Vol. VII /Number 3 /October 2011
Greetings from the Board of Directors
Awesome days in Jerusalem
29 September – 08 October 2011
Written the day after Yom Kippur
Have you ever thought you would like to step out of a busy demanding workweek into a different world where your heart rose in praise, your feet touched earth, your ears heard melodies that humbled your soul in adoration and lifted your body to exalted praise? Such Days of Awe began on the first day of Tishri when the Shofar announced the New Year, Rosh Hashanah. The time climaxed eight days later with the awesome soul moving chants on Yom Kippur. On that day a mantle of silence and holiness wrapped Jerusalem in its cloak enfolding mothers, fathers, and the young in its arms as they wended their ways to Houses of Prayer and took their reserved seats. Standing, sitting, kneeling, singing, praying in an ever-changing cycle of hushed and loud tones, their souls underwent a renewal and their bodies were energized.
Several visitors entered my life during this awesome time. Bro. Pierre Lenhardt arrived in Jerusalem to participate in the High Holy Days. We read Hebrew texts from the Sefat Emet that dealt with topics such as, “Inscribe us for life,” interpreted as a plea to awaken the divine spark in the soul, and “Renew our days as of old,” a prayer to deepen our attachment in God since God’s people are a portion of God” (Deut. 32.9). Rabbi Mordechai Silverstein’s commentary on the opening verses of the Haftarah (Isaiah 57:14-58:14) for Yom Kippur ([email protected]) emphasized that God who inhabits the heights dwells in and revives the contrite and humble in spirit. Helen Graham forwarded an article, “An Irish Catholic’s Prayer for Rosh Hashanah 5772, where the author writes, “I’ll await with excitement the sound of the Shofar, and know hearing its sound will run right through me, electric, charged with light” ([email protected]).
Elizabeth Young offered her study kit on the High Holy Days to all who wanted it (http://www.etz-hayim.com). Rabbi Ascherman of Rabbis for Human Rights shared a question he asked of his rabbi and received the reply, “Better is one grain of sharp pepper than a basket full of pumpkins” (Talmud Megiila 7a). Other welcome visitors were the commentaries on the Parashah and the Gospels. Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 29th) by Ron Baker where he gives a new interpretation to the Akedah story; Weeya Villanueva on Parashat Ha’azinu (Oct. 1st) with a focus on God’s name, YHWH; Jennifer Slater on Yom Kippur (Oct. 8th) where she references a novel on repentance; Petra Heldt on the treatment by the Fathers of the Church on a difficult parable told by Jesus (Oct. 2nd) and Lucy Thorson’s focus on the Kingdom of God as a Festive banquet (Oct. 9th).
Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, a truly awesome time. At the end of the day, when the sun was setting, the energy of the gathered assembly swelled to a thunderous joy that broke into sound at the end of the blowing of the Shofar. The congregants, renewed and smiling, spilled into the still traffic-free streets to a break-fast banquet. Many would begin to build their Succah in anticipation, four days hence, of the beginning of the festival of Succoth (Booths, Tabernacles), a day when the prophetic reading for the first day is from Zechariah (4:1-21), which includes the passage, “On that day the Lord will be One and his Name One, ” and announces that in the end times, pilgrims, from all the peoples, shall come to Jerusalem to worship God and to celebrate the festival of Sukkot.
Prof. Sr. Maureena Fritz,
Honorary Board Member
Alef Bat Kol Toronto
On Friday June 17, 2011, Aleph Bat Kol Toronto celebrated a Shabbat meal together to celebrate our new name and to send forth fourTorontonians to Jerusalem to study ‘Genesis’ at Bat Kol. Alum Ralph Bertram, Margret Lavin and Patricia O’Reilly welcomed new Bat Kol participants Michael Madden and Lee Mc Naughton. After numerous meetings and conversation the Toronto members decided on the name ALEPH to represent the Bat Kol community in Toronto.
The letter א Aleph symbolizes the wind, air, the divine spark, the Bat Kol within each of us. Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew aleph-bet. It is used to write many names, such as אלוהים Elohim, which is the Hebrew word for Gods and Goddesses. The Hebrew word for God is ‘El,’ written with א Aleph and ל Lamed. The word Elohim is a plural word that means Gods and Goddesses. Other words written with א Aleph are Elah, אדם Adam, and many words related to Aleph that point at divinity.
Patricia O’Reilly, Canada
A Few More Comments
“Bat Kol 2011 was awesome. We had the grace of joy, love and peace, combined with hard study, work, tours, amazing walking trips – walking, walking, walking – sharing of ourselves, and our experiences. We had really great and marvelous professors and guides. We as a community gave thanks, praise and glory to God, Alelluia! Congratulations to us all.”
Angelita M. Bacleon MSM
“Indeed, our studies and tour in Israel were for me a light of transformation. Thank God for this wonderful experience …Thanks again for your generosity that I have experienced. I am back to a normal school routine with additional fervor of the spirit of Bat Kol experiences and the tours in Israel. “
Helen S. Makiling MSM
“I came to Bat Kol to meet and grow in understanding of my ancestors: the colorful and complex personalities in the book of Genesis and I was not disappointed! Rabbi Professors and Christian educators shed light on the sacred texts to enable me to step out in Faith with Abraham, to laugh with Sarah, to wrestle the angel with Jacob, to die along the road with Rachel, to dream with Joseph. I learned to explore beyond the plain meaning of the text. New depth was added to my experience of prayer. I was enriched and inspired. I am humbly grateful for the blessing of Bat Kol.”
Mary Ann Payne, Australia
A Book Review
Cursing the Christians? A History of the Birkat Haminim
This is the title of Ruth Langer’s Oxford University Press book to come out in November 2011. During her Sabbatical in Jerusalem in 2009 when investigating the history of the rabbinic Birkat Haminim (malediction of the sectarians) the scholar found time to present some of her research here in Israel. She then showed that the text of that prayer often reflected Jewish understandings of their relationships with their Christian neighbors. Because these relations were frequently quite negative, the medieval text functioned as a curse. Consequently, it was a topic of polemics and apologetics, and eventually Christian rulers and churches censored it. Her study is the definitive word, for some time to come, on the history of this prayer, tracing it from its origins, through its censorship, to its modern inoffensive forms where it serves as a modern-day petition to God to remove evil from the world. By tracing the liturgical history of this significant prayer and its changing contexts Ruth Langer’s study reveals the different perceptions of Jewish thinking about Christians. That insight is not insignificant to the Torah-observant scholar’s own commission. As the Associate Director of the Boston Center for Christian-Jewish Learning she takes a center role in modern Christian-Jewish relations. With her comprehensive research and the painstaking re-reading of the often complex account of that well-known traditional liturgical piece the author demonstrates the kind of modern Jewish scholarship that shapes the process of revealing and, perhaps inadvertently, the making of a Judeo-Christian culture.
Dr. Petra Heldt, Academic Director
A Movie Review
The film Avalon (1990) is director Barry Levinson’s story of the disintegration of a large ethnic family and then the fracture of the smaller family units comprising it.
The story begins with the arrival of our protagonist, Sam Krichinsky, to Baltimore, on American Independence Day, July 4, 1914. He is one of several brothers who immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe in the early decades of the 20th Century. In Baltimore he joins his brothers, their wives and children and soon has a wife and children of his own. The large family is obviously an ethnically Jewish family but this is betrayed by no hint of religion. The Jewish holy days have been replaced by the holy days of their new country, Independence Day and Thanksgiving. Gradually members of this large, close –knit family in which relatives live, work and socialize together become alienated from each other in geography and time. The first assault to the smaller family unit is the TV set. The tradition of sitting down for a common meal is replaced by the dictatorial little screen that demands the full attention of each, moving family members from the dining room table to ‘TV’ trays in the living room. Then comes the shiny new car that allows the more affluent to abandon the old inner city community and flee to the sun-drenched suburbs. The alienation in time turns on the Thanksgiving holiday when the whole family gets together to celebrate and have their annual family meeting. Now members must travel for miles and the simple neighborhood event has become a burden. Too impatient to wait for the arrival of the oldest brother, the ‘head of the family’, the other members decide to “cut the turkey without him.” When he arrives he is incensed and decides to never come to the event again; everyone seems glad to be done with the tradition. The final assault occurs when the wife of our protagonist dies; he is eventually placed in a nursing home and the children go their separate ways. Thus ends the American dream of one eastern European Jew.
The Feast of Sukkot is the antidote to this state of affairs. It is a yearly bringing together of the family and community in time and space; the more members the better.
There is no TV in the Sukkah. Just as our protagonist’s family used Thanksgiving as an occasion to remember the hardships of Eastern Europe and to celebrate the family we are enjoined to remember the slavery of Egypt and the hardships of the wilderness where we dwelt in Sukkot for 40 years. We had nothing—but our God and ourselves; and with this we were able not only to survive intact as a family, a community and a people but to prosper.
Ron Baker LCSW, Executive Administrator
On a Final Note
Happy New Year to all! The Rosh HaShanah Parashah focuses on the sacrifice of Isaac. As a reminder, and encouragement: “Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place, the LORD will provide…” (Gen. 22: 14a) This is to encourage those of you who may be considering participation in the 2012 program!
Natalie King, Office Manager