MAY 2021 NEWSLETTER
IYAR / SIVAN 5781
MAZAL TOV TO...
Solomon Fasken, grandson of Steve and Susie Broidy, who celebrated his becoming a Bar Mitzvah on May 1 in Missouri
The Temple office had a computer glitch last month, and it has been necessary to rebuild several computer files. We hope we did not leave out your email address, but if you have not been receiving the weekly Reminders, please contact the office and let us know. It is important that we keep everyone up-to-date with events and services. Please help us ensure that your address is on our email list.
We hope you have been able to return to Temple for worship services on Friday nights. We have been holding in-person services since April 16. We continue to observe social distancing and have masks available if you choose to wear one. Services are still available thru Zoom at least until the end of May.
~ RABBI'S CORNER ~
BEING DELIBERATE: A LESSON FOR SHAVUOT
The holiday of Shavuot occurs this year on May 17 (beginning the evening before; Temple Sholom will mark its observance on the preceding Friday night, May 14).
Commemorating the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai by G-d to the people of Israel seven weeks after they were freed from slavery by G-d, Shavuot is a reminder that freedom from slavery was not an end unto itself. Rather, it was the beginning of a process by which the Jewish people would be able to freely accept the Divine assignment of being ''a kingdom of priests and a holy people.''
During the seven-week period between Passover and Shavuot, it is customary to study Pirke Avot (popularly translated as ''Ethics of the Sages''), a compilation of Rabbinic aphorisms which focus on how to live as a responsible human being and a good Jew (Hillel's famous words ''If I am not for myself, who will be for me'' are found here). According to our Sages, studying this text during the weeks preceding Shavuot is a most fitting way to prepare for commemorating receiving the Torah.
After describing how the Torah was passed from Moses down to the Men of the Great Assembly (ca. the beginning of the Second Temple era, when the Jews returned from the Babylonian exile), it begins with this teaching: Hevu m'tunim ba-din/be deliberate in judgment. The Hebrew word ''m'tunim'' also means slow and careful. Although this seems to originally have been a directive to Sages in their role as judges and magistrates, clearly it is also a directive to us laypeople, cautioning against making swift, premature judgments in everyday life, without investigating facts and considering circumstances.
Some might ask: why does this even need to be stated? Isn't it a given? Answer: we might have thought so. But as we consider how many situations in our daily lives and the life of our country and the world elicit premature, ''shoot, ask questions later'' responses, it is truism that we often are not m'tunim/deliberate in our responses.
In his essay ''Thinking Fast and Slow,'' Rabbi Jonathan Sacks zt''l writes that one of the tenets of the Enlightenment affirmed by thinkers like Descartes and Kant is that human beings are first and foremost, rational animals. However, recent neuroscientific studies have shown that Descartes and Kant were incorrect; human beings are driven more by emotion and less by reason. Referring to Daniel Kahneman's book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Rabbi Sacks writes that we human beings have a ''dual-system'' brain: one track is rapid, reactive, instinctive, emotional, subconscious; the other is slower, conscious, calculating, deliberative. The former evolved to help us to respond quickly to potential dangers. The instincts that we would consider ''benign'' are those that helped us evolve into social beings: we instinctively feel empathy when another person is in trouble and often respond by offering assistance. We feel natural attachments that cause us to want to defend members of our families and communities.
But of course, not all human instincts/feelings are benign. The primal feelings of anger, fear, hate and the desire for revenge once may have been more functionally necessary. But with the creation of social communities governed by moral standards of law and order, right and wrong, such instincts can be deeply destructive when they lead to impulsive, unrestrained violent behavior. That is why our Sages tell us that ''being deliberative'' in our responses to challenging situations - to not impulsively act on our immediate feelings, but to ''think slow,'' to pause and reflect before acting or even before forming an opinion - is so necessary.
We can see just how necessary by observing children. From the time they begin to interact with others, the behavior of small children is ''first track'' - they respond impulsively, according to instinct and often their responses are out-of-control. Ideally, part of their education in becoming mature, responsible adults is to help nurture and develop their ''second track,'' in order that they can respond more deliberately and therefore more appropriately.
I recently witnessed a poignant demonstration of this with my own four-year-old grandson. When he was confronted with a situation that frustrated or angered him, his immediate response was to scream or cry. But rather than immediately punish him with her own ''first-track'' anger, his mother/my daughter responded by encouraging him to ''use his words'' - to shift from an explosive ''first-track'' response to a more moderate ''second-track'' mode of thinking about how to articulate what exactly was bothering him.
Unfortunately, this kind of ''adult' behavior that my daughter and others like her want to nurture in their children today is often absent among many people of chronological adult age. One only need read or listen to the infantile, impulsive verbal or physical attacks by people against those with whom they disagree to understand how ''first-track'' responses have come to be an acceptable replacement for discussion and debate of issues and the peaceful resolution of our differences.
On Shavuot, we are reminded of our assignment to be ''a kingdom of priests and a holy people.'' On Shavuot, we are reminded that this assignment is about setting an example for others: not succumbing to impulses and feelings, but rather striving to be m'tunim/deliberate in our responses and our behavior.
For those of us for whom tikkun olam/repairing the world is a central tenet, the tikkun/repairing begins with a deliberate focus on repairing ourselves.
-Rabbi Cary Kozberg
~ CONTRIBUTIONS ~
- In honor of your special birthday to Faye Flack from Eddie and Laurie Leventhal
- In honor of the yahrzeit for Blanche Stillpass from Stan and Phyllis Nedelman
JEFFREY D EBNER YOUTH FUND
- In loving memory of Joel Labovitz from Harvey, Lyla and Ann Bailin
- In honor of the publication of my grandson Nathan Ebner's new book, Finish Strong, from Lyla and Harvey Bailin
- In honor of the 2nd Wedding Anniversary for Nathan and Chelsey Ebner from Lyla and Harvey Bailin
- In memory of your fiancé to Natasha Koufas from Harvey and Lyla Bailin
~ YAHRZEIT LIST ~
MAY 7: Alan Buchfirer, Benjamin Feldman, Lazer Gerson, Robert M. Gold, Rose Heller, Rose Kimmelman
MAY 14: Boris Ackerman (father of Joan), Ann Gaynor, Anna H. Levy, Harry Rich, Jennie Rich, Abe H. Sachs, Faye C. Sachs, Beverly G. Weiser (mother of Judith), Anne J. Blumberg (mother of Frayda Beloff), Dr. Erika Garfunkel, Dr. Benjamin Kepnes (father of Ellen Levine), Margaret E. Klang (mother of Doug), David Sterling Margolis, Ralph Rickenbach, Carol Elaine Stein
MAY 21: Norman Block, Sallie W. Feldman, George Kleeman, Mark P. Kossoff, Harry E. Leventhal, Samuel Reich, Harry Rosenfield, Ruth S. Werber, Louis Stillpass (father of Phyllis Nedelman)
MAY 28: Robert Ackerman, Judith Elaine Kossoff, Dorothy Krane, Albert Long, Dorothy Pollens, Catherine (Cherri) Rich, Henry Zappin, Bertha Beloff (mother of Larry), James B. Graves, Eunice Pesselman (mother of Laurie Leventhal), Edward Wolf (father of Fran Rickenbach)
JUNE 4: Justin A. Altschul, Jennie G. Arnovitz, Ben Kaufman, Harry Kossoff, Louis Krauss, Joseph Thurman, Minnie Russack, Barbara Leventhal Stern, Arthur Fred Willens