This Shabbat, March 13-14, we are asking you to enjoy Shabbat at home and not to come to Shul. The infectiousness of COVID-19 presents a circumstance of Pikuach Nefesh (life-threatening risk) and we need to respond accordingly. KI will introduce live-streaming which we invite you to access. A sufficient core is already in place to lead the service. We will be streaming both KICKS' Kabbalat Service starting at 6:15PM, Friday, March 13th, 2020 as well as KI's Shabbat Service starting at 8:45AM, Saturday, March 14th, 2020. Please use the following link for both: https://zoom.us/j/727686782. If you are not using your computer's audio, you can dial in for both at (646) 558 8656 and enter in the Meeting ID: 727 686 782. Here is information on how to use Zoom: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/201362193-How-Do-I-Join-A-Meeting-
The tradition of celebrating two Passover seders offers those of us living in the Diaspora a unique opportunity to look at its story through two different lenses. Perhaps the makeup of the guests sitting around your table will shift from one night to the next, offering new perspectives and questions on the same content and themes discussed the night prior. Or, perhaps, you will take the double seder as a chance to intentionally focus on two specific ways in which Passover calls to us: individually and globally, introspectively and proactively, spiritually and tangibly. Rabbi Hamilton’s beautiful companion to the seder offers power quotations accompanying each step of it, meant to prompt deep spiritual and introspective conversations around the Passover table. You are encouraged to use this as a way of entering into the story of our people through honest and profound reflections about who you are, who you are becoming, and how this journey has shaped you. After looking inward, our tradition and the story of Passover call us to turn outward. Our journey of liberation demands our responsibility in the liberation of others. Many Jewish organizations have put together seder companions focusing on specific topics of justice yet to be realized in our world: poverty, environmental degradation, racism, LGBTQ oppression, refugee insecurity, sexual violence, and so much more. If a particular topic speaks to you, I encourage you to find materials and questions to bring to your seder table that will ignite meaningful discussions and calls to action. This year, I am most struck by our Exodus story’s focus on slavery, urging us to remember that we were once slaves. It’s easy for us to think about this metaphorically: To what are we still
KI Passover Guide 5779 “Observe the month of Aviv, … for it was in the month of Aviv, at night, that God freed you from Egypt (mitzrayim). ...You shall not eat anything leavened; for seven days eat matzah, the bread of affliction – for you departed from the land of Egypt in a hurry – so that you may remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt as long as you live.” (Deuteronomy 16). This guide to the customs of the holiday invites us into a meaningful experience of leaving mitzrayim, (the narrow places). In addition to this practical guide, please enjoy a rich array of materials and resources located at the KI web site in what we’re calling the Pesah Cloud. Preparation for Pesah: Getting Rid of Hametz We prepare for Pesah by eliminating hametz from our homes, cars, desks, and anywhere we might spend time over the holiday. We render our surroundings completely hametz-free, sealing off and selling any items that remain in our dwellings, but may not remain in our possession. You may sell your hametz online here until April 19 at 9:15 am. Bedikat Hametz (Searching for Hametz) Thursday evening, April 18 After cleaning out and selling our hametz, we do bedikat hametz (the ritual search for small pieces of leavened food) at home at nightfall. Place 10 morsels of hametz around a room. Search for and collect them using a candle, a wooden spoon, and a feather. Before beginning the search, recite the blessing al biyur hametz. After the search is completed – with the sack of hametz carefully set aside for burning in the morning – recite a declaration nullifying any remaining
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Less-than-Great Expectations On the eve of President Obama’s Second Inaugural, there is a noteworthy disparity between expectations this year and those from four years ago. January of 2009 was aloft with soaring hopes, while January of 2013 feels like history won’t be paying much of a visit. Just what has caused Federal Governance to become the least ablesegment of our country ignites tiresome, mind-numbing disputation. Yet fifty years ago when Civil Rights progress was at a standstill, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel defiantly elevated expectations by insisting in a telegram to President Kennedy on ‘Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity’.Considering how the sages handle a verse from this week’s Sedra offers helpful guidance. “And you shall tell your child in that day, saying, ‘Because of that which God did for me when I went out from Egypt’” (Ex.13:8). If this verse rings familiar, it may be because portions of it recur four different times in the Passover Hagaddah. Foremost among them is the command to take our ‘telling of the Exodus’ personally. “In every generation one is obligated to see oneself as one who personally went out of Egypt” is an injunction built upon our verse. Our verse also opens up the ‘Child who doesn’t know how to Ask’, and it offers the educational foundation for tasteful teaching with foods like Matzah and Bitter Herbs. Most surprisingly, our verse is also deployed to respond to the Wicked Child. It is used to rebuke this Estranged Child in a season whose core lesson seeks empathy with, rather than expansion of the census of, strangers. This Impious Child is rarely associated with high hopes or great expectations. Yet the very same sacred text applied to him or her, is
Renewal in 2013 The Book of Genesis closes this week with a dying Joseph extracting a promise from his brothers to have their descendants someday return his remains to Canaan (Gen. 50:29). Interestingly, any question about the eventual whereabouts of the brothers’ remains is unaddressed. Why is Joseph to be reinterred in the Promised Land while his brothers’ burials will presumably inaugurate an Egyptian cemetery for the Children of Israel’s four-hundred-year stay? Perhaps there was deeper anxiety about Joseph’s covenantal loyalty. Bringing his bones back with the Exodus allayed fears concerning divided allegiance – a concern that was unimaginable with his brothers. Moreover, Egypt per se is not a bad place (a portion of Canaan even gets named after it - evel mitzraim - in honor of Jacob’s funeral this week (Gen. 50:11)). It is what takes place in Egypt – bitter bondage – that requires redemption. 150 years ago this coming January 1st, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Although January’s arrival does not signal our Jewish New Year, it is still high time for introspection, resolution, and renewal. As a nation we’ve come a long way, evidenced by President Obama’s forthcoming Second Inaugural to take place on January 21st, coinciding with our national observance of a day honoring the life and lessons of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Yet we can do better than putting a prominent firearm inside every schoolhouse across the land. We can do better than teetering over fiscal cliffs or trifling with debt ceilings. And we can do better than strutting the certainty that we can think our way out of every crisis. This weekend’s observance of the 40th Yahrzeit of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel should
Paying Empathy Forward As familiar as we are with the phrase, ‘we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt,’ the notion that ‘we were servants to Joseph in Egypt’ sounds strange. Yet in Judah’s heart-wrenching plea before Egypt’s second-in-command (an unrecognized Joseph) that opens this week’s Sedra, Judah will refer thirteen times to his brothers and their father with the word avadecha ‘your servants’, the same word can be translated ‘your slaves’. What enables Judah to bring himself to these thirteen references (corresponding to the thirteen family members bowing down to Joseph in his earlier dream (Gen. 37:10)) and a willingness to put himself as surety in place of Benjamin, which produces Joseph’s emotional breakdown? Empathy. Not just empathy as a sensation. But Judah demonstrates an empathy so deep that it propels decisive action and personal sacrifice. As Connecticut observes a day of mourning today, we have all emoted heartsick empathy for bereaved families since last Friday’s massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Among the precious souls of infinite worth that were ruthlessly cut short, two six-year-olds, Catherine Hubbard and Noah Pozner, were eulogized by their mothers: Catherine’s mother recalled her daughter’s glee when she began horseback riding, promising “I’ll never fall off” and Noah’s mother said, “The sky is crying, and the flags are at half-mast. It is a sad, sad day. But it is also your day, Noah, my little man. I will miss your forceful and purposeful little steps stomping through our house.” And then there was special education teacher Anne Murphy, 52, who died cradling her students to shield them from the bullets. Where will our empathy move us? A portion of President Obama’s message at last Sunday night’s interfaith gathering
Seeing more Events over the past three weeks – Operation Pillar of Defense, a UN upgrade for Palestinian statehood, and Israeli Government’s provocative exploration of stretching Jewish housing between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim – have produced surprising statements (Wieseltier), positions (Bnei Jeshurun rabbis), and bed-fellows (Dershowitz & Beinhart). Our Torah portion offers two lessons that feel constructive. First, marginalize extremists among our Jewish people. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, whose 40th yahrzeit we will soon observe with a Shabbat of learning wrote: “Just as there are mitzvoth in relation to the land of Israel, so are there mitzvoth in relation to the people of Israel.” Why does Joseph ascribe to his brothers nefarious intent by calling them spies (meraglim) (Gen. 42: 9)? Perhaps he points to a different dream insight, warning about a future when 10 spies (meraglim) will jeopardize the covenant (Num. 14) - not unlike the 10 brothers bowing before him – bringing destructive division to the people of Israel (note that only the descendents of our protagonists Joseph and Judah – Joshua and Caleb will demure). Joseph is saying, ‘Let’s get everybody together. Bring Benjamin and Jacob down to join us. Being too splintered won’t augur well for us.’ Today, we cannot re-interpret the dreams of our adversaries or redraw the designs of our enemies. But we should make a difference where we can – by not rewarding them with toxic infighting. Second lesson: we don’t see all there is to see. Joseph’s estranged brothers experience deep remorse for their earlier treatment of him. “And they said, each to his brother, ‘But we’re guilty over our brother, because we saw his soul’s distress (tsarat nafsho) when he implored us and we didn’t
Saturday, December 15 at 12:30 PM, Rabb Chapel Yaakov Katz is the chief military correspondent and defense analyst for The Jerusalem Post. As a Harvard Neiman Fellow, he and his family are living in Brookline this year. His recent book Israel vs. Iran – The Shadow War published in Israel in March 2011 was a national bestseller, and is now available in English. Please join us for what promises to be a timely and important presentation.
Experientially-born faith “One is almost tempted to say that God delights in people’s doubt because it provides Him with another opportunity to empirically/experimentally/scientifically authenticate His being.” Prof. Yochanan Muffs Doubt and faith should not come to us second hand. Whether you prefer theologians like Heschel, skeptics like Dawkins, scientists like Pinker, philosophers like Hazony, or voices like Sacks who will be in our neighborhood this Monday evening, all of us can learn, from this week’s Torah portion, something enduring about how the bible prefers to orchestrate belief-development in individuals. Even an audible and intervening biblical God rarely engages in coercion. More frequently, biblical scholar Yochanan Muffs taught, a biblical Deity fashions experiences that invite people to become convinced on their own of the worthiness of values and beliefs. In this week’s Sedra, Rachel dies in childbirth and is buried in Bethlehem (Gen.35:19). The circumstances that make her passing inevitable are unclear, but one explanation sees her demise as the tragic culmination of deception. Last week, we learned of how Rachel steals her father Laban’s idols as Jacob is stealthily returning home with his wives and children after twenty-two years of servitude. Rachel omits any mention to her thievery to her husband Jacob. Hence, when confronted by an angered Laban, Jacob indignantly asserts, “Let the one with whom you’ll find your gods not live”(Gen. 31:32), unwittingly cursing his beloved Rachel. Moreover, when confronted by Laban’s search, Rachel sits upon the idols, refusing to rise or be touched by claiming to be menstruating. This week the tragic coming together of both her deception of omission with her husband Jacob (unaware that he had cursed her) and commission with her father Laban (she could not have been menstruating