Song of Peace
Once again Rabbi David put up the Holiday Lights for our neighborhood's entrance. Last year when he did it for the first time we thought it was so funny! The Rabbi of the neighborhood was putting up the Christmas lights! He had no idea what it would entail but took it very seriously. After all it was a mitzvah! (good deed)
He called a Christian friend and asked, "How do the lights stay on the trees? " She thought the question was pretty hysterical. "Just start doing it," she said "and you will figure it out! " He enlisted some help from the neighbors as to what kind of lights to buy and also later on to help him with placing the lights on the higher trees.
He did figure out how the lights stay on the trees and the display turned out beautiful! In fact, he enjoyed the process so much he decided to get blue and white lights and decorate our back yard deck for Chanukah!
This year at the very end of creating the display, I was enlisted to help hold the ladder for the high trees. It was such a beautiful day and so much fun to be inside all the bushes and trees! When we got back home, I called out, "Here we are! The neighborhood light decorators!" Rabbi David laughed and answered with a better description, "We are the Light Workers!" We both stopped and just looked at each other understanding the significance of his words. "I guess we really are, aren't we?" Rabbi David answered, I guess we really are...."
Many Blessings for All during this Season of Light...
Thanksgiving is as genuine American apple pie. I don't think that any other nation sets aside a dedicated holiday to show such an appreciation for our life. Yet we Jews can take a little credit for influencing the creation of this holiday. It is commonly assumed that the Pilgrims modeled their original Thanksgiving celebration after the holiday of Succot. According to the biblical explanation, Succot was a holiday of Thanksgiving to celebrate the end of agricultural year. There were many celebratory activities, especially in Jerusalem, thanking G-d for the spring, summer and fall crops.
In our modern American Thanksgiving version we also express gratitude for everything in our life, for who we are and what we have. In the Jewish tradition we are actually encouraged to be in an appreciative mode every day of the year. It is our obligation to try to recite 100 blessings of thanksgiving every day, always starting with "Baruch Ata Adonai", Blessed are you Adonai. How is that for an endless daily thanksgiving celebration! These blessings cover all aspects of our life. They range from our smallest daily needs and functions to seeing majestic views, to experiencing new things etc.
I believe that this year's Thanksgiving celebration is even more significant for us. We have just gone through a painful election which has torn us into a deeply divided nation, complete with lower emotions of hate and ill wishes. So deep is the division that in many families, certain topics are still avoided in order to prevent quarrels.
Appreciating what we have is a powerful way for us to begin to heal and come together again as a nation. We as Americans and Jews have so much for which we can be thankful. Whatever our political affiliation, we are and always will be one nation. For the sake of all of us and future generations let us begin working together and start with our own family members and friends. All of us are the guardians of liberty and freedom.
Indeed, things are not perfect and there is much to be done socially and economically and on the world stage in order to keep the United state what it has always been, a Beacon of Hope. But despite the political turmoil, our country is strong and safe and we have the freedom to evaluate our economy and social issues. And as we gather together at our Thanksgiving tables let us also remember and appreciate how many lives have been given so we may even have the privilege of enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday.
Yes, we have much to be thankful for this year. May we continue to be blessed with much to be thankful for every day of our lives. And in doing so, may we Jewish people continue to not only share our blessings with those in need but also follow our teachings that ask us to model respect, understanding and compassion for all.
More about Gratitude
First from Cantor Lee: The first week of November this year we read the Torah portion, Noah. G-d puts a rainbow in the sky..... On Rosh Hashanah evening this year, "The Rainbow" was the title of Rabbi David's sermon/story. Enjoy!
The Rainbow by Rabbi David RH Eve Sermon
This year there were major changes in the communication style between G-D almighty and yours truly. Some of our members correctly pointed out to me that sending an email to G-D is way passe', old fashioned and behind the times.
Heaven forbid, we should suggest the Creator of Time is behind the times...
Therefore all my communication with G-D from now on is by Tweet or Instagram. Since the holidays were approaching I got myself a Tweeter account (yes, Rabbi David means to say "Tweeter" account here - his sense of humor...)and was ready to tweet that I would like to discuss some urgent Jewish matters with the Old Mighty. I do this, as you know every year before the High Holidays. It is of course a Holiday tradition.
Usually I am the one doing the talking, the complaining. He is listening. I tweeted that I would like to have our annual discussion hoping that he would see it.
"Dear Rabbi David" the reply said, " you complain to me every year. But since it is your tradition to kvetch and complain at this time of the year about all the problems in the world I will yet again honor your tradition.
However just like last year, this holiday season again I cannot send down my chariot that usually picks you up since it has a transmission problem. And since we don't have a heavenly Uber service yet, all of our communication will have to be more of the earthly high tech kind.
Not good enough I thought to myself! I immediately tagged on G-D's face book page a selfi of myself being upset!
I wrote, "We must meet! How about if I meet your representative in some more earthly venue like a restaurant. We have some nice restaurants here in Boca." He tweeted me back, "Agreed!! But I choose the venue. And it will be on Mt. Sinai. Date and time to follow."
Mt Sinai?! How in the world....will I get to Mt. Sinai? I want to tell you that as you know, every year as the High Holy Days are approaching my beloved wife Cantor Lee gets nervous. She wonders what kind of kakamaimi story about meeting with G-D will I tell her this year? The news did not sit well with my beloved wife.
Cantor Lee, may she be blessed, was very upset with my new mishegaas."Are you telling me, my dear husband, the Rabbi, that you are going to schlep half way across the world to climb on some mountain?
Why can't G-D talk to you here in Boca Raton? There are so many nice places, country clubs, beach front hotels. Why can't you use skype or face time like normal people?'
But I insisted. "Just like old Moses," I told her, "when G-D Tells you to go, you go."
Sure enough, the complete instructions came a few days later with the date and time specified. When I reach the top of the mountain I will be greeted by a man. His name is Angel Chaim. He is assigned to listen to all my grievances and complaints.
I packed some clothes and food and bought a ticket to Israel on El Al. After a long flight I arrived in Israel in the early morning and immediately took a bus to Eilat, the closest city to the Sinai border.
Sinai as you know is not a safe place for travelers. Several terror organizations are active there, fighting with the Egyptian government. And yet tourists are crossing the border from Eilat.
At the border I joined a tourist group which boarded an old Egyptian bus. And that is how the actual trip to Mt. Sinai started. It is an hour's ride though the bare hot desert to get to the mountain. Nothing but sand and sky. The tour bus finally stopped at my destination.
"Jabel Musa" the tour guide called in Arabic. Mt. Moses. All the tourists got off the bus to take some selfies with the mountain in the background.
They were so excited and felt very special. Then the tour bus continued toward Cairo, Egypt. They promised to pick me up on the way back from their Nile tour in three days. I hoped so. It's a long way back to Eilat from here.
I started climbing the mountain for my rendezvous.
You think Masada is hard to climb? Let me tell you. Good old Moses must have been in amazing shape at the age of 80 something to scale this mountain. One has to be crazy to climb it in the middle of the day with this kind of heat. I was wondering what time of the day G-D asked Moses to climb the mountain to get the Ten Commandments.
As I was ascending I remembered the story about Elijah the prophet who by order of G-d went from Judea all the way to Mt Sinai. He climbed the mountain, then stood there at the top looking for G-D. There was no thunder, no fire, no noise, just a calm wind that blew through the mountain top.
That's when he finally understood that G-D appears in the calm and quiet of his soul.
As the mid day calm desert wind blew and the silence of the wilderness really began to stir me, I got a glimpse of what Elijah felt finding his G-D in all of this.
The energy around was intense. I kept climbing for hours drinking from the water I brought with me. I reached the top as the sun was setting in the west.
What a beautiful sight! The desert sky turned all red as the sun began to disappear and the wind grew a little stronger, blowing against me, cooling me down.
I was exhausted. I lay down on the ground getting ready to sleep. Angel Chaim will most likely not come tonight...
I slept like a rock among all rocks around me. Pre- dawn desert is just as beautiful as the sunsets. As I woke up, I sat there quietly watching the sun begin to rise in the east and felt that quiet wind blowing. What a sight!
Before I realized that I was hungry and thirsty I spotted a man approaching me out of nowhere, a little strange looking with a short beard, sun glasses baseball hat, khaki shorts and a tee shirt. It read, 'In G-D we trust. Everyone else prays.'
"Rabbi David I presume," he said with a big smile and a healthy handshake. It is so good to finally meet you in person. "Angel Chaim, good to see you too," I replied.
"And how was your trip?" I assured him that I was well and in good spirits and looking forward to our serious discussion about this year's urgent Jewish matters.
"Here," he said as he unpacking his backpack, "I brought you a few pastrami on rye sandwiches, some water and some heavenly fruits - all Glat kosher. After all, we cannot have a serious discussion on an empty stomach." I agreed.
After a nice breakfast it was now time for the business at hand. Angel Chaim pulled out his laptop and began diligently typing everything I was saying.
"Look, your honor, your angelness," I started, "every year we seem to have the same discussion. I complain about the chaos in our world, wars, terror, hatred, hunger, anti-Semitism. All I get are promises and what are supposed to be comforting words. Then, someone in heaven records my complaints, backs them into the clouds in a file, then files it away in the heavenly Archive. And the situation gets worse."
Angel Chaim hesitated for a minute and then pointed at the desert. "What do you see?" he asked.
"I see the endless desert with beautiful mountains around us."
"And what do you feel?"
"I feel serene and calm. I feel the calm wind of the early morning desert."
"And did you feel that way last night?" "No," I said, it was pitch dark. I felt a little uncomfortable lying on the ground in an unfamiliar place."
"And what happened when the sun rose?" he continued. "Well," I said, "with the light came the calmness. I saw the beauty of this place and the light wind brought peace and calm."
"And yet," Angel Chaim insisted, "this is a desert, a harsh environment which can be very unsafe and frightening. " "This is true," I replied.
Looking at my puzzled face he continued.
"This desert is a beautiful place. I myself come here sometimes to relax and have a drink in my happy hour. The rough and hostile environment along with its beauty have co existed here for a long time."
"So you are trying to tell me that world turmoil will always co exist with us as part of our life? And I had to come all the way here to hear this? You could have just said that to me on skype back in Boca!"
Angel Chaim smiled again. "Tell me Rabbi, after a long period of rain, when the sun finally emerges from the dark clouds, what usually happens?"
"Well, when it is still drizzling and the sun comes up, we see the rainbow of course."
"Well, Rabbi, would you please look up in the sky?"
I looked up towards the rising sun and the most amazing thing happened. A beautiful rainbow appeared in the east.
No rain . No drizzling. Just a large colorful rainbow!
"Do you get it now, Rabbi? You keep asking us to create miracles, to miraculously bring peace unto the world. It is not that simple but not impossible."
I was still puzzled.
"Miracles only come with Hope, Rabbi. Hope for Peace is a powerful gift, given to people. It helps defeat evil. It has been helping many generations before you and generations to come. Just as this rainbow always will be with you.... so will the Hope that comes with your prayers for peace.
I answered, "We have been hearing this for thousands of years. Can you be more specific? How about some kind of time frame?"
Angel Chaim smiled, "the stronger your hope, the stronger you are. The more you cherish what you believe the faster it will come."
The man with the strange tee shirt who called himself Chaim the Angel was packing his bag. "Keep the faith Rabbi," he said, "evil does not exist forever."
The biblical story suggests that after his Mt. Sinai experience Elijah the prophet felt content for the first time after a long period of aggravation.
I was not sure. I just stood there staring at Chaim, the angel. He left with a promise to deliver our conversation to his boss, the Old Mighty and disappeared as suddenly as he came.
As the sun rose in the east I climbed down the mountain. Not a small task for my sore knees and waited for the tourist bus returning from Cairo. I had plenty of time to think about my encounter with Mr. Chaim, the Angel.
I wondered what I could take from this experience to tell my congregation back in Boca Raton. I thought about eternal hope and steadfast belief in a better world, a peaceful world.
In the famous musical, "Fiddler on the Roof" there is an expulsion scene when the Jews of the Shtetl of Anatevka are forced out of their homes, not knowing where to go. As they were chased out of their homes, they turned to their Rabbi. "Rabbi," they said, "wouldn't now be a very good time for the Messiah to come?"
"Yes," replied the rabbi. We will just have to keep waiting for him somewhere else..." to which the Rambam one of the greatest Jewish scholars of all time who lived in the 11th century said the following: "I believe in the coming of the Messiah and although he is delayed I will keep waiting for him to come.."
And it occurred to me that this year will be a very good time for peace to come. And if peace is delayed for some reason, as the Ramabam said, we will just have to continue to hope and pray for it.
And if we need another word of encouragement...
This afternoon my cousin Mario called me to wish me Happy New Year. He pointed out that this is the Jewish year of 5777. If we add the numbers we get 26. The number 26 is also the numerical value of the sacred letters of G-D's name, the Yud Hey Vav Hey. 10 is for Yud, Hey 5 Vav 6 Hey 5. The year 5777 is the year of G-D.
Perhaps this is a message for us that in this Year of G-D, this is the year Peace will Come. May it be so....
The memory comes back to me as it does each year during Sukkot. I am a child 3 or 4 years old waiting in the Temple sanctuary to visit the sukkah. I climb the steps with the other children but then time stops and I am alone. I am amazed by the clusters of fruit and thick leaves that form a canopy over me! A presence of Love embraces me, protects me.
It isn't until I am an adult years later that I understand who came to me under the sukkah. She is known by many names but in Judaism we call her Shechinah, the feminine nurturing aspect of G-d. The root of the Hebrew word Shechinah means dwelling place for She dwells inside each of us.
I sit under the sukkah as I do each year and She comes. I marvel at so many gifts we have been given to call her, to become aware of her Presence. She comes each Shabbat with L'Cha Dodi, She is under the chuppah with each bride and groom, when we are still, quiet under the sukkah as I am now.
The full moon shines through the sukkah roof, through its walls and once again She embraces me with her arms of Love. I pray and ask that we all feel her arms of Love embracing us. That we in turn bring her Love into our world.
From Cantor Lee: When Marty told me of the project he wanted to organize for Shirat Shalom and the story behind it, I knew this had to be shared! For this Living Story is one that has been a part of the Jewish people perhaps since the beginning. Marty's part in the story begins in 1951 when he was just a child....
I Remember my Grandmom by Marty Hyman
The year was 1951. I was almost seven years old and although my parents could not afford to send me to an overnight camp, I was sent to live with my mom’s parents, my Grandfather Jacob and my Grandmother, Esther, for the summer in Atlantic City, New Jersey. My Grandmother Tillie on my dad’s side lived across the street. Each weekend during the summer my mom and dad would come down the shore from steamy hot Philadelphia to spend the weekend in the cool breezes of the Atlantic Ocean.
One weekend in July, I remember when my dad’s mom, Grandmom Tillie, came across the street to visit us and she seemed very worried. She had just received the electric bill for June in the mail and was worried about how she would be able to pay the $6.50 bill. In fact, my dad had to pay the bill for her.
I felt bad seeing how worried she was about paying a bill. She was living month to month on a very small Social Security check that was so small that she struggled to buy her food, pay rent and pay all of her bills.
Yet, I still remember visiting her for Erev Shabbat dinner on the following Friday. After she prepared the table, and lit the candles, she went into the kitchen. I followed her and saw on the window sill over the kitchen sink that she had several different shaped cans. They were her collection of Tzedakah cans.
The writing on all of the cans was in Hebrew. I didn’t know how to read Hebrew at that time. So she explained that the rectangle can with blue writing on it was for the Jewish National Fund, one square one was for an Israeli orphan’s school, another was for trees for Israel and one round can was from her own Community Synagogue that was on Maryland and Pacific Avenues.
The joy that I saw on her face when she placed the few pennies that she had into the cans made me realize how rich she felt at that moment. This was a woman that was so poor she needed her son to pay a very small electric bill for her. But in that kitchen on Shabbat, I saw in my Grandmom’s face how she felt like the richest woman on earth.
Giving Tzedakah does that you know.
While the coins and bills that you may place in the can will help someone else, what it does to you, how it makes you feel so rich is also a very important result of fulfilling the mitzvot of Tzedakah.
Marty's Tzedakah Can Project
Marty and his wife donated 300 Tzedakah cans (yes 300! ) to Shirat Shalom and designed beautiful labels as well for each can. These will be given out during Rosh Hashanah, the plan being that each family returns a full can next year during the holidays.
Marty also included blank labels so the Hebrew School children could design their own Tzedakah cans. We invited Marty to speak to the children and they were mesmerized by his story! Afterwards as they each designed a unique label and made the commitment to fill their Tzedakah can with coins, we told them that they too are part of this Living Story!
From Rabbi David:
Marty and his wife, Fran, are the embodiment of who we are as Jewish people. I recall a scene from the famous musical "Fiddler On The Roof" when Reb Tuvia hands a piece of cheese to Perchick, the young starving student from the city of Kiev, and urges him to take the gift. "Take it," he tells Perchick , it will be my honor." At first I thought this is part of the scene's humor. Then I realized there is a much serious element to that scene.
Upon creating the Jewish nation the Torah gave us the secret for survival as a nation. One can see it as a theme throughout the entire 613 commandments. It is compassion for our fellow man, to animals and to Mother Earth. The Torah as well as the entire Jewish tradition understood that a healthy society is a society which creates the kinds of social laws which take care of the weakest, the poorest elements of society as well as laws that make this world a better place even in the smallest measures.
Over the years these laws of righteousness or Tzedakah turned from merely biblical legal obligations to who we are as Jews. We became a people of Compassion with a keen sense of justice and concern for others.
Helping others takes many forms. It is our deepest conviction that we came to this world not only to enjoy it but to contribute to its welfare. This is the "Tikun Olam" we often talk about.
In fact while we do Tzedakah willingly because we understand its importance, the great Rabbis of the Talmud kept reminding us that any act of Tzedakah such as donating money to a good cause or helping in many other ways is our obligation, not a choice. In old Europe and even now in certain Jewish circles it is a tradition that even the a person with the most limited resources has a Tzedakah box to which he adds coins as often as he possible can.
Marty was telling our Hebrew School students an amazing truth. It is the truth that Reb Tuvia told Perchick. Giving Tzedakah has a profound effect on us. It makes us feel better about ourselves and about our world. It gives us hope for better world for all of us.
Indeed, we can cure the world from all its strife and hate with the prescription the Torah gave us, with acts of kindness.
One act of kindness at a time.
Would you like a Shirat Shalom Tzedakah can? We would be delighted to give you one! And how blessed we will be in knowing that in helping us we are in turn helping you!
Marty Age 7 and his grandparents
Confirmation Student Jared gluing 300 labels!
Marty with some of our Hebrew School Children
As the High Holiday season approaches Jews traditionally begin to review the past year including what are we proud of, the mistakes we have made and our regrets. During High Holy Day services we even formally look at our wrongdoings which we may term as "sins."
Judaism has a unique perspective regarding "sins." It recognizes that we humans are prone to wrongdoing, mostly unintentionally, and sometimes with our full awareness.
But even when "evil people" commit "evil deeds" with full intent and awareness, their deliberate intent itself is seen as an unconscious deviation from their own deep inner decency and goodness.
Therefore the most evil person does not really sin. In fact in Hebrew we don't even have a word for "sin!" The closest word is "Chet" which means missing the mark or target.
These inner targets of goodness and righteousness are the fabric, the building blocks used by G-D to create our world.
When a person though his actions misses his inner target, a destructive energy is added to our world which affects all of us. It takes away from the beauty of our world.
Good deeds and righteous acts do the opposite. They cleanse the world from the polluted energy of evil. This "Cleansing" is the Jewish concept of "Tikun Olam" , repairing the word. Righteousness and good deeds are wonderful cleansers to a world full of "wrong doing."
When too much evil energy exists, Gaia, Mother Earth, will even take the necessary steps to get rid of this energy.
The Torah documents several such cases: The story of the flood, when one righteous person, Noah, was not enough to cleanse the negative energy that engulfed the earth. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah, when one good person Lot, was not enough to cleanse those cities. The story of Korach who rebelled against Moses. Korach's energy was so caustic that it caused the earth to swallow him.
When we come together as a congregation during the High Holy Days, we have the power together to cleanse ourselves and our world.
May it be so in this New Year of 5777!
After Rabbi David and I heard Alan's story we just sat for a few moments in silence. Finally I said to him, "Alan is going to be buried on Tu B'Av, The Holiday of Love!" We just looked at each other, knowing this wasn't a coincidence.
Not too many people have heard of Tu B'Av, Jewish or otherwise! It translates as the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Av. The "tu" is comprised of the letters tet and vav which together have a numerical value of 15. Since the Hebrew calendar follows the lunar cycle, Tu B'Av always comes during the middle of the Hebrew month which is the time of the full moon. This year the holiday was on August 19th and began the evening before at sundown.
There is such a beautiful energy in the world during Tu B'Av that it is no wonder that is has come to be known as the Holiday of Love! It is considered to be an auspicious time for weddings and engagements.
The Holiday of Love was also the most perfect day for Alan's funeral. For his story is about a family rising above the past to come together in Love to care for him. I cried when I first heard his story and cried throughout the funeral service.
Although Alan had managed to take care of himself for a few years after being diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, the time came when he could no longer do it alone. His two young adult daughters sought guidance from their mother, Karen, who had been divorced from Alan for 18 years.
Karen called Alan's second former wife, Neuza, and together along with the rest of the family they formed a plan to care for Alan.
"It is the most horrific disease," Karen told me, "for he would gasp for breath 24 hours a day." Alan's suffering was more than heartbreaking but that wasn't why I cried so much. It was the Love from this family that couldn't help but touch my heart.
The Love of two former wives, Karen and Neuza, coming together to provide his care. The Love of Karen's husband who totally supported her as she cared for her ex husband. There were the hours Karen was gone from the house, the financial resources they had to provide, the physical care that was required when for so many months Alan couldn't leave his bed.
The Love of Alan's second former wife, Neuza who came back from Brazil to remarry him and move in with him so she could take care of him during his last months. Of how his care took every last ounce from her emotionally and physically but still she persevered.
The Love of his daughters who spent hours with their father during those last excruciating months. Of just holding his hand when his disease would no longer allow him to speak.
When it came time during the service for the prayer, Eil Malei Rachamin (The One Full of Compassion,) when we ask G-d to help a loved one return Home, I asked that everyone in the packed room radiate Love from their hearts to guide Alan as he took the next step on his soul's journey. The Love was so strong within the room and from Above I shook the whole time I chanted the prayer!
I didn't meet Alan who passed away at the age of 60 but still I thank him for being a catalyst to bring so much Love into the world. For in the end, no matter how it has come, it is Love that brings healing for all us!
During the month of Tammuz which this year is July 7th - August 4th, we are ushering in the summer's main Jewish historical event, the beginning of the cataclysmic loss of our Temple. While Roman documents would never chronicle the unprecedented bloody fight and their own heavy losses, Jewish sources do talk about an amazing heroic stance of a few hundred Temple defenders against thousands of Roman soldiers.
The actual Roman blockade on the Temple mount started 5 months earlier on the 10th day of the month of Tevet. There were five months of starvation and then heavy fighting with the mighty Roman empire and all of its heavy blockade and wall busting equipment. The Romans could not break into the Temple much to the chagrin of the Roman senate. Roman soldiers were brought from all over Europe to help.
Knowing that other oppressed nations around were eying this event carefully, considering it an encouragement for their own revolt, the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem became a "must do at all cost" for Rome.
On the 17 day of Tammuz (commemorated on July 24th this year), after five long months of blockade and fighting, the outer wall of the temple was compromised and thousands of Roman soldiers poured into the inner parts of the Temple attempting to burn it. Little did they know that they would be facing another 22 days of extremely bloody fighting against very determined and brave Jewish defenders inside the Temple plaza before the fight would end. Weeks later the Temple was set ablaze on the 9th day of the month of Av and the few remaining defenders, exhausted by starvation and war, perished.
Over the generations the days between the 17th day of Tammuz and 9th of Av, Tisha B'Av) (Aug. 14th this year) were dedicated to intense mourning. Many Jewish mourning customs are practiced including the avoidance of certain life cycle events such as weddings. The idea was to prepare oneself for the crescendo of the 9th day of Av, the memorial day for the actual destruction of the Temple.
However, over the generations and especially in modern times, the significance of this time period has expanded from a sense of victimhood and despair to ushering in a ray of hope for a gentler, more peaceful world. A modern understanding of the Temple destruction implies the hope of renewal and redemption. The old flames of the Burning Temple forever burned its imprint on our hearts.
Our Temple, the symbol of our highest moral standards, decency and humanity now exist inside of us. This powerful imprint gives us the ability and strength to cling to that ray of hope for a better world no matter how tumultuous our world becomes. In fact the more chaotic and dangerous our world becomes with much evil around the stronger our belief in peaceful times should be. This concept is known in traditional Judaism as " Chevlei Moshiach" the birthing of the messiah (also known as Messianic Age) and that is what helped our ancestors in every generation through some very hard times when their own survival was in question. We should therefore dedicate the 22 days of mourning to spiritual renewal, getting closer to our Judaism, our values, our Creator.
Like so many others, my heart stopped when I first learned about the Orlando Shooting in a Gay nightclub on Sunday, June 12th. I quickly checked my inner guidance. Were both my daughter and daughter in law okay? They are often in Orlando and also perform their fire spinning program in night clubs.
Although my intuition reassured me, I still texted my daughter. Were they both alive and well? The answer came back "Alive and Well" along with a question about her blood type so she could donate to the blood bank.
Relieved, I then pondered why this happened during the holiday of Shavuot when Jews celebrate the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mt. Sinai. During the first night of Shavuot which began sundown on Saturday, many Jews throughout the world gather together and stay up the entire night studying Torah. The shooting began at approximately 2 a.m. Sunday morning when much Light was being released into the world from this sacred Torah study.
The next day, I had even more to ponder when I realized that 49 people had been murdered. With the shooter being killed there were 50 people who had died! These are the same numbers that are associated with Shavuot!
The Hebrew word "Shavuot" actually translates as "Weeks" as there are seven weeks or 49 days of preparation beginning right after Passover for each one of us to receive the Light of the Torah on Shavuot.
We follow a seven week program of self reflection and improvement. Each day for 49 days we focus on a different aspect of ourselves connected to the Sefirot which are part of the mystical teachings of the Kabbalah. We basically bring to the surface hidden or darker parts of ourselves. With the release and healing of these aspects we prepare ourselves to hold an increased amount of Light from the Torah which we will receive on Shavuot, the 50th day.
But seeing these correspondences didn't give me answers I could give to my daughter when I finally spoke to her on Tuesday. She was in the midst of grieving for her community, for her friends who lost loved ones, for the hatred that had surfaced.
I could only listen with my heart knowing that much darkness has been brought to the surface for us to all heal together. And the only way I believe that can happen is through Love.
During our conversation my daughter shared that she has recently been spending time each day sending Love to various people, even with those where there is friction. It seems that as a result she has experienced many random acts of kindness including strangers buying her coffee, giving her gift cards, even unexpected gifts. We discussed how sending Love has changed her energy field as well as everyone she encounters.
On Sunday the day of the shooting, my daughter posted on her facebook page,
"So sad and confused. My heart goes out to everyone coping. But don't allow this to restore your fear. Both fear and faith are belief in the unknown. Choose wisely.
LOVE, Not Hate."
It is only now as I write that I realize that 49 adds up to 13 which is the numerical value of "Ahavah," the Hebrew word for Love!
It seems Love has been the message all along....
Thank you for letting me share my journey with you! Love, Lee
From Rabbi David
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: Healing Light of the Torah )
May we all experience the Light of the Torah!
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