From Rabbi Lieberman

  • Shelter from the storm….

    Posted ‍‍כה אלול ה תשעז - September 16, 2017 By in Rabbi's Thoughts With | Comments Off

    ThunderstormWe creep to our bed, and its straw mattress.
    We wait; we listen.
    The storm lulls off, then redoubles,
    Bending the trees half-way down to the ground,
    Shaking loose the last wizened oranges in the orchard,
    Flattening the limber carnations.

    A spider eases himself down from a swaying light-bulb,
    Running over the coverlet, down under the iron bedstead.
    The bulb goes on and off, weakly.
    Water roars into the cistern.

    We lie closer on the gritty pillow,
    Breathing heavily, hoping—
    For the great last leap of the wave over the breakwater,
    The flat boom on the beach of the towering sea-swell,
    The sudden shudder as the jutting sea-cliff collapses,
    And the hurricane drives the dead straw into the living pine-tree.

    [excerpted from The Storm by Theodore Roethke, 1908 - 1963]

    “We wait; we listen”… That’s precisely how many of us have spent the last month, waiting for news of friends and loved ones impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, listening to the grim reports of the catastrophic devastation wrought by their one-two punch and by a massive earthquake centered in Mexico.

    When we welcome the Festival of Sukkot on Wednesday evening, October 4, we’ll gather in our sukkah, our intentionally fragile hut, that will now become an especially potent reminder of the impermanence of all things material. Although Sukkot is a festival during which the Torah commands us to rejoice, for many of us that will be a difficult mitzvah to observe this year as our thoughts turn to lives lost and battered and the hundreds of thousands of people–in Texas, in the Caribbean, in Florida–who haven’t even three walls to call home.

    Our response to these kinds of disasters and the pain and suffering they engender needs to be multi-faceted. It should incorporate a sense of gratitude for our relative well-being; it must include a commitment to ameliorating the suffering of its victims, through generous acts of tzedakah and/or volunteering our time and expertise; it must include a serious and sober analysis of what policies and practices (i.e. climate-change denial, non-existent or harmful zoning laws) exacerbated the pain and loss occasioned by these hurricanes because we know all too well that more like them will follow in the future. Someone sardonically quipped that, after Hurricanes Katrina, Harvey and Irma, God is running out of ways to show deniers the impact of global warming on climate change!

    Ernest Hemingway, whose Key West home was right in the path of Hurricane Irma, had personal experience of such storms. He wrote, “He knew too what it was to live through a hurricane with the other people of the island and the bond that the hurricane made between all people who had been through it. He also knew that hurricanes could be so bad that nothing could live through them.” [ from Islands in the Stream]

    Envisioning the eventual unfolding of God’s plans for the people of Israel and of humanity, the prophet Isaiah said:

    4:5 The Eternal will create over all of Mount Zion and all who dwell there, a cloud of smoke by day, and the glow of flaming fire by night: over everything [God’s] glory will be a canopy.

    4:6 And there will be a shelter (Hebrew sukkah) and a shade from the heat in the daytime, and a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.

    Whether Isaiah’s prophecy will unfold remains to be seen, but this we affirm: we are God’s hands and it is incumbent upon us to provide refuge and shelter, comfort, hope and sustenance to the victims of the storms that life sends our way.

    Reb Elias

  • Supporting the Falmouth Service Center

    Posted ‍‍יד אלול ה תשעז - September 5, 2017 By in Rabbi's Thoughts With | Comments Off

    Falmouth-Service-Center-2-500x337A new year frequently brings change, sometimes welcome, sometimes less so. As the new Jewish year 5,778 approaches we have learned of a change that will impact an institution near and dear to the hearts of our congregation and to thousands of people on the Upper Cape and beyond…the Falmouth Service Center.

    Some background: the Falmouth Service Center’s mission is to ease stress, reduce hunger and improve the quality of life for our neighbors in need. The Falmouth Service Center (FSC) works to increase self-sufficiency by helping to build networks among clients, neighbors and agencies. Through the decades the FSC has grown tremendously, serving ever-increasing numbers of clients and operating from a beautiful facility on Gifford Street in Falmouth. Its operating budget, including food donated by the Greater Boston Food Bank, is some $2.7 million dollars and every single dollar, raised through private and corporate donations and through grants, counts.

    It is important to note that, while the FSC has “Falmouth” as part of its name because of its origins, the FSC, in fact, serves residents of Falmouth and Mashpee (and will soon serve Sandwich residents). Its services are available to anyone who works in Falmouth, regardless of where they live, as well as anyone who receives services through the WE CAN Women’s Empowerment Program.

    MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, was founded in 1985 as a way for the Jewish community to respond to the fundamental problems of food insufficiency and the challenges of shaping appropriate governmental responses to the problem of hunger. Our congregation has been, for decades, a proud MAZON Congregational Partner, supporting its efforts, most especially at the fall holy days when we have taken part in MAZON’s “Corners of Our Fields” project when we bring to the temple food earmarked for the Falmouth Service Center and we solicit donations for MAZON which, historically, have averaged between $6-10K per year.

    The Falmouth Service Center, for the past fourteen years, has applied for MAZON grants and has been the beneficiary of grants each year, somewhere in the range of $10-12K per year. In this fiscal year the FSC budgeted $11,000 in anticipation of another MAZON grant. Recently, the FSC was informed by MAZON that it should not expect further grants because of a philosophical shift in MAZON’s grant-making process which will now favor smaller, start-up efforts as well as organizations engaged in advocacy work to address the root causes of food insufficiency. This leaves the FSC with an $11,000 “hole” in its budget, a budget in which every singly dollar counts.

    After discussion with the co-chairs of our congregation’s Social Action Committee, and with the endorsement of our Board of Directors, our participation in “The Corners of Our Fields” project this year will be a bit different. Leaving Rosh Hashanah services you will still receive an empty grocery bag to fill with nourishing non-perishable foods to return to the temple for transport to the FSC. Last year we collected some 300 bags and we always hope to set a new record. Attached to each bag will be an envelope addressed to Falmouth Jewish Congregation into which we ask that you place as generous a check as you can manage, made payable to FALMOUTH SERVICE CENTER. Once all checks have been received and we have totaled what we have collected, we will pass those funds along to the FSC in the name of our congregation.

    We deeply cherish our longstanding connection to the Falmouth Service Center and we are privileged to be in a position to help it meet this latest fiscal challenge, bearing in mind that all of our efforts reflect our commitment to caring for, and supporting, our neighbors.

    May all of us be blessed in the approaching new year to have our needs met and to find ourselves in a position to help meet the needs of others.

  • Boomer Shabbat (and the Prayer of Exuberance!)

    Posted ‍‍כה סיון ה תשעז - June 19, 2017 By in Rabbi's Thoughts, Uncategorized With | Comments Off

    Tie-dyeJewish tradition identifies three basic categories of prayer: petitionary, thanksgiving and awe. (Someone suggested that these three categories might be better identified as “Gimme, Thanks & Wow!”)

    I’d like to suggest a fourth prayer category, one that I call “Exuberance”. For me, prayers of exuberance are always wrapped up with music and singing. While the language of our liturgy can sometimes be theologically challenging, encountering those words in a musical setting is a qualitatively different experience for me; it’s as if prayer-set-to-music bypasses that analytical part of my brain which, normally, takes a critical look at words on the pages of the siddur. The act of singing a prayer with an evocative tune transforms and elevates the experience into one of….exuberance!

    Truth be told, one of the greatest joys of my work as a rabbi flows from the privilege I have of making music when I lead worship. And that is never more true than on that one Friday night each year– Boomer Shabbat –when music totally shapes our worship experience. Drawing upon popular music of the 1960′s and ‘70′s, and finding some thematic link between the songs and each of the Shabbat evening prayers, we give ourselves over to the joy of music…to an exuberant way praying!

    Boomer Shabbat this year falls on July 21 at 7:30 PM in the Meeting House. Our “Boomer Band” this year consists of Pamela Rothstein (guitar and vocals), Ken Freedman (keyboard), Bart Weisman (drums) and me (guitar and vocals). This year marks the 50th anniversary of the “Summer of Love’ and some of our song selections will honor that milestone. So mark your calendar, dig out your love beads, bell-bottoms and tie-dye shirts, and be sure to wear some flowers in your hair….if you still have hair! (Sigh….)

    Reb Elias

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