Purim Wrap

Dear Friends,

Words cannot describe the feelings of excitement that follow this year's Purim Celebration. We feel surrounded by a warm community that is starting to feel more like a family. As the Purim Party was coming closer we realized how much goes into hosting a party in our own venue! Nothing prepared us for the wave of help and support we got, both for this event and for the future. We are embarking on a journey, making this new building into a home. This will be a journey we will be taking together. We feel it already! There is a wonderful 16th century commentary on Megillat Esther written by Rabbi Shlomo Ha-Levi Alkabetz, a learned Sephardic scholar. He was not only a famous sage and Kabbalist, he also composed the beautiful poem, Lecha Dodi, which we sing every Friday night. Rabbi Alkabetz asked an interesting question: Why is it that on Purim we have the unique mitzvah of giving gifts to friends? Let’s explore: We all know Haman was the quintessential anti-Semite. Yet even so, how did he manage to endanger the future of the Jewish People? The answer lies within the words he used to state his case to the king. He described the Jews as, ‘Am -echad mefuzar umeforad’, one nation that is scattered and divided. Instead of displaying unity, love and care for one another, the Jews were fragmented. Haman pointed out their vulnerability and this division created the possibility of a successful attack. Ironically, it was Haman's decree to slay the Jews that ultimately triggered reunification. Esther’s first instruction to Mordechai was to, "Go, gather all the Jews". She told him to bring the Jewish People together to pray and defend themselves. And, in the end, with a couple of miracles thrown in, Haman was defeated. This, Rabbi Alkabetz says, is the reason we send gifts to each other on Purim. It fosters feelings of closeness and care, strengthening the mitzvah to “love your neighbor as yourself,” establishing harmony throughout the Jewish People. The only way to defeat the evil ‘Hamans’ of history is to create strong bonds of love and friendship amongst Jews. When there are divisions, our enemies may have a window of opportunity to (G-d forbid) prevail. If we stand together as Jews, nobody can conquer us!

Thank you for standing together, together with all of us! It's going to be a journey well traveled!

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The Power of Pause

Shabbat Candle Lighting Times for Moscow, Russia Friday, March 11th Light Candles at 18:07 Shabbat, March 12th, Shabbat Ends 19:22 Torah Portion: Pekudei

The Power of Pause I try to keep these messages light and user-friendly. Translation: I assume many people will be reading this in middle of a busy day, and often on a mobile device. If I start traveling down deep theological paths, and insert a bunch of footnotes, many of you won’t read to the end. You’ll move on to the next e-mail or just get back to work. So I try to offer some on-the-go inspiration – and not wrinkle brows - with these notes. Because I think that’s what people want. Life is fast paced, and we appreciate getting a sprinkle of inspiration that we can absorb without breaking our stride. If I still have your attention, let’s take a few seconds to re-think that attitude. We can do better than on-the-fly inspiration. I imagine you’ve never grasped a deep concept, or understood a complicated deal, by skimming through a four-hundred word article. Real depth requires a pause. If I want to truly tap life’s richness, I need to periodically halt my personal runaway train, gather my consciousness, and soak in what’s at hand. There’s simply no other way. Call it mindfulness. Call it the Power of Now. To me, it’s all the same. We need take a deep breath, and apply ourselves to whatever’s in front of us with full consciousness. And I don’t think you get to full consciousness unless you tee-up with a conscious pause. On-the-go inspiration is good for refocusing. But it’s only the beginning. This week, I noticed an interesting nuance in a well-known Biblical verse. Isaiah, in chapter 64, (I know I threw in a footnote, but please stay with meJ) describes our ability to connect with G-d at a level so sublime that it transcends Paradise, “no eye has ever seen it.” To whom does G-d grant this deeply intimate connection? “G-d grants this to those who PAUSE for Him (Isaiah 64:3).” Status-quo-rattling events ‘give us pause.’ Attention-grabbing scenarios are external stimuli which create a result that we can – and should – generate of our own volition. We can choose to pause for important things. G-d is important. And G-d says that you are important. Today, and this hour, are important. So pause whatever you’re doing and apply yourself to appreciating the value of living in G-d’s world and doing the work of making this a brighter world. Pause and appreciate the cosmic beauty of now. You’ll open yourself to other-worldy possibilities. Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Yanky Klein

This email is In Loving memory of my dear father R' Yerachmiel Binyamin Halevi ben R, Menachem Klein OBM

Stealth Super-Powers

Light Candles at 17:52 Shabbat, March 5th, Shabbat Ends 19:07 Torah Portion: Vayakhel

Stealth Super-Powers Fear and crisis can bring us an important recognition: We have potential that reaches beyond our normal limitations. Tapping it is only a question of motivation. And a loved one being threatened by a bear, or trapped by a car, can really motivate. But beyond these spontaneous spurts of our deeper potential, can we possibly tap this inner core on an average Thursday? For example: You’re exhausted after a day’s work, and all you want is a couch. You recognize that your family can use some quality time, but you simply have no strength. Or do you? Do you perhaps have a deeper reservoir of strength to tap? Is it possible to get past your ‘natural limitations’ to accomplish things you know are important, but don’t seem to have the internal wherewithal? It may feel totally counter-intuitive, but the answer is usually ‘Yes.’ Jewish spirituality tells us that we each have a potential for something called ‘Mesiras Nefesh’, which translates into ‘core (soul) commitment.’ When we truly recognize and feel a need, we can rise above our logical and physical limitations and rise to the occasion. Queen Esther, of the Purim saga, is our timeless model. As Queen, she wasn’t in personal danger. Nor was she witnessing a sudden calamity that made her spring into action. She understood, especially with the advice of her elder uncle Mordechai, that the Jews were facing a mortal enemy. Given her circumstances, there was little she could do without endangering her own life. She had every rational reason to wring her hands and say “I wish I could help.” But she dug deeper. She could not rest until she did everything in her power, and beyond her normal range of power, to save them. She succeeded then, and she’s been helping us succeed ever since. Would you like to do something G-dly but honestly ‘can’t find the time and energy’? Take a second to think of Queen Esther. And dig a little deeper. Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Yanky Klein

This email is In Loving memory of my dear father R' Yerachmiel Binyamin Halevi ben R, Menachem Klein OBM