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72
11/24/2011 08:51 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
November 25, 2011

 

“How not to win the Jewish vote” was the headline of the article by Michael Medved in USA Today on Monday, November 21, 2011. It caught my attention. In the article, Medved writes, “Republican identification as the more viscerally, consistently pro-Israel party won’t attract American Jews as powerfully as they’ll feel repelled by the GOP image as the more outspokenly religious party --- and particularly the political home of the enthusiastic Christian Evangelicals.”

                Medved is right. There isn’t any political aspirant who wouldn’t support Israel and its relationship with the United States. You know the drill: it’s the only democratic, western, and modern state in the tumultuous Middle East, and the only true ally we have. Assuming, then, that all GOP candidates hold this position and wouldn’t negotiate it, there must be another litmus test that might separate them from potential Jewish votes.

                The single issue that would test even the most secular Jew would be a candidate’s outspoken religious message, and Medved means the Christian evangelical one. His article reminded me of an event that Lisa and I attended many years ago at Minute Maid Park, where a popular Houston preacher led a prayer on the occasion of George H.W. Bush’s birthday. Sitting with Jewish friends who invited us to join them, the preacher said, and I paraphrase, “Those who don’t join us in prayer to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, please allow those of us who do to offer our thanks.” I remember feeling shocked; I turned to Lisa and remarked how alienated I suddenly felt for the first time in my life. It was a foreboding sign of the religious chasm that was growing in our country and with deep roots in Texas.

                Years later, when Rick Perry supported and attended the August 2011 event at Reliant Stadium to pray for rain, it offended Jews and mainline Christians, alike. As a keen observer noted last summer, Rick Perry prayed for rain and the state burned. However, on Yom Kippur 2011, following a day of solemn prayer, worshipers exited Beth Israel and saw a magnificent rainbow in the sky after the first day of rain we had had in many months. Obviously, it’s not a contest; but their noxious religious boundaries which are nothing new to us will be --- should be --- reasons Jews don’t vote for any candidate who opposes our Jewish positions on matters beyond Israel. In America, issues such as abortion, civil unions, women’s rights, comprehensive immigration reform, education, health care, and tax reform are all causes that carry with them formidable Jewish points of view with roots in Torah, not Texas.

                I’m not supposed to use my pulpit for partisan politics, but a Blog for religious rights seems terribly appropriate in our country that takes a cue from Torah, Leviticus 25:10, “Proclaim liberty throughout the land for all its inhabitants.” This year so much is at stake and not just for the 99%. America needs a leader who can reach 100% of our nation’s men, women and children. Full from Thanksgiving, it’s time to preserve the reasons we are all grateful Americans, by supporting candidates who speak for everyone, no matter how they pray. Tell anyone who asks, that God hears Jewish prayers and Jewish votes count.

                From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving and Shabbat Shalom.


71
11/17/2011 09:44 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
November 18, 2011

 

Thanksgiving is around the corner. You can tell that Thanksgiving is coming because the stores are decorated for Christmas. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but neither do Christmas store displays that begin in October. Nevertheless, the quintessential American holiday of Thanksgiving is coming and it’s one of our favorite times of year.

                This year in my house, my four children will be home, three from college and one who thinks she’s an only child soaking up all her parents’ love. Well, some days she really is. And, my mother will be visiting for the first time without my father. Since his death, we’ve been anticipating what Thanksgiving will be like without him after so many years with them both. We can’t wait to see my mother, but when I pick her up at the airport it’s going to be one of those “firsts” we’ve been talking so much about. But, I am confident that after some tears, we’re going to dedicate this Thanksgiving to the gifts of his life and the cherished memories we still share. Something of him is not gone, and the closeness we’ve come to feel in the family is part of the thanks we’ll give when we gather this week. I know that many of you will do the same when you remember your loved ones at Thanksgiving, too.

                As you come around your table, this year will be different in ways that are unique to your family circle. Some are gone, but others have joined you. There are new babies, new sons and daughters-in-law, and new friends. Our tables always seem to have room for one more chair and one more person to fill it. It’s the nature of the holiday. Some families will be coming around the table in the hospital where a family member is recuperating. Thanksgiving happens everywhere, not just in the dining room. Where family can be together in life, reasons to give thanks can be found.

                Before the Turkey is carved and eaten, please take time to share words of thanksgiving. Let everyone share what’s in their hearts. Or, perhaps you might find meaning in one of the texts below. These citations are from original sources and from an anthology of Jewish quotations (1956), which I saved from a heap of books. Take a look. You’ll recognize many of them. Share them if you wish.

 

  • “It is good to give thanks to God.” Psalm 92.2

  • “Be not like those who honor their gods in prosperity and curse them in adversity. In pleasure or pain, give thanks!” Akiba, Mekilta to Exodus 20.20

  • “Lord, I thank You for the goodness of growth, I thank you for the slice of bread and the prayerful mood.” Ben Amittai.

  • “Who directed the first prayer of thanksgiving to God? A woman, Leah, when she cried out in the fullness of joy, ‘Now again will I praise God!’”

  • “If a Jew breaks a leg, he thanks God he did not break both legs; if he breaks both, he thanks God he did not break his neck.” A Yiddish Proverb

  • “As long as the soul is within me, I will give thanks unto You, O Lord, my God and God of my fathers.” Talmud, Berachot 60b; Union Prayerbook Book

 

From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving and Shabbat Shalom.

 

P.S. Mark your calendar for December 2nd, and Shabbat Chazzanut (Ḥahz-ah-NOOT), a music Shabbat dedicated to Cantorial Arts, 6:30pm, in the sanctuary, www.beth-israel.org.


70
11/02/2011 09:19 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
November 4, 2011

We’re going to Israel! Congregation Beth Israel’s trip to Israel is planned for June 10-19, 2012. The details are now available on our website at www.beth-israel.org. Click on the “Our Communities” menu and you’ll find a link to “Join us on our Trip to Israel”. You’ll find the itinerary, a registration form, and lots of information.

                Why go now? There is no time like the present to travel to Israel. Sometimes we say we’ll wait until the political climate is better. Nu? The political climate has been thorny for thousands of years and you’re going to wait until it subsides? Our trip is always safe. We never go beyond reasonable boundaries and security is always a top priority.

                Who’s going? You’re going and you’re bringing your friends and family with you. This is a trip for first-timers and those who have gone in the past. We have a two-track system that will allow familiar travelers to see sights they haven’t seen and for first-timers to have the trip of a lifetime. In addition, we aim to see technological and innovative companies and demonstrations that make Israel a part of the past and the future.

                Where are we going? From north to south, and east to west, we cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Our hotels are first class, our meals are first rate, and our time is planned to provide meaningful experiences at every point along the way.

                What are we going to do? We’ll use all our senses when we’re in Israel. We’ll see, smell, touch, hear, and taste what we’ve never known and what we’ll never forget. We’ll worship, too, but not in the familiar ways. In Jerusalem, looking over the Old City, on Masada, at Yad Vashem, and in the hills of the Galilee, we’ll find words deep in our hearts and souls we could only find in Israel.

                Perhaps you have questions before you sign up. Please call me or Marcia Nichols, our trip chair. We’re eager to talk to you and answer your questions.

                It just so happens that this week we read in Torah from Genesis 12:1, where God says to Abram (Abraham), “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” It’s a good sign that it’s time for us to leave home (though not forever) to visit the land that God showed our ancestors. What’s more, commentaries on this portion suggest that Abraham didn’t leave just for God; rather, he left for himself. The Hebrew “Lech-lecha” teaches that Abraham learned more about himself when he valued the journey and its purpose, personally. How could he have remained the same after such an experience? The Hebrew tells us that he didn’t. He was changed forever. This land flowing with milk and honey, technology and prosperity is for us to see and cherish. What do you hope to see there? How do you hope the experience might inspire you?

                In advance of our trip, we will hold classes to prepare and even learn a little Hebrew. This is a unique and fun experience we don’t want you to miss. “Next year in Jersualem” is not so far off as you once thought. My wife, Lisa, and I look forward to leading the trip and to welcoming you in Israel.

                From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.


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