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

From the Rabbi's Study

 

D-Day and T-Day

 

Of D-Day, the historian Stephen Ambrose wrote, "It all came down to a bunch of eighteen-to-twenty-eight-year-olds. They were magnificently trained and equipped and supported, but only a few of them had ever been in combat. Only a few had ever killed or seen a buddy killed. Most . . . had never heard a shot fired in anger. They were citizen-soldiers not professionals."

Today marks the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, which some have called the beginning of the end of World War II. On this day in 1944, the allied forces began Operation Overlord, the invasion of German occupied France and the effort that would lead to the defeat of Nazi Germany. Much has been written and many words devoted to that day that changed the course of the war and world history. It has been called the most important day of the twentieth century, and if any day can claim that moniker, it may well be June 6, 1944.

We can sometimes forget that France fell to the Nazis on June 22, 1940 and America did not enter the war until December 1941. While war raged in Africa, Russia, the Mediterranean, and the South Pacific, France and Europe were under Nazi control for almost 4 years. Without the massive effort of the allied forces and incomprehensible sacrifice of tens of thousands of young men, barely reaching adulthood, we would be living in a very different world. Overlooking the beaches of Normandy, commemorations were held, the world remembered and we can never forget what happened on this day 75 years ago, because sometimes a day can change the course of history and shape the world in which we live.

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Of Shavuot, our rabbis taught, "When the Holy One gave the Torah, no bird screeched, no fowl flew, no cow mooed ...The sea did not roar, and none of the creatures uttered a sound. Throughout the entire world there was only a deafening silence as the Divine Voice went forth speaking: "Anochi Adonai Elohecha" (I am the Lord your God) (Midrash Exodus Rabbah).

There are days which change the course of history and in our tradition, Shavuot is such a day. Our people were freed from slavery to Pharaoh in Egypt on Passover. For generations we were slaves in Egypt and when God redeemed us, we traveled through the wilderness to Mount Sinai. As monumental as Redemption was, it was a uniquely Jewish experience. Our liberation from Egypt has served as an inspiration throughout the ages, but it was singularly, our redemption.

What happened at Sinai was different. Though God chose us and gave us the Torah, we were only its first recipients. The values, principles, and lessons incorporated in the Torah are universal. The message of justice, kindness, and righteousness was meant for our entire world, and we were chosen as God's emissaries to the world. It is this mission that is found in the words of Isaiah when he reminds us that God sent us out to be a light unto the nations.

What happened at Sinai -- God's revelation to our people, the giving of God's Law, and the gift of Torah -- was an event that changed and shaped our world forever. It is the advent of Torah in all its forms and the impact it has had on our world that we celebrate on Shavuot.

Today, the world marks D-Day, a day that shaped history. On Saturday night, Sunday, and Monday, our People will celebrate Shavuot, the day the Torah was given, a day which changed and shaped our world.

Shabbat Shalom and hag Shavuot Sameach,

 

Rabbi Joshua S. Finkelstein

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Davening in the Dark

 

There was a brief blackout this morning in Montebello. Aside from what seems to be minimal inconvenience and the delayed opening of Suffern Middle School and Montebello Elementary School, everything seemed to be back to normal by midmorning. That was great, but our morning minyan meets at 7:30 AM. 

When I pulled up to the synagogue, all the lights were out, except the emergency lights which could be seen in the hallways. I entered thinking we wouldn't be holding a service this morning. I waited to see if anyone would be coming and within a few minutes several members arrived. We opened the shades in the small chapel and decided to go forward with our service by window light - old school so to speak.

I'm not sure what anyone else thought, though there was the satisfaction of persevering in spite of the obstacles we faced. But the experience of "davening in the dark" brought to mind a line from the end of this week's haftarah, in which the prophet Jeremiah calls out to God, "Heal me O Lord and I will be healed; Save me and I will be saved."

That verse was borrowed from Jeremiah and transposed into our daily prayer service. In the daily weekday Amidah, we say, "Heal us O Lord and we shall be healed; Save us and we shall be saved." Changing the singular language of Jeremiah to the plural used in our siddur, we transform the plea of the prophet to the prayer of our people. Though the words are changed from singular to plural, the basic prayer remains the same. We are asking God to heal and save us. What is unstated is "what are we are asking God to heal us or save us from?".

There are times we pray for specific people or situations, but there is a reason behind the generic nature of the prayers in our siddur that is related to the saying, "be careful what you wish for." Often people find that what they want they don't need and what they need they don't want. When we pray, we can pray for what we want, or even what we think we need, but can we be sure if our wishes will truly inure to our benefit?

Since we cannot be sure if what we perceive as blessings really are blessings for us, our prayers are general petitions asking God to provide us with what we need and what will truly be blessings for us. In a sense, we are always praying in the dark, but we believe that God sees all, and the light of God will illuminate our way. As we pray, we put ourselves in God's hands and pray to receive blessings that we need to lead a meaningful and purposeful life.

Our morning minyans are always enlightening. Consider joining us on Sundays at 9 AM and Mondays and Thursdays at 7:30 AM, and, of course, on Shabbat at 9 AM! Hopefully, the lights will be on in the shul, but in any case the light of God will always brighten our way.

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi Joshua S. Finkelstein

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The Day After 

 

As I write this column, it is Yom HaShoah, the day set aside to remember the Holocaust. Throughout the world, Jewish communities will commemorate this day in different ways, but the message is always the same: we can never forget. This year, more than ever, there is an additional message: we cannot let this ever happen again.

The past two years has seen a frightening increase in anti-Semitic attacks and incidents. The ADL, which carefully monitors such incidents, says that "From the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting to attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions across the country, the U.S. Jewish community experienced near-historic levels of anti-Semitism in 2018."

Six months after the attack at Tree of Life Synagogue, another synagogue was attacked in Poway, California. One woman, Lori Gilbert Kaye, was killed. But for the rifle jamming, many more would have died.

The rabbi of the Poway synagogue, Rabbi Goldstein, has asked that Jews across our country create light by attending synagogue this Shabbat as an act of solidarity. At MJC this Shabbat, we are holding two events that will spread light and strengthen our Jewish future.   

On Friday night at our Kabbalat Shabbat Service, our member Trudy Album, a survivor of the Holocaust, will be speaking about her experience. From Trudy we will be reminded never to forget and always to love. Trudy is a remarkable person and we are truly blessed to have her in our congregation and to be able to hear her message.

On Shabbat morning, we will be celebrating Sisterhood Shabbat. More than a celebration of Sisterhood, this Shabbat will be a celebration of Jewish community. The members of our Sisterhood will be leading services, reading Torah, and teaching our congregation. In the face of hatred, we will stand strong in solidarity and recommit to our community, our values, and our traditions.

Our enemies have never defeated us, and through our perseverance and standing together, we will again prove resilient. Join us this Shabbat, the day after Yom HaShoah, and we will Stand in Solidarity with Jews throughout our country and work for a strong, safe, and vibrant Jewish future.

Am Yisrael Chai!

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi Joshua S. Finkelstein

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