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1102 East Lasalle Avenue
South Bend, IN, 46617
United States

(574) 234-8584

Sinai Synagogue – an integral part of the South Bend community since 1932.

Sinai Synagogue is a proud part of the Masorti (Conservative) Movement, a dynamic blend of our inclusive, egalitarian approach and a commitment to Jewish tradition.

Sermons

Liberation is More than Freedom

Steve Lotter

In the Leo Lionni classic children’s story Frederick, a community of mice work hard to get ready for the winter by storing up food. But Frederick just sits and contemplates,
he seems to be loafing. He keeps telling his fellow mice that he is doing something “I’m soaking in words, and colors”. Winter comes, they eat all their stored rations, and have to subsist on crumbs for the last weeks before spring. Cold and hungry, they turn to Frederick. “Where are the words and colors you stored up?” and he sings to them of the good times to come, with images so real they can taste them. Frederick assists them to get through the last days before spring comes. Imagination is a powerful antidote to despair.

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Shabbat Zachor - The Ominous Responsibility of Zachor Al Tishkach

Steve Lotter

I know that people think I get too political in my sermons but as they say “You can’t make this stuff up”.  Today is Shabbat Zachor, it is the Shabbat that comes right before Purim and the word Zachor comes from the special verses in the Torah we read today:  Zachor et asher asah Lekha Amalek.  Remember what Amalek did to you.  We remember the cruel and vicious attack of Amalek and his tribe just after Israel left Egypt on this Shabbat because Haman the failed genocidal enemy in the Purim story is a descendant of Amalek. 

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Shabbat Mishpatim - How to Make Sense of Slavery in the Torah

Steve Lotter

I have been reading Eric Foner’s comprehensive history of the Reconstruction period in American history.  What led me to this was a biography of Ulysses S Grant and his frustrations as President to enact the promise of Reconstruction.  Soon after the end of the Civil War, Reconstruction permitted the same hierarchical power structure to remain in place from before the war.

This was partially due to entrenched racism and partially due to economics. 

The end of the Civil War and the Emancipation of black slaves led to an economic challenge:  How to create a new economy with free persons labor?  Many former slaves on principle refused to return to plantation work.  They wanted their own piece of land and to work for themselves.  But they sought to be subsistence farmers, living off their own land.  But the economy of the South, which was devastated after the war, had depended on cash crops like cotton and tobacco.  Northern textile mills depended on the continued development of the cotton crop as much as Southerners did.  What ensued over the next decades were active efforts to reinstate the older power structure in a way to replace the now formally illegal system of slavery.   Fifty years after the Emancipation Proclamation, the life of African Americans was still constrained and dreadful, even in the North where race riots occurred repeatedly. 

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Shabbat Yitro - The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants?

Steve Lotter

Woody Allen is in the news again and not because he is making movies worth watching.  Charges of child molestation by his adopted daughter have arisen again in the wake of the MeToo movement.  In the wake of the original charges over 25 years ago, he was interviewed by Walter Isaacson then of Time magazine.  The charges were made in the midst of a custody battle between Allen and his former lover Mia Farrow after Allen had begun an affair with Soon Yi Previn, one of Farrows adopted children before she began her relationship with Allen.  In the interview, Isaacson asks, Even though Soon Yi was not your adopted daughter, did you not feel that it would be disruptive for your biological son and your adopted children who saw Soon Yi as a sister, for their dad to date their sister?

To which Allen uttered the famous line paraphrasing Emily Dickinson, “The Heart wants what it wants.  It isn’t logical”.

The heart may want what it wants but how does desiring something justify it?  Isn’t desiring something that is not yours in itself a transgression of the last of the 10 commandments? Thou shalt not covet?

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Shabbat Beshallach - The Amalek Within Us

Steve Lotter

The Torah does not dwell too long on the great moment of liberation, the miraculous experience of the Exodus.  As soon as the people have sung their song of deliverance we read how they are ready to go back to Egypt because they have no food, no water and they are attacked by cruel Amalekites.

However victory over the Amalekites galvanizes them.  There is nothing like pulling together to fight a common enemy that helps a group create a sense of cohesion and purpose. 

After the victory however we note that there is something different about this enemy.  The Lord said to Moses, “Inscribe this in a document as a reminder, and read it aloud to Joshua:   I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven”! …The Lord will be at war with Amalek throughout the generations.”   (Ex;17;14-16)  Hundreds of years of enslavement to the Egyptians and we have no recorded statement that Israel must be at war with the Egyptians forever.  In fact just the opposite we are told not to abhor an Egyptian for we were strangers in their land! (Deut. 23:8) But the Amalekites we must fight forever and eradicate. Why?

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Shabbat Bo - The Dreamers and Us

Steve Lotter

In this morning’s reading there is one verse that I have always found curious.  

And the LORD had disposed the Egyptians favorably toward the people, and they let them have their request; thus they stripped the Egyptians.

The word that the JPS translation renders as “stripped” - VaYinatzlu – comes from a meaning of ‘delivering from’ or ‘removing from’ according the Biblical Brown-Driver-Briggs lexicon. So, in its causative form, it can mean delivering from enemies – that is ‘to save’. Or, it can mean to take away, or plunder. Most  commentaries agree that, in this case, the meaning of the verse “Vayinatzlu et Mitzrayim” is that as the Israelites leave, they take spoil of the Egyptians, they plunder, or as Rashi explains, “they emptied them out”. 

In the kind of movies that I enjoy, where the bad guys are evil, so evil that the viewer wishes the most horrific punishment and suffering on them and is rewarded with such defeat over evil - think Lord of the Rings where the Gollum ends up melting in the river of fire -  a scene in which after generations of slavery the Jews get revenge by cleaning out the Egyptians must have been very satisfying, especially if you were a Jew living in a climate of oppression close to slavery in medieval Europe.

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Shabbat VaAyreh - Heschel and King: Their Common Theology

Steve Lotter

Abraham Joshua Heschel’s yahrtzeit is the 18th of Tevet and this year fell on January 5th.  This weekend is the observance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday.  In between we read the first two parashiyot of Exodus.  The confluence of these events encourages us to reflect on the legacy of these two great spiritual giants and their very special relationship.

Each of these men held the other in greatest esteem, both saw in the other the role of the Biblical prophet declaiming God’s love and demands to his human creations.

“Where does God dwell in America today?” asked Heschel before introducing King at the Rabbinical Assembly’s convention in 1968. “... Where in America today do we hear a voice like the voice of the prophets of Israel? Martin Luther King is a sign that God has not forsaken the United States of America. God has sent him to us. His presence is the hope of America. His mission is sacred, his leadership of supreme importance to every one of us.”

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Acting with compassion and kindness

Steve Lotter

In November, Lizzie and I and about 30 members of the Jewish community were guests at the home of Barbara and Dave Lerman at a communal dinner for members of the Muslim and Jewish communities. About 30 members of the Islamic Society of Michiana were invited as well. The dinner was the initiative of Bob Feferman our Community Relations Council and Haidar Alkeladar of the Iraqi Refugee community. At the dinner, before I led the motzi, I mentioned how Abraham, who is the father of both the Jewish and Islamic peoples, was noted for his quality of compassion and kindness. When he welcomed the three visitors into his home and placed hospitality as one of the outstanding acts of gemilut Hasadim, he was not aware that the result of his and Sarah’s efforts at hospitality and kindness would be a promise of a child, Yitzhak who would be born a year later. I concluded my remarks saying that when we break bread together, we break down barriers, and when acting with kindness toward others, productive and creative results occur.

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Shabbat VaYagish - Joseph: Savior or Exploiter of the Poor?

Steve Lotter

Sometimes the news events in a given week and the content of the weekly Torah portion are so closely linked that one wonders if it is a coincidence or the hidden hand of the Divine. That is, God offering rabbis a gift in order to write a last minute Davar Torah.

This week the Congress passed the most regressive tax reform package in US history.  It rewards corporations, many of which are already awash in cash, and the financial elite of this nation, who have seen their stock portfolios soar as the market’s bull run has continued unabated, with huge tax cuts.  Those who do not earn a wage but have the wherewithal to allow their money make money for them, benefit far more than those who work for a salary.  The middle class and the poor receive small and temporary relief, if they receive relief at all.  If you live in a high tax state, New York, or like my brother in Chicago,  this plan may raise a person’s taxes.   And to make these limited benefits even possible, Congress, led by the fiscal conservatives, have blown up our deficit by a trillion and a half dollars.  Some leaders behind this tax reform have been quite open that the end game of this is to starve the government so that Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid will have to be scrapped or privatized because the government will be broke.

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Shabbat Vayigash - Joseph: Savior or Exploiter of the Poor?

Steve Lotter

Sometimes the news events in a given week and the content of the weekly Torah portion are so closely linked that one wonders if it is a coincidence or the hidden hand of the Divine. That is, God offering rabbis a gift in order to write a last minute Davar Torah.

This week the Congress passed the most regressive tax reform package in US history.  It rewards corporations, many of which are already awash in cash, and the financial elite of this nation, who have seen their stock portfolios soar as the market’s bull run has continued unabated, with huge tax cuts.  Those who do not earn a wage but have the wherewithal to allow their money make money for them, benefit far more than those who work for a salary.  The middle class and the poor receive small and temporary relief, if they receive relief at all.  If you live in a high tax state, New York, or like my brother in Chicago,  this plan may raise a person’s taxes.   And to make these limited benefits even possible, Congress, led by the fiscal conservatives, have blown up our deficit by a trillion and a half dollars.  Some leaders behind this tax reform have been quite open that the end game of this is to starve the government so that Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid will have to be scrapped or privatized because the government will be broke.

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Shabbat Miketz - Hanukkah: Illuminating our Hopes

Steve Lotter

This Shabbat, Shabbat Miketz almost always falls during Hanukah and thus every year the Hanukkah story and the Joseph story become linked.  And while the details are very different, in our tradition it is Purim and the story of Esther which is seen as a kind of parallel to the Joseph story, there is a natural connection from the miracle aspects of both stories and the unexpected reversal of fortune in each tale.

In the Joseph story, Joseph is hated by his brothers, conspired against, sent into slavery and despite doing the right thing, keeps getting beaten down until his dream interpretive skills are appreciated by the Pharaoh.  In the Hanukkah story, the Jewish people are oppressed by a greater empire, forced to abandon their deepest religious practices until a small military force arouses the people to fight back and against all odds defeat the greater power.  And yet the legend tells us even then they seemed to be stymied in their efforts to consecrate the Holy Temple until a miracle occurs that affords them the time to prepare consecrated oil for the Temple menorah and resume the sacred rituals.

Both tales tell of the victory of light over darkness, in the metaphorical sense and in the case of Hanukkah, in a very literal sense as well.

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Sharing in the Sweetness of Giving

Steve Lotter

In numerous rabbinic midrashim we are told that the Messiah dwells among the beggars. This image is used as a literary device by the great Hebrew writer Shai Agnon in his short story ‘The Kerchief’. Agnon opens by mentioning the rabbinic tales of the Messiah as a leprous beggar sitting outside Jerusalem and how he wished to be the one who could save the Messiah by bandaging his sores. His father, an itinerant peddlar, returned from one trip with a beautiful kerchief for his mother. His mother wore it every Shabbat and festivals to cover her hair. On his bar mitzvah she gave it to him to keep his neck warm. On his way home from the synagogue, filled with joy at having become obligated to observe the mitzvot he runs into a beggar who is despised by the townspeople because of his filthy and sickly look. But the beggar is sitting on a heap of stones, changing the bandages of his sores.

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Sukkot: Beauty in G-d's World

Steve Lotter

This summer after we dropped off Hillel at school in Greensboro NC, Lizzie and I took a short vacation in Asheville NC.  Asheville is a funky little city, with at least three wonderful vegan restaurants, great music and absolutely beautiful forest.  It is also the home of the largest private home in the United States.  That would be the Biltmore estate, built over the course of six years from 1889-1895 by the grandson of the Vanderbilt empire, at the time one of the richest families in the country. In order to construct this monstrous mansion, the estate had its own brick factory, woodworking shop and a three-mile railway spur for transporting materials to the site.

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Yom Kippur: Who Are We Really?

Steve Lotter

Five years ago, Alice Collins Plebuch made a decision that would alter her future — or really, her past.

She sent away for a “just-for-fun DNA test.” When the tube arrived, she spit and spit until she filled it up to the line, and then sent it off in the mail. She wanted to know what she was made of.

Plebuch, now 69, already had a rough idea of what she would find. Her parents, both deceased, were Irish American Catholics who raised her and her six siblings with church Sundays and ethnic pride. But Plebuch wanted to know more about her dad’s side of the family. The son of Irish immigrants, Jim Collins had been raised in an orphanage from a young age, and his extended family tree was murky.

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Kol Nidre: Creating Our Own World to Come

Steve Lotter

On August 8 this year 5 weddings took place in a small village in Uganda which were attended by over 1500 people.  The event gathered politicians from the local council, government officials, and family and friends of all five couples who arrived from all over the country.  What was so special about this wedding that so many distinguished visitors came?  It was the first Jewish weddings in Uganda in anyone’s memory.

The Jewish community of Uganda is called the Abuyudaya.  They grew as a break away movement from Christianity that missionaries brought to Uganda.  In the early 20th century, their leaders’ reading of the Bible led them to believe that the Hebrew Testament was correct.  Within a hundred years, rabbis from the Conservative movement oversaw a formal conversion of the community and one of their members Gershom Sizomu was ordained from the Ziegler Rabbinical School in LA.  Another member of the Abuyudaya Shadrach Mugoya Levi is studying for the rabbinate at the Aleph Institute.  It was his wedding that instigated the grand celebration.

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Shabbat Shuvah Haazinu - What We Need to Forget

Steve Lotter

Every time I teach a class or organize a program or a discussion I keep all the copies of the materials and notes that I used.  I file them away somewhere because I am afraid that I will forget the lessons and insights that I had and I might just need them another day.  I then forget where I filed the materials.  And five, ten years go by, I have files and files all over the office, in cabinets behind the bima.  And I locate the files and say to myself, “What was this for?  Why did I keep this?”  So my fears of forgetting beget more forgetting.

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Rosh HaShanah Day 1: The Value of Prayer

Steve Lotter

The old wooden yeshiva building in the Polish shtetl had caught on fire. Students and rabbanim were running around like crazy trying to find water to put it out. There was total chaos as the afternoon wore on. Finally the Rosh Yeshiva, spying people running here and there, and the fire continuing to burn, shouted, Stop! Everyone froze. Don’t just do something! Davven Minha!

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Pouring New Meaning into Old Prayers

Steve Lotter

Rabbi Michael Friedland

As we begin our preparation for the Yamim Noraim it is worth taking a moment to consider our prayerbook, a book we will be spending quite a bit of time with during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The siddur as a whole is truly an intricate, well-constructed edifice in which each component leads to the next.

One example is the Shema where Sages tell us the order of the three paragraphs is essential. The first paragraph proclaims the Oneness of God and that God is the exclusive focus of our devotion. Paragraph two develops the idea of the importance of mitzvot. And the last paragraph speaks of one mitzvah, the tzitzit which remind us to do all the other mitzvot as well as the paradigmatic moment of redemption, God’s role in the Exodus from Egypt.

But what do we do with a prayer when we no longer believe in its theological underpinnings? Do we jettison it, do we change it, do we change ourselves- the prayer is correct my theology is skewed? The second paragraph of the Shema, ‘V'haya Im Shamoa’, besides emphasizing the role of mitzvot in Judaism, teaches a conventional theology accepted by the Bible and our Rabbinic ancestors but troubling for many moderns. The claim of the paragraph is that if we obey God's commandments, God will "grant the rain for your land in season...You shall gather in your new grain and wine and oil...and thus you shall eat your fill.” If we don't obey, God "will shut up the sky so there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its produce; and you will soon perish from the good land that the Lord is assigning to you".

This view assumes that God controls all of history and nature, which together form an integrated panorama. Therefore, God could and would use the natural processes to reward or punish human beings for their behavior.

But many of us find these views difficult to swallow at best, repugnant at worst. Based on our scientific knowledge of the atmosphere we have difficulty believing that the presence or absence of rain indicates Divine favor. The rabbis were also sensitive to this and spoke of the world pursuing its natural coarse. Nature seems totally oblivious to good and evil. Biology is not morality. That is, if a natural disaster hits or someone gets sick we do not look for the cause in the city’s or person's behavior.

One can hold or reject such a theology. But for the worshipper when one has to pray a prayer that promotes a religious theology that one does not accept, what does one do?

The notion of reward and punishment was so dubious to early American Reform Jews that they removed this paragraph from their prayer books. The Reconstructionist movement also dropped it from its prayer books. Mordecai Kaplan their founder and editor of their prayerbook, stated that he could not believe that “the process of meteorology is dependent on man's moral behavior". Clearly for these movements theological integrity was more important than tradition. They could not pray what they did not believe.

But lo and behold in the 1989 edition of the Reconstructionist prayer book the second paragraph of the Shema is back in! What happened to affect its return? Did the Reconstructionist get frum? No rather times change and today there is a new ecological consciousness. We are aware of the relationship between our deeds and the fate of the earth and its resources. It was no longer theologically unthinkable to believe that if we continued to abuse our earth, in effect to disobey God's commandments which demand that we as guests on this planet take care of our Host's earth, rain will not fall in its proper season, or the rain that comes will be polluted. Ecology is now a moral issue and this passage acquired new relevance.

Just as modern interpreters of Shakespeare do not erase his words because they come out of a social and cultural milieu different from ours but rather place them into different contexts and draw out new insights by changing the historical period of the drama or the ethnic makeup of the characters, so too we can find inexhaustible meaning in the rabbis’ arrangement of how we should speak to God.

For our ancestors living in the land of Israel rain was a great need and a prominent symbol of human dependency on God. A theology that suggests that God responds to human action seeks a God that is just and concerned. This God is not the God of the deists who believed God created the world and let it run according to its own laws. He is not the capricious god of Shakespeare’s King Lear: ‘As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport.’

This does not mean that we can readily defend such a Biblical theology in light of experience. But it is an idea we cannot live without. For human life to have meaning our actions must count and that is what this paragraph teaches us.

Another expression of our God and our tradition of what a powerful God means is located in the second blessing of the Amidah. In the Gevurot blessing we acknowledge that God is the most powerful force in the Universe, which is why we come to God to make petition. But the imagery offered as examples of Divine power are not blowing enemies to smithereens or crushing those who disobey. The examples are upholding the fallen and healing the sick, freeing the captive and bringing life to that which is lifeless. This concept is found in Deuteronomy: For the Lord, your God, is God supreme and Lord supreme, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who shows no favor and takes no bribe, but upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and befriends the stranger, providing him with food and clothing. You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

This is a lesson we need not only learn but also promote and teach to our leaders. True power is not bombast, it’s not cruelty and intimidation. Real power is the power that heals and integrates the outcast and weak.

Every day our liturgy provides us with lessons about what the basic beliefs our tradition wishes to instill within us. Even when it seems that the message is no longer in keeping with the times, the wisdom of our sages perseveres and informs us that even if today these words may not make sense to us tomorrow they might. The test of religious truths is that they withstand the vicissitudes of history. Our tradition wants us to become more sensitive, empathic and kind individuals. Our daily prayers assist us in that direction.

Shabbat Ekev - Our Siddur: a well-constructed edifice

Steve Lotter

Sinai Synagogue, Shabbat AM, August 12, 2017
Rabbi Michael Friedland

We Jews are liturgical packrats. We like to hold on to lots of prayers and over time they become included in our siddur and it is hard to remove them.  Like the prayers that begin with Yekum Purkan after the Torah is read.  They are prayers on behalf of the scholars in the Jewish community, originally blessing the leaders of the Babylonian Jewish academies, and on behalf of the synagogue community. Well the time comes when the world’s religions decide that for the sake of world harmony they need to join together to create one world religion.  In order to do so everyone has to give up something distinctive to reach this universalist vision.  The Catholics say, OK, for the sake of the world we are willing to give up the idea of the trinity – Just one God, no son or Holy Ghost.  The audience nods their heads.  All acknowledge how difficult that change would be.  The Muslims step us and say, Ok, well we will give up the belief that Mohammed was the last and greatest prophet.  Again all are impressed with the commitment to world harmony.  Then they turn to the Jewish representative.  He thinks and says: OK we’ll give up the second Yekum Purkan after the Torah reading.

As many of our congregation have pleaded, does the service really have to be this long?  Can’t we cut some things out?  Usually my answer is like the Jewish representative to the World Faith initiative – Ok the second Yekum Purkan in the Torah service. (which our prayer book does!) People are frustrated with a prayerbook that sometimes seems like it was put together as layers on a geological formation, but the truth is that the siddur as a whole is truly an intricate, well constructed edifice in which each component leads to the next.

One example is the Shema where the Sages tell us the order of the three paragraphs is essential.  The first paragraph proclaims the Oneness of God and that God is the exclusive focus of our devotion.  Paragraph two develops the idea of the importance of mitzvot. And the last paragraph speaks of one mitzvah, the tzitzit which remind us to do all the other mitzvot as well as the paradigmatic moment of redemption, God’s role in the Exodus from Egypt.

But what do we do with a prayer when we no longer believe in its theological underpinnings?  Do we jettison it, do we change it, do we change ourselves- the prayer is correct my theology is skewed?  The second paragraph of the Shema, V'haya Im Shamoa ( If then you obey the commandments) found in this morning’s Torah reading besides emphasizing the role of mitzvot in Judaism,  teaches a conventional theology accepted by the Bible and our Rabbinic ancestors but troubling for many moderns.  The claim of the paragraph is that if we obey God's commandments, God will "grant the rain for your land in season...You shall gather in your new grain and wine and oil...and thus you shall eat your fill.”  And if we don't obey, God "will shut up the sky so that there will be no rain an d the ground will not yield its produce ; and you will soon perish from the good land that the Lord is assigning to you".

This view assumes that God controls all of history and nature, which together form an integrated panorama.  Therefore God could and would use the natural processes to reward or punish human beings for their behavior. 

But many of us find these views difficult to swallow at best, repugnant at worst.  Based on our scientific knowledge of the atmosphere we have difficulty believing that the presence or absence of rain indicates Divine favor. The rabbis were also sensitive to this and spoke of the world pursuing its natural coarse.  They illustrated : A man steals a bag of wheatand then sowed it, by right it should refuse to grow - but the world pursues its own curse.  Nature seems totally oblivious to good and evil. Biology is not morality.  That is, if a natural disaster hits or someone gets sick we do not look for the cause in the city’s or person's behavior.

Holding such a view as one’s theology is fine.  But the question for the worshipper is when you have to pray a prayer that promotes a religious theology that you do not accept what do you do?

Thenotion of reward and punishment was so dubious to early American Reform Jews that they removed this paragraph from their prayer books. The Reconstructionist movement also dropped it from their prayer books.  Mordecai Kaplan their founder and editor of the prayerbook, stated that he could not believe that “the process of meteorology is dependent on man's moral behavior".  Clearly for these movements theological integrity was more important then tradition.  They could not pray what they did not believe.

But lo and behold in the 1989 edition of the Reconstructionist prayer book the second paragraph of the Shema is back in!. What happened to effect its return?  Did the Reconstructionist get frum?  No but times change and today there is a new ecological consciousness.  We are aware of the relationship between our deeds and the fate of the earth and its resources.  It was no longer theologically unthinkable to believe that if we continued to abuse our earth, in effect to disobey God's commandments which demand that we as guests on this planet take care of our Host's earth, rain will not fall in its proper season, or the rain that comes will be polluted. Ecology is now a moral issue and this passage acquired new relevance.

Just as modern interpreters of Shakespeare do not erase his words because they come out of a social and cultural milieu different from ours but rather place them into different contexts and draw out new insights by changing the historical period of the drama or the ethnic make up of the characters, so too we can find inexhaustible meaning in the rabbis’ arrangement of how we should speak to God.

For our ancestors living in the land of Israel rain was a great need and a prominent symbol of human dependency on God.  A theology that suggests that God responds to human action seeks a God that is just and concerned.  This God is not the God of the deists who believed God created the world and lets it run according to its own laws.   He is not the capricious god of Shakespeare’s King Lear:  As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport. 

This does not mean that we can readily defend God’s justice in the light of experience.  But it is an idea we cannot live without.  For human life to have meaning our actions must count and that is what this paragraph teaches us.

Another expression of our God and our tradition of what a powerful God means is located in the second blessing of the Amidah.  In the Gevurot blessing, which means power, we acknowledge that God is the most powerful force in the Universe that is why we come to God to make petition. But the examples offered as God’s power are not blowing enemies to smithereens or crushing those who disobey.  The examples are upholding the fallen and healing the sick, freeing the captive and bringing life to that which is lifeless.  This concept is also found in this week’s Torah portion: For the LORD your God is God supreme and Lord supreme, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who shows no favor and takes no bribe, but upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and befriends the stranger, providing him with food and clothing. — You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

This is a lesson we need not only learn but also promote and teach to our leaders.  True power is not bombast, its not cruelty and intimidation.  Real power is the power that heals and integrates the outcast and weak. 

Every day our liturgy provides us with lessons about what the basic beliefs our tradition wishes to instill within us.  Even when it seems that the message is no longer in keeping with the times, the wisdom of our sages perseveres and informs us that even if today these words may not make sense to ustomorrow they might.  The test of religious truths is that they withstand the vicissitudes of history.  Our tradition wants us to become more sensitive, empathic and kind individuals.  Our daily prayers assist us in that direction.