Prayer for the Peace of Israel

Erev Shabbat July 11, 2014

It’s the Sabbath and we are commanded to rest and enjoy the peace of this day. Found in the words we exchange with one another on the Sabbath we are reminded of this obligation: Shabbat Shalom: a Sabbath of peace, Shabbat Menucha: Sabbath rest, Ora ve Simcha: Light and Gladness (a song for the Sabbath Day).

Yet our Sabbath rest and peace are interrupted by concern and worry for our brothers and sisters in the Land of Israel. As we gather this evening to usher in the Sabbath Day those in Israel do not sleep restfully in their beds. They wait for sirens to scream and have but fifteen to sixty seconds to make their way to the nearest bomb shelter. Israel is at war-a war not of their making.

Some have attributed this latest violence to the horrific murder of a Palestinian youth the day after the funeral of three Israeli teenagers. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Since Israel withdrew from Gaza, abandoning all settlements, leaving in working order all factories, greenhouses and homes in February, 2005 some 8,000 rockets and mortar shells have been launched against civilian centers in Israel. Initially because of their primitive technology these projectiles carried minimum payloads, had only short range capacities and were without targeting capabilities. Nonetheless Israeli border towns such as Sderot were under constant bombardment. As the years past and the smuggling into Gaza increased the missiles and rockets became more numerous and their accuracy and payloads improved several fold. Now almost every inch of Israel is within range.

Twice in recent history as a result of this endless barrage of Hamas shelling and rocketing Israel has militarily gone on the defense, once in the winter of 2008 and again in the winter of 2009.

As Jews we feel for those in Gaza, the innocent victims of Hamas terror and hate. Over one hundred and fifty have died, over five hundred injured. They have died for senseless reasons and motivations. Hamas cannot win. At best Hamas can disturb normal life for Israelis. Hiding behind innocent women and children thus causing needless causalities is not the way of civilized people. To its credit Israel calls and pamphlets by air prior to every air attack thus hoping to reduce civilian causalities.

Shame on Hamas for causing the needless death of its own citizens in Gaza. Shame on President Abbas for establishing a unity government between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas on June 2 of this year.

Let there be no misunderstanding the death of the innocent is tragic-whether they be Palestinians or Israelis. Yet let there be no misunderstanding this fight, this war is not between two moral equivalents. Gaza is not an occupied territory. There are no Israelis living in Gaza. And from 2005 until 2007 when Hamas defeated and expelled Pres. Abbas and the Palestinian Authority there was no Israeli blockade. Hamas has chosen this war, chosen to rain destruction upon Israel and in so doing has brought misery upon its own citizens.

Just today as Israel is on high alert truck loads of humanitarian supplies were shipped into Gaza from Israel. What other nation on earth would do such a thing; provide aid to another nation with whom it’s at war? Even Egypt has sealed its border with Gaza! Nothing goes in and nothing comes out by way of Egypt.

This terror has to stop. No other country would tolerate it and certainly not for nine years. Hamas is not interested in a two state solution: two peoples living side by side in peace. Hamas is dedicated to the annihilation of Israel.

I ask you to be involved. How? Follow the events closely. Be informed. Subscribe online to news services: if you Tweet follow the IDF postings. Subscribe online to the Jerusalem Post. Follow the statements of our President and elected officials. Just today the US House voted unanimously in favor of Israel’s defensive position and its right to rid Gaza of terrorism. Get in touch with Representative Welch and thank him for his vote today. If you see a letter in the Free Press or other publication that takes Israel to task for defending herself-write a response. Don’t be afraid to speak up. And let’s pray for the peace of Israel. Bless our brothers and sisters. Keep them from harm. And may those who defend her be of courage. And may they know they have our support and love. And may it be soon that they too shall once again know the blessing of Shabbat Shalom-a Sabbath of Peace.

Let's Go To Israel

When: Not Yet Decided

For How Long: Not Yet Known

How Much Will It Cost: To Be Determined

For some time members have approached me to ask if I would organize a trip to Israel.  I’d absolutely love to lead another congregational trip. Going to Israel is always a great pleasure made even greater when you travel with friends and family. As of today nothing is planned, not date, not length of stay and therefore not even the cost associated. If you’re interested in traveling to Israel please let me know. Once it’s determined that we have a core of interested people I will call everyone together so that we can collectively work out all the details. Let’s make real our Passover pledge, “Bashana haba'ah be yerushalayim.” “Next Year in Jerusalem!”

 

Jerusalem-of-Israel

Amidah

One of the realities of not having daily minyah at Temple Sinai is that we are never able to pray the Amidah in its entirety.

Amidah comes from the Hebrew verb “la-a-mode,” meaning, “to stand.” When we pray the Amidah we are in a standing position. The prayer is also known by two other names: the Tefillah (“prayer”) and the Sh’moneh Esrei (“eighteen”).  The eighteen once referred to the number of prayers found within this portion of the service.  Today the actual count is nineteen.  But to be even more exact, nineteen individual prayers are recited only on six days of the week. On the Sabbath only seven prayers are recited.

Why only seven and not nineteen? Ordinarily the Amidah, prayed on days other than the Sabbath, is when we make requests of God. On the Sabbath we refrain from asking God for things and therefore the Amidah goes from nineteen individual prayers to just seven. We rest on the Sabbath because God rests on the Sabbath. 

In traditional congregations the Amidah is recited three times a day and on the Sabbath a fourth recitation in added (Musaf service) at the conclusion of the morning worship. In traditional congregations, the Amidah is first read silently and then recited out loud by either the cantor or the worship leader. As is our practice, we read or sing the Amidah collectively and just once.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Amidah prayer is how it begins. The first prayer is the Avot and Imahot. In this prayer mention of the patriarchs and matriarchs is our way of reminding God that he is hearing from the great, great, great, great, grandchildren of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob, Rachel and Leah. It’s our way of reminding God, who is of course always busy, that we are more than just mere worshippers. We are in fact the descendants of some very important people.  (“Hey God, Abraham sent us…”)

Wishing you all good things, Rabbi

Passover: May All Be Free

This has been a difficult week for Brandeis University. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the champion of women’s rights in Muslim communities was invited by Brandeis University to receive an honorary degree and give the 2014 commencement address. Ms. Ali, a Somalian by birth, suffered female genital mutilation at the age of five, fled to the Netherlands to avoid forced marriage to a cousin and for the past decade has lived in constant danger of being murdered for dishonoring Islam. In 2004 she co-produced a movie, Submission, with Theo Van Gogh. The movie exposed the deplorable situation of women in the Muslim world. Theo Van Gough, the great grandnephew of Vincent Van Gogh, was murdered on an Amsterdam street shortly after the film appeared. The killer of Van Gogh pinned a note to his chest saying that Ayaan Hirsi Ali would be next. After going into hiding in Europe she eventually immigrated to the United States.

The Council on American Islamic Relations expressed outrage at Brandeis’ invitation and initiated a petition to have the invitation withdrawn. Brandeis subsequently caved and withdrew the invitation. A great many regret this tragic decision, myself included. In response to what the university has done Ms. Ali published her intended commencement remarks. Below is the important message she planned to share. As we prepare to celebrate our Passover, our redemption from Egyptian bondage, let us be aware that redemption has not yet come to all of God’s children. Ms. Ali’s message reminds us of that sad reality.

"One year ago, the city and suburbs of Boston were still in mourning. Families who only weeks earlier had children and siblings to hug were left with only photographs and memories. Still others were hovering over bedsides, watching as young men, women, and children endured painful surgeries and permanent disfiguration. All because two brothers, radicalized by jihadist websites, decided to place homemade bombs in backpacks near the finish line of one of the most prominent events in American sports, the Boston Marathon.

All of you in the Class of 2014 will never forget that day and the days that followed. You will never forget when you heard the news, where you were, or what you were doing. And when you return here, 10, 15 or 25 years from now, you will be reminded of it. The bombs exploded just 10 miles from this campus.

I read an article recently that said many adults don't remember much from before the age of 8. That means some of your earliest childhood memories may well be of that September morning simply known as "9/11."

You deserve better memories than 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing. And you are not the only ones. In Syria, at least 120,000 people have been killed, not simply in battle, but in wholesale massacres, in a civil war that is increasingly waged across a sectarian divide. Violence is escalating in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Libya, in Egypt. And far more than was the case when you were born, organized violence in the world today is disproportionately concentrated in the Muslim world.

Another striking feature of the countries I have just named, and of the Middle East generally, is that violence against women is also increasing. In Saudi Arabia, there has been a noticeable rise in the practice of female genital mutilation. In Egypt, 99% of women report being sexually harassed and up to 80 sexual assaults occur in a single day.

Especially troubling is the way the status of women as second-class citizens is being cemented in legislation. In Iraq, a law is being proposed that lowers to 9 the legal age at which a girl can be forced into marriage. That same law would give a husband the right to deny his wife permission to leave the house.

Sadly, the list could go on. I hope I speak for many when I say that this is not the world that my generation meant to bequeath yours. When you were born, the West was jubilant, having defeated Soviet communism. An international coalition had forced Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. The next mission for American armed forces would be famine relief in my homeland of Somalia. There was no Department of Homeland Security, and few Americans talked about terrorism.

Two decades ago, not even the bleakest pessimist would have anticipated all that has gone wrong in the part of world where I grew up. After so many victories for feminism in the West, no one would have predicted that women's basic human rights would actually be reduced in so many countries as the 20th century gave way to the 21st.

Today, however, I am going to predict a better future, because I believe that the pendulum has swung almost as far as it possibly can in the wrong direction.

When I see millions of women in Afghanistan defying threats from the Taliban and lining up to vote; when I see women in Saudi Arabia defying an absurd ban on female driving; and when I see Tunisian women celebrating the conviction of a group of policemen for a heinous gang rape, I feel more optimistic than I did a few years ago. The misnamed Arab Spring has been a revolution full of disappointments. But I believe it has created an opportunity for traditional forms of authority—including patriarchal authority—to be challenged, and even for the religious justifications for the oppression of women to be questioned.

Yet for that opportunity to be fulfilled, we in the West must provide the right kind of encouragement. Just as the city of Boston was once the cradle of a new ideal of liberty, we need to return to our roots by becoming once again a beacon of free thought and civility for the 21st century. When there is injustice, we need to speak out, not simply with condemnation, but with concrete actions.

One of the best places to do that is in our institutions of higher learning. We need to make our universities temples not of dogmatic orthodoxy, but of truly critical thinking, where all ideas are welcome and where civil debate is encouraged. I'm used to being shouted down on campuses, so I am grateful for the opportunity to address you today. I do not expect all of you to agree with me, but I very much appreciate your willingness to listen.

I stand before you as someone who is fighting for women's and girls' basic rights globally. And I stand before you as someone who is not afraid to ask difficult questions about the role of religion in that fight.

The connection between violence, particularly violence against women, and Islam is too clear to be ignored. We do no favors to students, faculty, nonbelievers and people of faith when we shut our eyes to this link, when we excuse rather than reflect.

So I ask: Is the concept of holy war compatible with our ideal of religious toleration? Is it blasphemy—punishable by death—to question the applicability of certain seventh-century doctrines to our own era? Both Christianity and Judaism have had their eras of reform. I would argue that the time has come for a Muslim Reformation.

Is such an argument inadmissible? It surely should not be at a university that was founded in the wake of the Holocaust, at a time when many American universities still imposed quotas on Jews.

The motto of Brandeis University is "Truth even unto its innermost parts." That is my motto too. For it is only through truth, unsparing truth, that your generation can hope to do better than mine in the struggle for peace, freedom and equality of the sexes."

Everyone Is Precious

Sefer Aggadah teaches, “Man was created alone in order to teach that if anyone causes a single soul to perish from Israel it is as if that person has caused the destruction of the entire world and if anyone saves a single soul in Israel it is as if that person has saved the entire world. Every human soul is precious. On Yom Kippur I shared seven Jewish values that not only supports this perspective but calls us to behave respectfully to every human-being.  These values are particularly beneficial with respect to our personal interactions within synagogue. Here are the seven:

  • Kavod: Respect: Judaism teaches us to treat ourselves and others with respect. Even the stranger is to be treated with respect. Kavod is a feeling of regard for the rights, dignity, feelings, wishes and abilities of others.
  • Shalom Bayit: Peace In The Home: Our synagogue with its committees, school, youth group and auxiliary organizations such as Sisterhood and Brotherhood are often called our second home. Everyone needs to feel comfortable, safe, welcome and respected. We should never ostracize those who seem different. We should strive to settle disagreements in peaceful and respectful ways that allow community members to maintain their dignity.
  • B’Tzelem Elohim: In God’s Image: The Torah tells us that we are all creating in the image of God. This is a simple and profound idea that should guide our interactions with all people. We do not know the image of God except as it is reflected in the different types of people we encounter in the world. If we can remember that each of us, no matter how different, is created in God’s image. This idea can enable us to find the connection we have with one another and to help create truly inclusive communities.
  • Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Bazeh: Communal Responsibility: The Jewish principle that “all Israel is responsible for one another.” This means it is our responsibility to stand up for each other, especially for those who are vulnerable and cannot speak for themselves. It also means that community may come before self.
  • Shmirat Halashon: Guarding One’s Tongue From Hurtful Speak: The Talmud warns us that we must take care of how we use language. Talking about others behind their backs, even if what we are saying is true, is prohibited. The guidelines for Shmirat Halashon remind us that what we say about others affects them in ways we can never predict. Words can hurt or heal depending on how we use them.
  • V’ahavtah L’Reiecha Kamocha: Love Your Neighbor as Yourself: Commenting on Leviticus 19:19 Rabbi Hillel once stated that this was a foundational value of the Torah. It begins with loving ourselves. We love and accept our whole selves and in doing so create the capacity for extending that love and acceptance to others.
  • Al Tifrosh Min Hatsibur: Isolation: Don’t separate yourself from the community. Find ways to be involved in the community by finding like-minded people with whom you can talk. If you know someone who is feeling isolated reach out and be a friend and ally.

The world can be cold and harsh. Yet this is not what God and Judaism endorse. Mishnah reminds us that when you live in a place that is unfriendly even uncivilized-you must be civilized. And surely this world could use a bit more civility.

In Peace, Rabbi

 

 

We are Blessed

Shalom. Winter is now upon us with freezing cold, abundant snow and the darkest of days. This can be an isolating time of the year for many. For several years members of Temple Sinai have broken through the cold and the dark to bring light and hope to the lives of others on Christmas Day. Christmas Day is when our community assumes the responsibility of delivering food and gifts to the needy on behalf of Meals on Wheels and its volunteers.

For more than a decade many of our families gather in the Burlington High School cafeteria on Christmas morning. There food is prepared and packaged along with appropriate gifts for both men and women. Each team of volunteers gathers its assigned packages and receives its list of recipients and addresses. Then off we go.

The mitzvah performed not only benefits the recipient it also benefits those who are performing it. We learn of the importance of supporting those in need. We learn how blessed we are. We learn humility. We learn gratefulness.

This year the delivery is being organized by temple member, David Chafetz. Many thanks David!

In Peace,

Rabbi

Learning, Learning, Learning

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  Proverbs 22:6

During last month’s Board Meeting a momentous decision was made. The Board voted overwhelmingly to end Religious School fees. This means that no longer will parents be charged a fee for enrolling their children in our Religious School. In their wisdom the Board understood that the obligation of educating our youth is a shared responsibility. Making educational opportunities affordable and accessible for all our members increases Jewish knowledge and strengthens our Jewish community. Ahad HaAm, the founder of cultural Zionism, stated, “Learning, learning, learning; that is the secret of Jewish survival.”

To be a Jew is to be a learned person and to be learned is to be engaged in Torah study throughout one’s life. Temple promotes educational opportunities to young and adult alike. For the young school begins in pre-Kindergarten and continues through Confirmation or Chai School graduation (16 or 17 years of age). Adults also have a vast selection of learning opportunities: Torah Study, Prophet Study, Adult education offerings, Hebrew classes, the Aleinu Series, Scholar in Residence weekends and the Downtown Study group.

I applaud the Board for reminding us that we are all “Life Long Learners” and that the responsibility of making educational opportunities available rests on the shoulders of all our members. And for this we as a community can be very proud!

 

In Peace,

 

Rabbi James Scott Glazier