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359
08/09/2018 03:00 PM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
August 10, 2018

 

 

The time is ripe for renewing health, well-being and peace. 

 

In Torah this week, Re’eh (see) is the first word of the portion. "See, this day I set before you blessing and curse…” Our Sages teach that the word is written here in the singular form. In subsequent uses, the word is written in the plural form. The reason is that while the commandments are set before the whole people (plural form), each individual must ‘see’ (singular form) for oneself.

 

            Together or alone, we see with more than our eyes. Seeing also suggests knowing and understanding, as in "I see what you’re saying.” To see something, therefore, means to be understanding of an idea in the abstract. When God said to the Israelites, "See, this day I set before you blessing and curse,” it could only mean that the people were becoming aware of what God placed before them to enjoy or to suffer.

 

 

In ancient times, limitations on one’s ability to see and know could be a permanent obstacle to full participation in the boundary of the Jewish community. Unfortunately, long ago a blind or mentally challenged person could be excluded from fulfilling mitzvot for himself or on behalf of others.

 

Thankfully, in our times the ability to see has multiplied. Physical advances enable us to see with better lenses in our glass frames and through surgery. Developmentally, we have better ways to teach so that seeing and knowing is extended to all levels of learners.  Today, there are few if any limitations that would exclude one from full participation in the Jewish community.  

 

At Congregation Beth Israel, we give all our children the benefit of resources and support to accomplish what they can do at their very best. Our Aliyah (go up) program is designed for children with learning and physical challenges but whose potential to engage in Jewish life at Beth Israel is still great. The goal of Aliyah is to engage children with other children, their rabbis and cantor, and enthusiastic teachers. As they learn, each child prepares for the day when he or she will be called up (Aliyah) to the Torah at the age of bar or bat mitzvah. The service, tailored to their abilities, signals that every child can be a full Jewish adult in the eyes of the community and always a blessing from God.

 

            Likewise, adults need resources and support. Seeing and knowing are not easy when change happens swiftly and abruptly, technologically and globally. Who among us can accomplish everything we need to do without a network of specialized helpers? The pressure to keep up while maintaining equilibrium in personal and professional situations is among the challenges we struggle to master. Family can be helpful. Friends can be helpful where family cannot be. Professional mental health resources play a key role in supporting us. So do religious leaders who draw on reliable sources for ethical and moral guidelines that still speak to us today. 

 

            In Houston, there is truly no excuse for not calling, reaching out, or asking for help. It’s not a sign of weakness; rather, it’s a sign of strength because few of us can solve all our problems alone, let alone identify the problem in the first place. Seeing with clear vision is a blessing. Feeling unable to navigate safely is a curse. God didn’t promise only clarity; but, God did warn us that both the blessing and the curse are part of life. How we choose to find our way will depend on our willingness to raise a hand, place a call, or email a note to ask for what we need. God did promise that there’s always a way forward.

 

            If you or someone you know needs a helping hand, a listening ear, or a strong shoulder, please reach out. In this month before the Jewish New Year, the time is ripe for renewing health, well-being and peace. 

 


You may contact Rabbi David Lyon here.

 


358
08/02/2018 05:00 PM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
August 3, 2018

"Thank God for the blessings we’ve been granted and the privilege to enjoy them.” 

 

 

I’m back. Since June 1st, I was able to tour around Israel, be French in Paris, and laze in Colorado. Writing, reading, study and research filled in the gaps between hiking, sightseeing, eating and rejuvenating. Finally, Lisa and I returned from Winston-Salem, where our youngest daughter attended a summer theater program at Wake Forest University. Barely unpacked, but ready to return to my duties at Temple, it will be very good to be with you all, again. But, how do I properly complete this two-month excursion that filled me up and prepared me for the New Year?

From Torah we learn this week that Moses described to the Israelites all the resources they would find in the Promised Land, after their trek in the wilderness. In Deuteronomy 8:7-10, Moses says:

 

"For the Eternal your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams and springs and fountains issuing from plain and hill; a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey; a land where you may eat food without stint, where you will lack nothing; a land whose rocks are iron and from whose hills you can mine copper.” 

 

In the Promised Land, there is enough water for the people and to irrigate the fields. The soil, very rich in nutrients, can sustain and grow wheat and barley. There are grapes, figs, fruits, olive trees and honey for ordinary and sacred uses, alike. There is wine from the fruit of the vine for sanctification, olive oil to light the sacred lamps, and even honey that will later be associated with the sweetness of the New Year. There will be plenty of food and they will lack nothing, not even clothes and general provisions. Furthermore, the land and hills will provide metals and minerals to shape tools for use in the fields, and iron, used to make instruments of war, for defense.

Before the section concludes, Torah teaches us that after the people nourish and sustain themselves on all these rich resources, they must give thanks for all that they have been given. Deuteronomy 8:11 states, "When you have eaten your fill, give thanks to the Eternal your God for the good land given to you.”

            An examination of the Hebrew makes it clear that the people should eat and satisfy themselves. They should nourish their bodies and grow strong on the produce the land provides and the blessings God bestows on them. "V’achalta” means you shall eat. "V’savata” means you shall satisfy yourselves; in essence, take a big plate and have seconds, too. And, then, "u-veirachta” you shall bless the Lord your God; that is, give thanks.

            That’s just how I feel, and how I will properly end my time away. I’ll reflect on all that I consumed and not just the good food. I consumed great history, books, interesting articles, sweet air, fine friendships, and many awesome sceneries. I didn’t hold back. I truly relished the experiences and even stopped along the trails in the mountains to breathe deeply and smell the wood, water and grass that surrounded me. At meals, I ate seconds, believe it or not, and saved room for dessert and espresso. Then as now, I give thanks for all the blessings provided me. Now, I feel full and ready to provide for you, again.

            As Shabbat nears, let me thank Rabbi Adrienne Scott, Rabbi Chase Foster, and Cantor Star Trompeter for leading Shabbat services with inspiration in words and music, and for tending to our members with kindness and compassion. Thank you, David Scott, for welcoming new members over the summer and greeting familiar friends, too. Thanks to Michael Jenkins for overseeing the facilities projects and roof repairs that are essential to our safety and well-being in the congregation. Thank you, Kathy McMahon, my assistant, for being in touch and welcoming me back to my study at Temple. And, thank you to Bruce Levy and Irv Stern, who are trading places as Temple President. It’s a time of transition but also continuity. With every assurance that Beth Israel is well-prepared for the New Year, I’m grateful to them for their leadership and friendship. For all this and more, I thank God for the blessings we’ve been granted and the privilege to enjoy them, together.  

 


You may contact Rabbi David Lyon here.

 


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