Here is our weekly "5-Point Parasha", a short list of what we are enjoying or pondering, as it relates to life and Torah.
* See below for our upcoming events: Human Rights Friday Night service and Chanucocoa.
Rabbi Sherril is thinking about the struggles of Jacob and Esau in this week's parasha, Toldot:
Rebecca and Isaac want a child. They pray to GD. Rebecca soon feels violent movement within her womb. She asks GD why she feels fighting within her, and GD answers, “Two nations are in your womb and two states. They will be divided from one another, starting from within you."
One of my favourite teaching stories is attributed to Rabbi Yisroel Salanter, the father of the Mussar movement. It seems that while he was on his deathbed, this is what he was teaching his students:
“When I was a young man, I set out to change the world. As I grew older, I saw that this was too ambitious, so I set out to change my people. This too, I realized, as I grew older, was too ambitious, so I set out to change my town. When I saw I could not even do this, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I know with certainty that I should have started by changing myself. If I had started with myself, maybe then I would have succeeded in changing my family, the town, or perhaps my people – and who knows, maybe even the world.”
So here is a suggestion. In Pirkei Avot (1:12) Rabbi Hillel says "Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving your fellow creatures, and bringing them near to Torah." There is an amazing teaching from Rabbi Eliezer Azkari*, who wrote over 400 years ago that the reason Hillel said "be a disciple of Aaron," instead of saying "learn from Aaron," is because Hillel wants to tell us that we can actually BE such a person.
When someone has caused us suffering, we usually feel that we'll never really be able to make real Shalom/peace with them - at most we might forgive them. However, Hillel is offering us a way out of our pain: become a true disciple of Aaron, loving peace, pursuing peace, BE-ing peace, and loving people.
And then Rabbi Eliezer brings another awesome teaching! He says we learn in the holy Zohar [parashat Shlach] that just like there are yeshivas - academies of learning - here in this world, there are also yeshivas in heaven. There in heaven Aaron the High Priest has his own yeshiva. The name of Aaron the High Priest's yeshiva is Metifta d’Rechemuta – THE YESHIVA OF LOVE! And according to Rabbi Eliezer, all who follow in the path of peace of Aaron the High Priest in this world will merit to be a student of his in the YESHIVA OF LOVE as well!
And so let us focus on transforming ourselves to be good caring people, doing good work, being of service where we can, loving peace. We human beings are worth struggling for, and so is this planet, our precious home. Armed with the tools of compassion and insight, we may discover that decency, gentleness and bravery are available not only to us but to all human beings.
Because when a critical mass of us have worked on changing ourselves - and not using so much of our energy to change others - I believe then, and only then, the world will change.
Rabbi Sholom Brodt, z"lMargaret Wheatley, So Far From HomeRabbi Eliezer Azkari z"l, assistant to the Ari z"l, in Sefer Chareidim
Rabbi Schachar sings with his daughter, Chana, a Yiddish/English lament by Chazan Shmuel Rosenbaum z"l entitled "Zol ich zayn a rov? Should I be a rabbi?":
adapted from Jerry Silverman's Yiddish Songbook. The song is also known as the Baal Agala's Lid, the wagon driver's song.
Rabbi Schachar has been enjoying the poetry of Yiddish poet Itzik Manger (1901-1969):
This one is about overbearing parenting...
Our friend Sass Peress catalyzed a global kaddish for North African and Middle Eastern Jewry:
Rabbi Schachar shares a quote that he has been pondering:
"In every shtetl there was one rov for every hundred Purim players. Here in America every city has a hundred rabbis and not even one Purim player [Purim Shpieler]." (Yiddish Poet Itzik Manger)
Announcements & Upcoming @MOS --
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
Chanucocoa - 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:
Awakening the Divine: A Pardes and Or HaLev Jewish Spirituality Retreat Dec. 31, 2019-Jan. 5, 2020:
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