What an important week in our Torah reading cycle. In this week’s Torah portion, we read the Ten Commandments and the Shema. Tomorrow at our Torah discussion, from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm as we eat bagels and study Torah, we will be talking about what the Shema means and how do we transmit meaningful things to our children. We will discuss mezuzah and tefillin, which are important religious ritual objects. I hope you will join us for services at 9:30 am and then, for those who wish an in depth study session, we will adjourn for the discussion. If you wish to attend just the Torah Study and bagels, feel free to join us at 11:00 am. I think the session will be meaningful for religious school children through senior adults!
I also hope that you will join us at the Rebbe’s Tish, or Rabbi’s Table, on Sunday evening at 6:00 pm for an hour of song, story, and fellowship. This is based upon a Chasidic custom of sitting with the rebbe and learning Torah, so I hope you will join us. There will also be ice-cream! This is appropriate for all ages and Russell Nadel will be bringing his guitar for special songs and if you have a story to tell, please bring it along to share it with us.
Somehow after my recent birthday, I have become more nostalgic and wanted to share a memory from my childhood. Most nights before I went to sleep, I would recite the Shema and then would offer a prayer. I remember saying something like this:
Dear G-d, thank you for the blessing of life. Please keep my mom, dad, brothers, and their families healthy and safe. I am grateful for all the blessings you have bestowed upon our family and hope we will continue to receive your blessings. (I would carefully mention each family member’s name as I offered this part of the prayer and was always concerned that I would forget someone!) Then I would ask for forgiveness for the things I had done wrong (this was always a short part of the prayer, because of course I did very little wrong (NOT))! I was always hopeful that these prayers for good health and forgiveness would keep my family and me safe. Frankly, as I recall my spiritual journey, these were among the most heartfelt prayers that I have ever offered.
What I didn’t realize at that time of my life is that there is a bedtime ritual that includes the recitation of the Shema. Somehow once I knew there were a number of prayers one was supposed to say at night, my own personal prayers became less frequent and I often felt guilty that I wasn’t praying correctly. This change occurred in college after I took a course in Judaism. (Yes, I continued to offer these private prayers quietly even in my dorm at college. I would say them to myself so my roommate wouldn’t think I was any crazier than he already thought I was.) In fact, while my parents were living and we would visit them, when I would sleep on the bed which I used when I grew up which they had in their guest bedroom, I would quietly offer those childhood prayers.
If you are still reading this and are asking what is his point here, I want you to know that I believe that G-d listens not only to OUR words but to the sincerity with which they offer them. That is why silent prayer is so important. There is no specific order to these prayers and they can be straight from your own heart. One cannot do them wrong as long as they mean something to the person who is offering them.
I hope that if you need a guide for your own personal prayers or want to talk about this more, that you will contact me. Guilt free praying from the heart makes the journey through life less lonely during the challenging moments and more rewarding during the joyful moments.
Finally, I hope you will find some way to celebrate Tu B’Av, the 15th day of the Av. (Please click HERE
for information from MyJewishLearning.com
!) In the midst of all the crises in the world, it would be wonderful to celebrate love!
Rabbi Bruce D. Aft
On Monday night, we will commemorate Tisha B’Av, the Ninth Day of the month of Av. This is a fast day when we commemorate the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem and many other horrible moments in Jewish history. Please click HERE to learn more about this day in our history and join us for our observance at 7:30 pm.
As we watch the events continue to unfold in the Middle East, including the breaking of the cease fire this morning by Hamas, I continue to search for anything positive in this situation. I will be speaking about this both tonight and tomorrow at services and then on Sunday night, we will have a special adult education program at 7:30 pm, featuring Mr. Alan Ronkin, Regional Director of the American Jewish Committee. Please join us for services and for this important discussion.
Many of you have asked me what my position on the current situation in the Middle East. Let me tell you the voices which I hear…
First, I hear my friends and family telling me that Israel has a right to defend itself and as an American and as a Jew, I believe that Israel needs to defend itself against terrorism and the Israelis need to decide what it will take in order to end the threat to their people.
Second, I hear Golda Meir, a former Prime Minister of Israel who once said words which I will paraphrase. “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children, but can never forgive them for making us kill their children and there will be peace when the Arabs love their children more than they hate our children.”
I am saddened by the significant loss of life and yet hear the voice of a member of our congregation who said that Hamas uses children to protect their missiles, while the Israelis use missiles to protect their children.
I do hope that the cease fire will resume if Hamas will adhere to it and that perhaps a peaceful resolution will soon be upon us where the Israeli people and Palestinian people will be safe and secure, living together in peace.
Finally, I am grateful for the support of the United States and hope you will follow up on the letter from the JCRC.
Rabbi Bruce D. Aft
Yesterday, the JCRC launched an effort to encourage our community members to contact their Members of Congress to: 1) thank them for their support for Israel and 2) encourage them to support emergency funding for Iron Dome.
We respectfully request that you take 2 minutes now to send a letter(s) to your Senators and Representatives. Some congressional offices, are being bombarded with anti-Israel calls and emails, and we must reverse the tide.
Click HERE to send your letter right now.
While Israel’s security continues to be threatened by Hamas’ indiscriminate rockets and tunnel networks both geared towards killing innocent Israeli civilians, we need to raise our collective voice in support of Israel today.
Every call and email makes a difference.
Please take action now.
Please spread our call to action to your friends and family by email and social media.
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I keep reading article after article about the current situation in the Middle East and remain so very conflicted. I believe with all my heart that the Israelis have a right to defend themselves and need to ensure their safety. Yet when I see Palestinian children being killed, schools being hit by bombs, and other human loss, I am saddened. There is strong evidence that Hamas uses these children and other civilians as human shields and so all of us wrestle as Jacob wrestled the angel in the Bible, with what the moral response is to the terror of Hamas. On Sunday, August 3, Alan Ronkin, the Director of the Washington Regional Office of the American Jewish Committee will be speaking about the current situation in the Middle East. The time will be finalized early this week and you will receive publicity about this program (It will be either late Sunday afternoon or early Sunday evening).
I wanted to share something from ReformJudaism.org which presents a human interest story about Israelis in a bomb shelter. I hope you will find this to be a meaningful description of Israeli life in the midst of the crisis. (See below)
I also wanted to let you know that to the best of my knowledge all of our congregants who are in Israel on summer programs or Birthright (the college-age program in Israel) are safe.
Finally, please join me tonight at 8:00 pm to celebrate Shabbat Under the Stars with our Erev Shabbat Folk Service. Please bring picnic blankets and lawn chairs (and bug spray!). If the weather doesn’t cooperate, we will move our outdoor event inside. I look forward to seeing you tonight!
Rabbi Bruce D. Aft
Finding Unity in a Jerusalem Bomb Shelter
by Rabbi Aaron D. Panken – July 25, 2014
When the siren sounded, the Rolling Stones’ tortured 1969 track “Gimme Shelter” popped into my head, oddly enough.
That haunting song offered a stunning reminder of the endless horrors of war, reawakening a sleepy world with a vivid musical picture of human pain in times of combat. Merry Clayton’s evocative vocalization of disturbing lyrics over a harsh musical background focused global attention on the awful realities of the Vietnam War.
Nowadays, though, one hardly requires a song to experience war – live news feeds, endless websites and constant e-alerts satiate us with such input constantly. Such has certainly been the case with the ongoing Gaza-Israel crisis of the past weeks. Often ignored amid the images we see, however, are the more human sides of military conflict.
Last week in Jerusalem, I witnessed this more human side. It started in a crowded lecture hall when the alarming, warbling music of the first siren in the city immediately captured the attention of all present. Quickly, though not very quietly, we filed into the miklat - the shelter located in the basement of almost every building in Israel.
Many Israelis do this with a practiced nonchalance learned over many wars and missile attacks. They roll their eyes at the inconvenience, remark on the fact that a little siren can take precedence over even the most important conversation or event, chuckle at morbid jokes and generally riff on the annoyance of such happenings.
It is, I suppose, a way of normalizing the abnormal – if quotidian life can continue even in the face of the fear, then the victory of Hamas, Hezbollah or whoever the present enemy may be is thereby restricted and limited. In the shelter, the most remarkable equality reigns. Babies, young children, teens, soldiers, the elderly are all there – the entire cycle of life walks down those stairs to seek safety, with all its glories and challenges blatantly displayed. Those bedecked in yarmulkes or dressed in the black suits and hats of the haredi Orthodox stand alongside those who live Reform, Conservative, secular or more postmodern lives, along with Israeli Arabs, Druze, Christians and others. Some pray, others recite Psalms, some chat, but most sit quietly and await the “all clear.” For a few minutes, the divergent, contradictory and competitive streams of life in Israel all converge, and human safety becomes the sole communal objective.
Walking on the street in Jerusalem when the alarm sounds, the scene is even more profound. As people move to their private shelters, whoever happens to be on the street is welcomed in, no questions asked. Shopkeepers, normally reticent to share their precious stockrooms with strangers, welcome passers-by into their inner sanctum without hesitation. Doors everywhere fly rapidly open, and the true value ofhakhnasat orhim - welcoming the stranger – happens all over the country. On buses and in cars, the same principle holds true, for wherever one stops, one is welcomed. Such shared vulnerability unites the country, reminding everyone of their inescapable linkage to state and people, shared government and collective fate. This particular night, I happened to be with a group of our North American students who had come to Jerusalem just days before to begin the first year of their studies to become rabbis, cantors, and Jewish educators. It was surreal for them, to be sure, these young visitors so recently transplanted into a new and foreign culture at a very challenging time.
Along with a palpable nervousness, what emerged with them as we left the shelter together and dispersed into the balmy Jerusalem night was a sense of being at one with their people. A people sheltered together, against whatever the world might tender.
I am so excited to welcome you all back for another school year. We are all energized and enthused by the presence of our new Education Director, Rabbi Jennifer Weiner. I have known Rabbi Weiner for a decade and her commitment to Jewish life and meaningful and innovative Jewish education will change the culture of our congregational educational programs. We are so fortunate to have a rabbi in this position who brings experience, creativity, and a love of our people to our community.
Each time we have brought in a new Education Director, they built upon the achievements of the previous person and we are eager to see a continuation of the caring and love which Luisa Moss brought to Congregation Adat Reyim. Together, with the devotion of Dana Evans, our Religious Education Committee Chairperson, and the continued dedication of our President, Andrea Cate, we are poised to make our educational programming even more innovative, meaningful, and life changing. Please welcome Rabbi Weiner to our community of friends and let her and Dana know if you are willing to volunteer and be part of our exciting and new educational programming. The word “rabbi” means teacher and all of us will enjoy learning from our newest “teacher!” We will be “officially” welcoming her on Friday night, August 8 at a potluck dinner and Erev Shabbat Family Service. Please join us!
As I write this, we are all deeply touched by the tragedy of the Malaysian Airlines airplane that was shot down and by the continued fighting in the Middle East. May all of us offer personal prayers for peace in our world and certainly take the opportunity during the summer and always to hug our loved ones and tell them we care about and love them.
Finally, please join us tomorrow night to celebrate Shabbat Under the Stars with our Erev Shabbat Folk Service. The Mark Nebel Memorial Scholarship Award will be presented to its two winners and we will celebrate the baby-naming of Joshua Reznik. Please bring picnic blankets and lawn chairs (and bug spray!). If the weather doesn’t cooperate, we will move our outdoor event inside. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow night!
Rabbi Bruce D. Aft
As we watch the events in the Middle East and hear about the Malaysian Airlines airplane that was shot down, we are all saddened by the innocent loss of life. Yesterday, when a number of us met for lunch at Panera, we had an intense discussion about the Hamas attacks and the Israeli response. I have had a number of conversations with parents whose children are on Birthright (the college-age program which students from ages 18-26 can participate), students who are scheduled to participate in this program, and others who are planning to go to Israel. I know that all of us have strong opinions on the issue of whether Israel should aggressively respond to the rocket attacks or whether the Israelis are being too aggressive in their response. I hope that wherever we stand on these political issues, we can all stand with Israel and agree that the Israelis have a right to defend themselves, as was the message at the community rally yesterday in Washington, D.C.
Some of you know that I was recently in Paris, France presiding at a wedding of an Israeli couple who are journalists in Israel. They didn’t know what they should do after the wedding; should they enjoy a honeymoon? Should they stay away from Israel where they felt safe? Should they return and show their solidarity with the Israelis by joining in the war effort and/or supporting the war effort? As I watched this young couple grapple with these issues, I couldn’t help but realize the human factor in the midst of this conflict. We see images of Palestinian children being killed, we know that Israel has been repeatedly attacked, and we struggle with what is the most humane response while realizing that Israelis need to feel safe and that children shouldn’t be killed.
I do not possess the wisdom to know what the “right” response is but I do know that I want our Israeli brothers and sisters to be safe and I don’t want them to be in constant fear of being attacked by a terrorist organization.
I hope that we will have the opportunity to have a forum to discuss these issues very soon. Please be watching for publicity soon about a forum where we can learn more and share a meaningful discussion about the current situation as it unfolds.
On a personal note, Sue and I just returned from our trip for the wedding after spending a few days in Amsterdam and flew out of the airport there two days before the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines MH17 took off and was fatally attacked. As I write this column, the details are still unclear about the attack. However, the innocent loss of life is shocking and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and all their family members and friends. Once again we see the horrors of war unfolding before our eyes from the images on social media and the various new networks.
May we all join together in wishing there to be peace. May all the innocent victims not have died in vain and may the leaders in the regions of conflict be given wisdom to make choices that will lead us to all live in a more peaceful world.
Rabbi Bruce D. Aft
While Rabbi Aft is away, I’ve decided to use this opportunity to write about our congregational trip to Israel. The trip, which took place this past January, was organized by Dr. Russell Rayman, our Adult Education chair. At the beginning of the trip, when we gathered together as a group for the very first time, Rabbi Aft told us that he wanted us not only to SEE Israel, but also to FEEL it. So that is what I will briefly write about.
We spent a few days in Tel Aviv and the rest of our time in Jerusalem, and I was struck by how vastly different the two cities are. Tel Aviv looks and feels like a modern cosmopolitan city, especially with its American-style hotels (Hilton, Sheraton, Crowne Plaza) along the beach and boardwalk, while Jerusalem is the ancient capital, with its Holy sites and significant population of Haredim in long black coats and shtreimel hats. It felt heartening being in an environment of mostly Jews, yet the lifestyle of the Haredim is so different than mine, it is sometimes hard to fathom that we are even the same religion.
We were in Jerusalem during Shabbat and I noticed that there were several Israeli families staying at our hotel just for Shabbat observance. They checked-in on Friday afternoon, enjoyed a large Shabbat dinner on Friday night, and then checked-out on Saturday night right after sunset. There must have been a Shabbat Special! Our hotel, the Eldan, was located within walking distance of the Old City and I am guessing that these families chose that location so that they could walk to the Kotel. On Friday evening, the Western Wall was mobbed. The Haredim were praying right in front of the wall and, of course, the men and women were separated. There was no organized prayer on either side; everyone seemed to be praying individually, but there were some small groups of people (probably tourists) singing and dancing together. Restaurants and shops that had been closed during Shabbat reopened on Saturday night. I would have expected that if they were closed all day Saturday that they would just remain closed Saturday night, but that was not the case.
During our entire time there, I never felt unsafe as there is a constant presence of security forces. For the most part, the security forces are athletic-looking twenty-year-olds carrying automatic weapons, but by the end of our week (after I got used to it), that felt surprisingly normal and comforting. In closing, I’d like to thank both Dr. Rayman and Rabbi Aft for planning our congregational trip and for serving as such knowledgeable tour-guides, and I should also specify that the opinions and thoughts expressed here are completely my own – other congregants on the trip may have come away with very different opinions!
Religious Practices and Policies Chair
As we celebrate the Fourth of July, I hope that all of us will be safe. I hope you will find these quotes to be inspirational and they will serve as a reminder of how fortunate we are to live in the USA where we enjoy freedom:
“Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation and freedom in all just pursuits.” – Thomas Jefferson
“Freedom is never dear at any price. It is the breath of life. What would a man not pay for living?” – Mahatma Gandhi
“Liberty, taking the word in its concrete sense, consists in the ability to choose.” – Simone Weil
“Freedom is the oxygen of the soul.” – Moshe Dayan
“This, then, is the state of the union: free and restless, growing and full of hope. So it was in the beginning. So it shall always be, while G-d is willing, and we are strong enough to keep the faith.” – Lyndon B. Johnson
“Those who won our independence believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty.” – Louis D. Brandeis
“You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” – Malcolm X
“Life without liberty is like a body without spirit.” – Kahlil Gibran
Rabbi Bruce D. Aft
As I write this article, I do not know how the Presbyterians will vote on the issue of divestment. I have met with my colleague from Burke Presbyterian Church and we will be having a number of educational programs on this issue during the fall as we try to create better understanding. I hope you find the following letter, which was sent on June 19, to be informative.
Rabbi Bruce Aft
Rabbi Rick Jacobs’ Letter to Delegates at the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly
From the URJ (Union for Reform Judaism)
Copies of this letter are being given to delegates at the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly in Detroit, MI, who will be voting this week on several Israel-focused resolutions related to Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS):
As the president of America’s largest Jewish denomination, representing 1.5 million North American Jews, it is my honor to join you at your General Assembly.
I have come here to Detroit with an important message about strengthening our alliance. I look forward to discussing this matter with you in person, but it is of such heartfelt concern to me, and so many millions of American Jews, that I am taking the extra step to write you a detailed letter.
Like yours, our community yearns for peace and justice for all peoples. Like you, we pride ourselves on our social justice work and interfaith relations. Your creation-care and social service projects throughout the world are nothing short of exemplary. We have worked closely with your Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C. for more than 50 years, and partnered with clergy from your churches in interfaith coalitions and dialogue programs. These collaborations are based on mutual respect and understanding – and, at their best, are grounded in the core rule of coalitional relationships. In order to have a friend, you must be a friend and seek common ground. That is especially true when a partner’s survival is at stake.
As you know, our love for Israel is paramount to our identity and our faith. We appreciate and share deeply your constant concern for the vulnerable across the globe, including in Palestine. It is a source of pain to us that you fail to show that same consistent, sensitive and passionate concern for our Israeli civilian brothers, sisters and children (Jewish and Arab alike) in your statements and actions. Israeli civilians also face genuine existential threats and are so often the target of violence and terrorism. This harsh reality betrayed itself just this week when three Jewish teens were kidnapped by terrorists while walking home from school. And, rockets fired from Gaza by Hamas continue to cause fear in southern Israel.
I am proud to say that our Reform Movement has a long-standing policy of opposition to the Israeli settlements. We stand firmly on this-and for two states-and want to partner with you, but your support for BDS will make this much harder.
We firmly believe that our Zionism, exemplified in our support for the Jewish people’s liberation movement as realized in the state of Israel, should not come at the expense of the Palestinian people who deserve freedom and dignity, in an independent state.
Every day the occupation causes pain and hardship to too many Palestinians. Only two states for two peoples living side by side in peace will allow this tragic conflict to end, giving way to coexistence in this blood-soaked patch of land. We truly yearn for the day when the swords of all nations will melt into plough shares and when the lives of all the children of the region, of Iraq and Syria, of Palestine and Israel, marred by fear and hate, will be mended by tranquility and laughter.
Israel is an imperfect democracy, as is the United States. Israel is not immune from criticism, and we hold Israel to the same standards of justice and equality of all democratic nations. In order to bring about desired change, it is imperative that the actions taken help fulfill the goal at hand. If the desire is, as I believe it must be, two states for two peoples, these divestment moves are not the answer. That’s because, thus far, support for divestment from Israel has only proven to harden the positions of those who least desire justice for the Palestinians. The resolutions you will consider may be aimed at specific companies, but the headlines around the world will be “Presbyterians Endorse BDS,” and will further strengthen hardliners on both sides.
We are inspired by the poetry of the prophets, but we live in the prose of a daily struggle to create a better world through the difficult, sometimes relentless work of compromise. Indeed, compromise is a rare and precious commodity between the people of Israel and the people of a future state of Palestine, but it is essential and we must work hard to achieve it.
Much of the rhetoric and the materials produced for the Church around this debate have been profoundly troubling. In particular,I have been terribly saddened, even horrified, by the document Zionism Unsettled, which is being sold as a teaching guide on the Presbyterian Church USA website. It is one of the most biased and ahistorical documents I have read. There is no way to sugarcoat it: this document is a vicious attack on Judaism, the Jewish people and the state of Israel, negating the very theological legitimacy of the Jewish religion.
How should Jews react in the face of efforts to equate Israel or Zionism with apartheid? Comparing apartheid to the situation of Israel, a democracy that, with all its flaws, grants fundamental rights and due process to all its citizens is deeply troubling. In Israel, Arabs and Jews sit side by side in restaurants, are treated in the same hospitals by Arab and Jewish doctors and nurses, and study at the same universities in courses taught by Arab and Jewish professors. There is an Arab Christian Israeli, Justice Salim Joubran, serving on Israel’s Supreme Court. To compare the horror, brutality and pervasive systematic racism of apartheid that permeated every sphere of South African life with the ills of Israel’s policy is not only unfair to Israel, but also dilutes the horror of apartheid and demeans the struggle of those who heroically defeated it.
The terminology and imagery of apartheid and Nazism conveys that one side of an argument is so intrinsically evil, so illegitimate that it has no place in the discussion and its proponents have no place at the table. Such language suggests that the Jewish yearning for our own homeland is somehow theologically and morally abhorrent, denying Jews their own identity as a people. A sweeping indictment of Zionism amounts to a blanket condemnation of the vast majority of Jews in the world.
Over the past century, we Jews and Presbyterians have become more loving brothers and sisters, but we are at a crucial junction in our relationship. I pray that the decisions of this General Assembly will bring us closer, so that we, in the words of Isaiah, can be “restorers of the breach” that threatens to divide us from each other and from the backbreaking work G-d commands of us to shape a world of reason and justice, of compassion and peace.
I pray that G-d’s blessing will rest upon you and guide you in your challenging deliberations.
Shalom, Salaam, Peace,
Rabbi Rick Jacobs
Tonight we will honor graduates who attend our Erev Shabbat Service (with participation from the Choir), and it is always very inspiring to me. How many of us remember all the hopes and dream which we had when we graduated from high school, college, graduate school, or whatever other institution we attended? We would change the world and our idealism would carry us to new heights.
And yet, sometimes we were worn down by politics and other frustrations. Perhaps a tough boss, or a tough economy, or challenging colleagues would frustrate us and we would get into a rut and lose our enthusiasm. I hope that as we celebrate the milestones in our lives which graduations mark, that we will remember the hopes that motivated us to want to make the world a better place.
In Pirke Avot, the Ethics of our Fathers or Teachings of our Ancestors, we read “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” (2:21) I hope that we will each remember that whatever contribution we make to the world helps to improve our lives. There is a story about someone who wants to try to change the world and is frustrated. Then she tries to change her country and is frustrated. Then she tries to change her state and is frustrated. Then she tries to change her village and is frustrated. Then she tries to change her family and is frustrated. Then she tries to change herself and soon she realizes that in doing that she can change her family, her village, her state, her country, and the world.
I hope each of us find ways to renew the idealism that we felt and which our graduates feel at this time in their lives, and will live the words of my favorite song which my parents played for me when I would hit the rough spots in life.
To dream… the impossible dream…
To fight… the unbeatable foe…
To bear… with unbearable sorrow…
To run… where the brave dare not go…
To right… the unrightable wrong…
To love… pure and chaste from afar…
To try… when your arms are too weary…
To reach… the unreachable star…
This is my quest, to follow that star…
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far…
To fight for the right, without question or pause…
To be willing to march into Hell, for a Heavenly cause…
And I know if I’ll only be true, to this glorious quest,
That my heart will lie will lie peaceful and calm,
when I’m laid to my rest…
And the world will be better for this:
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach… the unreachable star…
Finally, in lieu of going to camp this summer, Sue and I will be away from June 23 through July 16 fulfilling family commitments and enjoying some vacation time. If there is an emergency, please call the synagogue during business hours at 703-569-7577 and after business hours, please call my study line at 703-866-5531 and follow the prompts.
Enjoy a safe and renewing summer!
Rabbi Bruce D. Aft
Something very special occurred here at Adat Reyim on Wednesday. We hosted a group of Indonesian teenagers through the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. Earlier in the day on Wednesday, I had the privilege of discussing peace in the middle east and the role of religion in dealing with conflict at George Mason University. We enjoyed a wonderful discussion about how we must be willing to look at all sides of an issue and not rush to judgement because the media portrays a situation in a certain way or because others tell us we should believe something.
I was the first Jewish person that many of these students had met and it was a significant opportunity for sharing. As I spoke and an interpreter shared my words in their native language, I watched as heads nodded and hope seemed to emerge on the faces of the students as we grew to understand each other.
The students went to the National Cathedral before visiting Adat Reyim. After having lemonade and cookies, we stood together on the bima as the students were able to see the Holocaust Torah and the number tattooed onto the eitz chaim (wooden roller). Each student wanted to touch the Torah and learn about the symbolism of the Ark, Eternal Light, and artwork on the bima. I read the Priestly Blessing and from the Ten Commandments and realized (once again) as the students left the synagogue that education can lead to greater understanding. These students were Muslim, Christian, and Hindu and were able to have a better appreciation of the rich heritage of our Jewish people.
If in fact peace will emerge one small step at a time, then when we left the synagogue early Wednesday evening, we were a little bit closer to creating a more peaceful world where people of all faiths can share greater understanding.
On a separate note, we will be honoring all of our graduates at services next Friday night, June 20 at 8:00 pm. I hope that you will pass the word to your graduates from high school, college, graduate school, and wherever else so we can celebrate these milestones with you. Mazel tov to all of you who are celebrating this important time in your life and be safe in your celebrations! Please note that services tonight will begin at 7:00 pm.
Rabbi Bruce D. Aft
P.S. As we celebrate Father’s Day this Sunday, I hope each of us will either spend some time with our dads, call them, or if they are no longer alive, share important memories which we treasure with those with whom we are close.
I am sure you have seen this story which circulates periodically and is very inspirational. I hope that we will make time to try to see the good that our fathers have done for us, are doing for us, or have tried to do for us. And I hope that those of us who are dads will try to spend special time with those we love!
Happy Father’s Day!
A Father’s Eyes
Jonathan’s mother died when he was very young and his father brought him up. Both of them shared a very special relationship. Jonathan loved to play football and his father made sure that he was always there to cheer his son at every match, even if Jonathan wasn’t a part of the playing team. Jonathan being small sized, wasn’t allowed to play in the main team. Nevertheless, he continued with his practice with full determination. Everyone thought that Jonathan would never be able to make it into the team, though somehow, his determination carried him through. The coach seeing his diligence and dedication decided to keep him on the roster.
One day during practice, the coach met him with a telegram. Jonathan was shocked to read the message contained in it. Swallowing hard, he mumbled to the coach, “My father died this morning. Will it be all right if I miss practice today?” The coach gently put his arm around his shoulder and said, “Take the rest of the week off, son, and don’t even plan to come to the game on Saturday.” On the day of the game, Jonathan’s college team was losing badly to the rival team. The coach and the players had all lost hope when they saw Jonathan coming towards them. Jonathan ran up to the coach and pleaded him to allow him to play this match. At first, the coach wouldn’t allow him to play. However after a lot of persuasion, the coach gave in.No sooner Jonathan joined the team in the field, their scores started to improve before both the teams were on a tie.
However, the real cheer came during the crucial closing seconds when he intercepted a pass and ran all the way for the winning touchdown. His team members were ecstatic. The crowd came running towards him to celebrate the win. After the match, the coach went up to Jonathan, who was seated alone in the corner of the locker room and asked, “Kid, I can’t believe it. You were fantastic! Tell me what got into you? How did you do it?” He looked at the coach, with tears in his eyes, and said, “Well, you knew my dad died, but did you know that my dad was blind?” The young man swallowed hard and forced a smile, “Dad came to all my games, but today was the first time he could see me play, and I wanted to show him I could do it!”