Temple Jeremiah


Shabbat Vayishlach

Dear Friends,

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayishlach, which literally means “and he sent,” we learn that Jacob has “sent” for Esau, allegedly because he wants to reconcile for tricking him out of his birthright. We recall from last week’s parsha, Vayeitzei, that Jacob worked for Laban a total of 14 years in exchange for his beloved Rachel’s hand in marriage. Jacob wants to give Esau a portion of the rich array of cattle and livestock he had received from Laban as a peace offering.

Jacob is terrified to learn from the messenger that Esau is on his way with an army of 400+ solders. Not knowing what to do, Jacob “sleeps on it,” praying fervently to God to save him from Esau’s wrath. Also during that fitful night of sleep, we learn that Jacob participates in a wrestling match with an “ish” or “angel,” who possibly could be God, or Esau. Jacob prevails and thus receives a new name, Israel, which means “to wrestle with God.” Israel holds the same meaning today, both for our Jewish homeland and for us as Jews, as we are encouraged to always “wrestle” with our faith, texts, and all elements of our Jewish life.

When Esau and his army arrive, a cowardly Jacob sadly places the women and children in the front lines of danger, then Leah and her children, and at the very back, safer from danger, are Rachel and Joseph. Because we are supposed to “wrestle with God” and our faith, I feel free to opine that I find Jacob’s selfishness and favoritism to be utterly disgusting, almost making me ashamed to call him one of my forefathers. Sadly, some of us within our Jewish tribe have not learned from this, as we need to look no further then to the Women of the Wall in Jerusalem. When my family and I were in Israel last summer I met some of the first-year students of Hebrew Union College. They had just come back from an experience at Women of the Wall, where they went to pray and read Torah on Thursdays. Sadly, they shared that the Ultra-Orthodox women (Haredim) literally threw their children on them, that they instructed their children to hit, accost, and beat those praying in the Egalitarian side (where my future colleagues weres). They showed me their nasty bruises and scrapes from these small children. Why? How could this happen, one might ask? Simply because they were praying at the Western Wall—a place in which the Ultra-Orthodox believe to be only reserved for men. Why were these children, because of their status, of so little value to Jacob that he would put them on the front lines? One can ask the same question of these Haredi women. Why would they put their children at risk like this? Why would they teach their young children to hatefully accost people of their own faith?

In the end, Esau took the high road. When he saw Jacob, he embraced him, as if nothing had happened, truly letting bygones be bygones. Even when guilty Jacob offered his brother not just a portion, but everything he had-livestock, cattle, all of the fruits he had gained from Laban-Esau turned it down, being content with his own portion. What we see so clearly here is that Esau is the bigger of the two brothers. He totally has forgiven Jacob, even though Jacob stole everything that mattered to him when they were young. And even before their meeting, Jacob showed cruelty by putting Leah and her children on the front lines of what he thought would be a great war between he and his brother.

Why? Why was Esau given no kavod, not only in the Bible, but also in our religion today? My colleague tells me it is because we are descendants of him. For me, I would rather be a descendant of Esau.

Perhaps this is why we are Israel…to wrestle with God…perhaps the Bible was allowed to be codified this way so that we could actually be angry at things like this and try to do better than our forefathers and mothers. I pray you will never be afraid to ask these kinds of difficult questions and that as you wrestle with God, you will go from Strength to Strength.

And please enjoy these Chanukah musical resources for your family. They can also be found on our temple Music page.

Chanukah Blessing for Night One

Chanukah Blessing for Nights Two-Eight

Cantor Susan Lewis Friedman

About Cantor Susan Lewis Friedman

Cantor Susan Lewis Friedman is thrilled to be the cantor at Temple Jeremiah. She moved to the area from the New York/New Jersey area in 2015 after beginning her tenure at Beth Emet in July of 2015, just after receiving Cantorial Ordination from The Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music of the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion. Previously, she served as cantor at Beth Emet the Free Synagogue in Evanston, IL where, in addition to the many life cycles and other duties of the cantor, she directed the Adult Choir, created and directed a Teen A Capella Choir, Jr. Choir, and Intergenerational Band. Cantor Friedman strives to help all members of the community find their Jewish voice and she regularly invites anyone who is interested to sing with her during Shabbat and High Holy Days services. Cantor Friedman has a wide range of musical styles, and feels at home in almost every style of Jewish music, such as playing her guitar in a small setting where everyone is participating with her, or singing a piece of Chazzanut or liturgical music for a large congregation. Her belief is that nearly all Jewish music has its place in our synagogue, and when done prayerfully and with great intention, can inspire us to hear God’s voice, and can often help us to find prayer within our souls that words alone cannot arouse. Cantor Friedman holds degrees of Bachelor of Music from Illinois State University, Master of Music from Arizona State University, and Master of Sacred Music from the Hebrew Union College. During her time as a student she served as Cantorial Intern at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, NJ. There, she founded and directed their 40 member Junior Choir, Keshet, and also served as the cantor of the Barrie H. Greene Early Childhood Center. During her tenure at Jeshurun, she created and implemented the synagogue’s first ever Yom Kippur Family Service for which over 600 families were in attendance. It has since been a staple of their High Holy Days services. Cantor Friedman is a regular soloist with the Kol Zimrah Community Choir right here on the North Shore. She is an active member of the American Conference of Cantors and was asked to be on the leadership committee for the 2018 convention as Co-Chair for all of the Tefilot (Prayer Services) for the convention. She is an active member of the Reform Cantors Chicago, and is frequently invited to collaborate in Cantorial Concerts with colleagues throughout both Chicagoland and all over the U.S at places such as Temple Emanu-El Dallas, Temple Judea in Palm Beach Gardens, and Anshe Emet Synagogue with Hazzan Alberto Mizrahi. One of Cantor Friedman’s biggest passions is helping to sustain and foster the Reform Movement in Israel. From 2010-2011 Susie lived in Israel for the first year of school and volunteered at Congregation Ohel Avraham, part of the Leo Baeck Center in Haifa, where she served as volunteer cantor. She formed strong relationships with Rabbi Gabby Dagan, and the congregants who quickly became her Israeli family, and she decided to become a bat mitzvah with them. Six months later, Susie co-officiated a b’not mitzvah for seven Israeli women, all of whom celebrated with Susie at her ceremony and grew up never knowing that a bat mitzvah existed—only bar mitzvah. That year, Susie also conceived, directed, accompanied, and performed in Broadway on the Carmel, a concert to raise money for families who could not afford to have b’nai mitzvah for their children. While in Israel, she was nominated by her piers and received the Rabbi Jason Huebsch Memorial Prize for all of her work with Ohel Avraham. Prior to becoming a cantor, Susie appeared in the Broadway National Tour of CATS playing the roles of Jennyanydots and Grizabella. She also performed in regional opera, theater, concert, and as a pianist/singer/entertainer in clubs throughout NYC, hosting her own weekly open mic show at The Duplex. She has had the great fortune to perform with Betty Buckley, George S. Irving, and Alberto Mizrahi, and is frequently sought out to sing in various cantorial concerts throughout the U.S. She is a proud member of the American Conference of Cantors, the Reform Cantors of Chicago, and Actors Equity Association. Her love of children and strong desire to inspire b’nai mitzvah students to remain engaged in Jewish life inspired her to be a cantor. It is Susie’s goal that every student who walks through the doors of the synagogue will grow up to become vibrant, participating members of congregations. She is married to the love of her life, Ross Friedman. Her absolute greatest achievements are their daughter, Abigail Hannah Friedman, who was born on May 6, 2013, and their son, Zev Noah Friedman, who was born on Nov. 5, 2014. They are both living examples of her answered prayers.

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