Reflecting on Spring

Spring brings with it many interesting possibilities. We know that this week, spring brings snow! More traditionally, it brings hope for freedom and deliverance, nice flowers and flourishing trees, lots of Matzah and, for some, it also brings allergies.

Sneezing is something that happens to every human being and also some animals. A mysterious and fascinating thing happens when we sneeze. Nobody can sneeze without closing their eyes. But even more interesting is that if someone hears us sneeze, he or she will very often say, “Bless you.”

Many people have become accustomed to saying “bless you” or “gesundheit” when someone sneezes. In Hebrew the term we use is “libriut” לבריאות (good health) and it is not surprising that in Spanish we say “salud” (health or good health).

The custom of wishing someone well after they sneeze probably originated thousands of years ago.

There was a custom among the Romans to say, “Jupiter preserve you” or “Salve” after sneezing, meaning “good health to you.” The common belief is that the phrase “God bless you” is attributed to Pope Gregory the Great (540-604 CE), and began literally as a blessing. Sneezing was thought to be an early symptom of the bubonic plague. Therefore, the blessing (“God bless you!”) became a common effort to halt the disease.

But of course the Jewish people can claim we did it first…

Continue reading →

Posted by Rabbi Fabián Werbin in Rabbi Fabián Werbin, 2 comments

We Need Healing

Thoughts and Prayers aren’t enough, but we do need healing and we do need hope. We are extraordinarily proud to support the March For Our Lives that will come to D.C. on March 24th. These teenage leaders emerging from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL are an inspiration to us all and have clearly caught the attention of their peers around this nation. Last Wednesday, hundreds of students at BCC and other High Schools in our area, walked out of class and down to the Capitol.

I’d call that belief in action! Continue reading →

Posted by Hazzan Asa Fradkin in Hazzan Asa Fradkin, 5 comments

Israel Always Surprises Me

The hallways and exhibit spaces of the DC Convention Center were energetic with the 18,000 pro-Israel activists attending AIPAC’s annual conference this week.  This is a conference I attend each year to understand the nuances of the Middle East, hear the inspirational stories of Israel such as when this tiny county acts as a first responder to global disasters including earthquakes in Mexico or caring for Syrian refugees.  I also listen to the difficult stories of Israelis and Palestinians struggling for mutual security. Continue reading →

Posted by Rabbi Greg Harris in Rabbi Greg Harris, 2 comments

Conversations at the Mall

You may know that I grew up in Argentina. When I was seven years old, my mother of blessed memory, took me to one of the Jewish clubs so I could start playing soccer. In fact not soccer but indoor soccer.

I played indoor soccer for many years but when I was 15 years old I decided to play outdoor soccer, aka futbol, as well.

I discovered a completely different sport, with different rules, different ball size, and a different number of players. The essence of the game was the same, but indoor futbol and outdoor futbol were different. It didn’t feel the same.

A couple of months ago I started to accomplish one of my rabbinical goals. It has been one of my dreams. Be part of an ongoing interfaith conversation. I contacted a Catholic Monsignor, a Buddhist monk and a Muslim Imam and invited them to have lunch together at the Montgomery Mall. Before I tell you details of the day, I want to tell you that it was a great experience.   We agreed to meet on Presidents Day in the busy food court on a holiday for many in the Washington area. I arrived a half hour early to make sure we had a table to sit and talk. And we did talk about ourselves, our life experiences and our traditions. Continue reading →

Posted by Rabbi Fabián Werbin in Rabbi Fabián Werbin, 32 comments

The Power of Communal Singing and God

Have you ever davened in Israel ( at Shira Hadasha, Yakar…etc)

Have you ever sung in a High School Choir?

Have you ever attended a Jewish camp?

If so, you have experienced the power of communal singing, a force that moves us to feel something that is often missing. I believe when we sing together we experience the very essence of our being, we experience God. And it’s good for us! Continue reading →

Posted by Hazzan Asa Fradkin in Hazzan Asa Fradkin, 2 comments

Welcome to Beth El’s Clergy Blog

Beth El Clergy

Finding my expressive ‘voice’ is not an easy undertaking.  I do not mean my voice which emerges through my throat.  I am focused on my expressive voice which arises from my heart.  In this regard, my voice is what makes me or you an interesting conversationalist to some people yet disagreeable to others.  My voice is my ‘take’ on the world and my comfort in letting it shape me as a person.  With the quantity of communication we undertake today, I would have thought the idea of an authentic voice was easy to describe but I was mistaken. Continue reading →

Posted by Rabbi Greg Harris in Rabbi Greg Harris, 0 comments