Here is our weekly "5-Point Parasha", a short list of what we are enjoying or pondering, as it relates to life and Torah.
Rabbi Sherril shares this delicious and timely Torah from Rabbi Shai Held through Rabbi Jan Salzman of Burlington, Vermont:
The Tower of Babel Gen. 11:1-9
As if the destruction (and re-boot) of the world by a major flood was not enough, we also arrive this week at the story of the Tower of Babel. In the popular imagination, this is a tower built in order to reach the heavens, and ends with the disintegration of a singular shared language into the multiplicity of human languages. We often see this tale as a mythic way to understand why there are so many languages around the world.
But R' Shai Held turns this teaching on its head, and presents us with a radical reading: that the singular voice of humanity was in fact, a quality of totalitarianism. (You can listen to his full commentary here: https://podcasts.apple.com/is/podcast/hadar-institute-online-learning/id273916368).
The story implies that everyone was speaking the same language, which invites us to imagine that they were all thinking the same thoughts, that there was a uniformity in human consciousness that did not make room for individual ideas. R' Held teaches, "G*d finds this unanimity alarming, because total uniformity is necessarily a sign of totalitarian control—after all, absolute consensus does not happen naturally on any matter, let alone on every matter....[further] an inevitable consequence of uniformity is anonymity."
We understand that leaving the Garden of Eden was a way to leave behind the proto-human who didn't have free will; we can see that this story of the 'skyscraper' of Babel was an important step towards humans being able to hold different ideas. And it is through that diversity of thought that we do not remain anonymous. We are able to create identity, volition, and, perhaps most importantly, imagination. Without that, we are unable to experiment, or to create the next iteration of answering the questions of our age.
This condition also compels us to try and understand each other. That you and I configure our perceptions in different ways requires us to spend some time listening to each other and attempting to reach across the abyss of projection and misunderstanding. Perhaps that is our greatest challenge, as well as our greatest gift: to reach across the divide and work towards understanding each other.
Rabbi Sherril shares this sweet teaching about the new month from R' Zev-Hayyim Feyer:
This past week, on Tuesday and Wednesday, we welcomed in the new month of Marheshvan. Officially, the name of the month is Heshvan, but it is traditionally called Marheshvan.
The traditional understanding of the prefix /Mar/ is the Hebrew word מַר, /mar/, meaning /bitter/. The month is called bitter because, after the plethora of Festival days in the month of Tishrei, it lacks any Festival or other annual special days at all. All other months have either festivals, minor festivals, or fast days, except Elul, which has the recitation of /s'lichot/. Marheshvan alone has none.
But there is another meaning to the prefix /mar/. Think not Hebrew, but Aramaic. Think of the prefix /mar/ not as the Hebrew /bitter/, but as the Aramaic word מַר, an honorific title. The month is then “Sir Heshvan,” given the honorific as compensation for its lack of special days.
Cantor Heather shares "A Prayer for Open Doors and Open Hearts":
May the One who blessed our ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah …
Bless our community, its members and their families, along with those who attend services weekday, Shabbat and holidays and those who give for sustaining our sacred community. May our minds be open and respectful to a diversity of thought. May our doors and our hearts be open wide to the poor, the widow and the widower, the stranger, the orphan and the forgotten, the homeless and the oppressed, the hungry and those of our people too often shunned and neglected, perhaps because of the color of their skin or the person whom they love or for so many other reasons.
May this congregation, under Your watchful eyes, always seek to find the good in every human, to forgive those who have wronged us, and to practice chesed – kindness – at every turn. P’tach libi b’toratecha uv’mitzotecha tirdof nafshi ~ Open each of our hearts to Your Torah, Dear God, that we may pursue Your mitzvot with joy and gratitude. And let us say, Amen.
(Originally composed by Rabbi Aaron Starr and Rabbi Yonatan Dahlen, July 1, 2018)
Rabbi Schachar shares a yiddish song that he can't get out of his head:
"Sudenyu", the great messianic feast. I thank Dr. Yuri Vedenyapin for introducing me to it as well as to my favourite version of it. While great Chazanim and performers recorded it, including Yossele Rosenblatt, Jan Pierce, Theodor Bikel and Avraham Fried, the version by Israeli-Hassidic singer, Motti Steinmetz, remains my favourite. The song captures deep longing for a better future. Yochanan Lowen shared with me that the Kelmer Maggid apparently wrote the song.
Rabbi Schachar shares a quote:
"As long as my soul is within me, I thank. כל זמן שהנשמה בקרבי מודה אני לפניך"
-morning liturgy, and also brought to life by Motti Steinmetz's debut album
Announcements & Upcoming @MOS --
3rd Friday/Shabbat - Nov. 15, 7:00 p.m. Sylvan Adams YM-YWHA, 5400 Av de Westbury All are welcome to join for a celebratory service, followed by a healthy veggie nosh, thanks to a generous grant from Mazon Canada.
Forest Bath - Nov. 17, 1:00 p.m. Location is TBD Get some forest therapy with MOS and Certified Forest Therapist, Phil. A supporter appreciation event.
Human Rights Shabbat - 3rd Friday of December Dec. 20, 7:00 p.m.
Featuring Dr. Sharon Gubbay of Condordia University Sylvan Adams YM-YWHA, 5400 Av de Westbury
Chanucoco - Let there be light and chocolate!
Dec. 22, 7:00 p.m. TBA, Montreal, QC, Canada First night Chanuka light-themed musical celebration with coco, latkes, gelt, and sufganiot
Bonus - Cantor Heather shares:
Looking for ways to amp up your Jewish spirituality in the new year? In addition to great classes from our MOS clergy coming your way check out some of these great online and retreat learning opportunities:
Hadar’s Rising Song Intensive, Dec. 22-25:
R. Jonathan Slater’s month-long prayer intensive sponsored by the Institute for Jewish Spirituality — starting Oct. 27th:
Awakening the Divine: A Pardes and Or HaLev Jewish Spirituality Retreat Dec. 31, 2019-Jan. 5, 2020:
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