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6
05/28/2010 02:57 PM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon

by David Lyon

5-28-2010

In two days, 52 members of Beth Israel will embark for Israel. This will be the first trip for most of the travelers. We met recently to talk about plans, the itinerary, and how to prepare for the trip. We’ll arrive in Tel Aviv, and tour the city before heading north for two days and then south to Jerusalem. The daily schedule is full of tours, sites to see, foods to taste, and interesting speakers and new experiences. It’s difficult to know what’s on everyone’s mind about the journey.

Leaving for a trip to Israel makes many people think about comforts of home they’re leaving behind. Are there hairdryers in the hotel rooms, is not an unfamiliar question. Will there be restroom breaks, is of great interest. Are there a lot of lectures, is a concern. Yes, yes, and no, are some of the answers. Israel is unlike the familiar photos of dusty archaeological sites. Though there are many dusty sites, Israel is a very modern country. Its technology is at pace with the United States. On my last visit to Israel in 2009, it was difficult to find an Israeli without a cell phone. In a country of modern conveniences, we will experience religion, politics, and culture as it has been lived for centuries. We’ll walk on Jerusalem stones from the 1st century CE, and observe military maneuvers from the 21st. There’s no other place on earth where the same thing can be done.

We’ll bring home pictures and souvenirs. But, as it often happens, everyone will come home with something they can’t easily share in pictures or mementos. There’s just something that one’s eyes, ears, hearts and hands have to sense. A postcard from Israel can’t recreate the unique rhythm of a place where life is at once Jewish, Middle Eastern, western, ancient and modern. If you’ve been to Israel before, I urge you to remember more than the sites you visited. For a moment, close your eyes and feel beneath your feet what it felt like to walk on Jerusalem stones, or where you put your hand when you prayed at the Western Wall. Recall the sounds of the streets in Tel Aviv, and the rush you felt when you reached the top of Masada. And, remember Shabbat in Israel, when you rested in the Holy Land.

If you’re on our trip or going soon for the first time, take more than pictures and come home with more than souvenirs. Use your senses and record everything in your eyes, ears, heart and hands. You might make notes in a journal, but don’t struggle to find the words you need. Write what comes to you and let them be “t’fee-lat ha-lev” or prayers of the heart.

Finally, it’s a custom to give to travelers to Israel, a written prayer on a small piece of paper to put into the Western Wall, or a dollar to give as tzedakah to a poor person. If you want to participate, email me a small prayer or make a contribution. I’ll receive your email in Israel, and I intend to bring with me many dollars to give away on behalf of Beth Israel and friends like you.

Friday night at Shabbat services in the Gordon Chapel at 6:30pm, all the travelers will be called to the bemah for a blessing. Wish the group well on its journey and let them bring to Israel your good wishes, hopes and dreams.

From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom, and next week from Jerusalem.

_________________________________________________

Contact Rabbi Lyon



11
05/21/2010 02:57 PM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon

by David Lyon

5-7-2010

The Confirmation Class of 2010 will take its place on the bemah in the sanctuary this evening. They will lead us in worship, read the Ten Commandments from Torah, share personal words about Confirmation, and receive a blessing from their rabbis. Dressed in white robes and surrounded by their peers, the Confirmands will celebrate their achievements in Jewish studies and understanding.

Since their bar and bat mitzvah year, they have continued to participate in Jewish life at Beth Israel. This year they studied about God and ways to imagine God for themselves. They also studied the roots of Reform Judaism, and how it is understood today. Their studies were intensive and deep. No question went unanswered and every issue of interest to them was addressed.

The Confirmands represent an above-average group of students. On the one hand, they are an accomplished and bright group of young men and women. They succeed in school, sports, and a variety of interests. They are, in some cases, experts in their fields of interest, and have received awards and commendations. On the other hand, they are as typical and interesting as any teenager in the 10th grade could be. They were respectful in class, but waiting for the hour to end; they were engaged in learning and programming, but anxious to turn on their cell-phones again. They complied with our schedule for retreats, ropes course, and discussions, but they had a full day of goals after class to accomplish.

Rabbi Scott and I, their Confirmation teachers, are very grateful to them for their interest, time, and energy. No doubt they’ll finish the Confirmation service with a great sense of accomplishment and an equal amount of relief that they can focus now on final exams and summer plans. They are wonderful, normal and healthy teenagers and we are proud of their work and achievements and the goals they have set for themselves.

When we bless and thank the students, we must bless and thank their parents, too. Jewish life and its importance for some is an inherent, if not instinctive, need. For many others it must be raised to a level of a Jewish value that is cherished and observed. Our Confirmation students were encouraged and in some cases pushed to attend classes. They understood for themselves what lessons with their rabbis and friends might mean for them as they grow up to lead their own lives and make their own choices. Without the wherewithal and knowledge to make choices that include Judaism, the future of Judaism would hang in the balance. So, we bless and thank the parents whose wisdom and strength led them to show their children the right and good path to take. Surely it was the right thing to do; God willing it will also lead to good choices and a good life inspired by even one lesson they learned in class and one example modeled by their parents.

Tonight, we invite you to join us for the Confirmation Service, at 6:30pm, in the sanctuary. We will honor our students who will lead us in the future. We will honor Beth Israel’s longstanding commitment to the covenant we make with God, by teaching our children Torah, and showing them the way to Jewish service, now and in all the years to come.

From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

_________________________________________________

Contact Rabbi Lyon


12
05/14/2010 02:57 PM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon

by David Lyon

5-14-2010

The U.S. Constitution requires that a census be taken up every ten years. The counting includes every person of every household. The importance of the census is found in the way resources are allocated to states, cities, and communities and population trends are noted, etc. We’ve been told numerous times how important it is to participate and be counted. If there’s a blank census form in your house, fill it in and mail it back immediately.

Had the technology been available, this is the way the census might have been done in ancient times. Instead, God only had to command Moses and Aaron to do it:

Take a census of the whole Israelite community…listing the names, every male, head by head. You (Moses) shall record them by their groups, from the age of twenty years up, all those in Israel who are able to bear arms. (Numbers 1:2-4)

Knowing who is in the community was as important then as it is, today. However, note the meaning of the words, “all those in Israel who are able to bear arms.” This suggests that able-bodied men were counted. We know this from verse 18, “the names of those aged twenty years and over.” They were strong enough to fulfill the obligations of the community including defending it and the Tabernacle.

In commentaries, the rabbis look beyond the military purpose of the census to the meaning of the covenant God makes with the Israelite people. They want to know, “Why does God count the children of Israel, at all?” Their answer is consistent with our expectations of the covenant we all share with God. They explained that like any precious collection, God counts the children of Israel to be sure that each one is present. What’s more, the rabbis emphasize that God didn’t count them only when they were good, but throughout their life and journey. The 11th century commentator, Rashi, teaches us:

Out of awareness of the love of them (the Israelites), God counts them every hour. When they went out of Egypt, God counted them; and when they transgressed with the golden calf, God counted them…when it came time put upon them the divine Presence, God counted them… (Rashi on Numbers 1:1-2)

Compare God’s census to the way we count our family members. When my children were very young, my wife and I never failed to count the family as we entered and later exited a theme park or a restaurant. Can you imagine leaving one behind? In our own family, we counted four children, two adults, and sometimes our babysitter. Seven in and seven out. At bedtime, we checked their beds. When they were good and when they were not so good, we counted them and always kept them close. As God is like a loving parent to us, so we love our children, and you love yours.

In Bemidbar, the first portion of the Book of Numbers, which we begin this Shabbat, we are all counted among God’s children for all time. The census has been around a long time. Because we matter, it’s always time to stand up and be counted.
From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

_________________________________________________

Contact Rabbi Lyon


5
05/07/2010 02:57 PM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon

by David Lyon

4-16-2010

Last week, Lisa and I went to see the movie, “Date Night” starring Tina Fey and Steve Carrell. This isn’t a movie review but it’s a lot better than commenting on this week’s Torah portion, Tazria-Metzora, which is about skin infections and bodily emissions. The movie is about a modest couple, both employed, two kids, babysitter, requisite dog and suburban home. Their marriage is in a rut after nearly 20 years. They barely have energy after work, they talk themselves into staying home on the weekend, and sex is about as interesting as dry toast.

Finally, they decided to throw caution to the wind and embark on a big-city dinner. The alternative was to go down the path of their friends whose marriage was failing. Upon arriving at a chic restaurant they learned that they would have to wait interminably for a table. When the hostess called a name and no one responded, they took a risk and pretended to be the people who didn’t show up for dinner. The rest of the movie is the result of their decision to have a little fun, to take a risk, and to shake things up a bit. You’re safe now to see the movie, because I won’t give away any more of it.

The madcap plot was everything they didn’t want to happen and everything they needed to happen. They discovered that their lifestyle suited them better than they knew. Being someone else or trading their problems for others’ was no way to solve the problems they thought they couldn’t overcome on their own. A modest suburban home with all their possessions and demands sounded like a perfect life for two people who just needed to save a little more time for themselves on a regular basis.

Date Night sounds a lot like what many of us need. Lisa and I have always reserved my day off for dinner out, alone. No kids, no friends. Just the two of us. We turn our cellphones off, find a quiet place for dinner, and talk. If the conversation falls silent for too long, we’ve learned how to ask each other, “Whatchya thinkin’?” It works every time. We talk about the kids, work, pressures, and pleasures. We usually conclude that the evening was just what we needed. When our kids were very young we’d come around the block on our way home, and before we entered the house we made sure they were in bed. Now, of course, we go to bed before they do, but our date night still means the same.

Come to think of it, date night has a lot to do with Tazria-Metzora. It’s a portion that defines boundaries of holiness. In ancient times, skin infections and bodily emissions were taboo, because they were strange and infectious. Torah describes how they were contained for the welfare of the community. After many years, marriage can produce its own taboos: topics of conversation to avoid, sexual issues that can’t be addressed, and the inevitable rut that is something no one wants to touch. When they are left unattended the home, the marriage and the kids become infected with apathy and everything falls apart.

The goal is to address the issues that are most difficult to address. In ancient times they had methods and formulas for dealing with taboo subjects and issues. Their goal was not to let things fester; but, rather to deal with them directly and turn what was once taboo into something sacred, again. We can do it, too. Date night is just a beginning for any couple that needs to address taboo topics in their marriage or relationship. Rather than let years of partnership be dissolved, Torah urges us to take on the topics directly and turn dry toast into French toast smothered with butter, syrup and powdered sugar.

From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

_________________________________________________

Contact Rabbi Lyon



1
05/07/2010 02:57 PM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon

by David Lyon

5-7-2010

On Sunday, we’ll celebrate Mother’s Day. I don’t know who invented it, and I didn’t search the Internet for the answer. But, Mother’s Day is consistent with Jewish expectations that we should honor our mothers (Exodus 20, the Fifth Commandment). For me, it’s not only a commandment, it’s also a pleasure.

Many words have been written to describe the role of our mothers. Many poems and songs have been composed to express deep feelings about our mothers, too. Kahlil Gibran reflects:

The mother is everything. She is our consolation
in sorrow, our hope in misery and our strength in
weakness. She is the source of love, mercy,
sympathy and forgiveness. Those who lose their
mother, lose a pure soul who blesses and guards
them constantly.

In certain instances, I’ve used Gibran’s message to console one whose mother has gone from life. He captures what is true about mothers at their best. They provide unconditional human resources that balance life’s harshest experiences. When mothers are gone we can feel adrift. Gibran doesn’t veil the truth. He helps us grasp it. He uses words like “lose” to capture the real emptiness we might feel. Even so, Judaism teaches us, “A jewel that is lost remains a jewel forever.” This wisdom helps us retrieve what is lost by cherishing it for its everlasting value and meaning.

On Mother’s Day, we honor our mothers who are jewels to us. To me, it’s sad to learn about relationships where mothers and children don’t share much love. It seems to me that childhood doesn’t have to summarize the whole relationship. It’s more likely that we were not at our best as children, and that our mother didn’t have all the skills she needed under what might have been trying circumstances. Now, as adults, it can be time to set aside the past and build something new. A phone call or a card would be the first step.

Best of all are the relationships that are filled with love. I remember the adoring story of a son who truly blessed his mother with time and friendship. In her best times, the whole family came around to share many special moments. The grandchildren knew her and looked forward to her visits. In her worst times, her son was there to comfort and, in some cases, nurse her. It was a natural expression of love shared; it enriched the whole family when they observed one generation serving the other, and how a son can truly honor his parent.

Mother’s Day might make you feel very grateful for what you have or for what you had. Either way, it’s time to cherish a jewel that is yours to hold or to remember. “The mother is everything.” May it be said of you or your mother, “Blessed is she, and she has been a blessing.”

From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

_________________________________________________

Contact Rabbi Lyon


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