Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein
Kindness Takes Work
Rabbi Jay M. SteinThursday, April 13, 2017 at 12:00:00 am
Who knows 13? I know thirteen. Thirteen are the attributes of God.
We conclude our sedarim with this wonderful song in which we play a numbers game. In this Shabbat’s Torah reading we are introduced to the 13 attributes of God, “Adonai, Adonai, a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, and granting pardon.” (Exodus 34:7)
It may be difficult to discern how the Rabbis calculate 13 different attributes, however, we can see a pattern of kindness and forgiveness. Over the course of the next seven weeks we will play another numbers game as we count from Passover to Shavuot. Each day we will count the Omer and we will need to do an accounting. Between Passover and Shavuot we will journey from slavery to receiving the Torah and we will have ask ourselves the question of whether we have earned both our freedom and the Torah.
Each day we make choices between patience and kindness and anger and resentment. Each day we have the option of mimicking God or giving in to our lesser selves. Let us to use this time between Passover and Shavuot to review how we did each day.
Silence Can Be Sinful
Rabbi Jay M. SteinThursday, March 30, 2017 at 12:00:00 am
If anyone sins because they do not speak up when they hear a public charge to testify regarding something they have seen or learned about, they will be held responsible. (Leviticus 5:1)
One of the most difficult things to do is to get involved. It is much easier to sit on the sidelines and watch. A crime occurs and we are afraid for our own well-being. We say nothing. Over the course of the past few years we have seen the devastating effects of bullying. It happens in person and it happens on the internet. We watch politicians as they intimidate each other. We say nothing. Is it because we fear retribution? Is it because we don't care?
The sentence from this week's reading explains that we are going to be held accountable for our actions, the transgression we commit and those we omit. There are those who need us to be their voice; our silence will be our condemnation. Just this year we watched protest after protest. Some of us said, “They are doing the work therefore I do not need to get involved.” This week’s reading tells us to do otherwise!
Benefit of the Doubt
Rabbi Jay M. SteinSunday, March 26, 2017 at 12:00:00 am
The family that prepared the incense for the Temple services would never let their relatives wear perfume, lest some people suspect them of using Temple incense for their own personal benefit. (Etz Hayim p. 564)
With good reason, we live in cynical times. We wonder about our leaders no matter on which side of the aisle we lean, no matter which religion or denomination we belong. We are concerned about what they 'really' want to accomplish. Do they have our best interest in mind or are they beholding to some others? At least, we hope their goals are the same even if their methodology for achieving those goals are different. However, I am not sure of that.
In our lifetimes, unfortunately, or leaders in both the political and religious realms have given us pause to question their motivations and their desired outcomes. We have seen criminal behavior and we have witnessed questionable moral judgment. Rightfully, we have become angry and disillusioned and we begin to question anyone who seeks to serve in a leadership position.
The Torah places the responsibility squarely on the leader to be beyond reproach. If that would only be possibly. However, the lesson is still relevant. Just because we have been disappointed doesn't mean we should lower our standard. We must continue to demand that our leadership fulfill their responsibility to serve the common good.