Song of Peace
(Disclaimer: It is a custom on Purim to create satires from the story of Queen Esther. So this is it. All in fun though - no political messages intended…. Whatsoever...)
This story was told to me by my great grandfather who heard it from his cousin twice removed.
A long, long time ago in a far away galaxy in a city called Shushan lived a king in a palace which was all white. He was a jolly old king. He was also very wealthy from all his real estate investments all over the world.
One starry starry night the king was entertaining all the very, wise extremely important sons and daughters of god who came all the way from Hollywood. It was a nice party, really, where all the VIP’s were congratulating each other and walking on red carpets not to spoil their shoes. They all ate and drank. Alot.
After the guests could not find any more ways to praise each other, they got bored. The king (his name, If I remember correctly, was Achashverosh) who was at that point a little drunk himself, demanded that his wife Queen Vashti dance with minimum clothes on in front of his guests. She refused (who can blame her?) claiming that her minimum wage job description does not include dancing.
Since the king did not know the laws regarding queens who refuse to dance, he went to the local district judge asking for a verdict. But this judge was too conservative so he went to a highly reputable liberal judge but he was too liberal. The king then became very desperate looking for a judge who will render the kind of verdict the king wanted. Since he could not find the right judge, he decided to banish the queen from his kingdom. Well the media was all over him. They condemned his decision claiming that the king was influenced by foreign agents.
It only took a few days for the king to realize that he needed a new queen. He organized a whole Women’s Talent Competition (The now famous “Shushan has Talent “) and in order to be fair he invited all transgenders as well.
There was a Jewish young lady who lived in the city of Shushan by the name of Esther. She wanted to devote her entire life to fighting global warming because she was afraid that in five years, the earth will be flooded from the melting glaciers and burned from rising temperature. When she was forced to participate in the king’s new talent competition she got to the finals and actually won. Since she became a queen her life long dream of becoming a major advocate for Mother Earth, to give lectures and sell lots of books, all vanished. From all the Jewish princesses in our country she became the first Jewish princess to hold such a high position.
That's when the story gets interesting. You see, the Shushan senate minority leader (or maybe it was the house minority leader- who remembers!) was a man named Haman. From all historical records at the Pentagon we know that he wasn’t a nice dude. As if he needed a reason, he did not like Jewish people (what else is new?) He went to the king and explained to him that there is a nation of undocumented immigrants called Jews who managed to climb the 60 ft tall wall the king built around the city. They used tall ladders and hot air balloons in order to infiltrate the kingdom. “Now,” said Haman to the king, “them Jews are all over the city.” The king agreed to let Haman kill all these Illegals Jews on the 14th day of the month of Adar.
I would be remiss If I do not mention the president of Shushan’s AIPAC, Queen Esther’s cousin from her mother’s side (I think), the honorable Mordechai the Jew, a well known advocate for Jewish matters. Haman and Mordecai did not see eye to eye on all national security and health care matters or all other matters including the Jewish right to exist. So when Mordecai heard about Haman's evil plan and about Haman’s plan to hang him on a tall Christmas tree, he felt that it might be a good Idea to do something about it. After all, he really wanted his legs to be firmly touching the ground and not be dangling somewhere. He also thought that Jewish survival would be a nifty idea as well.
So he tried to call little cousin Queen Esther on her cell phone but got no answer. He tried texting her, even Tweeting her- nothing happened. He tried to write on her Facebook wall - no response. He tried Instagram -nada .So he decided to do what any nice Jewish boy would do. He dressed in sackcloth and put ashes on his head and paraded back and forth for three hours in front of the queen’s window. She got the message. She asked Mordechai what was going on so he briefed her on the situation and they both set down to strategize.
After much thinking they came up with a brilliant Plan. It was kind of complicated but the gist of it was that Esther would find a way to tell the king that if he allowed Haman to execute his evil plan not only the kingdom’s economy would collapse, but also Ms. Ginsburg would be missing from the Supreme Court, half of the liberal professors from all the universities in his kingdom would be gone and he would not be able to celebrate Passover in his palace. More importantly, his beloved wife, being Jewish, would be killed as well
The only danger in the plan was finding a way to deliver the message to the king. Since the king was told by his secret service not to use a cellular phone or a laptop, the only way to get his attention would be face to face.
But since you do not come to see the king uninvited, appearing in his palace by one ‘s own initiative could be deadly to say the least.
So Queen Esther did what Jews do best. She Prayed. She also fasted for three days just to lose the little extra weight she had put on recently. Then she asked the royal hairdresser and the make-up artist to make her look exceptionally pretty (not that she was not pretty, of course). Then, she bought the most beautiful dress. She made sure not to have any wardrobe malfunction. She put on the glass shoes which she borrowed from Cinderella and went to meet the king, come what may.
But you see, there has been a royal secret which was very well guarded for many generations and never leaked to the NY Times or the Washington Post despite these papers’ desperate efforts to get the story. Do you realize how many more papers they would have sold if they had the story? Maybe even claim the rights for a movie and two sequels or even a TV series. But no! The secret was kept safe in the royal palace. Recently, however it was leaked by an anonymous source known as the “mysterious leaker”. Allegedly, he was from the opposite party who wanted Haman to be the King.
Ladies and Gentlemen you read the truth here first: What really happened!
You see, the queen had an agreement with one of the king’s guards who shall remain anonymous.The deal went like that: the queen would help the guard’s two daughters who never finished high school to be accepted to the University of Shushan School of Art Supplies on a Crayon Coloring Scholarship. And in return the guard would slip to the king a bunch of his favorite Corona beers so he could be half drunk and in a very good mood. This would insure a favorable reaction from the king when Esther would show up.
Indeed, that is exactly what happened. The queen invited the king and Haman to a private candle light soft music dinner. At the self served dinner (she did not want any else there) she revealed her Jewish identity. She told the king that executing Haman’s evil plan would mean eliminating her as well.
Well, let me tell you. The king hit the roof. You should have seen his face. It was all red from anger, veins bulging everywhere, not a happy camper.
He immediately voided that evil decree, ordered that Haman and his 10 sons be hanged and sent a warning through his kingdom saying that anyone who dares to hurt the Jews will be punished severely. (wouldn’t this kind of warning come very handy nowadays in the Middle East, around the world and in many American campuses?)
So the 14th day of Adar became a day of celebration for us. It’s a day that symbolizes Jewish survival. And that’s good. Very good.
And it’s a day to find humor in everything and everyone! So have a laugh!
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People in the local Publix already know me, the famous person that I am... I am the “no bags please person”. I am that crazy guy who would bring a bunch of Publix Green bags to avoid wrapping anything in plastic bags. Crazy because who wants to bother with bringing their own bags to do the shopping at a grocery store. In all honesty, I do see people bringing their own bags to Publix every once in a while but they are far and few in between.
Does that mean people do not care about Mother Earth? Of course they do. It’s just that in our busy life we have so many things to worry about that the welfare of Mother Earth is not regularly on our minds. Besides, with everything around us made of plastic and so little being recycled, does avoiding a few plastic bags really matter?
The “Save the Earth” advocates among us say that what creatures who lived on earth over hundreds of millions of years were unable to do, we humans managed to do in about 100 years or less. We have begun to put Mother Earth in a true existential threat. With our non degradable, often toxic materials dumped on Mother Earth by the tons every day all over the world, how long can we continue being nonchalant about it?
One of the most important Jewish principles taught by our sages over many centuries is based on recognizing the vulnerability of our Mother Earth. While generations ago there was not much toxic or non-degradable material to worry about, our sages did recognized the need to guardMother Earth from deteriorating.
That Jewish principle is called “Bal Tashchit”, which basically translates as “Be Careful Not to Destroy.” Judaism has always advocated that we are here on earth as a privilege. When our time comes to depart, we should leave Earth in as good condition or better than the way we found it.
Indeed, the ideas of “Tikun Olam,'' repairing the world, encompasses human relations as well as Human-Earth relations. The State of Israel is a shining example of this principle. Within a few decades of existence the Israelis have been turning a barren desert into a viable land growing fruits and vegetables on it. Israel leads the world in water conservation and recycling as well as reforestation on a large scale. Israeli scientists are working on ways to disintegrate plastic. Imagine being able to inject certain plastic consuming bacteria into thousands of landfills all over the world…
How is that for repairing the world?
This is what Tu B’Shvat, (Feb. 10th this year) the Jewish 3300 years old Arbor Day is all about. In fact, I believe Tu B’Shvat is a more important holiday now than ever before. It reminds us that we must be more aware of our Mother Earth’s welfare. It reminds us that doing the smallest thing for for the sake of our Earth should not be overlooked.
Besides, It’s a wonderful Mitzvah.
Plant a tree in Israel for Tu B’Shvat!
From Cantor Lee: As Jews we not only have the Jewish New Year as a time to reflect and evaluate our lives but the secular new year as well. As Rabbi David and I were discussing this I was quite surprised that a memory came up from two years ago as it didn’t seem to have anything to do with our conversation. But you know how those things go. It turns out it did. It was actually a facebook message I received from a woman who lived in our neighborhood in New Jersey over 30 years ago. She was a friend of our son. I didn’t remember her and still don’t! But I will always remember her message!
She had reached out to thank me for including her and all the neighborhood children in our Jewish holidays, for teaching them to be open to other religions. She went on to say I had a huge impact on her and she wants to do the same for her young children and expose them to many different religions and cultures.
I tried to think back. What did I really do? I remembered how I would have all the children help us decorate our sukkah each year, make latkes with us at Chanukah, have them taste matzah for Passover. Invite them to the celebrations. Is that all it took? It wasn’t anything really extraordinary in my mind. But yet, these small acts had a huge effect on a child’s life and it is being extended now to her own children.
So perhaps that is the message my Higher Self wanted me to understand when bringing this memory. It is the little things we do, that every act has the potential to affect others in ways we can’t even fathom!
From Rabbi David Our unexpected seemingly minute experiences can have a profound impression on us. Recently as I was visiting an assisted living facility here in Boca Raton I was struck by the sadness of many of the elderly.
With various levels of disability they sit in their wheelchairs in the hallway for endless hours with hardly any life in their eyes. With no one to talk to, many close their eyes and fall into intermittent dosing perhaps trying to escape their sad reality. Frail and helpless they yearn for a friendly look or just for a simple hello and a smile.
Most rarely receive any visitors maybe because their children live far away or are just busy. People who come through the door don׳t seem to pay much attention to any of it.
But another day I had the honor to witness the profound impact of a small act of kindness. A woman came in with some chocolate kisses and gave each resident one accompanied by a smile and a simple.“How are you?”
Seeing how the residents’ faces lit up when they saw her sent shivers down my back. I quickly realized that this was not a one time act but a daily “routine.”
I was also there during Chanukah and saw the woman giving out latkes. She offered me a latke too. I tried to refuse as they were meant for the residents but she insisted. The latke was still warm and tasty. Obviously she had just made them. As she was walking and talking to the residents, each came to life and smiled.
And I? I learned first hand what a small act of kindness really means.
The rabbis teach that the world rests upon three things, Torah, Avodah (worship,) and Gimilut Chasadim, acts of loving kindness. In this New Year of 2020 may we all bring more acts of loving kindness into our world.
Happy New Year! Rabbi David and Cantor Lee
As a long time teacher, I often feel that I learn more from my students than they do from me! This was certainly the case recently with a set of 12 year old twins. These two girls are absolutely adorable and so identical it is very difficult to tell them apart! One does have a face that is a tiny bit fuller but that doesn’t help me too much. I still get them mixed up! The only way to really tell them apart is that one twin has a small birthmark on her hand.
Rabbi David and I are preparing the girls for their B'not Mitzvah service and see them for weekly lessons. As any Bar or Bat Mitzvah student can attest to, learning to chant the Torah portion definitely requires diligence to master!
To make this process easier we incorporate meditative focusing exercises (1) into the lessons. The twins are always delighted that the weekly lesson becomes easier and that it has helped with schoolwork too!
So here is the “far out part.” The exercises also enable the twins to see and read blindfolded. I know, sounds crazy! But we only use a fraction of our brain power. As children, no one ever taught us that we have this ability to use our Inner Light Vision rather than our physical eyes to see and read.
As in regular reading children progress at different rates with blindfold reading. One twin has advanced to reading sentences blindfolded while the other is at the level of seeing colors and shapes and occasionally words.
During this one particular lesson Rabbi David believed he was working with the twin who could read sentences so he certainly wasn’t surprised that she was able to do so again. But halfway through the lesson he saw the birthmark and realized he had the other twin!
He immediately understood it was his consciousness that enabled this twin to read on the level of her sister! With his belief that he had the other twin, he had certain expectations of how she would perform!
Since these techniques require working with energy and different mind states, we are both certainly aware that our consciousness is a vital factor. In the past we have even seen that certain children are not able to continue reading blindfolded when a parent walks into the room The parent’s belief system is energetically affecting the child.
But Rabbi David's experience providing such a concrete example has had a profound impact on both of us! It has certainly brought us to an even deeper level of awareness as to how we as teachers and parents are affecting our children.
During the next lesson, Rabbi David told me to send him a twin but to not let him know which one I was sending!
And so it is….
(1) Meditative Focusing Exercises are from our program, the Infinite Child Institute
(2) Video Examples of Blindfold Reading & Seeing
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From Cantor Lee: During a recent dinner with friends, a facebook post with Yiddish words was being passed around the table. Yiddish words do have that knack of making us laugh! And yes, there was definitely much laughter as the phone was being passed from one person to the next!
But when it came to my turn I said, “I won’t look at this post. Whether I am politically aligned with someone or not, I won’t have anything to do with putting down or degrading another person.”
You are probably getting the gist of the post. Yes, the Yiddish words were quite derogatory and were being used to describe some of our political leaders. I know there will be those reading this who will want to know where they can find the post! And others who will think this is a political statement of who I support.
But this has nothing to do with political support or taking sides of any kind. Well, except the side of G-d. One of the most basic teachings of Judaism is Lashon Hara - do not speak negatively about another person.
As I told my friends that night, what good does going to synagogue and praying if we don’t try to practice the core values of Judaism? Even just making fun of someone else with a negative intention is setting the stage for bringing more hatred and violence into our world. It opens the door.
As one friend said, what I am asking isn’t easy to do. No it isn't. But what we have been doing hasn’t been working. We need to begin making changes somewhere.
When we speak or even think negatively about another person that energy also affects us. So what we say to another we are actually saying to ourselves. If that isn’t a reason to change I don’t what is!
As we approach the High Holy Days what a perfect time to start! And when we get to Yom Kippur we can even add to our fast from food, no negative words at all. Not about others, not about ourselves.
Who will join me? I hope you will!
From Rabbi David: The Bible tells us that G-D created the world simply by talking. The sages explain to us that the creation story demonstrates the tremendous power of uttered words. They warn us to watch what we say since our words carry much power. Indeed, words can be very destructive or can be creative. They can build bridges between people and can easily demolish them, destroying people’s lives.
The Torah in the Book of Leviticus makes it a point to warn us against speaking ill against anyone. That includes the use of certain words even in an indirect way. Moreover, even a seemingly innocent remark which could be possibly construed as a hidden derogatory comment is forbidden. In fact, the Torah puts into action this all important Jewish edict. When prophetess Miriam, Moses' sister, speaks ill of her brother's wife she is severely punished with leprosy.
For us, in our modern world, it is just as important to follow that biblical command. All too casually we slip from expressing criticism of someone’s actions which is perfectly okay to using insults or derogatory words in order to describe or demean others. And in today’s climate this is especially the case with those who do not follow our political/social views.
Saying it is all in harmless fun is far from an excuse. There is no "harmless fun" in going after people's dignity. I pray that this New Year we all be a bit more careful when talking about those with whom we don't agree with or those who irritate us. Speaking no evil is good for the soul, it's a good way to cleanse ourselves for the coming year.
May we all have a sweet new year and may we work together with our words to make it happen!
Cantor Lee and Rabbi David
Rabbi David: The Jewish community is still reeling from the recent situation with former Spanish River High School principal, William Latson. As one mother put it,”If this happens in a Jewish community like ours, I shudder to think what it's like elsewhere where Jewish people are less populous.”
If you are not familiar with the case, (here is original article) in response to a mother's inquiry a year ago about the implementation of Holocaust Education at the high school, the principal responded through email “Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened. “And you have your thoughts, but we are a public school and not all of our parents have the same beliefs.” “Curriculum is to be introduced but not forced upon individuals as we all have the same rights but not all the same beliefs.”
When asked to clarify his statements he wrote, “I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a school district employee. I do allow information about the Holocaust to be presented and allow students and parents to make decisions about it accordingly."
To begins with, Holocaust Education in the state of Florida is mandatory and not an option. The idea that one has to consider the Holocaust deniers, who are essentially dangerous bigots, when making educational decisions for our children is scary. The principal was basically forgoing a legal decision of the Florida legislators.
But even scarier is the realization that this incident is a symptom of a much bigger problem. The mainstreaming of Anti-Semitism in our society as expressed in the form of Holocaust denying.
Holocaust deniers are a fact in our society. According to the principal’s actions, instead of discrediting them with obvious and abounded facts we have to consider their "Beliefs.” Consider what? Lies spread about the worst tragedy in human history?
The most dangerous part of this incident is when an evil idea or a lie or wicked agenda becomes "General Knowledge.” Accepting that Holocaust denying commands respect and consideration amounts to perpetuation of Anti-Semitism as an accepted part of our society.
Cantor Lee: So how do we deal with this? One positive outcome to this situation is the increased awareness of the need for Holocaust Education in schools for all students. Rabbi David and I were quite surprised recently when a non Jewish 60 year old woman who is quite educated was not aware of the experiences of survivors in the camps. In discussing this later we came to the conclusion that we live in a Jewish world where this is part of our culture and common knowledge. The woman was never exposed to this subject during her education.
As Rabbi David wrote previously, during a program with Survivors who were children during the Holocaust he was thunderstruck by their hope and commitment to their mission. I was too. When these amazing men and women speak to students in schools their main message is twofold, that kindness, compassion and tolerance must begin with each one of us, that we must stand up for others.
When this story first broke Rabbi David and I began doing what we always do. We worked in the spiritual realms to bring about outcomes that are in the highest good of all. People may understand this as prayer or sending light or spiritual healing.
Understandably this situation has brought to the surface much fear, anger and despair which has been part of our focus. But also included in our spiritual work is light and compassion for William Latson. I can’t even imagine the dark night of the soul he is experiencing right now. The Torah defines such a time as being in the desert which is actually meant to help us spiritually advance.
I don’t know what the soul journey is of William Latson. But I do have a dream that he comes forward and says, “I am speaking to you from my heart. I am truly sorry. Please forgive me.” And he then becomes a proponent for Holocaust education throughout the country. I know, you now think I am crazy!
But I know the power of compassion. So maybe if we all focus on compassion my dream or another positive outcome will come to be. If you are not comfortable having compassion for William Latson, send compassion to others affected by this or even yourself. G-d will know exactly what to do with it!
Rabbi David: May it be so...
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Why do we eat dairy on Shavuot?
When G-D created the universe his first command was: "Let there be Light!"
This of course was not a physical light since the physical light was created on the fourth day in the form of the Sun, the Moon and the Stars. The first day's Light was the spiritual Light, the manifestation of G-D-liness on earth. This Divine Light was necessary in order to create a creature in G-D's image, a human being, in a mundane world. Just like a painter proudly puts his signature on a masterpiece, G-D has put his "signature" in our world, his proud creation, in the form of a Divine Light.
Our soul, G-D's "signature" inside of us, our Divine essence, always wants to ascend back to be with the Creator. In order to ease our soul's yearning to reunite with the Creator, G-D decided to send another Divine instrument into the earth so our soul would not be so lonely in our physical world.
This is where the Torah comes in. Since the Torah is the word of G-D as was taught to Moses on Mt. Sinai, it too is Divine and acts as a "Mate" to our own soul.
This is why the holiday of Shavuot, the time of "sending" the Torah to earth is so important. It is the time when G-D made sure that our spiritual essence will have a counterpart so it could be content here on Earth, thus allowing it to develop and flourish.
For the Jewish people, the nation which was assigned to be the keepers and guardians of the Torah, this merging with our souls was relatively fast. Yes, there were issues with our ancient forefathers who strayed away from the Torah but our biblical prophets always kept us in line - some through much effort. For some other nations however the merging process is still ongoing...
So what is this "Merging" all about? The words of the Torah resonate well with us. They awaken our Divine Essence and cause us to be more than physical beings walking on this earth. Cantor Lee and I experience this and observe it with others every time the Torah is read in public.
This is true of our Bar/Bat Mitzvah students who begin to mature after the experience of chanting from the Torah in front of their families. This is true of chanting during our Friday night services or during our spiritually charged Shabbat circle services, when a special "electricity" is created among us.
The holiday of Shavuot is therefore spiritually unique and dear to our heart. While the holiday of Passover denotes the time when we became a nation, the holiday of Shavuot honors the time when we became Jews and the time when mankind received its spiritual dimension to support and complete its physical existence.
And about that dairy question:
After receiving the Torah, including the dairy laws, our ancestors realized that they could not eat the already prepared meat dishes since it was not done in accordance with the newly given dietary laws. Until they could prepare new meat dishes they probably ate blintzes, cheesecake from the Cheesecake factory, lox and bagels, white fish on a bagel with cream cheese. (The cardiologists among the Israelites needed to make a living too didn't they?)
(Here is Cantor Lee's post about Shavuot from a few years ago: Healing Light of the Torah )
May we all experience the Light of the Torah!
As we approach the yearly Holocaust Memorial Day, this year on May 2nd, we remind ourselves of the importance of designating this special Memorial Day not only for the sake of future generations but to also listen to the stories of as many survivors as possible. They are the ones who witnessed the horrors first hand and somehow survived to remind a forgetful world what they saw and experienced. Their message is invaluable to us especially with the rise of Antisemitism in Europe and on campuses all over the US.
Seventy-five years after the horror it is frightening to realize that except for very few basic facts, most Americans know very little about the Holocaust and especially its lesson to mankind. Indeed, it seems that the world did not learn from the horror of Nazi Germany. There are still horrible mass killings as well as gross human rights violations all over the world.
In the near future the severity of the Holocaust will be diminished even further. The generation of survivors who were adults in the 40's has for the most part died off.
As a child growing up in Israel in the 60's, I remember that the Memorial Day for the Holocaust was a day of listening to many survivors who witnessed the Holocaust as adults. It was the realization of what people are capable of doing to other human beings that horrified us even as children. My generation and my parents' generation in Israel know the lessons of the Holocaust very well. We get its horror and the modern time danger of ignoring it. We never forget because we were educated to never forget.
However, this generation of witnesses have died. Their stories, their constant pain, their stories passed away along with them. What remains from their precious stories are videos pictures, books, some poems. But will that be enough to educate future generations about the Holocaust?
And yet we now have other kinds of survivors. The ones who witnessed the horror as children. We are introduced to a slightly different perspective. The perspective of the children of the Holocaust bearing the same never ending pain. Now we hear the children's stories of the horror. While they are older adults now, the memories of their childhood which was snatched away from them in the most brutal, unimaginable ways is very much alive.
In February Cantor Lee was asked to sing during an annual program for the organization, Children Survivors/Hidden Children of the Holocaust of Palm Beach County. I joined her as a guest. Attending the ceremony was a real privilege for me. The never ending pain of these survivors from 75 years ago along with their powerful desire to celebrate and appreciate life stuck me like thunder. They were singing about hope, about living for the sake of all who perished, about their love for Israel, Jerusalem and about their pride in being Jewish.
It was the hope and the strong positive energy that startled me so profoundly. It brought to mind the famous poem by a young man named Pavel Friedmann found in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, "I never saw another Butterfly." A poem longing for hope and for better days against the darkness of the time.
What was taken away from the children of the Holocaust has been brought back so powerfully by these amazing people. I guess they are the butterflies who came back to the world in the name of all the victims.
But as it is said in Pavel's poem, these survivors are the last, the very last ones. When these men and women now in their 80's and 90's leave our world, the Butterflies of the Holocaust, the symbol of hope will be gone with them.
Who will tell the story? Who will stand as witness?
Whenever our Hebrew School children have the privilege of listening to a Survivor speak to them not only about their experiences but also about the lessons which must be learned, I always pray that the children will listen and remember these conversations. Each time I tell the children that their responsibility for generations to come is enormous. I tell them that they are the absolute last generation to have the privilege to see and talk to a Holocaust Survivor.
And even when truth prevails over Holocaust deniers spewing their lies, it will be up to our children to tell their grandchildren and great grandchildren that they were the last generation who saw, listened to and talked with actual Holocaust survivors. They will be the ones to tell the stories in the name of the survivors, in the name of all of us. They must now be the butterflies.
May we all have the fortitude to remember and never to forget.
The Last Butterfly by Pavel Friedmann
The last, the very last,
So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow.
Perhaps if the sun's tears would sing
against a white stone...
Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly ‘way up high.
It went away I'm sure because it wished
to kiss the world goodbye
For seven weeks I've lived in here,
Penned up inside this ghetto
But I have found my people here.
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut candles in the court.
Only I never saw another butterfly.
That butterfly was the last one.
Butterflies don't live in here,
In the ghetto.
Cantor Lee: I had a interesting experience with a child recently. The girl, a sixth grader, was practicing the initial focusing techniques from our program, the Infinite Child Institute. As part of that process, any worries and feelings of stress are released. It has been quite an eye opener for me over the past few years of the amount of anxiety and fears children carry these days. This child told me that she worries quite a bit and gets herself all worked up.
The child was amazed with how she felt and kept repeating, “I feel so calm! I feel so peaceful!” Being sensitive to energy as many kids are, she felt the actual moment the worries released. We all know that feeling when a weight is taken off our shoulders! She described it as a force taking something from her.
But after a few moments I could see that she was uncomfortable. She said she had never felt that way before and it scared her! Her mother tried to convince her that this was a wonderful thing. G-d was taking her worries from her! But the child blurted out, “I want them back!”
This theme of returning to those places of worry and anxiety that confine us is one of the deeper teachings of the Passover story. The word Egypt, or "Mitzrayim" in Hebrew, means narrow or constricted places and refers to our states of mind.
Rabbi David continues: The story of Pesach has fascinated generations of Jews throughout our history. It is probably the first ever mass psychological experiment in leaving one's comfort zone.
We have always been taught to look at the exodus narrative as an amazing event in human history in which a defenseless nation breaks the slavery yoke imposed on it by a powerful empire. No doubt, the first night of leaving slavery behind, the night of freedom was an exhilarating time for all. But from the stories that follow we learn amazing things about the human mind, including that even the best of changes in our states of mind may not be that easy to maintain.
While the Israelites embraced their freedom after experiencing slavery, there was a low threshold in tolerating changes. They continually returned to the idea that the horrors of slavery did not seem so bad after all. Indeed, walking in the heat of the desert, relying on a trustworthy invisible G-D to provide water, food, and shelter was a new experience which called for courage and tolerance for change. As sweet as freedom was for the Israelites, fear got the best of them. Poor Moses had to listen to their complaints and mistrust every time a challenge presented itself such as a shortage of water and food. Facing any difficult situation they suddenly remembered how good they had it as slaves in Egypt. At one point they were even ready to march back to Egypt.
We are not so different than our ancestors walking in the desert towards the Promised Land. The most positive changes in our life often come with great hesitation and fear of the unknown. It does take courage to stay on course with the change and not to lapse back into an old not-so-good situation or an unhealthy state of mind.
As we sit around the Seder table this year and remember how precious freedom is, let us also remind ourselves that the road to freedom requires changes that we need to guard at all times with courage and commitment.
Cantor Lee and Rabbi David
In the traditional custom of writing parodies on the *Purim story, here is Rabbi David’s take on the whole thing…
(By the way, if you think there are some partisan opinions here - Nope!)
Purim According to the Gospel of Rabbi David
As the holiday of Purim approaches here is the real story of our good friend Miss Esther Queen better known as Esther D Queen - don't ask me why.
So this whole thing happened in Persia. Them Persians had a king. His name was Achashverosh. He was a nice fellow really. A little drunk and a party animal but nice.
This King had a sheriff named Haman the Evil, a well known terrorist and a white Supremacist who also acted as an informant for the Mafia. Then there was this dude Mordi the18th, aka Mordi-*chai, who was a high ranking cabinet member in Achashverosh's cabinet in charge of state church relations (I think) and who also happened to be a Reform Jew. Nevertheless, Mordi-chai wore a *kippah and used to *daven every morning in front of Capitol Hill. (Oh yes, I forgot to mention, the capitol’s name was Shoe Shine, or Shushu or Shushan or something like that)
One day Achashverosh was conducting his white palace briefing in front of a live audience. He decided that they all needed some entertainment so he said in front of national TV: "Ya'll need some entertainment." He then asked his wife, a well known pro life/pro-choice (take your pick) women's rights/energy conservation activist, and also a go-go dancer, named Vashti, to come in front of the cameras and perform her now famous ballet moves while singing "I don’t wanna grow up, I’m a Toys-R-Us kid." She did not wanna do it, so she didn't.
Well, let me tell you, the king was so furious that he immediately revoked her application for asylum and sent her to Mexico. Apparently "Vashti" is a Spanish word meaning, "Don't ask me to dance or I will file an injunction against you in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Anyway, the king suddenly remembered that he forgot to replace his queen with a newer model so he announced a Grammy Awards ceremony and whoever would come with the sexiest, most revealing dress would be the next queen. The king, a freethinker did not care if it would be a woman, a cross dresser, a crossed eyed or a crosswalk.
Now Esther, a student at Shushan U. West campus was working on her masters in Climate Change Studies. She wanted to change the earth by running as a state representative so she could talk and everyone will eagerly listen! And she will be in all the papers and talk show hosts will hate her! How wonderful is that!
It was all because her uncle, the famous Jew, Mordi-chai, forced her to compete in this ridiculous competition (she thought so) that much to her chagrin she won. She immediately assumed the royal title, "Her Majesty Duchess of York, (the peppermint kind), Cambridge and Shushan" (or Shoe Shine, or whatever)
Now remember that she was also a Jewish princess. How lucky can she get!
One beautiful morning Sheriff Haman the Evil was taking a stroll around the white palace and noticed to his dismay that Mordi refused to gnash his teeth, make faces, fall into the ground and dance the Hora in front of him. This was way too much for him to tolerate and he decided to get rid of him and all them Jews. He went to the king and explained the problem he had of Jewish people being alive.
Achashverosh being human could not understand the imminent danger of the Jewish people who are making the world a better place and inventing all these medicines. He suggested instead of killing them, building a nice tall wall around Shushan (or Shoe Shine or whatever) so Mordi-Chai and all them Jews would not be able to come in.
But Haman rejected that idea. So Achashverosh suggested an electronic monitoring of all the Jews including the use of drones and sophisticated cameras but then he remembered that electronics had not been invented yet, so sadly he gave up on this idea. However, Haman was such a *nudge (the Hebrew word "Nudnick" is a better term) that the king just wanted him off his back so he agreed to Haman's plan to get rid of all the Jews.
That did not sit well with Mordi. Not at all. In a secret meeting with Esther D Queen that took place on the Tarmac of Shushan International Airport (SIA) he urged her to leak this information to the press. (He actually suggested Wiki-Leaks but Esther did not want to get involved with such hot potatoes.) Esther rejected this idea so Mordi told her in no uncertain terms that she must confront the king about this issue. "After all," he said, "this king's decision is a clear violation of the constitution, an abuse of power, an insult to all women as well as African Persians. This is also a terrible decision which will affect our climate.
What choice did Esther have? She was trying to get out of it by telling her uncle that one cannot just go to the king without an invite. This is punishable by death. “So send him a tweet first,” Mordi said. “He loves to tweet.”
I guess you know the rest of the story but I will tell it to you anyway.
So Esther took her chance and under great risk to herself she came in front of the king uninvited so she could invite him and Haman the Evil to an important meeting in Vietnam where they would discuss some worldly issues, drink a lot and eat gefilte fish with *kasha varnishkes. Since the king loved kasha varnishkes the way his grandmother used to make them, he agreed in principle to the plan. The king was happy. Haman the Evil was happy and Esther was so tense that she was on *shpilkes.
The big day came. The room was full of reporters. This event was of course televised on channel 18 for all to see. Some sharp reporters were quick to point out that this was all a stunt to divert attention from the real problems of inequality and low minimum wage in the Mac-Haman fast food chain owned by Haman himself.
In the meeting the king, after drinking much of the local Saki, finally heard that his beloved wife is actually a college graduate social activist and a nice kosher Jewish girl and that Haman is a racist, discriminates against the Jews and Hebrew school graduates and in fact, he wants to kill them all including Esther D Queen.
Well, let me tell you. If you did not see Achashverosh that moment on TV's "Face the Nation" you have never seen such an angry man in your life. As you know, the end was not too good for Sheriff Haman the Evil. He and his 10 boys were hanged. After that they died.
Esther continued being cute. She became state advocate for Energy and Fresh Air Conservation as well as an activist in the “Save the Cows” movements.
So he wouldn’t be bored, Mordi the 18th became state representative to the UN where he found plenty of other Hamans to deal with. I wouldn't want to be in his *tallis.
King Achashverosh became a gun control advocate and started practicing Zen Yoga and King-fu, which was good for him because he was very overweight.
And I? I am outa here...
*Purim Story – in a nutshell:
Characters: Achaverosh – King, Vashti - first queen, Esther – new Jewish queen, Mordecai – Esther’s uncle and community leader of Jews, Haman – prime minister.
In the 4th century BCE the Jewish population of Persia was under a great threat of elimination by an anti-Semitic prime minister, Haman, in the court of the King Achashverosh. The king who was not overly concerned about the welfare of his countrymen gave Haman permission to execute a mass murder of the Jews on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Adar. The date was chosen through lots or Purim.
Unbeknownst to Haman, Queen Esther was Jewish. She was selected during a beauty contest after the former queen, Vashti was banished from the kingdom for refusing the king's order to dance at his banquet.
Esther invited both the King and Haman to a banquet where she revealed to the king who she was and that murdering all the Jewish people would include her.
The king who adored Esther became outraged over this revelation and ordered the hanging of Haman and his 10 sons. Mordecai became the new prime minister.
*chai – Hebrew word meaning life with numerical value of 18
*kippah – skull cap Jewish men wear, also know as yarmulke
*daven – Yiddish word for pray
*nudge – Yiddish word for pest, a bother
*Kasha varnishkes – traditional Jewish dish combining kasha with noodles
*shpilkes- Yiddish word for state of agitation, impatience, can’t sit still
*tallis – Jewish prayer shawl
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