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The Mitzvoth of Purim
Five, Four, Three, Two…have One nice Purim this year!
Five is important at Purim! Why? There are five mitzvoth connected to Purim. Five books of Torah, five robes of Mordechai, Five mitzvoth of Adar. The first mitzvah is that we try to be our happiest…marbim besimcha… when Adar comes. Therefore, put on a happy face! That’s very hard to compel folks to do and some have cause not to feel happy sometimes. It goes without saying that the uptick in crisis in Israel and antisemitism in diaspora are very concerning. Nonetheless we must take it from Cole Porter to “emphasize the positive” and Jimmy Durante, when he advises, “when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you.” So we must try to find humor even in difficult times and see the glass half full…that much we can do, I am sure.
The next four mitzvoth are connected to Purim itself. And therefore four is an important number too. They are all mentioned in the Megillah story. The first mitzvah is to make certain to have a special feast of celebration (Hamentashen are strongly recommened!) But a feast actually requires breaking bread and having a substantial meal…why? Because the Jews were saved ‘body and soul’ on Purim and so we must pamper the body. The second mitzvah required is to give gifts to the poor. This is an excellent time to select a Jewish charity that helps feed the hungry either here or in Israel. A third is to give at least two separate gifts of food to loved ones or friends on Purim Day itself. At ENJC, do this through our wonderful Purim basket fundraiser in and around Purim. Finally, the fourth is to make certain that you hear the Megillah the “ganza megillah” read on Purim.
Three is also important at Purim: the three corners of Haman’s Hat! There are three villians mentioned in the Megillah: Bigtan and Teresh plot against the king! And of course the “ne’er do well” Haman. Another association is with Purim Mishulash, which is the three-day celebration of Purim in Jerusalem when Shushan Purim (when Purim is celebrated for walled cities) falls on a Shabbat. The festivities begin with reading the Megillah on Friday, then doing the al Hanissim Prayer only on Shabbat the actual day of observed Purim. (The Haftorah that day is from Samuel, the same one read the week before, and the Maftir is the section from Exodus about Amalek we read on Purim day). Sunday is the day of sending out gifts and having the Purim meal. The next “Three Day Purim” will occur in 2045. So get ready!
Many things happen in twos in the story…there are two banquets and two queens. There are two dinners that Esther prepares for Haman and the King. There are two times when Esther visits the king unannounced. There are two plotters against Ahashverus. There are two Purim days celebrated– one for regular towns and the other either in or attached to a walled city. (However it must be a very old walled city from the time of Joshua and Jericho!) There are two heroes, Mordechai and Esther, and two mentions of the Purim letter….I’m not sure why… could be making fun of Persian dualism, or maybe it’s saying something about the month of Adar, which every two or three years repeats itself! Whatever the reason, It is an important that you hear the megillah read not just once, but twice. As far as Adar is concerned—two is a charm…
This year Purim falls on Monday night March 6th and it shall be ONE wonderful time. Help bake hamantashen. Come in costume. Come to hear various congregants, Rabbi and Hazzan chant the “ganza megillah” in ‘voices’. Come and hear the “Not that Good” Singers in a rousing sing-along of “BYE BYE MR. HAMAN BAD GUY” (apologies to Don McClean). And the next morning, March 7th, we do it all over again in our morning service and megillah reading at 9 am.
Beth and I wish all a sisen freilichen Purim-- a joyful and fun Purim!
It's your moment to step up
וַיְצַ֣ו מֹשֶׁ֗ה וַיַּעֲבִ֨ירוּ ק֥וֹל בַּֽמַּחֲנֶה֮ לֵאמֹר֒ אִ֣ישׁ וְאִשָּׁ֗ה אַל־יַעֲשׂוּ־ע֛וֹד מְלָאכָ֖ה לִתְרוּמַ֣ת הַקֹּ֑דֶשׁ וַיִּכָּלֵ֥א הָעָ֖ם מֵהָבִֽיא
Moses thereupon had this proclamation made throughout the camp: “Let no man or woman make further effort toward gifts for the sanctuary!” So the people stopped bringing
At the end of the book of Exodus we encounter the one, and probably only time, where a Jewish leader had to ask the Jews to stop donating! Talk about your abundance mindset! Imagine having enough so much gold, and silver and animal skins that you had to start turning people away. I, for one, can tell you, that here at the East Northport Jewish Center, we are still accepting as many dolphin skins as you are willing to donate (and can procure without upsetting the people at PETA too much.)
Oy! To live in such a time where everyone wanted to participate, and give, and the only real issues you had was in which tent you piled all the crimson thread, and in which tent you piled all the royal purple threads. Alas, we do face challenges, and it is easy to look back to this story from our past and be wistful. Heck, we don’t have to go back quite so far. We can look back to the boom in the founding and growing of synagogues post World War II, or even the huge numbers of involved congregants we, along with most other congregations had in the 1980’s and yearn for “The Good Old Days.” But, if you’re hoping I have the answer to bringing back the days of hundreds of congregants attending Shabbat services every Shabbat and jam packed tribute booklets for a “Man of the Year” dinner, alas, I don’t have those solutions. But maybe those aren’t necessarily the challenges we should be struggling to achieve. Similarly, I’m really not sure what we would do with even ONE dolphin skin, let alone hundreds. But what are the challenges we can and should address as we hopefully approach the light at the end of this pandemic? What are the main places we should focus our strength and energies? I’ll give you a hint. Let’s start with what we’re good at. When I was struck by an automobile on the way to shul, I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and affection and support from our congregants—both those whom I have weekly or daily interactions with, as well as even those who some might consider “three times a year” Jews, yet nevertheless felt the very Jewish need to fulfill the obligation of Biqor Holim, via e-mails, phone calls, or the delivery of delicious delicacies hand-cooked, or provided by our community’s one and only Kosher eatery: Pastrami ‘N Friends. (Talk to our President Robin Kain if you want to purchase gift certificates!) When I was unable to lead services, the Rabbi was not left to fend for himself, but our congregants stepped up to help lead, either via our Zoom offered minyanim, or our in-person hybrid Shabbat services. We are a community of doers and givers. We are truly the heimish community, who might actually have needed a Moses to tell them when enough has been given. (I should add, that, our freezer is now full, and there’s only so much corned beef I can consume at one time, but thank you for the continual offers!)
Sure, if you read the Pew report, it sure seems like doom and gloom, and I’m not going to bother to repeat the statistics that portray a very real and very scary outlook for our future, not only at ENJC, but as Jews, nay as ANY organized religion faces in the years to come. But instead of focusing on the negatives, let us double-down on our positives. What gifts can YOU bring to the East Northport Jewish Center? What skills do you possess that might be helpful to our community? What hidden talents might brighten someone’s day? Do you know how to read Torah or Haftara? Can you deliver a sermon or D’var Torah? Can you lead any part of our services? Let’s take a step forward here. Are you willing/able to learn new skills to help our community? Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, but teach a man to make Gefilte Fish, and he can start a global empire under the Mrs. Adler’s label! If you can read Hebrew, I can teach you how to lead a prayer service. Whether the relatively short 15-minute evening minyan we host each weeknight, or either parts of the Friday and/or Saturday morning services. It’s never too late to learn how to chant from the Torah or Haftara. Not so skilled in Hebrew? Thanks to such resources as the website Sefaria, it is easier than ever to write a D’var Torah, and I would be happy to show you how to research a week’s Torah Portion and bring insights from your own life into a message to deliver to the congregation.
As we hopefully have more and more in-person events back in our community, it’s time to think about other activities we can be doing at the ENJC. Before the pandemic, we had wonderful sessions on learning to play mah jjong led by our dearly departed congregant Jodi Saperstein, as well lessons in canasta. I hope to be teaching a group on how to play bridge, with the help of Renee Rubin soon. Howie Lewin gave a great talk on researching family lineages, that contained only a merciful few of his terrible puns. We had a growing pickleball contingent coming on Sunday afternoons before we had to close down for insurance reasons. What other skills or knowledges can you teach or offer to our ENJC family? Of course, we can’t always expect that we’ll be able to implement every idea, and just because you are an expert at swallowing knitting needles, doesn’t mean that Sue Kazazz will necessarily be able to fit into our schedule, but it never hurts to let us know. What we do here at ENJC is give back, and help each other, so let us focus our gifts to improve the lives of our members.
וְעָשָׂה֩ בְצַלְאֵ֨ל וְאׇהֳלִיאָ֜ב וְכֹ֣ל אִ֣ישׁ חֲכַם־לֵ֗ב אֲשֶׁר֩ נָתַ֨ן ה׳
חׇכְמָ֤ה וּתְבוּנָה֙ בָּהֵ֔מָּה לָדַ֣עַת לַעֲשֹׂ֔ת אֶֽת־כׇּל־מְלֶ֖אכֶת עֲבֹדַ֣ת הַקֹּ֑דֶשׁ לְכֹ֥ל אֲשֶׁר־צִוָּ֖ה הֹ׃
Let, then, Bezalel and Oholiab and all the skilled persons whom God has endowed with skill and ability to perform expertly all the tasks connected with the service of the sanctuary carry out all that God has commanded.
Neither Bezalel, nor Oholiab were known to be especially pious Jews. They weren’t priests. They weren’t Rabbis, or especially learned in Jewish rituals. It’s doubtful they could have sung even Adon Olam in a tuneful way (possibly because it would be thousands of years before Adon Olam would be written). But they were skillful. Bezalel is noted as being highly artistic and skilled. But even that isn’t a barrier to participation. Bezalel’s assistant, Oholiab, is not mentioned as having any particularly extraordinary skills at all. He was a doer more than a leader, he knew when and where his help was needed and he volunteered. Now is the time for all of us to volunteer to bring ENJC out of this pandemic and into the future. The Rabbi and I don’t need you to be Moses or Aaron. If you’re a Bezalel, and bring special skills, great. But even if all you have is a willing and giving heart and want to help, or even just become more involved as a participant at ENJC, now is your moment.Read More
There are no words that convey our outrage, grief and our exasperation at the loss of 21 in Uvalde,TX, 19 of which were children 10 yrs old and less, with their lives, dreams, plans, joy and comfort robbed from them and their families forever. My prayer is that every resource goes to these bereft sons and daughters, parents, siblings grandparents and loved ones, so as to help them emerge from this tragedy and somehow honor and memorialize their children by moving forward and continuing in spite of unbearable grief. God, our precious parent, give the surviving families the gift of resilience.
Following the killing of 19 schoolchildren and two adults in Uvalde, TX, and the wounding of others, the Rabbinical Assembly (RA), the international association for Conservative/Masorti rabbis, issued the following statement:
This event is simply heart-breaking. Children must be more precious to America than its guns.
While our hearts and sincere prayers go out to the people of Uvalde, especially the families of the victims, thoughts and prayers have never been enough; it is past time for action. It is the lack of action that has brought us Sandy Hook and Parkland and too many other mass shootings to list. And now Uvalde.
It is high time that United States politicians, currently obsessed with reelection campaigns, put aside partisanship in order literally to save lives. They must firmly and immediately enact meaningful gun reform legislation. The same with mental health reform.
As we have said all too often – and too recently – we offer our deepest condolences and support to all those impacted by this despicable attack and reiterate our vehement condemnation of gun violence.
The Rabbinical Assembly has spoken out many times against gun violence in the United States. We unequivocally call upon lawmakers to immediately take all available measures to ensure the safety of the public and to limit the availability of guns. As our tradition reminds us, 'Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor' (Leviticus 19:16).
The East Northport Jewish Center
328 Elwood Road
East Northport, NY, 11731
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