CAN YOU PASS DOWN CULTURAL JUDAISM WITHOUT THE FAITH?
I find this concept to be an important issue in American society. I hope you read it and enjoy it.
Submitted by Elliott Magalnick
CALENDAR OF UPCOMING EVENTS
Please mark your calendars to remind you of these upcoming events.
- Wednesday, 11/27/2013—Thursday, 12/05/2013: Chanukkah.
- Wednesday evening, 11/27/2013, 5:30 P.M.: Erev Chanukah. Lighting the first candle of the Diane Kaplan Memorial Chanukkiah at the Civic Center. If you come at 5:30.30, you’ll probably miss it, especially if it is cold. We will light each successive candle on each successive night of Chanukah at precisely 5:30 P.M.
- Thursday, 11/28/2013: Thanksgiving, and the first day of Chanukah. We will light the second candle at precisely 5:30 P.M.
- Sunday, 12/01/2013, 2:30 P.M.: Thanksgivukkah party at the home of Stuart and Hilary Lewin, concluding with the 5:30 lighting of the fifth candle of the Diane Kaplan Memorial Channukiah at the Civic Center.
- Monday, 12/02/2013, 12:00 noon: MAJCO Candle lighting at the State Capitol in Helena.
MAX’S BAR MITZVAH IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER!
Can you believe it has been over 2 years since Sarah’s bat mitzvah? Max’s bar mitzvah is just around the corner – December 28th, 2013. You should have received your invitation in the mail by now. If not, please call or e-mail Wendy (firstname.lastname@example.org or 727-4098). We will need to know what events you are coming to so that we can give counts to the caterers.
As his community service project, Max will be collecting canned food and making baskets out of them to use as table decorations at the luncheon for his bar mitzvah. After the lunch, the baskets will be donated to the East Middle School food pantry.
We are asking, if you are able and willing, to donate food and/or baskets, bows, ribbon and wrapping. We also will need help assembling the baskets. Assembly will be at the Washington School at 4 PM on Monday, December 23rd. Please call or e-mail Wendy (email@example.com or 727-4098) to donate items or to help. We will be serving pizza during the assembly of the baskets so please let me know if you are coming so that we have enough food.
We look forward to seeing you all at the bar mitzvah!
In the meantime, Happy Hanukkah!
Chancellor Eisen in Haaretz on the New Pew Report: “Reengaging American Jews – Before They Drift Away”
From: Jewish Theological Seminary
Dear JTS Community,
The most recent report on American Jews from the Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project makes it crystal clear: this is no longer our grandparents’ Jewish community—nor, for that matter, that of our parents.
The statistics say that, in the last 10 years, interest in Jewish religion has continued to decline and the number of intermarriages has increased—how should we respond to this information? What do these changes mean to Jewish life as a whole? And what is Judaism anyway? A religion? A people? A culture?
I reflect on these questions and more in my newest article for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, “Reengaging American Jews–Before They Drift Away”
which can be accessed in its entirety on my blog, On My Mind: Arnie Eisen.
If you have some thoughts on the new Pew report, or want to share how you would engage or reengage Jews, I encourage you to share your comments online at On My Mind: Arnie Eisen.
Arnold M. Eisen
The Jewish Theological Seminary
P.S. You can also follow me on Twitter @ArnoldEisen
(twitter.com/ArnoldEisen) or read my blog at
New poll about the identity of U.S. JEWS
The subject of our adult discussion this coming week will be the new survey of American Jews, and the major identity shifts in opinions noted. Read a story about this poll here.
A TASTE OF YESHIVA — YOM LIMMUD — A DAY OF JEWISH LEARNING
A Taste of Yeshiva
Day of Jewish Learning
Chabad Lubavitch of Montana cordially invites you to attend the second “ A Taste of Yeshiva – Yom Limmud” a day of Jewish learning @ The Shul of Bozeman.
Ever dreamed of spending a day studying Talmud? Maimonides? Ever yearned to spend a day in Yeshiva immersed in Torah study? Your dream has come true; spend a day at our learning seminar with enlightening lectures and stimulating discussions. It’s a unique opportunity to find the answers to some of the questions bothering you since Hebrew School.
Mrs. Rivkie Block of San Antonio, Texas
Rabbi Menachem Feldman of Greenwich, Connecticut
Rabbi Amram Phelps of Bozeman
Technology Vs. Shabbat – the use of electricity on the day of rest
Talmudic Trends – Explore the life & philosophy of some of the greatest Talmudic Sages and how it shaped their consistent worldview.
Torah and the Castle Doctrine: Montana law allows the use of deadly force to “prevent or terminate the other person’s unlawful entry” to a home. Does the Torah agree?
What’s for dinner Mr. Mashiach? An overview of the menu at Mashiach’s feast
Woman of Valor – An in depth look at the beautiful Aishet Chayil song
Sunday, June 9, 2013. 10:30 AM – 4:00 PM @ The Shul.
Kosher Lunch Included.
Suggested donation – $18
Sponsor – $180
Yeshiva (n) (yeh-shee-vah) is the name given to the great academies of study where the Talmud and Jewish law were formulated. The Yeshiva as an institution has succeeded in creating an atmosphere of serious analytical study that endures to this day. In the long course of Jewish history it has been the Yeshiva more than anything else that has served as both the repository and birthplace of profound Jewish learning.
A Taste of Yeshiva
June 9, 2013 • 10:30 AM – 4:00 PM
Chabad-Lubavitch of Montana
8755 Huffman Lane, Bozeman, MT 59715-9211
RSVP at the link below.
It’s worth the drive.
BUILDING COVENANTAL COMMUNITY: THE COHANIM, THE KOHATITES, AND US — BY STUDENT RABBI MIRIAM FARBER
EDITOR’S NOTE: Student Rabbi Miriam Farber’s sermon last Friday evening was very moving, and several of us asked if it could be reprinted in the Ram’s Horn. Also, Mazal tov to Miriam on her upcoming marriage to a fellow student rabbi from Brazil on June ninth. We wish her farewell as she embarks on her journey toward a bright and promising future.
Building Covenantal Community: The Cohanim, the Kohatites, and Us
Earlier in our service, we sang the words Mi Chamocha ba’eilim Adonai? Who is like You, Adonai? With this prayer, we acknowledge God as the Redeemer, and we sing our joyful praises, like the Israelites, for freedom. Yet this prayer doesn’t tell the whole story. We know that Moses plays a key role in bringing the Israelites to this moment, even though his name is not found in the traditional haggadah. There are two midrashim that offer different understandings of exactly what happened to make the sea part.
In the first, as the tribes of Israel are standing on the shores, watching the Egyptians draw nearer and arguing amongst themselves over who will be the first into the sea, Nachshon ben Amminadav, a single person from the tribe of Judah, goes into the Sea. The sea does not part immediately, so Nachshon keeps walking, as the sea comes up to his knees, his shoulders, and finally his chin. As the water reaches his nose, and Nachshon prepares to take his final breath, the sea parts. The Yiddish saying, “To be a Nachshon,” means to be an initiator, in honor of the man who was brave enough to walk into the Sea of Reeds. In this version of that tense moment on the shores of the sea, the power for redemption rests with one man, with Nachshon ben Amminadav.
In the second midrash, God says to Moses, “All that Israel has to do is go forward. Therefore, “Let them go forward! Let their feet step forward from the dry land into the sea, and you will see the miracles I will perform for them.” The midrash quotes a verse from Exodus, which says, “And the Israelites went into the midst of the sea upon the DRY ground.” The midrash asks, if they went into the sea, then why does the Torah say, “upon the dry ground”? This is to teach that the sea did not split for them until they stepped into it and the water had reached their noses, only then did it become dry land.
In this version of the story, not God alone, and not even an individual person – a Nachshon, a Moses, or a Miriam – had the power to part the sea. The power for redemption rested with the entire people of Israel, acting together, in partnership with God.
By our Torah portion this week, B’midbar, the very first parasha in the book of Numbers, Egypt and the crossing of the sea are long behind us. The Israelites have already been wandering in the desert, in the midbar, for two years. The end of the portion describes, in painstaking detail, the process for dismantling the Tent of Meeting when the time comes to break camp. This responsibility falls upon Aaron and his sons, the cohanim. Another group, the Kohatite family within the tribe of Levi, has the responsibility of carrying each element of the Tent of Meeting as the Israelites wander through the desert. Each person, each family, each tribe, has its role in the upkeep of the Tent of Meeting.
In some ways, this biblical division of labor is not so different from the division of labor here, or in any other modern Jewish community around the world. One person or one family cannot do all the work of building and supporting a community; each person has to find the right role for themselves.
“At the breaking of camp, Aaron and his sons shall go in and take down the screening curtain…”
At the end of services, someone has to take down the tapestry hanging behind the ark.
“Over the table of display they shall spread a blue cloth; they shall place upon it the bowls, the ladles, the jars, and the libation jugs; and the regular bread shall rest upon it.”
Someone has to clean up from oneg, and put all of the reusable supplies back in the closet for tomorrow.
“Then they shall take a blue cloth and cover the lampstand for lighting, with its lamps, its tongs, and its fire pans, as well all the oil vessels that are used in its service.”
Someone takes responsibility for returning the candlesticks to their proper place, ensuring that they will be ready for the next Shabbat service here.
“When Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sacred objects and all the furnishings of the sacred objects at the breaking of the camp, only then shall the Kohatites come and lift them…These things in the Tent of Meeting shall be the porterage of the Kohatites.”
And someone carries the ark off of the bima and places it in the closet for safekeeping.
Just as each of our ritual objects and other supplies have their own place in the closet, each person in this community has a role to play.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks teaches that society is bound together not by contract, but by covenant. While an individual can leave a contract when it is no longer in their interest to pursue the contractual relationship, a covenant binds people together even in difficult times. Covenants are not rooted in self-interest, but in loyalty and love. Contracts lead to the growth of political and economic institutions – governments, political parties, businesses. Covenants, on the other hand, create very different institutions – families, communities, and traditions.
Jewish communities all over the country are struggling with how to remain covenantal communities. Families treat religious school as another extracurricular to be scheduled and paid for, no different than ballet classes or learning a musical instrument. Some synagogues have become fee-for-service institutions, rather than places of true, deep community. Members, and even lay leaders, expect the paid professional staff to do the real, hard work of ensuring the survival of the institution.
But here, in Great Falls, there is no paid staff. And while this community may not have a jam-packed program calendar like a large synagogue in another city, it certainly is a covenantal community, one in which each person does his or her part – not only taking on the responsibilities of setting up the Bethel for services or for potluck, but also the responsibility of ensuring that this community survives, taking the very real challenge of the future to heart. This community has a great deal of Torah to teach the large synagogues of Los Angeles and New York.
Tonight, our voices have risen together in song, led by our very talented musicians, Steve, Sarah, and Hillary. Each of our voices, each of our unique instruments, is needed to help our songs and our prayers ascend to heaven. No voice is too young or too old, too out of tune, to be excluded.
In next week’s Torah portion, we find the familiar words of the Priestly Blessing. God, partner with this holy community and its members in bringing redemption.
Y’varech’cha Adonai v’yishm’recha.
May God bless and keep this community for generations to come.
Ya’er Adonai panav eilecha v’yichuneka.
May God’s light shine out from this community, teaching Torah and bringing Judaism to this corner of the world.
Yisa Adonai panav eilecha v’yasem l’cha shalom.
May God give this community a sense of shleimut, wholeness, recognizing all the gifts it holds within it.
DON’T LET THIS BE YOU
Rabbi Markowitz concluded the services one Shabbat morning by saying, “Next Shabbat, my sermon will be about lying. In preparation, I would like you all to read the 42nd chapter of the book of Exodus.”
On the following Shabbat, Rabbi Markowitz rose to begin, and said:
“Now, then, all of you who have done as I requested and read the 42nd chapter of the book of Exodus, please raise your hands.”
Nearly every hand in the congregation went up.
“You are the people I want to talk to,” said Rabbi Markowitz. “There is no 42nd chapter of the book of Exodus!”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes this is a joke, but not knowing what the Torah says or doesn’t say isn’t; it has life and death implications. Did God really create the Heavens and the earth? Did He really say to Adam and Eve don’t eat from the tree in the middle of the Garden of Eden, and if so, why? Does the Torah have answers to some of life’s basic questions: Why are we here? How did we get here? What are we supposed to do while we are here? What happens after we die? Does the Torah say God helps those who help themselves? What about all the evil in the world … how did it get here, why does God allow it, and is there anything we can or should be doing about it? Why are there wars, and is there such a thing as a “good” war? How should we treat one another as peoples and nations, husbands and wives, parents and children, friends and neighbors, law-abiding citizens and criminals, old and young, rich and poor, business partners, debtors and creditors, fellow Jews, or the stranger in our midst? What happens if we break God’s laws, especially since we know beforehand that we will? How good do we have to be to be good enough? Does it really matter what we eat, drink, or wear? Who or what do we look to for guidance and direction when life gets really tough? If somebody wrote down all this stuff, who were they and why did they write it? How do we know whether it is truth or myth? What distinguishes it from — or makes it superior to — any other book of history or wisdom written by flawed human beings? Is any of it relevant to our lives today and, if so, what parts? If answers to any of these questions are to be found in the study of Torah, what a difference it would make in a person’s life to find them and live by them.