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RISING - Early Bird Extension!

08/21/2019 11:43:36 AM

Aug21

Dear  {{first_name}} - 

We know that lots of people are traveling this time of year, so we are extending our early-bird pricing for RISING till thRead more...

RISING: A Contemplative Hike for the Days of Awe

08/16/2019 01:41:19 PM

Aug16

Dear Friends: 

We know that lots of people are traveling this time of year, so we are extending our early-bird pricing for RISING till this Sunday, August 25, at midnight!

RISING will be a gorgeous contemplative hike...Read more...

Rabbi Jill Jacobs on Jewish Obligation in America and Israel

07/31/2019 11:22:56 AM

Jul31

Rabbi Brent Spodek

 

While I was in Jerusalem just a few weeks ago, I had the incredible opportunity to hear Rabbi Jill Jacobs, the executive director of T'ruah, the rabbinic call for human rights.

Rabbi Jacobs is an old friend of mine and one of the most important leaders which the Jewish people have in this moment. 

Right now, there are two large camps in the Jewish world - those who believe that "Never Again" means that "never again" will the Jewish people allow ourselves to be defenseless and powerless in the face of oppression and those who believe that "never again" means that "never again will the Jewish people stand by in the face of oppression, no matter who is targeted - Jews, Muslims, LGBTQ folks, Mexicans or anyone else. 

Rabbi Jacobs is a clear and powerful leader of the second camp. She lays it out beautifully in this talk, when she says "Living our lives according to moral and spiritual imperatives means that we refuse to allow someone else to hand us our history. It means refusing to cede our Torah to fundamentalists. It means rejecting defeatism and doubling down on ensuring that both of these places [America and Israel] live up to a vision. It means claiming both our authority as religious leaders and the authenticity of our Torah. It means partnering with Israelis to defeat the anti-democratic forces that threaten us both. Because it’s our [obligation] --we have to be here."

For those of us who care about Jewish values living in America and in Israel, It is well worth 18 minutes listening to Rabbi Jacobs here

 

When people suffer - often for our benefit and in our name - the central religious question we face is “how do we live up to our obligations and responsibilities?” The idea of obligation - so central to Jewish thought, yet so alien to so many contemporary Jews - is a powerful lens through which to see this moment.

Protesting ICE in Goshen, NY

07/03/2019 12:31:32 PM

Jul3

Rabbi Brent Spodek

One of the simplest and most demanding teachings of the Jewish tradition comes from Rabbi Tarfon, who teaches לא עליך המלאכה לגמור, ולא אתה בן חורין ליבטל ממנה - it is not your obligation to finish the work,...Read more...

Only Today: Reflections on Psalm 59

06/19/2019 12:45:25 PM

Jun19

Rabbi Brent Spodek

Wellness and illness are not fixed states; they are snapshots of a moment, points in time. Nobody can truly say “I am well”; we can only accurately say “I am well now.”

Spiritually traditional Jews...Read more...

Atid II-Setting the course for BHA's Future

06/11/2019 10:17:18 AM

Jun11

Rabbi Brent Spodek

 

Almost 10 years ago, this community launched a large, ambitious listening campaign which set the agenda for life at Beacon Hebrew Alliance. 

It...Read more...

Shavuot: Journey of the Universe

05/30/2019 10:46:17 PM

May30

Rabbi Brent Spodek

Next Saturday, June 8, will mark the beginning of Shavuot, possibly the least known of the major Jewish holidays.

We’ll be celebrating it here at BHA starting at 6pm with dinner, cheesecake and a screening of the film Journey of the Universe. The film will be followed by a discussion with myself and my wife, Professor Alison Spodekabout the spiritual dimensions of natural history of our planet.  At 9pm we'll have Shavuot davvening led by Cantor Ellen Gersh. All of the details are here, and I hope you’ll come and join us!

If you want to get prepared, here’s what Shavuot is about:

On the most basic level, Shavuot is a holiday which celebrates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai as well as the biblical heroine Ruth, a poor woman of the despised Moabite nation who is nevertheless supported by Boaz, an Israelite. Ritually, its defining characteristic is a late night study session, known as a Tikkun Leil Shavuot, while a secondary and wonderful tradition is eating dairy products, specifically cheesecake. Finally, Shavuot is also tied to Passover through a practice known as the Counting of the Omer, which marks every one of the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot.

At a deeper level the study of Torah on Shavuot is about how we “receive Torah” in our time and in our place. There is one thread in the Jewish tradition which demands that we constantly confront the needs of something and someone other than ourselves; at the same time though, there is an immediacy by which the Torah is constantly reshaped by our own understandings of it. Shavuot demands that we not accept Torah passively, but actively bring our full selves to its transmission. As far as the cheesecake, well, the origins of the practice are shrouded in history but my favorite explanation is that once the Israelites received the Torah with its laws regarding the preparation of meat they knew they could not eat their previously prepared meat, which they now knew to be “un-kosher.” So instead, they ate dairy food, the preparation of which is less strictly governed by Jewish law.

Finally, on a personal level, Shavuot brings together the story of Sinai and story of Ruth, which represent two aspects of Judaism which are occasionally and unfortunately seen as being in tension – Love and Justice. Justice, as represented by Sinai, demands reliable systems for adjudicating conflict and insuring that basic societal needs are met. Without justice, the weak are always at the mercy of the powerful. But Love, as represented by Ruth, knows that laws and systems are never enough. Ruth was a Moabite, a descendant of one of biblical Israel’s worst enemies. By law, she should have been shunned, but she wasn’t. She was embraced by Boaz in a way that recognized the power of the law and its limitations and the tradition tells that the Messiah will ultimately emerge from their union. For us perhaps, the challenge is maintaining love and justice at all times in the proper proportions.

Looking forward to enjoying some cheesecake and Torah with you!

WHAT do we do with the extremist next door?

05/21/2019 11:20:41 PM

May21

Rabbi Brent Spodek

Way back in the second century, the sage Rabba taught that no person can say that their blood is more precious than the blood of another.

It's a remarkable statement, really - we Jews have always been a particular people,...Read more...

Kedoshim - Community

05/07/2019 01:51:18 PM

May7

In Parshat Kedoshim, which we will read this coming Shabbat morning, the Holy One instructs Moses to say to the entire Israelite community: "You shall be holy for I, the Lord your God, am holy."

The instruction is addressed in the plural, not to...Read more...

Living this Life

05/01/2019 01:23:38 PM

May1

After tending to the needs of mourners at a funeral, I usually have a quiet moment alone in my car.

I take that moment to collect myself before going on to my next appointment, and the thoughts that come to me are not usually the big metaphysical...Read more...

Thu, August 22 2019 21 Av 5779