rabbilinda's blog

Celebrate Chanukah

HAPPY CHANUKAH      by Rabbi Linda Potemken

Chanukah is here!  I invite you to embrace these eight nights and to maximize their pleasure and meaning.  Here are ten reasons I savor our festival of lights:

Prayer Following Shooting at First Baptist Church

Our hearts go out to the victims of the recent mass shooting at the first Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, only weeks after the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas. The fact that this recent shooting took place in a house of worship further aggravates our sense of vulnerability and loss.

We open our hearts and add our prayers to ask for all healing possible for those suffering the consequences of gun violence.  We pray that wisdom prevails and that these senseless murders cease.  We raise up the Torah teaching that all human life is sacred, made in the image of the divine and that worlds are torn apart when someone’s life ends violently and unexpectedly.  As we pray for peace we ask that our leaders and officials take the steps necessary to reduce future violence.  We pray to stay strong in the face of tragedy.

Oseh Shalom Bimromav - May the Creator of Peace nurture us to create peace in our world and hold up light to the darkness.

Rabbi Linda & Rabbi Nathan

Preparing for Shavuot

Our next holiday, Shavuot, involves a special type of preparation.  This major festival celebrates the giving of the Torah and we have been counting toward that observance since the 2nd night of Pesach for 7 weeks, or as we say in Hebrew,  sheva Shavuot!  (Shavuot means  weeks).   The premise of Shavuot is that we become vessels for God and Torah.   How might we do that?

In Response to Hate

We were shocked.  Saturday night hundreds of gravestones at the Mt. Carmel Cemetery were desecrated.  Immediately people of all backgrounds - Jews, Muslims, Christians - ventured out to the cemetery to offer assistance.  Yesterday I participated in a gathering of close to 200 faith leaders that culminated in a press conference denouncing the vandalism on the Mount Carmel Cemetery. 

The Rev. Jay Broadnax, the president of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia who sat at my table, was among the many speakers to issue a statement.  He offered:   “We must stand together, we are one community here in Philadelphia. I’m reminded of how this community came together after the incident in Charleston, South Carolina, that affected my denomination, and how many of these people stood together with us. We’re proud to stand with you today condemning this act.”

Praying With My Feet

We studied the Shema and V’Ahavta last Tuesday at Hebrew School, exploring the commandment to love God with all our heart, all our soul and all that we have. This is a text that we are called upon to contemplate every day, as the Shema is part of daily prayer. I use the term “contemplate” mindfully, rather than using the terms chant or pray. This text falls in the part of the service that invites our questioning even more than our devotion. It asks us to consider, every day, what is it that God wants of us?  What does it mean to love God with all that we are, all that we do and all that we have?  Prayer is one response but as Jews we know that it is not the only response.  We are called upon to learn and called upon to act, to perform deeds of loving kindness every day.

Having just observed MLK day I am reminded of the words of the late Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who participated in the march from Selma.  When asked if he prayed in Selma, Rabbi Heschel responded that he prayed with his feet. So it is that many in our community, many around the nation and around the globe will be observing Shabbat this coming weekend by praying with their feet.

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