Shabbat Shalom from Rabbi Ain – December 22, 2017

Shabbat Shalom! In this Torah portion, Vayigash, Joseph’s brothers refuse to return to Canaan without Benjamin, whom Joseph has falsely accused of theft. Joseph reveals his true identity and invites his brothers to return for their father, Jacob, and bring him and their families to Egypt to live. When they return, Joseph introduces his father to Pharaoh, and, at Pharaoh’s suggestion, the family settles in Goshen, a particularly fertile region of Egypt.

Friday night services are tonight at 6:15 pm and Shabbat morning services are at 9:15 am. Candle Lighting is at 4:14 pm.

Thought question: How does this parasha link us back to the major themes in Genesis? Why is it important to study the language of the text?

Please note: The synagogue offices, schools, and services will be closed on Monday December 25 and Monday January 1. This gives all of our employees, of all faiths, the ability to spend holidays with their families.

I would like to thank all those who fasted this week in honor of the fallen Torah. They include: Jeremy Reiss, Jessica Reiss, Diane Oshin, Natalie Kent, Sara Angrist, Fred Molod, Helen Wrobel, and Jeff Uffner. I was also proud to participate in the fast yesterday to conclude the process.

Here are reflections of many of those who completed their fast during this past week:

Diane Oshin
I picked a good day: one of the shortest days of the year!  It was a relatively easy fast and a wonderful way to feel like part of my synagogue community.  I was proud that I could do SOMETHING, and shared the fact that I was fasting to help get beyond our fallen Torah, with my Peruvian physical therapist and anyone else I interacted with that day.  As I age, I am very aware of my Judaism and I become increasingly proud of my heritage.  This was a part of that process.

Natalie Kent
When I awoke but still not fully awake I remembered that I was to begin my day differently.  I would be fasting — not for any medical test that I would be taking but for a commitment that I made – a commitment to my community and to honor the holiness of the Torah.  The choice  I made in participating in this fast came out of a love of being Jewish and valuing and respecting what that means to me.  Reflecting on this during the day gave me much comfort.

Jessica Reiss
I was in the synagogue when the Torah fell, but I was not in the sanctuary at that moment. It took me a while to process – it’s one of those circumstances that of course happens, but one that I had never experienced. I view taking part in the fast and giving tzedakah to support the repair of the Torah as an opportunity to give something back, to be grateful to be part of the SPS community, and to say thank you. It has solidified my resolve to become a more involved member of the congregation going forward.

Fred Molod

WHY!! When I first heard about the Torah incident, and read Rabbi Ain’s suggestion of a contribution, or one day of fasting from sun up to sundown, I chose the line of least resistance. A check helped the Temple and did the job.

However, as I read the comments of congregants who chose fasting, I was in a quandary. Why, as many expressed their feelings did this day feel so different from many days, wherein we were to busy to have lunch (and breakfast). I decided to, and did try it. I told my wife in advance, and she respected it. We usually breakfast together. As we sat, and she had coffee, I felt very good about myself. Why, I mused, did I feel this way. I had lunch with my partners and associates, and while we often discuss business, I again  pondered: why do I feel so good about not eating. I discussed the reason for my fast with all present (some Jewish and some not). Not one person raised a negative comment. All respected what I did. Why did no one think it foolish. Just before dinner hour I attended evening minyan. The prayers were the same, the synagogue was the same, yet I did not feel as though it was any other day. WHY

Jeremy Reiss
Each Yom Kippur we all fast together as a community and as a people.  While that fast may have different meaning to different people, we all take some comfort in knowing that we’re all “in it together”.   This was different.  I was in the synagogue that day when the Torah fell and I heard the gasps and experienced the uncertainty that followed. I felt I had to do my part to make it right. Throughout the day I kept returning to the thought that this is “on me” and that this fast was mine and mine alone.  To have fulfilled that commitment, and to be a part of turning a negative into such a positivecommunity event was really inspiring and uplifting.

Sara Angrist
On a typical Tuesday, Greg drives our children to school and I work-out in the morning then eat breakfast while reading emails at my desk.
However, this past Tuesday, I got up early to eat before sunrise, Greg still made the school run, and then I exercised before heading to work.  Breakfast usually holds me just fine until lunch, but this past Tuesday, I felt hunger pangs around10:30am.  Not a great start for a fast day, but I figured that 4:31pm would come quick enough since my schedule was booked back-to-back until 4.  At 4:25pm, getting ready to bring my lunch to the microwave, I noticed daylight still streaming through the windows.  I checked my pocket Jewish calendar and realized that googling “sunset in nyc” had given me the time when the sun fell below the horizon, but I really needed the time of three stars in the sky which was5:13pm.  What a long 42 minutes that was!
I recently started Abigail Pogrebin’s My Jewish Year in anticipation of her talk on Jan 27 and happened to read the section on Simchat Torah the evening after my fast.  A quotation from Rabbi David Kalb really spoke to me.  He said, “How powerful it is that the Torah is something so sacred – we’re so careful with it all year round – but at the end of the day, we’re dancing with it.  Passing it.  It’s out there.  It really makes a statement:  the Torah should be out there in the world.  It shouldn’t be sequestered.”  I completely agree with him and was grateful that there is a process for restoring dignity to a sacred Jewish object.  It is better that our Torah should become worn through use than remain pristine in the Ark.  I was glad to be part of the communal fast.


I look forward to engaging in interactive Torah study with our community, following kiddush on January 6th. We will join together in the Charlotte K. Frank Learning center.

The third session of the Jewish parenting class will take place on Friday, January 12th, immediately after KNS drop off.

CRASH COURSE IN JEWISH HISTORY with Dr. Benjamin Gampel-Medieval Jewish History!
Thursday, January 18th at 7:30 pm. We hope to see you there!
(Did you miss the first class in the CRASH COURSE IN JEWISH HISTORY? CLICK HERE to watch the video of Dr. Burt Visotzky on Ancient Jewish History.)

Saturday, January 27th during services and Kiddush

Each SPS member family received a copy of My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew, written by Abigail, thanks to the extraordinary generosity of our devoted member Irving Sitnick. Abigail will discuss her latest book, which chronicles her experience researching and observing every holiday in the Jewish Calendar.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Ain