Beginning February 9th from 9:15-10:00 am in the conference room (and continuing every 2nd Shabbat of the month until June)
Leah Weintraub is teaching this class about davenning and the service. The goal is to help people feel more comfortable in services in general and the Shabbat service in particular. The class will focus on the Shabbat morning service, because it is the most familiar service. The class will discuss the structure of the service, the meanings of some key prayers, choreography, and halacha vs. minhag. The class will compare the Shabbat morning service to other services (Shabbat mincha, Yom Tov morning, weekday).
Knowledge of Hebrew is not necessary.
This week, in Parashat Beshalach, the Jewish people face hunger and thirst in the Sinai wilderness. In their distress they cry out in prayer and God answers them by saying, “In the afternoon you shall eat meat and in the morning you shall be sated with bread, and you shall know that I am HaShem, your God.” Rabbi Naftali of Ropczyce (1760-1827) asked, “What does this episode add to our understanding of prayer? After all, it is commonplace for people who are hungry and thirsty to appeal to God in prayer.” “The answer,” he said, “is to be found in the juxtaposition of their being fed with the conclusion that they will then know God. It is typical that a person in distress cries out in prayer, but it is a blessing when even a person who ‘eats meat’ and is ‘sated with bread’ finds the motivation to turn to God.”
This interpretation characterizes the Shabbat morning experience at Agudas Achim. First, we pray and afterwards we sit down to a lovely Kiddush luncheon. It is no great surprise that we pray at the time appointed for prayer (and while still hungry for lunch). However, when we also find spiritual renewal in the conversation among friends at the Kiddush following the service; this is truly a blessing. We thank Jeri Block & Robert H. Schottenstein for the kiddush this week and offer a hearty mazel tov to Jia Jia on the occasion of her Bat Mitzvah.
Rabbi Mitch Levine
We value having a sense of control in life and we use planning and preparation in order to maintain it. On the other hand, spontaneity is a critical component of the awe and wonderment we call spiritual experience. Spontaneity is the antithesis of planning and preparing.
Moses knew that encounters with God are not generally planned (recall the burning bush), but that does not necessitate being caught unprepared. In this week’s Torah portion, pharoah tries to persuade Moses to take only what will be required for worship when he leaves Egypt to serve God in the desert. Moses replies that the Israelites must depart with all of their belongings, for “we will not know with what we will serve God until we get there.” The unknowable deprives us of the opportunity to plan, but marshalling all of our resources allows us to compensate somewhat by being prepared.
The sage Hillel went a step further. He and his colleague, Shammai, shared the goal of honoring the Sabbath with the best possible meal. Both made daily visits to the market. Shammai had a plan. He would purchase the best food he could afford for Shabbat each day of the week. If he found something even better the following day, he would consume the first purchase and set aside the second for Shabbat. By week’s end, Shammai could not have been better prepared for the shabbat meal. Hillel embraced a different virtue. He would wait to do his Shabbat shopping until the last minute and arrive in the marketplace on Friday, confident that among its offerings he would find whatever meal would be the best. Having substituted faith for an actual plan, Hillel risked entering shabbat less prepared than Shammai. Nonetheless, his Shabbat meals seem to have been no less delicious. The Talmud comments that every day Shammai merited to eat “for Shabbat,” but Hillel’s carpe diem attitude enabled him to live the blessing of each and every day.
It is human nature to plan and to prepare. Our survival may depend upon it. But following a script is not the path to awe and wonderment. There can be no spontaneity on our journey without a measure of risk. We just can’t know how we’ll serve God until we are there.
Rabbi Mitch Levine
Wednesday, January 16 at 7 pm at the shul
Next year in Jerusalem isn’t just what we sing at the end of the Passover Seder. Make plans to join Agudas Achim’s congregational trip to Israel one-year from now, November 3 – 12, 2019!!
Speak with Julie Saar (email@example.com (firstname.lastname@example.org) ) or Rabbi Levine (email@example.com) for more information.
- Over the phone by calling the Customer Service Center at 888-811-2812 x 1, open Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
- Online by visiting www.daattravel.com. On the top right hand side of our homepage there is a search box to find the trip. People can go directly to the trips website at https://www.daattravel.com/agudas-achim-Bexley. Once on the trip’s website, click the “Register Now” button to finalize the booking online.
In politics, standing for truth & justice and being pragmatic are not the same, and may even be in conflict. Moses, an adept political leader, seeks to resolve this conflict by tempering idealism with some strategic thinking. Consider this example:
In the midst of the plagues devastating Egypt, Moses tells pharaoh that he must let the people go to worship God in the wilderness. Pharaoh suggests that the people worship God right where they are; in Egypt. Moses replies that it would be improper to do so, for Israelite worship involves the sacrifice of animals viewed as sacred by the Egyptians, and it would be counterproductive to cause the Egyptians blatant offense by slaughtering their gods right in front of them.
One would not expect Moses, the zealous prophet of ethical monotheism, to politely speak up to protect the sensibilities of idol worshippers, yet here we have it. Moses’s aim is to liberate his people and, to succeed, pharaoh must be thwarted. There seems to have been no upside to deliberately offending the Egyptians.Trying to separate pharoah from his base by allowing plagues to be blamed on his obstinacy makes strategic sense, whereas insulting the Egyptians’ values might only reinforce blind loyalty to their leader.
God, it seems, adopts a different perspective. God insists on a four day long interval during which the Israelites tie up and slaughter their paschal lambs in the presence of the Egyptians. The religion of Egypt was false. The risk that a demonstration of this might provoke the Egyptians does not seem to have been a factor; but then again, God is not a politician.
Rabbi Mitch Levine