Congregation Sha'aray Israel

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A Conservative Jewish Congregation serving the spiritual needs of the Middle Georgia Jewish community since 1904

From the Rabbi

November 2015
Cheshvan - Kislev 5776

A patch of text, A work of art, and a few ideas about the moment in which we live...


God told Abraham, 'The outrage of Sodom and Gommorah is so great and their sin is so grave.'As I type this, the upcoming Torah portion October 31 (Vayera) brings us back to the wicked cities,Sodom and Gommorah.

While some preachers will always tie themselves in knots over sodomy, - a literary child of the Biblical take -our sages were focused on the social evils of heartless indifference and unrelenting greed.The term Midat S'dom - the character trait of S'dom is taken up in Ethics of the Fathers.One who claims: what's mine is mine and what's yours is mine, such a person is plagued with the mindset of S'dom.


Laurel Robinson (members of the Ramah community know her as Dafna) has been making remarkable art as well as nurturing Jewish artistic expression up at Ramah Darom for nearly twenty years. All over camp you can find all manner of art pieces that challenge the viewer to think.(Amen! We need more of that in our lives. It opens our eyes and hearts.) One such piece depicts three cities -

(1) Jerusalem as a heavenly ideal, a beacon of light of sorts,
(2) Chelm as the earthly town of goofballs and misfits that gently pokes fun at all of us, and
(3) Sodom, the archetype of the uncaring and vicious metropolis, where we barely notice the bodies that we step over as we chase our own distractions.
(4) The art pushes us to think about our ideals—what do we yearn for? What does a heavenly Jerusalem conjure up for us?
(5) And Chelm - which pokes through our cherished veneers, regardless of our zip codes and dress codes - encourages us to takes ourselveswith a grain of salt.

When you think back at the strange closing verses of Jonah (Yom Kippur afternoon) you almost see God shaking His head at the way those poor souls in Nineveh can't tell their right from their left. Perhaps the rabbis are slyly suggesting that beforewe chuckle about Nineveh, we might look in the mirror and ask if we're any better.

Then there's Sodom, which may well remind us of a solid unblinking Mrs. Lot, turned to salt. Rashi condemns her uncharitable ways, her stinginess even to the point of withholding salt from her guests. Beyond Lot's wife, there's much more for us to consider -what it is like for a culture to be debased by greed that you can't muster a minyan's worth of decent, charitable folks?
Could there really be places where homeless and friendless souls languish under bridges and expire in the street. Could there be?

A couple of ideas - elsewhere in the bulletin you'll see information about a film (November 1, at 10:15 am) called Nicky's Family.  It's worth your time. The story of Sir Nicholas Winton is a much needed reminder of the human capacity to make such an important difference.And when you consider the man's humility - his insistence that his actions weren't in any way extraordinary - you realize that even in Chelm, it is possible to reach for the stars.

Last but not least - Thanksgiving. That special American holiday celebrates an opportunity to express gratitude among family and friends.  I am profoundly grateful for my family and my friends - here at Sha'arey Israel as well as people close to my heart even if many miles lie between us.  In this season of counting blessings may we open our hearts to share with others.  May we remember that each of us, even in our brokenness, can nurture kindness and joy in the world.

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