From Rabbi Lieberman

  • Door #1 or Door #2?

    Posted ‍‍יג אדר ב' ה תשעח - February 28, 2018 By in Rabbi's Thoughts With | Comments Off

    ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????This year the month of March is book-ended by two Jewish holy days: Purim (Feb. 28/March 1) and Passover (Mar. 30 – April 7). The biblical books which explain the origins of both holidays present radically different understanding of the role of human agency in contending with existential threats to the well-being of the Jewish people.

    Purim, via the Book of Esther, brings us the story of a highly-assimilated Jewish community that, virtually overnight and as a consequence of forces beyond their control, finds itself facing possible genocide. Salvation does not come about through divine fiat; God is nowhere mentioned in The Book of Esther. The Jews of Persia avoid persecution and potential extermination because Mordechai and Esther summon the will and the chutzpah to confront the power of Haman, in whose thrall the King of Persia is held. Regardless of whether the story of Purim is true–as in “it actually happened”–it rings true because we understand that, historically, Jews have found themselves in similar situations throughout Jewish history. Think “Germany” in the 1930s.

    Passover is a Torah-mandated festival which has its roots in agricultural celebrations surrounding the spring wheat harvest and the celebrations attached to the birthing of lambs each spring. But rabbinic authorities subsumed those explanations and overlaid a far more powerful explanation: we celebrate Passover to remind us of God’s miraculous intervention in human affairs when God chose to step into history and, utilizing miracles, brought our ancestors out of “the house of bondage” in order to have them enter into a sacred covenant with the God of Israel at Mount Sinai.

    Theologically speaking, Purim and Passover are worlds apart.

    In my experience, the Jewish community tends to cluster around the two theological polarities rooted in these two Jewish observances:

    1) We live in a world in which we are the agents of our own survival.

    2) There is a God who is every bit as prepared to effect our salvation as when our ancestors cried out to God in ancient Egypt.

    Where do you fall within that continuum and how does it affect what you do on a daily basis?

    A zen koan-like passage in our prayer-book reads:

    Pray as if everything depended on God.
    Act as if everything depended on you.

    There is much in this world that I cannot explain, much that I can never hope to understand. At times, some of it feels “miraculous”. But were I a contestant in some cosmic game-show where Door #1 is marked “PRAY” and Door #2 is marked “ACT”, I would opt for Door #2 every time.

    Even in the midst of its revelry, Purim serves to remind me that minority communities are often vulnerable and must, ultimately, rely on their own wits and the support of allies to overcome adversity. In 2018 that message is more significant than ever. Passover arrives a month later to remind me that our world remains filled with “pharaohs” of an astonishing variety who will be toppled not with prayer, but only through tireless and concerted collective action.

    I am grateful that the rhythm of the Jewish year compels me to encounter sacred occasions that inspire and evoke contemplative responses. I wish you a joyous Purim and liberating Passover and the benefits that flow from grappling with the ramifications of each!

    Reb Elias

  • “Take me out to the ballgame…”

    Posted ‍‍ו שבט ה תשעח - January 22, 2018 By in Rabbi's Thoughts With | Comments Off

    boston_getty_ezra_shaw_staffHow do we know that God is a fan of baseball? Because the Torah clearly states that the world was created “In the Big Inning!”

    If you, too, are a fan of baseball, especially of the variety practiced by the Boston Red Sox, have we got news for you!! Thanks to the generosity of our members Lawrence Silverman & Stella Citrano, we will be raffling off two pairs of Red Sox tickets: one pair for Opening Day (Thursday, April 5, 2:00 PM, against Tampa) and one pair for Patriots Day (Monday April 15, 11:00 AM, against Baltimore.)

    Stella has had these seats since 1978 (even before she knew Larry.) They are located in Section 23 of the Grandstand, Row 2, Seats 7 & 8, under cover and under netting. (You can go on the Fenway Park website to see exactly where they are situated.)

    Here’s how our raffle will work. (All proceeds will benefit FJC’s General Fund.)

    • Raffle tickets are $10.00 apiece / 3 for $25.00 Checks should be made payable to “Falmouth Jewish Congregation” with the notation “Red Sox ticket raffle”. Two winning tickets will be drawn; each winner will receive two tickets for either the 4/5 or the 4/15 game.

    • You will not receive a physical lottery ticket, but you will be assigned a ticket number (or numbers if you purchase multiple tickets.) We will retain the physical ticket for your number(s). We will keep accurate and meticulous records, matching raffle tickets with purchasers so please be sure to supply us with contact information (e-mail and/or phone number.)

    • On March 1st (Purim, which means “lots”, as in “lottery”!) we will place all raffle tickets in a vessel and have a public and recorded drawing of the winning tickets for each pair of Red Sox tickets. Winners will be notified by e-mail or phone.

    PLEASE NOTE:  There is a condition attached to these tickets.  People must use them themselves or give them to someone they know that they trust.  They may not be sold (on eBay, Craigslist, etc.)

    We extremely grateful to Stella and Larry for their thoughtfulness and generosity! So don’t delay, purchase your raffle tickets now, tell your friends and start day-dreaming about Fenway in April…..Play (raffle) ball!

    Reb Elias

  • Dreaming Dr. King’s Dream

    Posted ‍‍א טבת ה תשעח - December 19, 2017 By in Rabbi's Thoughts With | Comments Off

    MLKOn Monday, January 15, No Place For Hate – Falmouth will host its annual breakfast commemorating the birth, and the legacy, of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We will, at that time, honor Scoba Rhodes with the Civic Leadership Award for his decades of committed service to our community in pursuit of social justice.

    By way of preparing myself for Dr. King’s birthday but, more so, to help myself find messages of consolation and inspiration as I enter a new year that promises to be every bit as challenging as the one now past, I turned to words of Dr. King:

    I found these statements, drawn from the collection Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches, to be necessary reminders as I contemplate the work with which I must engage in 2018:

    “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”


    “It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, “Wait on time.”


    “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”


    “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”


    I am confident that Dr. King knew that Talmudic dictum that teaches: “You are not obligated to complete the task, but neither are you permitted to ignore it.” He understood, and stated so poignantly when he declared in a sermon he offered on April 3, 1968, the night before he was assassinated in Memphis, that some tasks require unflagging effort, sometimes across generations:

    “Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”

    It is pointless to ask, “Where are the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jrs. when we really need them?!” The truth is that each of us who cares passionately about distortions of justice in our nation and in our world–who are deeply pained by racism, anti-Semitism and misogyny, by deepening poverty, by homophobia, transphobia and xenophobia and by every other manifestation of social injustice–each of us must strive to be Dr. King.

    I have never been a believer in pronouncing resolutions for the secular new year. But, inspired by the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I resolve to manifest even greater resolve in 2018 to help bring our world incrementally closer to the one of which Dr. King dreamed and for which he lived and died.

    Reb Elias

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