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Shalom from Rabbi Kula
October 14th, 2019 – 15 Tishrei, 5780
Shalom Beth Shalom!
Our Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services were wonderful and I am grateful for everyone’s participation and support. Now our Holiday season continues with Sukkot.
Today is the first day of Sukkot, the Festival of Tabernacles or the Feast of Booths. Sukkot is a week long holiday ending with the holidays of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. While all of our festivals have elements of joy, Sukkot is specifically highlighted as a time of joyfulness tagged as Hag Simchatenu-the Happiest Holiday.
After the more serious Holy Days, Sukkot brings us outdoors to the Sukkah to celebrate the beauty of nature, reminding us of the simple things that give our lives meaning, and to encourage gratefulness. Into the Sukkah we go and hold the Lulav (Palm Branch) and Etrog (citron) connecting us to nature. We also recall the blessing of water, celebrated in the times of the Ancient Temple of Jerusalem. Celebrating water gives an added context to the Sukkot celebrations as a time to be wards of our planet. We follow the commandment of protecting the environment and addressing climate change.
I love the joyful time of Sukkot. When I was growing up we would decorate the Sukkah, eat under the Sukkah branches of the temporary hut under the stars, with invited guests. The custom of Ushpizin, guests, was a favorite of our family. We welcomed friends and also imaginary guests from across the generations, such as Moses, Abraham, Sara, Miriam, King David, and Golda Meir. Who would you invite if you could invite and welcome any guest? Family, actors, writers, athletes, politicians, and/or artists.
Please come see our Beth Shalom Sukkah and join us for Sukkot/Simchat Torah celebrations Sunday, October 20 at 5:00 pm.
Hag Sameach!!! Happy Sukkot!!
I held the Torah for the first time on Simchat Torah, when I was living in Jerusalem at age 22. I was struggling a lot with Judaism and how I wanted to incorporate it into my life: Should I be keeping kosher, even though it doesn't totally make sense to me? Will God be mad at me if I don't observe Shabbat? Do I have to believe everything that's in the Torah?
One of my teachers compared the Jewish calendar to a romantic relationship with the Divine. Shavuot is when we start dating, receiving a "contract" (the Torah) that establishes expectations. As the relationship progresses, we may mess up or not always act in accordance with the others' needs. During the High Holidays, we ask for forgiveness and we “want God back,” realizing that this relationship is the best thing that’s ever happened to us. We have to prove it over Sukkot, when we “move back in” with God in a sort of trial period, living in a temporary home - the Sukkah. God takes us back, and we celebrate on Simchat Torah, remembering why we got together in the first place.
So when I held the Torah for the first time, kissed it, and danced with it, something clicked; we don't have to accept everything inside those scrolls as absolute truth - just commit to engaging with it, to riding the waves of the relationship. Just as in our human relationships, we may sometimes feel angry at or distant from God, and that's okay. The idea of a "perfect" person or relationship is an illusion. We have the opportunity for return and renewal with our beloved, even if we don't always agree on everything.
Come hold the Torah this Sunday, all of its beauty and its flaws. We will begin at 5pm in the sukkah, with the ritual of shaking the lulav, followed by music and dancing in the sanctuary.
Chag sameach - have a happy holiday!
► We are excited to institute the new URJ High Holiday prayer book called Mishkan HaNefesh - Sanctuary of the Soul. Congregations around the country are embracing this new edition of our ancient prayers blended with contemporary insights. You are invited to be part of this project as we are offering the opportunity for you to dedicate a prayer book in honor of a milestone, birthday, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, or wedding, or in memory of a loved one. Your prayer book dedication will offset the cost of providing these books for Beth Shalom. A bookplate with your name will be placed inside the two-volume set for a tax-deductible contribution of $50. You can download the order form here.
► Here's an easy way to support Beth Shalom: shop on Amazon! When you want to order something, first visit smile.amazon.com, then select "Congregation Beth Shalom, Bozeman" as the organization you want to support. Amazon will donate a percentage of your purchase to us. Thanks!
► Gallatin Refugee Connections will be hosting their 3rd annual "Welcome Kit Drive," collecting donated gifts of necessities and household items to greet newly resettled refugees moving into our Montana community. Drop-off locations will be listed here. If you would like to help assemble kits at Fork & Spoon on November 2nd, please contact Annette Carson.
► October 27th marks one year since the devastating attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. We invite you to Pause with Pittsburgh and join thousands of others for a collective moment of remembrance that day at 5pm. Sign up at http://pausewithpittsburgh.com to join the commemoration and receive a text message when it begins.
Letter from Rabbi Kula
Mazel Tov on uniting as Rabbi and community.
I am honored and delighted to join the Congregation Beth Shalom family and Bozeman community. These are exciting and challenging times. Let us take care of ourselves and others, nurture our relationships, and tap into profound Jewish wisdom. We will then surely thrive and be blessed.
L’heetraot- I look forward to seeing you soon!
Rabbi Mark H. Kula
Learn more about Rabbi Kula here.
Please see calendar for full list.
Congregation Beth Shalom is a place where affiliates of all ages come together to be a learning and spiritual community who joyfully pray together and celebrate Jewish history and tradition. We cultivate in our affiliates a lifelong connection to Judaism through the lens of the Reform and Renewal movements.