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  • November 24, 2022 8:51 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Nov. 24, 2022

    Dear Friends,
      We wish you a Happy Thanksgiving in the company of family and friends.

      I'll reflect on the surprising origins of this national holiday (it’s not what you were taught) and its particular relevance to today at our Shabbat Evening Service (7:30 PM).

      Isaac is sometimes called the forgotten patriarch. Yet the brief account of his life is vivid and complicated, as we will discuss at our Shabbat Morning Torah Study (10:00 AM).

       Ready to read the next book for our January book club meeting? Called One Hundred Saturdays, it's a fascinating profile of the vanished community of Jews of the island of Rhodes through one of its last survivors: https://www.amazon.com/One-Hundred-Saturdays-Stella-Search/dp/198216722X/ref=sr_1_1?crid=21E1M5I6V0J4B&keywords=100+saturdays+by+michael+frank&qid=1668474641&sprefix=100+saturdays%2Caps%2C110&sr=8-1

    Shabbat shalom,
    Rabbi Schwartz

    For Livestream Services:
    Find all our recorded services on YouTube at "Adas Emuno Streaming" and use this direct link once the service has started: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCftctPu9pRG4bBQCR6RH4Dg/live
  • November 17, 2022 8:44 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Nov. 17, 2022

    Dear Friends,
      The Society for Biblical Literature (SBL) hosts the largest academic Bible conference in the world (5000+ scholars!). In my capacity as head of The Jewish Publication Society (JPS) I'll be attending again this year, where we host an exhibit of our books. It's always a rewarding but exhausting experience.
       
      In my absence I am grateful that student cantor Joe Flaxman will lead our Shabbat Evening Service (7:30 PM).
       Cantor Joe will also lead our Shabbat Morning Torah Study (10:00 AM), as we read and discuss the last years of Abraham's life- the loss of his wife Sarah and the worries about his son Isaac.

       The Cantor adds, "Please join me this Friday night as I lead my first solo service!. We welcome Shabbat in song and explore the blessings that stay with us for our lives: the blessings bestowed upon us as we leave.
       I anticipate a lively discussion this week at Torah study! While love strikes Rebekah so hard that she falls off her camel, what is the state of Jewish love in America today? While Abraham wanted Isaac to marry a Jewish girl, today in America intermarriage is increasingly common (since 2010, 61% of all American Jewish marriages have been interfaith)."

       Both the cantor and I will participate in the Leonia Community Thanksgiving Service  on Tuesday evening (7:00 PM) at the Leonia Methodist Church on Broad Avenue. We appreciate your support of this annual ecumenical gathering of our faith communities.

    Shabbat shalom,
    Rabbi Schwartz and Student Cantor Joe Flaxman

    For Livestream Services:
    Find all our recorded services on YouTube at "Adas Emuno Streaming" and use this direct link once the service has started: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCftctPu9pRG4bBQCR6RH4Dg/live
  • November 10, 2022 8:35 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Nov. 10, 2022

    Dear Friends,
       Tonight I will have the opportunity to hear two past presidents of the United States, Clinton and Bush, speak at a synagogue- Temple Emanu-el in New York.

        I'll reflect on their words, as we also reckon with the mid-term election results.

         Tomorrow is Veteran's Day and we will honor those who have served. And we will also remember the 84th anniversary of Kristallnacht yesterday and today, all at our Shabbat Evening Service (7:30 PM). 

       The remarkable saga of Abraham and Sarah yields bountiful lessons for our own lives, the subject of our Shabbat Morning Torah Study (10:00 AM). 

       Religious school is in session this Sunday, including both Tot and Confirmation classes.

        Poetry Garden meets Sunday evening (7:00 PM) and Book Club on Monday (7:30 PM).

    Shabbat shalom,
    Rabbi Schwartz 

    For Livestream Services:
    Find all our recorded services on YouTube at "Adas Emuno Streaming" and use this direct link once the service has started: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCftctPu9pRG4bBQCR6RH4Dg/live
  • November 03, 2022 8:15 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Nov. 3, 2022

    Dear Friends,
      The 7th grade is a great group of kids.
      You will enjoy seeing them lead our Shabbat Evening Family Service (7:30 PM).
      That includes a slightly irreverent skit about Abraham and Sarah!

       We explore aspects of Abraham and Sarah's legacy at our Shabbat Morning Torah Study (10:00 AM).
     
        As noted in a separate congregational email last week, masks are now optional in the sanctuary and social hall, and weekly indoor onegs will follow services. Its been a long wait and we thank you for your patience and perseverance!   

    Shabbat shalom,
    Rabbi Schwartz 
  • October 27, 2022 8:39 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Oct. 27, 2022

    Dear Friends,
      With the holidays and our marvelous 150th Gala weekend now over, we return to the quieter rhythms of Shabbat.
     
       As we read the story of Noah this week, what better time to talk about our furry friends, and the role animals play in our lives, which I will do at our Shabbat Evening Service (7:30 PM). 

      The command to Noah and his descendants to replenish and fill the earth leads us to some interesting observations about Jewish fertility and demography at our Shabbat Morning Torah Study (10:00 AM).

      Our religious school teacher and youth group advisor Reina Stern is getting married this Sunday (and I have the honor of officiating). To Reina and her mother Charlene (also on our faculty) and family- mazal tov!

    Shabbat shalom,
    Rabbi Schwartz 
  • October 20, 2022 8:08 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Oct. 20, 2022

    Dear Friends,
      We bring to a close our wonderful sesquicentennial 150th Anniversary Year with a gala weekend.

      Our festive Shabbat Evening Service (7:30 PM) will feature both student cantors Joe Flaxman and Iris Karlin, accompanied by Beth Robbin. 
       
       Then on Sunday at our Jubilee Concert (3:00 PM) they will be joined by a host of our other talented, including Elka Oliver, Peter Hays, Michael Scowden, Scott Dennis and family. The mix of Jewish and folk music will be tantalizing!

        The festivities will be capped off by our Gala Reception (4:30 PM) under a big party text next to our new patio!

         Earlier in the day our students will engage in a Religious School Funfest (12:00) that will include completing a 150th Anniversary Time Capsule, to be opened in 50 years!

         Let me take this opportunity to thank our incredibly hard working 150th Anniversary Committee for a wonderful year of celebration befitting our milestone anniversary.  

         And amidst all the festivities we also celebrate the bar mitzvah of Nick Guberman at our Shabbat Morning Service (10:00 AM); extending a mazal tov to Nick and his family.

    Shabbat shalom,
    Rabbi Schwartz

    For Livestream Services:
    Find all our recorded services on YouTube at "Adas Emuno Streaming".
  • October 13, 2022 8:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Oct. 13, 2022

     Dear Friends,
       How is our upcoming Shabbat Evening and Holiday Family Service (7:30 PM) extra special?
      *It's our Sukkot/Simchat Torah celebration!
      *It's our Back-to-School Family Service!
      *It's the consecration of our new students!
      *It's the welcome of our new families!
      *It's a special oneg in our Sukkah and new patio!

        We hope to see you in-person at this festive celebration, and looking ahead to next week, at our 150th anniversary gala (rsvp required).

        Our Shabbat Morning Torah Study (10:00 AM) examines the very last Torah portion of the year, as we reach the end of the annual reading cycle (and begin again).

        On Sunday our religious school will have another chance to celebrate Sukkot and Simchat Torah, and Confirmation Class is also in session.

        A reminder to all those who borrowed High Holiday books- please return them to the blue bin on the school porch. And here are links, as requested, to my Holiday sermons (with thanks, as always, to Lance Strate for this and all his website work):
     RH: https://adasemuno.org/page-18091/12950318
     KN: https://adasemuno.org/page-18091/12950337
     YK: https://adasemuno.org/page-18091/12950396

    Shabbat shalom and Hag Sameach,
    Barry
  • October 11, 2022 1:51 PM | Lance Strate (Administrator)

    A SENSE OF THE SACRED

    Yom Kippur, 5783

    Rabbi Barry L. Schwartz

    Thanks to Netflix some outstanding Israeli television shows have come to America. Fauda is my favorite, and Shtissel is my second. Most recently I viewed The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem. While not my favorite, a scene from the first episode sticks in my head. In 1919 Jerusalem Gabriel is (unhappily) marrying Rosa, at the insistence of his mother. We know that this marriage will be troubled, as Sephardic Gabriel has fallen in love with another, forbidden Ashkenazic woman named Ruchel. Yet in a vivid wedding scene Gabriel and Rosa exchange vows and rings and the rabbi calls out, in the traditional fashion, “mekudeshet, mekudeshet, mekudeshet”!

    What is the rabbi saying? Mekudeshet is a form of the word Kadosh⏤holy; sanctified. The triple repetition of the word echoes the triple repetition of a key verse of the Amidah prayer⏤a line that we recited earlier: Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh. The rabbi is declaring that the marriage of Gabriel and Rosa has been sanctified in the eyes of God and the community.

    In fact, the Hebrew expression for marriage is Kiddushin, from that same root of holiness. And the home that a couple builds in called mikdash me’at, a small place of holiness.

    When you stop and think about it, the root “kof, dalet, shin” is everywhere in Judaism. Kadosh appears 600 times in the Hebrew Bible. It appears throughout our prayer book. The blessing that we say when we raise the wine cup on the sabbath⏤it’s called the kiddush. The prayer that we say in memory of the depart⏤it’s called the kaddish.

    In Judaism, time can be holy, like the Sabbath, the holy day. Space can be holy, like Israel, the Holy Land. Like Jerusalem, the Holy City, and like the ancient Temple, the Holy House. The inner sanctum of the Temple, where the tablets of the covenant were kept, was called the Holy of Holies. Even today, the ark behind me, is called the Aron HaKodesh, the Holy Ark, and it houses the Torah scrolls, which are called, sifrei kodesh, the holy books.

    Time, space, and of course, people can be holy. Exodus calls us to be a holy people. This afternoon, as we do every year, we will read the Holiness Code of Leviticus. “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy,” begins the reading. Emulate God, the source of holiness.

    Today, Yom Kippur, the Sabbath of sabbaths, is often called the holiest day of the year. So it is all together appropriate that we speak this morning about holiness. To tell you the truth, as I began this sermon, I was surprised that I have never taken up the subject before. I was surprised that as central as this concept is in Judaism, few rabbis address it. The more I thought about it, I was, like, “holy moly”, we never talk about holiness!

    I’ve entitled this talk, “A Sense of the Sacred”. Given the brief amount of time I have, my goal is to explore just two questions: What exactly do we mean by holiness? And why does it matter? In other words: what do we lose when we give up a sense of the sacred?

    The word holy comes from the old English holig meaning blessed. The word kadosh comes from the Hebrew meaning to be set apart. In the religious sense something that is holy has special, transcendent meaning or purpose. It has enduring worth because it is connected to God or some other purpose we infinitely value.

    As such we regard that which is holy as sacrosanct, non-negotiable. They are core values or objects worthy of veneration. They are not to be treated lightly or defiled. They are set apart to be idealized and protected.

    A sense of the sacred instills within us reverence, which in turn elicits respect, obedience and loyalty. As Maimonides memorably explained it, “We do not act when in the presence of a king as we do when we are merely in the company of family or friends” [Guide III:51]. In this sanctuary (from the Latin word for holysanctus) we sense a Higher Presence. And the inscription over our ark certainly reinforces that: “Da lifnei mi atah omed”⏤“Know before whom you stand.”

    The late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote significantly, “Reverence gives power to ritual, ceremony, social conventions, and civilities. It helps transform autonomous individuals into a collectively responsible group. You cannot sustain a national identity or even a marriage without loyalty. You cannot socialize successive generations without respect for figures of authority. You cannot defend the non-negotiable value of human dignity without a sense of the sacred. That is why the prophetic ethic of justice and compassion had to be supplemented with the priestly ethic of holiness.”

    In this spirit let me suggest that we need to reclaim a sense of the sacred both religiously and civically.

    There is something sacred about the hallowed ground of the Western Wall in Jerusalem, and Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

    There is something sacred about Liberation Day in the Jewish calendar (Pesach) and Independence Day in the American civic calendar.

    There is something sacred about the Torah of the people of Israel and the Constitution of the people of America.

    One need not believe that every word of the Torah is from God to still revere it. Doing so indelibly connects us to our history, our traditions, and to the core values of Judaism. Considering the Torah not infallible but nevertheless holy means we will want to study it and live it. That’s not only worthy, but the key to perpetuating Judaism.

    I would say something similar about the Constitution. Regarding it as a simply secular and flawed document is unfortunate. Reverence for it will engender loyalty to its ideals. We will want to study it, interpret it and defend it. That’s not only worthy, but the key to perpetuating a United States of America.

    As Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation, a proud, gay, African American wrote this past July 4:

    I believe we still can agree on a set of ideas—values and aspirations—enshrined in our Declaration [and Constitution], 246 years on.
    In our founding, I see flawed genius. In the Declaration we celebrate, I see a statement of purpose. In our Constitution, I see our founders entrusting each generation to fix what the preceding one was unwilling to repair.
    To me, the callous cruelty of our founders—at least 34 of the 56 men who signed the declaration also enslaved human beings—is less remarkable than what they set in motion, however contradictory. They initiated a grand, complicated experiment with self-government that made possible abolition and suffrage, worker’s rights and civil rights and women’s rights, however slowly and unevenly. More astounding still, Black people and brown people, the Indigenous and the immigrant, L.G.B.T.Q. people and people with disabilities, all claimed the American project as our own and expanded the circle of inclusion and opportunity.

    Darren Walker concludes:

    My love of America—of the American idea—is unwavering. This laboratory of liberty is worth saving, worth improving. I would add, to save this laboratory of liberty, we must see our fidelity to the ideals of Constitution as a sacred calling.

    When Lincoln came to Gettysburg he talked about this sacred calling:

    But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

    The countless generations of Jews who have devoted themselves to the Torah have forever hallowed it. The numerous generations of Americans who have defended the Constitution have forever hallowed it.

    When we recite the Kedushah, the holiness section of the Amidah prayer at every Sunday morning at our religious school service, I love it when our kids, in the traditional manner, reach up on their toes as they say kadosh, kadosh, kadosh. We’ve explained to them that this dramatizes our desire to reach up in holiness in our lives. We’re commanded to be holy, but that’s always a work in progress. We can always go higher.

    May it be said of us that we reached up for holiness.

    That we recognized before whom we stand.

    That it was said of our lives: mekudeshet, mekudeshet, mekudeshet.


  • October 11, 2022 1:21 PM | Lance Strate (Administrator)

    TO LIFE, NOT DEATH

    Kol Nidre, 5782

    Rabbi Barry L. Schwartz

    Is this the last Pandemic sermon I will give? I certainly hope so. This is the third High Holidays under the still lingering shadow of the plague. Two years ago, I spoke to a completely empty sanctuary. Last year I spoke to a masked congregations at 50% capacity, with no one allowed on the bimah save the cantor and myself. This year you are still masked and bimah restrictions have eased a bit but are still present. Our lives have returned to normal… but not completely. Synagogue life has returned to normal… but not completely.

    As I approached this High Holidays, I thought to myself⏤another pandemic sermon? Is that what we need? Then I said to myself⏤one million Americans have died of Covid, and more are still dying. How can I not talk about it⏤again?

    Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Ed Yong wrote in the Atlantic, in a widely noted piece in March:

    The sheer scale of the tragedy strains the moral imagination. On May 24, 2020, as the United States passed 100,000 recorded deaths, The New York Times filled its front page with the names of the dead, describing their loss as “incalculable.” Now the nation hurtles toward a milestone of one million. What is 10 times incalculable?”

    The full title of Yong’s article: "HOW DID THIS MANY DEATHS BECOME NORMAL?" The tagline: "The U.S. is nearing 1 million recorded COVID-19 deaths without the social reckoning that such a tragedy should provoke. Why?"

    Yong notes the slow-motion nature of the pandemic, unlike natural disasters or terrorist attacks, that have a quick shock and aftermath. He notes how so much of the illness and death is hidden from pubic view. He notes public weariness and the almost desperate need of people to move on with their lives, and so to accept heightened risk.

    And Yong makes the unnerving point that, "America is accepting not only a threshold of death but also a gradient of death." So long as the victims are primarily old rather than young, primarily poor rather than rich, and disproportionally black and brown rather than white… we tolerate the mortality.

    Yong makes a final and equally provocative point. He quotes Richard Keller, a medical historian, who says that we are treating COVID deaths, like gun violence, overdose, heart disease, and smoking, [so that COVID] becomes increasingly associated with behavioral choice and individual responsibility, and therefore increasingly invisible.” COVID, it seems, is now inevitable and its deaths, dismissible.

    When I first read Yong’s piece back in March I just sat there. I remember seeing the names of the 100,000 dead, page after page. But a million? How thick would that book need to be? If we read a million names, fast and around the clock, it would take… 23 days!

    What more can we say, should we say, one million lost lives later?

    I’m not here to criticize. So much of that has been done already. But it certainly did not help when our president said the week before last that the pandemic is over.

    With 400 people still dying every day in this country?

    With 30,000 new cases every day in this country?

    With 1/3 of the population still unvaccinated?

    With COVID remaining the third leading cause of death?

    With Omicron still mutating?

    Really, the pandemic is over? And it's time to call it quits?

    (Oh, and welcome back, Cantor Joe. We’re glad you and your family experienced mild symptoms, because you were vaccinated!)

    I am here to convey two simple but profound truths from the 3000-year-old wisdom tradition that is Judaism:

    The first teaching is called kavod hamet⏤the dignity of the deceased. Judaism teaches that the dead should never be forgotten. We are taught to remember them in prayer; to recite their names before the Kaddish; to inscribe their names on memorial plaques. What are the two things in this sanctuary that we have brought with us from Hoboken and anchor our sanctuary 150 years later? The Torah scrolls in our ark, and the memorial plaques on our walls. The Torah keeps alive the names of our biblical founders and the plaques keep alive the names of our congregational founders (as does the wonderful history book written for our sesquicentennial by Michael Fishbein).

    Who will tell the story of the greatest tragedy of this century? How will we remember the million Americans, the five million worldwide?

    The second teaching is called pikuach nefesh⏤the paramount significance of saving a life. The foundation of this life-affirming ethic is the belief that every life is precious. Every life is in the image of God. Every life is of infinite value⏤be it young or old, rich or poor, black, brown, or white.

    You’ve heard the Biblical command before (and you will hear it again during the Torah reading tomorrow morning): Choose life! You’ve heard the Talmudic verse before⏤to save one life is to save an entire world. And you’ve heard the ruling of Jewish law, that to save a life, the Sabbath can be violated. Yom Kippur can be violated.

    Can we not do more to save lives?

    To relentlessly continue the campaign to educate and vaccinate?

    It’s estimated that 2/3 of current Covid deaths are among the unvaccinated.

    In March, Scientific American reported that, “unvaccinated people 12 years and older had 17 times the rate of COVID-associated deaths, compared to people vaccinated with a primary series and a booster dose.”

    Four hundred people still dying a day and we’re giving up the fight to convince people to roll up their sleeves?

    In August we learned that the average life expectancy of Americans fell precipitously in 2020 and 2021, the sharpest two-year decline in nearly 100 years.

    In 2021, the average American could expect to live only until the age of 76. The figure represents a loss of almost three years since 2019.

    What a stark reminder of the toll exacted on the nation by the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

    One of the leading experts in the field has called our catatonic response to the loss of human life, “psychic numbing”. Dr. Paul Slovic has written, chillingly, that after all his research he has concluded that “The more who die, the less we care.” That too, stopped me in my tracks.

    Others call the phenomena “compassion collapse”.

    Judaism refuses to acquiesce in this numbing. This collapse.

    Every life is a world unto itself. Every soul is infinitely precious.

    On this Day of Atonement let us bow our heads in remembrance.

    Kavod ha met. When we recite Yizkor prayers later this afternoon let us remember the departed, though their names are too numerous to be recited.

    On this Day of Atonement let us raise our heads in resolve.

    Pikuach nefesh. The fight against the pandemic must go on. The fight against the creeping apathy must go on.

    If every life is indeed a world unto itself, a universe of souls is at stake.

    Is this the last sermon I will give on the pandemic? I hope so. But our work of remembrance and rebuilding is not done.

    Our tradition also teaches, “It is not up to you to finish the task, but neither are you free to desist from it”.

    May we be inscribed, by the work of our own hands, in the Book of Life!

    L’chayim! To Life!

    Shanah Tovah.


  • October 11, 2022 1:05 PM | Lance Strate (Administrator)

    LETTER TO MY GRANDSON

    Rosh Hashanah Morning, 5783

    Rabbi Barry L. Schwartz

    According to tradition, Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of the world. Happy Birthday, world! How old are you? 5783 years, give or take a few billion. That’s old, but I am told you are young, as planets go. You could live a few billion more years… if we don’t mess things up… and so we wish you many good millennia and eons, ahead.

    But how about this? Today is also the birthday of my grandson. Happy Birthday, Adin. How old are you? Two! That’s not old, you are indeed very young, with your radiant smile and gleam in your eyes. And we wish you many good years, and decades, ahead.

    So how am I to respond to the amazing coincidence that today is the birthday of the world and the birthday of my grandson? With a sermon of course. A Letter to My Grandson. You might remember a few years back; eight to be exact, that I offered a series of sermons, Letter to my Children. What a privilege and pleasure to now offer one to the son of my son.

    I realize, Adin, that given your “developing” attention span I should be concluding my message just as I am getting started. And I realize you probably won’t read this… until your bar mitzvah. But here we go.

    Dear Adin,

    We love you, and being your grandparents is the best thing Savta (Debby) and Saba (me) can imagine right now.

    But this is not a mushy kind of letter. It’s a serious one. Your Saba loves playing with you, and with your amazing assortment of toys. But your Saba is more serious than mushy, and after all, this is not a few words at your birthday party but a sermon on Rosh Hashanah!

    One more personal word before the serious stuff, though. You were born two years ago today in the heart of the pandemic. Only immediate family could attend your brit here at Congregation Adas Emuno, and your parents rightfully insisted that we be tested and masked. It was before the vaccines and it was a dark and scary time. But you were such a burst of light. The celebration of new life. The celebration of being welcomed to our people. The celebration of hope⏤because the birth of every new child is a great act of hope, that you will add your light to the sum of light in the world. You remind us of those wonderful times when your father was a baby and toddler, before he was a teen, and the same for your aunt and uncle. You remind us of the wonder of growing up: first words and first steps, first smiles and first laughs, first cuddles and first hugs. You remind us of the enchantment of story time and the magic of the playground.

    Hold on⏤I said I’m not going to be mushy… so here is the challenge: What message should I share with you today? What wisdom that will hold true when you read this⏤years from now? What insight that will help ground and guide you through the journey of life ahead?

    As I thought about what brief teaching could encapsulate what I wanted to say, I realized it was very close to me. Actually… around my neck, on my tallit. Inscribed on the atarah, the collar of this tallit, is my favorite saying from the Hebrew Bible. The timeless words of the prophet Micah, chapter 6, verse 8:

    He has told you, O mortal, what is good, and what God requires of you: Only to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.


    Justice, kindness, humility. The big three. That is what I want to talk to you about today.

    Adin, as you grow older, you will find that the world is often an unjust place. You will find that it is often an unkind place. Too often we are just resigned to what we see.

    Yet our tradition, our Torah, teaches that every human being is unique and precious and holy; and that we are to, “love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

    “For you were strangers.” We have been there. We know what it is like. We were oppressed. We were outcasts. We know the heart of the shunned and the exploited. We can more than sympathize; we can empathize because we, through our people, through our historical consciousness, lived through it.

    I really loved having you at our seder this year, Adin, keeping it short and playing guitar, so you would be engaged, which you were. The whole point of the Passover seder, arguably Judaism’s most important ritual, is to reenact the experience of liberation from slavery. And what is the single most important line of the Haggdah?

    B’cal dor hayav adam lirot et atmo k’ilu hu yatza m’mitzrayim.

    In every generation each person must see himself as if he went out from Egypt.


    K’ilu. As if. As you get older, Adin, use your imagination; your moral imagination. Put yourself in your ancestor’s shoes. Don’t forget your roots, your origins. They explain where you came from, where you are going, who you are, and what you can be.

    V’atem yadatem et nefesh hager”, for you know the nefesh, the soul, the deepest feelings, of the stranger, “having been strangers yourselves in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9). Adin, may you always stand with the vulnerable. The voiceless. The forgotten and the defenseless.

    Adin, you come from a family of readers. And since I know you will take after your Saba and Savta and love to read all kinds of books⏤read the Torah.

    Because the best way to learn about kindness, besides following the example of kind people in your family, is to read wonderful stories of compassion. So read about the kindness of Abraham and Sarah opening their tent to strangers, and open your heart and home to others.

    Read about the kindness of Rebecca giving water to the man by the well, and to his camels, and share of your bounty with all who hunger and thirst.

    Read about the kindness of Joseph to his brothers, even after they were so unkind to him, and be a man of reconciliation and peace.

    Read about the kindness of Ruth, who left her home and land, to care for her mother-in-law, and recognize that compassion is not weakness but strength.

    While you’re reading those stories of kindness, consider the tales of justice as well.

    Read about the justice of Abraham willing to question even God over the loss of innocent life, and be ready to challenge injustice anywhere you see it.

    Read about the courage of the Hebrew midwives, Shifra and Puah, who defied Pharaoh’s decree, and be ready to stand up and stand out when few will do so.

    Read about the justice of the prophet Nathan, who rebuked the great king David, and know that no one is above the law and we are all accountable.

    Finally, read about the humility of Moses, the liberator and law-giver, yet called the humblest of men. The humble walk is the most challenging of journeys. Cultivate an “attitude of gratitude”. For if you stay thankful you will stay humble.

    Adin, your Hebrew name Reuven, bears the name of your great grandfather Rudy, who rallied to celebrate at your father’s wedding, but did not live to see your birth. Do you want to know what it is to be a just and kind and humble man? Learn his story too.  

    There it is, Adin. Be just. Be kind. Be humble.

    Let me say it in Hebrew, which I hope you will one day learn: asot mishpat, vahavat hesed, v’hatnea lechet im eloheicha.

    This tallit of mine, that was made for me by a weaver in my first congregation… I’ve worn it at every significant occasion for the last thirty-six years.

    Someday it will be yours.

    May you take its words to heart.

    Happy birthday, and shanah tovah!

    Love, Sabah


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Student Cantor

Joseph Flaxman

Religious School Director

Shira Friedman

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