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Temple Beth El

Offering Conservative Jewish worship since 1935

83 Chestnut Street/POBox 383
Oneonta, NY 13820
Phone: (607) 432-5522

January 2017


During Chanukah, we read the end of the story of Joseph.  At the beginning of Joseph’s story, we learn that he tells of his gifts of insight without any apparent thought or purpose.  Time and again his ego causes him to be brought low; each time he learns a little more about himself and his place in the world.  Eventually, through many ups and downs, Joseph’s life teaches him that his insight into dreams and their interpretation is a gift that has been given to him, reflective not of his own greatness, but of the generosity of the Divine, who placed these gifts within him to serve his people.

In Joseph’s ascent from the dungeon to the greatness of being second only to Pharaoh, Pharaoh says to Joseph, “I have had a dream, but no one can interpret it. Now I have heard it said of you that for you to hear a dream is to tell its meaning.” Joseph answers Pharaoh:   “Not I! God will see to Pharaoh’s welfare.”

A Chassidic teacher, Rabbi Gedaliah Druin, once taught me that true humility is not about making ourselves as lowly as possible.  True humility is the understanding that the gifts of heart and mind that we receive are gifts that were given to us to help make the world a better place.  True humility is recognizing and fulfilling our obligation to use our spiritual and material gifts for their highest purpose at every opportunity, appreciating that they are gifts that we received that we are to use to serve others, not something that makes us superior to them.  Joseph rises and grows from lording it over his brothers to the understanding that all that unfolded was for the purpose of serving life.  He is brought down from his pedestal so that he can serve a higher purpose.

Our study of Mussar this month focuses on “Anavah”, humility.  True humility calls on us to occupy our share of the space, no more and no less.  It calls on us to use our gifts, skills, talents and abilities to serve the community, while allowing space for others to do the same.  I call on each of us to look within, to see if we are doing enough to contribute our gifts and skills to the community in ways that sustain it and make it better, to see if we can do more, or in certain rare cases, if we should do less to allow space for others.  Without the contributions of each member and friend of our community, we cannot sustain ourselves.  Are we all stepping up to the degree that we can?

Mussar continues to be the topic of our Saturday Lunch and Learn sessions. This practice helps us to be the best versions of ourselves and become more of the solution to a troubled world.  Please do consider joining the group.  Lunch and Learn meets on Saturday January 14th and 28th at noon.  Please bring a non-meat, non-shellfish dish for yourself or to share.  Email me to receive the handouts in advance.

Torah Study meets on Saturday January 14th and 28th.  Coffee and Schmooze starts at 9:00 am; we begin our studies at 9:30 am. Shabbat Services take place on January 13th at 7:30 PM, and at 6:00 PM on January 27th, followed by our monthly potluck dinner at 7:00 PM.   We are in need of more “potluck people” to participate in set-up and clean-up.  Please let Ken know if you can participate.

As always, you can reach me with questions and concerns at  I look forward to seeing you soon!!

Kol tuv (wishing you all goodness),
Rabbi Molly Karp