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Israel: Improve It, Don't Forsake It

01/12/2023 07:16:58 PM

Jan12

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Land – one particular land – is fundamental to our Jewish story, our history, and our relationship with God. God’s very first communication to the very first Jew, Abraham, discusses the Promised Land.

It is fascinating that we are a people deeply connected to that small strip of land, and yet we have spent so much of our long history beyond its borders.  

Our return to that land and the...Read more...

Folk-Rock-Torah -- Va'yishlach

12/10/2022 04:28:09 PM

Dec10

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

In this week’s Torah portion, Va’Yishlach, Jacob and Esau reunite after two decades apart. Jacob is terrified because, when last they were together, Esau wanted to kill Jacob for his theft of their father’s blessing. Jacob is relieved that Esau no longer harbors vengeful designs. Still, when Esau suggests that they travel together, Jacob demurs. He understood it was wiser to remain separate.

Each Wednesday...Read more...

Thanksgiving: We Celebrate During Fretful Times

11/17/2022 04:05:44 PM

Nov17

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

“How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:4).  The Israelite’s asked this question during their Babylonian captivity. How could they celebrate during a time of sadness, duress, and alienation from their homeland?

We might ask a related question: “How shall we celebrate Thanksgiving in our own troubled land?”

How will we sit joyfully, enjoying the blessing of...Read more...

Reflection On Kristallnacht

11/11/2022 05:37:39 PM

Nov11

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Today is the eighty-fourth anniversary of Kristallnacht, the two-day Nazi-sponsored pogrom against the Jews.

Last night we commemorated this dark day with an examination of what the Nazis considered “degenerate” art and music. Amy Claver offered a thorough description of how that campaign impacted one particular Jewish composer, Hans Gal. Gal was lucky; he escaped.

But on Kristallnacht, nearly one...Read more...

Let's Learn Together

11/07/2022 09:19:13 PM

Nov7

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

In the Mishnah’s Pirkei Avot, Ben Zoma opines that the truly wise one is “ha’lomeid m’kol adam,” the one who learns from every person. Bartinuro, the medieval commentator on Pirkei Avot, refines Ben Zoma’s statement with, “Af al pi sh’hu katan mimenu. Even though that person is lesser than he.” In other words, the truly wise ones are willing to learn from anyone at all, regardless of social status or...Read more...

Asylum-Seekers In Skokie

10/14/2022 06:10:00 PM

Oct14

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

As you may know, the Village of Skokie is housing scores of asylum-seekers from Venezuela. They were bused to Chicago from the states of Florida and Texas -- a deeply cynical political ploy. The state of Illinois has sought the assistance of local municipalities in providing assistance to these asylum-seekers. Skokie is one such municipality.

Village officials recently contacted me and the Niles Township Clergy...Read more...

Thriving

09/29/2022 04:33:24 PM

Sep29

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

What a pleasure to be together for Rosh Hashana services this week. Having so many in our building, along with everyone online, enhanced our sense of community. Being in the fold of the community is one of the very special aspects of the High Holy Days. 

After Rosh Hashana services, a congregant told me he was so happy to see our congregation "thriving." Indeed we are!

May we all thrive together. May...Read more...

Music Echoes

09/08/2022 07:21:40 PM

Sep8

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

The new EHNTJC brochure includes the line "music echoes off our walls." 

How true that is!  And what I appreciate about our echoing music, besides our talented musicians, are the voices -- our voices -- joining in.

This Friday night, join in! Cantor Gale will once again lead the musically superb and spiritually uplifting Shabbat Ruach service. Cantor will be supported by the resplendent voice of...Read more...

I'm in a High Holidays State of Mind

09/02/2022 07:55:17 PM

Sep2

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

One of the many benefits of being a rabbi is that, as the month of Elul rolls around, I’m already preparing for the High Holidays. Elul, after all, is our preparation month. It puts us in a High Holidays state of mind through the daily reading of Psalm 27, the daily blowing of the shofar, and more.

I also enter that state of mind through sermon preparation: reading, note-taking, writing, editing. (I still, by...Read more...

The Ninth of Av: Stability. Fragility. Hope.

08/04/2022 04:14:27 PM

Aug4

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Stability. Fragility. Hope.

That sums up Tisha b’Av, which begins on Saturday evening.

Tisha b’Av – the ninth day of the month of Av – commemorates Jewish calamities. It is the day, according to our lore, that both Temples fell and the day the edict for our 1492 expulsion from Spain was signed.

Our sages also retroactively assigned that date to the Torah story of the spies’ pessimistic...Read more...

Horror in our Backyard on the Anniversary of Our Nation’s Founding

07/05/2022 11:46:21 AM

Jul5

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

A day that is supposed to bring neighbors together and reaffirm our patriotism quickly turned into unspeakable tragedy. Another mass shooting, and this one in our own backyard, in Julie’s hometown, just a few minutes from where we live.

Six have died in the most horrific way, including, perhaps, young people. We genuinely feel shock and sadness; our hearts “go out to the mourning families;” we offer “our...Read more...

America’s New Tabernacle: What Do You Think?

06/29/2022 11:40:07 AM

Jun29

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

The sunrises over the wilderness of Sinai. The Israelites awake and pour their coffee. When they emerge from their tents, they see before them the Tabernacle.

The Tabernacle – or Mishkan – was the portable sanctuary the Israelites transported during their journey to the Promised Land.  It was situated in the center of the Israelite camp. The tribes were arrayed around it. God’s cloud of glory swirled...Read more...

And Look Upon Them

06/25/2022 02:21:52 PM

Jun25

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

This week’s Torah portion, Shelach Lecha, contains the commandment of tzitzit, the fringes. These verses are part of the full Shema.

The word tzitzit is related to maitzitz, one who peers or looks. In fact, we are commanded not merely to wear tzitzit, but u’ritem oto to look upon it. By looking at those four fringes on our...Read more...

Special Shabbat June 11th

06/04/2022 11:54:35 AM

Jun4

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

We are privileged to benefit from each other's scholarship and wisdom. We have such an opportunity over the next couple of weeks, as congregant Dr. Steve Parker will teach material from his wealth of study and writing.

The first opportunity will be this Saturday evening. Steve will join me and Cantor Gale in leading our annual Tikkun Leil Shavuot. See additional information in this Byte message.

The...Read more...

May We Finally Act

05/31/2022 10:53:06 AM

May31

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

In this week's Torah portion, God threatens myriad awful curses upon the Israelites. The connection of those ancient curses to the contemporary curse of violence is painfully real. 

So, yes, I am once again speaking about gun violence. But my words are not enough. Neither are our prayers. May we finally act, seizing the moment and momentum to help promote reasonable gun safety measures throughout our ashamed...Read more...

Where All Of The Children Are Above Average

05/18/2022 03:29:19 PM

May18

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Garrison Keillor would cap off each episode of A Prairie Home Companion by stating that Lake Wobegon is a place “Where … all the children are above average.”

I love the phrase, for how can “all” of anything within a specific set be “above average”? Still, I would apply that ironic line to the children in our own religious school. I have had the distinct pleasure of teaching and just spending time...Read more...

Values In Action

05/01/2022 03:49:41 PM

May1

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

We often express our values and our opinions about pressing issues of the day through emails and conversations. Some of those exchanges can be aggravating; some are fruitful. But it is certainly fruitful when we express our values through our deeds. We have been doing exactly that in recent weeks at EHNTJC.

On Wednesday, April 20,...Read more...

Chag Sameach

04/15/2022 10:44:34 AM

Apr15

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

On Passover we gather together to celebrate this ancient biblical holiday. To that end, all are welcome to log on to Zoom In and Zoom Out of Egypt on Friday night – first seder – at 7:30 pm.  Cantor Gale and I will lead a maariv service and focus on moments of high drama and great meaning in the Haggadah. It will last approximately 75 minutes.

On Passover we are also keenly attuned to those who suffer...Read more...

Standing With Israel In The Face Of Terror

04/08/2022 02:23:38 PM

Apr8

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Foreign ministers of four Arab nations – Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates – met with their Israeli counterparts in the south of Israel. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken joined them for this historic “Negev Summit.”

And then came the knifings and the shootings. Instead of viewing this historic summit as a possibility of what might be, Palestinian leaders find it threatening. So they...Read more...

Help For Ukraine

03/25/2022 03:07:57 PM

Mar25

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

The core of the Jewish mitzvah system is the imperative to help the vulnerable. There are, sadly and undeniably, no end of vulnerable people in the world. The Ukrainians have caught our attention for their sad plight, as well as for their bravery. We also understand that the security structure that has obtained in the western world is shaken by Russia's invasion. So, Ukraine is very much on our minds. 

We at...Read more...

On Purim

03/18/2022 12:44:42 PM

Mar18

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Today has been a good day; it’s Purim. I’ve had fun singing and chatting with the toddlers in Schechter’s Early Childhood Center, housed downstairs in our education wing; dancing, singing and drumming in the midst of a very well-attended service last night, featuring young and not-so-young in costumes; and hearing the entire megillah this morning. Purim actually felt like it began much earlier this year, as our...Read more...

Building the Mishkan: An Epic Accomplishment

02/24/2022 07:13:24 PM

Feb24

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

One of humanity’s greatest accomplishments was…

Well, you might conclude that sentence in any number of ways: the pyramids, the moon-landing, the personal computer.

But I’ll vote for the Mishkan, the portable tabernacle the Israelites constructed and transported through the desert, en route to the...Read more...

Solidarity In The Face Of Hatred

02/09/2022 05:23:47 PM

Feb9

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Our nation has witnessed recently a cluster of hate-fueled incidents, both against Jewish institutions and against Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s). Meanwhile, neo-Nazis gathered publicly this past week in Boston and in Orlando.

While we ought to be vigilant, we should also maintain perspective. These incidents are...Read more...

Remembrance

01/27/2022 05:50:43 PM

Jan27

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

The United Nations' General Assembly designated January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day; it is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945. 

On this day, the UN urges its members states to honor the memory of the six million and to commit to the complete abolishment of genocide. May it only be so!

We in the Jewish world have our own sacred day of commemoration, Yom...Read more...

Challenges

01/20/2022 05:45:01 PM

Jan20

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

The heart of the Jewish community tanked and filled with dread as we learned last Shabbat that a gunman was holding four Jews hostage at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, TX. Memories of the mass shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh flashed before us, in addition to the tragic violence at other houses of worship (and schools, street corners, nightclubs,...Read more...

I'll Stand By You

12/23/2021 11:51:37 AM

Dec23

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

This week, as we begin the book of Exodus, Moses feels woefully unqualified for the mission God places upon him: to be God's agent of redemption for the Israelites; to be the great teacher of Torah at Sinai; to lead the people through the wilderness. 

"Mi anochi?" Moses protests. Who am I to accomplish all of this? The Israelites will not believe me. Pharaoh will not speak to me. I have a speech impediment....Read more...

Mark Spitz and Munich 1972

12/21/2021 05:19:45 PM

Dec21

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Mark Spitz, the Jewish American Olympic swimmer, has been on my mind. In fact, I woke up this morning singing a made-up song about him.

Spitz won seven gold medals in the 1972 Olympics, held in Munich. His achievement was unparalleled -- until Michael Phelps came along.

Spitz’s ascent up the podium to receive his seventh gold medal occurred on the evening of September 4, 1972. Hours later, as he was...Read more...

Folk & Rock Torah

12/09/2021 04:03:57 PM

Dec9

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Introducing … “Folk & Rock Torah.”  Each week – for the time being – I will play a recording of a song that reflects a theme within that week’s Torah portion. I will do this immediately following our evening minyan – typically on Wednesdays.

This week I shared “Takin’ It to the Streets” by the Doobie Brothers. It begins, “You don’t know me, but I’m your brother. I was raised...Read more...

The Truth Of Chanukah

12/09/2021 04:02:47 PM

Dec9

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Chanukah’s history is more complicated than the story we teach our children. For instance, the glorious war of the Maccabees was as much a struggle against assimilated Jews as it was against the Seleucid Greek armies. Furthermore, the Maccabees themselves may have been good fighters, but they were deplorable rulers; one of them had hundreds of his Jewish opponents slaughtered. And the final defeat of the Hasmoneans (as...Read more...

Click and Learn

11/17/2021 11:42:19 PM

Nov17

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

As you know from our emails and fliers, EHNT offers frequent and fulfilling opportunities for learning. Cantor Gale teaches popular classes on Jewish music and liturgy. Dr. Esther Javetz and her Adult Education team organize a steady stream of creative programs. And I teach classes on Mondays (Torah This Week!), Tuesdays (Stories from Our Tradition) and Thursdays....Read more...

Sun, January 29 2023 7 Shevat 5783