6:00 to 6:30 pm
Tot Shabbat: A service for our young families. Sing and dance with Rabbi Katz and Cantor Meri. Bring your Hanukkah menorah from home with seven candles.
6:30 to 7:00 pm
Tot Shabbat Potluck Dinner (no meat, shellfish, or nuts please)
Sufganiot (jelly doughnuts) Demonstration and Hanukkah sing-along. Come and learn how to make the most delicious Hanukkah treat with Chef Meny Vaknin of Mishmish and Marcel Bakery while being serenaded by our Shoresh singers and Cantor Meri.
Shabbat service, communal candle lighting (bring your Hanukkah menorah from home with seven candles), and a wonderful chance to hear about Chef Meny’s culinary journey from Israel to the States
Our Oneg Shabbat will feature desserts from Marcel Bakery.
“Religion and State- A Personal Perspective” with Amit Stern on Sunday, December 2 at 11:15 am – 12:30 pm in the Chapel.
This year we will begin to explore the intersection of Israel and Temple Ner Tamid. Our goal is to provide our community with information and insights so that they may gain a greater understanding of and an inherent connection to the people and the land of Israel.
One of our initial explorations will be a series of three presentations by Amit Stern, the Community Shaliach at the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest. Amit is from Jerusalem, holds a B.Ed and teaching certificate in history and Bible studies from Kibbutzim College of Education and a bachelor of law degree from Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has extensive experience in Jewish education, including working for five years as Israel national director of Noam, the Masorti (conservative) youth movement, and ten years for the Israeli Scouts on a variety of educational initiatives.
“Religion and State” is the second in the series. The final presentation is January 13: “70 Reasons for Hope”
There is a wonderful Jewish joke where one Sage is asked by a disciple, “ Rabbi, do you believe in free will?” to which the Rabbi answers, “ Yes of course I do, I have no choice !”
Free will is a complex concept. When I attempt to teach it to my children I find myself quoting the oft repeated value of freedom through the lens of both my Jewish experience and through the lens of my civil liberties. Yet, when I try and teach them about free will I struggle because of a quiet truth inside that questions whether I, nor they, are truly free. When I teach them about making choices I have already shaped their choice as defined by my expectations for them. In truth, I want them to choose my ideal choice, what seems to me the right choice, whether they would make it freely or not. I tell them it is up to them, but is it really? If all of the circumstances of their lives, both big and small, have led them to that moment of choice, where is the pure freedom, where is their free will?
In the Mussar tradition, which refers to a practice of disciplines one takes on to further ones ethical and spiritual lives, there is a central tenet that must first be established in a person’s life before they can take on a character trait to strengthen. It is called N’kudot B’chira, moments of choice. The Sages teach that every soul is given free will, one can choose to use it for wholeness/goodness, or one can choose to use it for brokenness/evil, and therefore everyone must be held accountable for their choices.
The great Sage Maimonedes teaches that anyone can be as righteous as Moses or as wicked as the most morally depraved characters in the Tanach/Hebrew bible. Yet, somehow we also know that is not the whole story. First, we have to know we have the choice. When habits are so carved into our lives because of how we were taught growing up or because of choices we have made to affirm those habits as adults, can we really be expected to choose differently?
Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler, one of the great Mussar Teachers of the 20th Century writes that all humans have free will only at the moment of B’chira, and that B’chira is enlivened only when we sense a struggle between what we know is the right thing to do and what we feel we want to do. It would be wonderful if those things were always aligned, but well we know, they are not.
We have to develop the ability to notice when we have choices to make that could move our lives in a different direction. We have to first learn how to slow ourselves down enough so that we can develop into people who are constantly learning. Psychologists, pastors, and spiritual guides of all kinds have spent countless hours companioning others on this quest, seeking to help people to learn to notice their lives in detail so that they can begin to make choices towards health and wholeness.
Our days are filled with moments of choice, but we have to want to know them and to wake up to our free will.
There is a little known liturgical change that was made nearly centuries ago and occurs in the morning service. The text appears just after Barchu, the call to worship, and in our siddur, (as well as virtually every other modern siddur it reads), “Blessed are You, Adonai our God, who makes light and darkness, and creates peace and all (things).“ However, the final word, HaKol, the all word, was originally Rah, the word for evil. The text was teaching us that free will was given to us by God, and that we have the freedom to choose shalom (peace), or Rah (evil). Yes, the text says Blessed is God for giving us evil!
Theologically this concept was just too painful for our ancestors so they changed it. But I wonder if it might be just the ingredient we need to get truly honest about who we are and what choices we are making.
Many of our earliest texts rely heavily on this theological truth, that humanity has the ability to make choices of all kinds and that God, or more to the point, whatever we understand as the source of those choices, has given us every option.
This week’s Torah portion is a great example of N’kudot B’chira. In Parshat Vayetze, Yaakov/Jacob has just fled his family in Beer’Sheva after tricking his brother out of his birthright and the family blessing. As we read in the Torah last week, Jacob and his mother Rebecca, the co-conspirator in the manipulation to get Jacob the birthright, don’t seem to take any time to make a choice, it is as if they are simply following some already written script, running from one action to the next until everyone involved is left confused, hurt, and broken. What might have happened if there had been a moment of reflection or contemplation?
True, the Sages explain their behavior by teaching that Rebecca did not have a choice because she knew God meant for Jacob to be the Father of the Jewish people. But I have never been satisfied by that answer. If we know we belong to a destiny I cannot believe there is only one way to get there. That is where free will lives. Not in the big strokes, not in the victories or the defeats, but in the way we live our lives moment by moment.
Jacob does slow down eventually and begin to notice. After he flees his home he runs and runs until finally there is no more light in the sky and so he is forced to camp for the night. He lays down on the ground and takes a stone from nearby and makes it into a pillow, laying his head down on it. Then Jacob falls asleep and dreams. In his dream there is a ladder which is set on the earth and the top of it reaches up through the sky to heaven. Malachei Elohim, Angels of God, are ascending and descending the ladder. He sees God standing on top of it and hears God’s introduction, “ I am the God of your ancestors, The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, the land which you are laying on will be yours and your descendants, and I will be with you on your journey and will bring you back to this land.”
When Jacob comes out of the dream he is changed. Both his body and spirit awaken. He begins to take his first steps toward truth, he notices he has a choice. First he chooses to pray, he speaks from his soul. Through that awakening he realizes that God was actually there with him the whole time and he didn’t know it, that he had nothing to fear.
In this Makom, this place of Divine presence, he moves from unknowing to knowing. He moves from habitual living to a new beginning in which he gives new care and value to how he lives his destiny.
He looks at the stone he had used as a pillow and he chooses again. He notices that this stone is not a mundane object but actually a pillar to set up a shrine of gratitude to God and to mark this place, this Makom, as sacred ground.
He sets his intention, he places himself before God, and he vows to listen more to God’s will for him and to walk a more authentic path. Jacob has a long road ahead of him, his character, shaped by all the circumstances of his life, is flawed like ours. But he must begin somewhere and so do we.
This can be the day that we begin to see our lives as a series of potential choices, not a race to some imagined end. We can choose how we behave when we enter into discourse about topics we feel passionately about with people that may disagree with us. We can choose to honor ourselves through self-care, prayer, and compassion, and we can choose to show that same love and compassion to others even when we are frustrated with them.
Perhaps we do not have ultimate free will, that our lives are too entrenched with our history and our inheritance to ever be fully free, but we must try. We must be brave enough to investigate our habits, our routines, our words, and search for ways to make healthier, more whole choices, not just for ourselves but for our community and our world. Our tradition teaches us again and again that our choices do matter and that we must do our part, because on that point, we have no choice!
I look forward to being together this Shabbat at our evening service at 8:00 pm. Our sacred morning Chanting Circle begins on Saturday at 9:00 am and our main service follows at 10:00 am.
The “Big Idea” has been found! Thanks to the brainpower of 6th grader, Bob Kahn, Temple Ner Tamid is launching its first ever on-site, eat-in pop-up restaurant, “Bob’s Brunch Cafe.” This concept is the result of TNT’s “Big Idea” initiative, where our community came together to brainstorm something new for TNT.
Join us on Sunday, December 9 for some great food, kibitzing and live music. Hours are 8:30 - 10:30 am and 11 am - 1:30 pm. No reservations. We can’t wait to see you!
And special thanks to the anonymous donor who, in honor of Kenneth Cohen’s presidency, made this possible.
The Montclair Israeli Dance Project is a coming-together of the greater Montclair community to celebrate Israeli culture, get some exercise, and enjoy each other's company (perhaps with some dessert and wine afterward). With a fabulous professional instructor, it promises to be great fun. Women, men, and teens are all encouraged to attend. Starting November 4th the sessions will be on the first and third Sundays of the month at 7:00 pm at Bnai Keshet, for $10. No talent? No worry. Come anyway! It's not a performance -- it's fun and community. Give it a shot. You might surprise yourself and like it. Spread the word and bring your friends. Everyone is welcome.
Join Cantor Greenberg and Beth Adleman for a meaningful and playful exploration of Soul Judaism. Rhythm connects us back to our bodies and to the earth, and singing opens the heart. When combined with true Kavannah / intention to live more compassionately and more honestly the results can be astounding. Each session will begin with a focus on cultivating accessible drumming patterns on your own drum while singing short, inspirational Jewish phrases. After that it's playtime!
This practice is for anyone (and everyone). No prior drumming or chanting experience is required. You will need to bring your own drum.
Wednesday evenings from 7:30 to 9 pm on November 28, December 19, January 23, February 20, March 20, April 17, May 29.
For more information or to sign up contact Cantor Meredith Greenberg.
Explore a modern take on Jewish life. Discover what could be meaningful to you in liberal Judaism. Explore a modern take on Jewish life. Engage with Jewish values, celebrations, spirituality, and community in an Introduction to Judaism class.
Everyone is welcome. The 18-session class is perfect for interfaith couples, those raising Jewish children, spiritual seekers, individuals considering conversion, and Jews who want a meaningful adult Jewish learning experience.
Ask your questions, engage with multiple perspectives, and explore Jewish life through a Reform lens. Reform clergy from our community, including Rabbi Marc Katz and Cantor Meredith Greenberg, will be co-teaching classes starting in November; register early to ensure a space. www.reformjudaism.org/intronj
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