Shemini – Leviticus 9:1-11:47

Facebook_CoverDesign_SheminiYou are what you eat, so they say. But more importantly, as Jews, we eat only in the context of creation.

In this week’s reading, Shemini, aside from Aaron’s mysterious silence in the face of his sons’ immolation, we are drawn into the distinctions conveyed through our dietary laws. The laws of kashrut are commanded, identifying permissible and forbidden animals for consumption, including: (1) land animals only with a split hoof and that chew their cud; (2) fish with scales and fins; and (3) appropriately listed birds and insects.

As we read in Leviticus 11:1-2, the divine imperative for conscious consumption brings awareness that "you may eat out of all the domestic beasts that are on the earth." This phrase "on the earth" appears seven times in this chapter (11:2, 21, 29, 41, 42, 44, 46) – why? It is a reminder taking us back to the sixth day of Creation, when the Earth was first covered with plants and mobile creatures, and the humans were blessed as stewards of "every animal that creeps on the earth." (Genesis 1:28).

Finally, distinctions relating to ritual readiness are recounted, including the laws relating to the immersion pool known as the mikveh. All these rituals are based on the ancient wisdom of distinction(s); while they continue to evolve, they still have resonance today.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week’s illustration is inspired by fire's central and ambivalent role in Shemini. It goes "forth from before the Lord and consume[s] the burnt offering" (Leviticus 9:24) and also "forth from before the Lord and consume[s]...Nadav and Avihu" (Leviticus 10:2). It is difficult to read of the horrible fate of Aaron's sons without considering the English name for the Shoah – "holocaust n 1. a burnt sacrifice: a sacrificial offering wholly consumed by fire 2. a complete or thorough sacrifice or destruction esp. by fire." Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Israel Mission Remembrance (I)

From December 22, 2016 – January 2, 2017, almost 30 members of the CBS community traveled to Israel as part of the CBS/Kol Shofar Intergenerational Communal Family Mission. The trip itinerary was thoughtfully designed by Rabbis Aubrey Glazer and Susan Leider (Kol Shofar), and we've heard from many participants about how extraordinary and memorable an experience they had.

Beginning today, we'll occasionally share participant remembrances on the blog. If you read these contributions and wish to join a future congregational mission to Eretz Yisrael, please let us know.

We're kicking this series off with a lovely note from congregants Robert and Irene Minkowsky.


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We came as a group of 30 or so with Rabbi Glazer, some of us totally virgin to Israel and this part of the world.

Avraham Silver, our primary guide, gave us a rich window into the history – or should we say, the memory and spirituality – of our people and into this land of honey and grapes, mountains and valleys, springs and seas, culture, language, architecture, and creativity.

Jerusalem and Tel Aviv flanked for us a journey of a lifetime.

We bounced – thanks to our driver, Yosi – over rocky roads, both inland and by the coast (eretz to yam), and moved through narrow streets. We saw the tips of the land, north and east, bordering Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, trying to understanding the borders where the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) watch from jeeps idling between mine fields.

We think we may understand now the old and the new, the religious and the secular, the rabbis and the Zionists, the Declaration of Independence and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Yet, as Avraham tells us, the conflict does not define the country; life and beauty define Israel, really.

Facebook_IsraelMission_WortzmanTalk_IsraelMuseum_JerusalemWe got a glimpse into the secrets, the magical, the miraculous survival from the fires, the anti-Semitism, the pogroms, the camps, the isolate dunes.

We saw the proud and beautiful new generations climbing Masada, defending the streets, educating the young, and supporting the aged. We floated in the salt of the Dead Sea and hummed tunes of hope. It was sometimes hard to believe we were alive in the land of our ancestors.

We are about to turn a new leaf in our book, one that includes Israel in every breath of our being. We embrace this exciting new passage in our lives, ready to explore more – so much more! – in the future.

Todah rabbah, Avraham. Todah rabbah, Da’at Educational Expeditions, and to Yosi, our Da'at guide, for the knowledge, the physical experience, and the memories you imparted us. Thank you, Rabbi Glazer, for making it the trip a reality for us, and for adding your knowledge and inspiration.

Make no mistake of it, as Avraham would say, we will be back! We leave our hearts in Israel.

With love and gratitude,
Irene and Robert (Minkowsky) Facebook_IsraelMission_GroupPhoto2_Jerusalem

VaYelekh -- Deuteronomy 31:1 – 30

facebook_coverdesign_vayelekhA remarkable conversation between two Jewish luminaries took place a few years ago, when neuroscientist Eric Kandel (b. 1929) and survivor-activist Elie Wiesel (1928- 2016) – both Nobel Laureates – reflected on memory and forgetting. Wiesel reminded us that we must never forget, while Kandel taught that the best way to do this is by remaining active, social, and creative into your golden years.

As we struggle moment to moment in our over-programmed lives to continuously remember a present called consciousness, we should heed the words of these luminaries: "Keep the past alive in you, and actively use it to create a better future."

This week’s reading of Parashat VaYelekh reminds us to never forget the exemplary life of Moses, who reaches his 120th year fully active (even in his short-lived retirement!). Among his final acts recounted here, Moses announces the transition in leadership to Joshua and also concludes the writing of the Torah scroll, now entrusted to the Levites for safekeeping in the Ark of the Covenant.

Additionally, he explains that every seven years, during the festival of Sukkot, the entire people of Israel are commanded to "gather" together in the Jerusalem Temple in a rite that comes to be known as the mitzvah of hak’hel. The gathering is a sacred moment of communal assembly, one during which those present hear the king read from the Torah scroll. Yet alongside this injunction to gather and read together, there is the acknowledgement that the Israelites will inevitably turn away from their covenant with the divine. When this turning happens, they will experience an eclipse of the divine face, as it were, even though the words of Torah will never be forgotten.

Judaism is both a day-to-day spiritual practice as well as a legacy project never to be forgotten – our challenge is how to strike the appropriate balance.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's artwork is inspired by Deuteronomy 31:16–17: "And they will forsake Me and violate My covenant which I made with them. And My fury will rage against them on that day, and I will abandon them and hide My face from them..." The image can be interpreted in many different ways, but it was informed by specific and rather literal thinking. Having worked for almost a decade in the neuroscience lab of Paul Greengard, who shared the Nobel Prize with Eric Kandel, I was thinking of the electric thicket of neurons and synapses contained in each of our brains, and how physiological changes to these cells can lead to perceptual deficiencies (e.g., hidden faces). Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Shul School Is Back In Session!

ThinkingMattersOur popular Thinking Matters: Modern Jewish Philosophy mini-course series kicks off a new semester next week!

Below, we provide an overview of September – November 2016 Thinking Matters course offerings. (The full 2016–17 mini-course overview can be accessed by clicking here.)


Join our impressive line-up of local star teachers and CBS experts to wrestle with today's urgent questions of Jewish philosophy. Can there be such a thing as a Jewish philosophy, or a philosophy of Judaism? How does Judaism relate to the broader question of the relationship of ethics, religion, and theology to philosophy? (For an introduction to Jewish modern thought and philosophy, we recommend Steven Katz's essay, "Eliezar Berkovits & Modern Jewish Philosophy.")

Details and readings for upcoming Thinking Matters single classes and mini-courses are included below.

All classes meet on Thursday evenings from 6:30 – 8 p.m. All sessions are FREE for CBS members, but students are encouraged to make a donation to CBS. For nonmembers, each single session is $12. Alternatively, nonmembers can purchase an 8-session pack for $84, or the full semester subscription for $180.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER ONLINE


Elie Wiesel and the Problems of Holocaust Representation
September 22 & October 27
(Sessions continue in 2017: January 12, January 19, February 2, March 2 & 30, & April 20)
(8 sessions w/ Dr. Michael Thaler)


Course Description: Elie Wiesel is universally recognized as the leading voice of Holocaust commemoration and interpretation. This course will highlight significant differences in content and message between Wiesel's original Yiddish memoir, Un di velt hot geshvign (And the World Remained Silent), which is known only to a handful of scholars, and the universally acclaimed French (La Nuit) and English (Night) versions. Dr. Thaler will also compare Wiesel’s work of Holocaust representation with the accounts of other key witnesses, both Jews and non-Jews, including Jerzy Kosinski (The Painted Bird), Tadeusz Borowski (This Way To The Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen), Charlotte Delbo (None Of Us Will Return), Jean Améry (At The Mind’s Limits), and Primo Levi (Survival In Auschwitz). Additionally, to examine the impact of Holocaust narratives on younger American Jewish writers, we shall look at Nathan Englander's What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, and Jonathan Safran Foer's Here I Am.


Jewish Thinking & Activism In Black Lives Matter
November 3
(1 session w/ Ilana Kaufman)


Course Description: Jewish identity. Jewish values. Black lives. They all matter. Thinking about and reflecting on Jewish identity and values, Ilana Kaufman will present experiences from field work and data, and delve into interesting community dilemmas connecting who we are as Jews and the Racial Justice movement.

Readings: TBD

Ethics In Sacrificing One Life For Another
November 17
(1 session w/ Rabbi Doug Kahn)


Course Description: "Two people were traveling, and [only] one of them had a canteen of water. [There was only enough water so that] if both of them drank they would both die, but if one of them drank [only], he would make it back to an inhabited area [and live]. Ben Petura taught: 'Better both should drink and die than that one see his friend’s death,' until Rabbi Akiva came and taught: 'Your brother should live with you' (Vayikra 25:36) – your life takes precedence over the life of your friend's.'" (Bava Metzia 62a) This one-session class wrestles with the ultimate ethical issue – saving one life at the expense of another. Rabbi Kahn will examine how Jewish law was applied to agonizing life-for-life situations during the Holocaust and continues to be relevant in today’s world.

Readings: None


CLICK HERE TO REGISTER ONLINE

New Books In Our Library Collection

Rosemary Rothstein and the rest of the CBS Rabin Family Library Committee have been quite busy this past year. New books are added to our collection all the time. We invite you to come by and take a look!

If you would like to check out a book, just take a card from the library desk, sign your name and date, and place the card in the black mesh wire box. If you have an interest in some Jewish subject and can’t find what you are looking for, email Rosemary or Henry Hollander and they will see what they can do for you.

Below, congregant and bookseller Henry Hollander provides a few short reviews of some recently-acquired titles.

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Heart of Many RoomsA Heart of Many Rooms: Celebrating the Many Voices within Judaism,
by David Hartman

The late David Hartman (z"l), founder of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, encouraged thoughtful re-evaluation of Jewish ideas within a traditional Jewish setting. This collection of essays includes sections on "Family and Mitzvah with an Interpretive Tradition," "Educating Towards Inclusiveness," "Celebrating Religious Diversity," and "Religious Perspectives on the Future of Israel." Hartman’s contribution to Jewish education has had an invigorating effect on the many teachers who have studied at the Hartman Institute. While his legacy continues to benefit and shape the institute, we are now deprived of Hartman’s direct teaching. A Heart of Many Rooms provides a a good introduction to this significant Jewish thinker's thought.



Survival in SarajevoSurvival in Sarajevo: How a Jewish Community Came to the Aid of its City,
by Edward Serotta

Serotta is a European journalist and photographer who reported and photographed Sarajevo during the long and brutal Bosnian siege of the city. The war that occurred in the period following the collapse of Eastern European communism pitted Muslims, Croats, and Bosnians against each other. The Jewish community was no one’s enemy. Within the besieged city, the small Jewish population very actively worked to maintain public health, find food for the population, reach out to the isolated elderly, and provide a route of escape for as many people as possible, Jew or non-Jew. Serotta tells the story of this community, nearly destroyed in the Holocaust fifty years earlier, in a moment of very bitter triumph.

Bat Mitzvah of Ana RosensteinA guide for Shabbat worshipers in attendance at the Bat Mitzvah of Ana Rosenstein, Michal Bat Leah Hannah v’Benyamin, Shabbat Shira-Parshah Beshallach, February 11, 2006, 13 Shevat, 5766,
Congregation Beth Sholom, San Francisco, California.

At most of our b'nai mitzvot, the family provides a short brochure to help explain to the uninitiated just exactly what is going on around them and why. This deluxe version of such a production is very well done and can provide a helpful model for families preparing their own (simpler) brochures.

Schocken Guide to Jewish BooksThe Schocken Guide to Jewish Books: Where to Start Reading about Jewish History, Literature, Culture and Religion,
edited by Barry W. Holtz

Three thousand years of Jewish life is a lot to take in. It can be hard to figure out where to start. This guide is one of the best introductions to the world of Jewish books out there.





Wolloch HaggadahThe Wolloch Haggadah. Pessach Haggadah In Memory of the Holocaust,
Illustrated by David Wander with calligraphy by Yonah Weinrib

This Haggadah was originally commissioned as a one-of-a-kind, hand-written and illustrated manuscript. There was a subsequent, high-quality limited-edition portfolio produced. This edition is the first trade edition. It was dedicated to the memory of the Wolloch’s parents, both of whom perished in the Holocaust. During the Holocaust, Haggadot manuscripts were produced for surreptitious use, and they reveal much about how Jews lived and maintained their spiritual lives in the face of overwhelming adversity.

A Haggadah that is a commemoration of the Holocaust is not something I am not always comfortable with. There is an implicit and often explicit connection between the ideas "we were slaves in Egypt" and "we were victims in the Holocaust" that is too rigid for my tastes. That said, this particular rendering of the story of the Exodus from Egypt, drenched as it is in what Salo Baron referred to as "the lachrymose conception of Jewish history," is both beautiful and horrible in its telling of the tale. Come and review it and make your own conclusions!

Announcing The Gathering Essay Competition

TheGathering1CBS is delighted to announce an exciting cultural and learning opportunity for families in our community!

Playwright Arje Shaw is generously sponsoring an essay writing competition for CBS teenagers (at or around b'nai mitzvah age). Shaw invites teens who are interested in participating to attend his critically-acclaimed play, The Gathering, during its upcoming run at The Live Oak Theatre in Berkeley (July 21 - August 20, 2016).

After watching the play, participants should write an essay (1,000 - 1,500 words) about how practicing remembrance and tolerance can improve the future for all people. This essay should be composed in conversation/collaboration with parents and other family members.

TheGathering2Although The Gathering deals with the Shoah, the teenage essayists will present their compositions to the congregation during Sukkot 5777 (October 17-18, 2016). Why Sukkot instead of, say, Yom HaShoah? Shaw hopes the process of writing the essay will prompt the participating teens to thoughtfully consider their heritage and how best to honor it (l'dor v'dor, from generation to generation), and the mystical tradition of inviting ushpizin, ancestral "guests," into the sukkah to share space with us is pertinent.

Following the public presentation of the essays, Rabbi Glazer will announce which of the entries he and a committee of CBS member judges deems most resonant. Shaw will make a $1,000 donation to CBS in the author's name.

Shaw notes that The Gathering wasn't written just for himself. It is, as he puts it, "an expression of neshamah, a soulful thank you to my parents for all their sacrifices to rebuild their lives in securing a future for their children. We all have had people in our lives who made that happen, and The Gathering is a tribute to them."

We think that Shaw's essay competition will provide some of our CBS teens with their own opportunity to offer such a tribute.

Photo credits: The Gathering production photos by DavidAllenStudio.com

HAGGADAH

Announcing HAGGADAH, a new CBS exhibition opening in the Kahn Gallery on Sunday, April 10, 2016, at 5 p.m.

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Passover, perhaps more than any other holiday, is steeped in tradition and ritual. Fortunately, we have a wonderful, step-by-step guide through the seder – the Haggadah.

The CBS Rabin Family Library has dozens of Haggadot that you can peruse and borrow: The Maxwell House version that many of us grew up with, the beautiful Shahn, Baskin, or Szyk. There are Haggadot aimed at children, interfaith families, or vegetarians, others that focus on the Holocaust, and still more that are animated, illuminated, or just plain fun.

The Kahn Gallery of Congregation Beth Sholom, behind the Gronowski Family Chapel, will be showcasing Haggadot from our own library! Come see the show, HAGGADAH, learn about the Haggadah, and join us for a “Taste of Passover” reception. You will also have the opportunity to "sponsor" one of the framed photographs to help defray the cost of the show!

HAGGADAH is curated by Rosemary Rothstein and Eva-Lynne Leibman.
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Top, the metallic cover of Arthur Szyk’s Massadah and Alumoth Jerusalem Tel Aviv Haggadah, from 1967
Bottom, unidentified accordion-format Haggadah

Mystics of Mile End Book Talk

Sigal headshot (1)On Monday, April 25, author Sigal Samuel will present a book talk about her acclaimed debut novel, The Mystics of Mile End, which tells the story of a dysfunctional Jewish family obsessed with climbing the Kabbalah's Tree of Life.

Brother and sister Lev and Samara Meyer live in Montreal's Mile End — a mashup of hipsters and Hasidic Jews. They have a fairly typical childhood, other than that their father is distracted, their mother is dead, and down the street Mr. Katz is trying to recreate the biblical Tree of Knowledge out of plucked leaves, toilet paper rolls, and dental floss. When their father, David, an atheist professor of Jewish mysticism, is diagnosed with an unusual heart murmur, he becomes convinced that his heart is whispering divine secrets. But as David's frenzied attempts to ascend the Tree of Life lead to tragedy, Samara and Lev set out — in separate and divisive ways — to finish what he's started. It falls to next-door neighbor and Holocaust survivor Chaim Glassman to shatter the silence that divides the members of the Meyer family. But can he break through to them in time?Mystics of Mile End book cover

Sigal Samuel is an award-winning fiction writer, journalist, essayist, and playwright. Currently opinion editor at the Forward, she has also published work in the Daily Beast, the Rumpus, BuzzFeed, and Electric Literature. She has appeared on NPR, BBC, and Huffington Post Live. Her six plays have been produced in theaters from Vancouver to New York. Originally from Montreal, Sigal now lives in Brooklyn. The Mystics of Mile End is her first novel.

The cost of attendance is $18 and includes a copy of the novel. Given that the book retails for $16 on Amazon, this is a wonderful deal! RSVP early as we are limited to 30 books. Refreshments will be provided.

CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS.

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THIS BOOK TALK WAS RECORDED. LISTEN TO AUTHOR SIGAL SAMUEL IN CONVERSATION WITH ARTIST ELYSSA WORTZMAN BY CLICKING THE "PLAY" BUTTON BELOW. [audio mp3="http://bethsholomsf.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/MyticsOfMileEndBooktalk_April2016.mp3"][/audio]