Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein

Now and Forever

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Sunday, March 12, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

"It shall be for Aaron and his sons as their portion forever from the sons of Israel, for it is a heave offering; and it shall be a heave offering from the sons of Israel from the sacrifices of their peace offerings, even their heave offering to the LORD." (Exodus 29:28)

I wish I could predict the future. Short of that, I know that relationships often begin with great passion and grandiose intentions.  When we start a project, we sometimes think this is going to be the most creative ever.  When we get a new job, we hope it will be the best job ever.  When we enter into a new relationship we sometimes feel "this is the one."   Sometimes is actually is.  Sometimes it is not.

When the Jewish people began the project of assembling the Tabernacle and initiated the practice of the priesthood and sacrifice, there was tremendous enthusiasm.  They believed it would last forever or at least they imagined it would.  However, we know it did not.  The Temples were destroyed and the sacrifice was transformed into another form of worship.  That is not necessarily something to lament.  Maybe it is simply a natural progression, an inevitable evolution.

What is important is a commitment to keep our relationship with God alive, not to keep it the same. This week's parasha envisions a future in which we continue to be in relationship with the Divine even if it has morphed into something new. Might that be true of the relationships in our lives as well?


All Clear Sign

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Tuesday, February 28, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

“Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept for Me from every person whose heart so moves him.” (Exodus 25:2)

I just returned from the gym at the JCC on the Hudson. I went to work out there as soon as the “all clear sign” was given.   The phrase “all clear sign” is a phrase I heard first when I was living in Israel during the gulf war and we spent many hours in sealed rooms fearing chemical attack from Sadaam Hussein.

As you may have heard, as has been the case with so many JCC’s across the country, a bomb threat was called in and the building had to be evacuated until a full sweep of the facility had been completed. When the “all clears sign” was given, I did what I learned to do in Israel in 1990. I went about my normal day. I went right to the place in which the incident took place and made the statement loud and clear that I will not be deterred by cowardly, anonymous acts.

I did as my heart moved me. By going to the JCC, I was saying to those people who would have us run away that I am here to stay.   By going to the JCC, I am saying I will stand with my people, I will gather in Jewish places and I will not go away.

This week’s Torah reading is about building the Tabernacle. Our sacred tradition asks us to participate in its construction. Each person must respond in their own way, as their heart so moves them. I choose to build sacred institutions rather than run from them.

For this week’s Learning in My Living Room click here.


You Might Not Always Be Correct But Might Not Also Always be Wrong

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Saturday, February 25, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

“When you acquire a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years; in the seventh year he shall go free without payment.” (Exodus 21:2)

“But if the slave declares, ‘I love my master…I do not wish to go free,’ his master shall take him before God.  He shall be brought to the door or the doorpost and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and then he shall remain a slave for life.” (Exodus 21:5-6)

Sometimes we think we know what is best for others.  Sometimes we are prepared to let others determine our fate without our input.  We conjecture about how our children, our parents, our siblings should live their lives. In the work place, we believe we know best how our employees, even our employers, should perform their jobs. And at the other end of the spectrum, some of us are willing to relinquish all control.  We show up, but are prepared to let others determine our fate. This applies to our society as well.

The Torah carefully places the two statements regarding the slave side by side in order to instruct us of the importance of self-determination and moral imperative.  We often get ourselves into a groove and it becomes comfortable.  We find ourselves angry and that becomes who we are.  We find ourselves depressed and we make no effort to change.  We find ourselves discouraged and rather than finding a path towards hopeful living we choose to just stay the way we are.  And the same is true of the wrongs we commit.

We must not remain enslaved ourselves either.  Often others are able to forgive us more readily than we are able to forgive ourselves.  Just as we forgive others we must also learn to forgive ourselves.  There are moments when freedom becomes possible; if we choose not to seize those moments we may remain enslaved indefinitely.  


For this week’s Learning in My Living Room click here.


Special request:  Please come to morning minyan.  If you could commit to just one morning a week we would certainly make you feel right at home.