Shabbat Shalom Message

Thoughts from our senior staff on the weekly Torah portion

Our weekly Shabbat Shalom Messages are written by our senior staff: Rabbi Paul F. Cohen, Rabbi Emily E. Segal, Adam Kahan, Dr. Anne Lidsky, and Daniel A. Glassman. We hope you enjoy sharing in our love of Torah and Judaism through these messages.

25 May 2017

Shabbat Bamidbar

Posted in Rabbi Emily Segal

Shabbat Bamidbar

Dear Friends,

A colleague recently shared the following story:

“A leading expert in Chasidism went to an Ivy League ethnomusicologist in the hopes of learning from him about how it is that the niggun — a wordless melody — can have such rich spiritual power. After studying niggunim, reading and writing many articles on the subject, speaking with other experts, and more research, the ethnomusicologist had come to his conclusion. He concluded that he did not find anything special at all about the niggun. Learning this, the Chasid was incredulous. “Nothing??” said the Chasid, “Nothing special? I think you don’t understand. I came here to learn from you but it turns out that perhaps you can learn something from me as well. I’ll tell you the secret of the niggun. You see, each and every note in a niggun looks at the note that came before it and says, ‘Thank you for being my teacher.’ And each and every note in a niggun looks at the note that comes after it and says, ‘I give you permission to be even more beautiful than I am.’”

18 May 2017

Shabbat Behar-Bechukotai

Posted in Rabbi Paul F. Cohen

Shabbat Behar-Bechukotai

Dear Friends,

Last week I was presented with two amazing, eye opening experiences, true gifts for which my gratitude continues to grow. I met an amazing young woman, Tamar Manasseh, a rabbinic student from Englewood who is also an African-American. Three years ago, she founded a group called MASK: Mothers/Men Against Senseless Killing as a response to the shooting death of a mother just steps from her own home. Knowing that the murder of a mother would most certainly generate retaliation, Tamar gathered a group of friends and literally sat outside on the block to keep watch feeling that if people knew that these women were watching, the likelihood of more violence would lessen. This worked and the project grew. During the summer months residents gather on the block for grilled hotdogs and hamburgers. People give dance lessons, do face painting, help with resumes and get to know their neighbors. Tamar uses Judaism to drive her work and shares it with the people of the neighborhood. High Holy Day services outdoors under a tent draw huge crowds. Tamar led a Passover seder in this same mode. Tamar continues to use the rituals as well as the teachings of Judaism to make Torah come alive and fulfill the command of this week’s Torah portion: “Walk in God’s ways!” I look forward to partnering with Tamar and the important work she is doing in Englewood. You can read more about this by clicking here.

11 May 2017

Shabbat Emor

Posted in Daniel Glassman

Shabbat Emor

Dear Friends,

A couple weeks back I shared my personal challenges with the book of Vayikra. It has a litany of laws and rules that we as Jews have been commanded to follow. Moses details things that we today consider odd and outdated. When I knew that my turn in the Shabbat Shalom Message cycle was coming up with this week’s portion of Emor, I started scouring my resources to find inspiration. Oddly enough it was a bunch of cartoons and cheesy videos that did the best job inspiring me. So I thought it would be a nice change of pace to share some of these clips instead sharing my words this week. Shabbat Shalom and enjoy!

04 May 2017

Shabbat Achrei Mot-Kedoshim

Posted in Dr. Anne Lidsky

Shabbat Achrei Mot-Kedoshim

 

Dear Friends,

I feel honored with the opportunities I have to address the children in our school. I am very thoughtful about what I say, knowing that my words will be heard through their perspective. Typically, our first gathering in the fall, as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are near at hand, opens the door to conversation about introspection and forgiveness. It would be most natural to assume that our first opportunity to read about Yom Kippur in Torah would fall close to the time of our High Holy Days, but not so. Interestingly, the Torah's fullest description of Yom Kippur appears in the first part of this week's parashah, Achrei Mot/Kedoshim (Leviticus 16:2-34). We know that the Yom Kippur we celebrate in the 21st century is considerably different from the ritual and ceremony described in Leviticus 16. For example, one word prominently used in this chapter is a term with which most contemporary Jews are completely unfamiliar, namely, the word “Azazel.”

27 April 2017

Shabbat Tazria-Metzorah

Posted in Adam Kahan, Cantorial Soloist

Shabbat Tazria-Metzorah

Dear Friends,

You ever watch “Wheel of Fortune”? I’m guessing you have. Everyone is so excited as they guess letters on the board, and then try to figure out the phrases that make Pat and Vanna so happy. Well, you may recall that before anyone guesses any consonant, they have to spin the wheel … after all, it is one of fortune. That big disc clacks along as it spins, and people are all excited as long as it doesn’t land on that one particular space. No … not that one black and white space! Yet, sometimes it does land on that spot … “bankrupt” … and the slide-whistle noise sounds, the crowd says “Awwww” and the player looks mildly deterred as his money goes back to zero … fortunately, he or she still seems hopeful for a good outcome.

20 April 2017

Shabbat Shmini

Posted in Rabbi Emily Segal

Shabbat Shmini

Dear Friends,

When I come across a difficult passage or narrative in Torah, one of the first ways that I try to dig in and work through it is to turn to the rabbis of old, to our classical commentators. Before becoming familiar with these texts – which range from explanatory notes to parables and midrashim – one might assume that they interpret Torah in a straightforward and literal way, but actually, quite the opposite is true. It is a creative and playful mode of interaction with our Torah in which the rabbis of old engaged, recorded through the midrashim and commentaries that have been passed down to us through the ages.

13 April 2017

Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach

Posted in Rabbi Paul F. Cohen

Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach

 

Dear Friends,

Each Passover I marvel at how the Haggadah instructs us to place ourselves back in time and to consider that we, too, were freed from Egypt. In a sense we are told to go back and live in the past. But, there is much more to this command than simply dressing up, eating food, and reading the story. The Haggadah demands more from us. Often times, going back and reliving our past can be a negative and even a self-destructive process. We dwell on failures and cannot rise above them. We relive the pain and reopen old wounds that should have healed. Yet, the Haggadah specifically begins with the horror and the pain of slavery and asks that we go back to that space. I believe that one of the most important lessons of Passover is that we learn a healthier way of dealing with our past. To help understand this lesson, let us look at the life of Abraham and what we glean from the Midrash and from the Torah.

06 April 2017

Shabbat Tzav

Posted in Dr. Anne Lidsky

Shabbat Tzav

 

Dear Friends,

The Hebrew word for Egypt, Mitzrayim, is a combination of three Hebrew words, the translation of which is "from the narrow places." Our slavery is not relegated solely to the geographic landmass in the Middle East; it is a spiritual confinement, sometimes of our own doing.

30 March 2017

Shabbat Vayikra

Posted in Daniel Glassman

Shabbat Vayikra

Dear Friends,

I just returned from a week-long training as part of the National Association for Temple Administration (NATA). It was an extremely intense week of learning. We studied (and were tested on) topics such as communications, governance, and budgeting as well as a host of Judaic studies. I have been sharing the PowerPoints and notes for the latter with folks around the office and the typical response has been, “How does this apply to your job?” If I wanted to be a member of the clergy I would have enrolled at Hebrew Union College, not National Louis University.

23 March 2017

Shabbat Vayakhel-Pekudei

Posted in Adam Kahan, Cantorial Soloist

Shabbat Vayakhel-Pekudei

 

Dear Friends,

It is such cool experience … that of cooking or baking … the feeling that you can take these raw items, mix them all together with some seasonings or substance, and then have the flavors all combine together to make a delicious new thing to eat … to experience. I find it so exciting, all the potential that exists before making a dish, and the satisfaction after having eaten that project. In this romanticized encapsulation, I’m skipping over all the chaos involved as I run out of counter-space for my little bowls of ingredients and cutting board, and the stress I feel as one of my children wants my attention just as my hands are covered in food-related goop … or the saucepan is sizzling and I must get the next ingredient in before it’s too late. Yeah, actually, it can be a little stressful, that actual process of crafting those ingredients into the dish, but still … it’s so worth it.

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