Yom Rishon, 1 Kislev 5778

Temple Israel Articles

Rabbi's Letter - October 2014

on Friday, 15 August 2014. Posted in Rabbi

Rabbi Yisrael Salanter was the founder of the 19th-century Mussar movement in Lithuania. One evening, as he was walking home, he passed a shoe-repair shop and saw the shoemaker working very late by the light of a flickering candle. Rabbi Salanter asked him why he was still working so late into the evening. The cobbler responded: “As long as the candle burns, there is still time to make repairs.” Rabbi Salanter was stunned by the man’s reply. He repeated the words to himself, over and over: “As long as the candle is still burning, there is time to make repairs.” What it meant to Rabbi Salanter was that as long as the light of one’s neshama (the soul) still burns, there is still a chance to improve oneself, and to draw closer to the Creator.

Rabbi Salanter understood that there could be gaps between our knowledge and our behaviors. He created Mussar, a discipline of practices to transform one’s behavior that involved small changes over time. The Mussar masters promoted a path of very gradual change involving routine and regular step-by-step practice. Rabbi Salanter taught that change involves small steps, repeated regularly, since what changes quickly in one direction can just as easily change back again.

Although we may understand on an intellectual level the need to change, to do things differently, it is quite another thing to actually take steps towards that transformation. If you go to the doctor for a checkup and find out that your blood pressure is too high or that you need to lose weight, but you choose not to do anything about it, then the information has little impact on your life. If however, you choose to make small daily changes—taking a pill for high blood pressure, committing to take a short walk at lunchtime each day—then over time we make those small changes and our life is transformed. Walking this way requires patience, as Rabbi Yosef Yozel Hurwitz (1849-1919) noted: “The problem with people,” he said, “is that they want to change overnight—and have a good night’s sleep that night, too!

We all know that change does not happen overnight, much as we sometimes wish that we could make it magically happen. We aren’t going to step into a tele-phone booth like Superman (if there are any telephone booths left anymore!) and fly off to spin the world back in time and right the wrongs we have done, or fly off to save the world in record time. Real, lasting change happens not in a leap but through a series of small steps.
Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv, (1824-1898), another master of Mussar, taught that we make changes to improve our relationships with God and with our loved ones “in simple things, small things, to come through them to the greatest heights.” He also taught, “It is the work of a lifetime, and that is why you were given a lifetime in which to do it.”

Everyone’s life has its challenges—some more difficult than others. It is through the experiences that we have in life and how we are able to deal with those challenges that we grow and change. As we look back over the last year, can we see the ways in which we have grown and changed? Growth is a fundamental part of life. Every-thing that is alive is growing. Trees, plants, birds, fish, and insects, are all growing or dying. And the same is true for us.

The Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe) each year remind us of that possibility, our potential to change and grow as human beings. It is more important that we start some-where and not be concerned with it being the “right” place. It is more important that we take one small step and find right behind that step another small step to take and not be concerned with our progress on the journey being too slow. It is enough that we take the first steps on this journey of a lifetime. The spiritual challenge is in the moment. This year as we open our hearts and our souls on this journey of transformation, may these small steps move us forward in the coming year to transform our souls and our lives on this journey of a lifetime.

L’shalom,

Rabbi Audrey S. Pollack


Excerpted from Rabbi’s Erev Rosh HaShanah sermon.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L’shalom,

 

 

 

Rabbi Audrey S. Pollack

 

 

 

 

 

Rabbi's Letter - December 2014

on Friday, 15 August 2014. Posted in Rabbi

 Dear Friends,

From January 15th through April 30th, 2015 the World Zionist Organization will hold open voting for all Jews to help shape its agenda, including issues affecting both Jews in the diaspora and within the state of Israel. What is the World Zionist Organization? The WZO is a worldwide democratic organization which brings Jews together to strengthen Jewish life in Israel and around the world, through the allocations of Jewish communal funds and work of its own agencies. The WZO was founded at the First Zionist Congress in 1897 by Theodor Herzl. It is mainly supported by the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Jewish National Fund and United Jewish Appeal. Elections are held every five years and allow Jews around the world to have a voice in the future direction of Israel and world Jewry. The elections determine policy, direction and budget allocations. The World Zionist Congress makes decisions as a result of these elections that have a major impact on the future direction of Israel and across the world. The outcome of these elections influence policy and hundreds of millions of dollars in funding which affect the status of Reform and Progressive Jews in Israel and also the funding available to Progressive Jewish congregations. Israeli citizens are represented in the elections through political parties in Israel; Jews worldwide are represented through international Zionist political parties that they are members of. There are 30 countries represented in the WZO and the Reform movement has constituent organizations in 14 countries, through Arzenu (known as ARZA in North America). As with any elections, whoever receives the most votes receives the most important positions and control of the budget allocations.

In the last elections, ARZA US gained 56 representatives (out of 145 for the US). The entire ARZENU political party received 83 delegates worldwide out of 500. By joining forces with its faction partners, ARZENU became the leader of the largest faction in the WZO with a combined total of 159 representatives. As a result, ARZA was able to pass three resolutions calling on the Israeli government to implement the establishment of egalitarian prayer at the Wall, to pass a marriage and civil divorce law and to prosecute Israelis who incite racism. And today the Reform Movement in Israel receives allocations of $4.5 to $5 million each year from the Jewish Agency, Jewish National Fund and United Jewish Appeal.

Voting in the upcoming WZO election is the strongest way for you as a Reform Jew in North America to encourage our progressive values of social justice, equality and democracy in Israel. If you care about the Reform Movement in Israel, and want to help build a Jewish state that respects religious pluralism, stands up for women’s equality, promotes democracy, and a peaceful solution to the ongoing conflicts in Israel this is your opportunity to make your voice heard loud and clear and to make a difference in Israel.

ARZA and its partners are working for religious equality, for the right of Reform rabbis in Israel to have religious authority over marriage, divorce, burial and conversion. They are working to support women’s rights in Israel, to support egalitarian prayer, and to promote Progressive Judaism (Reform) in Israel through the financial support of Reform congregations, rabbis, and schools.

Any US resident who is Jewish and over the age of 18 by June 30, 2015 is eligible to vote. Voting occurs from January 15th through April 30th, 2015. A processing fee is $10.00 USD ($5.00 USD for anyone under 30) and goes directly to offset the cost of conducting the election (not to ARZA). For more information about how to vote in the upcoming WZO elections, visit www.reformjews4israel.org, pick up a pledge card here at Temple Israel or contact ARZA at 633 3rd Ave, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10017.

L’shalom,

Rabbi Audrey S. Pollack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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