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Rabbi's Weekly Message

Rabbi Peltz - Thursday, July 2

Lately I’ve been finding strength and solace in reading history books. I just finished Erik Larsen’s new book about Winston Churchill, The Splendid and the Vile, and now, in honor of the upcoming 4th of July holiday, am in the midst of David McCullough’s biography of John Adams. This week I came across a passage that Adams wrote in April, 1776, while he was a delegate at the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, to James Warren, a friend back in Massachusetts. Reflecting on how to structure the new government, Adams wrote, “We may pleasure ourselves with the prospect of free and popular governments. But there is great danger that those governments will not make us happy. God grant they may. But I fear that in every assembly, members will obtain influence by noise not sense. By meanness, not greatness. By ignorance, not learning. By contracted hearts, not large souls…” Adams’ fear was not unique.

In the second of our Torah portions this week, Balak, King Balak of Moab, fearful of the approaching Israelites, hires the evil prophet Balaam to curse them. The commentary Beit Ramah asks a deceptively simple question: “Why didn’t Balak hire Balaam to bless his own people rather than to curse Israel?” In other words, wouldn’t it have been better for Balak to try to build his own people up, instead of tear another people down? It’s a question that John Adams had on his mind, and that still resonates today. Why do people focus so much hatred towards others rather than work on building up their own communities? Why do bullies knock people down rather than raise up themselves up? Why do hateful words seem to garner more attention than words of kindness and love? The Beit Ramah answers his question by saying, “Balaam was so consumed by hatred that he forgot about his own people’s needs and could think only about hurting his enemy.” Of course this tactic doesn’t work for Balaam, nor did it work for those who opposed American freedom, and it will not work for those who hate today.

Yet it still happens because it’s easy. It’s easier to criticize someone else rather than to really work on yourself; to point fingers rather than looking inward, and realizing that the challenge might lie more within than without. The founders of our country recognized this, and challenged us to remember that “all men are created equal…endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It’s easy to claim these rights for ourselves, and much harder to grant them to others, especially to those who are different than us. Yet this is exactly how we work to form a more perfect union, then and now. There will always be people like Balak who validate John Adams’ fears. But there will also be people whose leadership will be guided by sense, greatness, learning and large souls. May we be those kind of people, guided by our Jewish and American values which, though not yet fully realized, compel us to aspire to achieve liberty and justice for all.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy 4th of July!

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.

Download an abridged PDF of the Siddur here for our Shabbat morning Zoom services.

TBS@Home

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.

Wed, July 8 2020 16 Tammuz 5780