July 25, 2014   27 Tamuz 5774
Union Temple of Brooklyn, NY
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The Breadth of Israel  

Rabbi Goodman

A Long-Distance Relationship. . . Israelis and American Jews have a long-distance relationship. But as you know, sometimes long-distance relationships can be a bit tricky. Having spent significant time in Israel over the past thirty-five years, it is clear to me that my involvement, comfort level, knowledge, and stake in what goes on there, all have intensified a thousand fold as a result of my time there. Some say that familiarity breeds con-tempt. With Israel I would say instead that familiarity leads to enhanced understanding, connection, concern, and perhaps, even love; and yes, sometimes frustration as well, but it is frustration out of love. At the very least, it is our hope for enhanced understanding that has motivated us to arrange a congregational tour next spring that will carry us over the "breadth of Israel" together.

 

The Breadth of Israel. . . The State of Israel is approximately the size of New Jersey - not exactly a massive land area. Nevertheless, there are dramatic differences between the regions within Israel in topography, land fertility, water proximity, population distribution, and cultural outlook. No matter where one might travel, however, one will find beauty, fascination, history, and contemporary reality. Next year, May 2-15, 2015, our congregation will embark upon an extraordinary journey to discover the breadth of Israel. Of course we could never take in all that is there in two short weeks. Yet, we will be traveling to all four quadrants of the country, and will get a taste, at least, of the breathtaking expanse that is Israel. We will visit areas of deep historic and religious significance and fascinating geological wonders, and will immerse ourselves into the modern, sophisticated, exciting, and yes, at times tumultuous nation that Israel is. Perhaps among the most meaningful opportunities for us will be our visits with Israel’s people - Jews, Christians, Arabs, representatives of the Palestinian community, workers for intergroup understanding, brilliant scholars and idealistic students.

 

Keshet. . . The word keshet means rainbow. It is also the name of the tour company with whom we will be traveling: Keshet: the Center for Educational Tourism in Israel. It is a perfect name for the company, be-cause it is a group of educators in the best sense of the word. Steve and I have gotten to know them over the years because they handle the tiyyulim (day trips) for the Shalom Hartman Institute. We have been extremely impressed with the high level of their work, both in organization and sophistication. They coordinated the trip that Steve and I led last year for our minister friends, and did a superlative job. My friend and colleague, Rabbi Lester Bronstein, Rabbi of Bet Am Shalom of White Plains and VP of the New York Board of Rabbis, offers this observation: The tour plan with Keshet is not an itinerary, it's a curriculum. No stop is a "site." Rather, every destination is seen as an opportunity to understand. . . (The staff members) treat us not as cli-ents but as hevre. They involve themselves with us as Jews on a search for the lessons Israel has to teach us. After such a personal, caring, engaging experience for myself, my family, and my congregation, I cannot imagine traveling in Israel with any group but Keshet.... Thank you Les. My sentiments exactly.

 

Our travels. . . The leadership of Keshet has been working closely with me, and with Bob Newhouser and Mike Gliken of our Adult Ed Committee, to put together a journey of discovery and enjoyment, learning and exchange of ideas, deep meaning and inspiration. I hope you will consider joining us for this adventure as we travel through Israel - our land. What I look forward to the most is the personal relationships that will deepen between us as we experience these two weeks together. I assure you, it will be a life-altering experience. The land package is $3,275 (based on double occupancy), and gratuities, an additional $165. When the airlines release their fares for next year (in about a month from now) we will let you know the exact total. But we expect the full package, land and air, to be approximately $4,250-4,500pp. Of course you are free to make your own flight arrangements in sync with our schedule, and Keshet can help you with add-on's if you are interested in further travel. The initial $500 deposits are due in mid-October, after the Holidays. After that, payments will be required in increments specified by Keshet. Please call or E-mail me with any questions at all.

Every time I travel to Israel my relationship with it deepens, as well as my understanding of myself as an American Jew. So, at our opening dinner in Tel Aviv I look forward to our raising our glasses with the toast: B'ruchim Haba'im L'Yisrael -- Welcome to Israel!

-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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