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Summer 2023 Agudagram

The story of the handwriting on the wall occupies the realm of biblical mythology and miracle. Removing this literary dressing, we’re left with a message and a mission, a “writing on the wall” of contemporary life, which we Jews are obligated to place incessantly before society: we must speak truth to power. This is difficult to do, especially when it places us at great potential risk; it has always been a fraught endeavor for us, especially in the Diaspora. Like Daniel, we Jews have struggled over many centuries to survive with political cunning under regimes that tolerated us, used us, were hostile to us, and most horribly, tried to destroy us. Even Jewish life
in democratic America comes with complicated strings attached. They present us with huge political and moral choices between self-protection and fighting for what is right in the greater society. That’s why Daniel can be such a powerful model for us. He rises so high in the court of the king that the latter calls upon his wisdom and good counsel before all his nobility. Yet the favor that Daniel curries with Belshazzar doesn’t prevent him from severely chastising Belshazzar for his wrongdoing. Daniel serves the king, but he serves God and God’s truth even more.

May 2023 Agudagram

Shavuot has its origins in the
ancient mid-summer harvest
celebrations of the
Canaanites, the ancient
people from which Israelite
society sprang during the
Bronze Age. These early
religions’ celebrations, in
which revelers rejoiced in
the harvesting of wheat, were local affairs probably celebrated in communal threshing grounds,
where the wheat was separated from the chaff, and other cultic sites.

All that started to change in the 7th and 8th centuries BCE, when the Jerusalem monarchs and
priesthood consolidated power, bringing formerly separate tribes under the helm of one ruler.
As part of this program, they co-opted these local affairs and supplanted them by unified rites
that could only be performed in the Temple in Jerusalem…

April 2023 Agudagram

At the great seder night of Pesach when we read and discuss the immortal words of the
Pesach Hagada, my family has always enthusiastically sung the portion of the Hagada
that we know as “Dayenu.” By the grace of G-d, I have been able to witness a number
of my generations singing this meaningful poem of praise to the Almighty for the
bountiful goodness that he has bestowed upon us.
Since I am leading the singing that always accompanies this poem, the melody may be
somewhat out of tune but what it lacks in pitch it makes up for in enthusiasm and
volume. I have always thought about the words that make up this poem and the entire
concept that “Dayenu” communicates to us…

traditional jewish matzo

2023 Sale of Chometz for Passover

If possible, all chametz – food not acceptable during Pesach (Passover), or materials containing such unacceptable food – should be destroyed or given away before the holiday begins. Should this be impossible, the chametz may be stored in such a way that we are sure not to use it during the holiday and its actual ownership is transferred to a non-Jew until the holiday ends.

If you are not able to come to the synagogue personally to appoint Richard Kline as your agent for the sale of chametz, you may accomplish that by completing the form below by 9:00am Monday April 5th to be effective…

March 2023 Agudagram

Some may wonder, where is God? We feel distant and alone. Queen Esther, who risked her life for her people, left us with a letter of faith and love. She knew that we, her children, would battle hatred and
unspeakable suffering throughout our long wanderings on this earth. The Scroll of Esther, Megillat Esther, would infuse us, her children, with hope. “Esther requested that these words of Purim should be accepted and it was written in a scroll” (Megillat Esther 9:32).
It is as if Esther is whispering to us, “My dear children, you think that you are standing all alone? You think that you are going through dark times? Look at me! Every man, woman and child, in every land, I ask that you hear my words and read my scroll, until the end of time. Because my
story is your story. We have been here before. You are never abandoned. You must never lose

February 2023 Agudagram

Stepping back to allow for growth is a major theme of Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish birthday of the
trees. We plant trees knowing that we might not enjoy their shade or their fruits. It is a selfless
act that reminds us that there is more to the world than us.
We often quote the story of Honi the Circle Maker, from tractate Taanit in the Babylonian
Talmud, during this time of year.
In this story, Honi sees a man planting a carob tree and doesn’t understand why he would plant
a tree that will only bear fruit in 70 years, long after the man’s lifetime. The man who plants the tree replies that he found a world full of carob trees, and just as his ancestors planted for him, he too, plants for his descendants.
Hakham (Rabbi) Avraham Shaul Amir, a 20th-century Cuban rabbi of Turkish descent, shares a wonderful take on Honi’s story:
“Our ancestors planted for us more than carobs. Our entire history, values, morals, and hope for the future are all thanks to our ancestors … [T]his story reminds us that we should credit our ancestors with all that we have, so that we will gain support from them and from their deeds. And all their deeds are righteous, with everlasting merit for their descendants for generations
to come.”

January 2023

Jewish Tradition identifies three primary characteristics of our relationship with God. God is our Creator. God is the Revealer of Wisdom. God is our Redeemer. Creation happens, of course, at the beginning of the Book of Genesis, though mystics see it happening continually all the time. As for the Revelation—the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai—and the Redemption from Egypt, they are the focus of the Book of Exodus which we begin this week. Exodus in summary may be expressed this way: God frees us from Egyptian slavery and reveals to us the Torah at Mount Sinai—giving us freedom and holy purpose in one dramatic process.The slavery which begins the Book of Exodus is, in some ways, a surprise. Things have been good in the Goshen section of Egypt for many generations. Joseph’s good offices for the sake of Pharaoh earn him honor and his Canaanite relatives a safehaven from the famine afflicting their land. But, as we read in Exodus 1.8-11: “A new king arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph. And, he said to his people, ‘Look, the Israelite people are much too numerous for us. Let us deal shrewdly with them, so that they may not increase; otherwise, in the event of war, they may join our enemies in fighting against us and rise from the ground.’ So they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor…”

December 2022

Hanukkah is one of the few Jewish holidays not mentioned in the Bible. The story of how Hanukkah came to be is contained in the books of 1 and 2 Maccabees, which are the Jewish canon of the Hebrew Bible. These books tell the story of the Maccabees not part of , a small band of Jewish fighters who liberated the Land of Israel from the Syrian Greeks who occupied it. Under the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Syrian Greeks sought to impose their Hellenistic culture, which many Jews found attractive. By 167 B.C.E, Antiochus intensified his campaign by defiling the Temple in Jerusalem and banning Jewish practice. The Maccabees — led by the five sons of the priest Mattathias, especially Judah — waged a three-year campaign that culminated in the cleaning and rededication of the Temple.

November 2022

The Bible usually refers to the months by their ordinal numbers, although occasional ancient Israelite names are also used.2 The currently used Jewish names for the months were imported from Babylonia and many of them appear in post-exilic books of the Bible. Some of these are derived from the names of ancient gods, such as Tammuz which is thought to come from the Assyrian Du-mu-zu, an Egyptian god, and is mentioned as the name of an idol in Ezekiel (8:14).