Archive for November, 2010

Giving Thanks…

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Dear Friends,

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, one of my wishes is that each of you enjoys a wonderful Holiday weekend with people you love. As a child my favorite Holiday was Thanksgiving and I still remember details about the family coming together and how priceless those memories are.

I hope that as we give thanks, we dedicate ourselves to sharing some of our blessings with those who are less fortunate. There are many opportunities to give toys for tots, donate food to food banks, help feed the homeless, and other meaningful ways in which we can make a difference. Please demonstrate how grateful we are by making a difference in the life of someone who is needy. Most of us have so much to give and what a beautiful way to show our gratitude when we help others.

On a separate note, we read in this week’s Torah portion of Jacob’s wrestling match with either himself, an angel, or perhaps even G-d. Jacob’s name changes and he becomes Israel which means to strive with G-d. How many of us are engaged in wrestling matches as we grapple with how we want to spend our college life, what we will major in, what careers we will pursue, who will be our friends, how go make it through finals, how to deal with difficult professors, how to interact with roommates…and the list goes on…?

I find the story of Jacob to be inspirational whenever I go through a challenging period in my life. I believe that although my name has never changed, my attitudes, dreams, goals, aspirations, and so much more are constantly evolving as I become a different and hopefully better person. May each of us will have faith that when we encounter bumps in the road, we will emerge stronger. When I used to vent to our daughter during trying times in my life she would tell me to look at the challenges as “adventures.”

I believe that these “adventures” are opportunities to grow and become the special and unique people that each of us becomes.

Shabbat Shalom, Happy Thanksgiving, and travel safely during this Holiday period. And…what I miss most is the opportunity to give my mom and dad a hug…so if you are fortunate enough to be seeing your parents and/or other loved ones…please give them a hug. Someday the memory will be priceless and will make you smile.

Rabbi Bruce Aft


Friday, November 12th, 2010

Dear Friends,

This week we had an interesting combination special of days to commemorate a horrific event and special people. On Tuesday, we commemorated Krystallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass where Nazis pillaged Jewish institutions and stores. This horrible event occurred on Nov. 9 and 10, 1938. Yesterday we celebrated Veteran’s Day by honoring those who have devoted and are devoting a significant part of their lives to serving in our military. We are blessed to live during a time and in a place where the military is our friend and helps keep us safe. One of the most special things I did yesterday was to thank a member of our military personnel for their service and I want to personally thank all of you who are reading this who are Veterans, for your service to our country.

Recently, I saw the Broadway musical, Hair, and was reminded of the turbulent period of the ’60’s and ’70’s when a number of Americans were not nearly as supportive of our military personnel as we are today. I remember how we didn’t trust what our leaders were saying about Vietnam and how many demonstrations were held to emphasize the disconnect between our leaders and the American people. When we read this week’s Torah portion, Vayeitzei, we are reminded of the Laban’s deception and how untrustworthy he could be. In every era where there are complex issues, it is challenging to try to figure out who to believe and how to know if the people with whom we are dealing are being honest and forthright.

I was having a conversation with a college student and confiding in her that I thought I should have become involved in politics and run for office instead of becoming a rabbi. I told her that I thought I would have had more impact on our world if I had chosen this path. She told me that she thinks I made a wise decision when I became a rabbi because most of the time people trust their rabbi and politicians are not generally trusted. She asked me if being trusted was important to me and I realized that trust is such an important value.

I hope that we can be trustworthy in our interactions with others and even when we disagree with each other, we can do so in a way in which others will trust that we are being honest with them. In our challenging world, I wonder how many of us trust those who are making important communal decisions, how many of our leaders are being careful to be worthy of our trust and how many of those with whom we interact are sharing their honest intentions with us.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Bruce Aft

There is a time for us to come together…

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Dear Friends,

Last week we read about Isaac and Ishamael coming together to bury their father, Abraham.

As we contemplate opportunities for peace building with our Arab neighbors, I hope that we can learn from our ancestors that there is a time for us to come together. Hopefully, it does not need to be limited to attending a funeral or to support each other during challenging times.

I teach a conflict resolution class where we talk about our interpersonal conflicts and I often wonder if we only seek ways to reconcile with others when faced with tragedy. Perhaps, through our Hillel here at George Mason, we should initiate a dialogue program with our fellow Arab students at GMU that could be facilitated by members of the staff of the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution.

I hope you will let Scott or the leadership of Hillel know of your interest in participating in this new adventure. Peace in our time doesn’t have to be a dream….

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Bruce Aft