Helping To Stop Hunger in Dutchess County

AT VASSAR TEMPLE, HUNGER ACTION IS A YEAR-ROUND, MEAL-BOUND COMMITMENT WE MAKE TO THE WIDER COMMUNITY.
 
THIS FALL 2013, PLEASE ~~ JOIN US. WE HAVE A FULL LINE UP OF OPPORTUNITIES TO FEED OUR NEIGHBORS. A GREAT MENU OF FOOD DONATION, SERVICE AND FUNDRAISING ACTIVITIES TO CHOOSE FROM!

1. SUNDAY NOVEMBER 6TH, COME HELP PREPARE AND SERVE FOOD AT THE LUNCH BOX WITH OUR 6TH & 7th GRADERS AND THEIR FAMILIES. CAN’T MAKE IT BUT WANT TO HELP? WE ALSO HAVE A SPECIFIC MENU AND NEED CERTAIN FOOD ITEMS IN ADVANCE. FOR MORE INFORMATION, CAPTAIN IS  CAROLYNN FRANKEL CAROLYNNFRANKEL@YAHOO.COM.  

2. NOV 1-20, 2013. TRIM-A-THANKSGIVING: BETWEEN NOW AND NOVEMBER, PLEASE DROP OFF ANY CANNED OR NONPERISHABLE FOOD ITEM TO THE CAN JAM BIN. BASKETS OF THESE FOODS WILL BE DONATED TO HUDSON RIVER HOUSING FOR THEIR FAMILIES IN TIME FOR THE HOLIDAY! QUESTIONS? JUST CONTACT NANCY SAMSON CANJAM123@AOL.COM OR CALL 845.462.4828, OR MARIAN SCHWARTZ SOCIALACTION@VASSARTEMPLE.ORG 3. NOVEMBER 1-30, 2013: TURKEY TROT. HAVE AN EXTRA TURKEY? WE CAN FREEZE IT AND THEN WE WILL DONATE IT TO LOCAL AGENCIES FOR FAMILIES IN NEED OF A HOLIDAY BIRD! FINANCIAL DONATIONS ALSO WELCOME FOR THIS PROJECT. CONTACT SANDRA MAMIS ssmdermpa78@gmail.com or 845-463-2678

4. HILLCREST OVERNITE SHELTER: PROVIDE SANDWICHES, A CASSEROLE, OR OTHER ITEMS FOR THE HOMELESS SHELTER EVENING MEAL.   CONTACT LINDA DOHERTY 914-474-0038

5. DECEMBER 1-31, 2013: SOUPER SALE! MAKE A DONATION TO THE TEMPLE EARMARKED FOR THE TEMPLE SOUPER SALE. CASES OF CHUNKY SOUPS WILL BE PURCHASED AND DELIVERED TO MULTIPLE COUNTY-WIDE PANTRIES TO DISTRIBUTE TO INDIVIDUALS AND FAMILIES NEEDING WARM WINTER MEALS. EARLY JANUARY, CONSIDER VOLUNTEERING TO TAKE ONE LOAD TO A PRE-ARRANGED DELIVERY SPOT.

6. CAN JAM 2013: YEAR-ROUND, OUR TEMPLE FOOD BIN IS IN THE FOYER READY TO TAKE ANY DONATION OF CANNED OR NON-PERISHABLE FOODS YOU CAN GIVE, ANY TIME DURING TEMPLE HOURS. EACH MONTH, THIS ‘MINI-LOAD’ IS DELIVERED TO A NEEDY PANTRY IN DUTCHESS COUNTY. CAN YOU VOLUNTEER TO DO A DELIVERY JUST ONCE THIS YEAR? CONTACT NANCY SAMSON AT CANJAM123@AOL.COM OR CALL 845.462.4828.
THANK YOU VASSAR TEMPLE MEMBERS!

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Torah Study Notes 10-26-13

October 26, 2013

p. 154

This immediately follows the sacrifice of Isaac –  that didn’t happen.

23:1 Abraham seeks to buy land to bury Sarah. Note the rapid transition here from the sacrifice to the death of Sarah. Midrash likes the notion of connecting the death of Sarah with the event – despite what must have been a considerable passage of time. It is suggested that Sarah knew what was happening and dies from grief.  The rabbi’s also turn the age 127 into a eulogy for Sarah because the literal translation is 100 years, 20 years and seven years, i.e. she looked like a 20 year old and glowed like a seven year old. There was considerable speculation and discussion about the age of Isaac at the time of the “sacrifice.”  LL: If Isaac was in fact 37 years of age it casts the entire story in a different light. Was Isaac as an adult willing to be sacrificed? Or was he a son indulging an elderly father – knowing that the sacrifice was never going to happen? Artists have traditionally depicted Isaac as a young boy. This is by Titian:

                       

 

Note that Midrash is part of Talmud. Also, the Hittites were generally associated with  Asia Minor. Note that those “in the fold” are just the family itself. The first person to become a Jew by choice  in the Torah is Ruth. All of Abraham’s household undergoes circumcision to join him in his monotheistic faith.

23:7  Ephron offers the burial cave for free in the presence of the community.  This is more than a bargaining ploy. There is recognition of Abraham’s numbers and strength. They want to take him into their midst and make him an honorary Hittite.  Also, the suggestion is that the property is non-arable and not valuable.

23::12  400 shekels of silver sounds like a lot of money. SF: the torah is establishing a moral code that payment confers legitimacy. PG: Maimonides said that a pure gift is one between an unknown donor and an unknown recipient. LL: Consider the system of obligations in Japanese culture. AF: Note that Abraham twice bows low. He is humbling himself. PG: Or just showing respect in order to get what he needs. SF: In order to make a deal you need to establish rapport. PG: The Christian view of this is that Abraham was given the grace of God. From the Jewish perspective he was selected because he was worthy. CL: The Hittites were a major culture at the time – like the Babylonians and Egyptians. PG: At the time this was written the Hittites were no longer a political or military factor. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hittites

23:16  400 shekels is paid. Title to the land passes to Abraham. Consider the story of the peddler who is annoying a group of wealthy individuals. One of them decides to get rid of him and asks “”How much is that handkerchief.” “Three kopeks.” “Fine, I will take it.” And the peddler leaves. The rich man’s friends ask him why he paid so much for the handkerchief. The rich man replies “Next time he will wonder how much the handkerchief was really worth and try to sell it for four kopeks.” SN:   Why does the place name Machpelah not appear again in the Torah? PG: There things are lost over time – and the text is indicating as much. Much later archeologists may suggest a location.  Such is the case of the cave at Hebron today. http://www.goisrael.com/Tourism_Eng/Tourist%20Information/Jewish%20Themes/Jewish_Sites/Pages/The%20Cave%20of%20Machpelah%20jew.aspx

24:1 Abraham sends his slave to his homeland to find a wife for Isaac. “Do not bring my son back there.” Again, Abraham is intent that his son and his son’s family remain with him.  The slave of course finds Rebekah in the house of Laban.

LL/

Torah Study Notes 10-19-13

October 19, 2013
This story of Abraham’s encounter with God takes place in Hebron right after the birth of Ishmael. Abraham is recovering from his circumcision.
p. 123
18:1 The first and second sentence seem to be disconnected. We are told first that the Eternal appeared and then three strangers appear. We are to assume that they are a manifestation of God. God is present to visit Abraham, in part, because he is ill. This establishes the mitzvoth of visiting the sick. See footnote 3 – Maimonides understood the entire episode to have been a vision.
18:8 Note the ostensibly non-kosher presentation. A major question is presented: did Abraham have the Torah? Christians would argue not. But per rabbinic argument there is no before or after in the Torah.. He knew the law. Per Rashi the men pretended to eat out of courtesy. Alternatively, they may not be known by Abraham to be Jewish. Throughout the Middle Ages meat and milk could be on the table – just not mixed. They could be consumed sequentially. The practice changed toward the end of the Middle Ages. Note that there is a difference between a milk product and a meat product in terms of preparation. There must be much greater scrutiny of meat products than milk since with meat there must be ritual slaughter. Also, historically there has been a rejection in Judaism of the asceticism practiced by other faiths. Strict adherence to rules replaces asceticism.
18:9 Sarah laughs. This is the sole encounter between God and Sarah. Contrast the meeting between God and Hagar where God speaks directly to Hagar. Abraham’s response to God’s statement that Sarah will have a child is ambiguous. He is happy that he already has a child. Sarah is actually challenging the notion of progress – in the sense that progress is defined as something new that alters the established order. Ishmael comes to represent Islam and Esau represents Christianity. Up until now we are not privy to God’s long term plans. This is the first expression of the covenant.
18:16 “Should I hide from Abraham what I am doing?” God appears to be ambivalent about how to proceed – and he talks to Himself. The Eternal tradition seems to convey a much more anthropomorphic image of God. This suggests that God wants to see what Abraham’s response to the plan will be. He asks a rhetorical question. We are engaged in a literary drama. Abraham is at a crossroads and a fateful decision will have to be made. Will Abraham’s nation be a righteous one?
18:20 -26 Will you sweep away the innocent along with the wicked? This is not merely a question of reward and punishment but justice. Talmud study is intended to be difficult. An active reader has to fill in the gaps. Abraham is probing the nature of justice – how is it to be determined.
LL/

Community Partner Award Given To Vassar Temple by Dutchess Outreach

By Marian Schwartz

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Anyone who has been around Vassar Temple knows that “Vassar Temple Cares About Hunger.” At their 7th Annual Brunch, held at the elegant Grandview, Dutchess Outreach recognized our congregation for our efforts with their Community Partner Award.

Brunch award accepters

Vassar Temple began providing monthly meals for our hungry neighbors 30 years ago, in a project spearheaded by Emily Himelstein, the first meals being prepared in Emily’s home and served at the Temple. The project was rapidly moved to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and eventually to the “new” Family Partnership Center, where it still continues today under the aegis of Dutchess Outreach’s LunchBox. Our collection of nonperishable foods for food pantries including the pantry at Dutchess Outreach was transformed into the CanJam project by Nancy Samson, and now includes not only an ongoing food collection, but special seasonal food drives such as Trim-a-Thanksgiving, Turkey Trot, Souper Sale, Purim Pasta, Cereal Counts and Protein Plenty. Our Youth Group sponsors the yearly Yom Kippur Food Drive and all our rabbis over the years have led congregants in participating in the DCIC CROPWalk against Hunger. A dozen members of the congregation who are active in Temple social action efforts attended the brunch, and former LunchBox chairpersons Emily Himelstein and Jenny Krevolin accepted the award in behalf of the congregation. However, the award really honors each and every member of the congregation, without whom none of our projects could succeed.

vt award plaque  2013

Yom Kippur 1973: On a Fortieth Anniversary

Today, October 6, 2013, is the fortieth anniversary of the first attack by Egyptian troops across the Suez Canal, beginning a month-long battle known as the Yom Kippur War. The initial military action took place on the morning of the Day of Atonement, when Israel personnel stationed along the Canal (which had been established as armistice line between Israel and Egypt following the 1967 Six-Day War) were not on high alert. Many positions were overrun and Israel incurred its largest number of casualties since the 1948-49 War of Independence. In a coordinated action, Syria began attacking positions along the Golan Heights. The third nation to lose land in the ’67 conflict, Jordan, chose to stay out of the battle.
Before the war was called to a halt, Israeli troops had Egypt’s Third Army (their elite fighting force spearheading the drive into the Sinai Peninsula) fully surrounded and liable to be obliterated. Israeli tanks had also stunted any Syrian drive and were on the road toward Damascus.

The Yom Kippur War has been touchstone ever since. Egypt’s initial success became the basis of a mythologized sense of restored Arab glory and dignity in response to its spectacular defeat six years earlier. Its ending, however, served as a realistic assessment on the part of the Egyptian leadership (Anwar Sadat was the President) that military confrontation with Israel could only lead to further disaster, and that diplomatic means had to be pursued.
Hence, Israeli and Egyptians negotiators began to meet face-to-face shortly after the war, first leading to a partial restoration of Egyptian control in the Sinai, and then, with Sadat’s dramatic visit to Jerusalem, a full-scale diplomatic treaty and mutual recognition. Through Sadat’s assassination in 1981 (at the eighth anniversary celebration of the War), Mubarak’s overthrow in 2011, and the army-led coup earlier this year, the treaty has held.

The impact on Israel was also decidedly mixed. Israelis were stunned by the generally unexpected attack. It has been a matter of controversy to this day just what Israeli intelligence knew and did not know in anticipation. Given that over three thousand soldiers were killed, almost every family was touched by a loss, either directly or as a neighbor. The political establishment was shaken. A socialist-labor coalition that had ruled the nation from its founding was weakened. By 1977, Labor’s control was broken.

At the end of the month, Israel’s military superiority had been reinforced, but it did not make a difference. Since the Yom Kippur War, every Israeli government has been politically weakened by engaging in military action, and have fallen in the next election. [Lebanon, 1982; 1st intifada, 1988; 2nd intifada, 2000; Lebanon (again), 2006; Gaza, 2009.] Even in winning, there has always been a loss.

I remember hearing a newsradio report of the initial attack as I woke up on that Yom Kippur morning. I was serving as a student assistant Rabbi in a large congregation on Long Island. The Senior Rabbi was strapped with the challenge of maintaining a sense of solemnity and serenity in the day’s services even as the news – incomplete, spotty and not always accurate – was being filtered through the congregation. An air of unreality hung over the synagogue that day.

It was not until days later were we aware of the initial success of the Egyptian troops. Yet, as the war unfolded, most of us never feared for the fate of the Jewish State; a very different attitude than we generally had in the months and weeks leading up to the Six-Day War.

To this day, the Yom Kippur War brings up conflicted feelings. It was a victory that was a loss. It has been treated as proof-positive by both sides in the internal Israel debate of the rightness of their position. The right point to the significance of a land-buffer in dealing with hostile neighbors, thus reinforcing their conviction that territorial compromise is dangerous. The left argue that the War showed conclusively that acquisition of extra territory was immaterial to Israel’s well-being, and that only measures to reduce and eliminate hostility will ultimately succeed.

Yom Kippur 1973. It was and remains a bittersweet and ambiguous legacy.

Rabbi Paul Golomb

Torah Study Notes 10-5-13

October 5, 2013
p. 59 The story of Noah
There are clearly two recognized creation accounts but some attempt to rationalize them into one consistent account. This is typically done by the ultra-orthodox. In assembling the Book of Genesis one wonders at the motivation of having two different versions of creation. What is being signaled? LL: Isn’t the story of Adam and Eve intended to explain the presence of evil in the world? CL: Literary scholarship at the beginning of the 20th C argued for the presence of two politically different tradition that were satisfied by the presence of both accounts. See: Albrecth Alt’s work: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albrecht_Alt. He wrote God of Our Fathers: A Contribution to the Prehistory of the Israelite Religion.
PG: The inclusion of two creation accounts for political reasons would be a compromise unlikely to satisfy either side. The difference is in the image of God that is being presented. In the first account He is a creator; there is no indication that He will be present in the affairs of men. He is not a “hands on” God in that sense. Midrash would suggest that both accounts are acceptable as different ways of looking at the same thing. Consider the parable of the two cards: In one pocket the card says “I am the height of creation” and in the other pocket “even the lowly mosquito is before me.” LL: Perhaps this challenges our notion of what is a “book.” A book is not necessarily a continuous account from beginning to end. It can be in the nature of an assembly of “gleanings.” PG: That is true but there is something else going on here in terms of posing the question “where did everything come from?” This is the first time that this powerful religious and philosophical question is being explored via a single deity. Other religions before and at the time had multiple gods and the creation of the world was an accident. Here creation is purposeful and there is an assumption that the purpose will ultimately be revealed and fulfilled. The assertion here is that we as humans can have an impact on that outcome by our behavior. SF: We are in partnership with God – we have a place in the world and moral responsibility for it. PG: The second story creates the relationship with God. The sequence is a presentation first of transcendence and then of immanence. This takes us to the story of Noah.
6:9 There is a suggestion that this generation of the flood already knew Torah and the laws of Sinai. Note the use of the word “corrupt.” The Midrash makes the argument that the corruption was not technically a violation of the law; it was the accumulation of many minor sins. Note that virtually every ancient culture has a flood story.
6:17 The first appearance of the word “covenant.” Notice that Noah is silent and does not challenge God’s justice as does Abraham subsequently.
7: 1 Take seven pairs of every pure beast… Notice that the name of God has changed here to “the Eternal One.” The pure animals were for sacrifice as needed. This is very similar to the Gilgamesh epic from Babylonian culture.
7:6 This goes back to referencing God – not The Eternal
7:10 A combination of ways that a flood can occur. CL: there is an association with a volcanic event from 1260 BC that could have caused a major flood in the eastern Mediterranean. PG: This is part of the search for biblical verisimilitude. In fact there have been major floods all over the world and it is very difficult to pin-point one. LL: But there was likely one in the eastern med that gave rise to this story. From the viewpoint of the writer/redactor this was their world. SF: We need to remember that they were between the Tigris and Euphrates river. Probably an area that flooded frequently. PG: Bibical verisimilitude is interesting but it does not tell us what this means or was intended.
7:13 “some of every species” here compares to the phrase “each true to its type” in the first story. Note that God closes the door – this is the immanent God who is present as distinguished from the transcendent. PG: There is still a group trying to justify all of this as true and have built a one-tenth replica of the ark for demonstration purposes.
LL/