Friday, April 19, 2013

Joy and Sorrow

Dear Friends,

Tomorrow morning, I hope you will join together with my family and the entire Temple community at 10:15 A.M. when our daughter Sarah will lead services and become a Bat Mitzvah. Truly, our “cup runneth over” with happiness and joy as our family, friends and community come together to celebrate. I am so grateful for the support that Temple Sinai and its leadership are giving us to make this a truly freilich (joyful) simchah for the whole community. Special thanks to Ilene Wechter who, along with a host of volunteers from Sisterhood, Brotherhood and Renaissance, are baking wonderful desserts for the Kiddush lunch tomorrow, as well as putting together a special oneg for this evening.

While we celebrate our simchah, our tradition reminds us that we cannot ignore the word around us. Our hearts go out to all those impacted by the tragic events still unfolding in Boston. As I write, the city of Boston is still on lockdown and the remaining suspect still at large. We pray that law enforcement quickly locates their suspect and that this disturbing episode will soon come to an end. First responder and law enforcement officials worked valiantly over the past week. We are grateful for their courage and bravery.

In times like this we seek comfort with our community and find solace in prayer. Tonight, at our Shabbat evening services at 8:00 p.m. we will be including special prayers for those who have been killed and injured, for the families of the victims, and for the safety and security of all Americans. In case you are unable to join us I share this one prayer written shortly after the terror attack on Monday:

Author of life
Source and Creator,
Grant a perfect rest under your tabernacle of peace
To the victims of the bombings in Boston,
Whose lives were cut off by a calculated act of violence
Striking at a moment of celebration,
Striking at the joy in sport and competition,
Striking in the city of liberty and freedom.

G-d of justice and mercy,
Watch over the wounded and injured.
Restore them with Your healing power.
Grant them endurance to survive,
Strength to rebuild and
Courage to heal.
Remember the survivors of this attack,
The victims and bystanders,
Their families and friends,
The witnesses of shock, horror and dismay.
Ease their suffering and release their trauma.
Grant them shelter and solace,
Comfort and consolation,
Blessing and renewal.

Heavenly Guide,
Hand of love and shelter,
Put an end to anger and fear,
Hatred and brutality,
Cruelty and bloodshed,
And lead us to a time when no one will suffer at the hand of another.
Grant the people of the United States Your protection
And the people of Boston Your wholeness and peace.
(© 2013 Alden Solovy and All rights reserved.)

Oseh shalom bimromav hu ya'aseh shalom aleynu v'al kol yisrael v’al kol yoshvei tevel, v’imru: Amen.
May the one who makes peace in the high heavens bring peace to us, to all Israel and all the world. Amen.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Jordan Millstein

Friday, April 5, 2013

If Not on April 14 at 2 pm, When?

Dear Friends,

Perhaps the most famous saying of the great sage, Hillel, is, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But, if I am only for myself, what am I? And, if not now, when?”

Typically, when this saying is invoked, one or maybe two of the three questions in the proverb apply to the situation at hand. Rarely, do all three apply at once. It would have to be something manifestly important and urgent for all three of Hillel’s points to apply at once.

And this is, in fact, the case for an event that I strongly urge you to attend a week from this Sunday: the New Jersey Together Against Gun Violence Assembly on Sunday, April 14 from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church in East Orange, NJ. Please register and get tickets for the event today by click here. Teens are welcome. Please let me know if you or your teen need a ride. A flyer with the relevant details is attached.

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” – The epidemic of gun violence in our country endangers all of us. It is clear by now that we cannot depend on the political leadership in our country to protect us by passing common sense gun legislation without taking action ourselves to make our voices heard. I am proud to let you know that the Board of Trustees of Temple Sinai recently voted to have Temple Sinai join New Jersey Together Against Gun Violence. But, that matters little if we, the members of Temple Sinai, don’t stand up for ourselves by contacting our elected officials and coming to events like the assembly on April 14th.

“If I am only for myself, what am I?” For some it might be tempting to respond to the epidemic of gun violence by getting a gun to protect themselves and their families. It seems logical and for this reason, perhaps, some of you do own guns. Sadly, however, the risk of homicide is 3x higher in homes with firearms than those without them and keeping a firearm in the home increases the risk of suicide by 3-5x as well (see Meanwhile, having a gun in your home is certainly not going to do anything to protect those who are not members of your household. Certain problems can only be solved by thinking beyond oneself and acting collectively. Consequently, many gun owners as well as those who do not own firearms are supporters of stronger gun control legislation to make sure that everyone can live safely. Whether you are a gun owner or not, come join together with members of congregations of all faiths for the NJ Together Assembly on April 14th.

“If not now, when?!” I add the exclamation point here because now is the moment we must act if there is going to be any kind of legislation passed on Capitol Hill. The house and Senate are coming back from recess next week and are expected to begin debating gun violence legislation. We simply cannot wait. Now is the moment when we need to make our voices heard. Join us on April 14th!

Shabbat Shalom U’m’vorach – A blessed and peaceful Shabbat to you all.

Rabbi Jordan Millstein