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Rabbi's Weekly Message

Rabbi Wexler - Thursday, May 28

Tonight begins the holiday of Shavuot, the festival in which we celebrate the gift of the Torah. The Kabbalistic work, the Zohar, teaches that the giving of Torah is both a revealing and a concealing act. How so? On the one hand, the Torah provides us with a basic road map for how we should conduct our lives. It presents virtues to strive for and helps to bring purpose and meaning to our lives and to the life of our community. However, on the other hand, the Torah also contains lessons and interpretations still to be uncovered. That’s one reason why we read the Torah again and anew every year; so that we can continue to grow and uncover new values, new understandings, and new directions. The Torah provides many answers, but I believe that it gives us the gift of even more questions. What does our existence mean? What is God and what is God’s purpose for us? We say that Torah was revealed at Mount Sinai, and yet in many ways, it still remains hidden, waiting to be revealed through the choices that we make and the lives that we live. And that, is exactly how it should be.

In a d’var Torah that I read this week, Rabbi Dr. Michael Shire, the Chief Academic Officer at Hebrew College writes:

Shavuot is matan torah — a time of the giving of the Torah. But what does this giving mean? Is this a Torah from heaven? Perhaps the most contentious theological dilemma in Judaism is the origins of the Torah and its implications for commandment and obligation. However Torah min Hashamayim — Torah from Heaven — can make more sense if we translate it as Torah with heaven.

Torah with heaven. The Torah comes with slice of heaven. It’s purpose is to elevate us, to help us learn, grow, understand, and ultimately, to take action and make a difference in the world. Rabbi Schire continues:

If our practice — our mitzvot — do not reflect the higher purposes of life, then it is not Torah at all. To see the destruction of climate change, of economic disparity, of food insecurity, of racial and gender prejudice in a diverse world is to disconnect Torah from heaven.

The unjust death of George Floyd in Minneapolis creates a fracture between the Torah and heaven. So too do the words and actions of those in our country that have not taken COVID-19 and the rules of quarantining and social distancing seriously. There is much in our world in need of repair. Shavuot comes and asks us to reaffirm matan torah in our lives; to reaffirm that we are dedicated to the work of connecting heaven and earth through the written and the unwritten words of the Torah.

These are among the discussions that I have had the honor of having with our 10th grade Confirmation Class of 5780. As I have explained to them, in order to confirm our connections to Judaism, we first must question and wrestle. We need to explore the revealed and remain open and attuned to the concealed. That is what this Confirmation year has been all about for our Confirmation students as they have explored their Jewish identities, beliefs and connections to the Jewish community in the classrooms at TBS, on our two-week Confirmation trip in Israel, and for the last two plus months, on Zoom.

One of the many great privileges of my job is to work with the Confirmation class each year and to watch them grow as their eyes are opened to Judaism — their Judaism. This year’s class is a special group; a tight-knit class comprised of 17 extraordinary individuals. A hearty mazal tov to all of our Confirmands this year:

Jacob Berko

Ziva Davis

Bela Finkelstein

Edward Finkelstein

Victoria Finkelstein

Sam Friedman

Elisa Goodman

Remi Graff

Hannah Greenspun

Dara Hammel

Hallie Jayson

Robert Kilsdonk

Isaac Kreisman

Hannah Pollack

Jacob Resnick

Dov Schwartz

Sidney Stoopler

We look forward to celebrating our students in our Confirmation ceremony this evening on Zoom at 7pm, and then hopefully again in person, in the Fall. Tonight’s ceremony is open to the entire congregation. Come learn from our impressive students and see that the future of our Jewish community is in good hands. It will be a wonderful kick-off to the holiday of Shavuot (see the schedule and service times here) as we give thanks for our Torah with Heaven and reflect on the important role that it plays in our lives.

Hag Shavuot Sameah and Shabbat Shalom!

A Guide for Zooming Shabbat and Holiday Services

“The Shabbat services that we offer over Zoom help keep us spiritually connected while we are physically distant. Though we normally do not use electronic devices on Shabbat, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement considers this to be a hora’at sha’ah, an extraordinary time, which allows us to make an exception to our normal observance. You can read the halakahic ruling (teshuvah) that comprehensively addresses our situation here. Even though we are using technology to gather for services on Shabbat and holidays, we still try to minimize the use of our devices in honor of Shabbat. Click here to see our guide to help with this.


While our physical building is closed, we are excited to share with you many ways to connect and engage with our TBS family in the upcoming week through our Zoom programs. Check the TBS calendar for listings.

To join a Zoom session, click on the link at the designated time. You can also call into the number provided below and enter in the meeting ID number.

Sat, May 30 2020 7 Sivan 5780