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Redemption From Struggle

01/14/2021 06:51:48 PM

Jan14

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

This is a serious moment for our democracy. We would like to believe that what we viewed on our screens was surreal, but it was real. And we would like to say that the transition to a new administration will be smooth, but we are anxious.

Anxious, but optimistic. The stories of our tradition – indeed, the history of our people – illustrate that seeds of redemption take root during trying times. At the outset...Read more...

Prayer For The Government

01/07/2021 02:19:15 PM

Jan7

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Pray, urged Rabbi Haninah, “b’shloma shel malchut -- for the welfare of the government –  for were it not for fear of it, human beings would eat each other alive” (Pirkei Avot 3:2).

Our sages interpreted the word government -  “malchut” – broadly. It refers not to one person or party or dynasty, but rather to all...Read more...

Mitzvoth – Here, There and Everywhere

12/24/2020 03:55:12 PM

Dec24

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Judaism is a relational religion. We were born with a brit, a covenantal commitment to God, and we express that covenant in relational acts both vertical and horizontal.

Vertical relationships refer to acts bein adam l’Makom, between each individual and God. These include mitzvoth (properly translated as commandments) like honoring Shabbat, keeping kosher, Torah study, and wearing ritual objects like tallises...Read more...

Joseph, Chanukah, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

12/15/2020 08:33:56 PM

Dec15

Rabbi Weill

Whereas December 10 marked the seventy-second anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

and whereas this Shabbat Chanukah is an internationally recognized Human Rights Shabbat;

and whereas on this Shabbat we read Parshat Va’Yeshev, wherein Joseph, son of Rachel and Jacob, is sold into slavery by his brothers;

and whereas Joseph’s brothers’ treatment of him violated the spirit of the...Read more...

Of Pilgrims’ Paper Buckles and a Nation’s Sacred Truths

11/25/2020 04:36:33 PM

Nov25

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

I remember Thanksgiving from days of yore – at least days of my yore, when my younger brother Kenny and I would dress up like Pilgrims. Taped on my nice shoes were construction paper buckles.

Did Pilgrim men’s shoes have buckles? I have no idea. It may just be a story.

There is a heavy dose of “story” in every nation’s founding narratives. The stories we tell about ourselves may not be...Read more...

Incredibly Divided

11/06/2020 03:33:23 PM

Nov6

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends:

A prominent Jewish communal leader yesterday described the United States as "an incredibly divided country." Sadly, this refers to our own community as well.

Most of the American Jewish community has voted for Democratic candidates once again, but a significant minority has voted for Republican candidates, from the presidential election to down-ballot candidates.

I have heard of members of the Jewish...Read more...

Empty Pockets

10/28/2020 05:46:35 PM

Oct28

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

A rabbi noticed a young man – a stranger – enter the sanctuary on Shabbat and sit in the back row. It was apparent to the rabbi that the young man was unfamiliar with the service, and that he did not seem to know anyone else in the sanctuary.

At the beginning of the Torah service, during the processional, the rabbi welcomed the young man; they shook hands, smiling.

Later, during Kiddush, the young...Read more...

Elul 5781: Dialing In To The Holidays

08/31/2020 09:18:00 PM

Aug31

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

It was during this time – the weeks preceding the High Holy Days – that Moses ascended Mt Sinai for a second forty-day period. He came back down on Yom Kippur.

What was he doing up there for so long? He was atoning on our behalf for worshiping the Golden Calf.

But wait! Were we not the sinners? Was...Read more...

And Justice For All

08/24/2020 10:39:14 AM

Aug24

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Leadership is on our minds this summer, and that is the primary concern of Parshat Shoftim, this week’s Torah portion. It focuses on the judges, magistrates, and priests of ancient Israel.

The Mishnah says something critically important about the High Priest. “Kohein Gadol dan v’danin oto. The High Priest judges and they judge him....Read more...

The Personal-Communal Dynamic

08/06/2020 03:42:15 PM

Aug6

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Grammar in Torah often shifts between plural and singular and back again. At the start of Eikev, this week's Torah portion, Moses speaks to the entire community in the plural form. He then shifts, addressing each of us individually. Later, he returns to the plural. 

This is the essence of community. Our personal behavior affects the community. And the tenor of the community affects each one of us. John Donne...Read more...

On Tisha b'Av

07/30/2020 03:07:24 PM

Jul30

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Today is Tisha b'Av, the darkest day on the Jewish calendar. It is a fast day on which we recall the tragedies of our history, especially the destructions of the first and second Holy Temples, which were destroyed on this day, the ninth of Av, in the sixth century B.C.E. and the first century C.E., respectively.

Tisha b'Av is not only about our suffering. It is about any suffering. It is not merely about our...Read more...

On Independence Day

07/02/2020 09:51:00 PM

Jul2

Rabbi Weill

 

And they shall beat their swords into plowshares

And their spears into pruning hooks.

Nation shall not take up

Sword against...Read more...

Shelach Lecha: From Abraham to Moses to Us

06/19/2020 02:22:11 PM

Jun19

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

 

The Israelites exhibit an astonishing lack of faith in this week’s Torah portion, Shelach Lecha. Moses has sent scouts to explore the land; ten of the twelve scouts are despondent because of the giants they encountered. They then lead the Israelite nation...Read more...

We Share One Father

06/15/2020 05:35:28 PM

Jun15

Rabbi Weill

I’d like to begin with a thought experiment. Imagine an American, or someone who lives in America, who is radically different from you.

Focus on the qualities that you think most sharply divide you from that person.

Different religion? From different regions of the country? Or towns or neighborhoods? Different values? And political orientations? Different ethnicity or race? Different accent or manner of speaking? How...Read more...

Shavuot

05/28/2020 03:39:27 PM

May28

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Shavuot, which begins this evening, is one of Judaism's three major festivals (or chaggim), along with Passover and Sukkot. (The High Holidays are not considered "festivals.") Shavuot is, without a doubt, the least observed and most obscure of the three festivals. It's critically  important, though, for on Shavuot, we commemorate mattan Torah, the giving of Torah at Mt Sinai. 

Questions arise. Who,...Read more...

Torah's Mandate: Support The Vulnerable

04/30/2020 06:52:22 PM

Apr30

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

The Torah is unambiguous: we must care for the vulnerable in our midst. In Parshat Kedoshim – read this week along with Achrei Mot – we are commanded to leave the corners of fields for the poor; to pay laborers punctually; to protect immigrants. 

These and similar statutes compose the greater whole of Leviticus 19, which is in many ways the ethical heart of Torah. 

We at EHNTJC take this...Read more...

Victor Hugo and Tzaraat

04/21/2020 07:20:57 PM

Apr21

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

I recently read that when Victor Hugo wanted to learn how Les Miserables was selling, he telegraphed his publisher a message consisting only of this: ?.

His publisher knew exactly what Hugo wanted to know, so he replied just as tersely:  !

In other words, Les Miserables was selling well!

Interesting that Hugo, a man of many words refrained from...Read more...

The Comfortable Sameness of This Passover

04/12/2020 02:01:52 PM

Apr12

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

 

We have all expressed with bewilderment how this night will be really, really different from other Passover nights. 

While we note the disruptive difference of this season, I would like to emphasize the comfortable sameness of this time as well. 

The moon is full on...Read more...

Causes To Celebrate

03/27/2020 05:15:39 PM

Mar27

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

We do have cause to celebrate! Sure, we are enduring a global pandemic. Yes, the economy has taken a major hit. Of course, we are deprived of the physical closeness to family and friends which is so important to human beings.

We celebrate nonetheless, for we marvel at the human capacity to adapt to changing circumstances. This includes us. We at EHNTJC have adroitly transitioned to virtual classes, services and...Read more...

Coronavirus Message

03/08/2020 01:49:23 PM

Mar8

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

 

Uncertainty prevails in the book of Esther, the biblical story that gives us the holiday of Purim. The Jews of Persia feel events are beyond their control. Ultimately, though, they gain control of the situation, and all ends well.

We too face a measure of uncertainty as we face this coronavirus, also...Read more...

The Wise King of Nineveh

02/06/2020 05:28:11 PM

Feb6

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

 

An Egyptian stands at the edge of the sea, watching his countrymen drown in its waters. He grieves for the dead firstborn, including in his own family.

He hears the Israelites singing. “Mi chamocha ba’elim, Adonai? Who is like you among the gods, Eternal God?” And this Egyptian, nurtured in the...Read more...

Complicated Lives of our Biblical Forebears

12/05/2019 08:27:04 PM

Dec5

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Va'Yetzei, this week's Torah portion, presents a challenging passage concerning intense sisterly rivalry, one woman's sense of self vis a vis her husband, and the subservient status of another woman. 

Rachel is in extreme distress for not bearing a child. “When Rachel saw she had borne Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister and she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children or else I will die'” (Gen....Read more...

Respecting Boundaries

09/06/2019 04:37:58 PM

Sep6

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

An interesting mitzvah about boundaries appears in this week's Torah portion, Shoftim. “You shall not remove your neighbor's landmark” (Deuteronomy 19:14). The Hebrew term is “hasagat gevul,” crossing a boundary. In other words, do not encroach on another's property. 

This mitzvah (commandment) can be applied to our own personal relationships. We must respect others' boundaries (“your neighbor's...Read more...

Magen David Adom

08/16/2019 08:30:22 PM

Aug16

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

I am excited to announce that EHNTJC will host the dedication of a new ambulance for Israel's rescue service, Magen David Adom, next Wednesday, August 21, at 6:30 pm. This dedication is special, as it is dedicated to the memory of a lone soldier who died while serving with the IDF several years ago. 

Magen David Adom abides by its principle to provide emergency services to all, regardless of religion or...Read more...

Fear Not – Strive To Be Happy

07/11/2019 10:17:56 AM

Jul11

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

The Israelites seems to have perfected the art of complaining. In this week’s Torah portion, Hukkat, we find the Israelites STILL complaining. 

It was one thing for them to complain when they were newly freed slaves, for sudden freedom can be jarring and daunting. 

But now decades have passed. These complaining Israelites are not weak slaves. No, these were relatively young Israelites, strong...Read more...

Talk in the Wilderness — Then and Now

06/26/2019 10:19:53 AM

Jun26

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Reckless talk abounds during the Israelites’ long slog through the desert. In last week’s Torah portion, Miriam slandered her brother Moses. This week, in Shelach Lecha, the scouts publicly express fear of the Promised Land, causing a destructive grumbling campaign. Next week, Korach et al will publicly challenge the divinely-ordained leadership of Moses and Aaron.

A reckless – if calculated – use of...Read more...

They Are Human Beings

06/26/2019 10:19:37 AM

Jun26

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

My family and I recently engaged in an interesting conversation about immigrants. It is wrong, my daughter Ruthie asserted, to refer to any human being as illegal.

I suggested to her that the word merely describes reality, that people who come to this country through a porous border have, in fact, acted illegally, as have those who overstay their visas. Illegalsare those who have acted...Read more...

Blessing Of The Animals

05/27/2019 10:47:58 AM

May27

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Whereas in the Book of Genesis the animals of the land, sea and sky were created prior to the creation of human beings;

And whereas each species of these animals entered Noah’s Ark – two by two – and were thus saved from the great flood. (This no doubt included Labradoodles.)

And whereas in the Book Numbers a wise talking donkey scolded his abusive rider, who happened to be a prophet;

And...Read more...

Seder Night in London

04/23/2019 10:47:56 AM

Apr23

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

When we sat down at our seder tables recently, we took a break from the hectic secular world. 

Israel Zangwill (1864-1926), British Jewish writer and Zionist, captured the dichotomy of the world out thereand our ancient Passover rite in his poem “Seder Night in London.”

Zangwill’s poem is a sonnet: 14 lines in iambic pentameter (ten syllables), often with a thematic break after line eight....Read more...

Learning Opportunity -- Talmud and the Afterlife!

04/16/2019 10:47:54 AM

Apr16

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

As we anticipate Passover and our courses of chametz-free meals, we might also happily anticipate meals and courses of a different sort, namely the “dessert” of our Talmud at the Table class. This final series of Talmud at the Table will be “Afterlife in Talmud.” Tasty as an afikomen! 

I have been working with our friend and teacher Rabbi Yehoshua Karsh of the Avner Torah Learning Center to plan...Read more...

Sat, January 16 2021 3 Shevat 5781