A Statement About the Situation in Israel

A Statement About the Situation in Israel

By Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal

I have heard from many of you regarding great concern for the current Israeli government and the legislative/judicial proposals that many fear will change the fabric of Israeli society for the foreseeable future. Reports of massive protests in the streets and countless articles by individuals of all stripes sharing their grave concern and protest of where Israel might be heading is worrisome. I have remained silent, because I, like most people that I have talked to, am struggling to fully understand the situation, what can be done about it, and my place in bringing change. I know that my first and most important job right now is to educate myself. Reading, learning, and seeking out a better understanding of the situation is the first step in any sort of advocacy. I suspect that many within our community are, like me, feeling uninformed. I have included a few articles that I have found meaningful along with websites that provide insight into Israel democracy and society.

The next priority needs to be engagement with Israel which leads to supporting the institutions and agencies that are making Israel into the amazing place it promises to be. I have always been impressed by our many congregants who have been lovers and supporters of the State of Israel. They travel there often—They have a go-to organization that they support and often serve on various boards and committees. However, I have been saddened by the lack of cohesion as a congregation regarding Israel advocacy and support. Therefore, I feel that an important step forward will be to create a strong group within the synagogue that can dialogue, share ideas, argue (respectfully) and work together to grow the support and love for Israel.

This internal struggle for the soul of the State of Israel is fodder for anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, and antisemites. With the rise of global antisemitism, this situation is adding fuel to those who don't need it. My concern, however, isn't about them but about us. We know that a growing number of Jews are questioning their willingness to remain engaged with Israel while still others don't even have Israel on their radar. To be true ambassadors for Israel, we need to speak from knowledge, compassion, and experience. In addition, some have speculated that the proposed legislative changes might impact the place that Israel plays as a haven for Jews from around the world.

This all still leaves me asking—What can we do? I have chosen to remain in the diaspora which means that I don't vote in Israeli elections. While we need to speak out, we need to ensure that our words and actions bring our people closer together and closer to Israel and not push us farther apart. I am proposing that we start by studying the issues together, unpacking the various articles that might have important points and create a space for us to share our love and concern for the State of Israel and all the people who call our sacred land, home. Please email me if you are willing to be a part of this conversation ([email protected]). Israel is made stronger when the bonds that bind us are strong. I hope you will join me.

A Reflection On the Life of Rabbi Arnold Goodman

A Reflection On the Life of Rabbi Arnold Goodman

By Rabbi Neil Sandler

When I think about Rabbi Arnold Goodman, of blessed memory, I almost invariably first remember my pre–Bar Mitzvah experience with him. In those days at the Adath Jeshurun in Minneapolis, Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrants did not offer a D'var Torah on the weekly Torah Portion or Haftara. Instead, we wrote original prayers we offered at the end of the Torah Service as the Torah Scroll was returned to the Ark. Prior to my Bar Mitzvah, I wrote my draft prayer and sent it to Rabbi Goodman for his review. On the appointed day, my father and I went to the Adath office to pick up my final draft, as "edited" by Rabbi Goodman. This was the moment when I discovered that Rabbi Goodman was a magician! I hardly recognized a word in my prayer! Presto chango! It was all so different from what I had written! Today, more than fifty years after my Bar Mitzvah, I can remember only one phrase in that prayer, "As I don this tallit…" I remember turning to Dad after reading that phrase and asking, "Who is 'don' and what is he doing in my Bar Mitzvah prayer?!"

That was hardly the only "magic" that Rabbi Goodman performed over the course of his long and distinguished career in the rabbinate. If "magic" can loosely be thought of as envisioning and creating what might seem unimaginable, Rabbi Goodman truly was a magician. More accurately, he was a visionary and a model to learn from and emulate, especially for rabbis who served Conservative congregations. In Minneapolis and then here at Ahavath Achim, Rabbi Goodman brought a vision and plan to implement full egalitarian participation in worship. In 1975, the Adath Jeshurun, under Rabbi Goodman's leadership, built the "Kallah Center" in a "rural" Minneapolis suburb. The concept of creating Jewish immersion experiences outside of summer camps was still novel at the time. It was also very effective. And then there was that Rosh Hashana sermon later that year. As a teenager, I didn't really pay much attention to sermons (I was repaid for that cavalier attitude about sermons many times throughout my career). In 1975 at age 19 and spending my last High Holidays in Minneapolis, I listened to Rabbi Goodman speak. He yelled in anger. He prodded and, most importantly, he pushed people to act. Everyone was frozen in his/her chair, mesmerized by what they were witnessing. What they were witnessing was the unveiling of a vision for the "Chevra K'vod HaMet," an expression of a congregation's loving care for a deceased individual and his/her loved ones that supplemented the Chevra Kaddisha's preparation of the body for burial. My parents, of blessed memory, insisted that the Chevra K'vod Hamet provide its services at the time of their deaths. Without Rabbi Goodman, this choice likely would not have been available.

I was a "shul kid." My family was a "shul family." I remember formal Shabbat dinners and the delicious food at the Goodmans' home. I remember singing Shabbat songs around the table… and hearing my rabbi who didn't have the best voice. I remember watching Daniel (aka Dr. Goodman) run around the shul and sometimes get in trouble as I stood back to assure that I would not get caught up in this behavior "unbefitting the shul." The Goodmans and others at the Adath created a supportive environment that enabled eventual rabbis, future Jewish professionals, and good, committed, and caring Jews to take root and then, "fly" on their own.

Here is a personal piece of Rabbi Goodman's "magic…" convincing me to go to rabbinical school. In December 1977, I visited Rabbi Goodman back in Minneapolis after having begun non-rabbinical school studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary. I was planning to spend one year at the Seminary and then move on to a graduate program elsewhere. Rabbi Goodman explained why he thought I should go to rabbinical school. His advice was sound and helpful… and now, more than forty years later, I can reflect on a fulfilling career in the pulpit rabbinate.

When I succeeded Rabbi Goodman at Ahavath Achim, we developed a renewed relationship that brought each of us deep satisfaction. Although I had been a colleague of Rabbi Goodman for more years than I had been his congregant, prior to my coming to AA, our relationship was that of a rabbi–former congregant. Now the relationship grew in-depth, caring, and, yes, love. Rabbi Goodman would often call me to wish me well as Susan and I celebrated simchas over the years. Sometimes he would call just to check in with me. Whenever Rabbi Goodman came to Atlanta for his scholar–in–residence weekends (Shabbat learning experiences that often left me speechless as I watched him share with the congregation), he and I would sit for an hour or more to talk. He always asked about my family members — here and back in Minneapolis. Rabbi Goodman would always fill me in on his ever–expanding family. Then we would really talk. Our conversations were no longer the kind that rabbis and former congregants share. Now, the conversations were between rabbis who shared a love for the same congregation and community. Now, I saw a Rabbi Goodman who cared deeply about the well–being of our (and his) congregation long after he had ceded spiritual leadership of it. Now, I saw a Rabbi Goodman who was always striving—to learn more, to teach more, and to stimulate others' thinking and actions.

Rabbi Arnold Goodman, of blessed memory, was a wonder. His service to the Holy One, Israel, and the Jewish people brought continuing blessings and benefits to many people throughout his entire life.

A final word on the relationship Rabbi Goodman and I shared. I was named "Senior Rabbi" of Ahavath Achim Synagogue twenty years ago. Shortly thereafter, I attended the Rabbinical Assembly Convention in Israel. When I saw Rabbi Goodman, we embraced. Then we sat down. I told Rabbi Goodman that, irrespective of my advancing age, I would never call him "Arnold." To me, he would always be "Rabbi Goodman." And so it was for twenty more years.

Rabbi Arnold Goodman, of blessed memory, was a wise advisor to me. He was my mentor. He was my friend. I have always appreciated it when someone introduces me to someone I don't know and says, "This is my rabbi." I feel the warmth, respect, and pride in that statement. In that spirit, I conclude with heartfelt words, "Rabbi Arnold Goodman is my rabbi." He will always remain my rabbi. May our memories of the wisdom he shared with us, along with his kind and caring acts comfort us now and serve as a lasting tribute that will continue to resonate throughout our world.

And It Hits Home: A Message Concerning the Antisemitic Flyers

And It Hits Home: A Message Concerning the Antisemitic Flyers

By Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal

Last week, I shared a message about the horrific murders of Shabbat worshipers coming out of a Jerusalem synagogue. This heinous act was followed closely by a firebomb thrown at the doors of a New Jersey Synagogue. This week, my inbox began filling up with notices from colleagues and congregants about antisemitic literature left on Dunwoody and Sandy Spring driveways as residents woke up on Sunday morning. Our local security detail that closely monitors Antisemitic activities in the Southeast does not see this act as a prelude to violence. Hopefully, this gives us a measure of comfort. However, this heinous act is deeply felt. Anger, fear, violation, and confusion are natural responses to this sort of activity. Unfortunately, shock is not one of the feelings anymore. Over the past few years, we have witnessed a steady increase in antisemitic actions everywhere, including Atlanta.

In my message last week, I offered a few ways we can support each other and push back against the social disease of antisemitism and the injury it hopes to inflict. I've offered this list again and added a few more ideas. In addition, below are some resources that will let us report, call out, and talk with those we love.

In this particular instance, there is something specific that we can do to push back against the evil messages left on our neighbor's driveway. The indiscriminate method by which these flyers were distributed leads me to believe that they were both trying to terrorize and recruit. This provides each of us, especially Jews who woke up with these disgusting messages on our property, with an opportunity and a responsibility. Knock on the door of your neighbor to the right and left of your house. If you received these vile messages, then your non-Jewish neighbors probably did as well. Talk to them about it. Invite them into the conversation. Make sure that their understanding and relationship with Judaism aren't the images that were scribbled on the paper. Instead, Judaism should be represented by the care, compassion, and sincerity on your face as you stand on their front porch. Hate is not defeated by hate. It is defeated by love. Our Torah gives us the wisdom we need:

וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ

Love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18).

Let's go out and paint a different picture of Jews than the ones left on their driveways.

Resources:

  • The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which tracks and responds to antisemitism in the community and national level, has jumped on responding to this incident. If you need to report an antisemitic incident, click here.
  • Each synagogue and spiritual institution has its own sacred rhythms and rituals which require a specific mindfulness to ensure our safety and security. The ADL in conjunction with the United Synagogue of Conservative Synagogues has created an important tool kit for communities like ours.
  • One of the most devastating conversatiosn about this sort of hate is with our children. The ADL provides meaningful tips for how to guide these conversations with your family.

Ways to fight antisemitism:

  • Join our antisemitism task force as part of ADL's (Anti-Defamation League) Kulanu Initiaitve. Email Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal to learn more ([email protected]).
  • Be an ally: Other groups are also being marginalized and terrorized in our country. Show up when they are threatened, and they will show up for us.
  • Live Jewishly. Loud and proud.
  • Click on news articles in your local press about antisemitism. The news agencies are watching our reading habits. If more people are reading about antisemitism, they will send their reporters out to cover it.
  • Know our history: Read books, watch films, and visit the Breman Museum and Kennesaw University's Museum of History and Holocaust Education. Attend Hemshech's 58th Annual Community Yom Hashoah Service of Remembrance on April 16 at Greenwood Cemetery.

Concerning the Hatred in Israel and America

Concerning the Hatred in Israel and America

By Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal

After emerging from the sanctity of Shabbat last week, we were struck with the horrible news of seven people slaughtered in Jerusalem coming out of worship services. Their lives were cut short, their dreams extinguished and their sacred place, desecrated. There are no words that can bring adequate healing to the families of these victims. May our prayers help lift the souls of Eli and Natali Mizrahi, Raphael Ben Eliyahu, Asher Natan, Shaul Hai, Ilya Sosansky, and Irina Korolova.

In the days and weeks to come, these individuals and the many others who have suffered at the hands of terror will be shuffled into the dialogue about the bitter conflict between the Palestinian government and the Israeli government. We continue to seek God's guidance and hope of divine intervention to bring peace to all people in the land. All loss of innocent life is a tragedy, and we must continue to insist that Israel's right to defend itself be carefully measured to ensure that death and injury to civilians among the Palestinian people be minimized. However, the brutal violence against Shabbat morning worshippers cannot and must not be mixed into the desensitized rhetoric we have become accustomed to regarding this conflict.

Unfortunately, we are seeing a similar sort of hatred gain traction in our own country. Not long after we received word of the horrific murders in Jerusalem, we learned about a masked assailant who threw a Molotov explosive at the doors of a synagogue in New Jersey. We are grateful that the explosive was ineffective and that no damage was reported. However, Jews all over our country are reporting incidents of antisemitism and fearing for their safety and security. Although I am a great believer in the power of prayer, my theology and spiritual practice see prayer's greatest gift as a motivator, sending its practitioners into action. Hand-wringing and shoulder-shrugging are not the order of the day. We must send our prayer upward towards God and then downward towards our feet so we can get up and get moving.

Here are a few things we can do to make a difference:

In Israel:

  • Buy Israeli products: Seek out Israeli products at your local grocery, and buy one more than you need.
  • Travel to Israel: Plan a trip, or join a community mission.
  • Educate yourself about Israel, its history, and the conflict.
  • Celebrate Israel's 75th birthday with the community at the Yom Ha'Atzmaut Celebration on April 27 at Brook Run Park.

In America:

  • Join our antisemitism task force as part of ADL's (Anti-Defamation League) Kulanu Initiaitve. Email Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal to learn more ([email protected]).
  • Be an ally: Other groups are also being marginalized and terrorized in our country. Show up when they are threatened, and they will show up for us.
  • Live Jewishly. Loud and proud.
  • Click on news articles in your local press about antisemitism. The news agencies are watching our reading habits. If more people are reading about antisemitism, they will send their reporters out to cover it.
  • Know our history: Read books, watch films, and visit the Breman Museum and Kennesaw University's Museum of History and Holocaust Education. Attend Hemshech's 58th Annual Community Yom Hashoah Service of Remembrance on April 16 at Greenwood Cemetery.

A Moment of Torah with Rabbi Neil Sandler – Parshat Chaye Sarah 5783

A Moment of Torah with Rabbi Neil Sandler

Chaye Sarah 5783

By Rabbi Neil Sandler

I participate in a men's group at Emory that focuses on meditation and reflection. The other day we were talking about aging (that was fun…). One of the participants mentioned something we all have heard and may have said, "The 'Golden Years' years aren't so golden." I have discovered some blessings of senior citizen life, but I still must agree with my fellow group member's sentiments. Sixty-six is not the new forty-six. "Mature" age brings its challenges, including loss.

Thankfully, our parsha this week offers us a different perspective. It reminds us of another truth about growing older that beats back the depression which might otherwise envelope us. At the beginning of the Torah Portion, our Matriarch Sarah dies. Sarah was one hundred twenty-seven years old at the time of her death. The Torah's unique way of saying "127 years old" gives rise to a comment by Rashi. He reflects on the Torah's expression of Sarah's age ("one hundred years and twenty years and seven years") and offers the following comment:

At 100, Sarah was free of sin as a 20-year-old, and at 20 she was as beautiful as a 7-year-old.

Lay aside a literal understanding of Rashi's words. Such an understanding will only result in troubling questions and, ultimately, the dismissal of any truth in Rashi's sentiments. I think there is truth here if we approach Rashi's thoughts differently. I think Rashi is suggesting something about stages in life and their potential beauty. Yes, there are certain qualities that tend to characterize specific ages in people's lives. However, the presence of one quality, for example beauty, does not preclude its presence in an individual much later in life. "Mature age" can be a time for any number of characteristics we might ordinarily associate with younger ages.

Yes, the challenges of our senior years are very real. But let's not lose sight of the fact they may also be filled with "golden" aspects to which we choose to give expression.

Shabbat Shalom, and enjoy a blessed Thanksgiving!

A Moment of Torah with Rabbi Neil Sandler – Parshat Vayera 5783

A Moment of Torah with Rabbi Neil Sandler

Vayera 5783

By Rabbi Neil Sandler

Have you ever been in a position where a person you greatly respect defers to you? How about this–You are sitting on a bus when an elderly individual you recognize walks by. You stand up so that he may sit down. But the elderly individual looks in your face, recognizes you and says, "I can't take your seat. That would be disrespectful of me." Even if you have never had such an experience, you can imagine how odd it would seem. According to Rashi, the medieval commentator, Abraham had this kind of awkward experience with the Holy One at the beginning of our parsha.

In the opening verse of the Torah Portion, we read:

The Lord appeared to (Abraham) by the terebinths of Mamre; he was sitting at the entrance of the tent as the day grew hot (Genesis 18:1).

Rashi notes that the Hebrew word for "sitting" can also be vocalized as "sat," a seemingly insignificant difference in tense, but one that he interprets in a very interesting and challenging way:

Abraham tried to get up, but the Holy One reassured him, "Sit and I will stand."

Consider this practically unimaginable image which Rashi presents. From last week's parsha, we know that Abraham is in great pain following his circumcision. We can only imagine that as the day grows hotter, Abraham's discomfort grows. In an attempt to gain some relief, he sits. Up to this point, everything is understandable and just fine. What happened next? God, the Sovereign of sovereigns, stops by to pay Abraham and Sarah a visit. Can you imagine this scene? God is right there in front of Abraham! Abraham does what anyone would do if one saw the Holy One standing in front of her while she was seated. Abraham stood up! Immediately, God said to Abraham, "Sit and I will stand."

It's not difficult to understand why Abraham, despite his physical discomfort, stood up when the Holy One entered. But what motivated God to tell Abraham to sit while God stood? One possible answer rests upon the Holy One's compassion and caring for all of the divine creations. God could see that Abraham was in physical pain for reasons related to God's instructions (i.e., circumcision). Therefore, the Holy One decided that deference to the divine should be set aside in favor of Abraham's comfort.

I think there is at least one other way to understand Rashi's comment, and it is both interesting and challenging. The Holy One knew Abraham. The Holy One knew about Abraham's faithfulness and readiness to fulfill the divine demands. As the Sodom and Gomorrah episode would soon prove, the Holy One knew that Abraham's concern for people and their just treatment was of paramount importance to Abraham. Abraham was a unique individual. Consequently, when God came to visit, the Holy One showed Abraham divine respect by shockingly standing while Abraham sat.

What makes Rashi's understanding of Abraham's sitting while God stands both interesting and challenging is its application to our own lives. Please lay aside a literal understanding of the opening of our Torah Portion and Rashi's interpretation of it. These are images that convey messages; in this case, I think, an image of the ideal. Abraham is far from perfect. He clearly has some shortcomings. Yet, my understanding of Rashi's words suggests that Abraham is someone we ought to seek to emulate, as I described in the preceding paragraph. Imagine the Holy One entering your house and telling you to remain seated while God remained standing before you. Can each of us seek to live a life worthy of such an image?

Shabbat Shalom.

A Moment of Torah with Rabbi Neil Sandler – Parshat Lech Lecha 5783

A Moment of Torah with Rabbi Neil Sandler

Lech Lecha 5783

By Rabbi Neil Sandler

Recently I was on the phone with someone who had to ask me several questions. One of the questions was, "Are you employed or retired?" When I responded with "retired," the individual laughed and said, "Livin the dream…" To that comment I also had a response, "It's not as easy or even desirable as you think. I'm still working on it." As I began to read Parshat Lech Lecha, the opening of which is familiar to many of us, I thought back to that phone conversation last week.

The opening of our parsha is particularly familiar. The great flood is now in the rear-view mirror. God is rebuilding a world that will be meaningfully different from the world Noah and others of his time had inhabited. The Holy One begins with Abraham and Sarah.

The Lord said to Abram, "Go forth from your native land and from your father's house to the land that I will show you" (Genesis 12:1).

The phrase "Lech Lecha," rendered here as "Go forth…," implies an understanding different from that of the translation–"Go to yourself…" Our interpretive tradition, going back to medieval times, has struggled with the meaning of the phrase. Rabbis have delivered countless sermons plumbing the depths of what it might mean to "go to yourself." I'd like to share a thought about the meaning of this verse as it pertains to the challenges and possibilities of retirement and how to deal with them. I hope my thoughts will resonate with some of you.

"Go to yourself"–Go inside yourself now, Neil, as you recreate your life. Decide what really matters to you, activities that you enjoy and bring you a sense of purpose. As you go inside yourself, be honest with yourself. While you don't have to, and probably shouldn't, cut yourself off from all your previous professional activities, appreciate what you did for many years… and don't try to hold onto all those activities that filled you with meaning. It's time for others to assume responsibility.

"Go to yourself"–Take some time for reflection. You are now free to do some things you might enjoy. What are those activities? In my case, I have gotten into tai chi and diamond art painting. Retirement is encouraging me to go within myself, consider possibilities and try some things that were entirely outside my previous experience and skillset.

What about you? As you transition into retirement or, perhaps, are already there, can you "go to yourself," can you honestly reflect on what is important to you and get involved in something you enjoy and find purposeful?

No matter where we are in life, all of us may still make a difference to family members, friends, and others as Parshat Lech Lecha informs us,

And you shall be a blessing (Genesis 12:2)

Shabbat Shalom.

MaNishma with Rabbi Arnold Goodman – Parshat Noach 5783

MaNishma with Rabbi Arnold Goodman

Parshat Noach 5783
Power's Intoxication

By Rabbi Arnold Goodman Senior Rabbinic Scholar

"Noah the tiller of the soil was the first to plant a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and uncovered himself within his tent." (Genesis 9: 20, 21)

The story of Noah's overindulgence in wine is well known. In a few words, the Bible describes the sorry spectacle of the "old man" in a drunken stupor, and his son, Ham, excitedly summoning his brothers to join him in viewing Noah in this weakened and shameful state.

Shem and Japeth, in an act of filial respect, cover their father. When Noah awakens and learns of Ham's disrespect, he curses him and his seed. Noah was embarrassed by his behavior, and Ham became the target of his father's anger and intoxication.

Our tradition, however, does not interpret this story as a mandate to abstain from wine; it does underscore, however, the danger and the folly of "overdoing it." Wine in moderation is acceptable. Wine to sanctify Shabbat and marriage is necessary. The golden mean, however, is the prism through which we are to view the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Drunkenness, however, is not merely frowned upon; it is perceived as compromising the potential of being created Btzelem Elo-him—in the Divine Image.

Sadly, there are other addictive substances that impact upon our potential of being in the Divine Image. For some, it is tobacco; For others, it is various kinds of narcotics which, once they become addictive, possess the potential of literally destroying one's life.

Individuals can be drunk with power and come to believe that they can be a law unto themselves. Elie Weisel once noted that the ultimate power is the power to control oneself, thereby not falling prey to Lord Acton's famous observation, "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

The challenge facing those in a position of power is to view it as a potential source to better, not only oneself, but others in one's sphere of influence or life.

The President of the United States has awesome power. While in office, he is expected to use this power to advance the public good, and many occupants of the Oval Office have made extremely positive contributions to our society. Yet the temptation to use that power for personal gain is always there.

Robert Cato in Passages to Power, a remarkable study of Lyndon Johnson's first weeks in office following John Kennedy's assassination, describes a man who never hesitated to use whatever levers of power that were at hand. Having grown up poor, he had great empathy for the many who were mired down in poverty. Although now personally wealthy, he nonetheless used his first State of the Union address to declare war on poverty. Although a Texan where Jim Crow was the norm, he used his power to push through a major civil rights bill that outlawed discrimination in public facilities and guaranteed  all Americans, regardless of color, religion or ethnic background, free and equal access to the ballot box.

Yet at the same time he could not overcome the American hubris that kept us fighting in Vietnam far too long. It was ultimately this refusal to compromise on his support of the war that led to his decision not to seek reelection in 1968.

Cato also paints a picture of Johnson who sought to silence critics in the media by putting tremendous and effective pressure on the owners of newspapers and TV stations. As President, his assets were to be placed in a blind trust with a trustee given the power to make all decisions regarding his holdings. Cato, however, describes how Johnson remained in constant contact with his trustee; his trust was thus far from blind.

What is true of Johnson is true of many in public office. The addiction to power is so intense that they believe they can take bribes, engage in illicit sexual behavior and act as if they are above the law. Like Noah, in the privacy of their tents (offices), they revel in their drunkenness, oblivious to the reality that their behavior can ultimately become public knowledge with the attendant embarrassment and often legal action.

The caveat before so many of us is that we are often in positions of power and can impact upon the lives of others. Parents have this power; Employers have this power; Media personnel have this power. The challenge is simple: Embrace Elie Wiesel's teaching that the real test is the power to restrain oneself. Nothing less is expected of us as human beings  who are blessed to be created in the Divine Image.

From the holy city of Jerusalem Rae joins me in wishing you a Shabbat Shalom u'Mevorach, a Shabbat of peace and blessing.

MaNishma with Rabbi Arnold Goodman – Parshat Bereshit 5783

MaNishma with Rabbi Arnold Goodman

Parshat Bereshit 5783
To End–To Begin

By Rabbi Arnold Goodman Senior Rabbinic Scholar

On Simchat Torah we conclude the weekly cycle of Torah readings. The title of this last parsha, V'Zot HaBracha (this is the blessing) is counterintuitive. While it begins with Moses' blessing of the tribes of Israel, it concludes with his ascent to Mount Nebo from where, prior to his death he would but get a glimpse of the Promised Land. The Torah is clear that Moses was frustrated that God denied his wish to be the one to lead the Children of Israel into the Land.

There are two important lessons from the account of his death. Moses was denied his wish to cross over the Jordan, but his life was filled with many accomplishments. He is eulogized as the prophet who could never be replicated, yet he died with an unrealized dream. This, alas, is the fate of all mortals, whose lives whether short or long, depart leaving behind undone tasks. The following generation is then challenged to carry on the work of its predecessor.

Moses departs from the scene, but his mission is continued by his successor, Joshua. While not a Moses, he was nonetheless charged to lead the people into the Land. Thus even as we read the ending of Moses leadership, we are immediately reminded that it was followed by the beginning of Joshua's. There is a blessing that the ending of one phase or stage of life is followed by the beginning of another.

Many changes are subtle, and we become aware of transformations only after they have been completed. It's hard to mark the moment when the child becomes a teenager and then an adult. The aging process is likewise subtle, but given longevity there will be changes in our appearance and activities

There are, however, changes that are marked with clear endings and easily noted new beginnings. Two individuals who come under the chuppa (marital canopy) are simply two separate people. The rituals and prayers that follow do transform them into a couple, and from that moment on they are identified as husband and wife, spouses to one another.

Bar/t Mitzvah is often hailed as becoming a Jewish adult. The ceremony hardly transforms a 13-year-old into an adult, physically or emotionally. Yet by reaching this age, there has been a sharp change in this 13-year-old who is now invested with a lifetime responsibility to fulfill the mitzvot and commandments Even as one aspect of his/her life ends, there is the blessing of a new beginning that deserves not only recognition but also celebration.

For each of us the past year can obviously neither be re-experienced nor re-lived. The past is just that – the past. There is before us, however, the blessing of the inherent possibilities and potentials of new beginnings. While acutely aware of the past year's failures and unfulfilled expectations, there is the anticipation that in the days ahead we will be blessed with the opportunity to build on our past and create a significant and fulfilling present with its potential for a glorious future..

As human beings we are blessed that we can celebrate the conclusion of one phase in our lives with the prospect of going forward to a new one with its dreams of achievements.

From the holy city of Jerusalem my best wishes for a Shabbat Shalom u'Mevorach, a Shabbatt of peace and blessing.

A Moment of Torah with Rabbi Neil Sandler – Sukkot 5783

A Moment of Torah with Rabbi Neil Sandler

Sukkot 5783

By Rabbi Neil Sandler

Where have all the years gone? This Sunday, our eldest child, Ariel, will celebrate his 37th birthday! I can still remember exactly what I said to Susan's Ob/Gyn doctor in the delivery room as he was bringing Ariel into this world. "Murray," I said, "you are looking at Ariel David Sandler." That was the first time I uttered our firstborn's name aloud to anyone other than Susan. It's as if I was saying, "This child thing is real. This little pitzele will, God-willing, represent a Hart/Sandler future long after his grandparents and parents are gone." Eventually, Ariel would have two siblings, Aliza and Josh. Collectively, these three children symbolized our approach to the world and its future; the world, despite its challenges, is a good and worthy place. Hopefully, our children will contribute to its goodness. I think about that statement each time one of our children (and now I can add their spouses) celebrates a birthday.

This year Ariel's birthday coincides with the beginning of Sukkot. The seriousness and heaviness of Yom Kippur are behind us. As long as the weather cooperates for the next week plus, we will have the opportunity to relax in the sukkah, enjoy a meal there and welcome our friends inside this quaint, temporary dwelling. We will also be making a statement about our feelings regarding the future. Sukkot often do not have four sides (they only need to have two and a half sides to be deemed "Kosher.") As we look straight ahead from inside the sukkah and peer out at the world, we remind ourselves of the responsibilities we have to it. We must protect the world's resources so that others will be able to enjoy its bounties. We must share ourselves and our resources with people who are in need to best assure their futures. As we look up through the roof ("schach") of the sukkah and see the heavens, we are reminded of the words we offer each evening, ("[God,] Spread over us Your sukkah of peace…") Yes, the Holy One plays a part in assuring our peace, but we play an even larger role in guaranteeing that peace for ourselves and succeeding generations.

A child's birthday. A family's sukkah. While we may understand the significance of them in a variety of ways, each represents a glorious statement about the future and our role in assuring it.

Chag Sameach! Enjoy Sukkot and some relaxed time in a sukkah!