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Shabbat and Candle Lighting
for Friday, May 11, 2018 / 27 Iyar 5778

Light Shabbat candles at 7:01 p.m  
Count Omer 42 tonight  

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Dear Co ngregation Kehillah and Friends,
Rabbi Sharfman
For those of you who attended the Bat Mitzvah at Kehillah this past Shabbat afternoon and heard Isabel chant from Parashat Behar, you may be wondering why I am writing about the same parasha this week.  
Once we reach Shabbat afternoon, we begin our study of the parasha for the following Shabbat. Thus, since the Bat Mitzvah was Shabbat afternoon, her parasha and this week's are the same. 
This week, we have a double parasha (portion). Behar means "on the mount" (Mt. Sinai) in which we learn about certain laws that will take effect in the Land of Israel once we arrive there at the conclusion of our journey through the desert. The inscription on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia was taken from Parashat Behar: "Proclaim release/liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof." It refers to the ideas of sabbatical (every 7th) and Jubilee (every 50th) year - release from debt, oppression and exploitation of land and of people!

Parashat Bechukotai ("With My Laws"...) contains a covenant/brit between God and our ancestors; observance of the commandments will result in blessings, while turning away from the mitzvot/commandments will result in punishment. The reason for the covenant is: "I will be your God, and you shall be MY people. I Adonai am your God who brought you out from the Egyptians' land to be their slaves no more..." In many ways, it's a hard parasha to read, but, as always, there is great meaning within. Bechukotai reminds us that we live in a world in which every action has a reaction. The Torah presents this as: "IF you follow the commandments, then there will be peace and fulfillment...and you shall lie down and none shall make you afraid." But, IF you reject the commandments and break the covenant, the "you shall flee when no one pursues you."
This verse influenced Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan to write: "Judaism is neither pessimistic nor optimistic; it is IF-istic." In other words, it tells us what we can make of our lives IF...  There is a rabbinic teaching from the Talmud that says we should understand the statements not as IFs, but as PLEASEs, almost as if God is pleading with us come closer: PLEASE follow the commandments so that there will be peace and fulfillment.

It's really up to us. Always has been. 

Parashat Bechukotai brings us to the end of Sefer Vayikra/Leviticus. Chazak, chazak ve-nitchzek/Be Strong, Be Strong, and let us strengthen one another!
A  kavannah  for candle lighting for  Shabbat Behar-Bechukotai :
May my candle lighting this week inspire me to do one act on behalf of God's
  children who are oppressed and exploited so that they, too, can partake of the freedom that is the right of all. May I become more attuned to their suffering as well as to the limitations I have placed on myself. 
Please help me to stop punishing myself by second-guessing myself with all of the   Ifs in my life -- if only I had more money, if only he/she loved me, if only (fill in the   blank) then, (fill in the blank). Help me instead to be thoughtful and reflective,   drawing myself closer to You and to blessing.

Please, God, let me experience Shabbat rest and renewal of body, mind and spirit   so that I may be re-JEW-venated and be in service to You and Your Creation.
An additional note: Media outlets are reporting on the U.S. pulling out of the Iran   deal. Many individuals have expressed concern in both directions (both retaining   the deal and withdrawing from it). Like many of you, I read and am concerned. 

Here's what I know: Our country and the Jewish community are divided in opinion, yet we (need to) understand that Iran continues to build a military stronghold in Syria, supports Hezbollah and Hamas; and, together with these, its nuclear program has been and remains a serious threat to Israel and the region.
Regardless of opinion, the facts on the ground are that Iran continues to 'rebuild' its kingdom, creating (as my friend and AIPAC leader Erika Neuberg called to my attention in an article by  Avi Issacharoff in today's  Times of Israel) 'a new Persian empire from Tehran to the Mediterranean.' 
What should we support? My opinion is that we need a comprehensive solution so that Iran's position in the region is contained, best started by Democrats and Republicans coming together in our Congress to hold Iran accountable. Her economy may be at risk. It is something we might be able to leverage to hold Iran accountable. 
You can learn more at  AIPAC.
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Bonnie Sharfman  
Congregation Kehillah
info@congregationkehillah.org   |   congregationkehillah.org
5858 E. Dynamite Blvd., Cave Creek, AZ 85331

Mailing Address: 21001 N. Tatum Blvd., Ste. 1630 #439, Phoenix, AZ 85050