Shabbat Shalom from Rabbi Ain – December 8, 2017

A Reflection on President Trump’s Statement on Jerusalem:
Over the course of 2017, we have celebrated numerous milestones in connection with Israel. In June, we celebrated 50 years since the miraculous victory of the Israeli army against its Arab neighbors during the 6-day war where Jews, for the first time, had full sovereignty over sacred spaces in Jerusalem. At the beginning of November we celebrated 100 years since the Balfour Declaration, which announced to the world the United Kingdom’s intention to help create a State for the Jews in the Jewish Homeland of Palestine. And at the end of November we celebrated that it has been 70 years since the UN Partition plan was approved, thereby giving Israel the ability to declare statehood just 6 months later. Each of these events, we can imagine, were complicated at the moment they occurred, and have had numerous ramifications since and yet we celebrated at the moment, despite the fear and concerns that ensued.
As a Jew and a Zionist, I celebrate all three of these events as they re-affirm the importance of the Jewish connection to the land of Israel-something that we should be able to do, unapologetically. Being alive with the sovereign State of Israel is something that is nothing short of incredible and I appreciate it daily. Having been to Israel numerous times, and spending most of my time in Jerusalem, I was particularly moved this week when President Trump affirmed that Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel. Still, like many others, I am concerned about the ramifications of the timing of this statement.
This is a complex situation that comes at a complicated time. To those who are ambivalent or critical of President Trump one could say, we don’t need to focus on the messenger but focus on the message. Others could say, the statement was unnecessary since Jerusalem is already the Capital and we shouldn’t need any external force to affirm that which is obvious. A third could say, that they wish this didn’t happen because it could be perceived as the “death of the peace process” and worse that it could add fuel to the fire in the Arab world which will only cause harm and death for Jews and Arabs alike. There is truth in many of these statements.
While I believe we have cause to celebrate that the United States is finally recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (something that has had bi-partisan support for decades), I am concerned that the timing, will not help advance the cause of peace or security.   As we anticipate a necessary two-state solution, whenever that may come, I am hopeful that the capital of Israel can be in West Jerusalem just as one day a capital of a Palestinian state might be in East Jerusalem.

So in conclusion, I share the words shared with me by the New York Board of Rabbis, of which I am a member. “In our prayers we ask for ‘blessings of peace and welfare for all the nations of the world.’ Israel cannot find peace alone, but only face to face with her Palestinian partners who also want to live in peace. Those who call for ‘days of rage’ vitiate this vision for people on both sides who genuinely want to seek an end to this senseless conflict that has taken countless lives. Thus, we will continue to pray and work for peace. It is our most fervent hope that Israelis and Palestinians will pursue peace in tandem, so that we can soon witness another historic day on which Israelis and Palestinians will celebrate together.”

Shabbat Shalom! This week we read Parashat Vayeshev. In this Torah portion, Jacob favors Joseph, and this angers Joseph’s brothers. Joseph has dreams in which he predicts reigning over his brothers, provoking them further. They decide to sell Joseph into slavery in Egypt. Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute and sleeps with her father-in-law, Judah. In Egypt, the wife of Joseph’s owner tries to seduce Joseph, and when he rejects her, she accuses him of trying to rape her and has him sent to prison. In prison, Pharaoh’s baker and butler have dreams, and Joseph interprets them correctly.

Friday night services are at 6:15 pm and Saturday morning services are at 9:15. Candle Lighting is at 4:10 pm.

We encourage you to join us whenever you can at Friday night services but especially TONIGHT. Following services, there’ll be a cocktail reception with drinks and hors d’oeuvres, plus a special Holiday season program. We will be inviting representatives from a group of “giving” organizations to discuss their missions and tell us how we can help them in their work.

TOMORROW MORNING-We will welcome Mark Hetfield, the CEO of HIAS, who will share his thoughts on the role the Jewish community can play in welcoming the stranger.

Thought question: As Jacob “settles” in the land we know that he is about to be unsettled, yet again. Is this a warning that we are never truly settled or is it an aspiration that eventually we will find a place to call home?


Please note: Morning Minyan this coming WednesdayThursday, and Fridaywill begin at 7:45 am because of Chanukah.

I would like to thank all those who fasted this week in honor of the fallen Torah. They include: Susan Goodman, Sandy Strom, Daniel Lederman, Gaby Alper, Laura Vollmer, Evan Roth, Ivan Wolpert, Phil Mann, Shari Pochapin, Estelle Midoneck, and Josh Orenstein
Here are reflections of many of those who completed their fast during this past week:

Susan Goodman

I was in the sanctuary attending Shabbat morning services when the Torah actually fell.  Everyone gasped.  We all waited to hear from Rabbi Ain what would be required  in response.  Would one person be responsible for the Torah falling?  Would one person have to fast for 40 days or give a large donation in place of fasting?  She calmly explained that in lieu of one person fasting for 40 days, 40 people could each fast for one day over the next 40 days.  People could also give tzedakah in lieu of or in addition to fasting.  So many people signed up that on many of the forty days there was more than one person fasting.  It felt good to be part of a community and doing my little part-fasting for one day.  This fast was different from the fast on Yom Kippur.  In this instance, fasting began at sunrise and concluded at sunset.  Drinking water was permitted throughout. It was a good participatory learning experience.

Gaby Alper

To stand by the Torah is awe-inspiring.

To watch the Torah fall is devastating.
Fasting to restore the honor, dignity and respect that we owe to the Torah was especially gratifying and meaningful for me. It afforded the opportunity to make things right.
Throughout the day fasting created a heightened awareness of my personal sense of Judaism. The feeling to preserve and keep safe the holiness of the Torah and everything it represents was foremost on my mind the entire time.
I felt an even deeper and more embracing spiritual connection to the traditions that have for centuries united our people. And still today these traditions continue to bring together the members of our congregation.

The communal sharing in this profound experience of showing reverence for the Torah has made me both proud and grateful. Certainly this memory will have a lasting impact on us all.

Ivan Wolpert

I had a fascinating day. As it turned out, I had to be out town in Cincinnati and Columbus and if you just think that sounds like the definition of a dull day, you’re half right.

My overwhelming take away was my feeling of connectedness with the SPS community and Judaism. Each time I noticed it was time to eat or had that pang of hunger, my mind snapped back to the Torah , our community and what being Jewish meant. Much in the way that during Passover I am reminded I am Jewish at every meal, there was a profound spiritual reminder as well as a reminder of the SPS community. throughout the day.

Phil Mann

Knowing that others are doing the same thing is pretty powerful – as is the sense of continuity of this taking place over the course of 40 days, knowing that you’re taking the baton from someone before you, and then handing it off to someone else.

Shari Pochapin

My mother thought that what we were doing as a community was so beautiful that she decided to fast with me today.  So, for me, this fast was about love.  Love of a mother and daughter, love of a community that bound together, and love of Torah.  I am honored to be part of a family, community and faith that is fills my life with love.

Daniel Lederman

I had little time for reflection during the work day, but once Shabbat started, I studied the parsha to further honor the Torah. As I read about Jacob’s difficult reconciliation with his brother, Esav, I was struck by how challenging it could be to repair some type of damage, but how much easier it is when playing one small individual role in a larger community effort.

Laura Vollmer

Fasting in response to the fallen Torah made me realize the significance of the question I was asked during my Beit Din, “How are you Jewish on a random Tuesday“? I chose, this time on a random Monday, to stand in solidarity with the congregation of SPS. My desire to show support after a swastika was drawn on our doors, and again after the Torah fell, confirmed that yes, I feel connected to Judaism on any day of the week but especially on those unexpected days.

Evan Roth

I joined the SPS community about a year ago, prior to which I was not a member of a synagogue and had not regularly attended Shabbat services since I was a child. The members of SPS have been so welcoming and I have really enjoyed the network of people I have gotten to know through the Young Professionals and other events. Although having something so sacred fall to the ground and suffer physical damage is tragic, I viewed the fast as an opportunity to carry the (figurative) weight of that Torah and for the SPS community to come together and interact in ways that we would not otherwise have had the opportunity to. I’m happy to support and stand with a community that has made me feel so supported and welcomed.


PLEASE NOTE: In light of the upcoming conclusion of the 40 days of fasting on DECEMBER 21, please join with me at SPS at 5 pm to study Torah and to conclude the fast with the mincha/maariv service together. 



CLICK HERE for the Chanukah blessings and other information about the holiday.


JACKSON RELIGIOUS SCHOOL will celebrate the 2nd night of Chanukah together on Wednesday December 13. Families will gather at 5:30 pm in the ballroom.


Do you want to get to know fellow SPS members! Come to a NY Islanders Hockey Game with the Men’s Club. CLICK HERE for more information for this December 11 Outing or join them on Thursday night December 14th for a Latke making party! CLICK HERE for more details.

Join us for an awesome concert by Jam with Jamie followed by Chanukah treats and crafts. Please rsvp to Lesley Goldenberg.

$30 per family

All members of SPS are invited to a very special program and dinner on FridayNight December 15th where we will welcome our newest members to the SPS family.
Kabbalat Shabbat Musical Service: (Note special time) 5:30 – 6:15 pm
KabalTOT Service: 5:45 – 6:15 pm (2nd floor of SPS building)
Dinner: 6:15 pm we will all join together in the ballroom for food, fun & festivities – something for everyone.
$25 per person – children 12 and under are free
Complimentary for all members who joined after January 1, 2017
WE NEED YOU TO RSVP! Email or call office 212-593-3300
Debby Eisenson, Dinner Chair

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Ain