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FJMC New England Region
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August 3, 2012 / 15 Av, 5772
Shabbat Nachamu

Isaiah 40:1-26

There are moments in history that take our breath away; that, at least momentarily, render null and void our normal assumptions about life’s inexorable predictability. Think of the fall of the Berlin Wall, or Israel’s daring rescue at Entebbe. We may even sense a greater hand at work, an intimation of something beyond nature, of the miraculous. Many of us remember experiencing Israel’s spectacular deliverance in the Lightening War of June 1967 in that way.

The fall of Babylonia to the Persians, barely 50 years after the Destruction and Exile of 586BCE, was clearly an event of that magnitude, and is most likely the background for the prophesies found in the second half of the Book of Isaiah. Cyrus of Persia decreed that the Jews, an exiled people, could return to their land. The news was almost too great to take in. Had God forgiven Israel for the sins for which Jerusalem and the Temple had been destroyed? Could punishment, and history, be overturned so easily, just like that? In the opening words of the text, God commands the heavenly troops to go forth and declare it so:

"Comfort, oh comfort My people, /Says your God./ Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,/ And declare to her/ that her term of service is over…"

The prophet then pushes us towards a radical shifting from the human to the Divine perspective. From that vantage of expansiveness, we are able to sense the transiency of nations and nature alike: "The nations are but a drop in a bucket,/Reckoned as dust on a balance;/The very coastlands He lifts like motes.…All nations are as naught in His sight;/He accounts them as less than nothing."

And from that vantage point, we begin to sense that even the most oppressive empires are only passing phenomena:

He Brings potentates to naught,/Makes rulers of the earth as nothing./Hardly are they planted,/ Hardly are they sown,/ Hardly has their stem/ Taken root in earth,/ When He blows upon them and they dry up,/ And the storm bears them off like straw. /To whom, then, can you liken Me,/ To whom can I be compared?/ Says the Holy one.

This Haftarah is the first of a series of seven Haftarot of Consolation, which are meant to lift us from the depths of Tisha B’av so that we will be ready to greet the New Year with joy. As we begin the upward swing towards Rosh Hashannah, Isaiah urges us to stretch our vision, to sense the expansive and miraculous nature of things just under the surface of the everyday.

It is a challenge. We feel constricted by worries, burdens and even demons, of all kinds. Yet, the tyrannies of the heart, no less so than the tyrannies of armies and nations, are passing phenomena that can be overcome, when we see them through the spacious and compassionate perspective of God. Shabbat Shalom.

This week's Haftarah commentary was written by Rabbi Dan Liben. Rabbi Liben was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and has served as the Rabbi of Temple Israel of Natick for 21 years. He loves Israeli Dancing and teaches mindfulness meditation.

New Publications

Leadership - Innovation - Community
Understanding the Haftarot:
An Everyperson's Guide

In this stimulating and unusual book Rabbi Charles Simon, Executive Director of FJMC, provides the reader with the context to understand how the haftarot were organized, why they might have been selected and suggests reasons for finding meaning and value.
You can purchase it a number of ways.
Intermarriage: Concepts & Strategies for Families and Synagogue Leaders
If family members and community leaders wish to become engaged in the process of Keruv they often need to ask, "Does Keruv have an ideology and theology? And if so what is it?" Then they need to learn how to respond to intermarriage from the perspective of both gender and religion. This publication reflects the most current thinking about intermarriage to date and attempts to provide family members and community leaders with the needed understanding to effectively work with intermarrieds or potential intermarrieds.
You can purchase it a number of ways:
It's time for Build-A-Pair
The best way to teach about tefillin!

HeneniThe "Build a Pair" Program is a comprehensive and fun learning program to introduce 5th, 6th or 7th graders to the joy and mitzvah of Tefillin in Jewish life. Multiple components interplay to explore the religious significance, the construction of, and the practice of "laying" Tefillin. A comprehensive education program with videos helps the religious school teach students the meaning of Tefillin in Jewish life and practice. Students practice writing their Hebrew/Jewish names and the SHEMA (first line) to insert into pre-made wooden Tefillin boxes. Students decorate the boxes in any creative way they wish, allowing for personal expression. Students either compete or cooperate in writing a "wRAP" song to sing at a Big Event. The Big Event can be the World Wide Wrap (WWW), sponsored by the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs (FJMC), held annually on the morning of Super Bowl Sunday. The WWW program is designed to introduce and re-introduce Jewish men [and women] to the significance of "laying" Tefillin. The "Build a Pair" student program attracts the parents to see their children in their model Tefillin sing the "wRap" songs, allowing two generations (or more!) to join in the mitzvah together, and to let the students' sing their "wRAP" song for an appreciative audience.

World Wide Wrap is Sunday, February 3, 2013
The Bar Mitzvah Wrap!

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