Shabbat Shalom

This past weekend, I had the honor of attending a wedding. In typical Orthodox fashion, it seemed the immediate world was invited. Friends and family from across the globe came to celebrate. It was an evening of unbridled joy; food and drink were in abundance, but most importantly there was dancing and music.

The Tisch was raucous and the men escorted the groom in a fever pitch of singing and dancing so he could veil his bride. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the crowd gathered to the chuppah to escort bride and groom out with the same energy and fervor.

The band was amazing, keeping everyone on dancing for almost the entire evening. The large dance floor was crowded to overflowing. At first, I tried to watch from the sidelines, clapping to the beat of the music, but an elderly chossid grabbed my hand and pulled me into the circle of other old men dancing and jumping in merriment.

The entire spectrum of Jewish practice was in attendance Sunday night. We were all united in the joy and celebration of a wedding, that magical moment of hope and light shining in a world so desperately in need of it, the central message of the Sheva Brachot. It was amazing to behold and to participate. May it always be so.

Shabbat Shalom

Gad Elbaz beautifully sings the final verse of Lecha Dodi, welcoming the bride to the music of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.  Enjoy.

 

Shabbat Shalom- A Reflection from Mt. Carmel

I have just returned from Mt. Carmel Cemetery to provide presence and support to the volunteers who came here. I was moved, being with people honoring the past and affirming their identities.

 

As Americans and Jews, we arise with a sense of unity and rededication of purpose. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, we stand arm in arm with all victims of hatred and domestic terrorism. Our values bring us together.

 

Although disturbing acts underlie this awakening of spirit, we need to focus on the good that has come from these cowardly and ugly actions. From ugliness comes beauty, from despair comes hope, from aloneness comes community, and from hatred comes love.

 

We stand together against hate.

Hate has no home here.

Shabbat Shalom.

The Good Guys Won in Philadelphia- A new twist on Terumah

This week’s Parashat Terumah is about the building the Mishkan, the Holy Sanctuary the people built so God could dwell amongst them.

How interesting to think about this Torah portion in light of the incident at Mount Carmel Cemetery. Acts of cowardice reflecting hatred and bigotry have been turned into sacred and holy work where a community has come together as a holy congregation building and re-consecrating this final resting place. The ugliness of desecration has been turned on its head creating the beauty of one community coming together supporting each other in a time of need. The law of unintended consequences or perhaps the Divine that lives in each of us has taken the act of thugs and transformed it into something remarkable. The outpourings of love by the people of greater Philadelphia have brought a profound sense of hope where despair might have otherwise prevailed. It is almost overwhelming. We have more volunteers wanting to assist in this sacred work of rebuilding than we have space available. Faith leaders, politicians, and just regular people have all come together as one.

Through the rebuilding of Mt. Carmel, Philadelphians are demonstrating a profound love for each other, putting those who would seek to divide us with hatred on notice. Whether the acts of depraved individuals or something more widespread, the forces of darkness have not triumphed over the light shining in our sacred community of Philadelphia. The outpouring of my community of my country heartens me. I am deeply grateful to live here in Philadelphia in these interesting times.

Hate has no home here. Together we Stand Against Hate.

 

Listen as Cantor Julia Cadrain of Central Synagogue (NYC) sings Sanctuary:

Hate has No Home Here in Philadelphia or anywhere in the USA

 

An Anti-Semitic desecration of a cemetery has come to Philadelphia. As most already know, the Mt Carmel Cemetery was vandalized and between 75-100 headstones were toppled. This is an empty act of cowardice, hatred, and stupidity. But more important than the base acts of these thugs is the outpouring of love and support in our community. People joined at Mt. Carmel Cemetery to witness the vandalism and begin the process of restoration. A vigil was held last night in Narberth to express solidarity.

Hate has no home here.

Please donate what you can to aid in the restoration by clicking on this link to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia: https://www.jewishphilly.org/donate-now-mt-carmel-cemetery#.

Also, the Daarus Salaam Mosque in Tampa was burned this past Friday. Please make a donation to help the Islamic Society of New Tampa community rebuild as well by going to: https://www.launchgood.com/project/stand_with_new_tampa_muslims_against_hate#/

Together we stand, a bit shaken but unbowed, committed to the values of love and unity that make our country great. No acts of domestic terrorism or hatred will dampen our commitment to each other and the country we love.

 

Imperial, Imperious, Imperiled Presidency

 

As I reflect on the first month of the new President, it appears clear that the arc of the presidency is shifting. The Founding Fathers were deeply concerned about an Imperial President and created checks and balances to help prevent the Presidency from devolving into a Sovereign. However, a combination of the Legislative branch ceding power to the Executive and a desire for decisive quick action has undermined the traditional process of lawmaking and enforcement. Debates have long raged over the creep towards an Imperial President. These debates have become increasingly political, accusing our Presidents of becoming imperious in the use and abuse of power. Now we appear to have arrived at a new tipping point; the Presidency is imperiled.

Erratic behavior, divisive language, pronouncements without an apparent understanding of the complexities of issues have led to a situation where the President risks marginalizing himself and his office. The Congress is potentially poised to fill the void and assume a position of primacy, provided a strong leadership can restore healthy debate and a cohesive vision for the nation. This is no small feat, but Mr. Ryan, the Speaker of the House, and Mr. McConnell, the Majority Leader of the Senate, could reassert the power of the Legislative Branch of Government.

The President must put forth a unified strategic vision that goes beyond provincial nationalism. His design needs to embody our core values including liberty, equality, and the pursuit of happiness, domestic tranquility. The President’s leadership must also protect and include all Americans. These priorities must also reconcile with our place as the leader of the free world. If the President is unable or incapable of fulfilling these responsibilities, legitimate power will shift to those who are capable, lest our system risk irreversible damage and decline. A government of, by and for the people must preserve, protect and defend us from adversaries both foreign and domestic.

It is our obligation to our nation and ourselves to demand no less. Too much hangs in the balance.