The opposite of good is not evil, it is indifference

Rabbi’s Shabbat Message
May 29, 2020

 
As our festival comes to an end and we enter into Shabbat, let us take a moment to pause and reflect.  On Shavuot we open our hearts and accept the Torah anew.   We celebrate revelation, coming face-to-face with a vision of the world as it could be.   We reaffirm the most fundamental of God’s commandments, law that shapes our worship of God, both directly and indirectly.  God’s presence is everywhere: in every person and in the relationships we cultivate among us.  When we give honor to others, we give honor to God.  It is good to be reminded of such a basic idea, especially as we consider the acts of racism that occured this week, including the unjust death of Mr. George Floyd.  
 
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a legendary voice for justice, taught: “The opposite of good is not evil; the opposite of good is indifference.”  He explained that “…morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.” It is important that we take heed of this lesson.  We are all responsible for bringing about the world as it should be and may not allow ourselves to find any form of injustice tolerable.   God’s presence is in every human being.  To worship God means we must acknowledge God’s presence in all human beings.  Like the Israelites, today we reaffirmed “naaseh v’nishmah,”  “we will do and we will hear.”  We have sworn to uphold the values handed down to us at Sinai.  Now we must bear witness and come to fully understand the state of brokenness in which we live.  May doing so give us the courage to honor God by standing up against all wrongs inflicted on others.

Bloom Where You Are Planted

A Message from Rabbi Bodney-Halasz-Halasz
May 12, 2020

As the weather warms up and the chance of frost has supposedly passed, it is a great time to start a vegetable garden.  
 
Watching something grow and thrive during this quarantine has helped me find joy and hope.  The smell of something earthy and alive rejuvenates me.  It is an easy way to enjoy the fresh air, avoid supermarkets, and appreciate God’s gift of creation.  You can start small and you don’t need to have a yard.  Consider a container garden or an herb garden!
 
Working in the garden also reminds us we are approaching Shavuot.  Agriculturally rooted, Shavuot marks  the harvest of first fruits in Israel, such as wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.  These were then delivered to the Temple in Jerusalem to give thanks to God.  
 
It has been a long 8 weeks or so and we are all ready to fly the coop. However, even as quarantine restrictions are gradually lifted the threat of this coronavirus is still very real and none of us should unnecessarily put ourselves as risk.  
 
Instead, let’s continue to find creative ways to enjoy our time.  Perhaps, like in ancient times, it is the perfect time to  prepare for a harvest.  Wishing you may sunny days ahead.

Counting the Days

Rabbi’s Message – April 14, 2020

We were instructed in the book of Leviticus to count forty-nine days between Passover and Shavuot, beginning on the second night of Passover.  Each night we are to bring an omer of elevation to the Temple as an offering.  This ancient tradition has taken on new meaning for us, especially this year.  It is understood as an opportunity to express gratitude, refocus our priorities, and look more deeply at the responsibility that comes with freedom.  It helps inspire us to to do the hard work of spiritual purification. 

I have found that a meaningful way for me to incorporate this practice is to reflect on each day of the Omer with the poetry and prose found in Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar’s book Omer: A Counting.

As we prepare to move beyond our festival of freedom, I invite you to take a deep breath and consider the following reading for the Sixth Day of the Omer.

“When we are young we are led to believe that our legacy lies in our successes and our failures.  Our most abiding legacy lies within our strength of character.  How we react, respond, rebound is a measure of our inner strength, our inner vision of what is possible…”