The Story Behind “The Perfect Shabbat Morning Service”
We would like to grow our Shabbat morning service. Stated differently, we would like our Shabbat morning service to grow. I say that on behalf of Cantor Annelise and myself.
I think we have a great Shabbat morning davening. Guests rave about our service; its warmth, thoughtfulness, human touch, humor and at the top of the compliments, the beauty of the Cantor’s singing. I love those with whom we daven on Shabbat morning. We are family. There is a great spirit but there is a greater spirit missing that can only come about if our numbers expand.
During the past year, the Cantor and I talked about varying the Shabbat morning service this way and that and we did. It didn’t effect the bottom line. What more could we do?
Over the summer, I thought that we on the Bimah are trying to create the best “product” to deliver to the congregation and yet there is little new buy in. I thought perhaps members of the congregation should create the service themselves. The service would then reflect the ideas of our community. Our service would be something we shape together.
I would not have moved ahead an inch without the agreement and involvement of Cantor Annelise. In addition to all of the many gifts Cantor offers our community, for me an added gift is a similar approach to prayer in the synagogue.. I think it is fair to say we both have a love of the traditional davening and an openness to shaping a service to be maximally meaningful for those present. A Friday Evening Family service is far different from a service where we expect the majority to be our “regulars.” We have taken some liberty in creating various types of Friday evening Kabbalat Shabbat Services. We are both enthusiastic in developing a uniquely Ohev Shalom Shabbat morning Service. We both formulated questions for the survey, discussed them, tweaked them and sent them to you.
Some will say we are potentially departing from our traditional service as we know it today. Others will have read the survey and say it seems pretty much like the same old, same old. We could have thought more out of the box. We could have given an option for a wonderful practice called Torah Yoga or providing tom-toms for everyone to keep the beat of the psalms. We didn’t. We wanted to operate within the framework of what is called the Matbea Hatephillah, the framework of the service. By the way, we have offered Torah Yoga as an alternative happening at the same time as the preliminary service in the Sanctuary. Those who attended loved it. We shouldn’t rule it out.
As of my writing this, we have received one hundred and thirty one responses to the survey, about twenty three percent of those on our e-mailing list. By the time you read this, I hope there will be more.
We will send out a follow up survey to those who attend the The Perfect Shabbat Morning Service on December 10. The number attending will be a significant survey in itself indicating the number who are interested in our joint venture in davening. If the attendance and response to the service on December 10 is positive, a major question will be how often do we have “The Perfect Shabbat Morning Service” That will be a question on our follow up survey.
Look for the actual results of the survey and plan to be in the synagogue on Shabbat morning December 10. Based on the results so far, I could tell you exactly how long the service will be. The vote was overwhelming but I want to send out all of the results to everyone at the same time. Stay Tuned.
By the way, as I mentioned during the High Holy Days, we plan to wish our neighbors a Merry Christmas on our sign on Second Street Pike.
To you and your family, Happy Hanukkah!
Yes, we will do Rosh HaShanah again this year as we did last. That is cyclical for sure. But if we do them exactly the same way with the same results, we depress the meaning of the whole endeavor. The upcoming Holy Day season would have us use these Holy Days once again to move ahead in our lives, to be better, to do better, to work to repair ourselves and help repair the world we live in. G-d knows the world needs a lot of repairing as do we.
Judaism speaks of y’mot hamashiach, the days of the Messiah. Our purpose is to involve ourselves in moving the world ahead to a point closer to those days of peace and harmony and justice for all people. Some take these words literally and some symbolically but Judaism wants us to involve ourselves in acts of Tikkun Olam- repairing the world. Can we leave the world a bit less broken than how we entered it?
The new month of Elul begins September 3rd. This gives us a month before we begin the new year with Rosh Hashanah on October 3. We can use this month to intentionally get off life’s treadmill and sit still and think and ponder and search our hearts and examine our souls, even meditate about how we want to advance from our Point A to our Point Better. By getting off the treadmill, sitting and reflecting, we can start getting into shape to be ready for the High Holy Days. Some say there’s a lot of sitting during the services. And you have to get into shape for all that sitting.
I always intend to use the month of Elul as I describe above. I am more successful in some years and less in others. Summertime is not the best time for reflection. I think the changing season of September might be more conducive so I am hoping and planning for the best this year. Good luck to you and me in getting into shape. Selihot evening, September 24 with the showing of “Dough” is a special warm up to the holiday season and then I look forward to being together to welcome the new year 5777.
Janie and I wish you and all those you love a sweet, good, healthy New Year. And by the way, if you’ve been using a real treadmill or a bike or an elliptical or whatever, keep it up? Chose Life!
I have heard it said more than once “I was expecting so much, I couldn’t help but be disappointed.” If you are disappointed enough times, you learn to temper your expectations and that’s a shame because half the fun can be in the looking forward.
I, along with many others were so looking forward to our fortieth anniversary year. Now that its all said and done, it would be inaccurate to say that these past months have met our expectations. The truth is this past year exceeded our lofty expectations. Where shall I begin?
The High Holy Days seemed to have wings that carried our prayers to a higher place. From day one, Cantor Annelise has been wonderfully embraced by our community and for very good reason. As the year goes on, I repeatedly marvel at all that Cantor Annelise brings to us. For me and I believe for our entire community, the friendship and collegiality that has developed between Cantor Annelise and Cantor Frimark has been a source of great joy. We can all clearly see the special contribution Cantor Frimark continues to give to our community as Cantor Emeritus as he has for so many years.
Thanks to you our Annual Appeal had wings of its own this year. This opportunity for Tzedakah around the High Holy Days provides the much needed funds to meet our many obligations. At the same time, it exemplifies the love our members have for our Ohev Shalom community. I thank you all.
We had a few scares along the way this year. A couple of weeks before our Beatles Concert, our Family Bingo and the most recent Comedy Night, our numbers were anemic. Though we know our members often make reservations close to the last minute, I think the chairs were close to having sleepless nights. It turns out, each of the events were more than well attended, great fun and again supported the synagogue in a significant way.
Two exceptions to our tradition of last minute reservations were our Fortieth Anniversary Gala and our 40th Anniversary Purim Celebration. The reservations came in early and often. The Gala was an evening of fun, food, dance and love for the synagogue and for each other. Our Purim celebration was our most “out of the box” Purims and everyone thought it was the greatest. We are truly a community which loves tradition and is open to embracing innovation. That’s what will keep Judaism alive and vibrant in America.
While I mention these various successful programs, there is something that stands above our calendar of events. That is the spirit of the synagogue or the spirit within the synagogue. That spirit is directly related to the relationships amongst members of our community. I have seen a very upbeat, optimistic, warm and caring spirit in the synagogue these past twelve months. I am happy and grateful for it. One recent Friday evening, I taught from Pirkei Avot, the text traditionally learned between Passover and Shavuot. Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa taught that one who attracts the affection of others, the Presence of G-d dwells with him/her. Ultimately, we are all about creating a space where G-d’s presence will delight to dwell. We do that best by what we have done this past year in nurturing our relationships with each other. As the name of our synagogue Ohev Shalom means One who Loves Peace, we do well to see that the spirit of love and peace permeates every aspect of our synagogue.
There is even more that contributed to this being an exceptional year. Our Hebrew School continued to be a shining success of our synagogue. Our new High School program Tichon at Ohev got off to a great start. Our new Early Learning Center director Susan Garber has begun to move our ELC on the right path for the future. Our Scholar in Residence Shabbaton provided a great weekend of learning. Our Mens Club Softball team won the synagogue league championship once again and our Middle School basketball team won the championship for the first time. There is surely more that can be added to the list.
We can be grateful that we reached our fortieth anniversary and thankful that we had a stellar year exceeding all expectations. With that, we now turn our attention to the future.
My best to you and your family for an enjoyable, relaxing and fun summer.
Rabbi Eliott N. Perlstein
Ohev Shalom of Bucks County
944 Second Street Pike
Richboro, Pa. 18954
We Jews run late. We’re busy. A wedding invitation reading 5:30 pm means the ceremony will begin at 6:00 pm if they’re running on time. Late is comfortable. Early is almost impossible. On time is rare.
Passover is late this year. April 22 is late for the first Seder. Shavuot will be late. Rosh Hashanah will also be very late beginning Sunday evening October 2.That’s good for rabbis. I was a Bar Mitzvah on October 2 and it was in the middle of Sukkot. That gives you an idea how late things are this year. Why are the holidays sometimes so late, some times so early and less often right on time? Of course the Hebrew date of these festivals remains the same but they can fluctuate almost a month’s time on our secular calendar. Why is that? Let me try to explain but it gets a little complicated.
Our Jewish calendar also has leap years. It is not every four years. It is seven times every nineteen years. The leap year is not just an extra day-it is an extra month. This year is a leap year. We are presently in the month of Adar II. This is the extra month that is added in a leap year after Adar. In a leap year, the regular Adar is known as Adar I.
From the desk of
A Brighter Place
How wise of religions to have a celebration of lights at the otherwise darkest time of the year in December. Now that we’ve reached February, each day has a bit more light but the days remain “short” and cold. Some, understandably deal with a seasonal depression from the lack of sunlight and benefit from some sort of a sun lamp. We all do what we can until spring and are grateful we don’t live in Minnesota or North Dakota.
February is not the most exciting months of the year. There’s not a whole lot going on. Good that it has only twenty eight days (twenty nine every four years). It can have the coldest days of the winter though we have frozen enough already. The days may be getting “longer” but not long enough to make a real difference yet. Our neighbors have long taken down their holiday lights and even practiced procrastinators have put their Hanukkah Menorahs away. We need some more light and that brings us to the Source that first said “Let there be light.”
One of the most beautiful of Jewish customs has to do with light. This light doesn’t have great wattage and doesn’t come in the new LED mode but it somehow has the power of transforming our homes, our souls and our lives. I am talking about lighting two Sabbath candles at sundown on Friday afternoon and thereby ushering in the most special day of the week, Shabbat. If you light Shabbat candles regularly or have at some time in the past, I’m sure its spiritual power and beauty resonates with you. If I can inspire you to begin to light Shabbat candles, I would bet, you will come to experience all of this for yourself.
The investment in lighting the Sabbath candles is actually relatively small and yet the return can be great. All we need are a pair of Sabbath candle holders which range from simple to beautiful works of art. Once they contain the lighted candles, they are all very beautiful. Add to that, two candles and a match and you’re all set.
This blessing is recited in lighting the Shabbat candles:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּֽנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶׁל שַׁבָּת.
Barukh Atah Ado-nai Eloheynu Melekh ha-olam asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav, vetzivanu
l’hadlik neyr shel Shabbat.
Praised are You O Lord our G-d who has made us special through the Mitzvot and has directed to kindle the lights of Shabbat.
Normally, we first say a blessing and then perform the act. We first recite Motzi and then eat the bread. No one, not even the house of Shammai would ever first eat the bread and then say the prayer. We first make Kiddush and then enjoy the wine. Lighting the Shabbat candles is the one exception. It is in a class of its own.
First, we light the candles and then say the blessing. The reason for this is that the words of the blessing have the power to have the Sabbath begin. Once Shabbat is upon us, we would not kindle a fire and so we light first and then recite the blessing. We have to do something however after reciting the b’rakha – the blessing to fulfill the meaning of the blessing. This conundrum is solved with the following. When we light the candles, it is not yet Shabbat. As soon as they are lit and the match is safely extinguished, we close our eyes and recite the blessing. Upon reciting the last word of the blessing, we open our eyes. We see the candles for the first time on Shabbat. We have been transported to a whole new dimension. We reach what Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel calls an eternity in time.
So you see, it is that simple and that sublime. There is then the candle lighting time. In Jerusalem, you can hear a siren when it is time to begin Shabbat. That public service has not yet come to Bucks County, Pa. so we are on our own. In ancient days (before the smart phone), we consulted a calendar. Today, I look at an app on my iPhone and I see the candle lighting times for February for Richboro. February 6, 5:06pm, Lucky Friday the 13th in February is 5:15pm, February 20 at 5:23pm and February 27 at 5:31pm. You can see the days are in fact getting “longer.” In lighting the Shabbat candles, our lives are becoming immeasurably brighter.
I f you presently light Shabbat candles, you will surely continue. If you haven’t or haven’t in some time, I urge you to experience it once and twice and three times. You will want to continue.
I hope this February is filled with all types of wonderful happenings for you and so much so, you’ll be sorry 2015 is not a leap year and we have but twenty eight days. In lighting the Shabbat candles at sundown each Friday, we will bring light into our souls,our relationships, our lives. It is not only for ourselves. We will help to make the world a brighter place.
Moses and the Philadelphia 76ers
Let me pose a few questions first and you’ll see how I come to my 76ers hypothesis on this week’s Parsha. These are not new questions but I see them in a new way.
Why does G-d choose Moses to be the leader to take the Israelites out of Egypt?
What does any of this have to do with the Philadelphia 76ers? First another classical question.
Why does it take ten plagues for the Israelites to be freed?
Why doesn’t G-d go for a swift and easy Exodus? Why keep the Israelites in servitude any longer and why make the Egyptians suffer as they did?
The classical rabbinic response is that G-d wanted this to play out slowly with ongoing signs and wonders so that both the Israelites and Egyptians would know that G-d directs the whole process of liberation. Had it happened in the blink of an eye, people might have missed G-d intervention.
This point can surely be debated. Does the long, drawn out process show G-d’s involvement any more than a quick goodbye and we can debate the morality of such a position where people were left to suffer for G-d to look great. This, nevertheless, is the classical rabbinic response to the question.
And now to the inspiration of the 76ers, the most uninspired team in basketball and perhaps in all of sports today or ever. If you haven’t been following the Sixers saga this year and last year, you are the happier for it but here is the story. The brilliant general manager Sam Hinkie put together a team destined to …….. lose. There is a direct correlation between the number of losses and the higher you are on the list for a draft pick or picks the following year. The Sixers have been brilliantly successful in their failure. Hinkie is a real genius. It brings back memories of Mel Brooks’ “The Producers.” Its got to bomb to make money.
So here is the Midrash. G-d is in fact looking for a man who will not succeed. James Earl Jones would not get the job ( a little known fact that this actor stuttered as a child). James Earl Jones would melt the hardest heart. Pharaoh would have let the Israelites out after the first round of “Let My People Go!” Not so with Moses. G-d needed a man who he knew would not succeed. Not only could Moses in no way be convincing but after a few times of Pharaoh’s Nos, this man who uncontrollably killed an Egyptian would most likely lose his cool.
I propose the above with some discomfort. It is not easy to present Moses our leader and teacher as the biblical version of the Washington Generals who perpetually lose to the Harlem Globetrotters. What was G-d planning to do with Moses once the people left Egypt and truly needed a real leader to show them the way?
This makes me think of the verse in the Book of Psalms “The stone that the builders reject has become the cornerstone of the building.” One who is totally counted out becomes the one who is most integral to the whole structure. There are examples of this in history. Translated into plain English Don’t Count Anyone Out! Don’t Ever Count Yourself Out! Everyone Has It In Them To Be A Cornerstone!
Janie and I are reading the book Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand also the author of Seabiscuit. The author seldom leaves her home inflicted for many years with a debilitating disease that keeps her chronically exhausted. Yet, she writes books for which other authors would spend hundreds of hours in the field doing research, travelling to speak to varied sources. Ms. Hillenbrand can do none of this. She would be immediately rejected as the candidate for writing a suitable work of this type. With all of her disabilities, Laura Hillenbrand has so many other amazing abilities, her books stay on the Best Seller list for years and other authors praise her work. The movie adaptation has so far grossed over one hundred million dollars.
The subject of Unbroken, Louis Zamperini started out life as a first class mess. He was a juvenile burglar and the only running he did was running away from the scene of the crime. He smoked and drank before becoming a teenager and when he had to run in his first race in the schoolyard, he came in dead last even behind the girls. He was the exemplar of the rejected stone. His brother Pete was on the track team and after a number of tries, Pete got his brother Louis involved in running. To make a long story short, Louis Zamperini represented the United States in the 1936 Olympics. That was just the beginning of his greatness.
Who knows what G-d had in mind for Moses. What we do know is that Moses had a mind for leadership and truly being G-d’s partner in the liberation of a people from slavery to freedom. Maybe Moses was indeed chosen for having all of the qualities for failure and perhaps G-d did indeed see in Moses the potential for greatness,. G-d’s chosen rejected stone would become the cornerstone of a freed people. Yes, Moses is our leader and teacher as he grew from a person unfit to speak to the one who conveys G-d’s greatest commandments. That is real inspiration for all of us.
I am sure we have all dealt with different types of rejection over the years. We can all relate to the stone the builders reject. A mission of life is to find the cornerstone in each of us, hew it, polish it and have it shine as brightly as possible.
I’m not so optimistic about the future of our 76ers. There is something inherently wrong in a league whose rules make possible future success contingent upon being the biggest loser today.
Ohev Shalom celebrates uniqueness and welcomes diversity within our sacred community.
The Hutzpah in Hanukkah
Inevitably, there will be a short segment on the local news of a reporter asking a rabbi what is the meaning of Hanukkah. (The H is to be pronounced like the guttural Hebrew letter Het or Chet) The rabbi will briefly tell the story of the Temple light having enough oil to last a day and miraculously lasting eight days and we are set for another year.
Though not for a local newscast, a similar and most interesting question is what does the Hebrew word Hanukkah mean.
Soon after we moved into our then new home in 1999, we celebrated what is known as a Hanukkat HaBayit, the dedication of a new home. Central to this ceremony is the affixing of the Mezuzah within thirty days of living in a new residence. The word Hanukkah means Dedication. It is used for the first time in the Torah regarding the dedication of the altar in the portable sanctuary during our trek from Egypt to Israel. In our case, Hanukkah refers to the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 165 BCE after being desecrated three years earlier by the invading forces. It can also refer to the dedication of the Macabees and all Jews who were so dedicated to their Judaism that they refused to surrender to a much greater force intent on imposing their pagan ways on the people of Judea. It took a lot of Hutzpah for those Jews to think they could resist such a powerful force,f Hutzpah and Dedication. I find in this, an especially relevant meaning for ourselves today. Living a quality Jewish life as a minority takes a good measure of conscious dedication. Hanukkah comes as a welcome annual check up for us to take the pulse of our own dedication to all that the Macabees held so dear.
In the Bible, we find another usage of Hanukkah in the form of a verb where it means to train or educate. Proverbs 22:6 states Hanoch lana-ar Educate a child in the way (s)he should go and (s)he will not depart from it. Hanukkah is the festival when we celebrate the importance of Jewish education for our children and Jewish learning for all ages. The very word for education in Hebrew is Heenuch, closely related to our Hanukkah. Jewish education is not an academic affair. Its purpose is not simply to recall facts and dates of history, an ability to recite a prayer by rote or memorize a list of Hebrew terms. Its purpose is to do all this with the aim of developing a personal dedication to the Jewish people, to G-d, to Torah, to Israel. I’m not sure if it takes a village but it surely takes a partnership of synagogue and home to achieve this goal. We are grateful for all those who entrust their children’s Jewish education to us and are ready to partner with us in this sacred endeavor.
In the beginning of November, we hosted the director of Camp Ramah in the Poconos. Always a fine camp, Ramah has become an amazing summer camp under the direction of Rabbi Joel Seltzer. If you are looking for a camp with great sports, Ramah has it. Dramatics, Ramah has it. Arts, Ramah has it. Boating, swimming, camping, trips, Ramah has it and joyful Jewish living and learning Ramah has it in a way that no other camp does. Rabbi Seltzer used the Hebrew term for campers, Hanichim, which comes from the same root as our Hanukkah. Campers come home from their Ramah experience with a new found dedication, love, connection with so much that is Jewish.
If by the way, you are in search of a Hebrew name that begins with the letter Het, you can find Hanoch closely related to our holiday. In the Torah, Hanoch was the son of Reuben and grandson of Jacob. It is a name still in use today and perfect for a boy born during the holiday.
Coming back to our news reporter and news anchors, they will again have a hard time pronouncing the name of the holiday correctly. They will usually fall back on the simple English H. At worse, they will pronounce the Ch as in China. It is like others trying to pronounce Hutzpah as it has become part of the American lexicon in some places. In my Dictionary.com Hutzpa is listed as a slang. The meaning given is 1.chutzpa. Try as they might, it still takes a member of the tribe to get it right.
Maybe that’s ultimately what Hanukkah is all about. We celebrate being Members of the Tribe. While others are doing their Christmas thing, we are happy with our Menorah, our candles, our oil, our latkes, our Sufganiot (jelly donuts), our family gatherings and our dedication to our Jewish lives. Being less than two percent of the American population, this takes a certain amount of Hutzpah. So be it. We know how to pronounce it. It would sure be different if this year, the rabbi interviewed said this to the reporter.
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A Day of Beauty, Joy and Love
Sunday, June 22 was a day of pure beauty, joy and love. Samara was married to Jordan Hirsch. The wedding was held at The Lake House Inn on Lake Nockamixon.
The spectacular venue and the imported Kosher Caterer made for an unforgettable day.
Jordan is going into his final year at Yale Law School. He has had a number of pieces published in The Wall Street Journal and Foreign Affairs. More importantly, he has a wonderful Neshamah and loves Samara dearly. Yes, indeed, no one is perfect and Jordan is a Cowboys fan having grown up in Dallas. Samara is teaching autistic children at a New York City Public School in the Bronx and getting her Masters in Special Education. They will be living on the Upper West Side of Manhatten, a vibrant Jewish community and Jordan will be commuting to New Haven for the year.
In this picture from left to right is Jordana (Samara’s sister) Jordan and Samara, Janie and myself, Elana and Chanan (Samara’s sister and brother in law) with their twin daugthers Dalia and Maytal and Orli soon to be four.
Words like glorious were used by weather forcasters. As the outdoor wedding processoin began, it started to rain a bit and a bit harder. Samara said “What do we do now?” I thought pray. I said, hoping I wouldn’t be wrong, “its going to stop in a couple of minutes” and by the time we walked down the aisle to the Huppah overlooking the lake, the rain did indeed stop.
Prior to the ceremony, the men gathered at the Hasan’s Tisch where there was singing, dancing, drinking too and Jordan gave a D’var Torah repeatedly interupted by more singing and dancing and drinking too as is the custom.
The woman gathered together separately to be with Samarah
Immediately following the ceremony, all of Jordan and Samara’s friends danced them from the Huppah to the Yichud:
It was important to Samara and Jordan that Janie be part of every aspect of the day. You can be part of a joyful Hora even while seated:
It was indeed a day filled with beauty, joy and love and reason for us to be so fantastically grateful.
We, along with the whole family and many friends who love them both dearly wish Samara and Jordan much love and joy for many, many years to come.
Janie and I are happy to share a bit of the beauty, joy and love of the wedding with you.
Now, looking to the future, we are planning to leave for Israel on Sunday, July 6. We have not been in Israel since 2008. Beginning in the winter, we visited Janie’s doctors who were all enthusiastic about Janie taking this trip. We plan to be in Jerusalem for a bit more than two weeks. If you or your children have any plans to be in Israel during that time please let us know. We would love to get together.
My best to you for a good, enjoyable and relaxing summer.
Rabbi Eliott N. Perlstein
944 Second Street Pike
Richboro, Pa. 18954
215 3229819 www.ohev.org