Monday, November 21, 2016

At Touro Synagogue November 19, 2016

At Touro Synagogue November 19, 2016
The Terebinths of Mamre and Corn Bread Crisps
by Aaron Ginsburg

 On Saturday we were blessed with many visitors, including Jeff and Tali Moskowitz from West Hempstead, Long Island. Jeff led services on both Friday night (with 1 minutes notice after passing the voice test) and on Saturday morning.  Jeff is in the corn bread snack food business. His davening was crisp, well seasoned and baked, not fried.   

We were also joined by Michael Field and Alan I Greenstein from Temple Emeth in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, and Mr Brescher from New York. It being a small Jewish world, Michael and I attended an event at Temple Israel in Sharon, Massachusetts last Sunday, and Alan I Greenstein, who shares the initials AIG with me, knows sisters Shirley Saunders and Beverly Bavly, who are active in the Touro Foundation. 

As often happens, Rabbi Marc Mandel got off the Bimah and went right to the door to greet some of the visitors, who did not suspect that the Rabbi was the greeter. 

Parshat Vayera, Genesis 18:1 - 22:24, has a lot in it, including the controversial binding of Isaac. Abraham’s tent, with its four doors always open to visitors, has become a symbol of welcoming. Speaking of welcoming, my sister Beth Ginsburg Levine wrote this month in the bulletin of Temple Emunah, Lexington, Ma:

“Visitors at Minyan

I have many responsibilities as the Thursday night minyan leader. Among these duties are to arrive at the synagogue every week before 7:30 pm; refer to the luach. (an annual calendar book that has instructions for additions/deletions to the service); be sure Dawny (the Thursday night gabbai) has everything she needs at her seat; refer to the yahrzeit list in case someone with a yahrzeit would like to lead the service. But, to me, one of the most important duties is to welcome those people that I do not know.

Sometimes the stranger turns out to be a Temple Emunah member whom I have never met, but most times he/she is a visitor to Temple Emunah. These visitors usually are either saying Kaddish during their year of mourning or have a yahrzeit. Because Temple Emunah has one of the few daily minyanim in New England, visitors from near and far come to our service. 

There are Temple Isaiah members we see regularly, some of whom feel a bond with their fellow Emunah minyanaires. There are some that come so regularly during their mourning year that they become service leaders. There are business travelers in the Lexington area who come to say Kaddish. There are vacationers who travel through New England and stop at Emunah because of our daily minyan. 

There is the woman who lives in western Massachusetts with a yahrzeit on Sukkot. She usually is in our area and I see her every year. There is the man from Brooklyn who comes to Lexington so often for work that he has become a regular at Wednesday morning minyan and Study with the Rabbis. There are those who come for a yahrzeit who are former members of Temple Emunah. They left our congregation for a variety of reasons, but count on our daily minyan.

Each of these visitors needs to be welcomed to our service. On Thursday nights, I try to greet everyone before the service begins. If there is a latecomer, I try to greet them after the service ends. I have found that this small, friendly gesture is greatly appreciated. Some visitors have eventually joined Temple Emunah because of the warm welcome; some have handed me donations to give to the synagogue. Others express their pleasure and gratitude at receiving the welcome. When you come to minyan, I urge you to say hello to someone you don’t know. It may be a lasting memory of Temple Emunah for a visitor.”
Beth Levine

Rabbi Mandel took his words of Torah from the first sentence of the Parasha, “ The LORD appeared to him by the terebinths of Mamre…”  

I have no idea what a terebinth is, but I love the sound of it. In fact, I want one for my coffee table. The Rabbi said, “God meets Abraham in the town named after Mamre. Rashi tells us that Mamre was Abraham's advisor. Since God was testing Abraham several times, he asked his advisors what to do, and only Mamre told him to follow the requests of God each time, so Mamre was rewarded in this Parsha.” 

Abraham was subjected to 10 tests or trials by the Almighty. Although Abraham sought advice from many people, he was responsible for the decisions he made.The Rabbi continued,

“Who are our advisors in life? Who will be Trump's advisors? Perhaps his son-in law, Jared Kushner.”

The Rabbi welcomed Michael Field near the end of his sermon. Michael told us that he went to school in New Orleans, and that Judah Touro was a local hero. Not only did he assist a synagogue that became Touro Synagogue, but by his generosity he founded a hospital, the Touro Infirmary. Across the street from the Touro Infirmary is the Touro Prytania Parking Garage, which is $4 for 2 hours. The Touro Foundation supports the hospital, and gives the Judah Touro Society award “annually to a living individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the welfare of Touro Infirmary.”  At Tulane University there is a Judah Touro scholarship.

Let’s pray that President Trump will select wise advisors, and will make wise decisions for our country and for the world. And in our own lives may we find advisors with wisdom and make wise choices. 

@tourosynagogue @jewishnewport

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