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Note: The opinions expressed here are solely those of each individual blogger and do not necessarily represent the views of TRT.

You Can Do This

April 2016

FROM RABBI WEBER

You. Can. Do. This.

When we hear that there are 613 mitzvot in the Torah, there is a temptation to give up and say, “Well, I’ll just try to be a good person. That’s all Judaism really wants.” But it’s not.

Yes, we need more good people in the world. We desperately need more good people! But we also need good Jews, and being a good Jew is about much more than being kind to others. It’s about being commanded – hearing God’s call to be different, to be special, to be… holy. That can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.

Pesach presents us – all of us, not just “religious” people – with the opportunity to fulfill one of the major mitzvot of Jewish life: to celebrate the Exodus from Egypt, to celebrate the gift of freedom, by eating matzah rather than bread for seven days. And as it says above, you can do this.

Let’s be honest: we will not die from skipping bread and cake for a week. It won’t affect our health, and it’s not even that difficult to do. Yes, it’s inconvenient – especially this year when the kids will have school, most of us will have work, and when no one other than Jews is focused on the holiday. It may take packing a lunch from home, or sticking with salad (no croutons) and fruit for a few days, but it won’t kill us. What it will do is reconnect us with our People – with the whole, worldwide Jewish People – in one of the oldest celebrations on earth. That’s good for the Jews, and it’s good for us, too.

Something happens to us when we do something just because we’re Jewish. There is a satisfaction that we accomplished something which is uniquely our challenge, and we rose to meet it. More important, doing this starts to break down the wall which we created, between us and “religious” people. Because as long as we think that only “they” do Jewish things, we surrender our full membership in the Jewish People and in Jewish life; we surrender our heritage. All because we are unsure that we can commit to doing what Jews are commanded to do.

It’s just not true. If you think there are Jews who follow all 613 mitzvot, you’re wrong; no one does. And if you think that only people who dress in black hats and coats can be “religious,” you’re wrong about that, too. Years ago, I first heard the idea that Jews are not the chosen people; we are the choosing people: When we choose to do Jewishly, we affirm our place in a long line of people who, themselves, chose to do Jewishly.

We can start choosing anywhere, but Pesach offers a ready-made, easy-to-follow path to making a Jewish choice. Even if you don’t sterilize your home or bring out a completely new set of dishes, it is possible – this year – to observe the central mitzvah of Pesach: “Shivat yamim matzot tochelu” – You shall eat matzah (and not bread) for seven days.” (Note to my Orthodox friends: you’re welcome to observe the eighth day of this, but if seven days are good enough for the Torah, they’re good enough for me.)

Yes, it’s inconvenient. And that’s the real challenge for us – for all Jews, now and forever: understanding that mitzvot are, by definition, inconvenient. Arranging a brit milah for a newborn is inconvenient. Shlepping children to religious school week after week and year after year is inconvenient. Taking time off from work for a Jewish holiday is inconvenient. Finding the Hillel on a college campus is inconvenient. Keeping kosher, keeping Shabbat, working in a soup kitchen… the list of inconvenient Jewish activities is really, really long. But what would Judaism be without them?

What would Judaism be without you? Yes, it will survive even if you don’t do anything Jewish at all. But it won’t be as strong, or as good, or as likely to be part of the lives of those you love if it’s not part of your life, whether it’s convenient or not. 

Our family’s seder changes every year. We have different people at the table, different discussions, different readings that enhance the words of the haggadah. But two things are constant for us: we have lots of people, and we don’t have bread. Not on the first night, or the second. Or the third, fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh. And on the eighth night, you’ll find us at the pizza parlor because pizza is the doughiest food we can think of!

The pizza always tastes especially good at the end of Pesach, both because it’s good to eat hametz again and because we know that we, together with Jews around the world, have been given a special legacy to preserve and pass on. There is a deep, fulfilling satisfaction in fulfilling a mitzvah completely, from beginning to end.

You. Can. Do. This!

Shira and I wish you and your loved ones a Pesach filled with joy, health, family, friends, good food and everything else your heart desires… except hametz!

                                                                                               Rabbi Don Weber

© 2016, Temple Rodeph Torah

Happy Purim!!???

February 2016

FROM RABBI WEBER

This is my Purim article. I’m stating this at the outset because it is about the Veterans’ Administration, and it would be funny – hilarious, actually – if it weren’t true. But as a writer once said, “Truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction has to make sense.”

 

The following story makes no sense, but it is true. It is about trying to obtain VA Survivor Benefits for my mom, who qualified due to the many years of my father’s service in the Army.

 

Best Hanukkah Gift - EVER

December 2015

From The Desk of Rabbi Weber

 

“Shopping” is not one of the skills listed on my resume. But I would like to give you a Hanukkah gift idea which will not only be one of the best presents you ever give to someone you love, but will be one which is remembered long, long after every other gift is forgotten.

Our Mothers' Names

October 2015

From the Desk of Rabbi Weber

No, the grave marker pictured is not in honor of Halloween. But it is about honor. ...

 

 

 

Rabbi, Do You Support the Iran Agreement?

September 2015

From the Desk of Rabbi Weber

Over recent weeks, the Iran agreement has been the number one topic of conversation in Jewish circles. Many people have asked me if I am going to speak about it on the High Holidays, and I told them no, I am not. Here is why.

Is the Battle for Gay Marriage Over? Maybe Not…

July 2015

From The Desk of Rabbi Weber

Like many of you, I celebrated the Supreme Court’s ruling that same-gender couples are entitled to the benefits of marriage. As a straight man in a heterosexual marriage I don’t feel my relationship has been put at risk by others marrying the person they love, and I’m happy to bid a not-so-fond farewell to DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act which supposedly “protected” my marriage up to this point.

Mishkan HaNefesh, “The Sanctuary of the Soul"

July 2015

From the Desk of Rabbi Weber

“You changed the prayerbook… again?”

Well, no. And yes. Mishkan Tefilah, our weekday and Shabbat prayerbook, is not changing. But we are replacing On Wings of Awe, our High Holiday prayerbook for the past quarter-century, with Mishkan HaNefesh, “the Sanctuary of the Soul.” The new books have arrived and we are busy affixing bookplates to honor the many people who contributed to bringing this important change to our congregation.

Yerusha – the Inheritance

June 2015

From the Desk of Rabbi Weber

I want to tell you about the yerusha – the inheritance - I received from my parents. It is precious beyond words, valuable beyond measure… and it didn’t cost a penny. My hope is that I will describe it well enough for you to create the same yerusha for your family, and do it now.

Marlee's Sermon

June 2015

Our temple youth group created and led Rock Shabbat last Friday.

Here is the sermon given by Marlee Neugass. I want to share it because it is worth reading. And no, I did not excommunicate her afterward... although I told her I would...
I am SO proud of this young woman, and of everyone who created, led and participated in Friday night's service!

A NIGHTTIME CONCERT

May 2015

Old Bridge Airport

As evening fell the heat of the day eased.

Reviving the Dead

April 2015

The Power of Telling Stories

From the Torah to contemporary novels, we Jews know that stories have power. They teach better than most other kinds of lessons because they put the message – the mashal – in the context of real people. No great news flash there.

What I didn’t realize about stories is their power to revive the dead.

Let all who are hungry come and eat

April 2015

Hunger for Meaning

One of the most famous lines in the haggadah is,

“Let all who are hungry come and eat.” It’s how we begin our seder – by inviting those who need what we have to share with us.

 

But this invitation isn’t just about food, and it isn’t just for Passover.

Blessings

February 2015

Life's Challenges

I don’t like surprises. Give me time to prepare and I can handle almost anything, but surprises are not welcome guests in my brain.

So, in December I tore my Achilles’ tendon.

Surprise!

How To Help Israel

December 2014

...We Can Go There

How To Help Israel

I’ve spoken and written a lot about Israel recently. Maybe it’s because I don’t hear many people doing it who aren’t completely critical of every single thing Israel does...

Should We Fear Everyone?

November 2014

How Do We Adjust?

Should We Fear Everyone?

This past summer a pregnant woman was punched in the face while walking along a street in Brooklyn. She was knocked out, but, fortunately, no lasting harm came to her or to her baby. The assailant, a 33-year old man, was quickly apprehended in what seems to be a completely random act of violence.

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