Due to severe weather conditions tomorrow (it’s going to be above the 100’s here in NJ!), the organizers of the Families Belong Together event scheduled for tomorrow at 1:00, have rescheduled the event to 11:00 am. That means I won’t be able to attend (Baby Naming and Morning Service at the temple), but Dave will be going. So if you’re still attending, please look for the Hubbitzen!
Here’s the full message from the host of the Families Belong Together! event:
Due to the very hot weather conditions we are expecting tomorrow during the time of our event, we have decided to change the time to 11 am-1 pm. I apologize for the late notice. We feel that this new time is safer for everyone attending. I apologize also for anyone, who can’t attend due to this time change.
Thank you all again for participating! I hope you are still able to meet us tomorrow.
Thanks to the profound social uproar across our nation and around the world, an executive order was signed to stop separating children from parents. However, according to CBS News correspondent David Begnaud:
“One day after [the executive order was signed] questions remain at the border: so far it’s unclear what will happen to the children that have already been separated.”
In other words, as of now, thousands of kids are still separated from their parents with no strategy to reunite them. There is still much work to be done before we can all sit down with our families to enjoy the blessed bliss of Shabbat.
Regardless of our individual political views and affiliations, as Jews we must all agree on one thing:
“The reported physical mistreatment of minors, including pregnant teens and those who have recently given birth, as well as the separation of children as young as 18 months old from their parents, is horrific.”
This statement was issued by Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center (RAC), on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the broader Reform Movement.
Many of these migrant families are seeking asylum in the United States to escape violence in Central America. Taking children away from their families inflicts unnecessary trauma on parents and children, many of whom have already suffered traumatic experiences. These refugees are NOT criminals, and this practice of treating them as such must stop.
Our Jewish tradition calls on us to welcome the stranger, to treat immigrants fairly, and to empathize with the widow and the orphan because we, ourselves, were once strangers in the land of Egypt, and many other lands throughout our painful history.
Our people’s history reminds us of the many struggles faced by immigrants today and compels our commitment to an immigration system in this country that is kindhearted and fair.
It’s true that there are immigrants who attempt to enter the U.S. illegally, and that is wrong. I, too, was an immigrant, but I went through the appropriate channels. However, I was not desperate. I was not a refugee. And I pray to God that I, my family, or anyone else I know will never be one, or become that desperate.
So while we must have laws that protect our borders even from desperate people, those laws must compassionately reflect our most fundamental moral principles.
To date, 26 national Jewish organizations and institutions have united to send a message to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. An excerpt:
“On behalf of the 26 undersigned national Jewish organizations and institutions, we write to express our strong opposition to the recently expanded ‘zero-tolerance’ policy that includes separating children from their migrant parents when they cross the border. This policy undermines the values of our nation and jeopardizes the safety and well-being of thousands of people.”
I pray that our government will soon reunite these children with their families. I pray too that most, if not all TBT members will make their voices heard, helping to bring about the end to these harsh and harmful policies.
You can start right away!
* JoinRabbi Meeka and Dave for the Families Belong Together event in Clifton:
When: Saturday, June 30 at 1 p.m. (local time)
Where: Main Memorial Park, Clifton, NJ 07011
For more details (Copy and Paste onto your browser)
To read more about Families Belong Together event:
* Read: “Eight Ways to Take Jewish Action Around Family Separation” which includes information about how we can donate to detainees and separated children:
Please help us to spread the call for better treatment of refugees-because that is The Jewish Way. As the Talmud reminds us:”By the breath of children God sustains the world” (Talmud Bavli, Shabbat 119b)
Shabbat Shalom, Shabbat of peace,
Rabbi Meeka Simerly
June 15th is going to be very special!
During Erev Shabbat Services, we will be honoring YOU – our TBT volunteers -with individual recognition.
We want to recognize your energy, creativity and generosity of time. We want to express our gratitude for your participation in providing one or more of the many religious, social, cultural, and educational programs TBT offers and for your dedication to maintaining our Jewish community.
Please attend services on Friday, June 15th, so we can recognize each of you and express our thanks.
Erev Shabbat services begin at 7:30 pm with an Oneg Shabbat immediately following.
Memorial Day may not be a Jewish holiday per se, but the concept of remembering and honoring our brave military people who risk, and sometimes give, their lives in service to the rest of us is certainly a Jewish value.
I’d like to invite you to join our congregation this evening, Friday 5/25/18 at 6:00 pm, as we offer a special prayer in honor of our fallen soldiers, by the open ark.
I’ll add here Rabbi Dr. Laurence Milder’s prayer, which I find very powerful:
We are united this day in a solemn act of gratitude: to those who have served in our nation’s defense, to those who have risked their personal safety to save the lives of others, and above all to those who have died serving this country. Their sacrifices are forever remembered by us and by our children for generations to come. We do not forget.
Our hearts go out to those serving today in our armed forces, and to their families. In all our many faiths, we are united in this: our prayers are with those who serve our country today. We ask God that they may return speedily and in good health and safety to their loved ones.
And may God grant each of us the wisdom to uphold this nation’s virtues, that it may continue to serve as a beacon of liberty and harmony between peoples, for all the world to see. Amen.
Rabbi Meeka Simerly
My short teaching on this Shabbat is 2 fold: tonight I’ll share with you some thoughts and quotes from the world of prayer, the world of song and Jewish Mysticism.
In a way, prayer is a song: it’s a song of one’s soul and heart. And this week’s Shabbat muzikali reflects the song of my own heart and soul.
Rabbi DovBer Pinson wrote in his book The Kabbalah of Music that “Music has the distinct ability to stimulate a rainbow of emotions. One song can evoke joyous feelings, while another prompts sadness…The reason people are so affected and moved by music is because it reflects the sounds in which the soul was accustomed to hearing, prior to its descent into this world. It is the language of ‘above.’”
It is for this reason that children in particular are soothed by music.
One of my beloved teachers, Rabbi Mordechai Finley taught us that in Jewish mysticism, the Seraphim, the archangels, or Malachei Ha’Sharet, Malachei Elyon, were created for one and only purpose: to serve God, to sing God’s praises and hail the Art of Creation with love and devotion unto the Creator.
Angles would always praise God, because this is the nature, the essence of their being. Just as humans naturally express love to one another, so is the nature of the archangels: they adore and love the Divine. If a skeptic would ask: “Why should there be so much love and praises for God?” One could answer that the angles “are driven to express love and gratitude to God, just as human’s natural drive is to express adoration to beauty.”
In the book of Iyov, Job 38:7 it is written that the angels “shouted for joy” and “sang together in awe, in unison and thankfulness when they first saw the earth’s foundations laid out.”
This is why our Sages, the ancient righteous ones, have always chosen a path of singing before the Holy One: to get a taste of that loving relationship between the angels and God.
Our liturgy, when expressed through song, teaches us how to sing unto God, express our love for the Divine, and by doing so, we get to tap into that same essence, as experienced by the angles themselves.
Let’s turn to page 142 and welcome the ministering angels, the messengers of the most high, majesty of majesties, Holy One of blessing. Shalom Aleichem, is a 17th century Shabbat song, probably composed under the influence of Lurianic Kabbalah, which stated that “Two Archangels accompany each of us home form the synagogue as Shabbat begins.”
“Shalom Aleichem Malachei Ha’Sharet, may peace engulf and surround you, O Archangels, as you bless us with your presence.”
In our Siddur, on page 211, we find a quote by Reform Rabbi Israel Mattuck who wrote:
“Prayer gives us the guidance we need. It opens the mind to the illumination of God…Through prayer, we can receive the guidance of God to strengthen our hold on truth, goodness, righteousness and purity, which are the laws of humanity emanating from the nature of God.”
Music prepares the heart to speak genuine words of adoration, until one’s words are overflowing with love, devotion and kavanah, true intention.
In our ancient Holy Temple, the Levites would sing their songs, accompanying themselves with a variety of musical instruments, including an Ugav, a stringed instrument, Tof, tambourine or hand-drum, Kinor, violin, Tzilzalim, cymbals, Shofar and Chatzotzra trumpet, Chalil ve’Nevel, flute and harp.
These instruments are mentioned in Psalm 150, from the Book of Tehillim. There are 150 Psalms: in Gimatria, the esoteric study of numbers, adding 1+5+0 equals the number 6, which corresponds to the 6 days of creation. Add One, which is not only a reference to our One God, Adoani Echad—it is also a reference to the one day of rest, known as Shabbat, our Holy Sabbath Day. Shabbat.
How beautifully intricate is the connection between the Book of 150 Psalms, One God, and the One Day of Holy Shabbat, which is God’s gift to humanity.
The Kabbalists say that each element in our world has its tune that accompanies it, each existence in Nature has it’s own spiritual rhythm. There is a heavenly rhythm above that parallels the rhythm below. When one is attuned to a higher reality, one can then hear these sounds, which continuously emanate from nature, and resonate with those heavenly rhythms from above.
The soul, then becomes One with all.
And in the spirit of this teaching, we will now join together in singing God’s praises: Ha’leluya! Praise be to the One, as we surround ourselves with these sounds of our hearts and souls.
Rabbi Meeka Simerly
While writing this sermon, I had in mind our 4th Graders who co-lead the service with the guidance of their teachers, Ms. Beth Julie, and our educator, Ms. Marian Kleinman. They did such an amazing job: everyone’s faces were beaming with sheer nachas! We engaged in lovely conversation, some of our students shared their thoughts and feelings about “treating animals with kindness,” and how our own animals sometimes treat us when we need them.
I am sure you have heard me say in the past how essential it is to be kind to one another. We always talk about how important it is for each of us to see each individual human as a unique being who carries inside him or herself a beacon of light, a sparkle of God, which is called a נשמה, a soul.
From very early age we are taught: “Whatever is unpleasant to you – do not inflict, or do onto others!” We are reminded over and over how important it is to treat other beings the way that we would want to be treated.
But what happens when that other is not a person but an animal? A goat for example, a horse, a cow, or a dog?
In one short sentence appearing in this week’s portion, Parshat Emor, the Torah states the appropriate relationship between us, humans, and animals—yes, even those animals that some people eat. The verse is:
“And whether it be cow or a lamb, you shall not kill it and its offspring, both in one day.” (Leviticus 22: 28)
What is the meaning of this command and what does it come to teach us? Why should the animal and offspring relationship be mentioned in the Torah?
The simple answer is that God created the animal kingdom in a very balanced way and we are not to disturb it: we have to learn how to respect nature’s order. Certain animals are food for other animals, for example: mosquitoes are food for lizards, and lizards are food for birds of prey. A chicken will never eat a mouse and a cat will never consciously eat a mosquito.
The world of animals is conducted in a consistent balance that we must respect and leave undisturbed and the animals unharmed—ultimately, by doing so, we avoid harming ourselves. The key word is balance.
We must remember that keeping the balance and respecting all living creatures and their place in this amazingly complex and brilliant world of ours is essential for human survival. The genius of our tradition is reflected in Emor: it teaches us reverence, sensitivity, and laws about Judaism’s appreciation of the role of animals in our lives.
One of my all times favorite quotes about animals’ place in our world was written by Dr. Irene Pepperberg, a Harvard scientist of languages, who studied animal cognition, focusing on “Alex,” a magnificent African Gray parrot. She wrote in her book Alex and Me that,
“…animals teach us the meaning of ‘oneness.’ There is just one Creation, One Nature, one good, full, complete idea, made up of individuals of all shapes and designs, all expressing their oneness with One God. We are not different because we look different, but we all reflect the eternal beauty and intelligence of One Creation in our own peculiar way. It’s what make up the whole—this textured fabric of thought and existence.” (Alex And Me, Irene Pepperberg)
Children, I want to ask you two questions:
Lastly I wanted to sing a very special song, which I learned quite a few years ago. I used to sing it to all my children of all ages, year one through 90, as well to all doggies who came for Paws Shabbat; a wonderful celebration of our 4 legged friends that we did in San Jose, CA. Let me know think about it:
“God and Dog” by Wendy Francisco
Simple spelling, g.o.d.
Same word backwards, d.o.g.
They would stay with me all day;
I’m the one who walks away.
But both of them just wait for me,
and dance at my return with glee.
Both love me no matter what
Divine God and canine mutt.
I take it hard each time I fail,
but God forgives, dog wags his tail.
God thought up and made the dog;
Dog reflects a part of God.
I’ve seen love from both sides now;
It’s everywhere, Amen, Bow-wow.
I look up and I see God;
I look down and see my dog.
And in my human frailty,
I can’t match their love for me.
🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾 Rabbi Meeka 🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾