Monday, August 30, 2010

Last fall's class was such a success - building so many bridges - we're doing it again!

Join us to explore Jewish and Catholic perspectives on teshuvah - atonement/repentance/return.

An enthusiastic discussion and dialogue - with no holds barred! So we can really engage one another, learn from one another, and help each other grow!

RSVP - and be with us as we make this fall another meaningful season!!!

Jewish & Catholic Perspectives

A Dialogue of Human Experience

Members of Temple Beth-El, Little Flower Catholic Church, and others will dialogue, sharing our vast theological traditions, and moreover, our human experience of atonement in a seminar-type environment.

What is atonement? What does it mean to live in, fall away from, and return to right relationship with God, others, and oneself?

Rabbi Eric J. Siroka and Jay Freel Landry will co-facilitate the sessions. Monday evening and Tuesday morning sessions will have the same focus.

Monday evening at Temple Beth-El starting September 13, 7:00 - 8:45 p.m. Tuesday morning at Little Flower starting September 14, 9:15 – 11:00 a.m.

There are seven sessions with the last sessions on October 25/26.

There is no particular text being used for this seminar series.

A list of books that address the topic will be available at the first sessions.

You are encouraged to read what interests you.

An RSVP is requested for Temple Beth-El (234-4402) and Little Flower (273-9722) members by Sept. 10, so we know how many are coming to each session – please indicate which session you wish to attend (Monday evening or Tuesday morning).

The wider community is requested to register through Forever Learning (282-1901).

Friday, August 27, 2010

It's that time of year - preparing (as best we can) for the upcoming High Holy Days. Looking forward to the onset of the New Year, so many of us look for direction, inspiration - for this is to be a season of change and renewal.
So late last night, I get an email from Garmin - stating that my GPS has a problem and has been recalled. Send it back immediately for repair - DO NOT use the damaged instrument.
I had to laugh - is there a message in this? Here I am trying to get ready to guide our community through the Days of Awe - looking myself for some guidance and uplift - and I lose the use of my GPS. Kinda funny to think about.
SO - what's your internal GPS? How and where do you find inspiration, guidance, direction? What are the sources of your renewal? And, what are you anticipating in the New Year just ahead?
Just a few more thought here in the middle of Elul.

Monday, August 23, 2010

thinking of Hillel while cleaning the kitchen

"That which is is hateful to you - do not do to your fellow...this is the whole of Torah...the rest is commentary...go and learn."
So taught the great sage Hillel, with words that have echoed through the ages. My question: what is hateful to YOU, that reminds you how NOT to act toward others? And maybe more importantly: what are you doing to keep learning, growing, and becoming a better version of yourself?
Just a couple thoughts while cleaning up the kitchen...

Friday, August 20, 2010

5770: looking back to move ahead

This Hebrew month of Elul, the one leading up to the High Holy Days, is meant as a time of introspection and reflection. Before we can truly be ready to welcome the New Year, we owe ourselves the chance to look back – for good or for bad – on the year that was. Once Rosh HaShanah arrives, we can already have done the real tough, sacred work of examining the highlights and disappointments (and especially who we have been) from the year now gone.

When pushed, it’s somewhat easy to focus on the “stuff” for which we feel obligated to atone: our pettiness and envy, perhaps how we’ve hurt or alienated our loved ones, the missed opportunities, and how we’ve failed ourselves…I believe this tendency is why Jewish tradition declares that “for transgressions between a person and God, the Day of Atonement (itself) atones.” Going through the process of cheshbon ha-nefesh (accounting the soul), and coming to terms with one’s own faults and foibles effects teshuvah – repentance and return.

Yet I also like to remember that this is a time to consider, in appropriate context, the good and uplifting events and experiences, the satisfactions and accomplishments we’ve achieved. We keep these things not so we can gloat over ourselves (wouldn’t that be counter to the whole point of the season?J); rather, that we can continue through these significant holy days, to cultivate a true sense of gratitude for all that we have. More so, giving thanks for the blessings in our lives – and appreciating the goodness we know – helps us foster that sense of meaning that so many of us seek.

Psalm 27 exhorts: “Look to Adonai – may your heart be strong and courageous.” I challenge you to join me in finding our strength. Looking back on 5770, what are the great highs and lows you’ve experienced? How have they helped shape your life? What have you done of significance (great or small)? And mostly, what are the cherished parts of your experience that propel you into the coming New Year?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Bis hundert und zwanzig (at least!)

Deb’s grandma Leah turns 100 (!) in a couple of weeks. This past weekend, we were up in MN with the rest of the family (as well as some relatives from all over the country we didn’t know existed before) to celebrate this amazing milestone. After all the planning, worrying, and anxiety – everything turned out fine (anxiety in our family? What, are you new here?).

I’ve now known Leah for 20 years; we met just as she reached 80. And over this time, I’ve come to know her as a woman who has not merely lived this long – but who has enjoyed and appreciated the many things she’s experienced. She engages you in real conversation about most anything you might think: family and food, movies and music, politics and pop culture. And (unlike some), she’s ALWAYS interested in what others have to say.

For me, though, the most significant thing about grandma is that she has an active, vibrant, and real relationship with my kids, her great-grandchildren. I only knew one of my own grandparents; how cool is it that our 11 year-old son and 9 year-old daughter not only know their great-grandmother (they affectionately call her G.G. Leah J), and can “do stuff” with her too – go out to dinner; play games; tell her about what’s going on in their lives, just as she does for them; even walk around the mall (ok, so even using a walker, grandma’s usually faster than the rest of us, especially getting to a restaurant table!).

A hundred years is certainly nothing to sneeze at; and this 100 is the best thing I’ve ever had the chance to celebrate.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Where YOU matter most

It’s August – a great time to think about what matters most in life. And don’t forget, what matters most is YOU.
For congregations, this time of year is often (seen by some as) “down time” – you know, that hazy period between the end of springtime activities and the frantic gearing up for the Holy Days, return to Religious School and new programming year that comes with fall. Of course this is not true. Any good (healthy) congregational community is *vibrant* throughout the year. And perhaps this is best demonstrates during those times when the calendar doesn’t seem to be so full. A congregation is not defined by its worship schedule or its educational events. Indeed, these are very important. The vitality of a congregation can truly be reflected in its sense of community (admittedly something difficult to measure). How deeply people feel connected…to what extent their involvement and very presence is valued…if they really feel that “I belong”…THESE are the qualities of a great congregation. In other words, it’s where YOU matter most.
No synagogue (or any institution for that matter) is perfect – doing all the best things in all the rights ways, all the time. Yet most strive, day-by-day, to be worthy of your attention and involvement. And this is hard (and rewarding) work. So I encourage you – whether you’ve shied away from congregational life or if you’re a life-long devotee – to be part of the life of the community. Find the right place for prayer and learning, for networking and friendship – your life will be enriched in a place where YOU matter most.
And if you’re nearby, or when you visit, please join me at Temple Beth-El ( – an imperfect, loving, caring community, which makes every effort to let you know that YOU matter most.