Sign In Forgot Password

A Message From Rabbi Eligberg

Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my!
Bees, and giraffes, and elephants, oh my!
Whales, and leopards, and bison, oh my!
Monkeys, and birds, and rhinos, oh my!

As we approach this year’s celebration of Earth Day the number of species in decline globally is growing exponentially. Environmental scientists warn that we are amidst the largest period of species extinction in the last 60 million years. Through the ages of our biosphere, between one and five species go extinct annually. Today, scientists estimate that we are now losing species at over 1,000 times the normal rate, with multiple extinctions happening daily. Species are disappearing from our planet even before we can learn about them or the benefits they bring to our environment.

Habitat destruction, exploitation, and climate change are driving the loss of half of the world’s wild animal population. Of the world’s 504 primate species close to 60% are threatened with extinction, and 75% of primate species are in severe population decline. Of the world’s bird species 40% are in decline, and 1 in 8 is threatened with global extinction. A recent study projects that if the current decline in lizard populations continues, 40% of all lizard species will be extinct by 2080.

Across the globe, more than 650,000 marine mammals are trapped by, or seriously injured by, fishing gear annually. Over the past 20 years, around 75% of all toothed whale species, such as dolphins, porpoises, and 65% of baleen whale species (humpback, blue), and 65% of pinniped species (sea lions) have been affected through bycatch in fishing operations globally.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, writing in the first half of the nineteenth century, articulated an understanding of the nature of creation as well as our role in the world.

“It was not with just one word2, one summons of creation, that the Almighty brought this world into being, the whole of it and every detail; for if it had been created in this manner, everything would be directly dependent upon G-d's Word for its existence, life, and functioning. Instead, He called forth His world into existence in ten stages; He created an abundance of forces, intermingled and functioning closely together, according to His Word - and then He separated them, so that each had to sustain the other: none was henceforth able to exist and function by itself, but had to be sustained by its fellow creatures and, in turn, had to help them exist and function. In this way everything contributes according to its strength, however much or little, to the existence of the whole; and if it destroys a fellow creature, it robs itself of what it needs for its own existence.”

The Nineteen Letters - Letter Three

Hirsch expresses an essential truth about our interdependence with all of creation’s diversity, the vital function of each element therein, and the potential for self-inflicted harm. Hirsch’s exhortation should be our watchword as we witness the massive impact that human beings have on our collective home. Fossil fuels (oil, coal, and natural gas) are burned as a result of things we do every day to eat, travel, and live in our homes. Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane, are released by the burning of those fossil fuels.

The first stanza of a Talking Heads song ends with, “I'm an ordinary guy (Pause) Burning down the house.” We are each of us ordinary individuals, going about our ordinary activities, and simultaneously feeding the fire that is burning down our global house. One of the unintended discoveries made this year of global pandemic was how quickly and significantly our more limited use of fossil fuels allowed for environmental healing. The periods of necessary shutdown highlighted both the impact we have on the earth and that it still has an incredible ability to heal.

In our relationship with the earth and the environment, the return to normal cannot simply be a return to normal, to the ordinary practices of the past. Just as in many other aspects of life, emerging into the post-pandemic world demands that we internalize all the lessons learned regarding what we value most and what we need to prioritize in all our relationships, including our relationship with Mother Earth.

B’vracha –

Rabbi David M. Eligberg

1 Samson Raphael Hirsch, the eminent German rabbi and religious thinker, born in Hamburg in1808 (died 1888) and received a general as well as a traditional Jewish education. Hirsch studied classical languages, history, and philosophy at the University of Bonn. Hirsch’s first pulpit was in Oldenburg, where he served from1830 to 1846 his community soon becoming the model for communities strict in adherence to Orthodox practices, hence the term neo-Orthodoxy by which this tendency is known. His early work, The Nineteen Letters of Ben Uziel, was written during this period.

2 This passage from the Mishnah serves as Hirsch’s starting point. “By ten acts of speech was the world made. And what does Scripture mean [by having G-d say “say” ten times]? And is it not so that with a single act of speech [the world] could have been brought into being? But it is to exact punishment from the wicked, who destroy a world which was created through ten acts of speech, and to secure a reward for the righteous, who sustain a world which was created through was created through ten acts of speech.” Avot 5:1

A Message From Cantor Marx

This week's (April 17) message:

 

Tazria-Metzora is an interesting Torah Portion at different levels. From the less than positive consequences of the miracle of live, giving birth and the impurity status that it creates, to skin maladies, garment and stone discolorations, and laws of menstruation.

During the temple period a person who has shown symptoms of tzara'at, had to be seen by a priest. If the priest deemed it suspicious, the man or woman would be declared impure and embarked on a period of quarantine for up to two weeks.

A 2-week quarantine is a very popular treatment for all those who nowadays have contracted the Corona virus. Lucky are those who only need to be isolated from the rest of society for a 2-week period. I just came back from Brazil where the Covid situation is dire. So many people are dying while waiting for a bed in many of the overly crowded hospitals.

One thing that I saw in Brazil that I believe the whole world should emulate, is that they encourage those getting the vaccine to bring along 1 kilo of food that will be donated to those less fortunate that are food insecure. They have collected tons and more tons of food that are immediately distributed. We all can make a difference and alleviate those are struggling so much. Please consider donating to the many organizations who are helping the millions affected by hunger and food insecurity.

 

Last Week's Messages

A Tidbit of Torah - Parshat Shmini 5781

They brought to the front of the Tent of Meeting the things that Moses had commanded,
and the whole community came forward and stood before the Lord.                               Vayikra/Leviticus 9:5

Rabbi Avraham ben Mordecai Azulai 1 begins his comment by first citing Rabbi Isaac Luria who wrote, “Every person is obligated to take upon themselves the positive command, “You shall love your fellow person as yourself” as a prelude to prayer.” Azulai then cites a teaching by Chazal, our ancient sages of blessed memory, from the Talmud stating that, “the term Amidah always means prayer”. Viewing our verse through these twin lenses Azulai reads the phrase, “and the whole community came forward” not in its literal sense of approaching the entrance to the Mishkan but rather as expressing that the people of Israel drew closer to each other, that they not only stood next to each other, but they stood with each other, supportive and connected in a deep, soulful manner.

Rabbi Azulai’s understanding of our verse resonates especially forcefully as we commemorate Yom HaShoah today and begin to look towards next week’s observance of Yom HaZikaron and celebration of Yom Haatzmaut the next day. These days are truly moments when we are drawn to each other, supporting each other as we remember the horrors of the Shoah, the sacrifices made in creating and protecting the State of Israel, and celebrate the remarkable achievements of the Jewish state. These days push us to look past to the real differences which exist within the Jewish world to see instead the souls of the Jewish people with whom we share a commitment to memorializing our shared history and celebrating the ongoing process of building the Jewish homeland as a reflection of our long-held values and dreams.

May the closeness these days evoke, the feelings of soulful connection, remain with us throughout the year so that we can stand with each, and for each other.

Shabbat Shalom –

Rabbi David M. Eligberg

1 Rabbi Avraham ben Mordecai Azulai (c. 1570–1643) was a Kabbalistic author and biblical commentator. Born in Fez, Morocco Azulai moved to Palestine in 1599 and settled in Hebron. Written sometime after 1619 his Kabalistic work Chesed le-Abraham (Mercy to Abraham) was published after the Azulai's death by his student Meshullam Zalman ben Abraham Berak, in Amsterdam, in 1685.

 

 

Rabbi recently appeared on Albany Street, click below for audio:

AlbanyStreetPart1-3-28-21

AlbanyStreetPart2-3-28-21

 


In this week’s Torah Portion Shmini, we read about Nadav and Abihu’s death after offering a “strange fire” to God. In their case they were dealing directly with the ultimate Judge, and their “testing the waters” ended up tragically.

As parents we often see our kids testing the waters. We tested the waters when young. Luckily for us, and our kids, our parents exercised and exercise self-control. Humans have been pushing the boundaries from the get-go, Nadav and Abihu were not the first ones.

In judging Nadab and Abihu for their strange fire, God was making a point to all the other priests who would serve in His tabernacle—and later, in the temple—and to us, as well. Since this was the first time sacrifices were being offered on the altar and Israel was getting to know God better, when Aaron’s sons were disobedient and profane, God displayed displeasure in no uncertain terms.

Most of us only learn when we go through experiences ourselves. Being told what not to do, only encourages some of us to do it anyway – testing the waters. It is in our DNA to expand knowledge and explore, we only move forward when our curiosity takes us to new places. Let our inquisitiveness, interest, spirit of enquiry, perhaps nosiness, lead human kind to a better and more prosper future for all.

Fri, April 16 2021 4 Iyyar 5781