A Message from Rabbi Tom: Finding Warmth from Within

MCJC Connections
November/December 2017 ~ Cheshvan/Kislev/Tevet ~ Vol. 5778

As winter encroaches, my thoughts and dreams transition to finding warmth and hope, to finding those fleeting moments of light, in the mystical. And towards this, I turn to the great mystic, scholar, and
social reformer, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, May His Memory Be A Blessing. Heschel so brilliantly can help us to understand the nature of the world in which we live, and the role that the Jewish tradition has assigned to us within this world.

Heschel challenges us to imagine the universe prior to Creation, where all that existed was God. And in order to create the world, God performed an intentional act of Tzim-Tzum, self-contraction. God literally contracted Him/Herself, thereby allowing the space for our world to be created. Then God placed the Shechinah, God’s indwelling, the Divine presence, within this world, which ultimately proved unable to contain the GodSelf. The world, the first Creation, burst, and in a cataclysmic moment, those sparks of God were hurled together to form our current world.

From the standpoint of this metaphor, the universe is broken, and God, in the very act of creating the world, chose to limit Divine perfection. God, therefore, needs human beings to repair our world, to gather up the sparks of Divine Holiness that are scattered throughout creation, a Tikkun Olam.

This audacious myth, Heschel points out throughout his writings, asserts that God is in need of each of us if holiness is to be achieved in the world. That our human actions have cosmic import. That the very presence of God in the world is dependent upon how you and I act in our everyday lives. That at the very core of the Jewish tradition is the notion that there is holiness in the world and that we are all responsible, accountable to God, for having such holiness realized.

Heschel taught that we tend to read the Torah looking for mighty acts that God does. All the while, we are not seeing that God is waiting for human beings to take action, that God needs His children to take care of each other. “Zeus loves women; God loves widows,” he wrote. Do you want to love me? God asks, then love the way I love. Love who I love. Love those who are the hardest to love… the stranger, the vulnerable, those who are different, those who just don’t fit in. The ultimate moral test of a community is to include those who have been downtrodden and forbidden to speak, to give them, and therefore all of us, a voice, dignity.

At the same time, Heschel understood and presented with radical honesty that there is so much healing that is beyond our reach, even if we’re commanded to try and achieve it. And so, he reminded us of our great Sages from the Talmud. Through them, a wisdom tradition formulated over two thousand years ago; we are embraced, assured, and protected. Our lives, they tell us from across the generations, are too short. The day is long and the work is great, and we’re not commanded to finish the work, but neither are we allowed to desist from it. “Lo alecha hamlacha ligmor, v’lo atah ben chorin l’hivatel
mimena” – “You are not expected to complete the task, but neither are you free to avoid it.” (Rabbi Tarfon,Pirkei Avot 2:21)

B’Shalom,
Rabbi Tom

Religious School News: The School Year Has Started

MCJC Connections
November/December 2017 ~ Cheshvan/Kislev/Tevet ~ Vol. 5778

By Jennifer Schwartz

Hello families and congregants! What a busy, fun-filled year we have
had so far!

Beginning with Rosh Hashanah, our Gabbai, Gene Lindow, spoke to the children about the shofar and how it is incorporated into the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services. He also supplied each of the children with their own shofar to practice with and blow at family Tashlich as well as the end of Ne’ilah services. The sanctuary was full of the sounds of delighted children when they practiced their first tekiah gedolah with Gene and his “big shofar”! Don’t hesitate to visit Facebook with the hashtag #littleshulontheprairie to get a glimpse of the giggles and trumpeting yourself!

The Family Services were filled with visions of Clifford making a mess and cleaning it up (and don’t forget, he says “sorry” too!), stories of The Hardest Word and Jonah and the whale AND the worm, and handing in Cheerios to represent things we can do better next year. Thank you so much to Paula Eskoz, Davina Kelly, and Michelle Heath for leading the children’s services!

Finally, the children worked hard on making decorations for the Sukkah. The younger classes decorated pine cones while the older classes made fruit wreaths and craft stick Magen Davids. The children traveled outside with their teachers to hang their handcrafted decorations, making it extra special. The Sukkah was permeated with the sounds of singing and the smell of pizza! We all danced, heard Rabbi Tom’s educational words, and sang the prayer over the lulav and etrog. Each child then had a chance to shake, shake, shake….shake the lulav! Shake the etrog!

To keep up with the children’s projects and experiences, please visit our Facebook page! Just “like” McHenry County Jewish Congregation on Facebook to see our pictures and invitations.
We have such great momentum rolling with art projects, songs, stories, and so much more. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings us!

Gabbai’s Corner: To the Future

MCJC Connections
November/December 2017 ~ Cheshvan/Kislev/Tevet ~ Vol. 5778

By Gene Lindow

We have just finished another High Holiday season and my hope is that all of us have been sealed in the Book of Life for the upcoming year. I also want to thank everyone who helped make the services possible. It was truly a community effort.

As ritual chairperson I need your help to provide members of the committee your feedback (likes/dislikes) of how services were presented. The committee is always looking at new and exciting ways for us to experience our religion.

Just around the corner is Chanukah. It was a time in our history where there was sadness and oppression. Then came liberation and the freedom to practice our religion that was appropriate during that time period. For me it is a holiday that layers good feelings of hope as the progression of the candle lighting glows brighter each night until the “finale.”

As the 2017 year is drawing to its finale, it becomes more apparent that time and life is truly flying at a very fast rate. The constant unknown in our lives is simply, THE FUTURE. May the next days and
months bring you nothing but nachas (joy). If challenges come into your life, know that to the best of our ability your MCJC family will
be available for support and comfort.

Happy Chanukah and beyond!

The Jewish Heart of McHenry County