The FJMC's Sefer Haftarah is out of circulation for repairs this week.

Next week it will be at Congregation Agudas Achim, San Antonio, TX.

This week's Unraveller is sponsored by Rabbi Charles Simon in honor of the publication of Understanding Haftarot:An Everyperson's Guide and in honor of the 37th wedding anniversary of Charles Simon and Mary Katzin.

The portion for B'reishit in the FJMC Sefer Haftarah scroll, the travelling haftarah scroll that visits a different synagogue each week and contains all of the haftarot, is sponsored by Temple Etz Chaim, Thousand Oaks, CA.

FJMC New England Region
Hebrew Word Initiative


Each week, a set of 5 words are chosen by volunteers from the parsha ha'shavoa.

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November 4 & 5
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October 12, 2012 / 26 Tishri, 5773
Haftarah B'reishit
Isaiah 42:5-43:10

It must have been difficult for our ancestors who had been living in Babylon for more than fifty years to decide if they were willing to relinquish all they had gained and return to a land they didn't know. They must have heard stories from their parents or grandparents about the exile in 597 B.C.E. and the destruction of Jerusalem thirteen years later. They could have been children sitting at a Passover table and listened to their elders speak of the exile while commenting how at that time they felt like Babylonian slaves and now, living in a new and different land, they were learning to understand freedom. I suspect that like the immigrants and refugees who have chosen to live in North America today, they were hesitant to return to the land they or their ancestors had abandoned. Life was easier in Babylon. It would be a tremendous effort to uproot, resettle and start over again.

We know that in 597 B.C.E. our ancestors were originally settled in a suburb of Babylon, and over time, as they prospered and acculturated, the suburb became a Jewish conclave, somewhat similar to Teaneck, New Jersey. On one hand the people living there became more insular. Shabbat and holidays became important occasions. At the same time they acculturated. They adopted Babylonian names, like Mordecai and Esther and modified the original Hebrew calendar that refered to months by their numbers, first month, seventh month, etc. and replaced them with Babylonian names, like Tishrei, Elul, and Kislev. Our ancestors prospered in Babylon.

The rabbis who lived nearly eight hundred years later in the aftermath of the Roman destruction of the 2nd Temple could have selected what constitutes this morning’s haftarah because they identified with its message. In order for what was then called Judaism to survive in post Temple times, the rabbis who lived in the second and third centuries C.E. wanted their people to remember who created us and that we were rescued and returned to our land as promised. The rabbis counseled abandoning idols and directing our faith toward the Lord, the creator of the Heavens and Earth.

At the same time, Isaiah encouraged the people to have faith and to take a risk. Perhaps in order to take a risk, any risk, one must have a little faith and a little courage. It must have taken a lot of faith, perhaps for some, a leap of faith similar to the one that Abraham took when he placed Isaac on the altar, to be willing to give up almost everything and return to the land that we were promised.

It might come as a surprise but Isaiah was not concerned with priests or the rebuilding of the Temple. His vision of life in the promised land was more universal. Isaiah was concerned with behaviors, our behaviors. Think back just a few weeks ago to the haftarah we read on Yom Kippur morning where Isaiah criticizes useless and inappropriate fasts.

Is such the fast I desire, a day for men to starve their bodies?

Is it bowing the head like a bulrush?

And lying in sackcloth and ashes?

Do you call that a fast?

No, this is the fast I desire: To unlock fetters of wickedness,

And untie the cords of the yoke

To let the oppressed go free;

To break off every yoke,

It is to share your bread with the hungry,

And to take the wretched our into your home, Is 58

Something worth considering at the start of a new year.

This week's Haftarah commentary was written by
Rabbi Charles Simon, Executive Director of the FJMC and author of
"Building A Successful Volunteer Culture: Finding Meaning in Service in the Jewish" Jewish Lights Publishing, and the forthcoming "Understanding Haftarot: An Everyperson's Guide."

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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