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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


September 12, 2014  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

High Holidays 5775

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Jewish Press gave the Pinellas County Board of Rabbis the opportunity to submit their holiday messages to the community. The following were received as of deadline:

I write this message during a sweltering

August day. Temperatures and humidity in Florida are always high during this time of the year. It seems to me, however, that the weather this year is even more unpleasant than it was last year and that the entire nation is suffering from a terrible heat wave. I also recall last year being especially hot and humid.

Some scientists attribute this and other changes in climate to coincidences of natural phenomena. Other scientists attribute the changes in climate at least partly to man’s doing. They say that the pollutants we have sent in to the atmosphere have damaged the ozone layer causing climate changes and with it, extremes in weather.

I am not certain which view is correct. My scientific knowledge is very limited. It seems to me, however, that the pollution we create must have some adverse effect upon the health of our planet and those who live on the planet.

When I think about all this I am reminded of the Torah’s emphasis upon caring for this world that God has given us. Many of our commandments involve treating the earth and everything that lives on it with care and respect.

As we approach a new year, I would like to suggest that each of us try a little harder to use fewer natural resources and to create less pollution. There are so many ways in which we can accomplish this goal. We could work at repairing rather than replacing items that malfunction. We could purchase more fuel efficient cars and drive more slowly. We can also work to promote legislation that restricts activities that damage our environment, such as offshore oil drilling. There are many other things we can do.

Our Jewish tradition makes it clear that we are to be custodians of the earth. May we all do a better job of fulfilling this responsibility.

Rabbi Gary Klein
Temple Ahavat Shalom, Palm Harbor

These last few months have been a time of incredible unity as we joined with our brethren in Israel in defense of our homeland. As Rosh Hashanah approaches, my hope is that we continue to foster that unity right here at home.

Most North American Jewish Communities have three congregations – Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. I, for one, reject these labels. I prefer to say that we have three congregations – Jews, Jews and more Jews.

Of course we have differences; who doesn’t? As the old saying goes, two Jews, three opinions. But, we are joined at the hip even if at times we face in different directions. At soul, heart and essence we are one. A family, with quibbles and squabbles; but a family nonetheless. We have one father and He is in heaven. Here on Earth our spectrum is wide, and sibling rivalry is often intense, but that is the nature of siblings.

As Hillel taught it, Ahavat Yisrael – love of a fellow Jew – is the primary principle of Torah; the rest is mere commentary. How is this so? G-d is at the essence of every Jew. When we love our fellow Jew, we love G-d within our fellow. To accept each other without judgment is to accept G-d on His terms.

On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur our thoughts are focused on G-d. Let us remember that love of G-d is not possible without love for all His children; if even one child is rejected, the G-d in that child is rejected too.

Let us make Ahavat Yisrael our personal challenge this year. It is easy to pay lip service to it; but the time has come to make it real. May this Rosh Hashanah be not only a catalyst, but a celebration of success. Let us not only talk about family; but act it. Let us learn to truly love.

Rabbi Alter Korf
Chabad of St. Petersburg


High Holidays offer an opportunity to back away from the tensions, stresses, and anxieties of day-to-day life and to consider what life is all about.

At the beginning of the month of Elul, we begin our withdrawal from the world. On Rosh Hashana we celebrate the birthday of the world, the renewal of creation. By Yom Kippur, we have achieved separation from ordinary life. After the Day of Atonement, we re-emerge into the world with renewed understanding and vigor.

This is also a time of affirmation of membership in the Jewish people. After Yom Kippur, we return to our homes and build a sukkah. The lesson is obvious; we must return to our homes and daily tasks. We begin to build the sukkah because we want to make our life happy and fruitful. The message of the High Holidays is to celebrate a full relationship with God and with other human beings.

As we think about our fellow Jews in Israel and around the world, let us pray for a peaceful, meaningful New Year 5775.

Rabbi Jacob Luski
Congregation B’nai Israel, St. Petersburg

As we approach the High Holy Days we all know how important it is that our moments of sacred gathering, prayer and celebration open up the possibility for each of as individuals and all of us collectively to be renewed for the year ahead. The more our hearts are open to one another and to the Holy One of Blessing, the greater the potential to experience the renewal and “re- Jew-venation” each of us seeks.

On behalf of the entire Temple Beth-El community, I offer our most sincere wish that all of our hearts will be open to the sacred potential of the Yamim Noraim, and that these High Holy Days will draw us to the great possibilities of teshuvah (returning, repenting from our transgressions), the essence of which makes the radical claim that change is possible. Though humanity has the ability and often the proclivity to hurt and be hurt, we always maintain the ability to change, to turn from suffering to healing. By motivating us to do teshuvah, the High Holy Days ultimately affirm that transformation is fundamental to human life.

May 5775 be for our entire community a year of health, forgiveness and peace!

Michael Torop, Rabbi
Temple Beth-El, St. Petersburg

Once upon a time, I was a Boy Scout.

I learned many of the requisite skills for scouting: lighting a fire, pitching a tent, tying knots, etc. Most remain as some vague memory. But the one that remains so clearly is the Boy Scout motto: “Be prepared.” Good advice overall, and especially good advice at this time of year.

The Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe, evoke tremendous imagery as we begin the New Year. The liturgy of the holidays imagines us as sheep passing before the Shepherd, being counted and noticed. We stand at the precipice of a new time, praying for a better year than the one we just had. We offer prayers for life, for blessing, for forgiveness. And while we make lots of preparations for the celebration of the holidays with friends and our communities, we might wonder if we are prepared spiritually for such an important time.

Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, shares this reflection: “The sentiment that this entire period should evoke in us was inadvertently provided to me by a student. While lecturing on the theology of this period, I noticed that he had written at the top of his notes: the Daze of Ah. I was unsure whether to chastise him for not having done the readings or give him extra credit for offering this insight. For this is exactly how we should approach this time: in a Daze of Ah, a daze of wonderment at the opportunity that has been given to us.”

Most of us never achieve this stage. We are like people who have been told that the last scene of Hamlet is the most riveting and only show up for that scene. We fail to understand what the fuss is about. We parachute into the Yamim Noraim. This period is the April 15th of the Jewish year, yet I spend more time preparing my taxes than preparing my soul.

As we enter these Daze of Ah, may we be prepared to experience all the inspiration and reflection they bring.

Rabbi Daniel Treiser
Temple B’nai Israel, Clearwater

He who lives with a sense for the Presence knows that to get older does not mean to lose time but rather to gain time. And he also knows that in all his deeds, the chief task of man is to sanctify time. All it takes to sanctify time is God, a soul, and a moment. And the three are always here. (Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Insecurity of Freedom, p. 82)

In our youth, we tend to strive for all that we can accomplish, setting goals, and propelling ourselves forward. At a certain point in life, though, and for each of us that point is different, we may find that we have an opportunity simply “to be” with what is, to rest in the sense of having accomplished at least some of what we had set out to do. When we realize that we have reached this stage, what more appropriate prayer can we utter than, “Thank You.” It is in this moment of gratitude that we recognize the invitation to sanctify time. The more we become aware of our life’s blessings, the more we “gain time” to appreciate and give back.

As we enter into a New Year, I hope that we can feel renewed with a sense of purpose to sanctify our own time – to engage in meaningful activities that in turn generate more sanctity in the community, and in the world. The effects of sacred projects, such as study, prayer, and good deeds are felt outwardly as much as they are felt within. May each of us be blessed to seize each precious moment, filling it with nourishment for the soul and an awareness of the Presence among us.

Rabbi Danielle Upbin
Congregation Beth Shalom, Clearwater


Aug. 27, I had opportunity to meet

Rachel Fraenkel, the mother of Naftali, one of the three teens murdered on their way home from school in Israel this past June.

She smiled nearly the whole time she spoke to us, while many were openly weeping for her, or perhaps weeping from the fear that all parents push to the back of their minds, until their children are safely sleeping in their beds for the night. She said that while this past month has been the most difficult in her life, it has been amazing and uplifting as well.

The outpouring of support from the Jewish community in Israel and around the world proved to her, the dictum from the Talmud, Kol Yisroel marbim ze la ze. All of Israel is linked to one another. We assured her that we in America we were praying for her son and his friends, and then when their fate was revealed, we all shared in her loss, one people with one collective soul.

This is the time of year when we all incline our hearts in the same direction. The High Holy Days are so widely observed by coming together in body along with our spirits. We actually collect in large groups all over the world on these days as a demonstration of what we feel most of the time, and unfortunately most when one of us is in trouble. That’s all it takes: one. One US hiker who went missing outside of Jerusalem five days before this writing, and in the hour of war, when Israelis are being killed and injured, the police force and others have been on a manhunt for this one young Jewish man. And as we make our way to the synagogue for our ritual pilgrimage, we are also on a kind of a manhunt, the search for our own souls. Let us all be present in body and in soul.

Rabbi David Weizman
Congregation Beth Shalom, Clearwater

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