we’ll all shout Mazel Tov!
Even though the gathering was going to be outside in my backyard I still wondered, would anyone come? People were still reluctant to be in groups as several members told me. But eight dogs sent in a RSVP and would be bringing their humans.
The morning of I wondered again, would anyone come? With torrential downpours all week and rain still predicted, it wouldn’t be easy to be outside in the high humidity of South Florida.
But in the end five dogs did come along with seven children and their parents. When I saw the children I knew G-d was fully creating with me. These were my special crystal and rainbow kids who would be radiating their powerful Light throughout our gathering!
The first activity was to decorate a fan with anything about our doggies that warms our hearts. I was so glad I finally found a use for the straw fans I had been saving. Not only would they help everyone stay cool, but they were perfect for our activity and my plan for later!
For the naming ceremony we began with the traditional thanksgiving blessing using the words on the fans. Each doggie was featured.
Here is an example: Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu melech Haolam who makes Brooklyn a cutie! (Blessed are you Adonai, our G-d, Creator of the world who makes Brooklyn a cutie! )
Then each family sang the song they had composed. The instructions were to change the lyrics to a Hebrew song and you guessed it, make it about their doggie! In this song, David Melech Yisrael, Lily the dog becomes a queen! You can just imagine how much we all laughed since Lily really is queen of the house!
Rabbi David then gave each dog their Hebrew name and had us laughing even more! This dog, a Russell Terrier, yes named Russell, received the Hebrew name Ratz which means “Run!” You can probably figure out the connection!
Kiwi received the Hebrew name Karmel which is a mountain in Israel!
Brooklyn received the Hebrew name Simcha which means Joy!
Lily received the Hebrew name Meshuggah which you probably already know means Crazy!
We ended with the chanting of the Sh'ma that declares that we are all One with G-d and each other. Keeping this Oneness in mind, I asked everyone to wave their fans as we sang, radiating our love and gratitude for our doggies into the world.
I knew Shechina's Love Energy that answered was saying thank you! I told everyone to keep fanning and radiating!
We continued to have such a wonderful time being together afterwards. The weather turned out to be beautiful with such a strong breeze we didn’t even feel the humidity! I thanked G-d as well as the weather elementals for answering my prayers, for their part of our co-creation.
As we talked I heard the same theme others have been telling me. The appreciation for slowing down, for time together with their children. The gratitude for the gifts of Mother Earth - Gaia, such as a butterfly’s dance, a gecko on a leaf, a seed that grows into a plant.
We couldn’t hug each other as we said goodbye but as my friend recently told me we will never again take hugs for granted.
Afterwards I expressed my gratitude to all including my doggie, Cinnamon, who joined us from over the rainbow bridge. I told her, “There was so much Love at the Puppy Naming!” “Of course!” Cinnamon whispered in my ear as she licked it at the same time. “After all, what is DOG spelled backwards?!”
I thought about this for a moment. "Exactly Lee," said Eliza, a dear friend's angel doggie. "It spells Love.”
♥Love, Lee & all the Doggies!♥
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