When Fasting is Actually a Sin

When Fasting is Actually a Sin

Rabbi’s Message – September 22, 2020

Rabbi Tina Sobo

To fast or not to fast?  

Perhaps the most well-known Yom Kippur custom is that of fasting.  The tradition is based on the command in Leviticus 16:29 to afflict our souls, and in the Mishnah Yoma 8:1: “On Yom HaKippurim it is forbidden to eat, to drink, to wash, to anoint oneself, to put on sandals (leather), or to have intercourse…”  

While fasting is an “iconic” Yom Kippur practice, not eating or drinking is one of several actions we refrain from on this Holy Day. For me as a rabbi, the essence of these “afflictions” is that we are rising above our most basic urges that lead to physical pleasure, in order to focus on the spiritual dimension of our being.

For some, that grumbling stomach is part of the Yom Kippur experience.  For others, it isn’t.  You’ve heard us saying throughout the pandemic that Judaism holds life, and the preservation and protection of life, as one of our highest values.  Fortunately, in the Mishnah, there are explicit exceptions to fasting for those who are ill or recently married, among others.

If, in any way, refraining from food and drink is not healthy for you, Judaism REQUIRES you to eat and/or drink on this day.  If a medical expert has given someone advice to eat, and they go against that advice, then that person is considered to have sinned, not to be pious.  Whether one is pregnant, seriously ill, has a chronic condition like diabetes or an eating disorder, has medication that needs to be taken with food/water, or something else – fasting is not an option, and you aren’t getting any brownie points with God for attempting to do so.

So, for those, like myself, who are forbidden by Jewish law to fast, this year (or any year), what can we do?  Remember, the essence of this practice is to focus on the spiritual.  There may well be other things on the list above that one can refrain from.  We can still attend services and focus on our spiritual selves, even while having a snack or meal in between (or during, if needed).  We can still practice serious self-reflection.  We can still find words of prayer in our own hearts.  We can still… do almost everything else related to Yom Kippur.

But we eat.  And here’s my advice.  Take some time this week to think about what it is that your body requires.  Call your doctor if you need to.  The year I had Gestational Diabetes, pre-made all my meals and snacks and I set a reminder on my phone to eat them and test my sugar levels, so that I didn’t have to put mental energy into counting carbs or remembering when it was time to test.  For children, maybe skip a snack and dessert (with permission from your grown-ups).  For anyone, perhaps you skip your favorite foods that day.  But the bottom line is this: Eat what you are supposed to eat; do not eat what you are not supposed to eat, and may our eating be a prayer in and of itself, as a service to God while we protect our bodies and health.

ReformJudaism.org offers this prayer and mediation for this who cannot fast.

High Holidays During the Covid-19 Pandemic

New Year & New Online Platform

Rabbi’s Message – September 15, 2020

Rabbi Karen Bodney-Halasz

For the last few months we have all been wondering what High Holidays would look like in a pandemic.  A lot of dreaming and hard work since the spring have culminated into an immersive holiday experience.  And I’m excited to unveil the fruits of our labor – today!  

I realize that nothing can substitute for in-person services.  Nothing beats the real thing.  Yet we hope you will come away with a sense of renewal and even satisfaction for having navigated what it means to engage in this ancient ritual in 2020.  We hope to provide you with the most accessible, reliable, and spiritually uplifting opportunities to share our familiar and iconic Temple Israel High Holiday moments together. 

Our High Holidays will be hosted at http://services.tidayton.org, a custom page accessible from our Temple Israel website.  It is just like walking in our front doors and taking your seat.  The page is essentially your virtual Great Hall, complete with shout outs from some of your favorite ushers and familiar faces!

Once you enter, everything else will be taken care of for you.  Are you missing a prayer book?  No problem, just click on the red link next to that service.  Need to join a Zoom room for Children’s Services?  Just click the children’s services tab and explore your options.

All of our regular services will be live streamed.  This means that at 7:30 p.m. this Friday, you will simply need to go to the website and click the PLAY button on the image in front of you.  If you have any trouble, we have an online technician ready to answer your questions.  You will also be able to access all types of supplemental resources, including a beautiful Rosh Hashanah Seder crafted by Judy Heller and Rita Dushman Rich.  We will continue to add service highlights, extra worship opportunities, and supplemental materials that you can access on demand.  

Feel free to cater your experience to your own needs.  If you prefer to pray from the comfort of your living room, take a moment to learn how to “cast” the webpage onto your Smart TV.  If you wish to be surrounded by the voices and faces of your friends and loved ones, start your own Zoom room to simultaneously participate in services.  You can even do it with out of town friends and family!  Now is the time to start preparing for Friday if you haven’t already.  Check out the webpage, buy your fruits and vegetables for a Rosh Hashanah Seder, and make sure your loved ones know how to participate with you.  

I look forward to wishing all of you a happy New Year on Thursday and Friday for our Rosh Hashanah Drive Thru Experience! 

Shanah Tovah.

Tech Solutions for a Better High Holiday Experience at Home

Enhancing Your Viewing Experience – September 8,2020

Most of you will be participating in our High Holiday services from home on devices like iPhones, iPads, Androids, and laptops. We recommend that you connect your device to your large screen TV for the best possible experience. Here’s how to do it:
Method 1
Get an adapter that connects your device to HDMI. These are readily available on Amazon for about $20 or less. This is the most surefire, cheapest, low-tech way to get the job done. Just google “(type of your device) adapter TV.”  Here’s a video on how to do it, once you have the HDMI cable and the appropriate adapter cable for your device.  
Method 2
Use a device like an Apple TV, a Chromecast, or an Amazon Fire Stick to connect wirelessly. Chromecast and Amazon Fire cost between $30 and $50. Apple TV is more expensive, about $150.  Here is a video that covers these steps as well as the first one listed.  
Detailed information about how to access our live-streaming services will be available soon.  Stay tuned!
If you or someone you know will not have internet access during the High Holidays to participate in services, please contact Rabbi Bodney-Halasz at rabbi@tidayton.org.  We will work to find a solution for everyone.  Wishing you all a joyous new year.

Marion’s Seat

Marion’s Seat

Rabbi’s Message – September 8, 2020

Rabbi Tina Sobo

In the congregation where I once attended, it was well-known that the second row back, second seat in, on the Cantor’s side was Marion’s seat, with her prayerbook, dedicated in memory of her late-husband, tucked in the seat back pocket. If you’d been to services at least once before, she’d ask you to move – if you were a visitor, you usually got a free pass. “She knows where to find me,” Marion would say of God – always emphasizing the ‘she’ while pointing up above. Every Friday night, every holiday – that’s where you would find her.  I have thought quite a bit about Marion and her seat lately, while preparing my own home for service-leading during this pandemic.

Perhaps one of the hardest challenges of this High Holidays will be that we are missing our “seats” – up front and center or tucked away in the back with a little more space and quiet or someplace in-between.  We will be missing our space in the Great Hall and Sanctuary at Temple Israel, but how can we create a space at home where God will find us, and we will find God?

Will you relish in the comfy armchair? Squish together with family on the couch? Sit in an office chair? Still dress up, or secretly smirk, knowing you are still in PJ pants? Will you take the day off of work or school as usual, or stream services in the background? Will you sneak that Yom Kippur snack, when you usually fast; or perhaps, finally not feel self-conscious about sneaking that snack because your blood sugar deems you must not fast? Will young children be at school or daycare, or will they hear the iconic melodies for the first time because it doesn’t matter if they are loud and squirmy? Will your dinner table feel emptier this year, void of guests; or adorned with a tablet while eating with family or friends from across the country on Zoom? Will you use the online flipbook for the liturgy, or a physical machzor, or maybe just listen?  

The short answer, which I always had to bite my tongue from saying to Marion, is that God will find us wherever we are, however we are dressed, however we are positioned, and even if you sneak a game of solitaire or some text messaging in during services. But, we won’t find God in the same ways depending on our personal answers. There are no right answers. PJ pants might be more comfortable than the itchy suit, or might make it easier to doze off – only you know yourself, but take the time to consider your sanctuary for these days.  What do you need to create a holy place where you can find a connection to God, to Israel, to the holidays, and more?

Need some help creating a holy space in your home?  Read these suggestions and blessings from ReformJudaism.org.

Looking Ahead and Staying Connected

Looking Ahead and Staying Connected

Rabbi’s Message – August 25, 2020

Rabbi Karen Bodney-Halasz

When Ohio’s “Stay at Home” order began, none of us knew how long it would last or what impact it would have on our congregation and community.  What we did know was that our community needed to recite Kaddish and hear the names of loved ones recited aloud for Yartzheit and Mi Shebeirach healing prayers. Out of our commitment to meeting that urgent need, we immediately increased the frequency of our email communication.   We began sending TIDBITS on Fridays as well as Tuesdays.  This enabled us to provide information and videos specific to Shabbat.  We have continued this for the past five months, but the situation is changing and evolving.  For instance, many of us are no longer in quarantine, we have several ongoing Zoom activities, and we are streaming weekly Shabbat services via YouTube.  I am proud of the rich content and unique opportunities Temple provided during this challenging time.  Though we are still very much in the thick of this Covid-19 pandemic, Temple will return to our pre-pandemic level of communications beginning in September.  The TIDBITS you receive on Tuesdays will contain all of the information you will need to access Shabbat services and study, as well as the regular content you have become accustomed to.  We will no longer send out a Shabbat Edition TIDBITS after this week. 

As we look to the fall Holidays, we promise to keep you informed on all that is happening.  Returning to a once-a-week TIDBITS will not make it any more difficult to tune in for the High Holidays.  The September Temple Tablet and Dayton Jewish Observer will include many details and our website will be kept up to date.  The most important thing for you to know at this point is that all of the High Holy Day services and resources will be available through our www.tidayton.org website.  You will not need to learn any new technology to participate, unless you choose to “cast” or “present” the service onto a larger screen.  Our goal is to keep everything as simple and user-friendly as possible.  You can expect to see content about holidays on the website and on our Facebook page in the next week or two.
Thank you for supporting and living the Jewish value of pikuach nefesh (saving a life) during these last five months.  May we all go from strength to strength.
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Reframing the Question

Reframing the Question

Rabbi’s Message – August 11, 2020

Rabbi Tina Sobo

The question isn’t “How can they learn the V’ahavta virtually in third grade?” instead it’s “How can religious school be a source of constant love for third graders when the world is upside down?”  -(Posted 8/2/2020, @RogueShul)

I remember a commercial for an office supply store where a parent is wheeling down the back-to-school aisles singing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” while piling school supplies into the cart and happily sharing lyrics about the children going back to school.  I thought it was funny as a kid.  Now as an adult, I can see how parents might have had a different perspective than the nine-year-old me.  But this year, instead of frivolous commercials and excitement over back-to-school sales, I’m seeing advice on the best masks for little ones and the best footwear to avoid shoelace tying.  I’m seeing social media posts about how unsafe in-person learning will be and also how ineffective and challenging virtual learning will be.  Through all of this, teachers are scrambling to put together lesson plans for all the different scenarios of learning.  There’s little actual excitement about the return to school.  Right now, I doubt any parent, teacher, or sane adult is that gleeful parent from the commercial.

But here’s the catch.  As adults, we have to be excited… or at least pretend to be, especially with younger children.  For them, how the adults in our community frame this school year, will make all the difference in the world.  It’s the difference between, “How will I make sure my child/student is wearing their mask?” versus “How can I make them feel great about utilizing a face covering?” and “How will they learn this year’s curriculum?” versus “What are some new ways to engage with this content at home?”

For those with school-age children or not – our attitudes and behaviors towards school will make a big difference for ourselves and those around us.  It won’t negate that elements of living through this pandemic are less than ideal or even borderline impossible, but it can shape the way we view the next several months.  “Fake it ’til you make it” is an old adage that applies today.

Turning a Jewish lens on this time of year, we are given the gift of the month of Elul for reflection leading up to the High Holidays.  I invite you to take some time throughout this week and into the next month to consider what it is that we are bringing from the past year, and how we are framing it, into the coming year; and to pay attention to how you approach the questions and situations posed before you.  Let’s do our best to make it feel as wonderful as possible, even if it seems like everything is upside down.

Together We Remember

Rabbi’s Message – August 4, 2020

Rabbi Karen Bodney-Halasz

Our hearts are heavy today as we mark the first anniversary of the Oregon District shooting.  Some are still processing the trauma, and for others it feels more remote.  Yet today, as we collectively mourn together as a community, we are all experiencing some amount of grief.  Memorializing as a community when we are socially distanced may feel awkward.  Thankfully, the thoughtful leaders of #DaytonShines crafted meaningful opportunities for us to remember and still feel the strength of the community.  In Judaism, we mark remembrance by setting aside time and reflecting on the lives of our loved ones.  I invite you to join me tonight at 8:04 p.m on Facebook as our city offers for a nine minute memorial tribute to Lois Oglesby, TJ McNichols, Logan Turner, Derrick Fudge, Megan Betts, Nicholas Cumer, Monica Brickhouse, Saeed Saleh, and Beatrice Warren-Curtis. Zichronam L’vracha.  May their memories always be for a blessing. 

If you are having a difficult time today, please remember that I am always available to meet by Zoom.  In addition, our local government has also provided mental health resources through a 24-hour Crisis Line at 937-225-5623.  

Emerging with Resilience and Hope

Emerging with Resilience and Hope

Rabbi’s Message – July 28, 2020

Rabbi Karen Bodney-Halasz

Our people are well acquainted with devastating loss.  Every year on Tisha B’Av, which begins Wednesday evening, we recall the destructions of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, a symbol of our Jewish sovereignty.  We also collectively remember all of the loss and suffering experienced by the Jewish people over the last 2500 years.  We observe Tisha B’Av by fasting and observing rituals associated with mourning.  We sit on the ground, by candlelight, mournfully chanting Lamentations.  We yearn for security and stability but recognize that everything is always at stake.  It is a time for finding strength despite the unstable ground beneath us. 

In the months following 9/11, an EMT who had lost her EMT partner on that disasterous day was talking to her rabbi.  She hadn’t been to synagogue for months.  She couldn’t bring herself to go to the High Holidays.  She had lost countless nights of sleep.  She said, “Rabbi, this is one long run on sentence without a period.”  It is true.  There is no “sof pasuk” or period to complete the sentences of our lives following tragedy.    

In many ways, it has felt like that for us here in Dayton since last May.  But, the greatest loss was felt after the Oregon District shooting nearly a year ago.  It has been one long run on sentence without an end.  And finding strength will be much harder this year for many of us.   

As we observe Tisha B’Av this week, I want to lift up the idea that Tisha B’Av also contains elements of hope.  Hope that our world will still be redeemed.   Hope that, just as our ancestors found new ways to participate in Jewish life, we will do so too.  Hope that we never stop remembering our losses and learning from them.  Hope that out of destruction comes meaningful living.   

Our Judaism teaches us how to find that hope.  It encourages relationship building.  It teaches us the importance of coming together as a community to be present for one another through our shared experiences.  It teaches us the significance of collective memory.   

Over the next few days, as we reflect on our Jewish history and on the devastating loss we have felt here in Dayton, I encourage us all to take some time not only to remember, but to re-sanctify the values we share and to emerge with resilience and hope.  This never-ending run-on sentence will eventually come to an end.  Let us fill it with hope.   

Combat Voter Suppression

Doing Our Part to Combat Voter Suppression 

by Nancy Cohen
June 26, 2020

As Jews, we have a duty and an obligation to repair the world, and the work of tikkun olam manifests itself in many different ways.  In a democratic society, everyone’s voice should be heard, especially at the ballot box.  Unfortunately, that is not always the case.  The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) reminds us that “voter suppression has long plagued the U.S. election system, particularly impacting communities of color. Today, underrepresented communities continue the fight for equal access to the ballot”.   As we look towards this fall, we will work towards including everyone in our democratic process of voting.  As the RAC says, “democracy is strongest when everyone participates—and it suffers when citizens are shut out from the democratic process or choose not to engage.” Working with RAC-Ohio, we have an opportunity to engage with potential voters in the greater Dayton community by educating individuals on the voting process, helping them to register, and encouraging them to show up at the polls.

For this initiative, RAC-Ohio is partnering with an organization called Ohio Votes, which is coordinating nonpartisan voter outreach activities. In this age of COVID, we are still able to reach out to potential voters in the comfort of our homes by phone- and text-banking. Ohio Votes has developed an app for reaching out to voters and has scripts available to help you complete your contacts. And best of all, they will provide us with a recorded Zoom training that we can use to learn about the process.

Please consider participating in this important work of our democracy, which will help us to reach our goal as Reform Jews of building a more just and compassionate world. If you would like to join this effort or would like more information, contact Nancy Cohen at nrc2622@gmail.com or 937-307-4792. 

From Promotional Products to Personal Protective Equipment

How Shumsky Enterprises shifted to help our community and beyond

by Courtney Cummings

The ability to adapt and evolve is an important characteristic of the Jewish people, as we have had to do just that countless times throughout the generations.  In addition, our strong core value of repairing the world holds true from Biblical times.  Courtney Cummings sat down (remotely) with Temple member, Mike Emoff, to learn more about how his business shifted to help save lives during this pandemic.

A brief history of the company: Founded in 1953, Hy and Elsie Shumsky created Shumsky Enterprises with a few catalogs, a card table, and two chairs in a ten-foot room, here in Dayton, Ohio.  Fast forward 50 years to when Michael Emoff took over as the third generation owner of Shumsky Enterprises from his mother, Jayne Emoff Miller.  He quickly developed a passion for creative product development and solutions for their clients.  Creating and selling everything from apparel to drink ware to party supplies to personal care items and more, Shumsky became a leader in the market for promotional products. 

With their infrastructure in place at the beginning of this pandemic, the company shifted to help our Dayton community and beyond.  Mike Emoff, Chief Vision Officer, says:

“At the onset of COVID-19, we realized we had an opportunity to help repair the world. Listening to our customers, especially those in the healthcare industry, and what was going on around us, we learned that there was a real shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

We went all-in on an opportunity to adapt our business to PPE for the greater good. Leveraging our existing FDA registered and our trusted global supply chain, we were able to pivot from primarily selling promotional products to a heavy focus on face masks, hospital gowns, and hand sanitizers to support the fight against COVID-19.”

They didn’t stop at their customers, as friends and family learned of their new focus, and requested supplies for themselves and their businesses.  Mike says,  “To accommodate these requests, we made the decision to keep stock and we quickly built an online store for our friends, family and customers, making it simple and easy to get PPE for their employees, customers, members and the community. In addition to PPE supplies for small and large businesses, we’ve created an online store to serve your family and friends. If you’re looking for PPE items to help keep your loved ones safe, you can place individual orders on our website: www.shumskyhealth.com.” 

Mike’s core Jewish values are showing through, with the importance of pikuach nefesh – preservation of life – and tikkun olam – repair of the world.  He says, “We believe that this temporary transition to focus on PPE was not only our responsibility as a trusted source, but our purpose, as we continue to help and serve others in our community and beyond. We’ve worked with multiple charities, donating PPE product where we can. Clearly we don’t know what the future will look like. All we know is that we’re supposed to be here to help the process of repairing the world.”

We are proud to have Mike Emoff and his family as members of Temple Israel, modeling the way our Jewish community can and will protect one another.