Join us on January 22nd at 7 pm when Temple Ner Tamid presents “An Evening with Jeh Johnson: The Rise of Antisemitism in the US”. The evening will feature Mr. Johnson, former Secretary of Homeland Security, being interviewed by Jim Axelrod, Senior national Correspondent of CBS news on a range of issues facing the Jewish Community.
The event is free and open to the public.
Temple Ner Tamid is located at 936 Broad Street, Bloomfield, NJ 07003.
As former Secretary of Homeland Security, Mr. Johnson will share his unique perspective on the rising levels of Anti-Semitism in the United States, its causes and how we as a nation should address it. This is not just a Jewish problem but impacts all Americans. After the killings in Pittsburgh and the growing incidents of violence against Jews and other religious groups, this is a timely event for the entire community.
The evening is being sponsored by Temple Ner Tamid, the Anti Defamation League, and the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.
Friday, January 25 ~ 6:30 pm
By now you've heard Rabbi Katz rap, teach, preach, and care - now let's officially welcome him as our Rabbi! Click here to see one of the many things that Rabbi Katz does so well!
- Oneg - 5:30 pm
- Service and Installation - 6:30 pm
- Following Rabbi Marc Katz's installation continue celebrating and enjoy the hospitality of Shabbat dinner in a fellow congregant's home. Please sign up here. Children are welcome. Any questions, contact Marge Grayson.
Saturday, January 26 ~ 10:00 am
Annual Adult Study Shabbaton will be held this year on Shabbat Yitro Saturday, January 26, 2019, at Temple Ner Tamid. Register early for a discounted registration fee of $36 per person. After January 18 the cost will increase to $45 per person. Click here to see course titles, the schedule, and to register. Contact Cantorial Assistant Ronni Pressman for further details.
Please join us for a Wine Tasting/Shoresh Preschool Fundraiser here at TNT on Thursday, January 31 at 7:30 pm. Amanti Vino will be bringing delicious wine for us to sample and enjoy. Hors D’oeuvres and good company will also be provided! Tickets are $40 per person and all proceeds will benefit Shoresh. RSVP by January 17 to Wendy Blum. Checks should be made payable to Temple Ner Tamid. Please see Wendy or leave a check with a note in her mailbox in the main office.
It's customary to finish a tractate of Talmud on the morning of Passover. For this reason, we have a group of people who will be doing some self-directed study over this winter. We will be launching this together on Feb 3rd at 1 pm. If you are interested, email Rabbi Katz.
Saturday Evening, February 23, 2019
Temple Ner Tamid is truly blessed to have Cantor Meredith Greenberg as our cantor. She has brought so much to our community over the last 10 years: her soulfulness, compassion, energy, musical creativity, and of course her beautiful voice, and so much more.
In celebration of her 10thanniversary at TNT, we will be honoring her on Saturday, February 23rdwith an evening of cocktails, dinner, and dancing. We hope you will able to join Cantor Greenberg and the entire community for what promises to be a fun, festive and high-energy evening. Please sign up for the event by February 19th.
Those who would like to can also express their affection for and/or share memories of Cantor Greenberg with an ad in the Appreciation Journal. This is an opportunity to put into words or images what Cantor Greenberg means to you. The deadline to sign up for the Appreciation Journal is February 8th.
We hope you will take this opportunity to celebrate Cantor Greenberg. Click here to register for the event and sign up for the Appreciation Journal.
A teaching by Cantor Meredith Greenberg
How do plagues manifest in our world?
In this Week’s Torah portion, Parshat Vaerrah, we hear many times that Pharoh’s heart was hardened and that, despite Moses and Aaron’s pleas, he would not let the Israelites be set free. His inability to have empathy for their plight set into motion the onslaught of the magefot, the Plagues beginning and ending in blood. First, the water is poisoned, made undrinkable by its high levels of toxicity, killing all the wildlife that relied on its nourishment, and ending with the death of the firstborn of all the children of Mitzrayim, stopping the blood in their veins from flowing to the places it is needed to keep one’s physical life intact.
The plague of Dam, blood, and its imbalance in the lives of those in our ancient story, is the story of either too much or not enough and brings to mind the question of how plagues work in our lives and whether perhaps what tips an experience over into something worthy of the term plague has to do with the inability to restore balance to the environment the plague is manifesting in.
People that suffer from addiction, for instance, are experiencing a kind of plague. Their addiction drives them to make choices that can, and often do, hurt their families, disintegrate their physical, emotional, and spiritual health, and sometimes even result in death. What starts, perhaps, as a habit created to compensate for some real or perceived imbalance in their life transforms into a plague that devastates everyone and everything they touch.
Lashon Harah, or gossip, is another kind of plague when out of balance. The Sages teach that when we gossip it is like a three-way murder, the one who gossips is killed, the one who has heard the gossip is killed, and of course, the one who is gossiped about is killed, too. What might have started out as a need to vent frustration or even a momentary desire to tell a joke at someone else’s expense, can easily escalate into a kind of plague, hurting all kinds of people and virtually impossible to undo and set back into balance.
Abuse, neglect, selfishness, arrogance, worry, fear, all of these and so many more can become the plague of today when we are unwilling to attend to what really is, one might call that self-awareness.
This Shabbat I hope we can explore together what is at the essence of the plague narratives and how we might draw from the experience of our ancestors as Torah recounts it to us.
If we can learn to live with a semi-permeable heart, one that is neither so wide open that there is nothing left to protect us, nor a closed and hardened one which restricts anything from getting in, then we might be able to begin to understand how we are manifesting plagues in our world.
Join me as together we reflect and pray on Friday night at 6:30 pm for our Kabbalat Shabbat service. Join us at 9 am on Saturday morning for our Sacred Chant practice and at 10 AM for our morning Shabbat Minyan.
A teaching by Cantor Meredith Greenberg
Where does blessing flow from?
I am thinking especially this week, as we prepare to end the final chapters of the Book of Breishit/Genesis and are drawn into the dramatic close of Jacob’s life in Parshat Veyechi, of the place of giving and receiving blessing in our lives.
In his final moments of life in the physical world, Jacob uses his energy to speak individually to each of his children, beginning first, with Joseph’s sons, Ephrayim and Menashe, his grandchildren. We are brought close to him, where he is resting, Joseph beside him.
“And he said, ‘Bring them, I pray thee, to me, and I will bless them.’ “
The word for blessing in Hebrew, Bracha, comes from the root, Bet Resh, Chaf, which is also the root of the word Knee, Berech. In ancient days it was the practice to prostrate ones self and so we, seeking to keep alive the connection to our tradition, sometimes bend our knees together in prayer, embodying the desire to humble ones self to The Source of that blessing.
One of the moments we engage in each year that draws us all in through spiritual invitation is during the Yamim HaNoraim, the Days of Awe, when, at the close of the silent prayer, I call the ancient words of the Y’varech’cha, the oldest known blessing in our tradition, out to you, and you echo them back to each other and the Universe/God/Mystery. This beautiful practice is an example of what I think can happen in a community when blessing is understood as a fluid source.
Also too, blessing happens around the Shabbat table on Friday night. Jewish homes across the world set aside a few precious moments to offer blessing, given and received, and in some homes, those same ancient words of blessing that close our Silent Prayer during the holidays, is offered between parents and children, just as Jacob did with his grandchildren Epharyim and Menashe, and the rest of his children, in his final moments of life
Like many of you, I cherish these few seconds where my children are still, my hand on their heads or around their shoulders. As they have matured they have begun to wriggle away from me less and less, and now, it almost feels as though they are waiting in anticipation for the blessing, even if they would never admit it!
But what is really happening in this moment of blessing and are we human beings really empowered to give them?
I have contemplated this question many times over the years. In fact, in one of the communities where I served as an intern while still in Seminary, there was one particular Shabbat where we were making Brachot at the close of services, and I decided to spontaneously invite people to close their eyes and receive a blessing from me in the form of the Priestley Benediction. The practice of parents offering the blessing to their children was not Minhag Hamakom, the custom of the place, there, nor was it offered communally as we do at Ner Tamid, but I remember that I felt inspired and I was filled with a desire to share that with them. I was also looking for creative ways to bring more of my own spiritual exploration and theological journeying into my leadership of services and so I went for it.
A few days later, the Rabbi in the community who had been there that evening brought me into his office and told me in no uncertain terms that, “We do not give blessing, only God does. “ He was troubled by the way I introduced the offering and that I assumed the role of giver. Of course we, human beings, offer blessings all the time, but somehow it sounded to him as though I had taken up too much space here, and had left God out of the equation.
I’ve thought a lot about that ever since. How much, if at all, do we need to remove ourselves from the role of “giver of blessing “ for a blessing to be given authentically? How much room do we need to make for God, or is God always there if blessing is there? And if for you, God is not in the equation, is it possible still to offer blessing? From where does the blessing flow?
When offering a traditional blessing with the words Baruch Atah Adonai, Blessed are You, which is our “blessing formula” there is an automatic tension formed. What those words seem to indicate is that humanity not only has the power to bless each other but to bless God also.
Many commentators take issue with that, and I don’t blame them. I mean what could God possibly need from us in the form of blessing? God doesn’t need us to bless God, right?
But maybe our tradition knows something we are only slowly beginning to understand. Perhaps it is not the exact translation of the words Blessed are You that matters at all, but the intention, and what happens to us internally when we say “Blessed are You “.
For me, the opening words are like a mantra, like a pre-amble, the offering of them automatically move me into blessing space that is emotional and spiritual, and my souls’ compass says, “I am blessing”. The real gift within the offering of blessing is how we, the giver, become a vessel for the offering and then goodness flows into the world. The spaciousness that the blessing creates in us allows for that flow, and it is good for everyone, including God.
When we offer words of blessing we are trying to do something special with our words and with our deeds. Whether you believe the source of blessing is coming from God or not, something is flowing in and out, and as we inhale to form the words, we slow down, we take in, we delve deeper into our becoming, aware and awake to the blessing of our aliveness and from there, we share the hope, the prayer.
Jacob chooses to speak with each of his children and his grandchildren not with statements but in an offering, a blessing. He intuitively knows that through blessing he will connect more deeply into the good within him and that is how he would like to complete his journey on the earth.
I pray that we may all give ourselves permission to be a vessel for offering and receiving blessing, and like Jacob, to know that the source of blessing is as close as the very air we breathe.
We die and are reborn again and again in this life…
And they (the brothers of Joseph) went up from Egypt, and came to the land of Canaan to Jacob their father, and told him, saying, “Joseph is still alive”, and that he is ruler over all the land of Egypt; but his (Jacob) heart rejected it, for he could not believe them. However, when they related to him all thewords that Joseph had spoken to them, and he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to transport him, then the spirit of their father Jacob was revived. (Genesis 45:25-27)
The question of what exactly happens to us on a biological level when we experience something that so alters our understanding of our present reality has fascinated deep thinkers for thousands of years. In this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Vayigash, Jacob’s sons reveal to their father, who has believed for many years now that his beloved son Joseph was dead, that he is in fact, very much alive and well.
His immediate reaction to this news is described in one short phrase, “Vayafog libo”, translated above as “his heart rejected it” (the news). Still, different commentaries vary, some say his heart ceased, others still, his heart went faint. The word in question, Vayafog comes from the Hebrew root Fay-Vav-Gimmel, translated in the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon as “grow numb”. Commentaries on the phrase vary as well.
Rashi writes, Vayafog libo - his heart was changed so that he could not believe. That is to say that his heart could not take notice of the things (that Josef's brothers had spoken). The usage is similar to that which is stated in the Talmud Tractate Beitza 14a (concerning the permissibility of grinding spices on Yom Tov in the usual fashion) that spices lose their flavor ("mefigin ta'aman") if ground ahead of time. It is also similar to the verse in Eicha/Lamentations 3:49 that "my eye(s) shall flow (tears) and not cease, without respite ("hafugot").
However, the Ramban disagrees.
…Rashi's derivation is incorrect, for the matter of "fuga" is cessation and cancellation…Here too, the expression means that his heart stopped beating and his breathing ceased. The action of his heart stopped and it was as if he was dead. This phenomenon is well documented in situations where sudden and unexpected joy occurs. For the elderly hearing this kind of news could, for many of them, cause them to faint away under such circumstances. Their hearts are suddenly expanded and opened and the body's natural heat is transferred to the extremities, leaving the heart with insufficient warmth. The old man (Jacob) fell down as if dead.
So what is it that happened to Jacob upon receiving this news? Did his heart actually stop beating/cease from functioning, did he become emotionally “numb”, or was this a kind of intellectual rejection of the news?
As a pastoral care giver I sit with many people in both their distress and in their joys. I am consistently amazed at peoples ability to encounter the holiness of the moment in the joyous times, to really take in the beauty of love and gratitude. But perhaps because I have not had major trauma in my life, I am literally baffled by and inspired by the resilience that people have within them to heal after their hearts have been broken. For some it takes days or months and for others practically a whole lifetime, but I have been a witness to people returning to their hearts and it is a truly mysterious and magical happening.
The Chassidic tradition teaches that this kind of return is called Teshuva. That, over the course of one’s life, and not only because of traumatic events, one lives many lives in the same body but in very different states of spiritual/emotional/psychological aliveness. As people grow and change, often at moments of significant events like graduating from a course of study, setting yourself apart for another as a life mate, the birth of a child, and as is the case here with Jacob, in the experience of grief and loss when a loved one dies, one’s own life ends and begins again.
Jacob’s life had many moments of Teshuva in it, of death and rebirth, of endings and beginnings, just like ours. His heart broke and then mended, changed forever but repaired. What Jacob never expected to happen was for him to regain the life he had once had before Joseph was gone. Perhaps this is the true essence of Vayafog libo. All at once the life he had birthed anew was ripped from him. The heartbeat of that life force shut down, reversed. The need for that new reality was erased and so for a brief moment all went numb, frozen in time. The heart rejected the life force it had needed to sustain through the death of Joseph and the rebirth of Jacob.
It is important to say that this fairy tale ending is exceptional for Torah. Very little of the “Hollywood Ending” is found in our ancient texts. Instead our sages want us to know we are not alone in our lives, in our pain. Our ancestors lived them too. But Jacob and Joseph do get their happy ending, perhaps as a reminder that sometimes our wildest hopes and dreams can come true? I am not sure about that, but I for one am glad for it. It is a loving and tender kiss from Torah.
And so, as we prepare for Shabbat we take in the fullness of this life, we learn to hold all of it with love, though lightly. We die and we are reborn again and again.
I look forward to being with all of you soon. Friday night services begins at 8:00 pm and our Kabbalat Shabbat Band will join us once again. Shabbat morning we will practice sacred chanting together at 9:00 am and then continue on for our main service at 10:00 am.
Cantor Meredith Greenberg
Rabbi Katz’s Kol Nidre sermon spoke about the need for Temple Ner Tamid to meet people at the most important moments in their life. Among those, we know that finding a job that is fulfilling and meaningful certainly fits the bill.
For this reason, we are launching a community-wide initiative that will help us to create the caring community that we all desire.
We are putting together a Temple Ner Tamid Career Exploration Bank that will link Temple Ner Tamid job seekers with those who are already working in their desired field for an informational interview about their work. Another purpose of the Bank is to provide a resource for children of TNT members who are exploring career paths and making important life decisions before, during and after their college years.
The “Bank” will live online and in a folder at Temple in the office. Here’s how it will work: Job seekers or career seekers of any sort (recent graduates, mid-career or later in career or even Hebrew high school students) will reach out to other TNT members who have indicated a willingness to make themselves available for an informational interview (phone or in person) and a career/job chat. It’s a 45-minute commitment each time you do it – and you can help a TNT community job seeker at a REALLY important time.
Step 1 is to build the bank of volunteers willing to talk with other TNT members about their line of work – or a former line of work. As a mentor, all you need is 45 minutes and a willingness to talk about your line of work in an informational interview.
Please let us know if you would be willing to take part and talk to interested job seekers.
Sign up today to be a mentor!
Rabbi Katz was the first to sign up. All potential future Rabbis, he wants to chat with you.
Will you join us in this effort to link members of our community and support them in a search for a meaningful career?
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