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March Message from Rabbi Louis Zivic D.D.

Dear Folks,

This joyous Hebrew month of Adar began on February 26th this year. Adar is considered to be a joyous month because most of us, having become impatient with winter, are ready for the joys of spring and the appearance of the mardi gras like holiday of Purim. As we are familiar with Purim, I am not going to write about it. If you want to learn about Purim, or more about Purim as the case may be, I encourage you to “google” it on your computer. Yet even as Purim is the focus of the month, two other events of great significance for Jewish history also take place; the birthday of Moshe Rabbenu (Moses our teacher) and the death of Moshe, both of which are said by our religious tradition to have taken place on 7 Adar.

As far as I can discover there is no real reason for this belief. It does not say in the Torah that Moshe was born on the 7th of Adar, nor the Moshe died on that date. The date is totally the invention of rabbinic minds. So what were the Rabbis thinking when they decided on the 7th of Adar? Adar is easy to explain as it is the month of joy so it is natural that it would be chosen as the date of Moshe’s birth as he was the instrument of the Jewish people’s freedom from slavery. Also, the month following Adar is Nisan, the first month of the Hebrew calendar, because it was the first month our ancestors lived in freedom, which would make Adar the last month of their slavery to Pharaoh; again an easy pick for the time of Moshe’s birth.

Why the 7th? Possibly, as the Rebma explains, it is because as we learn from the story of creation in Bereshit (Genesis) it is the day on which God rests and reflects on the glory of creation; since there was/is no greater prophet in the Jewish people’s history than Moshe, he too, reflects the grandeur of creation: the creation of human beings. The choice of the 7th of Adar as the date of Moshe’s death may be found in these words of singer/songwriter Harry Chapin: “all my life’s a circle, sunrise and sunset.” Appropriately, the rabbis might have thought, God “gathers” (Deut.32:50) Moshe to his ancestors on that date. Equally, it might be thought that just as Moshe was born into earthly life on the 7th of Adar, God rewards by allowing him to be born in the olam habah (world to come) on that date.

So even as we celebrate Purim, lets celebrate the life of Moshe Rabbenu, Moshe our teacher, by reminding ourselves that there is always something to learn.

April Message from Rabbi Louis Zivic D.D.

Shabbat Hagadol is the time rabbis of the past used to instruct their congregants about casting out hametz and other kashrut news of the day.

I’m sure that many of you saw the NY Times article “Lighten up, It’s Pesach,” a number of years ago. The article stated that the Masorti Movement in Israel, the Conservative Movement here and the Israeli army all approve of the use of kitniyot, legumes for Pesach.

Hametz means that which causes fermentation or souring. It’s allegorical use is apparent, but on a Thurs. night Daily Show with Jon Stewart of blessed memory, the recent study on prayer and healing was lampooned.

Jon Stewart actually hit the nail on the head by stating that folks were being asked to pray for the wrong thing. People shouldn’t have prayed for something so specific. It’s not what Jews do. If the experiment had been designed by a Jewish group that knew anything about prayer, people would have been asked to pray for something like “giving the surgeon’s hands skill,” rather than something as quantifiable as was asked for in this study like please allow the surgeon to remove the tumor and get it all.

If the wrong question asked, a wrong answer may be received.

1. One can not order from God as one does from a menu. God is not a magician who performs on command.
2. A Jew should understand that we exist to serve God, God does not exist to serve us.
3. The goal of prayer is not to get what we want, but to be in intimate communication with God.

Let’s use this coming Pesach to sharpen up our prayer goals. After all Moshe Rabbenu asked to be saved from the pursuing Egyptians, not to have the Reed Sea split.

Have Chag kasher v’samayach!

May Message from Rabbi Louis Zivic D.D.

Chronic pain is a terrible affliction. Many of you who are reading this, suffer from it as I do. No one can measure the depths of another’s pain. Arthritis wasn’t called the “miseries” for no reason. Medicine has made strides forward to help with chronic pain; there are medications, physical therapy, exercise, joint replacement and other treatments that help even though it may only be for a short time.

Distraction, getting involved in something to take one’s mind away from the pain can also be an excellent anodyne. I use Torah study as a way of taking my mind from my arthritic woes of my back to the glory of God and the generations of rabbis that have come before me. I remember seeing the inside of a Torah scroll as a young boy. Remember the instant attraction that I felt for those deep black letters in shapes that I had not yet learned to decipher. Those letters called to me and I have spent most of my lifetime deciphering them. Despite the Torah’s sometimes frustrating impenetrable nature, it is a task that I enjoy. Figuring out what the message of the Torah is from one week to the next provides me with both distraction and satisfaction. Clearly, currently, a no pain no gain, situation.

Not every Jew feels the same attraction to Torah, but thank God there are thousands of books on Jewish subjects and millions of books in general. Read, study, learn. Get your mind of pain and into the other worlds that the doorways of reading provide. The holiday of Shavuot will be celebrated on Wednesday May 31. I encourage your participation in commemoration of the only masss revelation in religious history. Check it out on Google.

June Message from Rabbi Louis Zivic, D.D.

Dear Folks, The weather forecasting folks say that summer is coming. Who knows? They could be right. Summer, despite the heat is a favorite season of the year for me. I enjoy the warm breeze, bright sunshine and growing plants and crops. There is one anomaly and that is that it is during summer that we observe Tisha B’Av. Tisha B’Av is world Jewish disaster day. Beginning in 586BCE with the destruction of Solomon’s temple by the Babylonians the list of catastrophes grows right into our current century. The observances for Tisha B’Av are based around the Roan siege and destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70CE. In the ancient world and in this one, so far, there is one season for war in the Middle East and it is summer. Tisha B’Av’s observance is marked by fasting. No water or food for the 24 hours of the actual observance. Yom Kippur may be tough but when the temperatures may be above 90 degrees, it is even tougher. Why take a summer day and mark it by fasting and mourning. I believe that there are two reasons: 1. to remind us that bad things can come at good times and 2. to teach us that awful times pass and good times return again.
That is the cycle of life for we human beings. So no matter what is going on in the world, it is our duty to hang in there; accept the bad and praise the good!

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