From Rabbi Lieberman

  • Pyrotechnics….and memory

    Posted ‍‍ט תמוז ה תשעג - June 17, 2013 By in Rabbi's Thoughts, Uncategorized With | Comments Off

    fireworksIf asked to recall poignant Fourth of July memories, most people would probably summon up fireworks and cookouts, flag-bedecked houses and small-town parades. While I have certainly seen my share of Fourth of July pyrotechnics, my most enduring memory of the 4th is a bittersweet one….the first time I recall seeing my mother cry.

    I was seven years old, out for lunch with my parents that 4th of July at my favorite restaurant in the world , Hamburger Junction, where a model train ran from the kitchen, down the entire length of the counter and back into the kitchen. It was that toy train that delivered your hamburger, on a flatbed car, right to your place at the counter. The piece de resistance was a tiny gorilla leaning out of the caboose waving a flag. Such is the stuff of childhood memories!

    Returning home that afternoon, I went out to play with my friends in the neighborhood. I came home some time later and was greatly perplexed and distraught to discover my mother sobbing in my father’s arms. At seven years of age I could not remember ever having encountered such a scene and I was at a total loss to make sense of what I was seeing and hearing. I soon learned that my maternal grandmother had died that very afternoon, having suffered a sudden coronary while out of state. It was my first conscious awareness of death and how it intrudes in the lives of even the happiest of families, even on the most joyous of days in the calendar.

    That memory informs my every encounter not only with the Fourth of July, but also my every reading of a list of yahrzeit names when we worship. I sit down before each service and read not only the names of those we will recall just before we recite Kaddish, but also the person by whom they are remembered….children, spouses, siblings, parents, grandparents, etc. They form a web of loss, yearning, sometimes complicated emotions and, of course, memory.

    Like the chrysanthemum-like fireworks that burst overhead and leave a fading trace on our retinas, the memories of our loved ones may fade into darkness but they can always be summoned up…..like memories of the most vibrant fireworks display we ever saw. Such is the gift of memory.

    Reb Elias

  • The Return of the Snowbirds

    Posted ‍‍כו סיון ה תשעג - June 4, 2013 By in Rabbi's Thoughts With | Comments Off

    birdI have never been an avid birder but I do enjoy listening to Vernon Laux, whose birding reports air regularly on WCAI/NAN (90.1 FM, the Cape & Islands NPR stations). His enthusiasm and encyclopedic knowledge of the birds of the area never fail to send my imagination soaring.

    Vern recently spoke of sightings of birds returning to their summer habitat on the Cape and Islands but I was dismayed not to hear a single mention of a species that is particularly prized in our congregation, the “snowbird”! In point of fact, about a third of our congregation heads to warmer climates for all, or part, of the winter…mostly Florida, but Arizona and California are also favored winter-nesting sites for our snowbirds.

    This past February, during the public schools vacation week, I went “snowbirding” in Florida, visiting with as many FJC members as I could see in a week’s time. It was my first real visit to Florida and I was able to spend time on both the east and west coasts getting a feel for how our snowbirds spend their time and a taste of what Florida has to offer. I was greatly impressed not only by the natural beauty of the area but also by the enormous range of activities and opportunities for cultural enrichment.

    The weather was mild (not swimming weather) but it was a wonderful break from the blizzard that had hit New England the week before my Florida trip. I was graciously received wherever I went and it was obvious to me how much it meant to FJC members to have a connection with our community while they were away from the Cape. I was wined , dined and lunched and given tours of beautiful areas.

    Some of our snowbirds are officially residents of other states, carefully monitoring their calendars so as to stay within the constraints of residency requirements. Others maintain Massachusetts as their primary residence. What all of our FJC snowbirds share in common is a devotion to this Cape Jewish community. They may be members and/or supporters of synagogues in their winter locales but we are blessed with their presence and enthusiastic support even when they are away from us.

    By the time this Newsletter reaches you, our snowbirds will be returning in significant numbers, recognizable by their tanned winter plumage! As always, we look forward to their return!

    Reb Elias

  • The Meaning of “Meaning”

    Posted ‍‍ב אייר ה תשעג - April 12, 2013 By in Rabbi's Thoughts, Uncategorized With | Comments Off

    meaning (2)What gives meaning to your life? Or, to frame the question another way, “When did you last experience a truly meaning-filled moment?” Let me recount for you one such moment that I recently experienced.

    On Yom Ha-Shoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), during our congregation’s annual observance, we removed from the aron (ark) our Shoah scroll, the Torah that came from a destroyed community in Czechoslovakia and which made its way to us via the Westminster Memorial Scroll Trust. That evening, as I handed that Torah scroll to each person who stepped forward to cradle it for a few moments, I was privileged to see a range of emotions wash over the faces of those who held that scroll close. Reverence, a profound sense of loss (and privilege) and tears were commingled. It was a charged and meaningful moment in the life of our community.

    In recent weeks members of the Falmouth Jewish Congregation received a beautifully-designed brochure describing our congregation’s endowment development campaign whose purpose is to help secure the well-being of this congregation for decades to come. Fueling this campaign, as well as the lay-leader and professionals involved in its execution, is a deep awareness of just how much this congregation means–and has meant through the decades–to so many people. I encourage you to take a few moments to reflect on some of the meaning-filled moments that you have experienced because there was a Falmouth Jewish Congregation to facilitate them: joyous baby-namings, stimulating and thought-provoking book discussions, uplifting worship experiences, powerfully moving funerals, fulfilling classes and discussions, bar/bat mitzvah celebrations, quiet conversations with someone you came to know through the FJC, engaging in acts of tikkun olam (repairing the world) in the name of our community.

    One of the most sublime functions of a synagogue is that of helping us to make and find meaning in our lives as Jews and as human beings. I happen to believe, with all my heart, that the Falmouth Jewish Congregation is an excellent “maker of meaning”. I believe just as deeply that we have a sacred obligation to sustain that “meaning-making” capacity long into the future. So, if that brochure and its pledge card are still sitting on your desk awaiting your response, let me suggest that you consider a contribution that you deem meaningful, one that asks you to stretch in fulfillment of our shared mandate to sustain this vibrant community.

    It is my hope that you will find the act of making that pledge a most meaningful moment, indeed.

    Reb Elias

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