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A colleague of mine, Rabbi Mark Greenspan, shares with us one of the great Pesach stories. This one is about Chaim, a Jewish man from long ago, who was good friends with the monarch of a small kingdom. The king loved Chaim, and Chaim loved the king. More importantly, the king trusted Chaim and knew he was a talented and capable banker, so he decided to make Chaim the royal treasurer. Unfortunately, the other advisors resented having a Jew placed in a position of such high authority, so they went to the king with an ultimatum: either Chaim had to convert or they would resign.
Reluctantly, the king told Chaim his dilemma. Being a good friend and realizing how fortunate he was to be the royal treasurer, Chaim told his family that they had to convert if he was to hold on to his position.
Weeks turned into months after the conversion, and Chaim’s conscience weighed on him. How could he have deserted his ancestral faith so easily? Finally, one day, Chaim burst into the royal throne room and told his friend, “My king, you know how I feel about you and how much I love serving you. But I cannot live with myself if I cannot be a Jew. I cannot be treasurer if I must remain Christian!”
Upon hearing this, the king said to Chaim, “My dear friend, why didn’t you tell me how strongly you felt about this. If Judaism is so important to you, I will allow you and your family to return to your ancient faith.” Chaim immediately rushed home to tell his wife the good news. He said, “Shprinze, I have wonderful news. The king said we can return to Judaism immediately.” To which Shprinze responded, “You idiot - couldn’t you wait until after Pesach to ask?” “Oy,” says Chaim, “
Now it's pretty clear that this is the immediate thought of many who take Pesach seriously. We clean and we scrub and roll up rugs and wash down counters and vacuum in every nook and cranny. We kasher and clean and spend big money (sometimes twice that!) to make a seder and to have the special exorbitant pesachdik food. Wives and their husbands cook and clean and wash baseboards and cupboards and juggle for a week between chametz and Pesach cooking. We throw away our chametz food or squirrel it away and sell it through the rabbi. It is sometimes overwhelming when you, in addition, throw in the research and brainstorming about an interesting angle or activities for the seders. And then of course there is shul. Purim is intense, building a sukkah isn’t easy, and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are at times challenging, but when you compare those holidays to the time-intensive frantic march from Purim to being ready for Pesach, they are walks in the park. So really, who needs Pesach? Wouldn’t life be a peach and just fine without it?
Well a lot of people needed it and continue to need it. Revolutionary Americans saw themselves as the Egyptian Hebrews in slavery as they readied their muskets against the British. One of the first seals of the nation was a picture of Moses leading the Hebrews out of slavery. The African slaves of the South and discriminated masses in the civil rights era needed Pesach, for the negro spiritual, “Go Down Moses,” never left their lips, giving them resolve and inspiration. The men, women and children of Chad, of Nigeria, and of Darfur need it, remembering that God, too, may be readying to rescue them from their enslavements of rape and pillage. The Syrian opposition of Bashar al Assad surely identify themselves enslaved by a dictator, as do the masses of Venezuela. And surely the young women who are trafficked in Thailand, in Russia and elsewhere–the new manifestation of slavery that is a blight and stain to any nation that tolerates it–certainly need the hope that they can some day be released, someday benefit from saviors who will free them. And surely those one-in-six in America and one-in-five in the State of Israel, enslaved by hunger–they too can gain inspiration and hope through it.
Well we need it too. We need the reminder each year that Pesach did not merely release the Hebrews to radical freedom; it rescued them to become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation; to be both a Peoplehood bound by rituals and belief as well as a People tied to an ancestral homeland. It released them so that God could make them His people, who bring the message of a caring, loving, universal God, and a message of empathy to all those that are oppressed and suffering.
Sometimes it seems that preparing for Pesach is enslaving. When you feel that, don't despair. Take a rest but also take heart! Consider that its effect is to heighten the moment when Pesach comes, a time in which we, as a free and released people, have made our way from radical liberation to the attachment of ourselves to God's mitzvoth, as we count the omer to Shavuoth and to Torah. Consider how Passover has given hope and faith to so many groups oppressed around the world. Consider the empathy it gives us for others who are mired in far worse enslavement and back-breaking circumstance.
In every generation, each of us must consider ourselves as having come out of Egypt for so many reasons. Maybe there is a method to this madness after all. May we keep that in mind and in heart as we prepare our homes and our tables this year.
A Chag Kasher ve Sameah – A sisen and meaningful Pesach! Read More
It has been “March Madness” at the ENJC this past month, with nonstop activities for members of all ages. The madness started with the ice cream feast on March 1st, celebrating Shabbat Across America. The next morning we celebrated Matthew Greenbaum’s Bar Mitzvah. Matthew did an outstanding job. The youth of our synagogue, too, have been busy with Kadima, Chaverim and USY, meeting twice this past month, and we’ve also held our monthly Tot Shabbat. These were fun activities enjoyed by all.
On behalf of our congregation, I want to extend a special Yasher Koach to Lori Maldavir and her wonderful team of volunteers that participated in the HIHI (Huntington Interfaith Homeless Initiative) Program. They fed the homeless four times over the course of this cold winter. Thank you to the numerous families that participated and a big Thank You to Adam Bolander of Kosher Thyme Marketplace in Plainview. Adam donated chicken for all four HIHIs. Please support the vendors that support us.
The ENJC was honored to host a baby naming for a founding family, the Rothmans, on March 9th. What a special day, with all the Rothman generations represented. The following week, women of our Sisterhood, and some of their daughters, learned the Story of Challah and the art of making it with Chaya Teldon.
From Thursday, March 14th through Sunday, March 17th we hosted Cantor David Sislen, of Florida, for his cantoral audition. The weekend began with a Meet and Greet on Thursday night, with Cantor Sislen playing the guitar and singing Jewish songs from around the world. Friday night services and Saturday morning services were led by Cantor Sislen, in tandem with Rabbi Silverman. Cantor Sislen concluded the weekend by leading the Sunday morning minyan. In excess of 175 people attended the four Cantor Sislen events. Since October, we have had four potential cantors on our bima for auditions. We started with Cantor Eric Wasser for 3 Shabbat weekends. Cantor Ken Cohen has been with us for numerous Shabbats, including the memorial for the Tree of Life massacre and most recently Purim. Super Bowl weekend was Cantor Steven Walvick’s audition. And Cantor David Sislen was our latest candidate. We thank everyone for their support of the many hosted cantoral events. The Cantor Search Committee values the input and opinions that have been shared with them. I would love to be able to report that we have a signed contract with our new cantor for my May article.
Purim was celebrated on March 20th with a wonderful Purim Spiel performance by our Daled and Hay students a la Star Wars. The Megillah reading followed, as well as a short performance by our Purim Players singing Supercalafragilisticexpialadocious. The following morning was another full reading of the Megillah. On March 27th the Men’s Club will be socializing at Millers Ale House in Commack. It will be nice to see the companionship of the guys at an occasion that isn’t a meeting or an event at which they have to work. The month will close with Noah Kurtz’s Bar Mitzvah on the 30th and the Senior Program on the 31st.
April – we have Passover to look forward to!
My congregational message this month is to ask that everyone get the most value from your membership –attend services, enjoy a program or event for you or with your family, or just give back and help others. ENJC, the place with something for everyone! Read More
A Plea to the Congregation from Rabbi: Support Our Minyan and Worship With Us On Shabbat–We Need Everyone To Pitch In
There is an old joke about a young man who walks into the High Holiday Service and is greeted by the usher. The usher asks if he has paid his dues. He replies, “I’m not a member. I’m just here to give my grandfather a message.” After a short reflection, the usher tells him, “Okay but don’t let me catch you praying.”
This is about hoping that we will catch you praying. We want you to pray in our lovely Friday night and Saturday morning Shabbat services, our brief evening weekday and our Sunday morning services. To not pray, you see, is no laughing matter, for you miss something significant by not making prayer a part of your life. You miss helping our synagogue fulfill its basic function to comfort our mourners, and you miss in our communal effort to celebrate the world at large, the Torah and God, each Shabbat.
Rabbi Hana tells us that in the Talmud, the prophet Bilaam, seeing Israel’s true power and majesty, blesses not only the tents and dwellings, but the streams and rivers. Why are streams and rivers part of the description of Israel? To stress that just as streams and rivers purify, so too does Torah study and prayer purify us. But I would add a second element: Just as streams and rivers are the circulatory system of a geographic region, so too is prayer the circulatory system of the Jewish people. Prayer nourishes us and uplifts the spirit. It allows us to move from station to station as the days fly by, and it allows us to mark our journey through the calendar year, from Rosh Hashana to Shavuot and back again. Our minyanim are the pulse of our institution. Prayer is heart work and each of us must keep our communal heart pumping.
Our liturgy offers multiple reasons for prayer: to express gratitude to God, to praise God, to petition Him– Prayer seeks to establish a connection, a dialogue, with the transcendent force we call God. Prayer affords us different things at different times. It can foster a sense of reflection and perspective. It roots us to our ancestors. At other times it offers us a sense of renewal, recommitment and re-involvement. But most of all, we pray for two reasons: 1) To provide the pulse of our Kehilla Kedosha, our Holy Community. In so doing, we take care of the needs of those who are grieving, provide a format to hear a little Torah and to celebrate our children and fellow congregants; and 2) We provide proof to God that our hearts are still open. A midrash tells us that each of our souls is a God’s candle. When we bob up and down while praying, we are mimicking the flickering flame. Show God you are still flickering, in spite of disappointments and failures, in spite of efforts of enemies to crush us, in spite of old habits, in spite of all our heart’s wrestling. God hears the prayers of a broken heart, but also the happy heart. Keep all lines open and relish the heavenly connection, ushering God’s presence as a part of our minyan.
We are in urgent need. We need more effort from every single member. Many of us resolve, each new year, to exercise on a regular basis. In this new year of 2019, exercise your soul muscle on a regular basis too! Let us catch you praying! This year make it your resolution to attend once or more a week, so that our minyanim will be transformed from challenged to a vibrant pulse.
Minyan takes place each weekday at 8:15 pm, at 7:30 pm the first Friday of each month and 8:00 pm on other Friday evenings, at 9:15 am Shabbat morning, and 9:00am on Sundays Read More