How is it already the month of Elul? The year is really flying by, and before you know it Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur will be upon us!
I had the opportunity for a lovely conversation with our service leader and Cantorial Soloist for our High Holy Day services this year, Ruz Gulko. Ruz comes to us on Rabbi Fine’s recommendation, and has been leading services in the Seattle area for the past 25 years.
Ruz is putting her plans together for our Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services, and would like to know if anyone would like the honor of reading from the Torah on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur mornings. She plans on using the High Holy Day trope for the services, and will be glad to send a written copy of the text and an mp3 of the trope to any volunteers. If you are interested, please send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or place a comment on this post.
If there is anything specific you would like to see done at these services, please send me and Ruz a note, or just comment below.
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.
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.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Rabbi Chaim Bruk is the Chabad Lubavitch rabbi in Bozeman, where he lives with his wife Chavie and their three children, Chaya, Zeesy, and Menny. He reminds us that to know the Torah and to live the Torah is to choose life itself. As we look forward to the annual celebration of Shavuot next week, let’s begin to become more familiar with the Torah and what it teaches us even now, starting tonight. Reprinted with permission.
Torah Iz Dee Beste S’chorah!
By Rabbi Chaim
While Chavie and the Women’s League of Chabad were enjoying their pre-Rosh-Chodesh get together and chatting about the Sinai moment, I was upstairs thinking about Torah study. In an average week I merit to study unadulterated Torah with countless individuals. With one it’s the Prophets and with another Talmud, with one it’s Miamondoes’ principles of faith and with many others it’s JLI’s fascinating courses and our group classes throughout the week. Chavie and I enjoy immensely being able to enjoy Torah with whoever wishes to broaden their knowledge.
Tuesday evening will usher in the holiday of Shavuot, when we celebrate the pinnacle moment of Jewish history. In front of more than two million living Jews and the spirit of every soul to ever live, G-d handed us His most precious treasure, the wisdom of all wisdom, His Torah. He didn’t have to, but He chose to; giving us an unparalleled opportunity to connect with Him. Shavuot is our annual reminder to incorporate daily, or at least weekly, Torah study in our lives, because a life without it, is no life.
The Talmud teaches: Once, the wicked government of Rome decreed that the Jewish people were forbidden to study Torah. Pappus ben Judah saw Rabbi Akiva convening gatherings in public and studying Torah with them. Said he to him: “Akiva, are you not afraid of the government?” Said Rabbi Akiva to him: “I’ll give you a parable. “A fox was walking along a river and saw fish rushing to and fro. Said he to them: ‘Why are you fleeing?’ “Said they to him: ‘The nets that the humans spread for us.'”Said he to them: ‘Why don’t you come out onto the dry land? We’ll live together, as my ancestors lived with your ancestors.'”Said they to him: ‘Are you the one of whom it is said that you are the wisest of animals? You’re not wise, but foolish! If, in our environment of life, we have cause for fear, how much more so in the environment of our death!’ “The same applies to us: if, now, when we sit and study the Torah, of which it is said ( Deuteronomy 30:20 ), For it is your life and the lengthening of your days, such is our situation, how much more so if we neglect it….
Make a resolution this Shavuot to begin a Torah class, to join five other Montanans to study your daily Chayenu, to have a one-on-one with a fellow Jew – or even the Rabbi – in Torah; whatever it is, make Torah real. Don’t just rise for it in Shul, kiss it as it makes it’s rounds or dance with it on Simchat Torah, allow it to permeate your heart, soul and day to day life.
As the Yiddish song goes Torah Iz Dee Beste S’chorah – Torah is the greatest asset!
Wishing you and yours a Shabbat Shalom & a Happy Shavuot!
Your friends @ Chabad Lubavitch,
Rabbi Chaim, Chavie, Chaya, Zeesy and Menny
Student Rabbi Miriam Farber’s last official visit to Great Falls will be Mother’s Day week end, May 10-12. Please mark your calendars and plan to attend Friday evening services, Saturday morning Torah study, and the milchig (dairy) potluck/adult discussion Saturday evening. The schedule follows.
- Friday evening, 05/10/2013: Shabbat services led by student Rabbi Miriam Farber, 7:30 P.M. at The Bethel *
- Saturday morning, 05/11/2013: Torah Study, led by Student Rabbi Miriam Farber, 10:00 A.M. at the Bethel *
- Saturday evening, 5:30 P.M. Milchig (dairy) Potluck and Adult Discussion at the Bethel. * Please bring a dairy dish to share.
Todah Robah to the following Congregation members who have offered their hospitality to Student Rabbi Miriam Farber and to provide the oneg for this coming week end:
- 05/10/2013 Airport Pickup: Marty Foxman
- 05/10/2013 Friday evening dinner: Don and Helen Cherry
- 05/10/2013 Friday evening Oneg: Stephen Boyd and Joy Breslauer
- 05/11/2013 Saturday lunch: Laura Weiss
This is the last time we will meet together as a community until the High Holy Days. We have so much to celebrate together — the coming of Spring, the fact that Israel exists, the fact that we are and can still be Jews in Montana of all places, learning to love and trust God more every day, learning and passing on the teachings of Torah to our children, and strengthening the ties that bind us together as families and as a community, and as a people specifically chosen by God to bless the rest of the world. What a wonderful heritage to share with each other and to pass on to our children. Let’s take this time and every time we get a chance to be uniquely Jewish to celebrate it and to kindle or rekindle the lights of Shabbat in our hearts.
* Bethel Lutheran Church, 1009 18th Ave SW
For directions or more information, click about us above.
- Friday evening, November 4: Shabbat Lech Lecha services at 7:30 P.M., led by student rabbi Rebecca Reice, at the Bethel, 1009 18th Ave SW. Oneg to follow.
- Saturday morning, 10:00 A.M.: Torah study with Student Rabbi Rebecca Reice at The Bethel.
- Saturday evening, 5:30 P.M.: Milchig (dairy) Potluck and Adult discussion with Student Rabbi Rebecca Reice at The Bethel. Please bring a dish to share.
High Holy Days Schedule 2011
All services are led by Cantor Elliott Magalnick
Wednesday Sept 28
- Erev Rosh Hashanah services are 7:00 P.M. at the Bethel, 1009 18th Ave SW, Great Falls
Thursday Sept 29
- Rosh Hashanah services are 10:00 A.M. at the Bethel, 1009 18th Ave SW, Great Falls
- Tashlich immediately follows morning services at about 12:30pm at Giant Springs State Park
- No host community lunch immediately follows Tashlich at Maple Gardens
Friday October 7
- Kol Nidre services are 7:00 P.M. at the Bethel, 1009 18th Ave SW, Great Falls
Saturday October 8
- Yom Kippur services begin on Saturday morning, October 8 at 10:00 A.M. at the Bethel, 1009 18th Ave SW, Great Falls.
- 10:00 A.M.-12:00 P.M. Morning Services
- 2 hour break: 12:00 P.M.-2:00 P.M.
- 2:00 P.M.-4:00 P.M. Adult Discussion, STORAHtelling on Jonah by Cantor Elliot Magalnick
- 1 hour break: 4:00 P.M.-5:00 P.M.
- 5:00 P.M.-5:45 P.M. Yizkor
- 5:45 P.M.-6:15 P.M. Minhah
- 6:15 P.M.-7:00 P.M. Neilah
- Break the fast milchig (dairy) pot luck immediately follows evening services.
Regardless of make or year, all units known as “human beings” are being recalled by the manufacturer. This is due to a malfunction in the original prototype units code named Adam” and “Eve”, resulting in the reproduction of the same defect in all Subsequent units. This defect is technically termed “Serious Internal Non-morality,” but is more commonly known as “SIN.”
Some of the symptoms of the SIN defect include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Foul vocal emissions
- Lack of peace and joy
- Loss of direction
As we prepare to enter the year 5772 and schedule our services for the year, I think it a good idea for our community to continue to discuss our rituals and traditions.
We have a ritual committee. Unfortunately, that committee has not had a meeting since 2005. In the coming weeks, I am going to put together a document outlining our minhag. In the meantime, please find after the “more” link copies of the minutes from our 2005 Ritual Committee meetings. Please read and give us your comments!