From Rabbi Lieberman

  • 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

  • Call me!

    Posted ‍‍א ניסן ה תשעג - March 12, 2013 By in Rabbi's Thoughts With | Comments Off

    red telephoneAs I write this column, Roman Catholic cardinals from around the globe are assembling in the Vatican to begin the process of selecting a new Pope. There is no shortage of commentary on that intricate process. On a daily basis we’ve been treated to reports on  the security measures undertaken to help insure a secret ballot, on where the now-retired head of the Church–the Emeritus Pope–will spend his days and what kind of shoes he will wear, and what kinds of odds bookmakers around the world are placing on various potential successors. The reaction of non-Catholics ranges from bemusement to indifference.

    Not infrequently I am asked by Catholics if Judaism has the equivalent of a Pope. Is there an over-arching human authority, they wish to know, to whom all Jews are answerable? When I reply that there is no such person I often detect a bit of envy, notwithstanding the reverence with which most Catholics regards the Pope.

    It has long been a fundamental tenet of Judaism that no human intermediary stands between the individual Jew and God. While, in ancient times, Jewish priests and prophets played roles that may be understood as that of a link between the people and God, that phase of Judaism passed long ago. With the possible exception of the role of the rebbe in Chasidic Judaism, who is often perceived by his devotees as having a closer and more efficacious link to God than they themselves might attain, Judaism has long asserted that we are the agents in control of our spiritual lives and that we have no need of an intermediary to stand in relationship to God who is understood to be ever-present and ever-available, as the following joke suggests:

    A Rabbi visiting Rome had the good fortune to have an audience with the Pope. While talking about things, the Rabbi noticed a red phone on the Pope’s desk. The Rabbi  asked what the phone was for. The Pope informed him that it’s a direct line to God.

    The Rabbi asked if he might use the phone and the Pope says, “Of course!” but that he should leave $100 for the call. The Rabbi thanked him, set down $100, and used the phone.

    A few months later, the Pope visited the U.S. and made sure to make a stop to visit his new Rabbi friend. While talking, the Pope noticed a red phone on the Rabbi’s desk. The Pope asked if the phone is what he thinks it is and the Rabbi said, “Of course!” The Pope asked if he might use the phone and the Rabbi said that he may certainly do so but that he needed to leave $0.50 for the call.

    The Pope is surprised and asks, “You used my phone and I asked you to leave $100 and, yet, when I use your phone I am to leave only $0.50. Why is that?”

    The Rabbi smiled and replied, “Because here it’s a local call.”

    Whomever is selected to sit on the Throne of St. Peter and to wear the red shoes will face unprecedented challenges for the Roman Catholic Church not limited to a shifting global demographic for Catholics that favors the Southern Hemisphere, an increasingly rightward theological shift within the Church and the enduring scandal of sexual abuse. Many Jews wistfully long for the equivalent of Pope John XXIII who oversaw a liberalization of the Church and a rapprochement with Jews that represented a high-point on Jewish-Catholic relations.

    Josef Stalin, in 1935, sarcastically asked, “The Pope! How many [army] divisions has he got?” While the Pope commands no army, we cannot deny the power a Pope can still wield in this world.  Let us hope that, when that white smoke wafts over the Vatican, the College of Cardinals chose well.

    Reb Elias

  • 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

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