“Over 1,000 people EVERY day experience Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) in the United States. Sadly, about 9 out of 10 of those sudden cardiac arrest victims die before reaching the hospital. It is the leading cause of death, by far, for people over the age of 40 in the US. However, statistics prove that when more people know how to perform CPR, and use an AED, the chances for survival increases dramatically! When bystanders intervene by giving CPR, and use an automated external defibrillator (AED) before EMS arrives, four out of 10 victims will survive!
Our Temple has an AED mounted outside our sanctuary, but our community needs more folks who are trained in their use. Temple Beth Miriam, therefore, has teamed up with congregants Beth and Tim Knotts, American Heart Association Instructors, to bring CPR/AED training to our community!
The training will take place on Thursday, June 5th, at the Temple. The class will start promptly at 7:00 pm (so come a little early for paperwork!), and end no later than 10:00 pm (class could get out earlier, depending on the skill level of the class and how fast the material can be gotten through). This training is good for all ages, but especially those who are around infants, young children (baby sitters, young parents & grandparents) or elderly adult members of our community. The course will cover CPR/AED procedures for infants, children and adults, as well as how to respond to choking for all three groups.
The class will cost $5 per person (this goes directly to the AHA for the card). If participants want the manuals that go with the class they will be available for purchase, but at an extra charge (at the AHA’s cost).
The class has a maximum attendance of 14, so call the Temple office to sign up right away! The class is designed for anyone over the age of 12, but it will require class participants to get down on the floor to practice CPR and AED use on dummies (this is were CPR and AED use occurs!). Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. This is a hands on class!
Please contact Marje Richter at the Temple office (732-222-3754) to sign up for the class, again, as soon as possible so you are not left out! We expect this class to fill up fast! The $5 will be collected the night of the class. Contact Beth Knotts (732-259-0038) for any questions or more details about the course.”
By SaraAnn Yerushalmi Stanway
Judaism is a religion centered on learning. As children, we learn prayers, our Alef Bet, the holidays. As B’nei Mitzvah, we discover the Torah and our own personal faiths. As young adults, we are taught our history as a people, our responsibility to the community. And through it all, we are taught to love Eretz Israel, the Jewish homeland. But can this be taught? No, not in a four -walled classroom, not by the best of professional educators, nor even the most enthusiastic of rabbis. But as I discovered this summer, 30,000 feet in the air en route to the Holy Land, it can be learned, and Israel would be my schoolhouse. The moment I got my first glimpse, all I could think was that in the next month, this place would become mine. I was eager for the term to begin.
Period 1 – Phys. Ed, to be completed in the Negev. Here I learned how to wake up at four in the morning and scale a mountain before eight, how to push myself farther and harder than I ever have, and how to take in the vast, unforgiving beauty of the mountains surrounding me. I learned that my counselors truly believed that the only thing standing between me and death by sunstroke was my trusty kova,(hat) and that there is nothing so terrifying as getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and becoming utterly convinced you’ll never see the Promised Campsite when I was, for a minute, unable to find my way back.
Period 2 – Jewish culture and history, which took place in Jerusalem, Masada, and everywhere in between. Evyatar, my favorite counselor, would fearlessly dress up in robes and laurels, toting a stuffed sheep and staff with him to educate us about the First and Second Temples and the Zealots’ last stand on top of Masada, where we all shouted “AM ISRAEL CHAI!” – the nation of Israel survives – into the valley below. When I pulled off my blindfold and saw the ancient and modern blend of the Jerusalem landscape for the first time, I thought of how far the Jewish people has come. And when I waited in an ankle-length skirt and long sleeved sweater on a sweltering day for my turn to pray at the overcrowded, silent women’s section at the Kotel (Western Wall) while on the other side, men danced and sang, I realized how far we have yet to go.
Period 3 – Health, which included a free tour of all of the many lovely emergency rooms in Tiberius. It was here that I discovered that my counselors actually meant it when they said we’d end up with an IV if we didn’t drink our three liters daily.
Period 4 – Social Studies and Diplomacy, my classroom being the dinner tables in the homes of the Israeli teens who joined our group in the last week. This course, one of my favorites, united me with friends I still miss dearly and taught me how to break through a language barrier, allowed me to peer into the everyday life of teens so much like myself, but whose nurseries were built in bomb shelters, who actually knew how to avoid getting swindled in the shuk, and whose attempts to rid my Hebrew of a horrendously New Jersey accent were valiant but doomed from the start.
By the time the bell rang, my backpack was stuffed full to bursting with experiences between which the head of the trip warned us we would have to discriminate, packing some in our suitcases to remember and leaving others behind. When we boarded the plane and I stowed that precious carry-on at takeoff, I couldn’t stop myself from shedding a few tears, unsure of when school would be back in session. But even if this recess is long, one thing is for sure: I’m heading back to get my diploma.
In the Torah portion for this week, there is a famous verse that reads:
כִּ֤י תִבְנֶה֙ בַּ֣יִת חָדָ֔שׁ וְעָשִׂ֥יתָ מַעֲקֶ֖ה לְגַגֶּ֑ךָ וְלֹֽא־תָשִׂ֤ים דָּמִים֙ בְּבֵיתֶ֔ךָ כִּֽי־יִפֹּ֥ל הַנֹּפֵ֖ל מִמֶּֽנּוּ׃
“8 If you build a new house, you must construct a guard rail around your roof to avoid being culpable in the event someone should fall from it.” Though the Sages disagree about whether or not it is a mitzvah to build it – mitzvah, in this case being defined as to whether or not one says a blessing upon building it (since ‘the Sages obligated us in this thing because of danger and we do not recite blessings on things that are due to danger.’) – the consensus is that it is indeed because of danger but also because building a guard rail on the top of the roof is the same kind of thing as putting up a mezuzah. So, though it is to protect anyone from falling off the roof, it is also there as a symbol. But a symbol of what?
Here is what Rebbi Levi Yitzchak, a Chassidic personality wrote: “This is the intention in the verse: “when you build a new house” – when you experience some new joy – “you shall make a parapet” – you should raise this joy higher and higher through the letters, as above. This is the significance of “ma-akah (parapet)”, since we build the parapet on the highest part of the house.
But, this also is the meaning behind the word “legagekha (your roof)”, to bring the joy into the letters. As we know (Zohar II 126b), the power that animates the letters is Hashem, HVYH (the Name of God); the power is in the very letters of the Name HVYH. And, the numerical value of “gagekha” is, like that of HVYH, twenty-six.”
The language is a bit terse but basically he is saying that the ‘parapet’ is on the highest part of the new home. So when we build the parapet, we are sharing the joy. And when we share a joyous moment, we burst out in blessing in what we call the Shehechiyanu moments. These are the moments of blessing where we acknowledge that, with God, we accrue so many blessings.
But we are not just sharing the joy. There is another side to this as we can see from Reb Yitzcahk. There is a symbol to the parapet. It goes around the top of the home and it looks like a crown. A crown – that parapet which goes on the roof – the word ‘roof’ having the same numerical value as ‘YHVH’ – God’s name! When we put the parapet on the roof, we are, symbolically crowing God. We are openly proclaiming that God is the One really in charge. Our blessings are really acknowledgement of God’s gifts.
As human beings, we are taught from a very early age that if we work hard enough at something, we can achieve it. As Jews, we are a people dedicated to education and learning so that we can master the world around us, education being the one essential key to succeeding. But we sometimes fall into the trap of self-congratulation and of believing that we have done it on our own. Too often we fail to see the angels that surround us, our teachers, coaches and different inspirations which guide us and were there for us at the right times of our lives. They are the builders and we are the built. We may have achieved great things, but almost never alone. Thanking God for their presence in our lives is an acknowledgement that we can never live in a soloverse – a universe where only we exist. All creation, all of God’s world, comes together to create and is always creating.
There are things that no amount of training or education will ever get us to the level we may wish to be. I long ago accepted that I can never be a great athlete. You may have the same regrets about something, as well. There may be disappointment and sadness but there is a spiritual antidote to that feeling: though I may never be an athlete, I still have the wherewithal to stand on my own legs. Not surprisingly, there is a blessing for that. It does not say “O God, thank you for making me stand straight now grant me the power and strength to run faster than anyone else.” No. Rather is says “Praised are You, O God, who raises the bowed down.”
We are often bowed down by disappointment or sadness or simply not feeling strong on a particular day. But the blessing, the real blessing, is that we won’t stay that way and that there is joy and blessing in waking up, being able to move, and even being able to get out of our holes of sadness and disappointment. For that, we give thanks to God and, especially, for God’s angels who encourage and sustain us in our moments of weakness and when we are in need of strength.
Have you said your blessings today for your gifts?
Beth Miriam has been doing first and last day Festival services for many years. (The Festivals are Sukkot, Pesach and Shavuot). However, attendance has been very limited, especially when the Festival lands on a weekday. Therefore, to adapt to this, Beth Miriam is going to launch the Festival Experiences.
At each Festival, there will be an experience of some variety based on the Festival’s theme. The date will be the evening of the last day of the Festival and will include some kind of text study, some activity related to the Festival, music, and the Yiskor Service. Note that there will NOT be morning Festival services and that the Yiskor service will be part of the Festival Experience.
The Passover Experience will take place on April 20, 2014 at 10 AM. We will be doing the Yiskor service, a text study, and a mezuzah making experience! Families are welcome!
HIGH HOLIDAY SCHEDULE
UPDATED SEPTEMBER 6, 2013
Sunday, September 8
Cemetery Service 10AM
Friday, September 13
Kol Nidre 8 PM.
Saturday, September 14
Children’s (1-5yrs) 9 A.M.
Morning 10 A.M.
Study with the Rabbi 1 P.M.
Community Family 3 P.M.
Musical Spiritual Reflection 4 P.M.
Yizkor (Memorial ) 4:30 P.M. (approx.)
Neilah (Closing) 5:30 P.M.(approx.)
Tuesday, September 24
SUKKOT EXPERIENCE – 6:30 PM
Wednesday, September 25
Simchat Torah Service 7:00 P.M. dancing with
the Torah to follow
Between the Holidays Cemetery Service
Simchat Torah Celebration!
Join us on September 25 at 7 PM. We will read the last paragraphs and the first paragraphs of the Torah as we start the cycle again, dance with the Torah and enjoy some refreshments. Bring the whole family. There will be live music and we will roll the Torah open and learn a few things about it.
Exciting news: Beth Miriam is planning to go to Israel from March 2-11, 2014. Rabbi Stanway will be leading the trip with the professional staff from ITAS Tours, professionals who are experts in Israel trips. There is an active committee of 9 congregants who are planning the trip with the Rabbi.
It has been all over the news in the past couple of weeks: Lance Armstrong is a liar and he admits it. Well, I must say that knowing what we all know about him lately, it is not very surprising that he is a liar and consistently lied about his doping throughout much of his cycling career. In fact, from what I hear, everyone in the know in Europe knew since it was standard practice across the pond to dope. He even dropped hints in Europe and everything was ‘wink, wink.’ Not so in America.
Apparently at home, Armstrong not only vociferously denied his invovement with drugs – we now know how much of a blantant lie that it was – but to add insult he also mowed people under, ruined lives, destroyed careers and tarnished reputations so he could keep his facade. Doping in sports is hardly the epitome of sinful activity and there are arguments to allow it in professional sports. Destroying lives, though, are Armstrong’s real sins and no number of Ophrah appearances will fix the damage he has done. To add to astonishment, he admits that he is admitting to using drugs so that he can get back into competition. I am shaking my head in disbelief. Oy vey! Let me get this right: He lies and destroys lives, he manipulates people, he drugs and then he admits that he is admitting it so he can engage in sport once again where he has shown that he destroys anyone who questions him. His admission is not repentance. He sees admission only as a step toward payday.
As Jews, we know the value of repentance. But repentance is not about admitting lies. It’s about admitting faults and then doing our utmost to fix them first and foremost by going to the people whom we have hurt. There is no public display of repentance. The real work happens in the lives that have been damaged. That is why Armstrong is continuing to lie – only this time he is lying to himself since he telling himself that if he comes out and sounds repentant, he deserves our adoration and adulation once again.
Pharoah had the same problem. In this week’s parasha, Phaorah has finally allowed the Israelites to leave Egypt after continual evasion, deception and self-delusion about his infinite power, a convenient lie he told himself over and over again. Moses saw right through Pharoah and with strength and honor and integrity led the Jews to freedom. Moses did not want the praise, he did not want the glory and he never really wanted to be in charge in the first place. But he got all three.
Our Sages say that it was his humility that earned him the honor of leading the people and being chosen by God. We see this humility over and over again and, in this week’s parasha, we see it when the text tells us:
וַיִּקַּח מֹשֶׁה אֶת־עַצְמוֹת יוֹסֵף עִמּוֹ כִּיֱ הַשְׁבֵֶּעַ הִשְׁבִּיעַ אֶת־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵלֶ לֵאמֹר פָּקֶֹד יִפְקֹד אֱלֹהִיםֶ אֶתְכֶם וְהַעֲלִיתֶם אֶת־עַצְמֹתַי מִזֶּה אִתְּכֶֽם:
And Moses took with him the bones of Joseph, who had exacted an oath from the children of Israel, saying, “God will be sure to take notice of you: then you shall carry up my bones from here with you.”
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein teaches that Joseph really had no reason suspect that the Children of Israel would not properly take care of his bones when they ultimately left Egypt. The Talmud asks the same question. But Rabbi Feinstein adds that Joseph, in his great humility, never thought of himself as the savior of the Jewish people and that the Jews would never owe him anything. He saw himself as a servant of God, not a savior of his people. Saving Israel was simply his task. So when Joseph said that he needed someone to take his bones, it is really an expression of his humility since he believed no one owed him anything. Moses literally takes Joseph’s bones with him and is literally and symbolically picking up Joseph’s humility and carries it with him. It is a good lesson for all of us.
Often people think of themselves deserving of great adulation – and they may be deserving of it, indeed. But there is never a case when voluntary adulation lasts forever. The reality is that we can be heroes one day but forgotten the next. That is the way the human animal works. But the truly great are the ones who serve in unexpected ways – they pick up bones, they walk with the righteous, they stand up to power. The truly sincere do not do it for a name but rather because it is the right thing to do.
Lance Armstrong believes he is doing the right thing because he uttered a few words admitting he is a liar. But then he follows up and gives away the real reason: he wants the opportunity to compete again. As my mother of blessed memory was fond of saying, ‘Shoyn vata!’ – ‘Here we go again.’ I used to believe Armstrong when he denied his drug use. I used to believe he was sincere. Now I don’t listen to a thing he has to say. He never really learned what repentance is all about and I think his humility is non-existent. There is still time for him to repair what is broken but I don’t think it will ever happen.
Let his experience be a lesson for all of us. None of us should be above picking up bones.
Parashat Vaeira – Holiness is Relationship As you are probably aware from the Passover Seder, we have four different cups of wine or grape juice. Each one, we are taught, refers to a verb that God uses in the Torah to describe the process of the Exodus from Egypt. One of those words is והוציתי – ‘v’hotzeiyti’ – ‘I will take (you) out.’ The Chassidic work Meschech Chochma teaches that ‘to be taken out’ is the promise by God to remove the Jews from the evil decrees of the Pharaoh.
There is an interesting twist to this and it takes a bit of deeper reading. The teacher teaches us that if God wanted to ‘take the Jews out’ of Egypt because of the endemic evil in the land, then it seems to imply that the Jews somehow resisted the evil themselves. They were in, we are taught, an idolatrous nation, surrounded by the evil of all the Egyptians and the temptation that comes from all these evil influences. He then asks the question, what was it that the Jews posessed (in this Rabbinic imagination and midrash) that set them apart from the rest of Egypt and gave them the strength to avoid falling into the same evil that God so despised and from which God needed to take them out?
It was, we are taught, the state of קדושה – kedusha – ‘holiness.’ Mesech Chochma teaches us that this first cup of wine – ‘I took you out’ – is the cup of sanctification – kiddush (same word!) and it refers to the fact that God is the ‘One who sanctifies Israel and the Festivals.’ This means that God sanctified Israel only when Israel recognizes the Festivals. The Talmud reflects this when it says, ‘God considers the Festivals to be Festivals only if Israel declares them Festivals.’ How insightful this is.
When the Jews declare their Festivals to be holy, they are holy and subsequently recognized as Festivals by God. To be able to know that the Festival is holy and that the Festival is near takes a determined heart and a knowledge about when it will fall. The reality is that if the Jews don’t care when the Festival lands, the Festival, as it were, would never come. There is real insight here. Only when Jews care about being Jewish and make the effort to do so is the Judaism alive. There are many who consider themselves Jewish only by dint of being born to a Jewish parent. There are those who are ‘cultural Jews’ who often are self-identified as ‘gastronomic Jews.’ Each of these kinds of Jews are part of the Jewish people. There is certainly nothing ‘evil’ about being such a Jew. But the meat of Jewish thought and the depth of the Jewish soul is often missing.
Our tradition is filled with amazing things, profound knowledge and an astonishingly modern outlook and insight into so many things. No one is ever forbidden from reading anything and, in fact, each Jew is highly encouraged to delve deeply into every sea of knowlege. Are you taking the plunge?
The parasha that we read this week begins the book of Exodus. In it, we read what Pharaoh says at what we can imagine to be the beginning of his reign when we ‘arose and did not know Joseph. He says, 9 וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל־עַמּוֹ הִנְֵּה עַם בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל רַב וְעָצוּם מִמֶּֽנּוּ: – “And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we.” It is a statement that begs to be interpreted.
After Joseph interpreted the previous Pharaoh’s dream of the seven lean years and the seven fat years, it was clear that he saved the Egyptian people from starvation. As a reward, the Jews under that first Pharaoh were not beholden to Pharaoh except as loyal subjects. We can imagine them walking freely around Egypt secure in the knowlege that they were protected and taken care of just as they had taken care of their Egyptian hosts. Yet, when the new Pharaoh arose, he did not pay heed to what they had done. In fact, he had a bad case of ‘what have you done for me lately?’
It is not surprising that Pharoah had this trait. In fact, most people have it and the farther you are from a positive event, the more likely you are to forget the people who made it happen. It is a question of what our sages call הכרת הטוב – the recognition of the good that someone has done. When people lose that, it is easy to turn the hero into a victim.
Jews see this all the time. In Europe today, Jews have formed the backbone of so much of European civilization and yet, unabashedly in places like England, Ireland, Germany, Ukraine and other countries, the Jews who are all good and productive citizens are turned into some kind of monsters by the government being accused of everything from blood libel to controlling the banks, the newspapers and generally making a mess of everything in the country. The idiocy of taking such a position is manifest but it seems built into the psyche of people who have to look outside themselves for someone to blame for all their troubles. So, they blame the Jews. Pharoah did it with ease and enslaved the Jews for 410 years. The Europeans are doing it today and one generation after the Holocaust, they are driving Jews out of their countries with their open hatred. It makes no sense but since when did such an illness make any sense?
But the story of Moses and the Exodus is not one of slavery. Slavery and bigotry arising from fear is just the beginning of the story. It is not the end. The end is Jewish self-determination and loss of fear. It is a story of finding the best in ourselves and forging our ways through the deserts where each day is another day to express הכרת הטוב – our gratefulness to our Sages and our Torah and God for the gifts that Jews have created throughout the ages. The rest of the world may ask what we have done for them lately and, when they get a different response than the one they want, they blatantly hate. Such is the world in too many hearts. But the Jewish heart strives to be better than that and so we will continue to shine light where it is dark, empower the slave to be free, change the world which is so badly broken. In time, we are taught, the world will one day thank the Jews for all they have done. Such a day would indeed be the beginning of the Messianic Era!