Ghosts from the Past


Meg and I are recently back from a vacation in Central Europe.  Landing in Prague we picked up our rental car and headed immediately to Nuremberg, Germany.  I’ve always wanted to visit Nuremberg, not for the beer or food, the castle or the historic architecture rather to pay a visit to the Palace of Justice.  Between 1945 and 1949 thirteen trials, over a hundred defendants and several different courts, took place in Nuremberg.

The two most noted defendants during this post war period were Hermann Goering and Rudolph Hess.

Goering was perhaps the most influential person, next to Hitler, in the Nazi organization. He was one of only 12 Nazis elected to the Reichstag in 1928. He orchestrated the Reichstag fire on February 27, 1933 and, with Goebbels assistance, used the fire as a propaganda tool against the communists. In the mid-1930's Goering was in charge of the Aryanization of Jewish property, a policy which extended to Jews throughout Europe.

After the events of Kristallnacht, November 8 and 9, 1938, Goering (under instructions from Hitler) called a high-level meeting of the party, on November 12, to assess the damage done during the night and place responsibility for it. Present at the meeting were Goering, Goebbels, Reinhardt  Heydrich, Walter Funk and other ranking Nazi officials. The intent of this meeting was two-fold: to make the Jews responsible for Kristallnacht and to use the events of the preceding days as a rationale for promulgating a series of anti-Semitic laws which would, in effect, remove Jews from the German economy.

“Gentlemen! Today's meeting is of a decisive nature,” Goering announced. “I have received a letter written on the Fuehrer’s orders requesting that the Jewish question be now, once and for all, coordinated and solved one way or another.”

Kristallnacht turned out to be a crucial turning point in German policy regarding the Jews and may be considered as the actual beginning of what is now called the Holocaust. Following that meeting, a wide-ranging set of anti-Semitic laws were passed which had the clear intent, in Goering’s words, of "Aryanizing" the German economy. The path to the "Final Solution" had been chosen.

Hermann Goering was sentenced to death by hanging. He evaded the sentence by committing suicide in his cell.

Rudolph Hess served as Hitler’s deputy minister and was next in line if Goering should be unavailable for any reason.

Vera Laska, editor of Women in the Resistance and in the Holocaust: The Voices of Eyewitnesses, details information about the “killing schools” established by Rudolph Hess for the future extermination of undesirables.

These preparatory schools for murder offered the training course for the roughnecks who learned by killing thousands of Christian, German and Austrian individual victims and, thus insensitized, graduated to the main task, which was to be the genocide of millions of Jews, and eventually of Gypsies, Poles, Russians, Czechs and other less worthy Slavs. The program was administered under Rudolf Hess and, after his departure, under Martin Bormann. Medical supervision was under Werner Heyde, M.D., professor at the University of Wurzburg; 100,000 people were dispatched this way. They experimented with various gasses and injections; they photographed the effect, clocked the speed of death by a stopwatch, filmed it in slow motion and then dissected the brain—all as an undergraduate course preparatory for genocide.

Rudolf Hess was sentenced to life imprisonment. He served over 40 years of that sentence at Spandau Prison in West Berlin, Germany and committed suicide in 1987 at age 93. The Spandau Prison was demolished after the death of its last prisoner Rudolph Hess.

Nuremberg, the favorite city of Adolf Hitler, the city that hosted mass rallies for the Fuhrer and willing decimated a once vibrant Jewish community, was forced to become the epicenter of restorative justice and human rights. 

A Reason to Be Proud

About a month and a half ago Meg and I were in Washington, DC to attend the AIPAC Policy Conference (AIPAC is the American lobby on behalf of Israel).  Knowing that we were going to be in the capital I tried to get tickets to the new African-American Smithsonian Museum.  Much to my disappointment all available tickets were sold.

We arrived in Washington early so I suggested to Meg we take a walk by the new museum, which we did. I approached a museum official hoping against hope that perhaps a few tickets were still available. He assured me that there were none.  An African-American family standing by us overheard the conversion.  The mother of the family turned and said, “We have two extra tickets; you’re welcome to take them.”  At that moment I had two simultaneous thoughts:   (1) it was totally beshert and (2) be sure to profusely thank the family for their generosity.

The new museum, too long in coming, is a wonderful achievement.  It houses the rich history, the wonderful cultural, scientific and artistic accomplishments, and the varied ethnic expressions of the African-American community.

On the day we visited the museum, it was packed and the overwhelming number of the visitors were African-American. As much as I enjoyed seeing the superb exhibits, what proved even more exciting was to see the attendees’ reactions.  Parents sharing enthusiastically something they personally experienced from the past: a famous singer, an historic event or person.  “I was here when Martin spoke.” "I remember hearing her sing that song." “I was in Montgomery for the march.” Grandparents and parents were connecting to children and grandchildren. 

As Jews, we are well acquainted with our past and the importance it has in shaping our present and future. Each year during our Passover, we retell our ancient story thus ensuring our identity as Jews.

Embodied in this new museum are a people’s past and a reason to be proud. It made me proud that a much needed emblem, so long overdue, has been added to our nation’s capital.

.הִנֵּה מַה-טּוֹב וּמַה-נָּעִים שֶֽׁבֶת אַחִים גַּם-יָֽחַד How good it is, and how pleasant, when we dwell together in unity.

It’s becoming more and more difficult to follow social media. The war of words over the presidential election and its aftermath has not abated.  I would venture to say 80% of my friends on FB are more inclined to talk politics than share recent photos of themselves, their family or a most recent vacation. It’s not that I’m disinterested in politics, rather I have become fatigued by the constant chatter, the adamancy and the all too often nastiness. Friends have blocked friends. Feelings are hurt. And certain conversations are no longer permitted. I share with you a Talmudic story about Hillel, one of Judaism’s greatest teachers in the hope that we can return to a more respectful way of addressing one another:

The Talmud tells the story of the sage Hillel, and of a man who wagered with his friend that he could anger the great scholar. So the protagonist of the story (perhaps more accurately described as the antagonist) went and stood outside the bathhouse on the eve of Yom Kippur, as Hillel was busy with preparations for the holiday. He called out “who here is Hillel?” Then, when the sage emerged, he asked him an extremely silly and non-urgent question.

Hillel answered the man with great patience. The fellow then permitted the sage to return to the bathhouse, and presumably remove half his clothing, before calling him out a second time for a similar purpose – and again, Hillel was patient in the extreme, and answered him gently.

This went on yet a third time, at which point the man confessed to Hillel that he had now lost a considerable sum for failing to arouse the leader’s ire. Hillel responded that it was better that fortunes should be lost than that Hillel should become angry!

This is the holiness we seek. Not a person who is withdrawn from the world, but someone who achieves perfection both in his interaction with God, and in his interaction with his fellow man. May we merit to follow in Hillel’s footsteps!

All good things,

Rabbi James S. Glazier 

Happy Chanukah 2016!

It’s unusual to be celebrating Chanukah on Christmas Eve.  Yet unusual timing, given our Lunar Calendration, isn’t that unusual. On November 28, 2013 Chanukah and Thanksgiving were celebrated together. The next time those two holidays will be celebrated in unison will be in the secular year 79811; so I guess we’ll have plenty of time to prepare.

For as long as I can remember Christmas Day has always meant delivering Meals on Wheels with fellow congregants, a movie and of course, Chinese food.  I can’t recall ever doing these three activities on the first day of Chanukah.  (Though it did occur in 2005.)

Chanukah as we know is a minor Jewish holiday so the delivering of meals is absolutely appropriate. According to Dave Chafetz, organizing this year’s delivery, our member response has been fantastic. It’s good to do a mitzvah, to bring hot food and cheer to those less fortunate. And less fortunate many of the recipients are. Almost all are elderly, living alone and frequently in homes that lack sufficient heat, cleanliness and cheer.

It’s important for us to see how others in our society live. We often forget the needs of others as we go about our daily lives. Hunger, poverty and loneliness abound in both the rural and cities of Vermont.  The delivery of a single meal will not end these maladies but it will make us more cognizant of their existence. Perhaps then this is the greatest gift we can receive this holiday season.

Happy Chanukah,

Rabbi James Scott Glazier

Celebrating 50 Years

For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. --Psalms: 90:4

Where has the time gone? It was but yesterday when we were a wandering congregation, meeting in rented spaces and congregant homes. Those early years required so much energy, so much passion. When I came in 1981, Temple Sinai had already been meeting in Faith Methodist Church for eleven years. Beyond the conducting of worship, there was the weekly set up and break down. The church’s sanctuary needed to be made ready for Jewish worship. The cross required covering. The prayer books had to be rolled into the front foyer from a storeroom. From that same storeroom, the Torah was removed from a moveable ark. The ark and its base had to be carried into the sanctuary followed by the Torah. And when the service was concluded the process was then reversed. We were small in number then, but certainly not in energy or enthusiasm. In the summer months, worship was held in congregant homes from Enosburg Falls to Shelburne Vermont.

We had our fears. Would we grow? Would we be able to find a permanent home? Would we run out of money? Yet our fears never kept us from pursuing the next dream. Little by little people who wished to have a more progressive expression of Jewish belief and practice joined us. Most who joined came from other places, Chicago, Los Angeles, Montreal, New York, Boston, Toledo, Philadelphia, Birmingham and the list goes on and on. For many, Temple became a second home. It was here that life-cycle events took place. At times we celebrated and at times we consoled. It was here we observed holidays; praying together and more often than not eating together. Older members became surrogate grandparents. And strangers eventually became friends.

As time passed and our foothold was more established we ventured out beyond the walls of the synagogue. Russian Jews were resettled, the women of Lund Home received quilts, Christmas Day became a time to deliver meals, we became a charter member of Mazon: a Jewish Response to Hunger, we hiked to alleviate hunger, we made room for a Christian community that lost its church in a fire, we now host AA, Alanon, Overeaters Anonymous and activities for challenged children.

If you were to ask me what has kept us going for these fifty years, I would answer: faith in God and a love of all humankind. It is God that beckons us to make for ourselves a life of meaning. We were placed on this earth to make something of ourselves, yet not for ourselves exclusively. Our talents and our gifts are to improve the world in which we live: to raise people out of poverty, to feed the hungry, to house the homeless, to educate, to give spiritual direction to those lost in the night. As long as we remember these two important lessons—that God beckons us to live a life of meaning and to love all humankind—there will always be a place for Temple Sinai.



5777 / 2016 Rosh Hashanah Messages

Erev Rosh Hashanah 5777

We Come Together

Happy New Year! We gather once again. Here we are! I see members, guests, previous members and students. Some of you I know personally others not as yet. What brings us here? Yes it is Rosh Hashanah but what compels our attendance. Other annual events in the life of a congregation don’t garner the same level of attendance. Not Yahrzeit observances, not Adult Education offerings, not even 50th Anniversary Celebrations. With little advertising and even less coercion the High Holidays always get attendance. As if being drawn by some ancient call we come together.

What compels; this I do not know. I do know that what compels one person isn't necessarily the same for another.  Some are here to celebrate the New Year. Others are here because they wish to make amends for wrongs committed. Some are here to remember friends and family that have passed on. Others are here to see the community in its entirety. Some for the liturgy while others for the outstanding music.

When I was young the holiday season was quite an event. The synagogue was packed sometimes to overflowing. For many in the community it was a time to see and a time to be seen. Everyone was in their finest attire. Men in suits, the youth in either shirts and ties with  sport jackets or in brand new dresses and skirts, ladies in stunning dresses, jewelry and occasionally in fur. It was quite the display of fall fashion.

Some took umbrage with the display of elegance saying, "They're here only to show off." Occasionally justifying their own decision not to attend High Holiday worship on the basis of the vanity of those who did.

Who I am to judge what compels anyone to be here tonight? I rejoice because you are here. And it matters not the reason.

We call ourselves “Am Yisrael,” the people of Israel not “Dat Yisrael,” the religion of Israel. A sense of peoplehood has long been the defining characteristic of the Jews. On an everyday level, this focus on peoplehood is realized into an emphasis on the community as the primary, often the only, organizing structure of Jewish life. Wherever Jews live, we have built synagogues, established communal organizations and have created systems of communal communication and governance.

Talmud states: A talmid chacham (Torah scholar) is not allowed to live in a city that does not have these ten things: a beit din (law court) that metes out punishments; a tzedakah fund that is collected by two people and distributed by three, a synagogue, a bath house, a bathroom, a doctor, a craftsperson, and blood-letter, a shochet (a butcher) and a teacher of children. Sanhedrin 17b

In order to be a suitable place to live a community must provide for all of its members spiritual and physical needs. A beit din to insure that a community is not overwhelmed by crime, tzedakah to prevent members of the community from falling into poverty, a synagogue offers a place to pray, study and shelter community gatherings, a bathhouse, bathroom, doctor, craftsperson, blood-letter and butcher to provide for the physical needs of the community. And a teacher to ensure that the next generation is well versed in Jewish tradition and to be prepared to eventually assume leadership in the community.

Since the first century much of Jewish life has focused around the synagogue. In addition to being a place of prayer synagogues are the site of lifecycle events celebrating births, weddings, and b’nai mitzvah.

When I consider the programs and services Temple Sinai provides to not only our members but the greater community as well I am overwhelmed. Blood drives, Christmas food deliveries on behalf of Meals On Wheels, hosting meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous and Partners in Adventure and Al Anon, providing space for David Zuckerman’s summer and winter CSA, our Chavurah Committee providing food to families unable to cook. And of course our ongoing activities: Worship services, Religious School, Preschool, Story Hour, Adult Education, providing educational opportunities to those interested in conversion, our Brotherhood and Sisterhood, Young Judaea, Class dinners before Sabbath eve worship, the various committees that run our cemeteries, maintain our building and grounds, who add spirituality to our community and maintain our finances. All this with a membership of 170 and a full time staff of 2 and a part-time staff of 3 not including our fabulous teaching staff. Thanks to all who make our congregation a place of caring, learning and growing.

Jewish texts treat participation in communal affairs not as an option, but as a religious obligation.

In Mishnah’s Pirkei Avot Rabbi Hillel states, “Separate not yourself from the congregation…”

A Midrash likens removing oneself from the community  to destroying the world. I share the Midrash:

“With justice, a king sustains the earth, but a fraudulent (terumot) person destroys it. (Proverbs 29). What does this verse mean? With the justice that the king does, he sustains the earth, but the fraudulent person destroys it. If one makes oneself like terumah (portion of produce that is set aside as an offering), set aside in the corner of the house, and says, “Why should I trouble myself for the community? What’s in it for me to take part in their disputes? Why should I listen to their voices? I’m fine without this, this person destroys the world. This is the meaning of the fraudulent person destroys the world.”

“There is a story about Rav Assi, that when he was dying, his nephew entered and found him crying. He said to him, Why are you crying? Is there any Torah that you did not study and teach to others? Look-your students sit before you. Are there any acts of lovingkindness that you did not do? Furthermore, despite your stature you stayed far from disputes and did not allow yourself to be appointed over the affairs of the community.

Rav Assi replied, My son, this is why I am crying. What if I am asked to account for the fact that I was able to arbitrate disputes among the people of Israel and I did not? Thus this is the meaning of the fraudulent person who destroys the world. Midrash Tanhuma, Parashat Mishpatim 2

The Jewish community faces enormous challenges in today’s world particularly here in Vermont. An aging population and a low population growth rate, factors we have little or no control to change, are stressing the very foundation of our Jewish community. We are doing well now but now is no guarantee for tomorrow.

In this Temple we do outstanding work much of it I’ve already shared. Imagine how much more we could be capable of doing with your help. Bask in a moment of what ifs. More programming particularly in areas of outreach. Reaching out to the twenty and thirty year olds. Creating a synagogue experience without walls. Experiencing God through nature. I’m sure you have your own what ifs as well.

But now I need to share a reality that saddens me greatly. Somehow people have developed the idea that membership only has meaning or value when it provides something tangible or of importance directly to the member. In a letter of resignation I will often read, “We don’t get anything out of Temple at this stage of our lives. Or I don’t participate enough to warrant being a member. Or we can no longer justify the expense.” 

I am not so arrogant as to suggest that Temple is a perfect institution, it is not. At times we fail to address issues of importance. But I can say with absolute certainty we are always open to your suggestions and your personal involvement. Share and you will be heard. If you don’t see it or if you see it and don’t like it let us know.

However there is something more compelling that needs to be said. Once again according to Mishnah’s Pirkei Avot:

“The world rests upon three things, Torah, avodah, and gemilut hasadim.” Pirkei Avot 1:2) Torah represents law and study. Avodah refers to worship. And gemilut hasadim means acts of lovingkindness. Gemilut Hasadim is held in higher regard than even Tzedakah because Tzedakah is done as an obligation whereas Gemilut Hasadim is done out of love. Moreover Gemilut Hasadim can be done for both rich and poor. Gemilut Hasadim reminds us that often being a part of community requires us to put community before self.

While I sincerely hope that this congregation can be a source of spirituality and growth for all of its membership even when it may fail to do so is not license to forget the needs of others.

Years ago, well before this wonderful building existed, I solicited a woman for membership. I asked her to join. She replied, I will join once you have built a synagogue, I don’t want to pray in a church. I rejoined if you don’t join we will never have a building of our own. She joined.

True love is more than attending to the needs of oneself. Community before self is a form of Gemilut Hasadim.

One day a man said to God, “God, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.”

God showed the man two doors. Inside the first one, in the middle of the room, was a large round table with a large pot of stew. It smelled delicious and made the man’s mouth water, but the people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful, but because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths.

The man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering. God said, “You have seen Hell.”

Behind the second door, the room appeared exactly the same. There was the large round table with the large pot of wonderful stew that made the man’s mouth water. The people had the same long-handled spoons, but they were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking.

The man said, “I don’t understand.”

God smiled. It is simple, he said, Love only requires one skill. These people learned early on to share and feed one another. While the greedy only think of themselves…

Sometimes, thinking of our personal gratification, we tend to forget our interdependence with everyone and everything around us. As the parable makes it clear, not to help our fellow human beings simply means harming our very selves, since we are all connected on a very deep level.

Dalai Lama teaches:

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” 

Heroes of the Jewish People

Morning Rosh Hashanah 5777

The expression: “May you live in interesting times,” is widely reported as being of ancient Chinese origin but is neither Chinese nor ancient. But what is unquestionable is the fact we are living in interesting times.

The world lost two incredibly interesting human beings in the past four months. Elie Wiesel died in July and Shimon Peres just over a week ago.

Elie Wiesel, born in Romania in 1928, was a Holocaust survivor, author, human rights activist and moralist. My first encounter with Mr. Wiesel occurred when I was in Middle School when my English teacher assigned us to read Night, a personal account of Wiesel’s Holocaust experience. It was my first significant encounter with the horror of Jewish genocide. Given our approximate ages I being 14 when I read the book and Wiesel 15, at the time of his imprisonment by the Germans and his subsequent deportation to Auschwitz it was easy to identify with the protagonist. The Germans killed Wiesel’s mother, father and sister, his two older sisters survived the war. In April 0f 1945 Wiesel’s camp was liberated by the U.S. Third Army.

After the war Wiesel moved to France, learned French and studied at the Sorbonne. He heard lectures by Martin Buber and Jean-Paul Sartre. At 19 he began working as a journalist writing in French and Hebrew for French and Israeli papers. In 1946 after the Irgun’s bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem he tried unsuccessfully to join the underground movement.

For years Wiesel refused to write about the war or to share any personal experiences. This, of course,  was not unusual for many who had survived the war. After a decade Wiesel started to write about his war experience. He first wrote And the World Remained Silent, a 900 page memoir in Yiddish. From that work he published an abridged version called La Nuit in 1955. It was translated into English as Night in 1960. Night was eventually translated into 30 different languages and ten million copies were sold in the United States alone.

Elie Wiesel’s accomplishments are numerous, he established the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, Chairman for the Presidential Commission on the Holocaust, involved in the building of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, he co-founded Moment Magazine with Leonard Fein, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, recipient of the Nobel Prize and the list goes on and on.

More than the awards, more than the accolades Wiesel was a ferocious defender of human rights. While an adamant Zionist and defender of Israel, Wiesel spoke out against unjust governments and human suffering. He spoke out about the plight of Soviet Jews and Ethiopian Jews, the victims of South African apartheid, the disappeared in Argentina during the Military Junta, the genocide of Bosnians, the Kurds, the aboriginals in Nicaragua and the crisis in Darfur.

In July 2009, Wiesel announced his support for the minority Tamils in Sri Lanka. He said, “Wherever minorities are being persecuted we must raise our voices in protest...the Tamil people are being disenfranchised and victimized by the Sri Lankan authorities. This injustice must stop. The Tamil people must be allowed to live in peace and flourish in their homeland.”

According to Wiesel, “To remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all.”

Some years ago I had the honor of hearing Elie Wiesel at the University of Vermont. He had been invited to speak by the University of Vermont Hillel. I don’t recall his entire speech but I do recall one point he felt very passionate about. He shared with his audience, mostly UVM students, that the highest members of the Nazi Party were for the most part college educated. How could it be, Wiesel postulated, that college educated people who were required to study the humanities, poetry, literature, art, the social sciences, and religion had perpetrated such an evil upon the world?

Wiesel possessed a talent which enabled him to probe the hidden recesses of the human heart. To see evil and to see beauty. To ask the moral questions that many of us would never have considered. He was for our time the moral compass for a world that has lost its way. For him every life is precious. And every life has the inalienable right of being respected and protected.

In Elie Wiesel’s own words:

“And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Sometime in the 1990’s I was on a rabbinic mission to Israel and Turkey. The group consisted of about 15 Reform rabbis from all around the United States. Like all trips to Israel too much is planned so you go from early morning to late in the night. Near the end of our visit in Israel we met with Shimon Peres. We met in a small conference room around a long rectangular table. Mr. Peres shared a similar characteristic with Mr. Wiesel. Both men spoke very slowly as if each word uttered needed to be highly crafted and considered well.

Peres represented the last of his generation. Born in Poland in 1923 he was schooled in Polish, Russian, Hebrew, Yiddish, French and English. In 1932 his father moved to Tel Aviv in British controlled Palestine. In 1934 at the age of eleven Shimon and the rest of his immediate family moved to Tel Aviv to be reunited with his father. In Tel Aviv he attended high school but at 15 years of age he transferred to Ben Shemen agricultural school and lived on Kibbutz Geva. (Just as an aside I taught English at the Ben Shemen School.) At twenty years of age he began his involvement in Israeli politics.

Peres’ career in political life spanned seven decades. He served as Prime Minister three times (one of the three being an interim Prime Minister), Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Defense (the youngest person to hold this position at the age of 29), a member of the Knesset, Minister of Immigrant and Absorption, Minister of Transportation and Communications, Minister of Information, Minister of Defense, Chairman of the Labor Party and President of the State of Israel.

Besides the offices he held he accomplished wondrous things: he worked to create the nuclear power plant in Dimona, Israel and established Israel’s nuclear defense capabilities, he promoted the development of the internet,  he negotiated a military trade agreement with President Kennedy (which was the first time the United States sold military hardware to Israel), he was one of the architects of the Oslo Agreement which subsequently earned him a Nobel Peace Prize along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat. In his later years Shimon Peres developed an obsessive fascination with nanotechnology and brain research. He believed that brain research would be the key to a better and more peaceful future. He launched his own nanotechnology investment fund in 2003. And shortly before his death this year he founded the Israel Innovation Center in the Arab neighborhood of Ajami, Jaffa, The center aims to encourage young people from around the world to be inspired by technology. As construction began on the center Peres said, “We will prove that innovation has no limits and no barriers, Innovation enables dialogue between nations and between people. It will enable all young people-Jews, Muslims and Christians, to engage in science and technology equally.”

In world that so often takes Israel to task eighty nations were represented at Shimon Peres’ funeral. The President of Russia, Vladimir Putin said of him, “I was extremely lucky to have met this extraordinary many times. And every time I admired his courage, patriotism, wisdom, vision and ability.” President Barack Obama said, “I will always be grateful that I was able to call Shimon my friend.” The President of China, Xi Jinping said, “His death is the loss of an old friend for China.” The President of India, Pranab Mukherjee said, “Peres would be remembered as a steadfast friend of India.”

In 2011 Shimon Peres shared, “Sometimes people ask me, What is the greatest achievement you have reached in your lifetime? So I reply that there was a great painter named Mordecai Ardon, who asked which picture was the most beautiful he had ever painted. Ardon replied, the picture I will paint tomorrow. That is also my answer.”

May his words be our inspiration in the New Year.



Let All Who Are Hungry Come and Eat

Passover arrives this Friday night. Around Burlington and around the world people will be sitting down to a festive Passover meal. The Seder meal has many important elements: the Four Questions, the search for the afikoman, the Seder plate, the eating of maror (horseradish root) and not to be forgotten, the four cups of wine.


The four cups correspond to the four times God promises, in the Torah, redemption of the Hebrew people from Egypt.


The First Cup: The Cup of Sanctification

“I am the Lord, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians.”  Exodus 6:6


The Second Cup: The Cup of Redemption

“I will deliver you from their bondage…” Exodus 6:6


The Third Cup: The Cup of Blessing

“I will redeem you with an outstretched arm.” Exodus 6:6


The Fourth Cup: The Cup of Acceptance

“And I will take you to be my people.” Exodus 6:7


Yet in the Torah there is a further promise of redemption.  “I shall bring you to the land…” Exodus 6:8


For many Jews this fifth promise of redemption, the bringing of our ancient ancestors to Israel, constitutes a fifth cup of wine. The fifth cup is also known as the Cup of Elijah, the one who heralds the coming of the Messianic Age. This cup of wine symbolizes the redemption for an enslavement still waiting to be realized. When I was very young we dedicated the fifth cup to the realization of civil rights. A little later on the fifth cup was dedicated to Russian Jewry yearning to be free. Over the years the fifth cup came to represent a host of different causes and concerns that kept redemption from being realized: women’s rights, the cure from disease, refugees, AIDS patients, freedom for Tibetans and freedom for Ethiopian Jews.


When you plan your Seder this year consider what human tragedy desperately needs to be addressed. Hunger? The plight of Syrian refugees? The homeless? It’s your choice. Consider also the opinions of family members or ask the guests to your Seder in advance. It’s not enough to celebrate our wondrous redemption when there are still others who are suffering. Passover’s message of hope is a universal message. We were slaves in Egypt and God with an outstretched arm freed us from Egyptian bondage. Now let all humankind be free.


“When will redemption come?” asks our prayer book. It responds, “When the broken fragments of our world are made whole again (Tikun Olam).”


May your Passover season be filled with health, happiness and love. 

Rabbi James Scott Glazier


Suggested Fifth Cup Readings: