From the Rabbi:
In the Talmud, there is a discussion by a group of rabbinic sages about an issue which might not seem too important to us today, but which was important to them. The discussion was about an oven. And the question being discussed was the following: If an oven was cut into sections and sand was placed between each section, would the entire oven become impure if one of the sections became impure? Rabbi Eliezer said that the entire oven would NOT become impure. All of the other rabbinic sages said that the entire oven WOULD become impure if one section became impure.
Rabbi Eliezer employed every conceivable argument, and yet his colleagues were not convinced. They wouldn’t yield.
Rabbi Eliezer then said: If I am right, this carob tree will prove it. If I am right, this carob tree will move. Sure enough, the carob tree moved a distance of 100 cubits (a cubit is about 18 inches). But the other rabbinic sages replied: Carob trees prove nothing.
Rabbi Eliezer then said: If I am right, this stream of water will prove it. Sure enough, the stream began to flow backwards. The other rabbinic sages replied: A stream of water proves nothing.
Rabbi Eliezer then said: If I am right, the walls of this house of study will prove it. And the walls inclined. The rabbinic sages still were not convinced.
Finally, Rabbi Eliezer said to his colleagues: If I am right, heaven itself will prove it. And a voice from heaven was heard to say: Why do you reject Rabbi Eliezer’s view? Rabbi Eliezer is correct. The law is what Rabbi Eliezer says it is.
One of the other sages, Rabbi Joshua, then exclaimed: When we decide the law, we take no notice even of a voice from heaven. When we decide the law, it is the majority view that must prevail.
The Talmud tells us that another sage, Rabbi Nathan, later encountered Elijah the Prophet and asked him: What did God do when all this happened? And Elijah answered: God laughed and said: My children defeated Me. My children proved Me wrong.
I won’t vouch for the truth of this story, but I think that it does teach us something about the interpretation and evolution of Jewish law. I think the Talmudic rabbis realized the importance of the human factor in Jewish law. There is a body of Jewish tradition and it is up to each generation to interpret it and make it relevant. As Rabbi Joshua said: It is the majority view that must prevail. But the question is this: Who gets to vote? Who gets to participate in the discussion and in the vote which determines the decision of the majority? Should every Jew have the right to participate in the discussion and in the vote which determines the correct interpretation of Jewish practice and whether specific Jewish practices should be changed?
I think that in order to be part of the discussion, a Jew has to have some knowledge of Jewish practices and the reasons for these practices. And a Jew must have some commitment to the Jewish tradition. Too many of us today just reject the entire body of Jewish traditions without even knowing much about those traditions. We just want our Judaism light and we really don’t feel much of an obligation to observe any Jewish practice which doesn’t give us an immediate kick.
This isn’t what Reform Judaism is about. Reform Judaism says we can modify and change Jewish practices of the past, but before we do that, we have to know what it is we’re changing and why want to modify or eliminate a particular practice. We shouldn’t just abandon Jewish practices without understanding them. Reform Judaism tells us that we have an obligation to make Judaism relevant to contemporary conditions, but that we still have an obligation to the Jewish past. Reform Judaism recognizes the need for change. But it also recognizes the need for commitment.
Rabbi David Weissman
President Lily Ann Revitch
Dear Temple Members,
Things have been hectic around the temple this past month. We started off with our Mah Jongg Marathon with 63 women in attendance . Many thanks to Irene Klein and the committee of wonderful women who did a super job and made it a great day for all. We raised over $800.00 for the Temple.
Next was our Shabbat dinner. These dinners are more and more popular, so thank you for the many compliments that were expressed to Linda Post and me for a job well done. We then celebrated our Sisterhood Shabbat. A huge thank you to Mary Weissman and Wendy Margulies for coordinating and officiating at the service and to all the women who participated.
What a lot of STUFF came in for the Brotherhood yard sale! What a shame it had to rain on that day, but well done and I am sure they will plan another one soon.
Our Sisterhood has been working on plans for several trips ,one in the spring to Savannah & surrounding areas, as well as a trip to Israel in November 2016. Many of us will be taking advantage of the cruise that Sisterhood planned as you read this bulletin.
And life goes on around Temple. We celebrated Thanksgiving with our first ecumenical service on the Wednesday before
Thanksgiving. We will once again light the Menorah at Market Commons December 8th at 6:00pm which is always a fun thing to do. We finish 2015 with our own Hanukkah Happening at the Temple, so join us for fun, songs & lighting of the Hanukkah menorahs and our now famous LATKAS December 12, 2015
I give a warm welcome to David and Nora Rosenberg, Eric and Elaine Luscombe, Paul and Shirley Nathan, Michelle Foels and her daughter Shelley, Charles & Carol Hirsch and Myrna
Meisner, our new members since the High Holidays.
Lily Ann Revitch