Montebello Jewish Center   34 Montebello Road, Montebello, N.Y. 10901   (845) 357-2430   www.Montebellojc.org facebook twitter

 

 

 

 

 

   Rabbi Joshua S. Finkelstein

    Phone:  (845) 357-2430  Extension 402
    E-Mail: rabbi@montebellojc.org

 

  

 

 

 

Rabbi Joshua S. Finkelstein joined Montebello Jewish Center with over twenty years of pulpit experience within the Conservative Movement serving congregations in New York and New Jersey. He received his ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary and his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Columbia College of Columbia University in New York. Rabbi Finkelstein was a Visiting Lecturer at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he taught the first-year seminar required of all rabbinical students guiding them to recognize and communicate the meaning and vitality of Jewish rituals and texts.

A past president of the New Jersey Rabbinical Assembly, Rabbi Finkelstein also served as the Chair of the Intergroup Relations Committee of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the UJA of Northern New Jersey. He was on the editorial board of the Community Faith and Values section of The Record. He is married to Elana Gershen Finkelstein. They have three children, Sarah, Eli, and Becky.  

Rabbi Finkelstein looks forward to speaking with you about Montebello Jewish Center and your Jewish journey. He can be reached at MJC or by email at RabbiJSF@gmail.com.

 

From the Rabbi's Study

 

To the Moon and Beyond

 

I was looking up at the moon around three o'clock this afternoon, but of course, I could see nothing. In the afternoon light the moon was not visible, and even if it was, I would not be able to see what I was looking for -- a small satellite with an Israeli flag landing on the lunar surface. I had to go inside and search the heavens online. This afternoon, Israel attempted to become the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the moon (the others being the United States, Russia, and China). Though the landing was not successful, Israel became the seventh country to have a satellite orbit the moon and the fourth to attempt a lunar landing. The effort originally stemmed from an attempt to win an international contest, but subsequently transformed into a national effort to meet technological and scientific challenges and became a source of Israeli pride. So, in the middle of the afternoon in Montebello, NY, I was drawn to the moon.

This was in contrast to earlier in the week, when I went outside at night surrounded by members of our community to gaze at the moon and offer the blessing called Kiddush Levanah. Kiddush Levanah is a blessing said from the third night of the Hebrew month through the middle of the month, as the new moon is waxing in the sky. We refer to Kiddush Levanah as a blessing of the new moon, the new month, and life. It reminds us of the continual renewal of life each day, each month, and each year. This week we greeted the new month of Nisan, the month of Passover, and as we looked at the moon, we reflected that this was the same month, the same moon, that our ancestors saw as they gazed at the heavens in the land of Egypt on the eve of their redemption thousands of years ago.

We look at the same moon and realize that nothing in the heavens has changed. The moon today is as it was thousands of years ago. But while our ancestors could only see with their eyes, we have ever sophisticated telescopes and technology that allow us to "see" farther than they could have ever imagined. Yesterday, while Israel's satellite was approaching the moon, coincidentally, the first "pictures" of a black hole were being transmitted around the world by an international collaboration. Computers and mathematical algorithms and a planet-sized network of radio telescopes has allowed us to see what was previously unseen, a black hole in the middle of a far-off galaxy. This is just a further step in the human attempt to understand the mysteries of the universe. Each step brings more knowledge and even more questions, as we marvel on the world God created.

Over the centuries, much has changed on earth. Our ancestors suffered as slaves and we are a free people who have returned to our ancestral home and have established our own nation, the State of Israel. This Pesach, as we celebrate the redemption from Egypt, we recognize that there is still much work to be done to make our world free and just.

Our ancestors looked to the heavens with thoughts of redemption. Today, as we peer into the sky, we see possibilities and dreams of the future in space and on earth and that is worth celebrating every month and every day.

 

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi Joshua S. Finkelstein

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Three Scrolls 

 

Every Shabbat is special. This Shabbat is special in a special way. This Shabbat we will read from three separate Torah scrolls. Normally on Shabbat we take out one Torah and read from the weekly portion. On some Shabbatot, there is an additional reading because the specific Shabbat coincides with a holiday, such as Shabbat during Hanukah, Rosh Hodesh (the beginning of a new month), Sukkot, Passover, or Shavuot. There are also four other Shabbatot that come this time of the year, preceding Passover, that have an additional Torah reading, which requires a second scroll. They are Shabbat Shekalim, Shabbat Zachor, Shabbat Parah, and Shabbat Hahodesh. On rare occasions, some of these special days and special readings coincide to create a Shabbat where there are three separate readings and we remove three Torah scrolls from the Ark. This Shabbat is one of those special occasions.

This Saturday we celebrate Rosh Hodesh, the first day of the month of Nisan. It is also Shabbat Hahodesh, one of the four special Shabbatot before Passover. Therefore, in addition to our regularly weekly reading of portion Tazria from the Book of Leviticus, we also have the reading for Rosh Hodesh from the Book of Numbers and the reading for Shabbat Hahodesh from the Book of Exodus. Each of these readings has a lesson to impart, and I will leave that for Shabbat services, but the reading from multiple scrolls has a unique lesson that our rabbis imparted to us through the instruction to use three separate Torah scrolls this Shabbat.

If we only had one Torah scroll in our synagogue, we would read all three readings from that one Torah scroll, rolling the Torah from Leviticus to Numbers and back to Exodus. Since we have multiple Torah scrolls, our tradition instructs us to use a separate scroll for each reading, not because of the importance of each reading, but to lessen the stress on the congregation. Sitting in the congregation while the scroll is rolled and rerolled is considered an undue burden on those who came to shul to learn and pray. To maximize our time in prayer and hearing the words of Torah, our rabbis instituted the practice of using a separate scroll for each individual reading.

So . . . join us this Shabbat for the rare occurrence of seeing three Torah scrolls removed from the Ark. Each will be read and we will offer words of Torah and prayer. Our Hebrew School will join us for Shabbat Mispachah, with our 6th and 7th graders helping lead our service and our Aleph class will be receiving their first Siddurim. Three Torah Scrolls, prayers, children, and song will truly make this a Special Shabbat. 

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi Joshua S. Finkelstein

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Next Year in Washington

 

This week I traveled to Washington, DC for the annual AIPAC Policy Conference. As always, it was energizing, exhilarating, informative, and transformative. More than 18,000 attended Policy Conference and in addition to learning about and supporting Israel, we became advocates for Israel. The speeches and the sessions were moving, and the final day of Policy Conference, Advocacy Day, brought us face to face with our legislators. Two of our representatives to Congress, Senator Charles Schumer and Congresswoman Nita Lowey, addressed the entire conference. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand met with the New York delegation on Tuesday. All three are known to be strong supporters of Israel and it was important to thank them for their support and encourage them to continue their strong support of Israel.

As important as the lobbying and advocacy are, perhaps the most rewarding aspect of Policy Conference is discovering Israel anew each year. At every conference, there are presentations on Israeli technology, social action efforts, and engagement with the world. Among the stories that were told was one about a program called Net@. Net@ is an Israeli technological youth movement. While Israel is called the start-up nation, there remain segments of Israeli society, teens from small towns and disadvantaged communities, that do not have access to computers and technology. Net@ brings together Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Bedouin, and Druze students from all over Israel to study technology, and to learn skills they will need to become part of the start-up nation. At Net@, the students learn with each other and from each other.

Too often we are drawn to stories of division and hostility, Net@ is a story of cooperation and respect. It is at once changing Israeli society and showing the best of Israeli society. This is only one among dozens of stories about Israel that remind us why Israel is so special and why we must do all that we can to strengthen the America - Israel relationship, a relationship that is in the best interest of America and Israel.

Over the past weeks, many have asked about AIPAC and next year's Policy Conference. I would love to have a large contingent from MJC join me next year, as we know how important this will be as the US readies for the presidential election. Even beyond politics, AIPAC Policy Conference brings the best of Israel to us and reminds us of the blessing that is the State of Israel.

In a few weeks, at our Seder tables, we will shout out "next year in Jerusalem." While we can hope to be there, we should remember our eternal obligation to be there for Jerusalem and Israel. At Policy Conference, we can be there for Israel, even if we cannot physically be in Israel. So we pray, next year in Jerusalem. I hope you also join me in Washington.

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi Joshua S. Finkelstein

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