My Shabbat Message for May 15, 2020

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(Watch a video version of this message.)


Dear Community Members,

It is with complete disgust and revulsion that we are forced to share with you that in spite of our own Rabbinic Authority’s clear Jewish legal guidance and those of our movement and other rabbinic organizations plus recent medical guidance, there were a number of people who blatantly violated our synagogue’s policy and indeed participated in a rogue worship gathering this past Shabbat. This level of raw chutzpah and dangerous behavior that puts others at risk cannot be tolerated. This type of behavior and the individuals who perpetrated it must be responded to with significant consequences.


That is the first paragraph, slightly edited, from Rabbi Edelman to his South Florida congregation. His message is direct and his language is overly harsh. Obviously. And while it goes without saying that I would never use such language with …

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My Shabbat Message for May 1, 2020

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רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן אֶלְעָזָר אוֹמֵר, אַל תְּרַצֶּה אֶת חֲבֵרְךָ בִשְׁעַת כַּעֲסוֹ, וְאַל תְּנַחֲמֶנּוּ בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁמֵּתוֹ מֻטָּל לְפָנָיו

Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar said:
Do not try to appease your friend during his hour of anger;
Nor comfort him at the hour while his dead still lies before him…
(Pirke Avot 4:18)

I’ve been thinking about this teaching from Pirke Avot- Ethics of the Fathers- quite a bit in recent weeks. There are, of course, teachings from this small section of the Talmud that are more uplifting. There are many that are more spiritual… more optimistic. And yet, this year, this is one of the sections of Pirke Avot that is resonating most loudly for me.

There are a few reasons for this.

The statement “[Do not try to] comfort him at the hour while his dead still lies before him…” may strike some as a bit too “in your face” but …

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Shabbat Message for April 24, 2020

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 Click this image for a video version of this week’s message.

One of the most compelling aspects of Torah study is that each year, as part of the annual cycle of reading the Torah from start to finish, there is always something new to see. For while the text of the Torah is canonized or fixed, the eyes with which we read and interpret our sacred text are continually changing. For example, the Torah portion about Noah may look very different to us in a year when there have been terrible floods than it would in the midst of a draught. Similarly, we may see something new when studying the story about Joseph’s interactions with his jealous brothers if we ourselves are in the midst of a fight with our siblings. The text of the Torah remains the same form year to year. But the eyes and the experiences through …

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My Shabbat Message for April 17, 2020

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There is a tradition that, each Shabbat between the Festivals of Passover and Shavuot, a chapter from the small section of the Talmud known as Pirke Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers, is studied. One of the most famous teaches:

Hillel used to say:
If I am not for me, who will be for me?
And when I am for myself alone, what am I?

That one statement reminds us how important it is to strike a balance between self-interest and selflessness.

If I do not take care of myself, my family or my community I cannot expect anyone else to.

But if I am only concerned with myself, my family or my community and I do not concern myself with my obligations to do good in the world I have only done half the job.

I have always loved this quote as I believe it captures one of the …

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My Shabbat Message for April 10, 2020

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Click the Image for a Video Version of This Message

Dear Friends,

During rabbinic school I was at the beach in Southern California. I was standing on a pier and saw a young person get caught in the undertow. Each time he tried to get up either a wave knocked him down or the pull of the current and the slipper ocean rocks led to him losing his step. Things look desperate until a woman standing on the shore yelled instructions to him. He followed them and, a few minutes later he was safely on the beach.
This instructions led me to write this piece which, as I sit on my computer at the beginning of Passover, seems more relevant than ever.

I wrote:

Fleeing the Egyptian soldiers, the Israelites came to the Sea of Reeds. They looked across the waters and were terrified that they would soon drown

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My Shabbat Message for April 3, 2020

Dear Friends,

As we approach Passover I, and everyone I know, cannot help but see the ten plagues sent against Egypt in a new way this year.

On ten occasions God sent a plague against the Egyptian people and, time and time again, just as Pharaoh appeared to soften and behave with a bit more compassion the text of the Torah tells us that God hardened his heart.

One of the ten plagues was the plague that began when, as the text of the Torah teaches,

…there was a thick darkness (Exod. 10:22).

The rabbis of old taught:

“The darkness was twice and twice again thicker [than the darkness of any other night, so that] “no one was able to move from his place for three days” (Exod. 10:23)… During the three days of darkness, the cover of thick cloud made it dark for the Egyptians but gave light to

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TSTI Today for March 31, 2020

Tuesday March 31, 2020


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As we begin week three of this (temporary) new reality called “physical distancing” it’s more important than ever to feel as connected as possible. Recognizing the challenges physical distancing presents we wanted to invite you to be part of a TSTI experiment.

We have recorded two versions of a familiar melody for Hiney Mah Tov. Our students sing this version in religious school and it frequently makes an appearance during Friday night services.

The next part requires your help.

Step 1: Click here to download this version of the words and music. Listen to it as many times as necessary for you to become familiar with it.

Step 2: Click here to download this version with no words, just like karaoke. Practice singing along with it. When you are ready, ask someone to take video of you singing along with the instrumental track. (Please position …

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TSTI Today for March 30, 2020

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At the end of Shabbat Services Friday night we asked community members to share pictures form their Shabbat table. After all, while we might have to welcome Shabbat from a distance for the time that doesn’t mean we we aren’t able to share Shabbat services together. #CommunityNeverCloses

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(click picture to view video)

Join us each week for Shabbat services at 6pm Friday evenings and Havdalah Saturday evenings at 6pm.

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TSTI Boker Tov Music
Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays at 9:00am

Enjoy a morning of music and movement with our Song Leader Shawn Fogel. Sing along with each other to start our day with joy. Geared toward preschool, but open to all ages. Fridays will feature special Shabbat songs and blessings.
Go to:

NEW: Mindful 11:00 am Mondays and Wednesdays with Bela

Through social stories, mindful breathing, and movement children will learn tools to help them understand and process their emotions …

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TSTI Today Shabbat Shalom March 27, 2020

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Dear Friends,

It has been another week.

It has been another week when medical personnel continued to show us what real heroes look like.

It has been another week when we worried about the health and wellbeing of those we love.

It has been another week when the vast majority of us have continued to adjust to a (temporary) “new normal” that is anything but normal.

But, just as it does each week, Shabbat is on the way. When it arrives we will be reminded, yet again, that no matter what may be going on in our lives and in the world there is always something for which to be grateful.

I am sad that, once again, we will not be able to be in each other’s physical presence to welcome our day of rest. But, just as we have for the past few weeks, that doesn’t mean we cannot …

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TSTI Today for March 26, 2020

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UPDATE: From the Interfaith Food Pantry of South Orange

After exceedingly careful thought and numerous discussions with volunteer leadership, the IFPO temporarily ceased pantry operations on March 18. Our host Church had been, and currently remains, closed. While it pains us greatly to not be able to directly continue to serve our neighbors at this time, we made this decision out of an abundance of caution and concern for the health and well-being of our clients and volunteers, as well as concern for the local community.

The IFPO transferred all the contents of our pantry rooms (as well as our supply of maxipads) to our partner MEND last week, for distribution to Essex County pantries within the MEND network that are still able to be open. MEND is working closely with other emergency food pantries as well as local schools to make sure that emergency feeding programs continue to have …

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