Congregation B'nai Or

St. Croix Jewish Community

STXJCC Happenings 05/17/2017

Sholem aleichem!

Today is the 21st day of the Hebrew month of Iyyar, 5777.  

Last night was the 36th night of the counting of the omer.  An omer is a measurement of barley.  Like most Jewish holidays, this period of the Jewish year has both agricultural and historical ties.  At this time of year, our ancestors waited apprehensively for their first grain crop to ripen.  Would the rains come --- not too much, not too little --- at the right time?  Would it be a year of plenty, or a year of scarcity?  We begin counting on the second night of Pesach, and count a week of weeks, 7 x 7 = 49 days, until we arrive at the Festival of Shavuot.  Having left Egyptian slavery, we count our way, consciously, intentionally, one day at a time, until we reach Mt. Sinai and receive the Torah.  Passover is our festival of Liberation; Shavuot is our Festival of Revelation.

Shabbat on St Croix this week begins at 6:27 pm.

A summary of this week's Torah portion appears at the end of this email.

Some of you have asked: Why don't we [the STX Jewish Community] do anything while there's no rabbi on-Island?  Jews always answer a question with a question --- in this case: Why don't we?   So here's a suggestion: Invite a few other members of the Jewish community (folks you're already friendly with, or --- better yet --- folks you'd like to get to know better) over for Sunday breakfast (or any other time) and discuss your reactions to this provocative article:
Ashkenazi Jews are not white – Response to Haaretz article

Ashkenazi Jews are not white – Response to Haaretz article

In response to Haaretz article "Jews, white privilege and the fight against racism in America" (by Ben...
Do you agree with the author?  I'd love to hear about your discussion!
-Rabbi Marna
This week we read yet another double Torah portion: Behar-B'chukotai, Leviticus 25:1-27:34
Moses speaks to the Israelites about some laws that will take effect in the land that God will give them.
For six years the people will be permitted to plant and harvest from their fields and vineyards.  Butt the seventh year is to be a year of complete rest for the land.  In that year, the Israelites will not be permitted to work their fields, but they will be allowed to gather and to share what the land produces.  God assures the people that in the year before the Sabbatical year, there will be a bountiful harvest so that there will be sufficient food to tide them over until the harvest of the following year.
The Israelites are told to count seven times seven years --- a total of forty-nine --- and to mark the arrival of the fiftieth year with a blast of the horn on the Day of Atonement.  The fiftieth year is to be a Jubilee --- a year of release for the land and all its inhabitants.
In the fiftieth year, the land is to lie fallow, property is to revert to its original owners, and all Hebrew slaves are to be freed.
The Israelites are to make special effort to redeem land or persons who have been forced to sell their holdings or bind themselves into slavery.  Israelite slaves are to be treated as hired laborers and are to be freed in the Jubilee year.
The people are reminded not to set up or worship idols, but to keep God's sabbaths.
B'chukotai begins with a promise and a curse.  If the people follow God's laws and commandments, God will bless them.  Their land will be fertile and peaceful and their enemies will flee before them.  But if the people do not obey, God will spurn and punish them.  Their enemies will dominate them, their land will not produce, and they will live in fear.  At last, those who survive the punishment will repent and God will remember the covenant with Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham.
The section continues with a section detailing three types of gifts which might be promised to the Sanctuary.  
Leviticus concludes with several verses on tithes and the redemption of tithes, and with the statement, "These are the commandment that Adonai gave to Moses for the Israelite people on Mount Sinai."
[adapted from Teaching Torah: A Treasury of Insights and Activites, by Sorel Goldberg Loeb and Barbara Binder Kadden].

Whenever we conclude the reading of a book of the Torah (which happens five times a year, once for each book --- Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), it is customary to call out Chazak chazak v'nitchazek! / חזק  חזק  ונתחזק/ Strength, strength, and let us be strengthened!  
Next week, we begin reading from Bamidbar, the Book of Numbers.

[adapted from Teaching Torah: A Treasury of Insights and Activites, by Sorel Goldberg Loeb and Barbara Binder Kadden]

Rabbi Marna Sapsowitz

(601) 281-8340