As we approach Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we wish you l‘’shanah tovah tikateivu v’teichateimu. We welcome out of town guests and visitors. Please call the Temple office for reservations, 864-582-2001.
Trying out the Rabbit Swamp Trail on my new bicycle, I noticed that many of the cyclists wore only hats, but a few sported helmets. Thinking this was a “safe road” I asked one cyclist if it was necessary to wear a helmet. He responded, “Only when you fall!” I think about religion and how it is used only when you fall. A cousin to this perception is the old saying; “There are no atheists in foxholes!” I wouldn’t entirely dismiss occasional usage of faith in dire circumstances, but like the person who exercises at the gym just once a year, you won’t get religion’s full effect. Prayer and observance is a discipline whose vitality depends on a measured involvement with some degree of frequency.
On occasion new members will find that it takes several visits to our services to get the ritual and the tunes, as they may be unaccustomed to our ways. With rare exception they will be able to join in, sing and stand etc. feeling quite at home within a month.
I recently came across this poem written by a colleague on the occasion of the Jewish month of Tammuz which we now celebrate. It speaks to our need to pulsate to all the seasons of our lives religiously, not only in difficult times, but in times that invite joy.
Life can break us sometimes,
But repair is real,
Healing is in our hands,
And new beginnings,
Like a full moon in a darkened sky Rising to greet us
Full of possibility
And whispers of good things to come!
Wishing you sweet blessings of healing and hope -this full moon of Tammuz. Amen
Rabbi Yossi J. Liebowitz D.D.
“It is the doom of men that they forget!” (from the Arthurian legend as recorded in the film Excalibur).
The song “As time goes by!” from the film Casablanca is well known by my generation. It also sums up the dynamic of memory with its imperative “you must remember this!”
At times I take note of the familiarity that all of us have as it relates to celebrities. For example, I grew up with the late-night King Johnny Carson, while my father remembered Jack Parr and Steven Allen who preceded him. Within a span of years Jay Leno will be unknown to the next generation. As I age, I find myself groaning at the television when a simple jeopardy question goes unanswered which for me is quite obvious. It is the way of things, but not of the Jewish faith.
When reading any Talmudic passages, one is immediately struck by the constant references to sages who preceded one another. As in, Rabbi so and so said in the name of Rabbi so and so the son of… well you get the idea.
For professional Jews, rabbi, cantors, and educators who live and breathe Judaism 7 – 24, we are puzzled by the unfamiliarity with basic Jewish heritage.
A rather decent antidote to this is the book by Joseph Teluskin called Jewish Literacy. It is filled with quick read essays designed to acquaint one with the essence of our heritage. As American Jews, we have fostered a part time Judaism that inhibits a fuller grasp of our traditions. I do not despair all that much, for in a recent poll Jews rated more aware of Religion than most, ironically falling behind atheists who can boast greater knowledge. I am still trying to figure that out. One telling statistic reported that more than half of American Jews knew who Maimonides, the famed philosopher rabbi, doctor court advisor was. That’s not bad!
As time goes by this summer, I try personally to deepen my own familiarity with our heritage. In our weekly study on Saturday I was recently flattered by one attendee who thought much of my eclectic recall of Judaism. I humbly indicated that compared to some of my teachers with whom I study yearly I wonder at what they wonder about. No doubt they, in turn, are humbled by their own teachers.
Judaism with its deep and abiding heritage can be intimidating, but I prefer to see, as the Talmudic metaphor would have it, the heritage as an ocean to which we can fish a great deal of wisdom and history. For all of us who want to pass this heritage forward to the next generation there is no better way than setting an example by learning and exploring.
An old anecdote: A beatnik (boy does that date me!) was once asked by a visiting Englishman, “I say, old man how do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Without missing a beat, the beatnik answered “Practice baby! Practice!” Without that commitment, goals for our children to have a Bar or Bat mitzvah becomes an empty ritual, more Bar (i.e. celebra- tion) than Mitzvah (tradition). They might as well be taught Pig Latin once a week, if that is the relevance for them. (Forgive the treif comparison!) I came to prize my heritage for many reasons, not the least of which was seeing my grandfather davening (each morning with tallit and tefillin). He stood by my side in prayer. It made all the difference. In the center of the Talmud are passages called Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers). An essential teaching of the sage Ben Bag-Bag was “turn it over and over for everything is in it!” (5:22)
May this summertime be one of relaxation and one of enrichment. “As time goes by!”
Rabbi Yossi J. Liebowitz D.D.
24 Adar I—24 Adar II March 2019
I recently had occasion to recall to one of our members memorial service. I had officiated at this service some years ago. A relatively young man’s father had passed on. He was an officer in the Second World War. As he had been a fighter pilot in the Army Air corps (the predecessor of the AIR FORCE), he wanted to conclude the service with the Air Force Song “Off we go into the wild blue yonder….at a boy give them the gun.” I remember feeling quite awkward thinking this martial tune was contrary to the solemnity of the occasion. Even so, there was something in the grieving young man’s face that convinced me, although reluctantly to allow it. At the end of the service, it was sung and to my surprise not in an uproarious way, but in a funereal and appropriate manner. Quite touching actually! I later learned that the mournful son had vigorously opposed the
Viet Nam war, having avoided the draft by migrating to Canada. This had caused more than a breach between father and son, for his father experienced such as a sense of betrayal to the country he loved. Singing the song had become a spiritual salute to his dad, acknowledging what his father stood for. He not merely buried his dad but his angst. Both were at long last at peace
From that experience there came a realization that rituals need not be static. Moreover, they can actually be in fact, an encumbrance to the spirit. Reform Judaism with its innovative posture has long understood this. Many who imagine that Moses sang Adon Olam on Mt. Sinai are unfamiliar with the fact that the most popular tunes were based on Prussian martial marches. The same is our rendering of the Shema to the strains of an Italian symphony in the 19th century. This is not to say that some innovations fail and go too far; like one colleague placing a screen on the pulpit for members to text their thoughts willy-nilly during the service. The need to encourage individual expression often comes at the expense of group social cohesion.
In an Oscar nominated film called “The Tribe,” it notes that the current generation wants more discussion and less sermonizing. And so, it is that twice a month our pre-Oneg is followed by a Kabbalat Shabbat which features a conversation instead of a sermon. The more traditional format occurs once a month as does a dinner with Shabbat prayers. So far so good, as attendance has improved, and this cafeteria approach seems to be working for our members. I appreciate the innovation, though my latent guilt imagines my traditional grandfather would say in Yiddish from the beyond, Vos teets ach du? “Whatever are you doing?” I can tell you even a casual review of more traditional services once contained some real innovative approaches. Moses never sang the more recent L’cha Dodi (written centuries ago) welcoming the Sabbath bride, It mystically and metaphorically turned the Sabbath into an imaginary bride whom we welcome into the synagogue. Other examples abound. What is traditional now
was quite revolutionary then. There are many ways to reach out “to the wild blue yonder!”
Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz, D.D.
Rabbi Sacks, community leader and former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, has become known for his sharing of wisdom for Jews around the world. He has written eight short thoughts, one for each night of Chanukah. Print and read one with your family just before you light your own Chanukah lights this year, Share the graphics on social media and spread the light, or send to your community educators and encourage them to utilize these important messages for their learners of all ages.
1. INSPIRED BY FAITH, WE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD
Twenty-two centuries ago, when Israel was under the rule of the empire of Alexander the Great, one particu- lar leader, Antiochus IV, decided to force the pace of Hellenisation, forbidding Jews to practice their religion and setting up in the Temple in Jerusalem a statue of Zeus Olympus. This was too much to bear, and a group of Jews, the Maccabees, fought for their religious freedom, winning a stunning victory against the most powerful army of the ancient world. After three years they reconquered Jerusalem, rededicated the Temple and relit the menorah with the one cruse of undefiled oil they found among the wreckage.
It was one of the most stunning military achievements of the ancient world. It was, as we say in our prayers, a victory of the few over the many, the weak over the strong. It’s summed up in wonderful line from the prophet Zechariah: not by might nor by strength but by my spirit says the Lord. The Maccabees had neither might nor strength, neither weapons nor numbers. But they had a double portion of the Jewish spirit that longs for freedom and is prepared to fight for it.
Never believe that a handful of dedicated people can’t change the world. Inspired by faith, they can. The Maccabees did then. So can we, today.
2. THE LIGHT OF THE SPIRIT NEVER DIES
23 Kislev—23 Tevet 5779
There’s an interesting question the commentators ask about Chanukah. For eight days we light lights, and each night we make the blessing over miracles: she-asah nissim la-avotenu. But what was the miracle of the first night? The light that should have lasted one day lasted eight. But that means there was something mi- raculous about days 2 to 8; but nothing miraculous about the first day.
2. THE LIGHT OF THE SPIRIT NEVER DIES
Perhaps the miracle was this, that the Maccabees found one cruse of oil with its seal intact, undefiled. There was no reason to suppose that anything would have survived the systematic desecration the Greeks and their supporters did to the Temple. Yet the Maccabees searched and found that one jar. Why did they search? Because they had faith that from the worst tragedy something would survive. The miracle of the first night was that of faith itself, the faith that something would remain with which to begin again.
So it has always been in Jewish history. There were times when any other people would have given up in despair: after the destruction of the Temple, or the massacres of the crusades, or the Spanish Expul- sion, or the pogroms, or the Shoa. But somehow Jews did not only sit and weep. They gathered what remained, rebuilt our people, and lit a light like no other in history, a light that tells us and the world of the power of the human spirit to overcome every tragedy and refuse to accept defeat.
From the days of Moses and the bush that burned and was not consumed to the days of the Macca- bees and the single cruse of oil, Judaism has been humanity’s ner tamid, the everlasting light that no power on earth can extinguish.
3. CHANUKAH IN TIMES OF GOOD & BAD
Back in 1991 I lit Chanukah candles with Mikhail Gorbachev, who had, until earlier that year, been president of the Soviet Union. For seventy years the practice of Judaism had been effectively banned in communist Russia. It was one of the two great assaults on our people and faith in the twentieth century. The Germans sought to kill Jews; the Russians tried to kill Judaism.
Under Stalin the assault became brutal. Then in 1967, after Israel’s victory in the Six Day War, many Soviet Jews sought to leave Russia and go to Israel. Not only was permission refused, but often the Jews concerned lost their jobs and were imprisoned.
Around the world Jews campaigned for the prisoners, Refuseniks they were called, to be released and allowed to leave. Eventually, Mikhail Gorbachev realized that the whole Soviet system was unworkable. Communism had brought, not freedom and equality, but repression, a police state, and a new hierarchy of power. In the end, it collapsed, and Jews regained the freedom to practice Judaism and to go to Israel.
That day in 1991 after we had lit candles together, Mr. Gorbachev asked me, through his interpreter, what we had just done. I told him that twenty-two centuries ago in Israel after the public practice of Judaism had been banned, Jews fought for and won their freedom, and these lights were the symbol of that victory. And I continued: Seventy years ago, Jews suffered the same loss of freedom in Russia, and you have now helped them to regain it. So you have become part of the Chanukah story. And as the interpreter translated those words into Russian, Mikhail Gorbachev blushed.
The Chanukah story still lives, still inspires, telling not just us but the world that though tyranny exists, freedom, with God’s help, will always win the final battle.
4. THE FIRST CLASH OF CIVILISATIONS
One of the key phrases of our time is the clash of civilisations. And Chanukah is about one of the first great clashes of civilisation, between the Greeks and Jews of antiquity, Athens and Jerusalem.
The ancient Greeks produced one of the most remarkable civilisations of all time: philosophers like Plato and Aristotle, historians like Herodotus and Thucydides, dramatists like Sophocles and Aeschylus. They produced art and architecture of a beauty that has never been surpassed. Yet in the second century before the common era they were defeated by the group of Jewish fighters known as the Maccabees, and from then on Greece as a world power went into rapid decline, while the tiny Jewish people survived every exile and persecution and are still alive and well today.
What was the difference? The Greeks, who did not believe in a single, loving God, gave the world the con- cept of tragedy. We strive, we struggle, at times we achieve greatness, but life has no ultimate purpose. The universe neither knows nor cares that we are here.
Ancient Israel gave the world the idea of hope. We are here because God created us in love, and through love we discover the meaning and purpose of life.
Tragic cultures eventually disintegrate and die. Lacking any sense of ultimate meaning, they lose the moral be- liefs and habits on which continuity depends. They sacrifice happiness for pleasure. They sell the future for the present. They lose the passion and energy that brought them greatness in the first place. That’s what happened to Ancient Greece.
Judaism and its culture of hope survived, and the Chanukah lights are the symbol of that survival, of Ju- daism’s refusal to jettison its values for the glamour and prestige of a secular culture, then or now.
A candle of hope may seem a small thing, but on it the very survival of a civilisation may depend.
5. THE LIGHT OF WAR & THE LIGHT OF PEACE
There is a law about Chanukah I find moving and profound. Maimonides writes that ‘the command of Cha- nukah lights is very precious. One who lacks the money to buy lights should sell something, or if necessary, borrow, so as to be able to fulfill the mitzvah.’
The question then arises, What if, on Friday afternoon, you find yourself with only one candle? What do you light it as — a Shabbat candle or a Chanukah one? It can’t be both. Logic suggests that you should light it as a Chanukah candle. After all, there is no law that you have to sell or borrow to light lights for Shabbat. Yet the law is that, if faced with such a choice, you light it as a Shabbat light. Why? continued on page 26…
continued from page 25…
5. THE LIGHT OF WAR & THE LIGHT OF PEACE
Listen to Maimonides: ‘The Shabbat light takes priority because it symbolises shalom bayit, domestic peace. And great is peace because the entire Torah was given in order to make peace in the world.’
Consider: Chanukah commemorates one of the greatest military victories in Jewish history. Yet Jewish law rules that if we can only light one candle — the Shabbat light takes precedence, because in Judaism the great- est military victory takes second place to peace in the home.
Why did Judaism, alone among the civilizations of the ancient world, survive? Because it valued the home more than the battlefield, marriage more than military grandeur, and children more than gener- als. Peace in the home mattered to our ancestors more than the greatest military victory.
So as we celebrate Chanukah, spare a thought for the real victory, which was not military but spiritual. Jews were the people who valued marriage, the home, and peace between husband and wife, above the highest glory on the battlefield. In Judaism, the light of peace takes precedence over the light of war.
6. THE THIRD MIRACLE
We all know the miracles of Chanukah, the military victory of the Maccabees against the Greeks, and the miracle of the oil that should have lasted one day but stayed burning for eight. But there was a third miracle not many people know about. It took place several centuries later. After the destruction of the second Tem- ple, many rabbis were convinced that Chanukah should be abolished. After all, it celebrated the rededication of the Temple. And the Temple was no more. It had been destroyed by the Romans under Titus. Without a Temple, what was there left to celebrate?
The Talmud tells us that in at least one town, Lod, Chanukah was abolished. Yet eventually the other view prevailed, which is why we celebrate Chanukah to this day.
Why? Because though the Temple was destroyed, Jewish hope was not destroyed. We may have lost the building but we still had the story, and the memory, and the light. And what had happened once in the days of the Maccabees could happen again. And it was those words, od lo avdah tikvatenu, “our hope is not destroyed,” became part of the song, Hatikvah, that inspired Jews to return to Israel and rebuild their ancient state. So as you light the Chanukah candles remember this. The Jewish people kept hope alive, and hope kept the Jewish people alive. We are the voice of hope in the conversation of hu- mankind.
7. INSIDE / OUTSIDE
23 Kislev—23 Tevet 5779
continued on page 27…
Temple Topics Page 27
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7. INSIDE / OUTSIDE
There is more than one command in Judaism to light lights. There are three. There are the Shabbat candles. There is the havdalah candle. And there are the Chanukah candles. The difference between them is that Shab- bat candles represent shalom bayit, peace in the home. They are lit indoors. They are, if you like, Judaism’s inner light, the light of the sanctity of marriage and the holiness of home.
The Chanukah candles used to be lit outside — outside the front door. It was only fear of persecution that took the Chanukah candles back inside, and in recent times the Lubavitcher Rebbe introduced the custom of light- ing giant menorahs in public places to bring back the original spirit of the day.
Chanukah candles are the light Judaism brings to the world when we are unafraid to announce our identity in public, live by our principles and fight, if necessary, for our freedom.
As for the havdalah candle, which is always made up of several wicks woven together, it represents the fusion of the two, the inner light of Shabbat, joined to the outer light we make during the six days of the week when we go out into the world and live our faith in public.
When we live as Jews in private, filling our homes with the light of the Shekhina, when we live as Jews in public, bringing the light of hope to others, and when we live both together, then we bring light to the world.
There always were two ways to live in a world that is often dark and full of tears. We can curse the darkness or we can light a light, and as the Chassidim say, a little light drives out much darkness. May we all help light up the world.
8. TO LIGHT ANOTHER LIGHT
There’s a fascinating argument in the Talmud. Can you take one Chanukah light to light another? Usually, of course, we take an extra light, the shamash, and use it to light all the candles. But suppose we don’t have one. Can we light the first candle and then use it to light the others?
Two great sages of the third century, Rav and Shmuel, disagreed. Rav said No. Shmuel said Yes. Normally we have a rule that when Rav and Shmuel disagree, the law follows Rav. There are only three exceptions and this is one.
Why did Rav say you may not take one Chanukah candle to light the others?
Because, says the Talmud, ka mach-chish mitzvah. You diminish the first candle. Inevitably you spill some of the wax or the oil. And Rav says: don’t do anything that would diminish the light of the first.
But Shmuel disagrees, and the law follows Shmuel. Why?
The best way of answering that is to think of two Jews: both religious, both committed, both living Jewish lives. One says: I must not get involved with Jews who are less religious than me, because if I do, my own stand- ards will fall. I’ll keep less. My light will be diminished. That’s the view of Rav.
The other says No. When I use the flame of my faith to light a candle in someone else’s life, my Jewishness is not diminished. It grows, because there is now more Jewish light in the world. When it comes to spiritual goods as opposed to material goods, the more I share, the more I have. If I share my knowledge, or faith, or love with others, I won’t have less; I may even have more. That’s the view of Shmuel, and that is how the law was eventually decided.
So share your Judaism with others. Take the flame of your faith and help set other souls on fire.
The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1
23 Kislev—23 Tevet 5779 December 2018
In December 1971, I along with fellow Jews from Hillel was playing a fierce game of dreidel. The stakes were enormous. If you were not careful you could lose as much as fifty cents. Half way through the game, the campus police arrived having been informed that gambling was taking place on campus in broad daylight, yes right there in a Southern California University and in front of dozens of innocent Gentiles. The immoral contamination of White Anglo Saxon Protestant culture was imminent. Civilization was on the brink of disaster facing ruin. The next day, the campus paper, The Daily Sundial, sported on its cover a huge image of a dreidel with the caption “The Great Dreidel Scandal of 1971.” It was by far the lightest of anti-Jewish experiences I had in college. A few more followed; one was being pursued by a car with three youths in it who with anti-Semitic invectives threatened my life. Another was a library incident in which I was assaulted for merely wearing a skull cap. The reason for these assaults do not require much explanation for the bottom line was the fact I was Jewish and that alone merited the attack. The late Howard Cosell, a rather unaffiliated Jew (who had formally changed his name from Cohen to Cosell), remarked after the Munich Olympic killings in ’72 “I realized that there were people who wanted to kill me simply because I am a Jew!”
At this Hanukah time and as the horror of Pittsburgh continues to abide in our hearts, it is essential that we reflect on the historical realities we as a people have faced; from biblical days to the present season. Our need to be vigilant is unquestionable and the leadership of this congregation has begun to take prudent measures for our security. There are to be sure many kinds of anti-Semitism and in many degrees. My personal college incidences range from a silly prank reporting gambling to the bodily harm that I experienced. It is wise to make a correct and sober assessment while at the same time to always take serious precautions and not minimalize the madness that we continue to face, let alone to be dismissive of the same.
Hanukah means many different things to many of us. Some emphasize the gaiety of light and merriment. Others may focus on the idea of nature and seasonal markings. Still others like me take heart in Jewish resilience. Noting the many assaults to our faith and nation, I marvel at our capacity to re-invent ourselves. Elie Wiesel, our late spokesman for the Holocaust – Shoah was once asked “what is Judaism’s major gift to the world – not monuments or cathedrals –then what?” He simply replied, “Words!” Ours has been a portable faith. When made bereft of our land and its central place of pilgrimage, the Temple of Solomon, we found ways of continuing our faith – Words, Hebrew words and songs especially answering the painful lament of the psalmist, How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? (Psalm 137:4
When the holy Menorah was brought back to Rome as booty, the carving of which can be still seen on the Arch of Titus in Rome, we made a portable menorah that adorn our synagogues. No doubt this emblem of Israel symbolizes our determination to persist and survive. Our homes which act and should act as a sanctuary sport a menorah in remembrance of the search for freedom and by extension of tolerance for all faiths. The imperative to place it in our windows goes back for centu- ries. No doubt it has crossed many a troubled Jewish mind to not be so open and demonstrative. One of my grandmother’s oft used exclamations was “Af tsu Loches,” “in spite of all!” “Af tsu Loches,” in spite of Pittsburgh, “Af tsu Loches,” in spite of 200 missiles launched into Southern Israel “Af tsu Loches,” in spite of rising nationalism and nativism “Af tsu Loches,” my menorah will find its way to the window, and only to the window. “Af tsu Loches,” “in spite of all!”
Wishing one and all a safe and joyous Hanukkah. Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz D.D.
Hebrew School: Wednesday, October 24 at 3, 4, & 5
Tree of Life Dedication: Friday, October 26 at 6:30
Saturday Discussion: October 27 at 9:30
Sunday School: October 28 beginning at 9:20 with Hebrew
Sisterhood Board Meeting: Sunday, October 28 at 9:30 am
NO Hebrew School: Wednesday, October 31
Friday Night Service: November 2 at 7:30 pm
Saturday Discussion: November 3 at 9;30 am
Sunday School: November 4 beginning at 9:20 with Hebrew
Election Day: November 6
Bake Sale Setup: Wednesday, November 7
Hebrew School: Wednesday, November 7 at 3, 4, & 5:00
Sisterhood Bake Sale: Thursday, November 8, 8:00 am until 3:00 pm
Kabbalat Shabbat: Friday, November 9 with refreshments at 5:30, service at 6:00
Saturday Discussion: November 10 at 9:30 with a Sisterhood Tisch
Sunday School: November 11 beginning at 9:20 with Hebrew
PLEASE RSVP FOR ALL EVENTS
Hadassah Meeting: Wednesday, October 17 at 11 am in the Sisterhood Activity Room
Hebrew School: Wednesday, October 17 at 3, 4, & 5 pm
Kabbalat Shabbat: Friday, October 19 beginning at 5:30 with
Saturday Discussion: October 20 at 9:30 am
Sunday Speaker Series: October 21 beginning at 9:00 with
Breakfast & Speaker at 10:00
Hebrew School: Wednesday, October 24 at 3, 4, & 5 pm
Tree of Life Dedication: Friday, October 26 at 6:30 pm
Saturday Discussion: October 27 at 9:30 am
Sisterhood Board Meeting: Sunday, October 28 at 9:30 am
Sunday School: October 28 beginning at 9:20 with Hebrew