Saturday, September 26, 2009

On This Rosh HaShana, We look to our Moledet...

As we move within twenty four hours of Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur, 5770, I wish to share my words delivered on the Second day of Rosh HaShana.

September 20, 2009 - הב' בתשרי, תש"ע ראש השנה ב

On the fifth of the month of Iyar, in the Jewish year 5708, on the day in which the British Mandate over a Palestine expired, the Jewish People's Council gathered at the Tel Aviv Museum, and approved the following proclamation, declaring the establishment of the State of Israel. Our nation was founded on principles of Torah and Justice; Peace and Ahavat Chesed, the Love of kindness. On that day, David ben Gurion read the Proclamation of Independence which began with the words: ERETZ-ISRAEL was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.

On Shabbat Shuva, we will read about the last address of Moshe Rabeinu.. Moses addresses Am Yisrael for the last time before the people leave for our Promised Land. Forbidden to enter the Land of Israel, Moses only is able to watch from afar and becomes probably the first of many Giborei Yisrael; heroes of Israel.

On June 7, 1985, in The Carmel Hospital, Ron and Orly Kehrman welcomed into the world their first child; a girl named Tal.
As Tal grew up, she developed an uncanny love for all of G-d’s creatures, especially cats, and not only befriended a few, but brought a few home to Ron, Orly and her little brother Dror. At the age of five, Tal began to collect camels. Stuffed camels, pictures of camels, a clock that looked like a camel, and even a sign in her room declaring “Camel Crossing Here”.

She was an incredibly friendly girl. She had a lot of friends from many different streams of life. She was sensitive to others’ feelings, and when her friends say that when she saw somebody hurt, she took special consideration in supporting and encouraging him. Because she was so friendly, she was the one who made a connection between individual friends and society. In her world of friends, there were a lot of new immigrants. Tal was a very sensitive teenager and did everything she could to avoid hurting a weaker person’s feelings. Tal loved to read both in English and in Hebrew. In addition to her appreciation of literature, she loved to watch the science and music channels. She knew all the words to numerous songs. If one picked any random song she surely knew all the words, both in English and in Hebrew. While in 11th grade, a month after the Twin Towers Terrorist attack, Tal was sent to represent “Ironi Hey School” in a delegation to Boston from the city of Haifa. She was chosen, because of her outstanding ability to connect with others.

On March 5, 2003, Tal and her friend Liz were in downtown Haifa to buy some materials for the end of school celebrations. On that day, after school she met up her friend to plan end of the school year events. They both went downtown to buy some things for this occasion. While downtown, they got a call from some other friends to come up to the Carmel. And so, as usual, Tal and Liz and around thirteen other Israelis sat comfortably on bus number 37, looking forward to graduation, the Army and the life that they had always wanted, and of which they have dreamt for years. There was only one problem that day, on bus #37. A Hamas terrorist has also boarded the bus and on Moriah Boulevard, he self detonated and seventeen people were murdered. Tal and Liz among them. Tal died just three months before her 18th birthday. Tal was, by all accounts, definitions and meanings, a Hero of Israel. Not in her death, rather, in her life. In the way that she lived her extraordinary, amazing, yet far too short life.

A truer example of Am Yisrael could not be found anywhere, in any annals of time, nor history. For the memory of Tal and other children like her, I pray daily, and through organizations like Lev Ecahd, One Heart, her memory lives on.

A baby boy named Gilad was born to Aviva and Noam Shalit on 28 August 1986 in Nahariyah. At age eleven, he wrote a story called "When the Fish and the Shark First Met", an engaging story in which a small fish and shark are able to resolve their familie's differences and live together in peace.

Early on Sunday morning, 25 June 2006, just two months short of his twentieth birthday, Gilad Shalit was captured by Terrorist Soldiers who surprise-attacked an Israeli army post on the Israeli side of the southern Gaza Strip border after crossing through an underground tunnel near the Kerem Shalom border, and has been held hostage in the Gaza Strip by Hamas since.
Shalit, a soldier of the IDF's Armor Corps, recently spent his 23rd birthday in captivity. Gilad is believed to be alive, however, Hamas authorities have refused requests from the allow visits by the International Red Cross to visit him, or otherwise confirm his health and welfare status. Several human rights organizations have stated that the terms and conditions of Shalit's detention are contrary to international humanitarian law. In exchange for his release, Hamas is demanding the release of over 1,000 terrorists held in Israel.

Manhigut Yehudit, The Jewish Leadership Movement, led by the popular Moshe Feiglin says it best when they state that: A Jewish state must be absolutely faithful to the Land of Israel -- the Land that was promised in its Biblical borders to the Fathers of the Nation by the Creator of the world -- and includes the understanding of the positive connection between the Land and the ability of the Nation of Israel to fulfill its earthly goals.

The Likud Party has unilaterally and correctly, I might add, reminded World Leaders, including the current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that our nation, that Israel is a Sovereign State. As is Canada, Mexico, France, Germany...

I must ask - When last did the United States last tell Canada to split their Dominion in two and hand it to Terrorist Forces? When did Germany last tell France what to do? 1942? 1943? Was Germany not then governed by the Terrorist of all Terrorists?

And so, I ask the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue this question: Since when, Sir, is it your right, since when were you granted permission by Am Yisrael to tell us what to do with OUR LAND? With the land that was given to us by Our Creator; by He who took us from Egypt with a Long arm, and Outstretched Hand?
When Sir, were your children forced into Bomb Shelters to escape missiles fired from elementary schools by masked animals hiding behind toddlers and infants? When was the last time, Mr. Resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, that you sent your daughter off to school never to see her return? When, Sir, was your Country facing destruction on a daily basis?

Why, Sir, does it appear to your citizenry, and to ours, that you are more interested in where we build our towns and cities, than you are with the rising unemployment, homeless, and collape of the economy in your own Country? Why is it that while you claim to be in a war against "terror", do you continue to recognize a non-government from a non-existent place that is comprised mostly of admitted Terrorists?

And why, why do we as Jews care? We care because we were together in the sand pits of Egypt; We were together at Sinai. We were together when G-d gave us Torah, and we we were together when a mad man tried to destroy us sixty five years ago. We care because we know that our place is not here. We care because we know, deep down, that our place is in Jerusalem; in Tel Aviv; in Beer Sheva; on Kibbutzim and on Moshavot; On the west side of the green line and on the east. In the north of Galilee and in the Negev. In Rosh haNikra and in Eilat.

Every year on Pesach, we say l'Shana Habaah b'Yerushalayim. Let us all do our best to make this a reality, as a United people, a people living as Am Chofshi b'Arteinu, as a Free Nation in our Land, we cannot be, and we will not be bullied. Together my dear friends, we can support our Birthright and stand together with the words of David Ben Gurion and Moshe Feiglin and be absolutely faithful to the Land of Israel.

Chaverai: We are faced with dilemas every day, if not every hour of every day. Many of them problems to which we have little or no control, but must face them regardless. We do, however, have control of choices that we have. How we face these challenges and how we respond to the outcome. How do we face life? Do we continue to be brought down by the negative, or do we look the world dead on, and remember the words Modeh Ani? Do we get upset about the morning drive traffic, or do we thank G-d that we are alive to BE in the traffic? Should we be upset that we have to sit in the traffic, or do we thank G-d that we have a job, and are healthy to be able to perform the job?

Maybe, Chaverai, maybe my friends these are more challenges from haShem. Clearly, G-d asks of us one thing, and one thing only: VeAhavta et haSmem Elokeicha, You shall love the L-rd your G-d, B'chol levavecha, ub'chol Nafsheicha, ub'chol Meodeicha, with all your heart, all your soul and with all your strength. Yes, we have Six Hundred and Thirteen Mitzvot, 613 Commandments that make up this love, but if we can remember just one, that of loving our neighbor as we do ourselves, this alone will help us to be better people. This alone will help us repair our damaged world. This alone will stop all war and agression. This alone, will bring Peace.
During these Aseret Yemei Tshuvah, these Ten Days of Awe, of Repentence and Atonement, May G-d Bless you and Keep You; May G-d shine his face upon you and guide you; May be gracious onto you and bring you Peace.
Yehi Ratzon Milfaneicha, haShem Elokeinu, v'Elokei Avoteinu, Shetikadesh aleinu Shana Tovah U'Metukah. May it be your will, haShem, our G-d and G-d of our ancestors, that you bless us with a New and a Sweet Year.

And let us say, Amen.

Shana Tovah, u'G'mar Chatima Tovah, B'Ahava u'Vrachrot..

Rabbi Alan Abrams

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Some Words for Rosh HaShana

September 18, 2009
א בתשרי, תש"ע ראש השנה א

Modeh Ani Lefaneicha, Melekh chai v’Kayam. I bow before you, my living King, in gratitude of your returning my soul to me.

This prayer is usually recited once daily. Upon awakening in the morning, we thank G-d for being alive to live yet another day in this wonderful world that He created for us. For the last twenty months, I find myself uttering this prayer more than once daily; sometimes even numerous times in any given hour.

On this Shabbat, on This Rosh HaShana, as we gather here, some of us meeting for the first time, as a new Kehillah. As a new Community. A Community dedicated to Tikun Olam, to repairing the world, one Mitzvah at a time; One Commandment at a time; One Act of Loving Kindness at a time. A Community dedicated to each other. A Community in which we may live, laugh, love and pray, as one.
We continue to remember that this amazing, this incredible world was created by HaShem, in six days, and on the seventh day, G-d rested from all his work which he had made, and He hallowed that day, and He sanctified it as a day of rest, because on the seventh day, G-d rested.

As many of you know, I am a card-carrying, died in the wool, certified Shabbat-a-holic. I love everything about Shabbat. I love the smells of Shabbat; I love the songs on Shabbat; I love the Shabbat table guests, and the chicken soup; the matzo balls and the Tzimis; the longer Birkat haMazon and the Zmiros afterward, sitting long into late in the night with my kids. I love my 3rd graders on Friday afternoon most of all. Just when the week appears to have eaten me up, they pick me up and with their little eight year old voices and smiles, bring Shabbat to me. Right into my heart, not that I couldn’t find Shabbat by myself, but they help start bringing in Shabbat on… On Thursday morning.

On this Shabbat, I hope that we are able to, all of us, become Shabbat-a-holics. On this Rosh HaShana, I hope that as a Community, we are able to come together as only a Community can, and for the next ten days, at least, remember the little things that third graders still find so amazing. Whether it is a bird flying high up above, or an insect disappearing into the ground below; whether it be the blowing wind or the wetness of the rain or the warmth from just standing in the sun. These things, all things amazing to them, used to be amazing to us. In truth, we used to be them.

Two years ago, exactly tonight on the Jewish calendar, I was not thanking G-d for being alive. I had even asked him to not allow me to wake up a week before and five days later, he honoured my wish and two days later, took me for a little ride. For two months.

While my family spent their time praying for my improbable return, they also prepared themselves for the certainty of new lives and new beginnings without a husband, without a father; without a son and without a brother, I spent the 10 Yemei Teshuvah, the ten Days of Atonement, feeling that I was at the bottom of a box, a box with wet dirt walls, and prayed. And cried. And prayed some more. I spent my ten days of Teshuvah doing mamash, Teshuvah. In the end, after more than sixty days, G-d did in fact, return my soul to me.

Tonight, I recall that time spent at the bottom of the box, even though the memory is faint. I share the memory with you as not just your Rabbi, but as your friend, and ask that together, over the next ten days, we find ways to do more Teshuvah. That together, we find ways to return. To return not only to our heritage and beliefs, but that together, we as G-d to return to us our souls, and return to us the faith and the hope; the belief; the emuna, that we can help repair this earth that G-d so beautifully created 5,770 years ago today.

I try again and again to think of what creation might have been. I try to imagine viewing creation on a large IMAX screen; Dolby Digital Surround Sound:

A flash of light; The wind blowing and waves of water spread over this globe of nothing; A sky forming above, blue in colour and of grandiose expanse; Land forming from under the water and separating the oceans, Continent by Continent. All the while, beautiful classical violins and wind instruments play never-before-heard music in the background, while G-d does his work. Seedlings of grass, and trees and fruit; vegetation and bright green earth; Flowers of all kinds in all coulours followed by stars in the sky; the sun and the moon and the formation of moving time, all just exactly according to G-d's divine plan.

I try again and again to imagine if this is what it was really like. I try again and again in my mind, to rebuke science and non-believing spokespersons who wish to convince me (us) that this could have ever been; that a "big bang" took place Gazillions of years ago and that everything that we see somehow came from that. Maybe the "big bang" was G-d's creation of light? Honestly, I believe the Book of Bereishit. It's easier; It's more spiritual; It's more believable, to me anyway.

I believe that G-d caused the world to flood and that Noah saved living creatures as he was to asked to do by G-d; That G-d had a Covenant with Abraham and that today we continue to live by that covenant; That we all received Torah at Sinai; and that the world is based on three things, Torah, Avodah (service to G-d) and Gemilut Chassidim, acts of loving kindness. I believe that together, as a Community, we can do Tikkun Olam, we can fix and change the world simply by being good, nice and honest people.

Modeh Ani Lefaneicha, Melekh chai v’Kayam. I bow before you, my living King, in gratitude of your returning my soul to me, and thank you every minute of every day for continuing to grant me life, and I thank you G-d for showing me your trust in allowing our new Community to be here together these Days of Awe in hopes of becoming closer to you, and to G-d.

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tovah.

Rabbi Alan Abrams

*** Should any of you be in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area for Yom Kippur and wish to observe Yom Kippur with us, please let us know as soon as possible.***

Thursday, September 10, 2009


At the outset of this week's column, I find it important to answer a few questions from readers, if for no other purpose, than to set the record straight.

When this column began, it was written as a place for me to write, about many things. Some earlier writings (if they can still be found online) screamed of politically incorrectness, and laughed at many people, places and events; many of which we observe, and even participate in on a continual basis. Admittedly, I also was somewhat politically incorrect, and as this column has emerged, so I have, and while I continue and tend to lean more on life experiences, while keeping the content both here (in writing), in our newly forming Synagogue and other public places, as well as my private life, as "Rated 'Y' - for Yiddish, as possible, I am human, and continue to choose this forum to share important pieces of my life with you. I assure you that should our new Congregation, Emek haMidbar begin to send out newsletters, and I am asked to contribute as the Rabbi and Spiritual Leader, Those Divrei Torah will stand different from these. I continue to be happy to share these moments with you, my friends, as a glimpse into my heart and my life, which, as the name reflects, is far from normal. Normal IS indeed overrated. I've been there.


My father, Steve Abrams was born in Detroit, Michigan on August (8) first (1) = 9, Nineteen Hundred and Twenty Seven (9). He left us and Olam haZeh a year and a half ago, on January (1) eighth (8) = 9. Many times over our lifetimes, my sisters and I and our collective families have lived in homes, in which the addresses added up to nine. My mother was born on July (7) twentieth (2+0=2) =9.

Last night, on 09-09-09, the new Tim Burton film "#9" was shown in theatres across the globe at 9:09pm; and at our local AMC, the movie was projected in, obviously, auditorium... nine.

Ted Williams, the greatest of all Boston Red Sox wore number 9; The Red Wings all time superstar, Gordie Howe owned number nine, as did Sonny Jurgensen from the Redskins, Reggie Jackson (before he moved on to the Yankees), Roger Maris, who held the all-time home run record before it was broken by Mark Maguire wore number nine when he broke the record in 1961.

When I got home last night from working at the theatre, I had known that all day was September 9, but had never correlated September 9 with 09-09. Two years ago, September 9 was the last day that I spent with my family before being rushed to the hospital in respiratory failure, and the worst was not even to come for another two days, on September 11, Erev Rosh HaShana. So acutely aware was I that it has now been two years since I puffed on a cigarette; two years since my old life gave out; and two years since I looked up from an Emergency Room gurney and asked: Am I going to die tonight? So acutely aware, that I thought of little else for most of the day.

On September 19, 1919, my grandmother was born. 9-19-1919 - The numbers resonate even today. Its the easiest family birthday to remember! Still, for me, one of the most important days in all of my life was always just September 9, and not 09-09. Until yesterday.

Every time that I saw the date yesterday, nines came at me, almost as if in flight; My father's nines also came flying at me in droves of emotion and despair, despite the jubilation that I survived somehow, two years ago; despite it all.

When I got home, I decided that I absolutely have to write about nines this week; and not really for those reasons either, but because in nine days it will be Rosh HaShana, our New Year.

On Rosh HaShana, over a two day period, we will stand and silently reflect in our Amidah Prayers, nine times. We will hit our hearts with our fists on nine different occasions, and we will say the memorial Kaddish prayer nine times.

We will look at the letters that make up the Hebrew word for truth, אמת "emet",and remember that when we add the Aleph, Mem and Tav together, we come up with, you guessed it: nine; and the number of days between Rosh HaShana and Erev (eve of) Yom Kippur is, of course, 9.

Nine plus nine equals 18, which of course means life. If we are all luck enough to have "life times ten", that would equal 180, which, if added together, would equal nine. And last, but not least, on each day of Rosh HaShana, we will call up nine Aliyot to the Torah.

I remember now that we all have nine more days to make apologies. We have nine days left to take out our paper and draw our vertical columns and place the names into the column in which we believe them to belong, and nine days in which to make things right with those whom we have hurt.

If I might ask please, that each of you forgive me for any wrongs that I may have done to you in this past year.

Shabbat is but a day away. The thought alone brings goosebumps to my arms.

This Shabbat, I wish for you to achieve and gain...

Rest, Health, Family, Prayer, Grace, Friendship, Holiness, Love and finally Happiness.

From the Midbar that we call Arizona, I send Ahavah u'Vrachot. Love and Blessings for the last Shabbat of the year.

Rabbi Alan Abrams