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Shabbat Greetings from Rabbi David Holtz – December 28

Rabbi Holtz

 

As New Year’s Eve approaches, I’m reminded once again of the difference between this joyous secular holiday on the one hand, and the way Jews celebrate the joyous holy day of Rosh Hashanah.  Rabbi Sidney Greenberg once pointed out that at Rosh Hashanah we traditionally wish each other “a gut yahr – a good year” rather than “Happy New Year.”  He said that this is because there is a world of difference between a holiday and a holy day:

  • On holidays we run away from duties; on holy days we face up to them.
  • On holidays we seek to let ourselves go; on holy days we try to bring ourselves under control.
  • On holidays we try to empty our minds; on holy days we attempt to replenish our spirits.
  • On holidays we reach out for the things we want; on holy days we reach up for the things we need.
  • Holidays bring a change of scene; Holy days bring a change of heart.

As we prepare to bid adieu to 2012, I ask you to remember the promises you made to yourself in September as we ushered in 5773.  And I invite you to join me tonight at 5:45, as we welcome the last Shabbat of the year.

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Shabbat Greetings from Pamela Barkley – December 21

It’s time to take a collective breath.

So far, it has been a pretty crazy fall/winter for all of us with hurricanes, both natural and man-made, wreaking havoc on our emotions.  Everything has seemed a little harder than usual, a little more challenging.  No sooner did we bounce back from one thing, did another tragedy strike.

But vacation week is upon us. This is a chance for all of us to stop, take a little break and recharge. It is a time where we can just take a long, deep breath. I truly hope you all can see this week as the gift that it is. If ever there was a need for a little space, a little R&R, a little respite, this is it! Take the time between now and New Year’s to reconnect – with your loved ones, with your friends, with your inner self.

The Hebrew word for breath is “Neshema”. This is from the same root as the word for soul, “Neshahmah.” May the breaths you take over the next week rejuvenate your soul so that you can approach 2013 refreshed and restored!

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Shabbat Greetings from Cantor Margot Goldberg – December 14

Shabbat Shalom!  Tonight’s services should be very special and I hope that you are planning on being with us.  Our Torah portion, Mikeitz, is about Joseph; who interprets Pharoah’s dreams and saves not only the people of Egypt, but the Israelites, by planning to collect food during the years of plenty to feed the people during the years of famine.   If it weren’t for dreamers, we wouldn’t be the people that we are today; we might not even be here. If it weren’t for those who had a dream of what Judaism could look like in the Land of Israel, it certainly would have been invaded long ago.  If it weren’t for dreamers, nothing would change.

We have many dreamers here at TBA.  There are those who dream of a renovated building and, because of their dream, determination, and generosity we have a beautiful new sanctuary.  There are those who dream of changes in our worship and so over the last couple of years, we brought in a new instrument, a new prayer book, and now are experimenting with different times for worship.

There are those who dream of not only more attendees, but more participation in worship. So this week,  Jodie Lane will be joining me on the bima and we will be leading both services together in celebration of Shabbat and Chanukah.  Jodie has put together a small choir who will help us lead services, which will include more music than usual: new, familiar and original pieces.  Under Jodie’s direction, help, and in-collaboration we are trying to work with our prayer book, which still feels new, to create a more participatory worship experience.  Whether you are comfortable singing, reading along, or engaging in conversation. we feel that there is a place for everyone in our worship space and hope that you will join us at whatever level you are comfortable.

There are those who dream of new models of education for our children.  This Friday night is also the next family program experience for our 5th grade class.  Under Pam Barkley’s direction, the Religious School, in collaboration with LOMED (Learner Outcomes and Measurement for effective Educational Design), is experimenting with a potential new model for Religious School.  The 5th grade teachers have been working with Pam and an advisory committee guided by LOMED to create different models of learning from the typical classroom model, to field trips, to family education, and online shared projects.  For more information, see Pam’s article in the upcoming January bulletin.

This Friday night will be very special, I hope that you will join us!

L’shalom,
Cantor Margot Goldberg

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Shabbat Greetings from Rabbi David Holtz – December 7

Chanukah begins tomorrow night.  We use the havdalah candle, symbolizing the end of Shabbat, to light the shammash on the menorah, as we welcome the Festival of lights.  I will be in Washington, DC with the Confirmation class, where we will celebrate the end of Shabbat and the beginning of Chanukah at the Jefferson Memorial.  Jefferson was the great champion of the separation of church and state, and it is largely thanks to him that religious minorities have flourished in the United States.  On Sunday, we will be attending the lighting of the National Menorah on the ellipse outside the White House.  Both of these ceremonies are a reminder of the religious freedoms we enjoy, freedoms that the Maccabees had to fight a war to achieve.  As you begin your own Chanukah celebrations, I encourage you to add freedom of religion to the list of miracles for which we are grateful.  Chag Sameach!

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Shabbat Greetings from Cantor Margot Goldberg – November 30

Shabbat Shalom!  Black Friday, Small Business Saturday (AMEX), Cyber-Monday, and now Latkepalooza!  It seems as if CVS has been ready for the winter holidays since the spring and the Jewish community is constantly aware that either the holiday is too early or too late.  The holidays are always right on time in the Jewish calendar; the issue is how the lunar and solar calendars work in tandem.  Our lunar calendar adds a leap month seven times in every 19-year cycle, so as to keep the holidays in their proper season.  For example, it would be odd to celebrate Passover, known as Chag ha-Aviv, or Spring Festival, in October.  So as we enter the winter holiday season, I wonder how you are planning to spend your Chanukah time and your Chanukah dollars.  The internet is filled with Chanukah ideas for gifts, recipes, virtual candle lighting, and the list goes on.  For example, the Union for Reform Judaism has a whole page dedicated to links that might be helpful as you plan you Chanukah festivities.  Here at TBA, there are opportunities for you to shop, donate, and celebrate.  We hope that you will join us this Sunday, December 2 from 9-3 for an array of activities and shopping opportunities at Latkepalooza, our Tikkun Olam team has created 4 opportunities for you to share your abundance with Light One Candle, the UJA Gift of Chanukah Program, donations of oil and onions for the food pantry, and our annual coat and sweater drive for La Asociacion.  The 6th night of Chanukah has been designated as Ner Shel Tzedakah, where we would like to encourage you to discuss with your family giving gifts to others rather than yourselves by either donating to charity, giving a gift to UJA, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or the charity that speaks most to your families values.

Please join us on December 14 for the 7th night of Chanukah for services at 5:45pm or 8:00pm with a dinner in the middle at 7:00pm (reservations with the office a must).

However you and your family choose to spend the holidays, I hope that your homes are filled with the light and joy of the freedom that our ancestors fought so hard for and that the year to come is filled with health and happiness.

L’shalom,
Cantor Margot

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Shabbat Greetings from Pamela Barkley – November 23

I have been thinking a lot about gratitude lately and not just because of the Thanksgiving holiday.  Maybe it is the fact that my kids entered a new phase of their lives starting high school this year and have adjusted beautifully. Maybe it is because with hurricane Sandy,  it was so obvious that I had much to be thankful for. Maybe it is because with the recent election, I was overwhelmed with tears as the election results streamed in. Whatever the reason, for me, this day-of-thanks has actually been a season of thanks for so many things. I know that it is not always easy to find things to be grateful for. Bad things occur, annoying things happen, disappointments are ever-present. But that is when we have to look deepest to find our gratitude. Being  thankful when things are going well is easy. Finding small pieces of thankfulness when things are hard is a challenge.

And I hope it is a challenge you will all take on. Long after  you have finished the Turkey in your fridge, I hope that you will take with you the lessons of thankfulness that are supposed to be a regular part of our Jewish lives.  Thanksgiving “leftovers” can be in our lives every single day. Try finding one thing, right now as you read this, that  you are thankful for. And then tomorrow, see if you can do the same. What would it look like if saying “I am thankful for____” became a daily habit in your life?

Wishing you all a Shabbat filled with peace, love and of course, gratitude.

Pamela Joy Barkley

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Shabbat Greetings from Cantor Margot Goldberg – November 16

Shabbat Shalom!  In this month’s issue of Real Simple magazine, I came across a wonderful article called “how to say grace” by Kate Braestrup (click here to view).  It is wonderful and I can’t stop reading it.  She speaks about how to prepare to bless a meal.  At first glance, blessing a meal is easy for us, we say motzi and eat.  But blessing a meal, for example Thanksgiving, is not so easy.  It is like a toast.  As we gather family and friends together, we feel a pressure to mark the occasion, welcome our guests, thank the cook(s), and say something extraordinary that will match the feeling of the occasion.  Kate Braestrup goes on to say that in order to create a proper blessing, and I would like to suggest in order to hear the blessing, you have to stop doing other things, you have to be present, and you have to listen.  She suggests that grace could simply be silence and taking the time to focus and listen to the sound of our own breath and the breath of those around us.  She tells a story about “a rabbi who explained the Jewish prohibition against speaking or writing the name of God, lest it be taken in vain.  ‘Many think it’s actually impossible to speak or write the true name of God,’ the rabbi said.  ‘Because the name of God is the sound of breathing.  Breathing in…breathing out.'”  This article/story is not just about saying grace, it is not just about Thanksgiving, it is about prayer.  In order to pray, we need to stop doing other things, we have to be present, we have to breathe.  Join us at TBA this Shabbat and take a moment for yourself to listen to your breath, to hear the breath of those around you, and to be with God.

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Shabbat Greetings from Rabbi David Holtz – November 9

Now that the election is over and it’s once again safe to answer the phone without fear of robo-calls, it’s time to look a little further ahead.  As a group, Jews have long been very involved in American politics, seeing it as a civic responsibility, as a way to concretize Jewish values, and as an act of enlightened self-interest.  I’ve just had a fascinating conversation with Rabbi David Saperstein, the long-time director of the Religious Action Center in Washington, about the implications of Tuesday’s vote for Jews and the country at large, and I’m looking forward to sharing them with you on Friday at 8:00 pm.  Or, you might prefer to be at the 5:45 pm service, which lets you pray, then go home, kick off your shoes, and linger over dinner.  Either way, you have a chance to give thanks for your blessings, end the week, and start the weekend with a spiritual recharge.  And, in case you just can’t be there, remember that we’re now streaming both services live on the internet; simply go to the website, and click on the link.  We’re making it easier – and more meaningful – than ever to make Shabbat worship a part of your week.  Shabbat Shalom!

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Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts

Good morning, everyone, we hope that you are safe, warm and plugged in. Please call temple if you need any help recovering from the Hurricane.

Many people have asked about ways they can help with the recovery efforts. Here is information the UJA Federation of NY sent out. We will be posting more information on relief efforts here as we hear about them.

There will be two locations for food and supply drop-off starting on Monday, November 5th:

UJA-Federation of New York in Westchester
701 Westchester Avenue
White Plains, New York
Monday, November 5th through Friday, November 9, 2012
10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

UJA-Federation of New York in Northern Westchester
27 Radio Circle Drive
Mt. Kisco, New York
Monday, November 5th through Wednesday, November 7, 2012
10:00 a.m. — 4:00 p.m.

For more information on how you can help, or to make a donation to the Hurricane Relief Fund visit www.ujafedny.org. You may also contact Donna Divon at divond@ujafedny.org or 914.761.5100 ext. 130.

Needed Food Items

baby food • boxed milk and coffee creamer • canned fruits and vegetables

canned meat and fish • cereal, cookies, and crackers

coffee, teas, and hot chocolate • pasta, rice, and instant potatoes

ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise • soup and tomato sauce

vinegar, oil, and salad dressings • raisins, prunes, dried fruit and nuts, and peanut butter

Needed Personal Care Items

Toothbrushes, toothpaste, toiletries, diapers, wipes, baby formula, hand sanitizer

No glass containers or expired items please. Kosher food is appreciated.

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Shabbat Greetings from Pamela Barkley – November 2

I don’t know about you, but I am not feeling particularly restful.

Tradition tells us that tonight, when we light the candles, we mark the beginning of the sabbath, in honor of the formal “rest period” that God took after creating the world. It is supposed to be a time of relaxation and reflection. It is supposed to be a time we cease doing what we have been doing all week in the secular, electronic world.

Well, this whole week has not exactly been relaxing, but it has definitely been a forced respite from the usual realm of technology. As everything ran out of battery power, we were forced to do other things. There were reports of family board games and neighborhood “Twister” events. Ice cream parties – it was gonna melt anyway! – by candlelight. And TBA became a giant community party as families came to our building to recharge physically and emotionally. The atmosphere at Temple was nothing short of festive as people laughed about their circumstances while watching children of all ages play with the nursery school toys unveiled from behind the stage curtain.

See, that’s the thing about these natural disasters – it actually does bring people together. The trite saying is in fact true –  Crises makes us remember what is important. “We have no power, but thank God we are all safe” or “My phones are out and my street is impassable, but we are so lucky the tree fell the other way”.  I am sure you have heard similar things all week. We see the pictures of devastation in Breezy Point and instantly know how deeply fortunate we are to have homes, even electricity-free ones.

How long will that last?

When the lights go back on, how long will it take for us to forget how lucky we felt just to have a home? From the moment the switch is flipped, how much time will it take before we become seriously annoyed that someone left a dish in the sink or irritated that the laundry is piling up again. One day? A few days? A couple of hours?

Tradition also tells us that when Shabbat ends, we are supposed to perform a ritual called “Havdalah”, to literally separate the holy day of Shabbat from the rest of the mundane week. We smell the spices, light the braided candle, and ceremoniously put the candle out in the wine. We are told that we should consciously mark the end of the restful, sacred period to enhance our understanding of its importance.

So, when the lights go back on, how can you mark the moment? How can you and your family consciously hold on to the feelings of friendship and good will that you experienced this week? How can you create your own Havdalah – your own separation – between the darkness of your powerless house and the lights that will miraculously go on? It seems to me there is an opportunity here to gather your family together not just in an early thanksgiving for having electricity back, but in a moment of realization that when Sandy came to town, all you really needed was one another.

You can do this by making up your own blessing. You can go around the table and each say something you are grateful for.   You can come together and ceremoniously blow out the candles that are strewn about your house. As each one is blown out, say something good that happened as a result of the storm. You can resolve as a family to let the feeling you had during the darkness, extend to the rest of the lit week.  Or come up with your own ritual. As Shabbat begins, I hope you will resolve to mark the moment when your personal world is filled with light again.

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