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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

November 2019

Dear Congregation,

By the time you receive this newsletter the High Holiday season will be over but it is still not too late to wish everyone a happy healthy prosperous and blessed new year and may we all be inscribed in the book of life for many years to come. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed spending this first High Holiday season together with you and I hope we will be together for many years.

I hope everyone enjoyed our High Holiday services and feels spiritually uplifted and optimistic about the New Year. I hope our members came away with renewed strength for the New Year and determination to continue building and growing our congregation. It would be particularly wonderful if more of our members made a renewed commitment to come to synagogue more often during the course of the year. Often members who have to say Kaddish are unable to do so. Members should feel a responsibility towards each other to see to it that people who have to say Kaddish are able to do so. Unfortunately, at some point, everyone faces this situation.

We will be starting the re-reading of the Torah with the book of Genesis, which is an amazing series of stories that have consequences positive and negative still affecting us today. Every Shabbat when I am here, we will have a service from 9:30 to around 11:00 followed by a discussion of the Torah reading, followed by an adult education class at 1:00 PM during which we will be studying Jewish Mysticism (Kabalah).

The Rabbis ask why, if we celebrate the giving of the Torah at Sinai on the festival of Shavuot, do we actually complete and restart the cycle of annual Torah readings on Simchat Torah? They answer that in order to restart the cycle of Torah readings we first have to prepare ourselves through the Ten Days of Repentance that starts with Rosh Hashanah and culminates with the holiest day of the year Yom Kippur; a time when we reflect upon our short comings and work to improve on them. It is only when we have gone thru this process of reflection that we are ready and receptive to start the cycle of Torah readings and to appreciate its teachings that can enlighten us each Shabbat.

Torah and Shabbat are the constitution and backbone of Judaism. It is the Torah and Shabbat which serves as the foundation and binding force bringing Jews together. It is our commitment to the Torah and Shabbat that makes us one people, it is the source of our life as a people, it is what has allowed us to survive these two thousand years and it is the cycle of reading on each Shabbat that brings us together as a community of learners and worshipers.

Rabbi Hirschfeld