Temple Beth El News

Below is a selection of teasers for past TBE News posts.  Click on the title or "read more" to view the full news article.  Use the pager at the bottom to step backward in time.

From the Rabbi - On Religious Freedom

Responding to a Declaration of War on Religious Freedom

Before Hanukkah I wrote my annual critique of the Maccabees and the modern myth that has grown up around them, presenting them as fighting for religious freedom. Fighters they were, and religious, but religious freedom as we understand it -- the right of the individual to practice their religion as they see fit, or not to practice any religion -- that kind of liberty was not something they could have understood, the concept being entirely outside their historical context.

Part of the myth says that the Maccabees were rebelling against Hellenism. In his fascinating book, Heritage and Hellenism (1998) esteemed scholar Erich Gruen gives us essential background:

From Rabbi Naomi - Crisis in Israel and Palestinian Territories

Our hearts are heavy with sorrow for the loss of life in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.  As we are enjoying a beautiful spring, with our gardens, forests and hillsides springing to life, our friends and relatives in Israel and the Palestinian territories are suffering a rain of death and terror.  It didn’t have to be this way.  Over and over studies show that the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians are thirsting not for blood, but for peace and security.

From the Rabbi - May 2021

In Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud) we read:
“Adam was created alone, to teach you that anyone who destroys one soul from Israel [the Jewish people], scripture looks upon him as if he de- stroyed an entire world.  And anyone who sustains one soul from Israel, scripture looks upon him as if he sustained an entire world. And [this, Adam’s singular creation, was for] peace among living beings, so a person will not say to his fellow: [My] father is greater than your father...Therefore, [since all humanity has one progenitor], each and every person is obligated to say: The world was created for my sake.”

שפנ םיַמה לָו  אלמ םלוֹע דבא וּלּאכ בוּתכה וילע הלעמ ,לארשימ תחא שפנ דבאמה לכש ,ךָדמלל ,ידיחי םדא ארבנ לוֹדָ אבא וֹרבחל םדא רמאי אלּש ,תוֹירבה םוֹלש ינפמוּ  אלמ םלוֹע םיַ וּלּאכ בוּתכה וילע הלעמ ,לארשימ תחא
םלוֹעה ארבנ יליבשב ,רמוֹל ביח דחאו דחא לכ ךְָיפל    ךָיבאמ

In these few lines of Talmud (Sanhedrin 4:5) we encounter some of the most inspiring and most challenging ideas in our tradition. The common descent of all humanity from one mythic ancestor is a story that should inspire unity, as all human beings are related to one another, either as members of our extended families or as very distant cousins. This is a beautiful thought, not inconsistent with the contemporary genetic evidence that we are all descended from Mitochondrial Eve. (https:// www.livescience.com/mitochondrial-eve-first-human-homeland.html)

Silver Anniversary Revisited

Temple Beth El is pleased to announce that it will be offering a reprise of its very well received Silver Anniversary Musical Celebration with Sam Reider on February 13, 2021.

Through the magic of Zoom, pianist, accordionist, and composer Sam Reider will perform solo at home on his accordion and grandfather's 100 year-old Steinway. Reider plays jazz, American folk music and his original compositions, interspersed with stories about his travels and the myriad connections between the musics and cultures of the world.
This year’s celebration will be Covid-safe.  Tickets to this event are $25.each and may be purchased here on the TBE website.  Those purchasing tickets will receive a Zoom link for the concert prior to the event.
This event is an important fundraiser for TBE, and in addition to purchasing tickets to honor Rabbi Naomi Steinberg’s 25 years with us, people are also encouraged to donate to TBE to help us through these difficult times.

A Chanukah Message From Rabbi Naomi

Dear TBE Members & Friends,

Although we won’t be dancing and eating latkes together this year, we’ll have the opportunity to gather in community via Zoom for all Eight Nights of the Chanukah Festival.  I’ll lead the first and last nights and our Tefilah Leaders have graciously accepted my invitation to lead the nights in between.  Each evening at 5:30 we’ll have a family-friendly candle-lighting, some singing, teaching or stories, followed by discussion of themes on this study sheet from Ritual Well, a lovely online resource for evolving Jewish traditions. The Eight Nights of Wellness.pdf is linked below.


Feel free to drop in as your schedule and household activities permit.  Remember it’s fine to just listen and keep your audio and video turned off if you’re in the midst of dinner or you haven’t brushed your hair in a few days!  I encourage you to print out this study guide, or put it on your desktop for easy reference.  I hope that focusing on various aspects of wellness will help us as we go deeper into this very challenging winter.  Also, TBE members are warmly encouraged to send in photo or short videos of your Chanukah at home to share on the members-only side of this website.  

Many thanks to you all for your participation in our online events, it means so much to me to see your faces.  As our hearts are full of sympathy for everyone across the globe struggling with the pandemic, still we can find joy in coming together for spiritual reflection and renewal.

Chag Chanukah Sameach ~ A joyful Chanukah,

Rabbi Naomi

P.S. Here is my little Chanukah gift to you: a recording that Berel and I made last year of a traditional Chanukah song with my new English lyrics.  Hope you enjoy it!

Hanayrot Hallalu.mp3