Behar (On The Mount) Bechukotai (By My Decree)
As restrictions begin to loosen slowly, we are continuing to make the best out of our "stay at home" lives.. We just celebrated our middle grandson’s birthday in a somewhat subdued manner with a Carvel Ice Cream Cake. To complete the quiet celebration, Chris is preparing Nathan's favorite matzoh ball soup for Shabbat dinner tonight! We also observed the 124th anniversary of my father’s birth looking through family albums and speaking with friends and relatives who knew him.
So despite our isolation, we are still connecting with the past and present and thinking about the future and how we might better our lives when the pandemic finally ends with the discovery of and mass production of a vaccine. I hope that you are all finding your own ways to cope with this difficult period in our lives and that you are getting satisfaction from them. We are heartened by the role that scientists in Israel are playing in this arena.
In the meantime, I am pleased and extremely grateful that our JCC membership is staying healthy and participating in our Friday night service and other virtual events. In fact, we are getting a larger attendance for the service than we usually got when we davened together at the Shul! Connecting with each other at this stressful time is so important and I’m so glad that we have succeeded in this. Please "tune in" again this evening at 7:30 pm for our Shabbat service. For those who haven't connected with us yet, the procedure is simple. Just click on https://www.jccwestpasco.com/ and then click on the "f" near the bottom of the home page. Then click on "videos" to access the service, or as an alternative, go directly to the video page through https://www.facebook.com/jccwestpasco/ This Shabbat, we will be reading the last portions of the Book of Leviticus, the double portion of Behar/Behukotai. In addition to the introduction of more mitzvot (as those of you in our adult ed class know, Leviticus contains no action, but gives us more mitzvot to follow than any of the five books of the Torah), we are confronted with the consequences of rewards for good deeds and punishment for bad ones. It is a stark reminder that we must care for our earth and all of its inhabitants. Life is fragile and easily upended, a concept that we are now all too familiar with during this crisis. Every human life is precious and deserving of care and treatment. To quote Israeli Rabbi Loren Sykes, "we can all discover new connections, new meanings, and new applications to our daily lives. In so doing, we increase our sensitivity to others, make our choices in more intentional and thoughtful ways, and see the Divine spark and inherent value in every person. When we do that, the entire world is strengthened.” It is customary for the congregation to chant Chazak, chazak, v'nitchazeik (!חֲזַ֤ק וְנִתְחַזַּק֙) after completing each book of the Torah. It has been translated to mean "Be strong, be strong, and we will strengthen one another." As we now complete the book of Leviticus, that has never held truer. Certainly, this is an appropriate theme for this Shabbat and for how we will survive the pandemic! Many are now alone in isolation or quarantine in assisted living and nursing home facilities including some in our congregation. Please continue to be in touch with them to bring comfort to their long days and remind them of the importance of their spiritual JCC community. Also, please continue to donate food and funds to the various organizations that are working so hard to feed the hungry. In our part of Pasco County, this includes Metropolitan Ministries and The Volunteer Way. And of course, your continued financial physical contributions to your JCC during this time and always has been much appreciated. During my d'var Torah this evening, I will summarize yesterday afternoon's webinar sponsored by HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), JCPA (Jewish Council for Public Affairs) and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. They discussed the impact of the pandemic on the people we serve, and share how we as a congregation and as a spiritual community can help. In addition, policy experts from all three organizations spoke about increased food insecurity, the evolving threats to the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program and asylum system, and the COVID-19 emergency in prisons, jails and immigration detention centers. And a "heads up" for the virtual observance of the joyful holiday of Yom Yerushalayim, our newest holiday commemorating the reunification of the City of Jerusalem in the aftermath of the June 1967. The joy of this incredible event as Jews gained access to the wall of the Temple will never be forgotten for those of us who are old enough to have witnessed it. We will celebrate it by "zooming in" to the program at our former synagogue in Metuchen, NJ (Congregation Neve Shalom) at 7 pm on Thursday, May 21st. I'll send login information next week. Finally, please stay tuned for information for an update on plans for a gradual physical coming-together again in the near future assuming that the first phase of the virus recovery in the State is successful. I wish you continued good health and safety and remind you that I am available by phone and e-mail any time! "See you" tonight! With best wishes, Ron Ron Becker,