Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rabbi Min on Derech Eretz

Basic Jewish Value #11:  The mission statement of Jewish Family Service of New Mexico reads: “Guided by Jewish values, we offer targeted social services that help preserve and improve the quality of life for New Mexicans.” What are these Jewish values? How do they help guide the day-to-day work that we do at JFS? When new employees join the staff of JFS, they are introduced to eighteen of these basic Jewish values.

The Jewish value of derech eretz refers to acting with proper respect, consideration and kindness, and practicing common decency. A person with these characteristics is known in Yiddish as a “mensch”. A mensch is a particularly good person with the qualities one would hope for in a dear friend or trusted colleague.

A mensch is someone to admire and emulate someone of noble character. The key to being 'a real mensch' is nothing less than character, dignity, and a sense of what is right, responsible, and decorous.

Jewish Family Service staff are called upon to act this way every day, especially when dealing with some clients whose life problems may seem insurmountable to them, resulting in impatience, anger or overwhelming sadness. In all JFS programs, staff members often have to dig deep into their own emotional resourcefulness in order to respond to the needs of challenging clients while respecting their dignity and honoring the difficulties of their life situations with courtesy.

Rabbi Min Kantrowitz
Director, Jewish Community Chaplaincy Program

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Los Alamos Jewish Community Needs Help

Update 3 - Los Alamos Las Conchas Wildfire:  A wildfire continues to threaten Los Alamos and the surrounding communities. People in the Los Alamos Jewish community (and others, of course) may need assistance.

As of about 6:00 pm, KOB and other news sources report that
  • The fire has grown to almost 70,000 acres.
  • The entire town of Los Alamos has been evacuated.
  • The wildfire is about 3% contained.
  • LANL will remain closed until further notice.
  • Gov. Susana Martinez is declaring a state of emergency in New Mexico regarding the use of fireworks.
If you are able to help, please contact
Rabbi Jack Shlachter
of the Los Alamos Jewish Center
(505) 500-2668

At last report, Rabbi Jack is in Santa Fe to coordinate any assistance needs for the Los Alamos Jewish community. The needs are unknown right now, but may include housing and other short-term support.

Additional ways to help include:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Los Alamos Jewish Community Needs Help

Update 2 - Los Alamos Wildfire:  A wildfire is threatening Los Alamos and the surrounding communities. People in the Los Alamos Jewish community (and others, of course) may need assistance.

As of 8:25 pm, KOB states that
  • The fire has grown to over 60,000 acres.
  • The entire town of Los Alamos was evacuated by 7:20 p.m. Monday after receiving reverse 911 calls.
  • LANL will remain closed at least through Wednesday.

If you are able to help, please contact
Rabbi Jack Shlachter
of the Los Alamos Jewish Center
(505) 500-2668

At last report, Rabbi Jack is in Santa Fe (LANL is shut down at least through Wednesday) to coordinate any assistance needs for the Los Alamos Jewish community. The needs are unknown right now, but may include housing and other short-term support.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Los Alamos Jewish Community Needs Help

Update 1 - Los Alamos Wildfire:  A wildfire is threatening Los Alamos and the surrounding communities. People in the Los Alamos Jewish community (and others, of course) may need assistance.

As of 2:47 pm, KOB states that the area is now under mandatory evacuation orders.

If you are able to help, please contact
Rabbi Jack Shlachter
of the Los Alamos Jewish Center
(505) 500-2668

Rabbi Jack is currently in Santa Fe (LANL is shut down at least for Monday & Tuesday) to coordinate any assistance needs for the Los Alamos Jewish community. The needs are unknown right now, but may include housing and other short-term support.

Hello, Goodbye

Shalom, Shalom:  This week Congregation Albert says Shalom, Shalom to Rabbi Howard Kosovske and to Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld, as the former departs the Land of Enchantment and the latter arrives therein.

Rabbi Rosenfeld comes to Congregation Albert from Temple Beth Zion in Buffalo, New York, one of the oldest and largest Reform congregations in the country.  As Senior Rabbi since 2000, Rabbi Rosenfeld took an active role in helping to grow the Western New York Jewish Community. He chaired the Clergy Division of the Buffalo United Jewish Community Fund Drive for several years, and served on the board of the National Federation for Just Communities, receiving their Interfaith Award for his work in the community.

Rabbi Rosenfeld served as Rabbi of Congregation Beth Shalom (the Frozen Chosen - really! - click the link!) in Anchorage, Alaska, from 1984 through 2000. Rabbi Rosenfeld was honored by the Alaska State Legislature for his community work against racism, and for his 16 years of service to the people of Alaska.

Rabbi Rosenfeld holds a Bachelor's in Psychology from John Carroll University; and a Master's in Hebrew Letters, and Rabbinic Ordination, from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Rabbi Kosovske leaves Congregation Albert, where he served as Interim Rabbi, and returns - at least, for the time being - to Peabody, Massachusetts, whence (no, not the redundant from whence) he retired in 2008.

Abq Jew is sure that Congregation Albert found Rabbi Kosovske very engaging, intelligent, interesting, active, and humorous - as did Abq Jew. With 40+ years of rabbinic experience - holding pulpits, teaching, and lecturing  - it is clear to Abq Jew that Rabbi Kosovske is a people's rabbi who does not know what the word retirement means.

Abq Jew wishes Rabbi Kosovske and Rabbi Rosenfeld fulfillment, happiness, and success in the years to come!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Peter Falk, Rumpled and Crafty Actor, Dies at 83

Another Great One Gone:  From IMDB - The raincoat, the cigar, the slouch, the false exit followed by the catchphrase, "One more thing..."

Peter Michael Falk.  His father was of Russian Jewish ancestry and his mother was of Polish Jewish, with a mix of Hungarian and Czech Jewish ancestry further back. So, contrary to Falk's public image, he was not an Italian, but a mixture of very hardy Jewish Eastern European stock.

From The New York Times:
Peter Falk, who marshaled actorly tics, prop room appurtenances and his own physical idiosyncrasies to personify Columbo, one of the most famous and beloved fictional detectives in television history, died on Thursday night at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 83. 
. . .
A lieutenant in the Los Angeles Police Department, Columbo was a comic variation on the traditional fictional detective. With the keen mind of Sherlock Holmes and Philip Marlowe, he was cast in the mold of neither — not a gentleman scholar, and not a tough guy. He was instead a mass of quirks and peculiarities, a seemingly distracted figure in a rumpled raincoat, perpetually patting his pockets for a light for his signature stogie.

He drove a battered Peugeot, was unfailingly polite, was sometimes accompanied by a basset hound named Dog, and was constantly referring to the wisdom of his wife (who was never seen on screen) and a variety of relatives and acquaintances who were identified in Homeric-epithet-like shorthand — an uncle who played the bagpipes with the Shriners, say, or a nephew majoring in dermatology at U.C.L.A. — and who were called to mind by the circumstances of the crime at hand.
. . .
Mr. Falk had a glass eye, resulting from an operation to remove a cancerous tumor when he was 3 years old. . . . [Mr. Falk] grew up in Ossining, N.Y, where his father owned a clothing store and where, in spite of his missing eye, he was a high school athlete. In one story he liked to tell, after being called out at third base during a baseball game, he removed his eye and handed it to the umpire.

“You’ll do better with this,” he said
Another great one gone.

Flying Jews Free

Too Good To Be True?  Saudi Arabian Airlines announces they will fly Jews for free!  Anywhere in Saudi Arabia they wish to go!  Abq Jew rejoices - at last, that vacation trip he's been dreaming of (that is, of which he has been dreaming.  One should not end a sentence with a preposition.  It's something up with which we speakers of correct English correctly should not have to put.).

But anyway - it turns out that Abq Jew didn't hear this right.  Turns out that Saudi Arabian Airlines, as part of an unadvertised special, does not announce, yet routinely practices, that their flights to the Kingdom are Jew-free, which is to say, free of Jews, or, in other words, No Jews Allowed.

And, it turns out, our own Delta Air Lines is a partner with Saudi Arabian Airlines.  This has Doug Chandler of The Jewish Week somewhat upset.  Chandler reports:
A partnership between Delta Air Lines and Saudi Arabian Airlines will lead to what critics are calling “Jew-free flights,” with Delta barring passengers who openly identify themselves as Jews or have passports stamped with an Israeli entrance or exit visa.
Delta claims they don’t discriminate or condone discrimination against anyone on the basis of race, nationality, religion or gender. But, Delta points out, international airlines “are required [by the country's government] to comply with all applicable laws governing entry into every country” they serve. So these matters are beyond Delta’s control.

Abq Jew wonders: Is this behavior tolerated in any other country, against any other religion?  Does Switzerland not admit Muslims?  Does Turkey not admit Christians?  Does the UK not admit Hindus?  Just asking.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Unorthodox, He Said

Greetings from Sardinia!  Sardinia is a large island in the Mediterranean. Back when Abq Jew was young (and he was), eating a Sardinian plant was believed to produce facial convulsions as if in a maniacal laughter.  And from this, we have the word
Sardonic:  Disdainfully or skeptically humorous.  Humorously mocking in a cynical or scornful way.  Derisively mocking.  Contemptuously mocking the motives or virtues of others.
Of the many things of which he is proud - especially his humility - Abq Jew is most proud of his commitment to, and practice of, equal opportunity criticism, sarcasm, and sardony.  But only within the bounds of civility and good taste.

In complete violation of the aforementioned, Abq Jew proudly presents this video, uploaded a few days ago to YouTube, and posted by Rabbi Menachem Creditor on Facebook.  Way out of bounds! 

When it comes to mishegas, there's plenty to be found in Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Judaism.  As well as in Reconstructionist and Renewal Judaism.  Plus Humanist and Secular Judaism.  And the Arbeiter Ring / Workmen's Circle. And, for all Abq Jew knows, even the New Mexico Jewish Historical Society.

Abq Jew invites representatives from these and other streams ... torrents ... of Judaism to contribute their own Xtranormal videos.  In the meantime - enjoy!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Father's Day With the Carolyn Martin Trio

Cookin' With Carolyn:  Thanks to the efforts of Judy Muldawer, Abq Jew (accompanied by his smart, pretty, and talented daughter) enjoyed a wonderful afternoon of Country Swing with the Carolyn Martin Trio, featuring the inimitable Rory Hoffman.

Want to know what it was all about?  You can listen to Carolyn here ...

and you can watch Rory here.

The thing about Rory is: well, he's blind.  And, perhaps because of that, he learned to play guitar in a really funny way - left-handed, with the guitar backwards, lying on his lap.  (Rory tunes the guitar conventionally - EADGBE - not an open tuning, like a slide guitar.)  He plays 15 instruments - guitar, accordion (which he also played, expertly, yesterday), a dozen more, plus banjo, which he apparently learned last night, after the concert.

The stage, by the way, was the South Broadway Cultural Center.  Managed by the City of Abq's Cultural Services Department, the SBCC is a multi-cultural, visual, performing, and literary art center that promotes, preserves, and educates the community about the cultures and ethnicities that define Albuquerque. SBCC shares the facility with an art gallery and the South Broadway Library, and collaborates with the library on a number of events and activities.

Concerts at the SBCC are being enabled by the aforementioned Judy Muldawer, aka Banjo Judy.  Judy works as a Volunteer Promoter - there is no other title - for the City of Abq, pulling in fantastic entertainers (many of whom she knows, or gets to know, personally) and setting them up at venues like the beautiful SBCC.

There are plenty of SBCC events in the works, including this Friday night's Really Bigger Banjo Show, featuring Abq's own Dr Wayne Shrubsall.  Great news: It's Summer!  And you can buy tickets before Shabbos! Here is an example of what you'll hear.

As he stated in a previous blog post, Abq Jew cannot help but note with extreme pleasure the strong links between bluegrass, western swing,  folk  music, and the Jewish tradition.  And the angels swing!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Simple Bravery: Mietek Pemper, 91

Compiled and Typed Schindler's List:  Mietek Pemper served as a secretary for a labor camp commander and risked his life to plot the rescue of enslaved workers.  Douglas Martin writes in The New York Times:
Mietek Pemper was doing his job as a secretary taking dictation. One day his boss, Amon Goeth, glanced out the window and saw that a worker did not have a full load of stones in his wheelbarrow. Mr. Goeth walked outside and shot the man to death, then returned to his desk and said, “Where were we in the text?”   . . .
... Mr. Pemper ... plotted against Mr. Goeth. His acts of defiance included typing the names on what became known as Schindler’s List, a roster of labor camp workers who were supposedly essential to the German war effort and who were thus spared almost certain extermination.
Abq Jew notes Mr Pemper's passing with awe and reverence, and asks: Where does such simple bravery come from?  Partly, one supposes, from having nothing to lose; yet that cannot explain it all.  Douglas Martin concludes his article:
Mr. Schindler put Mr. Pemper’s parents and brother on the list and saved them. Mr. Pemper never married and left no immediate survivors.
After the war, Mr. Pemper used his knowledge of Nazi secrets, fully memorized, to testify against Mr. Goeth in a war-crimes trial. He was hanged.
Perhaps Mr Pemper left no immediate survivors.  But may we all be worthy to be his heirs.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

More Chutzpah, More Shanda

Does This Mean Moshiach Isn't Coming?  This all goes back to an old and famous joke, which some of you may remember:
Rivkah sprang to answer the telephone.  "Darling, How are you? This is Mommy."

"Oh Mommy," Rivkah said crying, "I'm having a bad day. The baby won't eat and the washing machine won't work. I've sprained my ankle and I'm hobbling around. On top of all this, the house is a mess and I'm supposed to have the Minkys and the Rokens for dinner tonight. I haven't even had a chance to go shopping."

The voice on the other end said in sympathy, "Darling, let Mommy handle it. Sit down, relax and close your eyes. I'll be over in half an hour. I'll do your shopping, tidy up the house and cook your dinner. I'll feed the baby and I'll call an engineer I know who'll fix your washing machine. Now stop crying. I'll even call your husband David at the office and tell him he should come home to help out for once."

"David?" said Rivkah. "Who's David?"

"Why, David 's your husband....Is this 555-3749?"

"No, this is 555-3747."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I guess I dialed the wrong number."

There was a short pause, then Rivkah said, "Does this mean you're not coming over?"
[Former] Representative Anthony Weiner (D, NY) has been the ... butt of many jokes lately. But ... until Abq Jew saw this Aish video by Rabbi Yaacov Salomon, Why Weiner Should Resign, he didn't realize that the Messiah's arrival was imminent.

By now, Rep Weiner may have already resigned (NBC and The New York Times say he will, and who is Abq Jew to argue?).  Does this mean Moshiach isn't coming - at least, not right now?

And speaking of shandas, Rex Weiner (as far as Abq Jew knows, no relation to the Rep) of The Jewish Daily Forward recently published an article, California’s Fiscal Crisis Affects Jews in Jail, about the kosher food crisis within the Golden State's overcrowded and underfunded prison system. 

Abq Jew is a citizen of the world.  He's been around the block a few times.  And yet - he doesn't understand why there should be demand for kosher food in prison, any more than he understands why there are Braille instructions on drive-thru ATMs.

Yes, Abq Jew knows - it's complicated. Jews who observe Jewish ritual have been convicted of money laundering, sex abuse, and worse.  But surely, there must be some relationship - even of it's not absolutely 1-to-1 - between Jewish ritual observance and Jewish ethical standards.

Maybe.  Maybe not.  And Abq Jew promises not to call you ... surely.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Do No Harm

Bal Tashchit / Do Not Destroy:  The June 2011 issue of Albuquerque The Magazine features an all-too-brief article, A Harmless Song, about one of John Feldman's latest projects.  John, as many of you know, is the leader of the Curio Cowboys, New Mexico's premier western swing band.  As Abq The Mag notes, he practices mediation and teaches it at the University of New Mexico, where he's also assistant dean for career services.

And he's also involved with the movement to Do No Harm.  And yes, there is an international organization that encourages us all to Do No Harm.  The Do No Harm organization states:
We seem to be living in a world that is getting less hospitable every day. Look closely at any endeavor our species has engaged in and it appears we are unaware of the harm we do, we ignore the harm we do, we intentionally do harm for our own gain, or sadly in some cases we do harm for our own pleasure and enjoyment.

Has no one taught us to do no harm?

If we haven't been taught to do no harm, we see no harm in doing harm. We cause harm and shrug it off. We cause harm and laugh about it. We cause harm and brag about it.

Sadder still, our children bear witness to our actions and never learn to do no harm themselves. Above all else we must teach our children, by example and instruction, this basic moral principle of life.

We must begin to make better choices and treat each other, the other creatures who share this planet with us, and this planet we call home with greater respect and compassion.
Abq Jew views Do No Harm as another version of the Talmudic command Bal Tashchit - Do Not Destroy.  Elion Schwartz says in Jewish Heritage Online Magazine:
The Talmudic law bal tashchit ("do not destroy") is the most predominant Jewish precept cited in contemporary Jewish writings on the environment. This article gives an extensive survey of the roots and different interpretations of the precept from within the tradition.

The precept of bal tashchit has its roots in the Biblical command [Deuteronomy 20: 19-20] not to destroy fruit-bearing trees while laying a siege to a warring city. The Rabbis expanded this injunction into the general precept of bal tashchit, a ban on wanton destruction. 
Do No Harm also interprets its message very broadly, and John has been inspired by that message to write a song called - what else? - Do No Harm.  And here it is.

Abq Jew cannot help but note with extreme pleasure the strong links between bluegrass, western swing,  singer / songwriter / folk  music, and the Jewish tradition.  And the angels sing!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Acts of God, Acts of Man

Get the Blame, Take the Credit:  CBS News reports:
After seven days traveling from Newark, N.J. to North Carolina, the plane made famous by its miraculous landing on the Hudson River in January 2009 reached reach its final gate Friday -- the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte. "The Early Show" talked with pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and some of his passengers about that miraculous day, the effect it had on their lives, and how they feel about the plane's final destination.
Did a miracle happen in New York City on January 15, 2009?

It seems that God always gets the blame when things go wrong.  When natural disasters strike (and alas, they have struck much too often of late), they are officially termed "Acts of God" - at least for insurance purposes. 

Abq Jew, an advocate for the Kadosh Baruch Hu (Who does not need Abq Jew's help), just wants fair treatment.  If you're going to blame God for bad things, you should thank God for good things.  Why is a tornado an Act of God, but a sunny day isn't?

Was the "Miracle on the Hudson" an Act of God or an Act of Man? Judaism answers the question with a blessing - שׁנתן מחכמתו לבשׂר ודם - that thanks God for having "given of His wisdom to flesh and blood".  Let's call that sharing the credit - Sully did his part, and God did His.

You can read more of the story here, and view the video here.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Tikkun Leyl Shavuot & The Elements

Shavuot Yizkor for Dad:  Abq Jew's father, Richard Yellin, zichrono l'bracha, loved the satirical songs of Tom Lehrer. So much so that we once bought - no, we invested in - one Tom Lehrer album, An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer, an album described by the New York Herald Tribune as "more desperate than amusing".

We played that album a lot, successfully annoying our family and friends. As a result, Abq Jew knows all the lyrics to all the songs on that album.  Except this one, The Elements, because the lyrics are a bit tricky.  (Also - Abq Jew knows none of the lyrics to any other songs that may have been on any other Tom Lehrer albums.  Just this one.)

As members of Abq Jew's Fan Club know, there's a Community Shavuot Service & Tikkun coming up:
Congregation B'nai Israel @ Tue 07 June 2011 @ 7:00 pm 
What It Is:  Nahalat Shalom and Congregation Albert join
Congregation B'nai Israel for a Shavuot Service, with guest speaker
Rabbi T. David Ritch de Herrera of Sephardic New Mexico.
Also featuring
Rabbi Deborah Brin and Cantorial Soloist Beth Cohen
of Nahalat Shalom;
Rabbi Howard Kosovske and Cantor Barbara Finn
of Congregation Albert; and Rabbi Min Kantrowitz of JFSNM. 
There will be an all-night Tikium Leyl Shavuot
beginning at 11:00 pm.
and it's always possible that the participants therein will run out of material at some point, probably around 4:00 in the morning.  Too early for Hashkama Minyan, but way too late to just call it a night.

May Abq Jew humbly suggest ... you're way ahead of me.  Abq Jew has looked all over the Internet, and has found ... er, discovered ... the two best videos of The Elements - here and here.

Pick one, pick the other, pick both - but pick yourself up and bring the lyrics to a Tikkun!
There's antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium,
And hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium,
And nickel, neodymium, neptunium, germanium,
And iron, americium, ruthenium, uranium,
Europium, zirconium, lutetium, vanadium,
And lanthanum and osmium and astatine and radium,
And gold and protactinium and indium and gallium,
And iodine and thorium and thulium and thallium.

There's yttrium, ytterbium, actinium, rubidium,
And boron, gadolinium, niobium, iridium,
And strontium and silicon and silver and samarium,
And bismuth, bromine, lithium, beryllium, and barium.

There's holmium and helium and hafnium and erbium,
And phosphorus and francium and fluorine and terbium,
And manganese and mercury, molybdenum, magnesium,
Dysprosium and scandium and cerium and cesium.
And lead, praseodymium, and platinum, plutonium,
Palladium, promethium, potassium, polonium,
And tantalum, technetium, titanium, tellurium,
And cadmium and calcium and chromium and curium.

There's sulfur, californium, and fermium, berkelium,
And also mendelevium, einsteinium, nobelium,
And argon, krypton, neon, radon, xenon, zinc, and rhodium,
And chlorine, carbon, cobalt, copper, tungsten, tin, and sodium.

These are the only ones of which the news has come to Harvard,
And there may be many others, but they haven't been discovered.
Yes, Abq Jew will be thinking of his mother, Roselyn Yellin, of blessed memory, at Shavuot Yizkor, too.  But this blog post is really for Dad.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ten Commandments Free For All

Rabbi Marc Angel on Shavuot:  As noted in a previous blog, the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals offers a vision of Orthodox Judaism that is "intellectually sound, spiritually compelling, and emotionally satisfying". The Institute was founded in October 2007 by Rabbi Dr. Marc D. Angel, formerly of Congregation Shearith Israel, the historic Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue of New York City.

As we approach the Holiday of Shavuot, Rabbi Angel considers what might happen if the Holy One, Blessed Be He, once again descended on Mount Sinai.
A New Revelation? Thoughts for Shavuoth
On Shavuoth, we commemorate the awesome Revelation at Mount Sinai, when the Almighty presented the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel.  All of the Israelite men, women and children experienced that solemn moment, marking an everlasting covenant between God and the Israelite nation.
Let us imagine that God would invite us to a second Revelation at Sinai, asking all the Jews of the world to attend.
The Hareidim would say: we cannot be in the same domain as the non-religious or less religious Jews. We are pure, we will not have contact with those of lesser purity.
The Secularists would say: we cannot attend because we do not want to be bound by any commandments. We are citizens of the world and don’t want the particular responsibilities of being Jewish.
The non-Orthodox would say: we can’t attend unless the event is egalitarian; and unless there is no expectation that we accept any commandments. We are open to suggestions, but not to commandments.
The modern Orthodox would insist that the Revelation also include Divine words relating to science, philosophy and the modern world.
Hassidim would demand that they be placed near their own Rebbes, and not anywhere else.
Each Sephardic and Ashkenazic ethnic group would insist on having its own hazan, its own minhag, its own pronunciation of Hebrew.
Unaffiliated Jews would turn up out of curiosity; the Kabbalah Center would set up booths on the outskirts selling books and red strings.
Alienated and ignorant Jews would complain: this event is boring, we need a rock band or other entertainment to make it attractive.
The hypothetical second Revelation might not be such a happy and congenial event, after all. And yet, it should be a tremendous unifying experience for the Jewish people.
The Talmud (Eruvin 21b) teaches that King Solomon instituted two practices, and a heavenly voice approved of both. One practice is the washing of hands before meals; the other is the setting up of eruvin (boundary enclosures). Washing hands relates to personal purification. After we wash, we remain silent until reciting the blessing over bread. During that period of time, we are in a uniquely private domain, involving only us and the Almighty. Interpersonal relationships are excluded. The eruv, though, provides a method of including others in our domain. It is a symbolic way of turning a public area into a private area by considering all of us as one extended family and community.
For us to be a whole, united Jewish people, we need to draw on both of these wise practices established by King Solomon. We need to concentrate on personal purity, on fostering a direct and powerful relationship with God. We need the humility to accept God’s commandments, and to delight in them. At the same time, we need the “eruv” philosophy that attempts to include as many as possible within our domain. It is a philosophy of inclusion, not exclusion; it is a way of extending boundaries and demonstrating concern for our neighbors—even those with whom we may disagree.
Shavuoth is the festival on which we recall the Revelation at Mt. Sinai. It is also a good time to plan for a hypothetical second gathering of Israelites at Sinai—and to think carefully how we can envision such an event as an opportunity to bring all of us together.
For the Jewish people to find its spiritual balance, we will need to work on personal spiritual development and purity; and also on strategies that are grand enough to allow all of us to stand together in the presence of God.  Moadim leSimha.
 Note: for your convenience, Abq Jew has reprinted the entire article above.  But you are strongly encouraged to visit the Institute's website - - to learn more about the Institute's work, and especially to read and view Rabbi Angel's thoughts and opinions.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Got Midrash?

Tell Me A Story:  Everyone loves a good story, and the Holy One, Blessed Be He - and the other writers of the number one storybook of all time, the Bible - are certainly no exception.  The Sacrifice of Isaac, Joseph and his Brothers, the Exodus from Egypt, the Rebellion of Korach - any and all of these stories could easily go 13 weeks on TV.

And then there's the famous story of Abraham Breaking the Idols, which all of us learned in Hebrew School.  What a great Biblical story!  Except for one slight thing - it's not in the Bible.  You can look, as the great Biblical scholar Nehama Leibowitz, of blessed memory, used to ask of her students.  But you will not find it, because it's not there.

In fact, there are an awful lot of Biblical stories that aren't in the Bible.  How did Adam feel when the sun set on Day One?  Whatever happened to Haran, Abraham's brother?  For that matter - whatever happened to Isaac, who - according to the Biblical text! - did not return from Mount Moriah with Abraham?  And - perhaps the most important question in the history of Biblical exegesis - why did Rebecca fall off her camel?

You will not find answers to these questions in the Bible - but you will find them in the Midrash.

Want to learn more?  On Tuesday June 14th @ 7:00 pmAbq Jew will be presenting A Special Midrash - about stories that you thought were in the Bible, but aren't ... but maybe they should be.  It will be the fourth of seven presentations in Congregation B'nai Israel's Making Connections to Judaism series.  If you missed the first three - well, you missed the first three!  But don't miss this one (or any that follow).  Yes, Abq Jew is tooting his own horn!