From Rabbi Lieberman

  • Did you here the one about?…..(Purim is coming!!)

    Posted ‍‍ג שבט ה תשעג - January 14, 2013 By in Rabbi's Thoughts With | Comments Off

    FJC 100A Purim joke:

    The first Jewish President of the United States has been inaugurated, and the first Jewish holiday that follows is Purim. So he calls up his mother to invite her to the White House for Purim. Their conversation goes something like this:

    President:   “Mom, with Purim being the first holiday after my inauguration, I want you to celebrate it with us at the White House.”

    Mom:   “Oh, I don’t know. I’ll have to get to the airport and..”

    President:   “Mom! I’m the President of the United States! I’ll send a limo for you to take you right to the airport!”

    Mom:   “OK, but when I get to the airport, I’ll have to stand in line to buy a ticket and check my baggage. Oh, it will be so difficult for me!”

    President:   “Mom, don’t worry about standing in line or any of that. I’m the most powerful person in the world. I’m the President. I’ll send Air Force One for you!!”

    Mom:   “Well, OK. But when I get to Washington, I’ll have to find a cab and…”

    President:   “Momma, please! I’ll have a helicopter waiting for you. It will bring you right to the White House lawn!!!”

    Mom:   “Well, yeah. But where will I stay? Can I get a hotel room?…”

    President:   “Momma, we have this whole big White House!! There will be plenty of room!! Please join us for Purim?”

    Mom:   “Ok, I’ll be there.”

    Two seconds later, she calls her friend:

    Mom:   “Hello, Sadie? Guess what? I’m spending Purim at my son’s house!!

    Sadie:   “Oh, the doctor?”

    Mom:   “No, the other one.”

    [Cue rim shot.]

    The quintessential experience of Purim is merriment. This may involve groaning at corny jokes, but we are obligated to rejoice and to recall our good fortune at escaping any number of calamities throughout Jewish history. That has not always been an easy task.

    So come fulfill your obligation to laugh on Purim on Saturday night, February 23 at 7:00 P.M. in Goode Chapel. Please note: it is MUCH easier to laugh when you’re in costume!

    Reb Elias

  • The Attraction of Dissatisfaction

    Posted ‍‍ה טבת ה תשעג - December 18, 2012 By in Rabbi's Thoughts With | Comments Off

    As I look toward the end of January and the nation’s commemoration of the birth of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I am recalling an essay that I have been chewing upon ever since I read it a few months ago. It’s author is Former Prime Minister of Israel Shimon Peres and it is part of The Peoplehood Papers, volume 9 – The Collective Jewish Conversation: Its Role, Purpose and Place in the 21st Century – published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.   [The essay may found here:]

    What I found particularly engaging was Peres’ assertion that at the core of Jewish identity lies a profound and defining dissatisfaction. Peres is not talking about the Jewish propensity for kvetching, which we have raised to the level of a fine art, but, rather, that impulse which has impelled Jews throughout the centuries to engage in Tikkun Olam, the repair of a world that is constantly in need of repair.

    Peres writes, “As I wonder what Judaism’s most significant contribution to the world has been, I am convinced that the global and ethical justification for Jewish continuity goes far beyond our fight for survival. In my eyes, the answer  lies in the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam – bettering the world. Jewish culture and philosophy are known for their endless quests, never satisfied with what has been learned and achieved. This quality has made Judaism one of the greatest contributors to the betterment of the world throughout the ages.”

    I resonate deeply to that perspective. The causes to which I have committed myself throughout my life, some of them precious inheritances from my parents, are inextricably bound up with my identity as a Jew. I may grapple with belief in God, with the efficacy of prayer, with the proper balance between time-honored ritual and innovation, but it is always my sense of being a Jew that fuels my convictions with respect to social justice.

    I know lots of dissatisfied Jews….Jews who are unhappy with a particular congregation or its leadership, Jews who are vexed by Israeli politics, Jews who chafe at their minority status in society. These varieties of unhappiness are not what Peres is describing. He is articulating an existential response to the state of the world that categorically rejects the status quo as adequate. Judaism mandates a response of dissatisfaction, a response that says, in essence, “we won’t be satisfied until the world has been perfected.” It’s unlikely to happen in my lifetime, but I am not absolved of the responsibility to do my part.

    Way back in 1965 the Rolling Stones had a massive hit with “Satisfaction (I Can’t Get No)”. With all due respect to those aging legends of rock n’ roll, to be a Jew means to passionately embrace the reality that we will  never get satisfaction because that is such a fundamental part of what it means to be a Jew….transforming dissatisfaction into action.

    Reb Elias

  • Turning of the Tide

    Posted ‍‍כז חשון ה תשעג - November 12, 2012 By in Rabbi's Thoughts With | Comments Off

    Pundits and politicians of every stripe are still engaged in their post-election post mortem. What is abundantly clear, regardless of whether one awakened on the morning of November 7th elated or deflated, is that our nation faces daunting challenges that will require unprecedented collaborative efforts to solve.

    But one message that rose to surface of the election aftermath is one I find especially heartening–the tide is turning with respect to equal marriage. Voters in the states of Maryland, Maine and Washington, voted to recognize same-sex marriage. Voters in Minnesota defeated an attempt to enshrine in that state’s constitution a limiting definition of marriage. These referenda results mark the first time that voters (as opposed to courts or legislatures) have affirmed that marriage is a civil right, accessible to all adults.

    Lest we think that this is some abstract victory, touching the lives of people we don’t know, let me hasten to assure you that this issue touches very close to our FJC home. In March, 2013, Lindsey Dawson, a young woman who grew up in this congregation, the daughter of our members Syrel  & Mick Dawson, will marry Jessica Chipoco in Maryland. They only learned that this would be possible on the morning of November 7. I rejoice with Lindsey and Jessica and their families!

    I am convinced that we are at a tipping point moment in our country’s history with respect to equal marriage rights. A new poll reflects increasing support in the Jewish community–81%– for same-sex marriage, a five per-cent increase since last May. Even as I write this column, it is expected that the Supreme Court will consider, this month, whether to hear two important cases related to federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

    At a time when we have reason to be concerned about so many issues–the looming fiscal “cliff”, a nuclear Iran, disengagement from Afghanistan, economic recovery–it is heartening and uplifting to be able to celebrate progress in the realm of human rights, progress attained at the ballot box and through the steady process of changing hearts and minds.

    Reb Elias

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