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G-d's message is a tolerant message–no religion is an island. In today’s day and age, it is easy to believe that certain peoples and certain religions are abhorrent. The path of least resistance is to distrust and to put up walls of intolerance, suspicion and prejudice against Muslims, as we see currently expressed in the presidential campaign. Many folks, jarred by recent events such as the growth of ISIS and home-grown terrorism, take the position that certain quarters cannot be trusted in any way, shape, or form. But it is important to keep channels open, and not paint and condemn whole communities based on the barbaric acts of those who hijack religion.
I am privileged to have signed a clergy petition against terror, circulated by Ransaq, that reads, “We, the undersigned clergy, representing a diversity of religious backgrounds and organizations, are deeply pained by all acts of terror, and especially those acts committed in the name of G-d. Our faiths are designed to promote peace and mutual understanding, not terror or indiscriminate death. Those who believe that such acts are in any way heroic or noble, are the victims of insidious deception. Such acts do not guarantee entry to heaven. To the contrary, those who commit such atrocities walk a road that is divorced from our sacred traditions and alien to G-d. The clerics who convince others to give their lives and take the lives of others are charlatans. They have abused their power and influence, recruiting others to advance their own personal political and military objectives with false promises of eternal bliss. We unequivocally condemn their actions and demand that they cease from further profaning God’s name. We dare not be silenced by those who have distorted G-d’s great message to all of humanity. That is why we have signed our name to this petition.”
This petition was penned by Yousuf U. Syed, Trustee, Islamic Association of Long Island, The Selden Mosque, who also wrote the following in an “Open Letter of Muslims to fellow American Citizens,” The Selden Mosque (The Oldest Mosque of Long Island) stands in solidarity with all our fellow Americans. We send our heartfelt condolences to all the families of the victims, who were murdered and injured in San Bernardino’s mass shooting. The Prophet of Islam said: “A strong person is not the one who throws his adversaries to the ground – a strong person is the one who controls and contains himself when angry.” Such are the teachings of Islam–for those who can understand. Rev. Wes Granberg Michaelson, from The Reform Church in America, has called the Paris incident an “Identity theft of the Muslim Faith.” Islam, in fact, is indeed a peaceful religion. The true blasphemers are those who ridicule and insult other faiths. The killers and others like them who do not understand that by forcing their false and murderous distortion of Islam, which in its truest expression is a religion of peace, do great damage to the image of Muslims and Islam. Islam requires that Muslims possess “ upright character” and deal justly with the entire human race, irrespective of their ethnicity, nationality, creed, and whether they are friend or foe. These are the teachings of Islam. How could a man like the San Bernardino killer, claim to be Muslim, when he has no respect for his own one-year-old innocent baby child, whom he left behind without mercy. I cannot call him an animal, because it would be an insult to animals. They would not abandon their offspring like that, they will fight to death to protect them.”
יודע לפני מי אתה עומד
KNOW AT ALL TIMES BEFORE WHOM YOU STAND!
As you can see above, this particular quotation is utilized frequently in synagogues, above the Aron Hakodesh (the Holy Ark) and numerous other places. Among the other tens of thousands of meaningful quotations that can be found in the Torah and Talmud, why particularly this one? As always, I am certain that when researched, there are thousand of explanations and commentaries that can be found in this regard. I would share with you just a few:
• When in synagogue and we are reminded to remember before whom we stand, the message is especially powerful and meaningful. We realize how holy the sanctuary is, the Sifrei Torah (the Torahs) that are in the Aron Hakodesh, the Ark, and the aura of sanctity and holiness that prevails and can be felt in the sanctuary.
• Quite obviously knowing before whom we stand refers to G-d, the Almighty King, who is always watching over us, in good times and, unfortunately, challenging times as well. Most certainly there are people who believe that when they are in synagogue, they should be respectful and thankful to G-d but conversely, when they leave the holiness, they can act in whatever manner they feel is appropriate. They can be less than honest and respectful to others, ignore the Torah, it's commandments and rituals, show a lack of kavod (honor) and respect to family and friends, etc.
There is much we can learn from this quotation. It is essential to strive to lead lives that are based upon Torah and the observance of good deeds and mitzvot, both when in synagogue and most certainly in our daily lives. Look to be charitable both financially and in our actions, volunteer on our CHESED COMMITTEE to deliver a meal to those in OUR Congregation in need on a Friday once in awhile, help out with our evening minyanim (minyans), volunteer in our growing school to help out in the numerous and ongoing programs and activities, participate in community events, etc. By so doing, you will be living a life as a KIDDUSH HASHEM, a sanctification of G-d's name at all times!
The holidays we celebrate in the late fall months of November and December are all about family. Relatives travel from far and wide, children come home from college, and we all gather together to share extravagant meals and to cherish this special time with loved ones. Families pull together to meet the challenges of the inevitable ups and downs of life. I’m looking forward to the return of my children, Amanda and Danny, who will be traveling home from college. My mother recently moved from Florida into an assisted living facility in Westbury and adapted beautifully. She is happy to be near our family and we are thrilled to have her near by. My in-laws have struggled with health issues and we hope the coming year will bring them good health.
The ENJC functions as a family as well. We all share simchas and celebrations, as well as life challenges and struggles that also serve to bind us together. While we have lost dear members, and suffered illnesses in our community, we have also been awed by our Bar and Bat Mitzvah children, who are so well prepared and poised on the bima. At times the temperature is too hot or too cold in our synagogue, but the warmth of our congregants coming together for the High Holidays and other occasions is perfect.
The ENJC is thankful you have chosen it as your synagogue for your family, and in turn, have become a part of the greater ENJC family. In times when other synagogues are closing or merging, we continue to grow. Keep attending services and events and bring your friends. Please join us on December 8th for our annual Chanukah Party! It is for congregants of all ages and free for the entire congregation. Bring your menorah too! Read More