by Rabbi Ari Sunshine
This past weekend was an incredible high for our family as we celebrated our daughter Elana’s Bat Mitzvah. We were so proud of Elana, the wonderful job she did, the poise she displayed, and her warmth that shone through. Moreover, we were so delighted and honored to be able to share this simcha with so many of you in addition to our out of town family and friends. Your presence and the outpouring of your love and support for Elana and for our family added so much to this experience and elevated our Shabbat and our weekend.
Thank you to Sally Wolfish who recently hosted a Shabbat dinner for David with some fellow members of The Ladder Project Executive Committee. David appreciated the warm hospitality of Sally and her husband Larry. After dinner, the group helped David fill out a long, online application for a new job since David does not have wi-fi in his apartment. Good job team - he got the job!
Sermon/Bat Mitzvah Charge for Elana
Parashat Chayei Sarah
by Rabbi Ari Sunshine
At the end of last week’s parasha, Vayera, we experienced the harrowing and traumatic story of the Akeidah, the binding of Isaac. The narrative relates to us, the readers, of God’s test of his faithful servant Abraham, demanding the sacrifice of Isaac, the beloved son of his old age and the key to the continuation of the lasting covenant that God had promised Abraham. Hearing God’s command, and despite any apprehension or doubt he may have felt at the incongruity of this demand with the covenantal promise, Abraham zealously gets up early, saddles his donkey, and sets off with Isaac on what Abraham initially can only assume will be a journey that will end in personal heartbreak, even if it simultaneously affirms his faith in God. And what does Isaac know or understand about this journey? Not much, it would appear, until the third day, when Abraham and Isaac separate from the two servants who were travelling with them and take the wood, the firestone, and the knife and continue their trek alone, with Isaac himself bearing the burden of the wood while Abraham carries the firestone and the knife, “vayelchu shneyhem yachdav”, “and the two of them walked on together”. It is only at this juncture that Isaac begins to wonder what is happening here, as he notices that they have the instruments necessary for a sacrifice, but they are missing the most critical element of all: a sheep.
by Rabbi Adam Roffman
When I found myself arm in arm with Shira, walking down the hallways of Levine Academy earlier this week after dropping Hannah off for school, suddenly struggling to stifle my sobbing, I realized that this is the kind of grief that gets worse before it gets better. And before the day was over, I understood why.
I was stunned on Shabbat morning by the news of the shooting at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh. On Sunday evening, I was uplifted by the rush and emotion of the remarkably diverse gathering in the Aaron Family Sanctuary. And on Monday morning, once the details of a mass murder like this that we all seem to seek out, despite their horrific nature, had made their way into the daily papers, I was newly devastated.
Thank you to Dr. Rowan Buskin who donated his dental services to David to give him a set of beautiful dentures this past week. We are truly grateful to Dr. Buskin for both his heart and his expertise.
The joy and serenity of our Shabbat was pierced this morning with the news of the killing of eleven people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. This afternoon, what we no doubt suspected was confirmed by city officials: that this heinous act of cruelty was borne out of hatred for our people, our values, and our way of life.
by Rabbi Shira Wallach
You’re probably being bombarded with messages from TV, social media, friends, and random strangers to make sure you have a voting plan. I’m here to provide one more, as voting is a Jewish imperative.
Pirkei Avot 3:2 teaches us that we must “pray for the government’s welfare, for without fear of it [we] would swallow each other alive.”
by Rabbi Adam Roffman
When I was in day school, each spring, we would gather on the large front lawn of our synagogue’s campus for the annual balloon ascension. Scores of young children and teachers would march in formation, clutching dozens of strings in both hands, each one tied to a colorful balloon tagged with the name of an individual who had bought a raffle ticket for the event. With great anticipation, we waited for the signal to release the balloons up into the air; a sea of reds, blues, yellows, and greens. Finally, we returned to our classrooms and began an even longer period of waiting to see whose balloon would travel the farthest.
This week we read in the Torah of the creation of our natural world and ultimately the creation of humanity in God’s image. According to the Torah we are viewed as not just a “good” part of creation, but one that is uniquely “tov m’od”, “very good” amongst God’s array of creatures and living things. God’s empowering us to think freely and make independent choices is a critical factor in God choosing us to act as God’s surrogates in tending to the world around us. In effect, at least according to one version of the creation story, God makes humanity as the crown of creation and then recedes into the background to let us do God’s work. Dwelling in the Garden of Eden, it’s hard to imagine that Adam and Eve would have felt like they had a big job to do; after all, this was effectively paradise at the outset. But after Adam and Eve slip up and eat the fruit from the forbidden tree, they are cast out of the Garden and into the real world, so to speak. The expectation of immortality gives way to an unpredictably finite lifespan, and life becomes messy instead of simple. Even the blessing of bringing new life into the world will be taxing and painful for humans, explains God.
The highest level of the ladder of charity is to provide an individual with the means to support himself, to become self-sufficient, so that never again will he need to rely on the generosity of others to maintain his independence.
Three ways you can help
$36 from every Shearith family
1. Our goal is to have 100% of all Shearith Israel families make a donation of $36 or more to a Housing/Transportation Fund set up specifically for The Ladder Project. This money will go to help David and other homeless people who we will help in the future. All donations are charitable and tax-exempt. You can donate HERE or mail a personal check to the synagogue, 9401 Douglas Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75225 and write The Ladder Project on the memo line.
Shearith Israel clergy, staff and congregants share