JANUARY 2021 NEWSLETTER
TEVET / SHEVAT 5781
MAZAL TOV TO...
Bob and Leslie Buerki on the birth of their second granddaughter Zadie Galit Buerki. Zadie is the daughter of Robin and Amy Buerki and little sister of Leni.
Bobbi Mugford on the passing of her husband Frank this past December
May his memory be for a blessing
THANK YOU TO...
The Temple Board and Congregation for their kindness to me during this time after Frank's passing.
- Bobbi Mugford
~ RABBI'S CORNER ~
''Remember, we are interested in the lowliest sparrow.''
Christmas Eve, 1979: I was sick in bed with a bad case of the flu, making frequent trips to the bathroom sink to breathe in steam fortified with Vick's Vapo-Rub (as recommended by Dr. Mort Karlan, of blessed memory).
It was around 11 PM, and I had planned to watch Midnight Mass from Rome but didn't have the patience to concentrate on pomp and circumstance. So, after doing some channel-surfing, I happened upon a film I had never seen before. It was ''The Bishop's Wife'' starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven. I didn't know it then but along with ''Miracle on 34th Street'' and ''It's A Wonderful Life'' it too had been made in 1947, when post-War America needed a good dose of hope and a renewed affirmation of life's sacred purpose. Of course, now ''The Bishop's Wife'' is a Yuletide season classic. After watching it for the first time so many years ago, it has become my favorite of the three (and NOT just because it stars my namesake).
The film is about Dudley, an angel (Grant) sent down to answer the prayer of an Anglican bishop (Niven) who is torn between the stresses and obligations of his calling - particularly trying to secure a large contribution from a wealthy parishioner for a new cathedral - and his family duties to his wife (Young) and daughter. After Dudley identifies himself as an angel sent to help, the bishop is predictably skeptical but takes Dudley up on his offer to help. The bishop introduces Dudley to his family and staff as his new ''assistant.''
On his first day, Dudley begins to work on some clerical task, and the bishop curtly says to him: ''I think you're wasting your time on unimportant details.'' To which Dudley replies: ''Nothing is unimportant. Remember, we are interested in the lowliest sparrow.''
Hearing these words come out of Cary Grant's mouth umpteen times, they took on an added significance this year. I immediately recalled a recent comment made by a student during a discussion about G-d's responses to prayer. She remarked that she had been taught in religious school that we Jews recite the prayers in the prayer book because they are the prayers that we pray together as a people. But, when it comes to individual prayers, she was taught that we Jews don't pray as individuals to G-d, because G-d focuses more on ''the big picture,'' and not on the specific details of individual people.
My mouth dropped open, and I wondered (out loud, I think): how could a teacher in a Jewish religious school teach students that G-d doesn't pay attention to the prayers of individuals? I wasn't upset with my student who was recalling this. I was MOST CERTAINLY upset with the teacher(s) who either taught this outright, or who left the impression that it was so. After all, it is one thing for a teacher to have personal beliefs that may not square with Jewish teaching. It is quite another to tell children that their personal beliefs are what Judaism itself teaches! (Note: this is why I always use the phrase ''Judaism teaches...'' rather than ''Jews believe...''
When it comes to beliefs about personal prayer and by extension, one's personal relationship with G-d, we Jews run the gamut. Some of us most certainly believe that G-d cares about us as individuals because even focusing on the ''big picture,'' G-d is interested in the lowliest sparrow. Thus, G-d cares about us as individuals and pays attention to ''the words of our mouths and the meditations of our heart.'' On the other hand, some of us believe that G-d doesn't pay attention, either because G-d focuses only on ''the big picture,'' or because there is no G-d. Somewhere in the middle are those who are ''ambivalent'' - wanting to believe that there is a G-d who is paying attention to what happens to us personally, but not sure.
(Here it should be noted that not receiving the hoped-for response to a prayer is no more a proof that G-d doesn't care about human beings or that there is no G-d, than a parent not giving a child what he/she wants proves that the parent doesn't care...or that the child has no parent.)
Individual Jews may have various beliefs about G-d and prayer, but Judaism most assuredly teaches that there is a G-d who listens to individual prayer BECAUSE G-d cares about us and wants us to live in G-dly ways. This teaching is axiomatic to Judaism itself and is Judaism's main contribution to human civilization.
One need only to recall Tevye's ongoing conversations with the Almighty in Fiddler on the Roof - his arguing with, complaining to, and even scolding G-d - to understand that praying to/talking with G-d is not something that only believing Christians do. Au contraire, it is most certainly authentically organic Jewish behavior. One need only look at some of the Psalms - particularly #23 (expressing trust in G-d) or #6 and #22 (expressing cries of anguish to G-d), or the personal prayers of our Sages that made their way into our prayerbook to see that this authentically organic Jewish activity goes back several millennia AND to remember that way back when, we Jews taught non-Jews that G-d listened to individual prayer.
Our Sages believed deeply that not only does personal prayer ''work,'' but also that G-d deeply desires it. However, they also cautioned that a person who prays should remember three things:
1) ''The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call Him with sincerity.'' (Psalm 145)
2) G-d answers all prayers; sometimes the answer is ''yes''; sometimes the answer is ''no''; sometimes the answer is ''wait, be patient.''
3) ''You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find - you get what you need.'' (Mick Jagger)
We Jews are called by the name Israel - literally ''G-d wrestler.'' Our faith legacy is not just believing in G-d or submitting to G-d's will, but to wrestle with G-d - as a community, but also as individuals. Wrestling is a close-contact sport. Curiously, when one is wrestling one must embrace one's opponent even as one is struggling with that opponent in the ring. The struggle can be...and often is...fierce. But whether we are embracing or struggling with our Opponent ... we are not permitted to jump out of the ring.
Our Tradition teaches that G-d is most certainly interested in the lowliest sparrow. Sparrows respond as sparrows must respond. Even with a laser focus on the ''big picture'' G-d has a laser focus on each of us as well. But unlike sparrows, we can choose how to respond: stay in the ring...or jump out.
But even if/when we are in the fiercest of ''body locks'' with our Opponent...if the fierceness is sincere (see #1), the sincerity spurs more of our Opponent’s interest, and will get us to #3.
As we leave a hard year and begin a new one - we would do well to keep this in mind for the next twelve months.
- Rabbi Cary Kozberg
JOIN US FOR OUR ANNUAL (BUT THIS YEAR ''VIRTUAL'')
TU B'SHVAT CELEBRATION ON JANUARY 29
As has been Temple Sholom's practice for several years, we will be observing Tu B'shvat (the Jewish New Year of the Trees) on Friday evening, January 29 with a special Tu B'shvat seder, following Shabbat services. Because of current circumstances, both Shabbat services and the seder will be conducted via Zoom.
- A copy of the seder will be sent to congregants, along with the regular links to the Shabbat Zoom service and the Shabbat prayerbook.
- Tu B'shvat seder ''kits'' will be prepared and may be picked up at the Temple on Thursday, January 28. These will include traditional fruits (see below) and two small bottles of grape juice (white and purple).
For those preferring to prepare a ''kit'' themselves, you will need:
- carob chips
- an orange (to be sliced)
The traditional four cups of wine/grape juice - white, pink, light red, red/purple - may be created by mixing the white and purple in each cup to get the right ''color.''
IN ORDER THAT WE CAN PREPARE ENOUGH SEDER KITS, PLEASE MAKE SURE TO RESERVE YOURS NO LATER THAN MONDAY, JANUARY 25.
For those interested: there will be a virtual Tu B'shvat seder facilitated by the Ohio Regional Small Community Congregations, Jewish Community Legacy Project, and the Jewish Federations of North America/Network of Independent Communities on Sunday, January 24, 1:00 PM. More information including a link to sign up is coming soon.
~ CONTRIBUTIONS ~
Happy Holidays in honor of Eddie and Laurie Leventhal from Andy and Cathy Bell
In memory of Sam Kossoff from Stan and Phyllis Nedelman, Eddie and Laurie Leventhal
In memory of Frank Mugford from Eddie and Laurie Leventhal
~ YAHRZEIT LIST ~
JAN 1: Sarah Endelman, Morris M. Gold, Rose H. Holzberg, Toby Katz, Erie Maybruck, Clara Mendelson, Sylvia Rubinoff, Harry Sachs, Siegfried Sander, Sam Schechter, Manuel L. Soble, Mo Weixelbaum, Oscar Werber, Samuel Farber, Marvin F. Klang, Lillian Leventhal, Nathan Leventhal, Shirley Unger Leventhal, Lillian Nedelman (mother of Stan), Mary Schoemer
JAN 8: Bernice Jean Gerson, Anne Reich Krauss, Rose Krauss, Sophie Rubinoff, Abraham Schechter, Emma Schoenthal, Antonio Espinoza, Jr (brother of Rose Weiss), Dr. Eric Friedland, Jack Leventhal (father of Aaron), Lester Lind (father of Bobbi Mugford)
JAN 15: Lilly Balicer, Beryl Kaufman, Jacob Kleeman, Sonia Schechter, Arjae Kurtzhant (father of Itzca Zohar), Wendy Michele Bard Mesmer (sister of Priscilla Dixon), Rachel Zohar, Rae Zoldan (mother of Gail Russack)
JAN 22: Harry B. Hoffman, Dora Long, Ruth Maybruck, Bernard C. Zitsman, Samuel Draisen, Ethel Grodner (mother of Jack), Nellie Marenberg (mother of Gerald)
JAN 29: Lois Bernstein, Fannie B. Frand, Rosa Gardner, Max D. Gross, Isaac Levine, Tilly L. Levy, Ida Florence Zitsman, Robert Arthur Buerki (father of Robert), Hyman Kohn, Miriam Kurland (sister of Alan Feinstein)
FEB 5: Louis Broock, Joseph Gardner, Adolph D. Haas (father of Sandy Silverstein), Max Kleeman, Nathan Klein, Bonita S. Krauss (mother of Rick), Nelson B. Paris, Mary J. Rubin, Jack J. Schechter, Henry R. Ennis (father of Barbara Willens)