High Holidays in New Ways

Zochreynu l’chayim melech chafetz b’chayim v’chatveynu b’sefer hachayim l’ma’ancha elohim chayim

“Remember us for life, Sovereign who delights in life, and write us in the book of life, for Your sake, God of life.”

While it is not even the Fourth of July yet, many of us have already been looking at the High Holidays.  (Erev Rosh Hashanah is Friday night, September 18.)  As we have already announced, due to Covid-19 restrictions, we will be gathering as a community primarily on-line.  It will not be possible to safely have thousands of people worship together in the sanctuaries, hallways, and classrooms of Beth El while maintaining the physical distancing required.

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

Minneapolis Up Close

This is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders from throughout the Jewish world and beyond. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter. This week’s post comes from Tali Moscowitz, Beth El’s Assistant Education Director, who has been quarantining in her home town of Minneapolis since the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown.

As a caucasian person, I’ve never thought  twice about being followed as I walked around a store. I’ve never worried about what might happen beyond getting a warning or a ticket if I accidentally drove too fast and got pulled over by a police officer. (Yes this did actually happen to me last summer and the officer who pulled me over was one of the police officers who works at Beth El). I don’t worry about being unfairly profiled because of the color of my skin. All of this is because of my white privilege.

White privilege is generally defined as a built in advantage that a white person holds because of the color of their skin. It is not something that is earned, but allows one to have greater access to power and resources. While the concept of white privilege has been around for decades the definition has evolved as the types of racism and bias have changed.

I grew up in a bubble filled with white privilege.  While I was unaware of it at the time, racial disparities, racism, and bias were just under the veneer of  Minneapolis, Minnesota. Minneapolis is home to several professional sports teams, Prince, z”l, and many Fortune 500 companies. However, it still has an easygoing Midwestern feel. When people learn I am from Minneapolis, they initially make fun of my accent and then quickly share that they hear the Minneapolis area is one of the nicest areas of the country to live.

I’ve begun to question how nice Minneapolis is over the last month. There is a long, closeted history of some of the worst racial inequalities and disparities in the nation in Minneapolis. Most people have been surprised to learn this. Continue reading →

Posted by Tali Moscowitz in Guest Post, 3 comments

Impatience- The oyster

As our country and the world are moving toward “reopening” I wanted to share the following reflection.
According to the Chassidic interpretation, the three greatest sins of humanity involved impatience.

• First, Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge that was forbidden to them. They were created on the sixth day; had they waited, that incredible fruit would have been available for them to delight on Shabbat according to one Kabbalistic explanation.

• The second sin was the golden calf. Moses was six hours late descending Mount Sinai and in that short time, the Jews decided to build, worship and dance around a statue.

• The third great sin involved the story of King David and Bathsheva. According to the Talmud (Sanhedrin 107A) Batsheva was destined to David from the time of creation but he didn’t wait the right time to marry her. Instead of waiting, David sent Batsheva’s husband to the battlefront so he would be killed and took Batsheva as his wife. Continue reading →

Posted by Rabbi Fabián Werbin in Rabbi Fabián Werbin, 3 comments

Morning Meditation and the Ashram

Stumbled out of bed this morning. It was one of those “hit the snooze multiple times” type experiences.

What’s wrong with me? I don’t need to make meditations at 8am. There’s a whole days’ worth of time to get in a session.

I can explain. When I was very young, my parents became involved in macrobiotic living. Eating whole foods ( I just had to battle my spell check not to replace with the grocery store name)

This was when whole food ( happened again) was a diet and not the chain where only us privileged few can shop.  We ate a sugar free, mostly meat free, diet of tofu, kale, brown rice, adsuki beans ( look it up) and miso soup among other  highly digestible options.

Then my parents were clued into this Ashram that was looking for residents outside of Philadelphia. It was a commune with a Guru from India named Amrit Desai whose teacher Swami Kripalu had founded the ashram named for him, “Kripalu.” Continue reading →

Posted by Hazzan Asa Fradkin in Hazzan Asa Fradkin, 1 comment

Inequalities! Inequalities?

“What will you take with you to the other side of Covid?”  That was the prompt an interviewer asked me for an on-line magazine this week.  It is an important question.  After quarantine is over and social distancing restrictions ease, what will we have learned during this period? Additionally, at the time of the interview, social outcries and rage have brought bare layers of inequities with marches occurring across the country.  The vast majority of protests have been peaceful but looting and vandalism have occurred.  These destructive elements should not be discounted, nor should they be over-emphasized and used to avoid hard, complicated, and necessary discussions.

So let me begin to answer their question, “What will I take with me to the other side of Covid?”  I invite you to answer this question for yourself and email me. Continue reading →

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

How Do We Think About Reopening?

This is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders from throughout the Jewish world and beyond. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter. I share this piece from Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal, CEO of The Rabbinical Assembly and United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. Reopening Beth El will be gradual, complicated and assuring people’s safety while creatively finding ways to celebrate together.  Rabbi Blumenthal offers us a framework of Jewish values to be considered.  Rabbi Blumenthal grew up at Beth El and until last year, was the rabbi at Shaare Torah in Gaithersburg.

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Posted by Rabbi Greg Harris in Guest Post, Rabbi Greg Harris, 1 comment

Who screamed BINGO?

American author Louise L. Hay (1926-2017) wrote “Life is a lottery that we’ve already won. But most people have not cashed in their tickets.”

It is powerful to notice that in the main two readings of Yom Kippur the word lottery is present. The high priest “raffled” which goat will be sacrificed to God and which goat will be sent to the desert. In the book of

Jonah, the sailors cast lots to confirm who was responsible for the storm.
With this spirit of forgiveness, I want to invite you to play a community game of Bingo. We know that gambling games and houses of worship should not “hold hands and “walk together.” But, in this case, we want to connect with you in a different way.

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Posted by Rabbi Fabián Werbin in Rabbi Fabián Werbin, 0 comments

Ziv HaOlam – Radiance of the World

Trombones, Drums and Trumpets dancing up the street towards the cemetery, forming a 2nd line to the formal funeral procession. This custom of the Crescent city is one of the unique and most celebrated customs of New Orleans. 

Not everyone gets a second line. It’s normally reserved for the most celebrated citizens of the city, who’ve brought joy to its residents through music, good works and leadership.

Not such a Jewish custom, except on one day of the year, Lag B’Omer.  Lag B’Omer, whose letters “Lamed” and “Gimel” make the number 33 is the holiest day of the Omer.

On Lag B’Omer there are Bonfires, Parades, Bows and Arrows and Haircuts! ( Halevai)

Wait, what’s the Omer again? The Omer is a 7 week accounting of days from Pesach to Shavuot which marks a wheat harvest. According to tradition, it also follows the path of the Israelites from Egypt to the receiving of the Torah.

According to tradition, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the famous author of the Zohar, book of Jewish mysticism, died on this day. Continue reading →

Posted by Hazzan Asa Fradkin in Hazzan Asa Fradkin, 1 comment

A Focus on Mental Health – Shmirat HaGuf

Since 1949, May has been National Mental Health Awareness month. I have never felt the need to focus on mental health as intensely as now.  From children to senior citizens, we are all feeling the difficult emotional, physical, social and spiritual effects of Covid-19.  Focusing on our mental health is critical.

Throughout this year, Beth El’s congregational theme has been Shmirat HaGuf: Caring for Your Body, Mind and Soul.  There have been a wide variety of programs but these past months have brought the topic front and center for most.  The Hazzan’s Zoom meditations sessions are now occurring three times a week because of increased interest.  On-line attendance at services is far higher than normal even as all the b’nai mitzvah during the Spring have been rescheduled.

Even as we are isolated, we are not alone.

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Posted by Rabbi Greg Harris in Rabbi Greg Harris, 1 comment

Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut

This is the fifth week of the month and allows for another outside blog. This week the blog is written by Tal Greenberg.

Tal Greenberg has been Beth El’s shlicha since August 2018. Following the stay-at-home order and closing of schools due to the coronavirus pandemic, she returned to Israel.

I arrived in Israel six weeks ago. For the first two weeks, I was in complete quarantine, not going out at all, not even throwing the trash away. Two weeks later, feeling well and not infected with the coronavirus, I was finally able to go home and hug my family, after eight months of being apart. Shortly thereafter, I spent the first night of Passover with my immediate family, just six of us, in front of the computer screen, with 100 more family members from five different countries, together remotely. Continue reading →

Posted by Rabbi Fabián Werbin in Guest Post, Rabbi Fabián Werbin, 0 comments