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

 

 

 

 

 

   Rabbi Joshua S. Finkelstein

    Phone:  (845) 357-2430  Extension 102
    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

 

Directions

 

Even in a world of GPS and Google maps, there are no guarantees that one cannot get lost. Turns can be missed, roads may be blocked, traffic sometimes gets rerouted, and even destinations change. Sometimes it is advantageous not just to look forward at one's destination, but to look back at the origin of the journey and see how far one has traveled. As a people we look back at our starting point in this week's Torah reading.

The portion this week is Lech Lecha, which tells both actually and metaphorically, the start of Abram and Sarai's journey and the beginning of our story as a Jewish people. The story begins before their names are changed to Abraham and Sarah, and even before they are living in the Land of Canaan. In the opening line of the portion God tells Abram, who is living far off in the city of Haran in northern Syria, to pick up and leave and go "to the land I will show you." God promises Abram that he will become a great nation and he will be a blessing.

Abram traveled with Sarai to this far off land and when he arrived he traveled throughout the land from the north to the south. Once in the land, God restates the promise to Abram, that this land would be given to his descendants. Abram pitches his tent throughout the land and makes his way south to the Negev. Then we read that there was a famine in the land, so Abram and Sarai head to Egypt.

The story of Abram and Sarai continues and we read of their travels and travails over the coming weeks, but in this week's story, we learn important lessons about journeys, theirs and ours.

We learn that journeys are not always linear. We begin in one place and our destination is another, but very rarely is the path direct without turns and detours. Abram and Sarai head to the land that God promises them, but they wander throughout the land until they settle in the Negev. Once there, famine strikes the land and they seek refuge in Egypt, which leads to a second lesson.

In Abram and Sarai's sojourn in the land, we also see that journeys continue. Though they arrive in the land God promised, they need to flee temporarily to Egypt. This foreshadows the future journey of our people, and reminds us that our journey is not characterized by a destination, but a direction.

Finally, we learn that their destination was not a place as much as a mission. Abram and Sarai were called by God not merely to move to a new place, but to move the world. By following God's call, they will bring the message of one God, a just, loving and merciful God, to the world. The reward for their obedience to God, is not that they will be blessed, but that they will become a blessing to the world.

We can look at Jewish history and question the price our people have paid throughout the generations, but if we step back, we can appreciate how much Abram and Sarai changed the world by beginning their journey and how fortunate we are to be their descendants and continue their efforts. We have not reached our destination, but as long as we follow in their footsteps and in their direction, we continue to be a blessing and are blessed with their legacy.

 

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi Joshua S. Finkelstein

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Sukkot

 

We have just concluded the celebration of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and are celebrating the holiday of Sukkot.   Rosh Hashanah marked, according to our tradition, the birth of the world. It's not a uniquely Jewish celebration, but one that bonds all humanity. Our traditions teach us that in this season the entire world and all humanity is judged, not just the Jewish people. This universal spirit continues through the holiday of Sukkot.

 

As much as we celebrate God's care for the people of Israel in the desert on Sukkot, we also celebrate God who cares for the entire world. It is on Sukkot according to the Prophet Zechariah that the final redemption will occur and all nations will come to Jerusalem to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot.

At this time of year, many are keenly aware of their Jewishness, and the holidays help us feel a deeper connection to our Jewish roots. That is good, but our tradition also reminds us that we are not in this alone. As we celebrate the holiday of Sukkot, we are aware, especially this year, that Sukkot is the beginning of the rainy season, when we as Jews pray for rain. As we pray for rain, we should be mindful that we pray not just rain for the Jewish people but for the entire world, and when we ask for salvation, it's not a particular salvation but a universal one. Though Sukkot is still solely a Jewish holiday, it is a poignant time for us to remember the needs of the entire community and our place as a part of the larger world.

*****

This is a special time at MJC. On Friday night, we are installing our officers at our Kabbalat Shabbat Service at 7:00 PM. On Shabbat morning, we read from Megillat Kohelet, the Book of Ecclesiastes, which reminds us of the flow of time. On Monday, we celebrate Shimini Atzeret with the prayer for rain, and on Monday evening and Tuesday, we celebrate Simhat Torah with great celebration as we renew our yearly Torah cycle.

I look forward to celebrating with our MJC community over the coming days as we conclude our holiday season and thank God for all the blessings we have.

 

 

Shabbat Shalom and Hag Sameach,

 

Rabbi Joshua S. Finkelstein

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Ten Days and Three Questions

 

 "On Rosh Hashanah it is written and on Yom Kippur it is sealed." It is this refrain from the Mahzor, which we sang on Rosh Hashanah, that captures the dynamic of the High Holy days. We begin a process of repentance on Rosh Hashanah and it reaches its apex on Yom Kippur. While it is on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we assemble at shul, it is the days in between that are transformative and enable us to stand before God and seek repentance and blessings for the coming year.
 
The ten days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur are known as Aseret Yemei Teshuvah - The Ten Days of Repentance.  Our tradition instructs us to focus on repentance, prayer, and deeds of loving-kindness during this period. The reflection and introspection that began on Rosh Hashanah continues for these ten days, bringing us spiritually cleansed to a day of prayer, fasting and forgiveness on Yom Kippur.
 
Before we complete this process and stand before God, we are taught to make peace with ourselves. In many ways we are less forgiving with ourselves than God is with us. To ask if we have acted with kindness and justice is not an easy task, but before we ask God for forgiveness, we must be able to forgive others and ourselves. It is during these ten days that we can take a spiritual inventory of the past year and of our lives.

Reflecting on the past year, it may be helpful to ask three questions. Who should I ask for forgiveness? Who must I forgive? How can I find peace in the coming year? If we are repentant, we will each begin to be able to answer these question in our hearts. If we are truly repentant, we will be able to act on our answers.

Yom Kippur is quickly approaching and with it comes a tremendous opportunity to begin a year with forgiveness in our hearts and fullness in our souls. While we refer to these High Holy Days as the Days of Awe, they are a gift given to us by a forgiving God, who is helping us learn how to forgive and be forgiven.
 
Gemar Hatimah Tovah - May we all be sealed in the Book of Life.
 
 
Shabbat Shalom,
 
Rabbi Joshua S. Finkelstein
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