Keeping Connected with Rabbi Perry
April 2021 Keeping Connected
The book of Exodus shares many insights about the Jewish understanding of leadership. Exodus opens with a story we are all familiar with. A new Egyptian leader arises; one who is threatened by the Israelites seeing them as the “other” and a risk to Egyptian society. As a leader the king is guided by fear and animosity and as a result decides not only to persecute the Hebrews but to actually engage in a genocide. Pharaoh’s first command of violence towards the Israelites, however, is met by another model of leadership.
Pharaoh ordered the Hebrew midwives, Shifrah and Puah, to kill all the baby boys that they deliver. My rabbinic thesis was about these two women and I have always been in awe of their bravery and integrity. The Torah says, “The midwives, fearing Go, did not do as the king of Egypt had told them: they let the baby boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, ‘Why have you done this thing, letting the boys live?’ The midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women: they are chayot , like animals and are vigorous. Before the midwife can come to them they have given birth’.” The text of the Torah tells us that Shifrah and Puah were rewarded by God for their heroism and resistance to violence; even though they were standing up to the leader who had the power to take their lives.More
March 2021 Keeping Connected
Just over a year ago I signed onto a Zoom gathering and said to a screen filled with little boxes: “Mah nishtanah halailah hazeh…? Why is this night different? To these two rhetorical questions I offered some answers.
- “We are not wondering about opening day and Fenway”
- “We are not with family and friends in a physical sense”
- “We are not celebrating the second night seder in our synagogue building for the first time in over 40 years”
- “We may or may not have all the traditional Passover foods in front of us”
- “We are feeling strong emotions and experiencing personal challenges that are new to many of us”
- “We are all learning to use a technology that is new to us”
Ironically that night, I was quickly booted off the internet and could not sign back on without rebooting my router; thereby experiencing a new kind of panic. It was not long after that that I added a new word to my pandemic vocabulary: ethernet cable!More
February 2021 Keeping Connected
Most months, for 32 years, I have written a newsletter article for whatever congregation I have been serving. That is a lot of articles! Oftentimes I look to the holidays or happenings in the month ahead for inspiration, which is what I did for this February’s Keeping Connected, and as you all know, February 7th is the SUPER BOWL! You might be asking yourself, what’s Jewish about the Super Bowl and why would the rabbi write about it. I often challenge myself to see what’s Jewish about things especially when the connection might not be evident. For instance, what’s Jewish about re-cycling? That’s an easy one, because as a Jewish community we are obligated to perform the mitzvah of Shomrei Adamah; to protect the earth. Here’s another one. What’s Jewish about inviting so many people to your seder that your family thinks you are meshuganah? That’s an easy one as well. As Jews we are commanded with the mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim; to welcome people into your home. Yes, hospitality is a Mitzvah! You might also ask yourself, why is that when someone you love isn’t feeling well, you feel compelled to make chicken soup for them. Of course there is a mitzvah about that as well! Bikkur Cholim is the responsibility of caring for or visiting those who are sick.More
January 2021 Keeping Connected
As we enter the new year of 2021, I have been reflective about lessons learned over the past year and there have been many; far too many to fully explore in one short newsletter article! One lesson that is particularly important to me is that the pandemic has taught folks to slow down and appreciate what is close to home. Personally, I have enjoyed feeding and watching birds, taking long walks with our dogs, even in cold weather, learning to make a really good cup of coffee starting with grinding the beans myself and reconnecting with the pleasures of cooking and baking.
I know that these lessons, simple as they are, feel familiar to many of you. We have all heard stories of how folks have taken up cooking with a vengeance during the stay-at-home months. We saw this first hand when in the early days of Covid-19, it was impossible to find the most basic of cooking supplies on the supermarket shelves. I could understand why the shelves with cleaning supplies, anti-bacterial gels and even toilet paper were bare. But flour? Yeast? What did people know that I didn’t? It didn’t take me long to realize that people had come to the conclusion that if they were going to have to spend long hours and days at home, learning to bake bread might be a meaningful and fun activity. There were many days, that flour and yeast were being rationed to small amounts per individual. For the first time in my life, I could empathize with what it might have felt like for my parents and grandparents to use ration cards during the World Wars.More
An Adult Education/Social Action and Justice event
MLK Day, Monday, January 18 at 7pm
Join us to mark Martin Luther King, Jr., Day 2021 with a discussion of “Civil Rights: A History,” a 4-part documentary that looks at the four stages of racism highlighted by Bryan Stevenson: slavery, lynching, segregation, and mass incarceration. The documentary tries to show how these stages underlie the racial problems that persist in our country to the present day.
The documentary episodes are being broadcast on Chelmsford TV on a rotating schedule, but they are all available at any time on YouTube. Please visit https://jesseheines.com/civilrights, where you can find links to the YouTube videos, additional information on the program, a list of references, and brief bio sketches on the series’ creators.
Viewing prior to the discussion is recommended, but not required.
November 2020 Keeping Connected
Elie Wiesel said, “I marvel at the resilience of the Jewish people. Their best characteristic is their desire to remember. No other people has such an obsession with memory.” I share this thought with you because November 9-10 is the 83rd anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, which was also known as the November Pogroms. On these days of violence, the German Nazis destroyed 1,000 synagogues and more than 7,000 Jewish owned businesses. During the violence more than 100 Jews were killed, mostly in Austria. Although the dates for Kristallnacht are recorded as the 9th-10th of November, the violence lasted much longer in many places.
Dr. Michael Berenbaum, the Director of the Sigi Ziering Institute (Exploring the Ethical and Religious Implications of the Holocaust) and a Professor of Jewish Studies at the American Jewish University, explains “that the violence was ordered by Adolph Hitler through his Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels; and executed by his SA (Sturmabteilung), commonly called Storm Troopers or Brown Shirts. Hitler promised that only he could and would restore peace. Hitler promised the return of law and order.”More