Rabbi's Letter

March 8, 2019
1 Adar II 5779
God of all spirit, all directions, all winds
You have placed in our hands power
unlike any since the world began
to overturn the orders of creation.
Please God, give us wisdom
and skillful hands to heal
the Skies and the Earth from our sins;
Y’kum purkan lish’maya
"May salvation arise for the heavens."
that the blessings of the sun flow
over us for life and not for death,
for blessing and not for curse,
as it says, "I will open for you
the expanses of the Heavens
and will empty out for you a blessing
beyond what is enough
and Earth’s fruit will not be
destroyed because of you."

God full of compassion, remember
Your covenant with all life,
the covenant of the waters of Noah.
Spread a  Sukkah  of compassion and
peace over us, over all Life’s species;
Surround all our relations,
with Shekhinah’s radiance;

Water them with Your river of delights
in all of their habitats.
Then "the bow will appear in the cloud,"
joyful and beautified with its colors,
and the Tree of Life will return to its
original strength,
so that we and our descendants
may merit to live many days on Earth,
like days of the Skies over the Land.
Blessed be the Life of the worlds!
Dear Friends,

With such a busy week behind me, I knew that I wouldn’t have time to write my letter to you until I was on the plane to Los Angeles. So here I am, I made my flight in Atlanta by just a few minutes as they had to de-ice the plane because of the cold!

I appreciated the invitation to UNCW to talk about Judaism and the environment in Professor Anthony Snider's Religion and Environmentalism class just yesterday. I spent the last few weeks researching for the class and I look forward to sharing with you all the lesson plan that I came up with. It was really enjoyable to get back into the classroom again. 

One of the interesting requests from Professor Snider was that I offer a prayer before I begin teaching. It was a beautiful request that rarely happens in most College classrooms, and usually if it does, I am more worried than not.  But, this request was about something bigger than each religious leader's particular take on human responsibility and the environment; it was first and foremost a honor given Mother Earth and her inherent rights to be respected regardless of human debate.

I shared with the class that I so appreciated being asked to offer a prayer as prayer helps us sense that everything we are, everything we have, and everything that exists comes from God alone - it all actually belongs to God, we merely have it on loan. Babylonian Talmud, Brakhot 35a

When we say a blessing, we create a moment of holiness, a sacred pause. Prayer allows us out of the confinement of ourselves and of our artificial environments and allows us to truly encounter natural phenomenon. 

Prayer creates a loss of control, a reckoning with this ultimate truth, which allows us to “see the world in the mirror of the holy.” Heschel

Only then can we begin to imagine the unimaginable majesty that IS God’s creation. Only then can we begin to sense our massive responsibility to care for every stroke of God’s artistry of existence.

These are the words I spoke,

God, guide us with Your grace that we may hear the cries of your creation as the air thickens with chemicals, and the waters choke on plastic. May our hearts be opened beyond our impulse to feed our every hunger, no matter the cost to Your sacred mother earth. Guide us to fellow travelers who intuit the danger, the loss, the destruction of Your world. And may we be strengthened together to stand strong to fight the onslaught of greed and narcissism, the insatiable appetite to feed ourselves at the expense of Your glorious creation. Guide our way to the Earth’s healing. Help us to “see the world in the mirror of the holy” so that God’s glory may find again the fullest of expression, free from the destructiveness of human arrogance.
Purim is just around the corner and the Hamantaschen are well under way. Thank you to all who signed up to bake and to all who are signing up to participate in the congregational giving of Shalach Manot. There’s still time to sign up.
Thank you to all who called me offering to help deliver the Shalach Manot bags, stay tuned for your deliveries. Doesn’t it feel good being such generous and kind souls? 
I thrilled to introduce the congregation to our newest congregant to join our Synagogue family, Joelle Serot. Joelle has just recently moved to Wilmington and has chosen to join B’nai Israel even though she has been used to Reform synagogues before now. She is looking forward to making B’nai Israel a part of her life and we couldn’t be happier. She has already signed up to bake some of those delicious Hamantaschen. Just like that, jumping right in! We welcome you Joelle and look forward to many years of living and sharing vibrant Jewish life together.
Your leadership team had a wonderful meeting yesterday with the Pine Valley Caterers who will be preparing the food for this years Passover Seder on April 19. Reservations are now open. Please remember that our congregants and their visiting friends and family are given preference. However, two weeks before Passover, we will open it up for non-member participants as well. So please call the office as soon as you can to make a reservation. We cannot fit more than 100 people; and because each year we have hit that number quickly, don’t wait to sign up to join your congregational family for this special holiday. 

April 19, 2019

As we do every year, we are looking for volunteers to donate the cost of the wine, the matzah and the flowers. Has life delivered any unexpected joys or unexpected gifts to your door this past year? What a great chance to pay it forward. Please call the office if you feel inspired to sponsor one of these Passover necessities - your congregation will be so grateful!

The cost is $250 for each sponsorship. We will honor your kindness with a decorative card on each table giving thanks for your gift to us all.
The One Room Shul House is thriving! This past week the value/ethic of the week was the Torah’s command to us that we NOT REMAIN INDIFFERENT to any of the suffering on this planet. Wow! That’s a tall order, isn’t it? It is a tall order and it is also expected of us. It’s so easy for us to find excuses why not to keep responding to the endless tragedies that beset our world, but God isn’t buying any of it. Just imagine if everyone, every person on this planet, did just ONE thing to better our world every day? Just ONE thing. Seems to me the world would be close to perfection in a matter of weeks. Imagine that amount of energy directed at the collective good. I believe the sky would open to heaven. Nothing less, nothing less. 

The opposite of love is  not hatred,
the opposite of love is indifference.
Early Bird Shabbat Nosh

So there I was at services last Shabbat evening enjoying the beautiful melodies of the Kavanotes as they filled our beautiful sanctuary with music and song.  During a conversation with one of our beloved congregants, I was told how difficult it was for his family to make it to services with the new time - especially when the Kavanotes sing because they have to come early to practice. I was so distressed because even though most everyone is happy with the 6:30 service, it hurts me that it doesn’t work for everyone. There I was in the middle of the Amidah, worrying about what could be done, when I got this idea. (Thank You God) How about on the Friday evenings when the Kavanotes sing (usually once a month) we offer an  Early Bird Shabbat Nosh.

For a mere $7, per person, we will have a tuna sandwich, a piece of fruit and a cookie waiting for you at shul. The only condition is that you call the office on the Monday or Tuesday before Shabbat, and both put your order in and take care of payment.

I hope this takes care of the issue so that we can continue to share Shabbat services together for the few who are wrestling with how to make it work, even though our times have changed. Let’s see how this goes because both Yvonne and Kate are ready to receive your reservations.
It’s been wonderful in the sanctuary on Shabbat mornings with so many of our congregants stepping up to participate.  Dr. Scott Johnston chanted the Haftorah last Shabbat, Debbie Smith, just a few weeks before, and Efraim Jaronoski will be offering the sermon at our Men’s Club Shabbat on the 16 th of March. Rich Weisman will be reading Torah and giving the sermon on the 30 th of March, Shabbat Parah. Jeff Roberts has been davening Musaf for us, and he does it so beautifully. This is a strong sign of vitality in a congregation. I am so proud and so looking forward to the future when even more of our congregants will step up to read Torah, daven a bit, give a sermon or just learn how to chant the Torah blessings. 

I have the great joy every week to be teaching our own Bucky Stein how to read Hebrew. He hadn’t learned since he was a Bar Mitzvah, that’s a while ago, so we are definitely sharpening his skills! Bucky’s Hebrew reading is getting stronger and more erudite with every class. So my friends, call me, your Rabbi is waiting to hear from you. What would you like to learn, to share? There’s so much to choose from.  I’ll wait for your call!
I had the great pleasure this week to visit Elaine Lathrup who is back in Wilmington recuperating. She looked so beautiful. It was like a miracle to see her back home and so alive. Yes, she is weak and will need a lot of time to get back to herself, but compared to the way she looked when I flew to New York to visit her in the ICU, wow wow wow, it's like a miracle!!!!!
Elaine is ready for calls, friends and visiting. Please remember that she is weak and shouldn’t over do it. But please, it’s time to reach out and welcome her back home.
I am thrilled to have been invited to share my experiences, caring, fighting, and lobbying in DC to reunite the thousands of children who have been shamelessly been torn from their family’s care. 
It was so wonderful spending Shabbat with the second B’nai Israel Israel trip group who cooked us a delicious Shabbat dinner. Wow - it was great, and they shared their memories and reminisced. We certainly made life-long friendships as well as memories. I announced the dates for the next trip, and we already have several names on the new list.  Come to Israel with us October 15 th through the 25 th of 2020. We will have our initial meeting this coming summer. You don’t want to miss this next third bi-annual trip to Israel with B’nai Israel.

What a beautiful congregation we have here in Wilmington. So many wonderful experiences await each of us in this, our Spiritual home.
One of my favorite commentaries on the issue of environmentalism comes from one of my rabbis, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. This is his teaching:

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808–1888, Germany) explains in very strong language that  lo tashchit , “do not destroy ,” is “the most comprehensive warning to human beings not to misuse the position which God has given them as masters of the world and its matter through capricious, passionate, or merely thoughtless wasteful destruction of anything on earth.”

If you should regard the beings who appear to be beneath you, as objects without rights, not perceiving God who created them, and therefore desire that they feel the might of your presumptuous mood and ego centricity, then God’s call proclaims to you, “ Do not destroy anything!” 

Only if you use the things around you for wise human purposes, sanctified by the word of My teaching, only then are you doing my bidding and have the right over them which I have given you as a human... However, if you destroy, if you ruin, at that moment you are not a human…

If you destroy, if you ruin, at that moment you are not a human  and have no right to the things around you.  I lent them to you for wise use only; never forget that I lent them to you. As soon as you use them unwisely, be it the greatest or the smallest, you commit treachery against My world, you commit murder and robbery against My property, you sin against Me! 

In truth, there is no one nearer to idolatry than one who can disregard the fact that all things are the creatures and property of God, and who then presumes to have the right, because he has the might, to destroy them according to a presumptuous act of will. Yes, that one is already serving the most powerful idols—anger, pride, and above all ego, which in its passion regards itself as the master of things.
EGO-Edging God Out
Friends, I am an hour from landing in Los Angeles and finding my precious grandbabies. I shared with the children in our One Room Shul House last week that they are also like my own grandchildren, for it is said that the one who teaches God to children becomes like another parent to them. Lucky Me!!!!
Yet for now I am taking off my kippah and going into strict Grandma mode. 
How does a Rabbi  re-JEW-vinate ? She goes into mommy and grandma mode, here I go.

Sending love and blessings from Los Angeles,
באהבה ושלום

Shabbat Shalom to all!
הרב אלישבע בת דוד ודבורה
Rabbi Julie Kozlow
(910) 762-1117 ~ B'nai Israel phone