Friday, October 21, 2016

Yom Kippur, Shabbat, and Sukkot at Touro Synagogue October, 2016

Yom Kippur, Shabbat, and Sukkot at Touro Synagogue 

October, 2016 by Aaron Ginsburg

Yom Kippur

Most of our experiences with candlelight take place after a storm. When we lose power we don't usually light enough candles to illuminate a room. But there is a way to get a true candlelight experience: Attend  the Yom Kippur Kol Nidre service at Touro Synagogue.  With five candelabras and the candlesticks, the room takes an orange hue, often joined by the setting sun.

Rabbi Marc Mandel spoke about how the High Holidays are never at the right time. They are either too early or too late in the year. If they’re early it's too hot.  If they’re late it’s too cold. Speaking about time, Rabbi Mandel told us about a sermon called, “Five Minutes to Live.” It was given by Rabbi Kenneth Bernstein on Yom Kippur Day, 1986, and was the subject of a recent article in the New York Times. There are links below for the article, and to the complete sermon.

Rabbi Bernstein spoke about the Challenger disaster. The astronauts were alive during the five minutes it took their spacecraft to hit the ground. What would go through your mind if you knew that you had only five minutes to live?

A framed photo of Rabbi Kenneth Berger
and Aviva Berger dancing.
 Nate Pesce New  York Times
Three years later the rabbi and his family were themselves involved in an airplane crash. Their plane was damaged after an engine blew up.The Rabbi’s wife, Aviva, fainted, and he comforted their two children.  The plane circled for 40 minutes and then crash landed. The children survived; the rabbi and his wife were killed.

On Yom Kippur, we don’t know whether we have five minutes or 40 minutes to live,  or whether we have  five years or 40 years. How often have we regretted not doing or not saying something, for example not spending time with our families or not saying we are sorry? The High Holidays give us a chance to put things right. We might only have five minutes to live. Do we want to spend our last minutes regretting what we did not do?

At the afternoon service Rabbi Mandel mentioned a rabbi who works on a cruise ship.To the amusement of the congregation,  Rabbi Mandel said, "I wonder how I can get a job like that.” We assured him that he already has a job that's even better.  He's the Rabbi on an island resort and doesn’t even have to worry about getting seasick. 

The haftarah, read by Rabbi Lowell Weiss, was the book of Jonah. When Jonah wanted to get away from his troubles, he bought a ticket for a cruise to nowhere. It was not so easy to escape, and this caused problems for both Jonah and his fellow passengers. In real life it’s not always possible to get away from our problems, which are often still there when we get back from vacation.

Shabbat October 15, 2016 

Rabbi Mandel told us that although today's parsha, Parashat Ha’Azinu, is a song/poem…there is some debate about it. And of course, there is some debate whether Bob Dylan’s songs could be considered literature, and if so worthy of a Nobel prize.  He certainly has both  a poetic and a prophetic gift, since he seemed to speak for a generation.  And what is the job of both  literature and a prophet, but to put into words the things we are thinking, or should be thinking? 

It was unavoidable that Bob Dylan and the electric guitar he played at the Newport Folk Festival  would be mentioned. Saul Woythaler and Aaron Ginsburg  blurted out almost simultaneously, “I was there!” Saul was an usher, and Aaron was helping his cousin Charlie Lasky with the record concession.  

Sukkot Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Visiting Rabbi Allen Podet gave the sermon. A former Navy Chaplain, Rabbi Podet is very familiar with Newport. He recalls Rabbi Lewis. Currently he is Rabbi at Temple Hesed Abraham, Jamestown, NY, Professor of Religious Studies at Buffalo State College, and a Chaplain at the Buffalo VA Hospital. He also is a founding rector of the Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam Germany, the first progressive rabbinical school in Europe since WWII. 

Rabbi Podet had the customary 15 minute notice that he would speak, but with his resume, there was not a doubt that he would come through.

Rabbi Podet modestly thanked Rabbi Mandel for his effusive introduction. He pointed behind him to the flags of the United States and Israel, and said those flags would not exist without what was in the painting above them, the Ten Commandments and the Torah.  I think he was referring to the rule of law, and of justice, a justice that applies to all.

We were also joined by Dr Louis Arnow, whose office used to be on Bull St. Dr Arnow was hoping to speak to the Rabbi. He was welcomed to join us for services and in the Sukkah, and he did. 

During his Navy years Dr. Arnow found out he would be sent to Key West, Florida. At the time, Key West was noted for its large population of… fish! Finding out that an appeal was possible, he asked to be reassigned. After finding out he was single, the assignment officer said, “I’ve got just the place for you!” He was sent to Newport, which was more appropriate for a single guy.  He arrived in 1960, just in time for the Jazz Festival riot. (Saul and Aaron remembered that too.) Dr Arno recalls Dr Sam Adelson fondly and was proud to have followed in the footsteps of Dr. Sam and of Dr Elie Cohen by becoming Chief of Medicine at Newport Hospital. 

He told  us a story that he heard from Sam Adelson. Dressed in appropriate attire, Sam was puttering around in his garden at the corner of Rhode Island Avenue and Old Beach Rd, where he lived with his wife Mildred. A woman in a limousine stopped to admire the flowers, “Are you the person that takes care of that lovely garden?” Sam acknowledged that he was the gardener. “I bet the lady of the house pays you well for your skill.” “Not at all,” said Sam. “She pays me nothing.” As the woman was about to hire a new gardener, Dr Adelson gave a clarification, “I sleep with her.” There was not a career change, and he remained in the medical profession. In this case, clothes did not make the man.

Hag Sameach!


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