At Touro Synagogue December 17,2016
Do not walk alone
by Aaron Ginsburg
It should have been lonely at Touro Synagogue on Saturday. After a very cold Friday the weather was transitioning from snow to rain. Many of our regulars were away. But we were not alone.
Mitchell Trestman from Baltimore led the second part of Shacharit and Reuven Epstein from Monsey, NY read the haftarah, which included visits to France and Spain. Although we did not learn much about France and Spain, on Sunday we learned about Cuba thanks to Chuck and Karen Flippo.
Chaim Weiss from Netanya, Israel led a lyrical Mussaf. The kedushah was sung to the tune of “Memory” from the musical Cats. : The lyrics, “Memory, All alone in the moonlight,” echoed Rabbi Marc Mandel’s words of Torah.
“The talmud tells us that we should learn life lessons from our ancestors, “Maaseh avot siman lebanim [The deeds of the fathers are a signpost for the children].” What can we learn from Jacob?
In this week’s parsha, Vayishlach [Genesis 32:4 - 36:43], we read about wrestling with someone-it's not clear with whom. Jacob was injured in this wrestling match: the torah tells us that a prelude to this wrestling was that Jacob was by himself. He was all alone. The Talmud teaches us that we should learn from Jacob not to walk alone at night. We should not take unnecessary risks.
Furthermore the Talmud tells us Jacob was alone because he went back to Lavan's house because he forgot some items: how many risks was Jacob taking? He put his life in danger for a couple of insignificant items. Do we sometimes live dangerously? Do we make foolish decisions that could cause us harm?
Another message is, we shouldn't make decisions alone-we should consult with others before we make decisions.
There is much we can learn from Jacob. Let us take these lessons to heart-Shabbat shalom.”
On Sunday morning a well attended minyan was followed by a narrated slide show about a trip to Cuba by Chuck andKaren Flippo. Karen began with a quiz to test our knowledge about Cuba. I noticed Rabbi Mandel listening intently. I suspect a pre-sermon quiz on our Jewish knowledge is in the offing.
The Flippos visited Jewish communities in Havana and in Trinidad, Cuba. At the home of the leader of the Trinidad Jewish congregation, where services are held, Karen noticed a decorative dreidel from the Touro Synagogue gift shop on the shelves. Rita Slom confirmed that she had presented the dreidel during her visit! The dreidel reminds us that Touro Synagogue was dedicated during Hanukah, 1763, and symbolizes the dedication of the Jews of Cuba, who are truly a remnant of Israel,
שְׁאֵרִית יִשְׂרָאֵל. Most Cuban Jews left when Castro took power.
Cuba is a mix of the new and the old. The American boycott has had a great impact. The many cars from the 1950s have become taxis. Karen was thrilled by a ride in a Chevrolet Bel Air, circa 1957. The taxi ride rekindled memories of trips with her family in their Chevy Bel Air.
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