Jewish Community Center

Opening Doors to Spirituality, Social Consciousness, and Community A Friendly Egalitarian Conservative Congregation

Shabbat Chukat

Numbers 19:1-22:1
Candle Lighting time 8:12 p.m.

This week’s Torah reading, Parashat Hukkat, makes us confronts death. We shall read about Miriam’s and Aaron’s death and we know how much they meant to the Jewish people. Because of Miriam’s merit according to the Midrash, a well followed the Israelite camp providing them with water. When she died the well disappeared. Aaron was a pursuer of peace and was mourned by all of Israel. The Torah portion begins for the laws of the red heifer whose ashes can make somebody ritually ready after being contaminated by a corpse. It ends with the military victory over King Og of Bashan and Sichon king of the Amorites. Although the Torah doesn’t tell us the human cost of that war, we know from our history that even in victory we mourn the death of our soldiers who never made it home again.


By reading about those deaths we are forced to confront our own mortality.  I like to share something that my friend and colleague Rabbi Steven Saltzman of blessed memory wrote:


“Judaism doesn’t teaches how to avoid pain and sorrow; it teaches us how to stand up to with without being broken by it. How to live in a world were painful tragic things happen, and still affirm it to be God’s world….


“None of us wants to feel that, at the end of his days, he will have passed through the world and left no trace behind, that he has had no real impact on the world. We would like to justify our existence, to stake our claim so some sort of immortality, and some remarkable achievement that will leave the world different for having been part of it. And yet, what can we do? Very few, if any, of us will write a book that we reread 20 years from now. It is not likely that any of us in this room today will come up with a medical discovery that will save lives, or an invention that will enrich lives. Who of us will have a bridge, a street, a building named after him?


“But Judaism speaks to the secret yearning of ours, and says that it is possible. It is within the power of everyone of us to be a memorable person, to live a significant and impressive life. Judaism offers us not only the secrets of life, but the secret of immortality, a living beyond our appointed years-how to be the kind of parent who will be remembered with words of blessing, how to be a friend who won’t easily be forgotten, how to be the kind a neighbor whose impact on the community will remain even after he is gone from the scene.


“Anyone’s life can be fashioned into a spiritual masterpiece. The equivalent of sainthood is not reserved for small group of unusual souls were separate from the rest of society. Sainthood, that is, a life a spiritual excellence, is the prerogative of every normal husband or wife, parent, working person, anyone who takes life seriously you don’t have to have a particular talent for religion to be a spiritual remarkable person.” (From Yom Kippur Readings edited by Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins, page 199)


When we meet our Maker in 120 years God won’t ask us why we weren’t like Aaron or Miriam. God only asks of us that we fashion our lives that we make our little corner of the world a little bit better, a little bit brighter, and a little bit cleaner. God only desires of us to become the person we already aspire to be.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Greene


PS We are trying restart our Friday night Kabbalat service at 7 PM. We successfully have had services the first two weeks of June. We would like to keep the momentum going throughout the summer. We have several members saying Kaddish and would appreciate the opportunity to do so here at Marathon. If you're willing to help us make a minyan this Friday night, please contact me either by phone or by email.


Friday night 7:00 p.m.
Shabbat 9:30 a.m.


Don't forget about the taxi service Marathon provides-a free wide to and from the synagogue. For more information call the synagogue office.




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