Archive for December, 2010

Pursue Justice…

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Dear Friends,

I had a wonderful opportunity to attend a retreat this week for those involved in religious activities. The theme was justice and we were involved in a day of study, prayer, and meditation that dealt with this important concept.

I was very moved by our discussions, particularly as they related to two very different areas in which justice can be integrated into our lives. One of the areas dealt with responding justly to people who live in places where there is great need. We studied an essay written by Jill Ramaker Hendricks who is the founder/director of Wyoming Haiti Relief. She wrote: (this is a paraphrase)


It’s painful, overwhelming, confusing. It’s warm, as in friendly, and hot as in nothing you have ever experienced…It’s delicate and graceful as a tall beautiful young mother who balances a fifty pound basket of Mangoes on her head as she reaches down to hold her small child’s hand…It’s edgy with the UN occupation in place and the growing national police presence.It’s desperate as men climbing high on tumbled buildings to scavenge building materials. It’s long-suffering…grueling…grimy, and…It’s crying out for justice…”

I hope that as each of us responds to someone in need, that we will remember that as a people, we are commanded in the Torah to pursue justice. We have known for years that Haiti had great need and yet we did not pursue justice as fervently as we might have…rather we waited for the disastrous earthquake and then the world responded with great effort and energy Each of us should find ways in which we can actively pursue a just cause.

We also talked in small groups about establishing just relationships with the people with whom we have contact. I couldn’t help but think of how many of us establish relationships with people based upon hearsay and perceptions. I was inspired to be sure that the relationships that are most important to me be based upon truth and honest communication. I hope that as we pursue justice in our own personal, family, college, student, professional, and friendship relationships, we will be just and really try to put ourselves in the place of others before making making judgments about them. Martin Buber talks about establishing meaningful relationships and characterizes these as I Thou….honestly getting in touch with others and who they really are…I hope we will make the time to do this with the people who are important to us, whether they are parents, children, siblings, friends, professors, students, or acquaintances.

For those who are traveling over the Holiday break, be safe. Enjoy a wonderful Holiday season and a healthy, safe 2011.

Rabbi Bruce Aft

As the semester draws to a close…

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Dear Friends,

As the end of the semester approaches, I hope that everyone is dealing with the stress of finals and final assignments. I remember that when I was in college my parents would tell me to “learn something.” During this time of the year it was hard to remember that this is the ultimate goal of a college education with the strain of trying to get everything done. Good luck to all who are reading this and I hope you all enjoy a safe Holiday season and a fulfilling, healthy 2011.

We have just completed Chanukah where we are reminded of the impact that a few can have in response to an overwhelming majority. I hope that the idealism which is so much a part of the story of the Maccabees will inspire us to keep our dreams alive. As we become overwhelmed by the assignments and tests we are completing, please try to remember that each of us can make a difference in our chosen careers and that is very exciting.

When school begins again in January, we will be celebrating Martin Luther King’s birthday and I want to share a few thoughts that I shared with my congregation.

“I think about MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech often and wonder whether we continue to make significant progress in making his dream come true. Do we live in a world where brothers and sisters truly can come together in freedom? I don’t mean to be pessimistic, but as I meet with our teenagers and hear the language that some of them use, I am concerned. Although we live during a time when there is greater openness to various individuals, I “hear” in the language that is used, that there are still strong feelings toward others that don’t necessarily support the more liberal views that we espouse. Specifically, often I hear students suggest that something is so “gay” and I wonder if this is just part of their vernacular or it suggests some less than positive feelings toward gay people. I recently led services at a nursing home and a woman was very vocal about the importance of maintaining the traditional “nuclear” family and that gay relationships are contrary to a healthy life style. I hear idle comments being made about women, Jews, people of color, and ethnic groups that make me wonder whether Dr. King would feel we have made as much progress in maintaining civil rights as he would have dreamt. I hear individuals continue to use the word “retarded” to describe the behavior or comments of others. One of our members, was recently quoted in a front page article in the Boston Globe that dealt with bullying. Certainly, we have come a long way from 1963, but we have miles and miles to go before we can sleep comfortably.

We remember the Joseph story from our Biblical heritage and know that brothers in our religious tradition have not always gotten along so well. I hope that through participating in community service and in being careful in the language we use, we will do a little bit to advance the great goals which Dr. King suggested in 1963.”

With the beginning of a new year, I hope we can do our share in keeping the dream alive. Be safe over the Winter Break and enjoy well deserved time to relax and renew.


Rabbi Bruce Aft

Happy Chanukah… inspired to make miracles happen!

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Dear Friends,

During Chanukah, when we play with the dreydel, we remember that there are four Hebrew letters on our spinning top. We played dreydel to give the appearance of playing a game, when in fact, we were studying Hebrew. This occurred during an era in which the Jewish people did not have the freedom which we enjoy today. The letters are Nun, Gimel, Hay, and Shin, which stand for Nes Gadol Haya Sham, a great miracle happened there. The dreydel reminds us of the miracle that occurred when the Maccabees overcame the Syrian Greeks to restore the Temple in Jerusalem. Enough oil was found to keep the Menorah(lamp) burning for eight days and eight nights which is why Chanukah lasts for eight days and eight nights.

In Israel the Shin is a Pey, which means here, since the miracle happened in Israel . This has always inspired me to believe that we can make great miracles happen here, wherever we are. However, it is up to us to perform the miracles by the caring ways in which we live our lives. At this Holiday time of year, when we reach out to the homeless, help the poor, provide toys for tots, bring a gift to someone in need or so many other things that we can do to brighten a life…then we are making miracles happen here.

May each of us be inspired to make miracles happen here, there, and everywhere we go….

As we begin to light the Chanukiah (Chanukah menorah) tonight, please remember to put the candles in from right to left since we read Hebrew from right to left and to light them from left to right, so that each candle gets its day to be the first candle which is lit.(and if we care that much about candles each having their day to be number one, then how much more should we care about people feeling that they have the chance to have a day in which they are special).

Chappy Chanukah.

Rabbi Bruce Aft