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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...

Kristallnacht

10/21/2021 02:09:47 PM

Oct21

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Kristallnacht – the two-day pogrom – occurred on November 9 and 10, 1938, in communities throughout Germany and Austria.

For us, this is no mere history. Congregations Ezra and Habonim were founded by German Jewish refugees in 1938, on the north and south sides respectively. Those congregations merged to form Ezra-Habonim in 1973. The merger between Niles Township Jewish Congregation and Ezra-Habonim require...Read more...

Think Different, Like Abraham

10/14/2021 07:46:07 PM

Oct14

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Abraham woke up on the right side of the bed and began believing in one God. Everyone else on the planet was still waking up on the idolatrous side of the bed. Abraham was the first – and for a time only – monotheist on the planet.

Torah does not explore how radical Abraham was. To stand here while the rest of the world stands there is difficult, a constant struggle. But Abraham was adamant; he believed in...Read more...

Optimism In 5782

09/09/2021 02:42:38 PM

Sep9

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

The shocking ascension of the Taliban 20 years after 9/11 causes deep consternation. So many Afghanis and others have and will continue to suffer from the Taliban’s violent brand of Islamist extremism. In addition to our consternation, we may also feel a sense of dismaying futility, as in: After all that, they’re back?

The Taliban’s re-emergence feels like the realization of Ecclesiastes’ pessimistic...Read more...

Climbing the Tree and Sailing the Sea

08/27/2021 04:07:22 PM

Aug27

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Climbing a tree. Hanging from a vine. Sailing across the ocean. These are a few of the ways our sages – from ancient to modern times – pursued illicit desires, whether those desires were born from greed, lust, or the hunger for power. In some cases, the hapless sages went through with the deed. But in most cases, they managed to thwart the forward momentum of their desires.

Rav Amram the Pious is the hero of...Read more...

Planning Ahead

08/13/2021 06:30:27 PM

Aug13

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Moses – aware of his impending death – plans for the future. In this week’s Torah portion, Shoftim, he stands on Mt Nebo, at the precipice of the Promised Land, and counsels the Israelites about the parameters of leadership for priests, prophets, and kings. This process began in the book of Numbers when a new generation of leaders – Joshua, Pinchas, the daughters of Zelophechad, et al – asserted...Read more...

Learning Together

07/08/2021 03:32:22 PM

Jul8

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

The pandemic ebbed and flowed; we despaired and hoped. And through it all, we continued learning. Our Adult Education program, under the leadership of Dr. Esther Javetz, churned out creative learning opportunities, drawing very impressive numbers. Cantor Gale has added his expertise and enthusiasm to the mix, 

A special pleasure for me are my three weekly classes: Torah This Week! (Mondays at 6); Stories...Read more...

Leadership Past, Present and Future

07/01/2021 01:13:10 PM

Jul1

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

A new generation ariseth in this week’s Torah portion, Pinchas. God establishes that the high priesthood will come from the line of Pinchas, Aaron’s grandson. Meanwhile, the daughters of Zelophechad successfully appeal directly to Moses for the right to inherit, even though they are female. Finally, Moses publicly ordains Joshua as his successor.

Pinchas is a Torah portion of succession.

Every...Read more...

Seek Peace

06/29/2021 10:10:13 AM

Jun29

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

A plague engulfs the Israelites during a massive act of apostasy at the end of last week’s Torah portion, Balak. More than 20,000 die!

But when Aaron’s grandson Pinchas kills a privileged Israelite man who is preparing to engage in idol-worship and more with a Midianite princess, the plague abruptly ends.

Pinchas’s double homicide ended their lives gruesomely. But it also saved hundreds more from...Read more...

Moses Falls And Rises

06/10/2021 01:00:51 PM

Jun10

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Moses falls on his face, once again, in this week’s Torah portion, Korach. Aaron does as well. Why? Because these leaders’ are experiencing – once again – a serious challenge to their leadership. But it’s not really their leadership that’s being challenged; it’s God’s leadership, for Moses and Aaron are indeed Gods appointed leaders of the people.

Incredibly, Moses raises himself up, collects...Read more...

Truth Even Unto Its Innermost Parts

06/02/2021 09:56:04 PM

Jun2

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

A few years ago I was engaged in a heated conversation with an old college friend, Bob. I was stridently expressing my position, until Bob completely disarmed me.

“So what you’re saying,” he said, “is that…”

I do not recall the topic of our conservation, but I do recall Bob’s willingness to patiently repeat my own thoughts back to me. Bob was not trying to trip me up in my own words. He was...Read more...

May Justice and Peace Prevail

05/21/2021 05:09:25 PM

May21

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Eighteen of us – Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant -- stood in a wide circle yesterday for the Niles Township Clergy Forum’s silent vigil for, as our battered sign reads, “Peace. Love. Kindness.”  It was a powerful experience.

Meanwhile, local Jewish leaders are contemplating how to demonstrate solidarity with Israel during this fraught time.

“Fraught” is too weak a word. What is...Read more...

Israel's Elections — The Negative Is Positive

04/29/2021 12:37:47 PM

Apr29

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Israel held its fourth election in two years this week and again the results are inconclusive! This may lead to a fifth election later this year. There is something fundamentally cockeyed and broken about an electoral system that repeatedly fails to yield decisive results.

On the other hand, let us bear in mind that Israel is, in fact, a democracy. It holds regular elections. Its Palestinian citizens participate...Read more...

I.B. Singer's New Duds -- and Dashed Hopes -- on Passover

03/31/2021 06:16:53 PM

Mar31

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Isaac Bashevis Singer’s childhood memoir, A Day of Pleasure, is a pleasure to read! The title implies Shabbat, but the passage below takes place as Passover nears. This chapter begins with an unexpected gift: A local tailor, as a favor to Singer’s father, a poor rabbi, fits the adolescent Signer for a suit the family could not otherwise afford.

"Everything went...Read more...

Democracy Nation and Israel's Faltering Elections

03/24/2021 06:04:45 PM

Mar24

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Israel held its fourth election in two years this week and again the results are inconclusive! This may lead to a fifth election later this year. There is something fundamentally cockeyed and broken about an electoral system that repeatedly fails to yield decisive results.

On the other hand, let us bear in mind that Israel is, in fact, a democracy. It holds regular elections. Its Palestinian citizens participate...Read more...

Women Are Vulnerable

03/24/2021 06:03:06 PM

Mar24

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Today we woke to the horrible news of a shooting in Georgia by a disturbed young man with a legally-owned gun. The victims were primarily Asian, leading many to assume this was a hate crime – a plausible conclusion given the sharp rise of anti-Asian crime in the United States.

What makes this tragic crime even more infuriating is that most of the victims were targeted because they were women.

Meanwhile,...Read more...

Happy Purim!

03/05/2021 06:47:44 PM

Mar5

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Purim was a blast at EHNTJC! About 100 congregants Zoomed into our evening service, which featured fun music, dancing, and the reading of parts of the Megillah by several of our teens. Thanks to Lee Levin and Elena Batman Levin. The next morning, we chanted the entire Megillah and I chanted directly from the Torah – the first time we did so in just about a year.

The Purim shpiel, “Megillahgan’s Islands”...Read more...

Shabbat Zachor and Purim: Baseless Hatred from Within and Without

02/18/2021 12:58:52 PM

Feb18

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

This Shabbat is Shabbat Zachor, when recall how the Amalekites attacked the weary and infirm Israelites upon their escape from Egypt. Commentators note that the Amalekites had no logical reason to attack us. It is not as if we were disputing land rights. They were not among the tribes in the land of Canaan, which God swore to the Israelites.

So why did the Amalekites attack?

Our midrash notes that...Read more...

Yitro and Amalekite

02/04/2021 07:05:28 PM

Feb4

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

In this week’s Torah portion, Moses’s Midianite father-in-law, Yitro, offers unsolicited but welcome advice. He sees Moses struggling to serve as judge for all the disputes of the Israelites, the equivalent of a midsize America city. How could Moses handle such a burden? Yitro counsels Moses to appoint anshei chayil –...Read more...

Tu bi’Shevat

01/28/2021 03:36:34 PM

Jan28

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

The full moon is reliable. We know when it will arrive, and on clear nights it shines from 240,000 miles away. Last night’s full moon cast shadows on the snow as Lucky and I walked around the block.

The holiday of Tu bi’Shevat also arrives reliably on the full moon of the month of Shevat. (Tu bi’Shevat means the fifteenth of Shevat.) It is the “new year for trees,” related to when the ancient...Read more...

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...

Tue, December 7 2021 3 Tevet 5782