Sunday, May 22, 2011

Still following?

Today, beginning the evening of May 22, is the 34th day of the counting of the Omer, that's four weeks and 6 days. I have two more writers left. You'll see them Wednesday and Thursday night. Don't forget this Friday night, I'll be discussing my trip to Kuwait with photos.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Getting close to Lag B'omer

Today is the 30th day of the omer, that is 4 weeks and two days.

Do you subscribe to 10 minutes of Torah? The URJ publishes this small bit of Torah every day on different topics. Here's the link:

And here's an example. It's a short essay on counting and waiting.

Mishnah Day

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May 17, 2011 | 13 Iyar 5771 | Week 392, Day 2

Lag B’Omer: Yet waiting but choosing joy
By Jordana Schuster Battis
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For 49 days, beginning on the second day of Passover, we count. Seven times seven weeks—each day, one more sheaf of barley; each day one step farther along the path from the Egypt to Mount Sinai; each day one setting sun closer to Shavuot and the giving of Torah. This is the Omer, the period of waiting between the barley harvest at Pesach and the wheat harvest at Shavuot.

Traditionally, this is considered a time of mourning, though what we mourn for is obscure. Are we mourning the disciples of Rabbi Akiva (2nd century), who died in a plague or in unsuccessful revolt against the Romans? Mourning the souls who, according to Roman custom, walk the earth during this season each year? Mourning the losses of life during the Crusades? Not mourning at all, perhaps, but fretting that what we have planted in spring won’t make it to harvest in summer?

Then, on the 33rd day of the Omer—Join us on Facebook! lamed (counted as 30) + Join us on Facebook! gimmel (counted as 3), spelling “lag”—on the 18th of the month of Iyyar, we arise from our mourning for the day, and we celebrate. Our reasons for celebration are as obscure as our reasons for distress. Has the plague been lifted? Have the students won a battle? Have the souls returned to earth? Is there hope yet for our harvest? This day is one on which, traditionally, Jews have cut their hair, gotten married, lit bonfires, played in the fields with toy bows and arrows, and made merry—but made merry over what?

Whatever the period between Pesach and Shavuot is, it is a period of waiting. During these seven weeks of spring, those in cold climates wait for consistently warm weather. Students and teachers await the changed schedule of summer. We wake each morning to an earlier sunrise, but there is a sense of the more-light to come. We have made it out of Egypt, but our purpose in freedom has not yet been revealed. It is only with Shavuot—when every one of us is not only freed by an outside force from oppression, as we are on Passover, but each has the chance to actively choose to accept Torah and peoplehood—that, according to our yearly narrative, our purpose in freedom is found. During the Omer, we wait, and we count the days toward the light and thunder of Sinai.

Waiting is stressful.

Waiting is about being between.

Waiting is the long stretch of road trip between one destination and another. It is the doctor’s waiting room, before you know if it serious. It is unknown results of a test already taken, a presentation already made.

Waiting is being unable to do anything, but just having to accept that what has been, has been, and what will be, will be.

On the 33rd day of waiting, of anxiety, of distress, we shrug it off. Over halfway to Shavuot, the end of journey to Sinai is in sight, but it is indeed darkest before the dawn and we can sit with our distress no longer. On the 33rd day, we act rather than sit. We actively choose, rather than wait—and we choose joy! We choose hope rather than waffling between optimism and despair. We choose celebration rather than depression. We choose to choose rather than accepting the paralysis of anxiety.

The wait is not over. Our mourning is not yet complete. The results are not yet in. But Lag B’Omer is a reminder that even within our sadness, we can choose joy. Even within our despair, we can choose hope. Even within our fear, we can choose courage. Even within our Wilderness, we can look onward toward Sinai and see light.

Rabbi Jordana Schuster Battis was ordained this spring at HUC-JIR in Los Angeles, where she also earned a Masters in Jewish Education. She will be moving to the North Shore of Chicago this summer with her husband, Seth.

Enjoy a summer of learning and renewal! Join us for the Summer Learning Institute, July 6-10, 2011, Princeton Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, Princeton, NJ. Our programs include Kallah, an Adult Learning Retreat, Had’rachah, ritual training for lay leaders, and Schindler Fellows for Conversion Certification, training to provide support for conversion candidates. Registration is now open!

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What TBJ means to George Levy

Today is the 29th day, that is four weeks and one day of counting the omer.

TBJ has been the thread that holds my faith together. It is a thread that I have tried to weave through the lives of my family. Watching my children today demonstrates that the spirit of TBJ passed down to my children is rising to the top of their lives as they both light Shabbat candles. Their stories of the fond memories of growing up at TBJ tells me my thread of faith continues to sew my family's Judaism together.

What TBJ means to Kitah Hay

Today is the 28th day, that is four weeks of the counting of the Omer.

Kitah Hay, 5th grade, has some ideas about TBJ.

Zach: Temple Beth Jacob means to me that I pray. It also means I socialize. I finally see friends.

David: Here's what Temple Beth Jacob means to me. Temple Beth Jacob means you can socialize with friends, praying on Friday nights and learning the Hebrew Religion.

Ben: Temple Beth Jacob means to me that I come here every Sunday and Tuesday and learn. It also means that I socialize and pray.

Richie: TBJ means I have to come to the temple every Sunday and Tuesday and pray with friends.

Logan: We pray, play, socialize, learn prayers and cook. We also make crafts and sing songs.

Halana: Temple Beth Jacob means that you get to learn songs in Hebrew and that you can learn about the Jewish culture. You also get to have a good time with friends.

Zach: Temple Beth Jacob is a great place to learn and socialize. It's lots of fun and it's a great place to make friends. The teachers are nice as well.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

What TBJ means to Mona Rieger

Today is the 24th day, that is three weeks and three days of the counting of the Omer.

TBJ is my home away from home. There is nowhere else that I feel as comfortable - everyone is like a family member (that that anyway you want!). I have travelled with "strangers" who became brothers and sisters after 10 days in Israel. We have rejoiced and mourned together, loved and lost. This was not always the case for me - that is why it is all the more precious to me now.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Today is 22

Whoops! So many things going on last night that I missed adding in the Omer counting. But never fear. Today is the 22 day of the counting of the Omer, that is three weeks and one day.

What was going on last night? NFA had a wonderful dance and movement presentation. May I just say that my son has creative vision and a bit of the divo attitude that gets things done. I was duly impressed.

BUT before that, I was with a very nice crowd that came out to celebrate Israel's Independence at TBJ. Talk about community!

I've been chatting with a rabbinic classmate who shares the view that Israel's independence is as worthy to celebrate as Canada's and by that she means, not much. That's a shame but not unusual as our connection to Israel is lessening for many reasons not the least of which is that our place in America is strong and Israel's place in the world is strong so we don't worry about it. Still, while I do appreciate Canada for many reasons, Israel is a place of cultural inspiration, religious connection and political strength for Jews around the world. We should not under estimate how it important it still is to us. That is why you must, if you have never done so, make a plan to visit. You have got to see what is going on there.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Working with Confirmation Class

Today is the 21st day, that is three weeks of counting the omer.

After Shabbat and Sunday morning I prepared for Shavuot services (the 50th day of the Omer and what we are counting towards) with Confirmation Class. The kids are great and very excited. I'm looking forward to it. Please come out to celebrate Shavuot and support the students, 7:30 PM June 7. We'll include Yizkor so you have the chance to say kaddish for close relatives.

One thing I noticed among our Confirmation class is that none of them will be going to Israel this summer. The cost is the thing. Let me remind everyone that while NFTY in Israel is my suggested trip, I have two other really good options that are much less money and Federation has very generous scholarships. As we count the days to receiving Torah once again at Sinai, we need to teach our students and the parents of our children to count the days until our 16 year olds go to Israel. It is a crucial part of a young Jew's education and must become part of what is expected. Is it expensive? Yes. But so is college and we save for that. We need to see Israel not as a vacation but as a significant experience that helps our children "confirm" they will be proud and strong members of the Jewish people. And it's a lot of fun. Fun and meaningful. The perfect combination.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

What TBJ means to Kristen Mayer

Today is the 20th day of the counting of the Omer, that is two weeks and six days.

A second family. Truly a second family. TBJ is a safe calming place where I feel always welcome. It's a place I feel I can come to get more spiritually balanced. I love that Judaism offers solid reason behind customs and prayers. TBJ encompasses the whole person. I've been shown how this religion touches every part of everyday life. It's comforting and calming. It feels like home.

Kristen Mayer has been a member for 12 years.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Shabbat Tekuma during the Omer

Today is the 18th day of the counting of the Omer, that is two weeks and four days.

Today is Shabbat Tekumah, the Shabbat that falls between Yom Hashoah, Holocaust memorial day and Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israel Independance Day. Shabbat Tekumah is hard to translate but it could be "birth of a nation" Shabbat or "Establishment" Shabbat. It is the Shabbat that marks the transition from our lowest low to our greatest high, the re-establishment of Jewish political sovreignty after 2000 years.

We here in America are becoming a bit too estranged from Israel. For many, it's more fashionable to criticize than to support. For others, the reality of a strong Israel requires vigilent criticism to keep it honest and avoid the corruption that politics can devolve into. For some, the Jewish urge to protect the weak leads us to champion others since we do not perceive Israel as weak with the unfortunate side effect of turning our backs on our own people.

This week, let's remember let's try to remember or imagine a world without Israel, Jewish life without the strength Israel gives us all and let's remember to support Israel in words and deeds even as we are honest in fair criticism. The Salute to Israel parade is coming up, always fun. Start there!

Friday, May 6, 2011

What TBJ means to Kita Vav students

Today is the 17th day of the Omer, that is two weeks and 3 days.

Alec: Temple Beth Jacob is an educational place that teaches me about my religion. Also Hebrew teaches me about my culture.

Elias: Temple Beth Jacob is a place where we can learn how to understand the religion and learn how to read and write Hebrew. It also gives us a place where we can pray and have a place to celebrate special occasions.

Ben: TBJ is my home. I eat, pray and learn here. Twice a week I come here to gain knowledge about my Jewish heritage. Every time I arrive here, I am in a good mood. TBJ means a lot to me.

Justin: Temple Beth Jacob is about my Jewish heritage. It also gives me freedom and NOBODY judges me by how I am. Temple Beth Jacob is a place of worship. That is what TBJ is to me.

Skyler: Temple Beth Jacob means everything to me. The temple gives me a veritable plethora of much needed information. Temple Beth Jacob also is a place where I can see friends that I rarely see. Learning is fun here because everything is interesting. Temple Beth Jacob really means a lot to me.

Abby: Temple Beth Jacob is holy to me. All the talk about God, Israel and revelation. On Tuesdays, we come to learn our holy language, Hebrew and study for our Bar/Bat Mitzvah. On Sunday we come to learn about holidays, our religion, and the Torah. We go to services to pray to God, honor our Torah and holidays and talk about our religion. The is why Temple Beth Jacob is holy to me.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Back from Kuwait

May 5, the 17th day of the counting of the Omer, that is two weeks and three days.

Back from Kuwait and leading seders for the troops. A very unusual experience except that it wasn't really that unusual at all. We had a nice table set, we had wine. Kedem sweet stuff but wine nonetheless. We had one child and a hunt for the afikomen. We had Jews and non-Jews and lots of energy to set up and lots of singing to wrap up. Just like your seder. Of course, we were thousands of miles from home in the middle of a conservative Islamic country wearing uniforms. Most of the people there were in the middle of a full year deployment so they were away from family and friends which meant that we were the family for the night.

What does TBJ mean to people? It's home. That is, it ought to be a home and I hope to help make TBJ feel like home for more people. Some people treat TBJ and synagogues in general as a place where you get this service or that need met. But a real synagogue is a home, a family. That's what we have for many and and that's what we will try to make for all.

In the meantime, back at Camp Arifjan, home was in the desert, the congregation was a collection of people making an enjoyable evening far away from where they rather be. But it was, for a moment, home. It was fun. It was meaningful. Just like your seder at home.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What TBJ means to Kitah Dalet

Today is the 16th day of the omer, that is two weeks and two days.

This is from Aileen Rein's dalet class:
Leah - TBJ is an important part of life for me because we can celebrate our religion. We learn different holidays and where we came from. All the Jewish values. We also learned about how the Jews escaped from Egypt.

Brandon - TBJ is an important part of my life. The reason why is because I can celebrate my religion in fun ways. For Purim and Passover we are doing a play. Going to TBJ is fun. I like going here, it is a fun way to learn about our religion.

Matthew - TBJ is important to me because it lets me practice my religion. My family can spend time here. Temple is an important part of my life.

Garbriel - Temple Beth Jacob means a lot to me because a whole lot of my family came here over the years. There are so many memories. One of them is selling bagels with my grandmother Sarah Levy.

Kate - When I think of Temple Beth Jacob I think of my religion and my friends. I have so much fun here learning about Jews and things they did. I love learning with my friends and Rabbi. I like to have fun and it means to learn about your religion and I will be so sad if I leave and start something else. That what it means to me.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What TBJ means to Kristine Cohen

Today is the 15th day, that is 2 weeks and 1 day of the counting of the Omer.

What Temple Beth Jacob means to me... Well, it's all about the kids. We have 2 children that, lets say, "March to a Different Beat" than most children. They both have Aspergers which is a form of Autisum. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad thing, but everyday challenges can be difficult at times. We have been members for almost 7 years and I have watched my boys grow, make friends, find spirituality, laugh, play and learn at (T)emple (B)eth (J)acob. It is a place where they are allowed and accepted to be be themselves.

What(T)emple(B)eth(J)acob means to me? It's a place (T)o(B)e(J)acob and a place(T)o(B)e(J)ustin.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Counting weeks and days

Today is the 14th day of the counting of the Omer, that is 2 weeks.

Why do we count days AND weeks? Why not just days? Don't forget that we are counting not only the days since we left Egypt and slavery, but we are counting towards and anxiously awaiting our arrival at Mt. Sinai when we receive Torah on the 50th day. We count a week of weeks, that is 7 cycles of 7 days, as we moved towards the holiday of Shavuot, a word that means "weeks." Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks, is the culmination of ticking off the weeks. And we can't wait! So we don't just say, week one is gone, week two is gone, we count excitedly, one week and day, one week and two days! Our anticipation for Torah is expressed every day!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

What TBJ means to Nancy Gross

Today is the 13th day, that is one week and six days, of the counting of the Omer.

Temple Beth Jacob is my home away from home, its members are my second family. It is here that I celebrated many of my own milestones (Bat Mitzvah, confirmation), it is here that I have made my closet friends, it is here that I am now joyfully raising my own family and celebrating their simchas.

Nancy Gross has been a member for 37 years.