Yom HaShoah: This is why we remember

  I would like to welcome you all to our annual Yom HaShoah - Holocaust Memorial service.   For 25 years, our synagogue has conducted our own Yom HaShoah commemoration to remember the victims of the holocaust, to reaffirm our commitment to Jewish life, and carry on the tradition that the Nazis sought to destroy. In the past two weeks there have been a variety of new stories where references to the Holocaust, or the use of Holocaust imagery has been used to score political points regarding current issues. Perhaps you saw or read about some of them. Representative Madison Cawthorne of North Carolina compared the idea of vaccine passports to the laws of Nazi Germany. Others have invoked the yellow stars of David that the Nazis forced Jews to wear to voice their opposition to such policies. Representative Cawthorne even made the following comments “proposals like these smack of 1940s Nazi Germany. We must make every effort to keep America from becoming a show your papers society.” Ev

The lessons of the Omer

  On the second night of Passover, we began an observance called Sefirat HaOmer the counting of the Omer. You shall count for yourselves -- from the day after the Shabbat, from the day when you bring the Omer of the waving -- seven Shabbats, they shall be complete. Until the day after the seventh sabbath you shall count, fifty days. (Leviticus 23:15-16)        An Omer is a unit of measure – think of a quart or a bushel or a pound – you get the idea.   In Biblical times, an Omer of barley was brought as a special offering during this season. This mitzvah reinforced several values.   First of all, the spring is the time of the first harvest.   Regular offerings of produce like barley, symbolized gratitude for the good harvest that the people enjoyed.   By counting each of the days, the Omer linked Passover, the celebration of the liberation from Egypt with Shavuot, the holiday that celebrates the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people.   The Omer reminds us that the liberat

A Passover Lesson To Last The Year

  Dear JCCP/CBT Family, This Shabbat, the Shabbat that precedes Passover, has a special name in our tradition. It is  Shabbat Hagadol  - the Great Shabbat. As I have shared so many times in the past, Shabbat Hagadol was one of the times of the year when the Rabbi gave an unusually long sermon, in this case to encourage reflection on the great ideas of Passover. It was also a good time to rest from the intense preparation that always accompanies the holiday. Today, I want to share a  Shabbat Hagadol  message with you, one that I hope will last all year long. It is motivated by news that you are all familiar with: the crisis at the southern border. I will not offer solutions for this issue, for I am not an expert in these matters, and this complex problem is decades in the making.  We will not solve it soon.  But the plight of the people who are arriving there sounds a lot like those of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, many of whom took all kinds

A Bitter Anniversary

  Yesterday was a bitter anniversary. On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. Nothing has been the same since.   Today also marks a bitter anniversary. March 12, 2020 was the day that our synagogue, like every other synagogue in Northern New Jersey announced that it was closing indefinitely.   What is strange and difficult year it has been.  You know the statistics. As of yesterday, over 530,000 Americans have died as a result of the COVID-19 virus. There have been 29,300,000 cases throughout the nation.  These numbers include our neighbors and friends, our relatives, and members of the synagogue family and community.  During this year, we have seen tremendous examples of courage, compassion, and generosity exhibited at all levels of society.   Yet at the same time, the pandemic has highlighted so many of the rifts in American society that have we ignored for years, yet can be ignored no longer. Like a bright shi

The Sale of Chametz

  Each year, we send Sale of Chametz forms for you to return to the synagogue. I am also attaching the form to the bottom of this week’s Shabbat message as well.   I want to make sure that everyone understands what this Mitzvah is all about, and why it is so important. Indeed, given the challenges we are all experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sale of Chametz is perhaps more important and powerful this year than ever before.   With the various restrictions on our movement and following the warnings of our elected officials and public health experts to stay at home as we work to defeat the pandemic, we must not leave our homes to rid our homes of chametz in the way we normally might.   Passover is far more than eating matzah , and buying special foods.   We are commanded to literally remove all chametz , (leavened products) from our homes.   Once, this was relatively easy.   Until several generations ago, people rarely kept significant quantities of food in their