Miracles Abound!

Parshat Beshallach

Exodus 13:17-17:16

Miracles abound!  This week’ Torah portion Parshat Beshallach is filled with miracles.  Not only are the Children of Israel finally on

their way toward freedom, God parts the sea for them, finishes Pharaoh and his army, and ensures the survival of the Israelites!

Yes indeed miracles, abound.  The army of the Pharaoh is no match for God’s strength and power over the natural forces of the sea!

Time and again the message of our Torah is a message of hope for those who do not possess power or wealth.  God’s Divine Presence is

the strength that we need to overcome tyranny.  The weak come to challenge the strong especially if they pervert the Divine attributes

of Justice and Truth and Compassion.  Time and again in the history of the Jewish people this is the motif, whether it is the Israelites

facing the threat of the Egyptian army or the Maccabees against the Syrian-Greek army.  Even in our own day and time Hitler is gone

but the Jewish people have survived when the Nazis have not.  Time and again when we place our faith in our common belief of One

Uniting Divine God that we speak of in our Sh’ma prayer then the Jewish people can be a force for good in our individual lives and in

the life of the world.

We have celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday this week.  He understood this notion; “We know through painful experience

that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by oppressed.  That is why Moses’ words, “Let my

people go,” has such resonance to this day.

And the miracles of this week’s Torah portion, the miracle of the sea,the miracle of manna given in the desert to feed the body are to

help the oppressed stand taller and bolster their faith and nourish them.  These miracles are meant as a sign of God’s Presence in their

lives. Sometimes it is hard to see miracles in our own lives today.  Miracles abound but we are often too jaded, too faith-less to let our

souls see them. Our bodies may be nourished but our souls are starving.

God provided for the Israelites in the wilderness.  Manna came six days out of seven to feed the bodies of the Israelites.  But on the

seventh day no manna fell.  Instead the Israelites received a double portion to last through Shabbat.  Manna sustained our bodies in

the wilderness but Shabbat sustained our souls through the millennia. Shabbat allows those of us who are oppressed to see our

humanity and allows us to imagine a different kind world where we live with the dignity of those with power and wealth and leisure.

So grant to yourself what God granted you so long ago, the freedom found in the crossing of the  Yam Suf-the Sea of Reeds.  The

miracle of manna in the desert that this week’s Torah portion describes in such detail.  Grant yourself a Shabbat to refresh your soul

and your spirit.  The miracle of Shabbat that will nourish your spirit, your faith and your dignity.  The miracle of Shabbat that will help

your soul see the many miracles that abound still in our day and time

The End and a Beginning

Parshat Vaykheil-Pekude

Exodus 35:1 – 40:38

 

This week’s Parasha continues with the recounting of the building of the Mishkan.  In Parshat Terumah  and Parshat Tetzaveh, the instructions and designs are revealed to Moses.  And tradition states that in our portions this week, the plans are executed.  Moses now tells the Children of Israel of the plans and Betzalel and his assistant Oholiob oversee the craftsmen and women to complete the Mishkan, the Tabernacle.   “And Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every wise hearted man into whose heart Adonai had given wisdom, everyone whose heart lifted him up to approach the work to do it. (36:2). Volunteers were encouraged to be a part of the process of building the Tabernacle!

 It is always exciting to be part of making something. Whether building a home or just redecorating having a project like the building of the Mishkan creates excitement.  That is why there are so many television shows about housing design, make-overs and building anew.  One could get carried away with all the details and want to rush through the project to finish. But the Children of Israel are reminded in the opening words of the Torah portion to observe Shabbat.  The excitement of this project could mean that the volunteers, artisans and workers might work

non-stop. But Moses and God reminds the Israelites of their sacred obligations. 

 

What would it say and mean if Shabbat were violated in the building of God’s place on earth?
It would certainly be a contradiction of values!

 Perhaps for each of us there is an important reminder here.  In a world that wants to push us 24/7 to do more, build more, create more we must push back.  Perhaps we need to remind ourselves of the power and beauty of Shabbat not just the rituals but the opportunity for downtime, reflective time and yes, SLEEP!

 

We are one of the most sleep deprived nations.

 

Some of the latest research shows that “a team of researchers in Wisconsin and Italy has found that in rats kept awake past their bed times, their brains begin to turn themselves off, neuron by neuron, though the rat is still awake” (USA TODAY, 4-27-11). The most likely neurons to go offline are the ones we use daily!   This is like sleeping while you are still awake and affects functioning

 

“The research could mean that the 35% of Americans who told the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that they routinely sleep less than seven hours a night are also having portions of their brains go off-line even though they’re still awake.”

So the ancients and our Torah understood that we workers need down time and time to restore our souls AND OUR BODIES!  Shabbat is the way.  Even when we are excited about building a project, we can’t let our enthusiasm get in the way of taking time off to rest and renew ourselves.

 As the Ten Commandments remind us: Remember the Sabbath Day and Keep it Holy!!!!

Calypso #Chanukah

Don’t forget tonight is the fourth candle!  Celebrate with me and Kol Ami at Hollywood & Highland in the main courtyard-Calypso Shabbat Chanukah!  It will be an amazing Shabbat Chanukah experience.   We begin the festivities at 6 pm….  Hollywood & Highland is at 6801 Hollywood Blvd.

Afterwards dinner at BOHO!

It was an Ipad Shabbat

This past Shabbat we had Ipad Shabbat!  I encouraged members to download the new iT’filah app from CCAR Press. (click here to download from itunes) This is an app for Ipad that contains the Shabbat evening Service from The Reform Movement Siddur, Mishkan T’filah.   I led services from my Ipad and several congregants brought theirs as well.  The rest of the congregation read out of our prayer-books.

I announced pages and page swipes!  The new app has the ability to hear certain prayers sung or read.  At one point in a pause before the Barchu.. one of the members humorously his the music… Okay so much for high church decorum.  But it signifies a great and wonderful new world.

Another temple member had surgery last week and was in the hospital for Shabbat.  This member downloaded the app and used Mishkan T’filah (iT’filah) in the hospital this past Friday evening.  It brought so much comfort to the patient and their family!   We live stream Shabbat evening services.  This app will enable those who watch to take a more active role in the worship experience.

During my sermon I explored the app with the congregation.  But the point of my sermon wasn’t really the app itself.  But the continued need for creativity of this sort in Jewish life.  That Reform Judaism was about exactly this utilization of contemporary modalities to enliven and enrich our ancient tradition.  Technology isn’t the end in its self-rather it is a means of opening up our connection and engagement with Judaism.  This is a good thing.

Again thank you to Rabbi Hara Person and Rabbi Dan Medwin of the CCAR PRES

Exasperated Parenting

For all the exasperated parents of teenagers-me included here is a Shabbat prayer:

Dear God

Grant me patience, kindness and understanding.

Grant me patience, kindness and understanding.
When I am ready to lose my cool help me remember to count to ten and remember that little bundle I carried in those first few weeks.

Help me see in my teen the good even when they open up a mouth.

Help me to see in my teen our future even when I think they will never get out of high school.
Grant me O God wisdom, patience and strength.

Grant me O God wisdom, patience and strength.

Help me to remember that the solution is not yelling but talking.

Help me God to instill in my teen the values of Jewish life. Let every moment be a lesson. And let every hug convey my love.

Help me to stay awake to greet them when they come home at curfew.

Help me keep the conversation going so that she/he will really talk with me.

Teach me O God to give thanks no matter what.

And help me smile!

I give thanks for my teen-grateful for the opportunity to parent-grateful to guide her/him into the future.

 

We need Shabbat Peace

With Shabbat soon here-let us pray for a respite from the terror that struck Israel yesterday.  More than 15 rockets hit southern Israel following the terrorist attacks against Israel in Eilat yesterday.  8 people died in the shootings in Eilat including army officers.  The rocket attacks injured two people seriously and others were treated for shock and caused fires.  10 rockets had been shot earlier at Beersheva and Ashkelon.

Israel Defense Forces retailated by bombing a munitions factory in Gaza.

This is so different than the summer I just spent in Israel which was relatively calm!

I pray that in the run-up to the UN General Assembly meetings in September when the Palestinians will seek a vote to affirm their nationhood status that this doesn’t become a daily occurrence.

If anything reigns down on Israel and Gaza…Let it be peace.