From the Rabbi’s Desk
Four (really three) New Questions
Rabbi Josh Dorsch
As central as the four questions may be to our Passover Seder experience, I struggle with the prominent role they play for the way in which many of us relate and connect to the holiday.
Traditionally, they are asked by the youngest child at the Seder. I think that is because while they are an important part of our tradition, they are basic, simple, and lack real depth.
That is why once again this year; I would like to propose four new questions, different questions, to ask at your Seder and Passover celebrations. I believe that these questions can help us to dive a bit deeper into the themes of the holiday.
1) B’Chol Dor VaDor Chayav Adam Lirot Et Atzmo Ke’Ilu Hu Yatzah MiMitzrayim: In every Generation we need to see ourselves as if we were slaves in Egypt: What are the many ways that we as individuals, as a community, and as a society, are slaves. What are the many Egypts in our lives? What steps can we take in the coming year to free ourselves from bondage? What can we do to help others, who are trapped, fight for their own redemption?
2) Kol Dich Vien Yetei V’Yichol: Let all those who are hungry come and eat: At the conclusion of the Seder, we open the door for Elijah and to invite anyone who is hungry to eat. But, I wonder what we would do if a homeless person showed up at our door and wanted to come in. Would we invite them in to join us? Would we make them wait outside while we prepared a doggy bag? During the holidays we tend to be particularly generous to those less fortunate and in need, but what can we do to be more responsive to the needs of others in our community, and in the world around us, every day?
3) Kos Miriam: Miriam’s Cup: From having an additional cup of wine at the Seder in honor of the prophetess Miriam, to the inclusion of an orange on the Seder Plate, there have been many different ways that Seder leaders have tried to honor, include, and recognize the role that women played throughout the narrative of the Exodus from Egypt, and in our society, which is often overlooked. Who are some of the women in our lives and in our society that deserve to be recognized? What are some of things that we can do as a society and as a community to honor them and their contributions?
4) Lamed et Binchah: You shall teach your children. We talk about the four types of children who experience the Seder ritual differently. But we often forget to talk about the fifth child, the one who does not attend. Every year, there seem to be more fifth children than the year before. Do you think that your grandchildren or your grandchildren’s grandchildren will sit at a Passover Seder? Why or why not? What would, or should, that Seder look like? What are the questions that need to be asked to ensure that our traditions continue for generations to come? (This was one of the questions from last year’s list, but I think it is too important not to ask again …)
We will always ask the Ma Nishatanah at our Seders. There is nothing cuter than when a child stands up on a chair and sings the same Ma Nishtanah that we have been singing for 2000 years. In interest of full disclosure, Nadav and I have been practicing singing the Mah Nishtanah for a month already. Being at a Seder without that would feel incomplete. Nevertheless, we need to remember that we cannot be the youngest child forever.
That is why if we really want our upcoming Seder Night to be different from all other Seder Nights, we need to be stressing questions that encourage us to learn and grow. We must ask questions which don’t only dwell in the past, but questions which may be painful, and questions that challenge us to look toward the future. All of which I look forward to exploring with you.
Dear fellow Congregants:
From November 1st, 2019 through February 24th, 2020, I was called upon, on short notice, to come out of retirement to serve as Tifereth Israel’s Interim Executive Director. Through March 27th, I spent my time getting our able new Executive Director, Alissa Messian, up-to-speed on synagogue life in general and Tifereth Israel in particular. I believe that with her proven track record of many years as a head administrator, and with all the knowledge I have (hopefully) imparted to her, she will be rousingly successful as an extremely effective and knowledgeable Executive Director. Stop by her office, introduce yourself, and say “hello.”
A lot was accomplished during my time in the chair. A whole lot. But, without the help of our staff, very little would have actually gotten done. I had unconditional support from everyone in a difficult and sudden situation, and I want to thank each one by name for the manner in which they went overboard helping me learn things and get things done.
Without Linda, Kandice, Illana and Steve in the synagogue office being who they are, and doing what they do in the way they do it, I might have quit after a short while. I leaned on all of them (a lot) and they always responded with strength to prop me up when I needed propping. There’s no way I could have done any of it without them.
Our professional staff members, Rabbi Josh, Beth, Michelle, Amy and Sasha, for months valiantly put up with me unexpectedly popping up at their desks with question after question, sometimes nagging them for things I needed from them. They never seemed bothered (though I’m sure there were times they probably should have been) and always gave me everything I needed to do the job.
Finally, I cannot say enough about our maintenance employees Jesus, Nubbia and Robert. Jesus has been with us for years and we all know how valuable he is to us. One of the best things I did during my interim tenure was to find a way in our budget to be able to hire him on as a full-time employee instead of part-time. That began March 3rd. And, while our morning person, Nubbia, has only been with us for about half-a-year, she is willing to do whatever is needed, whenever it is needed, quickly, and always with a smile on her face. She does her job extremely well. She doesn’t have to be told anything twice.
These 12 employees made it possible for me to get things done. They’re the reason. I am grateful to have been the leader of their staff, even if it was only briefly. They all made me feel a part of the staff, not someone from the lay leadership. We all should be grateful. When you see any of them, say “thanks” to them for yourself as well as for me.
See you in shul.
Judaism teaches us that we are stewards of God’s creation, responsible for caring for this remarkable gift. The book of Genesis teaches that God put us in the Garden of Eden to work it, watch over it and protect it. (Gen. 2:15). It further teaches us (Gen. 1:26) that humankind is to “have dominion” over … all the earth,” “dominion” implying compassionate stewardship over all that God has created.
Did you know that 40% of all food in America is wasted? Globally, we waste 2.9 trillion pounds of food every year, enough to feed the world’s 800 million hungry people twice over. Here in the US, we throw away enough food every single day to fill the Rose Bowl. Every year, the average US family wastes over 1,000 pounds of food. Food is the number one thing in America’s landfills. When we store food better, it lasts longer. A fundamental Jewish ethic is that of Bal Tashchit – do not destroy (waste). In Deuteronomy 20:19-20, we are told “…only trees that you know are not for food may be destroyed….” This directive has been expanded by rabbinic scholars to mean, “do not waste by destroying any of the resources which God has placed on this planet.” Maimonides said that wasting God’s resources is an affront to God.
We can do better.
This month, commit to making changes to address this problem.
- Buy just the food you need so you throw away less.
- Accept that produce can be top quality and taste great even if it is oddly shaped.
- Be aware of your leftovers and eat them before they spoil.
- Be aware that labels that say “best if used by” does not mean, “unfit to eat,” so you can eat food which normally you would throw away.
- Donate excess food from your gardens to a nearby food pantry.
Know someone who is in need of our support? Our TIS website now has an online form for you to notify us if you or someone you know is in need of support. You can still call the office, or send an email. Please, do not assume someone else has let us know.
Volunteers are also needed to help us further our vision. If you would like to lend a hand, contact Beth Klareich.
On Tu B’Shvat (February 9th), as part of Tifereth’s Social Action Committee focus on Earth Justice and as a lead-in to Men’s Club tree planting, Dan Tomsky and Katelynn Sutton (teen intern from San Diego 350) co-led a climate awareness and action start-up session with the Torah School’s 4th – 7th grade classes. The students were very engaged as they openly mentioned knowledge of climate change, polluted air and oceans, ozone depletion, plastics and other waste. Many expressed sadness, frustration, disbelief, anger and hopelessness in regards to our planet’s future. Later, during the program they became more hopeful and encouraged as we discussed eco-clubs, energy conservation and environmental clean-ups along with growing student and global mobilizations towards a healthier, sustainable ecosystem. Below is a graph of the student responses. We are very proud of our students’ engagement and caring.
Love and Loss
I don’t remember how old I was when I started understanding what death really meant. For a very young child, you simply stop talking about a person and they disappear from a child’s memory. An adult understands the cycle of life; what it means to die and how precious life can be. Adults also understand how suddenly a person can leave this world. We share quotes such as “live life to the fullest” and “life is short”, but children cannot possibly grasp that concept, nor should they be expected to do so.
Many parents have asked me over the years about how to explain death to their child. Losing a grandparent or loved one suddenly is hard. Watching a person get sick and die slowly is hard. No matter how you slice it, there is no easy way to navigate the loss of someone from your world. No more time together or hugs shared. That is the hardest part of losing someone, knowing there is a void in your life where that person used to be. Many times people choose to speak in whispers around children so we don’t upset them. But the truth is that we need to talk openly to our children about this. They need to know the facts (age appropriate facts, of course) so that they can also process and make peace with the loss.
I have found that being open and honest about it also allows them to remember someone as they were. Talk about the funny experiences you had with that person. Talk about the holidays spent together. Talk ABOUT them so you don’t ever forget them. Every person wants to be remembered when they are gone. The greatest honor we can give them is to carry on their memory. Make sure that our children know what they meant to us, hang pictures around our homes, and celebrate them through stories and reminiscences. When we do this, they are always with us.
State of the Youth, Today. Tomorrow. Together.
Director of Jewish Education and Youth Engagement
Tifereth Israel Synagogue, for the second year, sent a group of delegates to the 2020 AIPAC conference. This group of high school students included Maya Ziegler, Maya Williams, Dani Nowicki, Zach Mathews, Nikki Lackenbacher and Seth Casper. One of the highlights for this trip for me is not the speakers that we got to hear, the information we gathered or the impact it will have on my life. These things are all true and relevant; however, the highlight for me is getting to have a front row seat seeing how this experience impacts our teens. We are incredibly lucky to be blessed with the amazing teens we get to call our own. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with them and to witness these huge moments. They were phenomenal representatives for our congregation and made me more proud than I can describe. They were engaged in the sessions, asked thoughtful questions, participated in educated discussions and handled themselves beautifully while in Susan Davis’s office during our lobbying appointment. It was an amazing experience that I hope to repeat for years to come.
Wait the Ten Seconds
Director of Jewish Education and Youth Engagement
We can all agree that the High Holy Days are a lot of work. They are a marathon, not a sprint. Personally, Purim is my true marathon; a LONG marathon. Purim is full of things I enjoy including making hamantaschen, planning the carnival and participating in our Purimshpiel while also landing right in the middle of Girl Scout cookie season- also my daughter’s birthday. It is a busy time to say the least, especially since this is the first year Avery is old enough to be in the Purimshpiel. She could not be more excited! I am grateful to share this experience with her, but it is also a time of year that I participate in something else much more often as well.
I am writing this on March 5th, Adar 9. It is the first yahrzeit of Rabbi Rosenthal. We just spent morning Minyan in his memory and it was much harder than I expected. I am not surprised – if that makes any sense. I think of him a lot, especially around the synagogue, but not at all in the expected ways. He comes to mind when I use the sound system in the social hall. Rabbi Rosenthal was our entire tech department. He took great pride in how things were maintained. He wrote the instructions for how to properly turn the sound system off and on. To turn it on you first press the switches labeled 2 and 3, wait 10 seconds, and then press the switches labeled 4 and 5. Some would argue that you don’t need to wait the 10 seconds. I always wait the 10 seconds and use that time to think of Rabbi Rosenthal and almost even ‘check in’ with him.
While sometimes that hits home harder than others, I am always grateful for the reminder. I think of him most often during the weeks leading up to Purim because of the many Purimshpiel rehearsals which use the sound system. Whenever I teach someone how to use the sound system I emphasize the 10 seconds. I may also add that you have to think about Rabbi Rosenthal for 10 seconds, it depends on who is with me. But either way, wait the 10 seconds.
We make house calls!
Associate Care Manager
Are you, or someone you love, an older adult who needs assistance with transportation, food, housing, insurance issues, social engagement, and other day-to-day challenges? Our Jewish Community Resource Navigator may be able to help! Visits from the Resource Navigator are free to Jewish adults 60 years and older living in the College Area/East San Diego region and/or members of Temple Emanu-El or Tifereth Israel Synagogue.
Call 858 637-3321 or email Brae Canlen at BraeC@JFSSD.org. The Jewish Community Resource Navigator is funded by Jewish Federation of San Diego, in partnership with Jewish Family Service, Jewish Federation of San Diego, Temple Emanu-El, and Tifereth Israel Synagogue.
Associate Care Manager
Jewish Community Resource Navigator
One Source for a Lifetime of Help
Jewish Family Service of San Diego
Main Office: 858 637-3000