Cheryl, Abigail, Jonah and I wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving!
Rabbi Naomi Levy | Prayer
For the laughter of the children,
For my own life breath,
For the abundance of food on this table,
For the ones who prepared this sumptuous feast,
For the roof over our heads,
The clothes on our backs,
For our health,
And our wealth of blessings,
For this opportunity to celebrate with family and friends,
For the freedom to pray these words
In any language,
In any faith,
In this great country,
Whose landscape is as vast and beautiful as her inhabitants.
Thank You, God, for giving us all these. Amen.
In Christianity, the four weeks leading up to Christmas are known as Advent – a time to prepare for Christmas spiritually and educationally. For some, Advent Calendars are an integral part of this four week preparation period. These calendars contain little “windows” that are opened on each day of Advent. Inside each “window” is a little teaching or treat that is intended to prepare the Advent Calendar user for Christmas. After reading an article a few weeks ago about the Advent Calendar, I realized that we need aJewish version of this holiday countdown tool. What an incredible way to remind ourselves and teach our children and grandchildren about the upcoming holiday of Chanukah. And so, Cheryl and I have created The Kislev Calendar: Your Chanukah Countdown which you can find online HERE (www.chanukahiscoming.com).
Our calendar begins this Saturday night, the first night of the Jewish month of Kislev. On the 25th day of Kislev (Tuesday night, December 16), we light the first candle of Chanukah. Each night, beginning Saturday night and running through the last night of Chanukah, we invite you and your family to click on the virtual window corresponding to the appropriate date. Inside the windows you will find a special Chanukah lesson, blessing or gift. Some of the windows will get you thinking. Others will get you laughing. All of them, we hope, will make this year’s Chanukah celebration more meaningful for all of you. Remember, The Kislev Calendar begins tomorrow night. This morning on Twitter, The Kislev Calendar got the attention of Manischewitz. We hope it gets your attention. Share it with family and friends and enjoy!
In this week’s Torah portion, we read about the passing of Sarah, Abraham’s wife. We watch Abraham purchase a burial plot for her and begin the mourning process. As we have spent a lot of time talking about recently, Judaism urges us to count our blessings and focus on the things that bring us happiness and joy. This being said, Sarah’s passing and Abraham’s experience as a mourner remind us that we do need to spend some time planning for the unhappy moments of our lives. I believe that if we do this planning, we can, to the best of our abilities, make the death of a loved one and the mourning process less complicated. Click HERE to download a copy of What Do I Do Now? What To Do When There Is A Death In The Family, which I hope you will never have to rely upon but I hope you will read. As you do read it, let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
In this week’s Torah portion, Abraham and God don’t agree with each other. God is disgusted with the immoral behavior of the residents of Sodom and Gemorrah and plots to destroy these cities. Abraham, while not condoning the people’s behavior, disagrees with God’s plan to annihilate the cities. He works very hard to change God’s mind by challenging God with great respect. In turn, God listens attentively to Abraham and responds with due respect. Ultimately, Abraham is not successful in changing God’s mind, but the relationship between Abraham and God is not strained by this disagreement. If anything, they grow closer to each other and forge a stronger bond.
After Tuesday night’s election, lots of us don’t agree with each other. This ability to disagree is one of the blessings of living in our country. But, our ability to disagree feels more like a curse than a blessing these days. Many who are unhappy with Tuesday’s election results have failed to reflect upon the growing frustration in our country and have resorted to explaining Tuesday’s results on the ignorance of those who were satisfied with the results. At the same time, many who felt victorious on Tuesday night, are chomping at the bit to suppress the views of those who lost and dismantle what has been built over the past few years more out of vengeance than out of what is best for our country. Both sides are behaving recklessly – showing no desire to respect, listen to or learn from, those with whom they disagree politically. As a nation, we have a lot to learn from Abraham and God’s ability to disagree, move forward and grow closer.
Judaism teaches us that there is nothing wrong with a good disagreement. The rabbis teach us that “any dispute which is for the sake of Heaven will ultimately endure.” (Pirkei Avot 5:20) If you passionately believe in something and are certain it will make the world a better place, stand up for it! But, Judaism warns us, don’t stand up for something by undermining someone else: “Who is honored? The one who honors others.” (Pirke Avot 4:1) Honoring each other, even when we do not agree is a fundamental Jewish value. No matter what we feel about Tuesday night’s election results, we owe it to each other to embrace this value and come together as a community that can model the lesson expressed by the ancient disagreement between God and Abraham: we can respectfully disagree and actually grow closer to each other.