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President's Message: Ha'azinu

Dear friends,

We are all familiar with the Song At The Sea that was sung after the exodus, but there is a second song in the Torah in this week's Parsha, Haazinu. This song is more somber, foretelling the trials and tribulations the Jewish people will go through and their deviations from the path of the Torah, but then their ultimate redemption. 

In his commentary on the Parsha, Rabbi Berel Wein speaks about the title of the Parsha, Haazinu (“to listen"). He relates there is an echo from the giving of the Torah at Sinai that reverberates, and it is our job to listen for it. It is easy to ignore. It is that voice that tells us right from wrong,  always there but often not paid attention to. 

He also says the importance of listening goes further than hearing our own inner voices. It encompasses listening to what others say about us. Not only listening to criticism but internalizing constructive criticism to improve ourselves. This listening is much harder; it tells us the truths we don't want to hear. 

Especially at this time of the year, it is important to work on ourselves by both listening to our internal conscience and by incorporating failings that others may point out to us. These failings are not absolutes, but genuine opportunities to improve ourselves.  

As I’ve said here and in shul before, I welcome any comments, positive or negative, that I can learn from to hopefully improve myself. I have no doubt I'm not alone in this. I have to believe that the more open we are with each other, ultimately the closer we will become. (Full text from Rabbi Wein here.) ​​​​​​​

• • • 

While I did miss davening in the tent for Yom Kippur, it was nostalgic to be back inside. (There will surely be discussions next year about the pros and cons of indoor vs. outdoor davening.) During the last-minute decision to move the minyanim indoors and setting up for services, we tried to keep the announcements and appeals to a minimum. 

But I ask you now to please donate as you would have for Kol Nidre, for the upkeep of B'nai Avraham. The only true need for a Shul is a place to daven with a minyan, but we need your help to keep that place safe and dry and warm and comfortable.  We need your contributions to do all of the things that accompany the davening and allow us to grow as Jews in brownstone Brooklyn: to learn Torah, to build a Jewish home and to experience the warmth of the Modern Orthodox and Chabad community that we have built here and makes us special. Click here to donate.

We now look forward to Sukkot, with our community dinner and the Sukkah Hop. Right after Sukkot, our monthly Israel lecture series kicks off on Sunday, Oct 23. Let’s all promote the positives and positions of Israel to the Brooklyn Heights community at large.

Wishing you all a peaceful and meaningful Shabbat Shalom, Shana Tova and Chag Sameach,
Steven Inker

President's Message: Vayelech

Dear friends,

This week's Parsha, Vayelech, describes Moshe's final discussions with the Jewish People in a very curious way. The Torah relates that "He went" (Vayelech), but that he could no longer come and go. What was the point of the phrase "Moshe went?" Why is the Parsha actually called "He went?" 

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky, in his commentary on the Parsha, explains that even in his last hours, Moshe had the same vigor to prepare the Jewish people for their journey as when he led them out of Egypt. He went, until he stopped. 

Our job in teaching and instructing doesn't end when we slow down. There is no concept of doing fewer mitzvot as we get older. We must continue to strive until we can no longer go. (Full text here.) 

• • • 

I've often noted that the Parsha always has a personal message for those who look for it. I've been talking to people about my term coming to an end, looking forward to more free time and fewer meetings (and fewer text messages!). The Parsha teaches me that the ninth inning is as important as the first. 

To that point: Yom Kippur is next week and we will be trying out a different approach to selling aliyot. Men who have reserved a seat for the high Holidays should be receiving an email with a reservation form for aliyot for Yom Kippur. Please reserve the honors that you wish. All Honors that have not been reserved will be auctioned off on Yom Kippur. If you have any problems with the form, please let the Rabbi or any Board member or Officer know.

Right after the holidays, our monthly Israel lecture series begins.

After the Chaggim, the Board will review all of our recent planning and programs. Please let us know if you have ideas for a better system or experience. We are always interested in improving, and everyone's input helps.

Wishing you all a peaceful and meaningful Shabbat Shalom and a K'tivah V'Chatimah Tovah,

Steven Inker

President's Message: Shoftim

Dear friends,

Shoftim, this week's Parsha, deals with, among other things, the qualities of Judges, the conduct of war, and, somewhat paradoxically, what to do about an anonymous corpse found on the road. 

It is by no means a revolutionary idea, but I've been amazed every week how relevant the Parsha and its lessons are to me. Rabbi Kamenetsky, in his Drash when looking at the phrase “do not stray from the path of their counsel, neither to the left nor to the right," talks about perspective. 

While it should be obvious to anyone which way is left and which way is right, his point is that it depends on where we stand. We are often sure of ourselves because we believe in our perspective. We need our sages to tell us where 'true north' is before we can appreciate the truth. 

It is too easy to believe interpretation and conjecture as fact. It is too easy to fall into that trap. In dealing with others, this Drash exhorts us to see the view from other viewpoints, but a second commentary, by Rabbi Naftali Reich, goes further. 

In his comments on the abandoned corpse, Rabbi Reich wonders why this chapter is here at all. He answers by pointing out that this chapter is placed within the laws of warfare. War dehumanizes. Many people die and we see the total devastation. But the Torah teaches us that not only is every soldier a person and someone's child and sibling or parent … but that even the abandoned corpse on the road is the responsibility of someone.  The elders of the closest town have to bring sacrifices.  His death does not go unnoticed.  All of Israel is responsible one for each other. 

It is harder to go off the path if we live our lives seeing things through the perspective of others, and knowing in our hearts that we are all ultimately responsible for each other. For the complete texts click Left and Right and Life Is Not Cheap. 

• • • 

We're getting closer to the Holidays, and while it may seem calm in Shul, behind the scenes, a lot of arrangements are taking place.  We will once again be outside in a tent or both Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.  We will have our Baal Koreh, Rabbi Shushan, leading us in Shacharit and Chazzan Goodman will be leading us for Kol Nidre, Mussaf and Neilah. The schedule of daveneing, and the dinner information on dinners and other events can all be found on the Shul website and the flyers that are going out.

Further out, there are Sukkot events that are being planned, as well as the Israel lecture series. Hebrew School enrollment is in full swing and Rabbi Yankel and Yael Raskin are looking forward to beginning the new school year. Again, all of the information is on the website.

I'd like to wish a Refuah Shlema to all those in our community who require it.  I'm happy to report that Phil Kamaras and his daughter, Sarah, are B"H continuing to recover well.  Our prayers and good wishes go out to them both.

Wishing you all a peaceful and meaningful Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tova.

Steven Inker

Mon, December 5 2022 11 Kislev 5783