Today is October 19, 2017 -

Congregation Beth Israel

A spiritual oasis for the Jewish community

Riverwalk - 360 Merrimack Street
Building 5, 3rd Floor
Lawrence, MA 01843-1740

(978) 474-0540

The Rabbi’s Column

Dear Congregants and Friends ~

I would like to begin this month’s Lach L’cha column by announcing three important matters relating to the upcoming High Holy Days. First, our Board of Directors has authorized the immediate purchase of the Conservative Movement’s new Machzor, Lev Shalem, which has a number of advantages over the High Holy Day prayer book that we have been using and should thus add significantly to our High Holy Day experience.

Second, Rabbi Ed Feld, senior editor of Lev Shalem, has agreed to do a teaching for us about the new Machzor. While notice will soon be going out to the congregation with more details, I would ask that you please save the date of Sunday, September 10 for what should be an enriching and informative presentation by Rabbi Feld.

Last, but certainly not least, while I am sad to announce that Cantor Judith Berkson will not be returning this year, I am pleased and excited to welcome Cantor Linda Sue Sohn as our High Holy Day cantor.

I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank Jeff Tye, Merle Roesler, Elaine Winic, Terry Fetters, and Jeremy Finkle for their invaluable assistance in the selection process. In addition to her having a lovely voice, Cantor Sohn has a warm personality and way about her.

The main subject of my column this month relates to one of the simplest, but at the same time, most profound teachings found in our sacred texts: “Who is wise? One who learns from everyone.” The wisdom of this teaching was brought home to me on a recent visit to my sister in New York City. The 3 people, below, helped remind me of something that I know but am prone to forget–that each of us is created in the image of the divine and thus has the potential to live our lives with loving kindness, compassion, and caring, regardless of one’s social status, ethnicity, net worth, etc.

The first person, who reminded me of this, was the nurse taking my sister’s vital signs prior to her undergoing a minor medical procedure. Being a curious soul, my sister asked the nurse where she lived. The nurse responded that her husband and she lived in Nassau County on the weekends, but that she spent the work week living with her brother and his family in Queens. When my sister then asked her why she did this, she explained that, in order to get to work on time at the hospital from her apartment in Nassau County, she was having to get up at 4:00 am in the morning, and that she didn’t have to get up until 5:00 am to get to work on time from her brother’s. The nurse went on to point out that, even the ride from her brother’s, required her to take a bus and 3 different subways to get to work on time.

When my sister asked her, if she had thought about trying to find a job closer to home, she said that jobs were not easy to come by, and that, even more importantly, the joy and satisfaction that she derived as a nurse helping others made the long ride worthwhile.

The second person, who served as a teacher for me, was a doorman, whom I have come to know by name over the years, at the building in which my sister lives. His usual response, when I ask him how he is doing, is a bland “everything is OK”. This time, however, he responded with a big smile on his face, telling me that he was going to visit his parents and extended family this summer. I asked him where they lived, and he mentioned a country in Central Europe. “How often do you get to visit them,” I asked? He noted that this was the first time that he was going to get to see them, since he immigrated to the U.S. over 7 years ago. Anticipating my next question, he added that it took him all this time to raise the money needed to visit them, because, in addition to supporting his own family here, he sends money each month to his parents to help support them. “I greatly miss them, but my parents are elderly and unable to work and thus need my financial support just to take care of their basic necessities.”

I met my third teacher, while taking an afternoon walk on my second day in the City. I had stopped in a local grocery store to buy some personal items and some flowers for my sister, and was a little dismayed to see how crowded the store was and how long the checkout lines were. With my needing to be back at my sister’s by a time certain, since we had dinner reservations that evening, I was a more than a little anxious by the time that I reached the cashier. I quickly paid for the items that I purchased, exited the store, and began walking at a brisk pace toward my sister’s. I had probably walked almost a full block, when I heard someone yelling, “sir, you left your flowers!” I turned around and saw the store clerk running after me with the flowers that I had purchased for my sister. In my hurry to be back at my sister’s on time, I had left the flowers in the store. I thanked her profusely and offered her a small reward. “No thank you, sir, I didn’t want you and the person for whom you bought the flowers to be disappointed.”

I thank each of these 3 persons; I thank each of you reading this column, for serving as my teachers!

May the month of August be a relaxing and fun time for your loved ones and you as we gradually begin to turn our attention to the fall, new beginnings, and the Hagim!

Rabbi Howard Mandell