Marian Salamon

Marian Salamon

KOL NIDRE, 5769
MARIAN SALAMON

Yom Kippur has a strong hold on us primarily because of the concept of teshuvah, of return, of clearing the slate, of creating a clean record.  it brings the good news that renewal is possible, it promotes optimism,  and it counteracts guilt  by releasing us from  our bad choices and actions.  At the end of the day we feel assured  that correct intentions for the future  atone for the past. Thus each Jew can begin again every YOM KIPPUR, by resolving to improve one’s behavior, by doing another act of chesed in the coming year, by giving more tzedaka, by repairing interpersonal relations that have soured, by being more involved in YPS, by coming to Friday  and Saturday night minyanim, by making many types of amends.

I believe, however, that it is a mistake to imagine that all things can be made new again. Can we really imagine that all of our mistakes are revocable? (more…)

ROSH HASHANAH 5769 (2008),
BERNARD KLIONSKY

Bernard Klionsky

Bernard Klionsky

THE CENTRAL STORY OF THE TRADITIONAL TORAH READING FOR THE 2ND DAY OF ROSH HASHANAH IS THAT OF THE AKEDA, THE BINDING, OF ISAAC.  THIS TELLS OF THE TEST OF ABRAHAM’S WILLINGNESS TO FOLLOW GOD’S DIRECTIVE–EVEN TO THE POINT OF SACRIFICING HIS SON ISAAC—

THIS STORY CAN BE INTERPRETED IN MANY WAYS AND AT THIS TIME, I MEAN TO PUT THE STORY INTO AN HISTORICAL AND BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE AND TO INTRODUCE NEW HYPOTHESES AND MY OWN NEW INTERPRETATIONS. I BEGAN THIS LINE OF THINKING WHEN I GAVE THE CLASS ON CHUMASH, RASHI AND COMMENTARY FOR PARSHA BERESHIT SEVERAL YEARS AGO. (more…)

Maya Tobias

Maya Tobias

Maya Tobias*
Parshat Pinchas
July 19, 2008
16 Tammuz 5768

This is a story about walls and fences. They protect us and they divide us. They represent a connection with the past and a hope for a new future.

Every winter and summer, dozens of twenty-somethings who have never been to Israel pull up on Birthright buses to get their first look at that awe-inspiring wall that they have heard so much about, the Kotel. They wait patiently to put a note in the cracks and to touch the stones that have become smooth from years of wear by other Jews like them who have also come to place a note and touch the wall. I spent the last year living and working in Tel Aviv, but on the weekends I often found myself traveling to Jerusalem where I always ended up taking a walk to the Kotel. For me this wall is not so much about God as it is about history and tradition.

But this is not the wall that I want to talk about. Most of you have probably been to this wall and already know what it looks and feels like. I want to talk about the things in Israel that aren’t mentioned or shown on the Birthright trip, the other walls and fences. (more…)

April 22, 2012 Shabbat YPS 66th Anniversary Celebration

Good morning, Shabbat Shalom.  I am very pleased to be speaking to you this special weekend, celebrating the 66th anniversary of YPS.  It has been a delight to research my subject, namely, the history of the synagogue and of the events and personalities  in the year of our founding, 1946.
I want to thank Susan Melnick of the Rauh Jewish Archives, housed at the Heinz History Center, for providing me with our archives, which were donated by David Fax.  She also guided me to the CMU Library’s PGH Jewish Newspaper Project, where I saw films of the  American Jewish Outlook, edited by Asher Isaacs, one of our founding members and father of Ruth Ann Eisner.    Special thanks are owed to Ruth Ann Eisner, Miriam Feinberg, Sarah Kohane, Hilda Diamond, and Jerry Rosenberg for speaking with me about the early years of the synagogue.  Please forgive any mistakes I have made.  There was no written documentation about many of the congregation’s early activities.  The newspapers can be found at pjn.library.cmu.edu. (more…)

Vayerra

Elizabeth Stern

Shabbat shalom!  Today’s Torah reading, Vayyera, is a sweeping one that encompasses Abraham’s bargaining with God about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the story of Lot and his family, the encounter with King Abimelech, the visitation of the angels to Abraham’s tent to tell him that his wife will give birth to a son, the birth of Isaac, the banishment of Hagar and Ishmael, and the binding of Isaac.  In its honesty it shows us the wrinkles in our patriarchs’ characters – for example, Abraham’s cowardice in telling Abimelech that Sarah is his sister – as well as their outstanding qualities.

Unable to deal with all of these topics, I am going to concentrate on just two, one) Abraham’s argument with God, and two) God’s care for all his creations as illustrated in today’s reading by His rescue of Hagar and Ishmael and His promise to make Ishmael a great nation and His demand that His people provide equal care to all as carried out by both Abraham and Lot in their treatment of their visitors.   (more…)

SHABBAT SHUVA - 5770

Marshall Hershberg

Ha-azinu ha-shamayim v’adabera; v’tishma ha-aretz imrei phi

“Give ear, ye heavens, and I will speak; and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.”

This sublime oratory of Moshe Rabbeinu really grabs our attention, just as it is meant to.  We will mention more about the message of Ha-azinu, the sedrah for this year’s Shabbat Shuva in a bit, but this sedrah and its two predecessors, Nitzavim and Vayelech, are really a group.  Moshe knows he is about to leave his cherished people, and he wants to end his service by reminding them of why they are a people - G-d’s people - and what they can, and must do, to keep that unique status.  In Nitzavim, as they all stand united - atem nitzavim ha-yom kul’chem - he reintroduces the covenant that G-d has established with them - for Israel to be a people unto him, and for Him to be their G-d.  And it’s not really just with them.  It preceded them, for G-d struck it with their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and it has eternal promise if they are worthy of that promise. (more…)

Derek Kwait

Tazria-Metzora

4/25/09

Shabbat shalom. This may seem like a rather arbitrary Shabbat for me to give a speech about my Birthright trip to Israel way back in December. But, although it was not planned this way, I don’t think it could have worked out to be on a better week. This, after all, is the Shabbat between our greatest modern sorrow and our greatest modern joy, between Yom HaShoah and Yom HaAtzma’ut, Holocaust Remembrance Day and Israel’s Independence Day, as well as, of course, a Shabbat of the Omer, the counting of the weeks between Passover and Shavuot. I don’t mean to sound melodramatic, but I think that the interplay this presents between the old story of our people’s movement out from oppression and bondage into freedom and independence and our new one, fits in perfectly with ideas presented to us on our trip. (more…)

Parshat Vayechi

14 Tevet 5769

Jan. 10, 2009

ALAN GINTZLER

What is it about the number 12? The sublime number. A dozen, a troy pound, 12 pence in a shilling, 12 months to a year, 12 signs of the zodiac, twelve pairs of ribs in the human body, 12 cranial nerves. Twelve is the kissing number of Euclidian space, the perfect divisor of 24 hours, 60 minutes and 60 seconds, there are 12 Jacobi elliptic functions, 12 angry men, 12 tones in the chromatic scale, 12 function keys on a computer keyboard, 12 sons of Jacob, 12 tribes of Israel, and 12 parshas in the book of genesis of which vayechi, today’s parsha, is the last.

If we take 12 to signify parts of the whole, then the first parsha, bareishit, is part one, the beginning in which we experience creation and divine purpose, the source of Torah and the Jewish people. The twelfth and last parsha of Genesis is vayechi, meaning “he lived,” representing the fullness of life itself; vayechi frames the death of Jacob with the word “life,” the destiny and continuity of Israel, Israel the man and Israel the nation. Between bareishit and vayechi are ten parshas, a chol hamoed representing the full spread of life. (more…)