Parashat Tzav – March 23, 2019 – 16 Adar II

Twice in this week’s parasha we are told that the elevation-offering must be sacrificed in the same place in the Temple as the sin- offering. Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish explains that holding both types of sacrifice in the same area of the Temple made it impossible for an onlooker to know the true purpose of a particular sacrifice. Maybe a particular sacrifice was a consequence of a sin, or maybe it wasn’t. In this way, the Torah protects the feelings of the repentant from any public humiliation.

Coincidently, the Jewish value of protecting the feelings of the vulnerable individual is also reflected in at the Pesah Seder. In the opening passage of “Ha lachma onya,” according to the interpretation of the Malbim Haggadah, we invite the poor to join us in the context of partaking of the mitzvah to eat the Passover sacrifice so that none should feel embarrassed that they must accept this meal as charity due to their poverty.

That religious texts encourage wrongdoers to repent and charity be offered to the poor is unsurprising. What is noteworthy is that we find ways of accomplishing these aims with extraordinary sensitivity for the feelings of those at risk. In this way we are reminded that religious observance is not merely “doing a mitzvah,” but includes finding ways of fulfilling our mitzvoth thoughtfully and with kindness.

B’Yedidut (w/friendship),

Rabbi Mitch Levine

Purim – March 16, 2019 – 9 Adar II 5779

A striking fact about Purim is that it is a made up Jewish holiday. That is, if you asked a Jewish person in Mordecai and Esther’s day to name the Jewish holidays, they would be expected to simply recite the holidays listed in the Torah. Purim isn’t there. It was instituted, according to the Story of Esther, by that biblical book’s first audience; the Jewish community of Persia.

Purim is not alone in boasting this distinction. An ancient rabbinic document, called Megilat Ta’anit, lists dozens of celebratory days which were instituted by the people in commemoration of special events, but most of them are no longer observed. One of the first listed is the 7th day of the Hebrew month of Iyyar, which recognized the dedication of the walls of Jerusalem when the city was rebuilt in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. This raises a question: Why did Purim endure, but the Return of the Exile led by Ezra & Nehemiah did not earn lasting recognition as an event worthy of national celebration?

Purim makes an odd religious holiday in other respects. Aside from the familiar observation that God is not explicitly mentioned in the text of the story (and this being a biblical book!), the celebration at the end is unaccompanied by any mention of continued concern for the precariousness of Jewish life in Persia. No one seems to say, “Hey, that was a close call, let’s get out of here and go live in Israel.” Mordecai is appointed to high office, wins accolades from (most) of his brethren, and Esther remains in the palace with her non-Jewish husband, the king. The king gets to collect a new tax. Everyone settles in and there will be a party on the anniversary each year.

Perhaps Purim may be understood as the holiday of diaspora Judaism. Instead of aspiring to achieve the “flowering of our redemption,” (from the Prayer for the State of Israel) we accept the apparent arbitrariness of our destiny. Instead of sacrifice to settle in our Holy Land, we dream of contributing our “light unto the nations.” (Isaiah 42:6) In “every generation” we have to deal with the bad guys (Passover Haggadah). It’s been quite a ride but, so far, we’ve made it. That’s worth celebrating.

B’yedidut (w/friendship),

Rabbi Mitch Levine

BREAD Ecumenical Bible Study

Thursday, March 14 from 6:30-9:00 pm at Agudas Achim
 
Join congregations across Central Ohio in a scripture study centered on God’s call for us to “do justice” as related in scriptures such as Micah 6:8 and Matthew 23:23!
This scripture study is sponsored by the BREAD Clergy Caucus. BREAD is a coalition on congregations in Franklin County, OH. It is a justice ministry organization that provides congregations with a powerful vehicle to meet the justice mandate and address serious community problems.
For more information and to RSVP, call the BREAD office at 614-220-9363.

Adult Hebrew Class

Are you interested in learning how to read Hebrew?
Join Zilla Loon on Tuesday nights from 6:00-7:00 pm at Agudas!
Class begins on Tuesday, March 12 from 6-7 pm.

Zilla Loon has K-8 teaching certification from the State of Israel. She began her career as an educator in the Israeli army when she was chosen to be a teacher to Druze soldiers and to soldiers who arrived in the army with weak Judaic backgrounds.

Zilla has also earned her BA in Philosophy & Hebrew literature, and certification for teaching high school from Tel Aviv University in Israel.

She received her MA in Education from The Ohio State University, and has since been teaching at Agudas Achim, OSU, Columbus Torah Academy, Temple Israel, and Congregation Tifereth Israel.

Contact Naomi at the shul office for more information, 614-237-2747.

Mahj

Upcoming dates: March 11 & 25th at 6:30pm
Get your Mahj sets out and join with the others for a fun evening of play!
RSVP to sisterhood@agudasachim.org  (sisterhood@agudasachim.org)   to confirm that you will be there!

Mini Minyan

Saturday, March 9 at 10:30 am
 
Our program will be Purim-themed so you and/or your children are welcome to come in costume if you’d like!
We will sing, pray, move, learn sign language, and much more!  A lite snack will be provided for the children during the service.

Parashat Pekudei – March 9, 2019 – 2 Adar II 5779

This week’s Torah Portion, P. Pekudei, includes the completion of the building of the Tabernacle. Moses saw the entire work and blessed the people, but there is no mention of God’s response to the completion of this awesome project, which God had commanded. What’s that about?

A midrash tells us that God did have a response. When God saw that the Tabernacle was finally done, God said, “Oy.” Why? The midrash explains God was tired of hearing the constant litany of complaints from the Jewish people, so God commanded the work of the Tabernacle as a distraction, figuring that the people would be too busy to complain. Once the Tabernacle was finally erected, God realized the complaints would start up once again. Here we have early evidence of a favorite Jewish pastime – the art of kvetching.

Kvetching, or complaining, is generally dismissed as undesirable behavior. We applaud the positive, abhor the negative, and so confidently tell our peers (and children) that all their complaining is really quite unattractive. Even God doesn’t like a kvetch (complainer). But rather than merely condemn it, God thwarts it, by assigning the kvetchers a grand project.

Complaining comes from a place of loneliness and powerlessness. When a situation is aggravating, and the circumstances are beyond my control and with no one on my side, I’m apt to feel the urge to express a little frustration. Having a project to create something; especially to create something beautiful together as a community, can grant us the relief of a sense of camaraderie and purposefulness. It can’t solve the root problem. After all, total control in life is ultimately illusory; and, ultimately, we are alone. But sharing a burden devoted to a higher  purpose can restore a sense of control and solidarity to our somewhat beleaguered lives. Evidently, this is what erecting a Tabernacle; creating together a place of worship, was intended to be about.

B’yedidut (w/friendship),

Rabbi Mitch Levine