The synagogue was established in 1730, not 1970. Sorry. I misspoke when recording.
The Seder Plate and its meaning
Reciting Kaddish in Isolation:
a drash and opportunity
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A quick public service message to say you are important, you matter, you count. In the Book of Numbers, Bamidbar, a census of the Jews traveling through the desert is taken, twice. At the beginning of the journey and again at its end. Funds were raised and property/assets disbursed according to the counting.
The National Faithful Census Weekend is coming up March 27-29. Please be counted. Fill out your Census as an act of community empowerment this weekend or anytime over the coming weeks. The Census can (and should!) be done from the safety and comfort of your home. It is simple, safe and secure and can be done by going to www.2020census.gov. A complete count determines Congressional representation as well as federal resources to Colorado for the next ten years, approximately $2,300 per person per year to support social safety net programs including Unemployment Insurance, Highway grants, Water Pollution Control State, Interstate, and Tribal Program Support, Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities, State and Drug Free Schools and Community Grants, Child Abuse and Neglect State Grants, National Fire Plan - Wildland Urban Interface Community Fire Assistance and hundreds more. You can see that these funds go towards a vast variety of issues important to our state and its inhabitants.
When we answer the Census, we declare that we are part of “we the people” and commit to doing our part to bring critical funding and political representation to Colorado.
We each embody the Divine image, b'tzelem Eloheem. As we continue to watch out for one another by carefully following the CDC and WHO guidelines to get through COVID 19, we ask for blessings for those who are ill, those on the front lines taking care of them: physicians, nurses, aides, transportation workers, administrators; those providing resources for the general public at stores, pharmacies, transportation sources, police and fire personnel; the teachers learning to adapt to online curriculums and student interaction; and all those who are researching, creating, assisting in the worldwide fight against this virus. We extend Mi Sheberach blessings as well as for everyone, each and every person who needs support, hope and strength to weather these circumstances. Every person counts and we give thanks we are here to participate in this counting.
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, shehecheyanu, v'kiy'manu, v'higiyanu laz'man hazeh.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.
Blessings and Shabbat Shalom
A Taste of Shabbat for when we are physically separated:
I began writing to address the need to limit gatherings for ‘non-essential’ events when I heard about the fire in the social hall. It struck me that there are no non-essential gatherings for us. Every time we gather, we generate a spirit, a vibrancy and a relevance that simply cannot be duplicated across the digital void. A series of zeros and ones cannot substitute for a series of handshakes and hugs. Yet, we must face reality and recognize that our community contains a diverse population including elders and members of the vulnerable population, including people on medication, on ventilators and pre and post surgical candidates, among others.
Governor Jared Polis wrote in his declared Colorado state of emergency that recognizing “our role in helping lead the effort to help limit the potential spread of this virus locally… (means) those over 60 and those with chronic health issues are urged to avoid public gatherings.” However, those may be the people who are in the greatest need of socialization.
Most of us, like most of the cognizant world, are under stress from both an economic meltdown and the coronavirus proliferation. Our Temple community is handling additional stress from a confluence of attacks against our property directly and against our beliefs and identity as a result of those attacks.
We each approach this time and situation from our own perspective and with our separate resources. As I change the channels, I hear quite diverse information being espoused both within the United States and especially from abroad, about what is happening and how to approach it. We cannot control what is happening, except at an individual level, but we can control how we react to it. It is appropriate to be fearful, but not of each other. Now is the time to use our well honed skills of sharing with and listening to one another without condemnation or becoming offended.
So while we are being asked to build physical boundaries between us, 3 feet is the current recommendation, we need to continue to build bridges across the community, reaching out by phone or electronically to stay in touch and to check in, particularly with those in our vulnerable population. As a hugger, this feels like an immense loss, but losing members of our community would be a much bigger one. I will give up hugging to limit the number of names added to the Mi Sheberach list.
I don't know of a community that is more aware of or responsive to one another's needs. Other people are reaching out to assist us and we will continue to function even while our building is under repair. Meanwhile, we can be grateful that once again, no one was injured and the sanctuary was spared.
I appreciate all the work done behind the scenes by our board to keep Temple Emanuel up, running and serving the Jewish community of Pueblo and the surrounding area. I am thankful for the participation and support of all our members as well as our non-member support system and community.
May God grant us peace and understanding. May our world and the inhabitants upon it be blessed with rafuah shalaymah, a complete and speedy healing. May your Shabbat be filled with comfort and light.
Rabbi Birdie Becker
SHABBAT DROSH 11.8.19 by Rabbi Birdie Becker (offered to those in attendance at Temple Emanuel – Pueblo)
One year ago, we gathered here in solidarity for a community 1437 miles away. They were not as lucky as we. This time, no one was injured and nothing damaged. Career professionals, the FBI and Law enforcement were on top of the situation and we are abundantly grateful. This was the 13th thwarted event against the Jewish community since Etz Chayim, the Tree of Life massacre just a little more than one year ago. We know we are blessed.
Thirteen in Judaism is an auspicious number. How many times last month during the holiday season did we recite the 13 attribute of God? A merciful, compassionate, gracious, forgiving God. Adonai abundant in kindness and truth. We say that God is One, Echad. The gematria, the numerical value of the Hebrew letters for Echad is 13, the age at which we are blessed to become part of the adult community, to observe commandments and witness that Oneness. This week, with support and love pouring in from around the world, ignoring borders, barriers and divisiveness of any kind, we have witnessed the oneness of God and the oneness of God in humanity.
We pray that other communities are so blessed such that the counting continues only for impeded events and never again to count bodies for Kaddish.
This past week, from the Pearl St. Mall in Boulder to the door of our Temple, Coloradans confronted violence, hate and Holocaust denial. Repulsed by abhorrent behavior, people and communities have reached out to connect and support us, including friends as far away as Israel and Canada; and with Veteran’s Day in mind, from sea to shining sea.
This 119 year old congregation is warm, welcoming and open, not through naivete, but through carrying out the ethical, spiritual and religious tenants of our faith. We have, and will continue, to open our hearts to all who join us in study, prayer and celebration. It is therefore surprising, for some infuriating, and for others frightening, when a stranger raises the visage of the age old hatred of anti-Semitism. But our people have seen this ugliness before and met it panim el panim, face to face. We may be targets but we are not victims.
Hate is based in fear and fear is a fragile attribute. It reeks of weakness, broadcasting that it can only exist if it goes unchallenged. Judaism glorifies challenges of both soul and mind. Hate is based in ignorance where ideas cannot reach beyond the boundaries of the known. Judaism relishes the questions as much as much as the answers, maybe more so, for it takes heart and mind to where the body cannot travel. Hate quivers in isolation, desperate for acceptance from anyone, anywhere. Judaism delights in community but also elevates each individual as betzelem Elohim, in the image of God. Hate requires constant fuel. Judaism has learned to enhance the rests between the notes.
Thus we come together for this Shabbat. Recognizing that it has not been a usual passage of days. Our perceptions have been altered as this deprivation came to our state in a double dose and knocked directly on our door. So we welcome everyone here in body and in spirit, and those who are here only in spirit, and thank you for your presence as we welcome Shabbat menucha, Sabbath release, Shabbat rest.
Year two begins. I awake with tears in my eyes. You still aren’t at my side. Of course, I’ve learned over the year to sleep across the bed so there isn’t a lot of room left. It’s surprising how someone five foot one can take up a lot of space with a few pillows strategically placed and a body that doesn’t conform to head and foot edges of the bed.
I spent yesterday being occupied at one thing and another and waited for the year to end watching the Chanukah candles melt down on our Chanukiah. They burned perfectly evenly this night except the Shamash, the helper, that burned quickly down to match the height of the other four and then finished burning with them. Are you still sending messages or am I looking too hard; wanting too much for you to still be here, to wake up and find out this has been a dream, a mistake?
I’m fine. I’m fine. And then, I’m not. And then, I am again. One foot in front of the other: in house shoes, boots, tennis shoes or barefoot. One foot in front of the other, life goes on.
I hope the soul goes on and you know how much you are missed and loved every day. Your memory, the memory of you, my dear Jeff, is a blessing.
I have been a trustee of CO Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice since 2010. I have served as their treasurer since 2011.
I begin with a story. The Master Key by Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin. A Chasidic tale.
One year, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov said to Rabbi Ze’ev Kitzes, one of his senior disciples: “You will blow the shofar for us this Rosh Hashanah. I want you to study all the kavanot (Kabbalistic meditations) that pertain to the shofar, so that you should meditate upon them when you do the blowing.”
Rabbi Ze’ev applied himself to the task with joy and trepidation: joy over the great privilege that had been accorded him, and trepidation over the immensity of the responsibility. He studied the Kabbalistic writings that discuss the multifaceted significance of the shofar and what its sounds achieve on the various levels of reality and in the various chambers of the soul. He also prepared a sheet of paper on which he noted the main points of each kavanah, so that he could refer to them when he blew the shofar.
Finally, the great moment arrived. It was the morning of Rosh Hashanah, and Rabbi Ze’ev stood on the reading platform in the center of the Baal Shem Tov’s synagogue amidst the Torah scrolls, surrounded by a sea of tallit-draped bodies. At his table in the southeast corner of the room stood his master, the Baal Shem Tov, his face aflame. An awed silence filled the room in anticipation of the climax of the day—the piercing blasts and sobs of the shofar.
Rabbi Ze’ev reached into his pocket, and his heart froze: the paper had disappeared! He distinctly remembered placing it there that morning, but now it was gone. Furiously, he searched his memory for what he had learned, but his distress over the lost notes seemed to have incapacitated his brain: his mind was a total blank. Tears of frustration filled his eyes. He had disappointed his master, who had entrusted him with this most sacred task. Now he must blow the shofar like a simple horn, without any kavanot. With a despairing heart, Rabbi Ze’ev blew the litany of sounds required by law and, avoiding his master’s eye, resumed his place.
At the conclusion of the day’s prayers, the Baal Shem Tov made his way to the corner where Rabbi Ze’ev sat sobbing under his tallit. “Gut Yom Tov, Reb Ze’ev!” he called. “That was a most extraordinary shofar-blowing we heard today!”
“But Rebbe . . . I . . .”
“In the king’s palace,” said the Baal Shem Tov, “there are many gates and doors, leading to many halls and chambers. The palace-keepers have great rings holding many keys, each of which opens a different door. But there is one key that fits all the locks, a master key that opens all the doors.
“The kavanot are keys, each unlocking another door in our souls, each accessing another chamber in the supernal worlds. But there is one key that unlocks all doors, that opens up for us the innermost chambers of the divine palace. That master key is a broken heart.”
I struggled this year to prepare for the holidays. I tried to write and nothing made sense. I tried to study and could not concentrate. As the days of Elul passed, I knew I had to do something. One morning I sat down and let the tears flow. Only after writing what I am going to share with you now, was I able to return the over the following day to write the more joyous sermons you heard on Rosh Hashanah and that you will hear tomorrow, but I want to share the process with you.
A Letter to God from a Healing Broken Heart by Rabbi Birdie Becker 8.2018
It’s been a year since last I stood before the open book.
Into your hands, I cast my lot, but found there no safe nook.
Instead it opened every door that ever I had closed
And made me open wide the gates to things I never chose.
What is a human being if not a working piece of art?
What is a soul if not the depth of heaven when it parts?
To look inside the melding body only leads astray
the final outcome we each reach when it’s the close of day.
I thought I had it figured out, I thought if I believed
Then fate would deal a hand of kindness on all that I perceived.
I thought that prayers and pledges, pleading, promises and tears
would safely guard the future from the ‘lions, tigers and bears’.
Love came, and I did not grasp it hard enough, to gather it forever.
It passed away and with it went the best of my endeavor.
How can you ask of me to stand again before your open book?
How can you dare to say to me that life still brightly looks
ahead to beauty, to wonder, to fulfillment, to all the world can hold?
You surely should have warned me of the losses to unfold.
You did! You say.
Well, I reject the notion that you did.
My heart was breaking every day, and I believe you hid.
Who by fire? Who by water? Who by agony?
Who from age? Who alone? Who with family?
Why this day? Why this hour? Why that one and not this?
Who can justify the meaning of the latest kiss
of death that moves the soul beyond this land to its next hallowed sphere?
I don’t care what I am told, I want my loved one here.
To have and hold and share another day another year…
This grief I cannot bear.
Yet.. I will.
I will continue for God, that is the way
That You tell us You are with us, each and every day.
In our thoughts and in our hearts and even in our tears.
You let me rail against the dark, against the black, against the coming years
Of memories that will grow deep and stories to be told
Of feelings bearable someday and even humor trolled.
Who am I to question You?
Not Job or Abraham.
Not Hillel, not Lincoln or even Sam I am.
Yet question You is what we do, each and every day.
Because it lets us know that You are never going away.
You’re here, right here, by my side.
And, I, as mad as I may be,
I know that You will never go too far away from me.
Like all good friends, You’re there to let me give a primal scream.
And when I’m at my lowest, it’s upon You I can lean.
I may not always understand, it’s not for me to agree.
The sun has once again revolved,
A year has passed by Your decree.
Who remembered? Who forgotten? By woman or by man?
Each held in love, caressed by grace in Adonai’s grand plan.
From off the earth each one has touched Shechinah’s wings and flown.
Belonging now to eternity,
Divine and Thine alone.
Life is a journey, my friends. What I want to impart to you most is that all relationships require work but you need never journey alone.
May your journeys this year be sweet and fulfilling.
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Community educator, choreographer, composer, performer, Becker, M.S.W., M.Ed., M.R.S., Ph.D., serves as rabbi for Temple Emanuel-Pueblo, cellist for Apples and Honey and is a Storahtelling Maven.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON ISRAEL
WOMEN OF THE WALL http://www.nytimes.com/video/2012/12/22/world/middleeast/100000001969698/women-at-the-western-wall.html