Sunday, September 30, 2012

Now Batting for the Miami Marlins...

I love good news!  Hopefully  by now, many of you have followed the story I first published here right before Rosh Hashanah about baseball player Adam Greenberg and now exactly two weeks later I have some good news to report.  As you may recall Adam Greenberg was a rookie in the major leagues back in 2005.  At his very first at bat, and on his very first pitch he was struck in the head with the pitch and hasn't played in the majors since then.  A determined soul, he got back into the batting cage and has rehabilitated himself in such a way that he's probably in better shape now than he was then.  Due to a technicality, his plate appearance in 2005 was never recorded as an at bat and thus a grassroots campaign was begun on his behalf to give him one official at bat.  Just the other day, the Miami Marlins granted Adam this opportunity and on Tuesday night, Adam will have an at bat as the Marlins face the Mets.  You can watch the game here online for free at the MLB site!

So Rabbi Lenke, what's your fascination with this story?  Is it Jewish?  Is he?  Yes and yes.
Adam Greenberg was raised at Temple Beth Tikvah in Madison, CT.  But that's not all.  
On one hand this is a great story about second chances, faith, hope and desire, and yet on the other hand it is a great example of teshuvah.  Why teshuvah?  When Greenberg was wearing that Cubs uniform on that memorable day, Chicago was facing the Marlins, and now it is the Marlins who are giving Greenberg the moment he has dreamed of his entire life.  So stay tuned.  There are happy endings.  Sometimes where you least expect to find them.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Batter Up!

Shanah Tovah! Tonight, with Jews all around the world we will usher in another new year. What do we hope 5773 will bring? Each new year brings the possibility of fresh starts, new beginnings and second chances and while I think most often we focus these changes on ourselves more than we do on others,I think that is often the intent. This is a time of introspection.  This year however, I would like to share with you an opportunity to do something for another person, a fellow Jew, and this very well might be the easiest thing you've ever done. It costs nothing and the rewards for him will be like the MasterCard commercial...priceless.

I recently read a story about Adam Greenberg, and I've been fascinated by his story.On July 9, 2005, Adam Greenberg made it to the big leagues.  He was on the roster of the Chicago Cubs, and like Cub fans believed in the potential of the Cubs. In the ninth inning facing the Florida Marlins, Greenberg was called to pinch hit by Cubs' Manager Dusty Baker. It would be the first and only time he stepped up to the plate in the major leagues.

On the very first pitch, Greenberg was struck in the back of his head with a 92 mile an hour fastball. This resulted in a major concussion, and a devastating and immediate end to his dream as a major leaguer. According to the rules of Major League Baseball,because he was hit by the pitch, there is no record of Adam Greenberg getting an official at bat in the bigs, but only a plate appearance.

Over the past 7 years, Adam has been recuperating, has never given up and remains as focused as ever to return the plate at least one more time, and this is where you, your friends and family members come in. Thanks to self described "longtime baseball fanatic" named Matt Liston, we all can help Adam achieve his goal. He created a website called and with enough signatures on this petition it is believed that the Chicago Cubs would give Greenberg his official one at bat at the end of their final home stand this season.

Time is of the essence here. For many of us baseball has left a sour taste in our mouths this year. Let's change that! If there were ever a time for second chances, the High Holy Days provide that time.

So please, visit the website. and watch the moving video, but more importantly sign on and encourage others to do the same.

Let's give Adam Greenberg his second chance!

Friday, September 14, 2012

10 Questions for 10 Days of Reflection in 5773

Rabbi Todd Markley
As this Shabbat approaches, and with it the anticipation of our Rosh Hashanah celebrations which begin on Sunday evening, we can't help but look forward with hope and excitement to a fresh new year ahead.  Interestingly, however, the Biblical name for this holiday was not Rosh Hasnahah - literally, "the head of the year" - but rather, Yom Hazikaron - a day of remembrance.  It is telling that just as we are focusing our sights on the future, on a whole new year with limitless possibilities, we are invited to remember our past as well.  No doubt, it is our past that is supposed to inform our future vision, our goals for self improvement and self realization, in the year ahead.

But this is challenging.  Quite frankly, I can't remember what I had for breakfast yesterday morning (though, our daughter Mia tells me that I had cereal, and she's usually right about these sorts of things).  Am I really supposed to be able to remember all the way back to this time last year?  What were the goals I set for myself then?  What was my reality as 5772 was arriving?  About what was I excited, anxious, concerned?  What was I trying to work on then, and how did I do at achieving those goals over these past twelve months? 

While the rapidly developing technology in our lives brings with it the potential for both blessing and curse, I have discovered an online tool that has made this process of cheshbon hanefesh - an annual accounting of my soul - much more meaningful for those of us who have a challenging time recalling last year's goals and resolutions.  Last year, Ellen Dietrick, our Director of Early Childhood Learning, suggested that I visit  I created a free username and password, and during the Ten Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I was invited to answer one question each day.  Biggies like "Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?" or "Is there something that you wish you had done differently this past year? Alternatively, is there something you're especially proud of from this past year?"  Each day I shared real and heartfelt reflections on the question of the day.  Going through that process itself was renewing, cathartic, and transformative for me, but that's not even the best part.  The website then "locked my answers away in their secure vault" for an entire year, and this past week they e-mailed last year's answers back to me.  I had an immediate and real time reminder of where I was one year ago - how I've grown and how I haven't, where I've achieved and where I have not.  Soon, a new set of questions will begin to arrive, and this year's reflection process, informed by last year's, will begin again.  Whether you use the as a tool or not (and I recommend it highly!) I encourage each of us to engage in a similar ritual as we welcome a new year.  As Rabbis Byron Sherwin and Seymour Cohen teach:

"One of the most popular and regularly observed rituals in America is the annual medical checkup.  Each year, millions of people are examined, tested, and evaluated in order to determine the state of their physical health and well-being...When sickness is diagnosed, a regimen is prescribed to help restore health.  What may be ascertained during the examination period can lead to a change of life-style for the rest of the year, indeed, for the remainder of one's life.  During the High Holiday season, Jews undergo a kind of 'spiritual checkup.'" (Sherwin and Cohen, How to be a Jew, p. 59)

As you engage in your own rituals of spiritual checkup, may your memories of this past year inspire new growth, strengthened resolve, and fresh hope for the upcoming months of 5773.

Michele, Mia, and Adam join me in wishing you and your family a peaceful Shabbat and a new year that is filled with blessings and sweetness!

Shabbat Shalom v'L'shanah Tovah,


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Kaddish As Part of Our Caring Community

By David Berg

According to the song we sing as we carry Torah around the synagogue, the song taken from Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), the world is based on three principles: the Torah, worship and the performance of good deeds. The study of Torah and worship lead us to the performance of good deeds, and through these good deeds we create a good name. Our good name brings honor to our forebears, from whom we received our names.

In the beginning pages of Gates of Prayer, there is a writing that says, essentially, that a people will survive only if it remembers its ancestors. And so we have survived for millennia. We can remember them in many ways, in our prayer (Eloheinu v’Elohay avotainu v’emotanu – “God of our fathers and our mothers”), offering the Yizkor prayer on Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Passover, and Shavuot, as well as the reciting of the Kaddish during the initial days of mourning and on the anniversaries of their deaths. Interestingly, although the Kaddish prayer is associated with death and its remembrance, there is no mention of death. And although it is a doxology, a praising of G-d, there is no mention of G-d’s name.

The Kaddish prayer originated early in the Common Era, and was originally recited at the conclusion of a sermon, the study of a specific portion of Torah or other course of study. In addition to glorifying G-d’s name, it praised the teacher-rabbi as well as the students and the students’ students. The language of the Kaddish, like the language of sermons back then, was Aramaic, the common language of the Jews of that era. Towards the end of the first century C.E. or beginning of the second, the portion of the Kaddish “al Yisrael…” praising the people of Israel, the rabbi(s) and the students was omitted and the remainder became known as the “mourner’s Kaddish’, the form with which we are most familiar.

There are also other forms of the Kaddish, among them, the Chatzi Kaddish, (the “half Kaddish”) commonly occurring as punctuation for the service, and yet another form of the Kaddish that traditionally is recited only at the grave.

For the past twenty years or so, Temple Beth Shalom has been blessed with a lay led minyan which meets on Monday and Thursday mornings at 7:00 am. This group fulfills all three of the basic principles mentioned above. We read from Torah, we pray, and we provide a venue for those in mourning or commemorating the anniversary of a loved one’s death to recite the Kaddish in the presence of a minyan, as is traditional.

Our weekday minyan is a community that is open to all. We have had temple members and non-temple members join us in our service. From time to time, people who have come to recite Kaddish have stayed on as frequent members of our group. We invite you to join us, whether occasionally or regularly, to help others fulfill their mourning obligations, to perform the three principles on which the world rests, and to become part of our community.

We look forward to welcoming you. May the memory of your own loved ones continue to be for a blessing.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11, 2001

On this day of remembrance, I thought I would share the benediction I wrote for the an interfaith town wide gathering shortly after 9/11. 

As we prepare for this new year 5773, each in our own way, let us never forget the importance of memory, of witnessing, and of being there for one another in times of need.   May each of you have a new year filled with God's blessings.

Eloheinu v’elohei avoteinu v’imoteinu
Our God, God of our mothers and fathers,
Our names for You are many,
we who have come here are
from different traditions,
but our need for You is the same.

We thank You
for giving us the courage and strength
to come together tonight
in worship and solidarity.

Through our faith in You,
we are beginning to understand
what it means to love our neighbor
as ourselves,
as we mourn together as a nation.

We have marveled
at the heroic efforts of firefighters,
police officers, and otherwise ordinary people,
and for them and to You we are most grateful.

We have seen how important
a phone call home can be,
and we will try to tell those we love
just how much,
from this day forth.

We have learned that what we are
is defined not by what we do,
but by who, and what, and how we love.

When our hearts are tempted
by revenge and hate,
turn us toward the paths
of compassion and love. 

When we are consumed by our anger,
help us to see the humanity
that has been exhibited across our glorious country.

We who have been created in Your image
thank and bless You for keeping us safe.

Help us now, to return feelings of safety
to those in our community
who are feeling so lost and alone.

To love You is to love each other,
to work to make our lives better.
To love You is to love the world
You created, and to work to perfect it.
To love You is to love
dreams of peace and joy that illumine all of us,
and to bring that vision to life.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Our TBS Chavurah

When I was first asked to compose a few paragraphs describing our Chavurah* Experience over the past 2 years, I was unsure of what to write. Should I simply mention the shared dinners, excursions to Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Needham for enlightenment and enjoyment together as well as our sacred time at the temple?

Then one member suggested a group photo, a moment that, I was thinking, would clarify the special relationship our four couples continue to develop. I am thrilled that the Selichot Dinner, Learning, and Service last evening provided me/us once again with the opportunity to spend time with these dear, although recently made, friends.

We share some obvious facets of life’s journeys = we are all post – 60 years of age and share a deep love of Judaism and Temple Beth Shalom. Still, meeting the first time was a bit awkward; forging new friendships in the autumn of one’s life may not be as easy or comfortable as meeting new acquaintances in our younger years. However, from the time we first met for dinner at the Weinberg’s home in 2010, there were intertwining kindred spirits especially due to the apparent and appreciated candor and care of this newly created group. We have not only shared these positive times, but also opened our arms to one another during the unhappy moments of the illnesses and deaths of elderly parents and beloved friends. We have shared the triumph and wonder of the birth of a grandson and the burgeoning career of a daughter. Together we have examined beautiful creations of Judaica and Art while some have listened to Oldies on the Boston Esplanade. Two husbands have spent work day lunch times together after discovering the Cambridge proximity of their workplaces. Even summer afternoons swimming together have added more layers to our ever growing bonds of friendship.

As the New Year Season returns once again, each couple has expressed a keen interest in finding more opportunities to learn and play together. Looking at our photo from Selichot, you may not notice the subtleties – one woman’s hand lightly and sweetly placed on another woman’s hand or the genuine camaraderie and glowing warmth among our eight Chavurah members. We are no longer strangers; in fact, we are proud and pleased that we have taken this important step in our middle years to expand and extend ourselves through the true meaning of Chavurah.

No matter in what stage of life you find yourself, consider taking this courageous and fulfilling plunge through membership in a Chavurah.

Cheryl Weisman-Cohen

*The word chavurah means a group of friends. In this program, people that sign up are matched to other families/couples from the temple to spend time with, either at temple programs or outside of the temple. It's a way to make the community smaller and more friendly. Interested in joining a Chavurah? Look for registration materials this fall. (For more information, contact Jenny Small, Co-Chair of Member Relations, 781-559-3153 or

At Selichot services on September 8, 2012
back row = Bob Lurie, Marc Weinberg, Michael Cohen, Neil Kushner
front row = Ann Lurie, Judy Weinberg, Cheryl Weisman-Cohen, Roz Kushner