For many of us I suspect, this Thanksgiving period has lost its innocence. It seems that violence is rampant, fires rage, and the political and moral issues of our day are troubling and dividing people. Add to all of this, the acts of anti-Semitism and hate that we have experienced and that are on the increase. And amidst it all, still we have poverty and hunger and so many people who yearn for so much that we tend to take for granted.
Our response to all of this: Join us this Sunday, November 18th for a number of important events where we will give expression to our yearnings for ourselves and our society.
On Sunday morning we will come together for MITZVAH DAY—a day of reaching beyond the walls of our temple toward literally thousands of people.
And then a special program for our EMPTY NESTER population at 11:30am: Especially at this time of strife between Israel and Hamas, our speakers from Project Rosana will speak of efforts by Israeli and Palestinian medical teams to bring healing and trust to those in need.
And in the afternoon, we will hold our annual INTERFAITH THANKSGIVING SERVICE, this year at the Bedford Presbyterian Church at 4pm. The service will convey the hopeful spirit of this time of year: opening our hearts to feel gratitude for our blessings, and to affirm our connection to the larger community through the values and ideals that we share.
As we approach Thanksgiving, I am reminded of a teaching from our sages: “Pray as if everything depends upon God. But act as though everything depends upon you.” So may our efforts this Sunday lead us to realize that we are called upon to be “God’s angels” in causing hate, greed and self-absorption to be replaced with heartfelt acts of loving-kindness towards those who yearn for sustenance, dignity and freedom.
Together, let us make this a meaningful and kind Thanksgiving by reaching beyond ourselves to bring a touch of goodness and hope to our society. From my home to yours, I wish you and your loved ones a rich and inspiring Thanksgiving.
Rabbi David Greenberg
A heartwarming story: While political and military battles in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict persist, a Palestinian baby named Musa received a lifesaving gift from a Jewish Israeli child who recently died. One-year-old Musa remains in critical condition after the operation, but his chances of survival have greatly increased as a result of the remarkable surgery.
The Jewish parents agreed to donate their deceased child’s heart within hours of Musa and his family arriving at Tel Aviv’s Sheba Medical Center; a hospital that our congregation has supported over the years.
In donating their child’s heart, these parents performed the ultimate Mitzvah of our religion. Pikuach Nefesh, the saving of a human life, takes precedence over all of the other commandments in Judaism and is a principle that is at the core of our religion.
When life is involved, all Sabbath laws may be suspended to safeguard the life of an individual. In fact, to refrain from acting to save a life is considered a desecration. The duty to ignore the “law” for the sake of saving a life is stressed even in the Orthodox tradition, as it points to Yom Kippur and the prohibition of a sick person fasting on that day. In spite of the virtue of fasting, it is not virtuous to observe laws at the risk of one’s life. In fact, in our sacred books we are told that one who risks his life by fasting on Yom Kippur is described as “piety of madness.”
Yes, Judaism teaches us to cherish life, and to do all that we can to preserve life. At the same time, we affirm the virtue of organ donation when it can save another life. So do we all have the power to give something of ourselves so that others might live. There is no greater mitzvah.
Shabbat Shalom. I hope that you will join us for our service this evening.
Rabbi David Greenberg
We never met her, but we should make mention of her name: NADIA PURAM.
Last week Nadia Murad was awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. She is a former ISIS sex slave who received the award for her campaign to raise awareness of her trauma.
Nadia Puram was kidnapped by ISIS terrorists when they overran Yazidi areas of Iraq. The radical Islamist group slaughtered the men and took thousands of women as sex slaves. Murad was abducted in 2014 and repeatedly raped and beaten by her “owner,” who also allowed her to be gang-raped by other ISIS terrorists.
While many Yazidi victims of systematic rape and slavery sought to conceal their identities out of shame after being liberated, Nadia Puram went public with her story and launched an international campaign to raise awareness of the mass victimization of Yazidi women by ISIS.
Yes, there is much evil in the world. But there is also strength and courage and so many acts of extraordinary goodness. So does our religious tradition affirm that one day such acts of goodness will prevail.
Near the end of every service, we pray: “On that day in the future God will be One and His name will be One.” The implication of the prayer is that we will yet reach a time when all of humanity will realize, not only that there is but one God of all the world, but that there is but one humanity, and that we will have learned how to live together in peace and with dignity for all.
In the face of the cruelty that exists in our world, we Jews continue to embrace that worthy and hopeful vision.
Rabbi David Greenberg