Archive for April, 2011

Rabbis thoughts as the semester ends

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Dear Friends,

As we reach the end of the year, I want to thank all of you who have been reading these posts. I hope you have found them to be meaningful and even, inspiring.

This spring marks the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders, who had a dream to create a world with more equality for all. They dreamt a special dream and my prayer for all of us is that whether we are graduating, whether we are faculty or staff, or whether we are students (aren’t we all students?), that we will find a dream, work toward its achievement and be blessed with its fulfillment.

My parents used to send me off to school with two bits of blessing and wisdom. First they urged me to “learn something!” and secondly they quoted an old Gaelic blessing:

“May the roads rise with you,
And the wind be always at your back,
And may the Lord hold you in the hollow of His Hand.”

May you carry these words with you in the days and years ahead.

Rabbi Bruce D. Aft

Happy Passover! Tired of Matzah?

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Dear Friends,

If you are tired of matzah, click below and find out what you can do with extra matzah!
Hope you like this!

Rabbi Bruce Aft

Passover’s here…

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Dear Friends,

We are celebrating Passover this month which has always been one of my favorite Festivals. When we all gather for the seder, I am inspired by the drama of the worship experience which reminds us of our ongoing challenges and opportunities as we commemorate our people’s journey from slavery to freedom.

Recently I saw the movie Black Swan and was very moved by the powerful portrayal of the main character. I will not be very specific because I hope that if you haven’t seen this movie, you will take the opportunity to watch it. I am not a movie critic, but I do believe that one of the main themes of the movie is the pressure that some feel to be perfect. Although I believe that striving for perfection or working hard are important, that if we enslave ourselves to the notion that we have to be perfect, we will never be satisfied with our lives.

A number of years ago in a publication called Emet V’Emunah, which was a summary of Conservative Judaism, one of the suggestions which was made in the book is that all of us should be “striving Jews.” I often wonder if one of the reasons that people are not more involved in performing religious rituals is that they are afraid they will not perform them correctly or that they may not be good at them. My view of Judaism is that striving to grow is what is important, that striving to learn more is important, that striving to bring more rituals into our lives is important, that striving to find answers to tough questions is what is important.

Another part of the movie that intrigued me was my perception that it was almost impossible to distinguish between what was real and what was imagined. Our tradition teaches that we should not spend time dealing with imaginary fears because there are enough real things that can create fear or concerns in our lives. What makes life even more difficult sometimes is when we cannot distinguish between that which is imaginary and that which is real. Sometimes we get so caught up in every day life, that we lose perspective and need to step back and look at our reality and strive to fix that which is problematic. In Desiderata which is a reading that hangs in the rabbinic study, one of the lines says, “Do not distress yourself with imaginings, many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.” I hope that we can find people with whom we can share our imagined and real fears and that we can support each other during these scary times in our lives.

As we recall the exodus from Egyptian slavery, may each of us find some way to liberate ourselves from at least something that holds us back from being happy and fulfilled. I hope that we can liberate ourselves from the belief that there is only one reality and that we will think about creative ways to deal with tough issues we face. I hope you will come see me so that we can help each other in our journey though life. And I hope that we will not enslave ourselves to the myth that we need to be perfect. Judaism wants us to grow and to to strive to improve and perfect our world, but NOT to be perfect.

Enjoy a wonderful Passover and please let us know if you need somewhere to go for a seder. No one should be alone during this special time.

Hag Pesach Sameach.

Rabbi Bruce Aft

lashon hara…

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Dear Friends,

What can one say about Parshat Metzora? We are dealing with leprosy and often the onset of leprosy is equated with uttering lashon hara or saying negative things about people. Sometimes I believe that the national pastime is saying hurtful or evil things about people that can leave us sore and wounded. And after all, how many of us have been victimized by rumors or falsehoods about ourselves or people with whom we are close? We know how damaging these negative comments can be to those we love and to us.

Rabbi Abraham Twersky in his book, “Living Each Week” discusses the following verse: “Something like a lesion became visible to me in the house.” (Leviticus 14:35)

Rabbi Twersky quotes Rashi who says that even if one is pretty sure that there is a lesion, one should not make a definitive statement and so says “there is something like a lesion….”

I believe that this teaches us not to believe that our way of looking at a situation is the only way of looking at a situation. How many of us declare that our position is the “right” position and are unwilling to look at things from alternative points of view? Whether we are talking about religion, politics, sports teams (except for the fact that the White Sox are the best baseball team:-)) we should be open to discussion and debate. Recently I participated in an interfaith dialogue about current conditions in the Middle East and was inspired by the willingness of the participants to be open to varied points of view. The participants certainly didn’t necessarily agree with each other, but were open to listening to each other.

I believe that we should have strong convictions and certain principles that we view as important and we should stand by them. However, I hope that we will be inspired by Rashi to realize that in certain situations, one cannot always be totally sure that we are correct. We should always be open to dialogue and being receptive to new ideas and ways of looking at things. After all, as we grow and mature, each of us has new insights to life’s experiences.

May we not be afflicted by the “sore” of intolerance and being close minded. May each of us be willing to look at new perspectives on issues and even if we disagree with others, be respectful and not disagreeable.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Bruce Aft