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Rabbi Aft's weekly message- Commitments

02/19/2016 09:53:09 AM


Dear Friends,


This message is a bit long, but hope you will read it in its entirety!


First of all, thank you to all who have extended good wishes to us on the occasion of the birth of our grandson.  We attended the bris yesterday and it won't surprise you to know that being there as a grandpa and not as a rabbi was VERY exciting! Having the opportunity to bless one's children and grandchildren and being together with our family is a treasure.  We hope and pray that Ezra will grow up and be healthy and safe surrounded by the love of his family.


Secondly, I hope that you will attend services this evening to hear David Rayman talk about his military experiences.  Our President, Russell Rayman, was able to arrange for his son, David, to speak.  David is a true military hero and in today's world, we are especially grateful for all our military personnel do to keep us safe. Please show your appreciation by attending services tonight!


Thirdly, I hope that folks will join us for our Torah study on Sunday morning where we will discuss the weekly portion.  A number of our religious school parents suggested that they would like to have an opportunity to study while their children are at religious school and others from the congregation might also be interested.  We will meet in the rabbinic study at 9:15am-10am and enjoy a lively discussion which is open to the congregation.  We are continuing to meet on every Shabbat morning at 8:45am before services with our Torah study group which has been meeting now for almost 25 years.  I hope you will join us for either or both!  The items discussed will be different so you can attend both!!!


Finally, in the midst of caring for children, caring for each other, caring for parents, and caring for other family members, I found this posting by Rabbi Brad Artson to be especially relevant.  We all face issues of independence and interdependence and I think Rabbi Artson has captured the essence of our opportunities to maintain holy, committed, interdependent relationships with all the challenges and joys that come with being loving, caring people. 


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Bruce Aft





One of the most terrifying aspects of getting married is the idea of making a commitment to another person for the rest of one's life.  One of the most daunting responsibilities of parenthood is knowing that another life is dependent on you forever.


Even going to the pound to get a pet can intimidate because of the permanence of commitment.


In a society of people terrified by commitment, in a world in which people worry about what they might be giving up, what options they might be foreclosing, or that they might simply get bored by a particular relationship, the idea of a dependency that lasts forever is a frightening one indeed.


One of the ways we lull ourselves into a willingness to commit is by disguising the extent of our own interdependence.  Rather than facing the full extent of a marriage, we assure ourselves that it's only one day at a time that the back door is always open.  We delude ourselves that life will return to normal once the kids grow up and move away on their own.  And we never think about the extent of our involvement to our aging parents or our adult siblings.


Our is a culture that always keeps an eye on the exit, one foot out the door.  I gotta be me.


Jewish culture offers a healthy alternative to the independent nature of American relationships.  In fact, our Torah portion offers an interesting and unexpected perspective that might be helpful in our own age.


Parashat Tetzaveh speaks of the erection of the Mishkan (the Tabernacle) in the wilderness.  This was Israel's portable site of worship and sacrifice, the precursor and role model for King Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem.


The Israelites were commanded to build a site where they could encounter God, and to furnish it with an altar, with a Holy of Holies and with a ner tamid, an eternal light: "And you shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure olive oil beaten for light, to cause the lamp to burn continually."


Always sensitive to unusual language, the rabbis of the Talmud notice that the Hebrew translates literally as "to cause the light to go up continually."  So they explain that phrase to mean "he (the priest) kindles the light until the flame rises by itself."


In other words, the kohen must care for the light until it can maintain itself without his direct involvement.


It's not enough just to light the flames; he is responsible for assuring that they can continue to burn without his immediate attention.


In that regard, the care that the kohen lavishes over the ner tamid is not unlike the commitment we make whenever we enter a relationship as well.  It comes as no surprise to parents that initiating that connection implies guiding the children to their own independence: good parenting doesn't stop with the immediate physical needs of the children, but extends to giving them the insight, values and self-confidence to be able to maintain themselves after the parents are no longer there.

Purchasing a pet from the pound involves a commitment to be there for the animal long after the immediate thrill has dissipated, ensuring that the pet can sustain itself throughout its lifetime.  So, too, with elderly parents.  Good children provide for their parents' physical and emotional needs so that they too can shine on their own.


The light of the ner tamid shines into the recesses of human relationships, mandating that we care in such a way that the recipient of our love is strengthened by our involvement and is better able to cope with life independently.  The kohen cares, as it were, for the dignity of the ner tamid, providing it with the ability to shine on its own.


We, too, must care for each other so that our mutual dignity is fortified, so that resilience, independence and well-being are enhanced by our love and our care.


One difference between living things, and the ner tamid, however, has to do with permanence.  While the ner tamid can definitively be established so it can flame on its own, no human being is ever fully independent, ever a finished product. The instruction to cultivate it until it can burn on its own is really a commandment to be constantly involved, to open ourselves to life-long commitments to those we love: our spouses, our parents, our siblings, our children and our friends.


Just as God's love and care never ends, so our own must become eternal as well.


Shabbat Shalom.



Congregation Adat Reyim


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