October 20, 2014   26 Tishrei 5775
Union Temple of Brooklyn, NY
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Rabbi Goodman

The pain and destructiveness of the war between Israel and Hamas this past summer had two polar effects: it united and it divided. The Israeli population, and those of us who are not Israelis but found ourselves there in the midst of “the situation” this summer, were, by and large, united in the understanding that this war, though unwanted by Israel, was necessary and unavoidable. According to most polls, upwards of 90% of the Israeli people stood shoulder to shoulder in support of the Prime Minister’s leadership at the time – even those who are not particularly "fans" of his during more ordinary times.

That being said, the war also stirred up an enormous backlash against Israel, from Jews and non-Jews alike, not only regarding its policies, but in many cases, regarding its very existence. That backlash unfortunately also stirred up the undercurrents of global anti-Semitism that burst into the open this summer with ugly and frightening invective.

But now the war is over, thank God, and Israel itself must return to addressing its most vexing internal social is-sues, which have become even more pressing in recent years. After 66 years of statehood, it seems quite appropriate that we remind ourselves of the Zionist aspiration as it began in principle, and as it has evolved in reality; that we reset our focus upon the values of Judaism, humanitarian ethics, and the spirit of democracy and fairness, that optimally should be guiding principles of the State of Israel.

During this coming year our Adult Education program will offer a 10-part series from the Shalom Hartman Institute as part of the “Engaging Israel” endeavor, known as "iEngage." We offered the first series in this endeavor two years ago. The ten segments of this series will offer video lectures by Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, President of the Hartman Institute, along with supporting text study that I will conduct (since text study is at the core of the Hartman Institute). Many of the segments also will feature conversations by some of the extraordinary scholars of the Hartman faculty, in addition to some formidable public figures. The title of this second series in the iEngage project is “The Tribes of Israel: A Shared Homeland for a Divided People.” See page 7 in this Bulletin for the schedule of topics in this iEngage series.

As American Jews, our relationship with Israel is a complicated one that warrants great thoughtfulness on our part. This series will offer thought-provoking and sophisticated content, so emblematic of the Hartman Institute. I hope that you will attend as many of these programs as possible. They will be on Wednesday evenings, 7:30- 9:30 PM. We are participating in this series through the generosity of a grant from UJA-Federation of New York, so the only cost to each of you is a one-time $20 fee for the sourcebooks that contain the texts we will be studying together. We also promise mouthwatering desserts, and you know we'll make good on that. The three fall sessions will be on October 22, 29, and November 12. Please join us. We need to talk about these things together.

-Rabbi Linda Henry Goodman

Mi Shebeirach for an Aliyah  

The Mi Shebeirach blessing has become a regular feature of our services. Mi Shebeirach means “The One who blessed.” It begins: Mi Shebeirach avoteinu, Avraham, Yitzhak, v’Ya’akov, v’imoteinu, Sarah, Rivka, Rahel, v’Leah... Hu y’vareich et… “May the One who blessed our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and our mothers, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, bestow Your blessing upon ... and so on.”

Though most often we have recited Mi Shebeirach for those who are ill, our liturgy actually provides different Mi Shebeirach texts for various occasions. There are blessings at an aufruf for a bride and groom; blessings for new parents and blessings for their babies; and indeed, blessings for each person who is given the honor of being called the Torah to recite the Torah blessing - the honor that we call an Aliyah (going up to the Torah). The Torah blessings are completed, and then the Mi Shebeirach is recited by the Rabbi or Cantor.

While earlier generations of Reform Jews preferred to excise all these “Mi Shebeirachs” from the service, often out of a general anxiety about needlessly elongating the liturgy, our own generation has shown a marked preference for putting them back in. There is a general sense that it is important to acknowledge and bless people in their lives: whether as a prayer for a restoration to health, or in the joy of a new baby, an impending marriage, or for the honor of being called to the Torah.

Our new siddur, MISHKAN T’FILAH, has inserted a Mi Shebeirach for an Aliyah, which essentially is the traditional text. Some of the members of our Religious Practices Committee found the traditional wording objectionable from a theological standpoint, so I took the liberty of rewriting the blessing. The translation of the text now reads:

May the One Who blessed our fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and our mothers, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, bless ________ (son)(daughter) of _________ who has ascended to the Torah, with good health, happiness, prosperity and peace; with wisdom and understanding, with the love of Torah and reverence for the Divine. And let us say Amen.

We have used this already at Shabbat Morning services, and it seems to be well received by those in attendance, and appreciated by those who have been called for an aliyah. Thus, the next time you happen to be at a morning service, you’ll hear this Mi Shebeirach in addition to the one for healing. We hope you will enjoy the addition of this blessing. Though it adds little more than a few seconds to the service, it holds considerable significance for those being blessed, and their families.

Blessings to all –

-Rabbi Linda Henry Goodman

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