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Points of View
My Point of View--Nov 24, 1998
© Rabbi Jack Moline

It is time again for the annual American custom of taking a day to express appreciation for the blessings which are ours. With pride, we Jews like to acknowledge that the entire notion of Thanksgiving is drawn from Sukkot, our own Biblical harvest festival. However, Thanksgiving has taken on an ethos and meaning of its own in the same way that Christianity, also rooted in Judaism, has long been a distinct and independent tradition.

The observances of Sukkot are very particular to Judaism. The sukkah which we build, the set of lulav and etrog with which we celebrate, the services we conduct are all very distinctly Jewish. In fact, with some of the rituals unfamiliar and incomprehensible to us, you can imagine how inaccessible they are to non-Jews. Yet, the prophetic vision of Zechariah suggests that this festival of gratitude will eventually be observed by all peoples.

In the United States, that vision has come closer to actualization. Thanksgiving is a holiday for all people, and they have brought their own customs to it. The day seeks to emphasize the bounty at our collective table and the places for everyone with which it is (or should be) set. It is therefore highly appropriate that we have celebrated Thanksgiving as a congregation each year in an interfaith setting, emphasizing our commonality in a climate that too frequently dwells on our differences with others.

This year, the service will be held on erev Thanksgiving, Wednesday night, November 25, at 8:00 at Trinity United Methodist Church, at the corner of Allison and Cameron Mills. Trinity is a place of warm memories for us all; it was our most regular home away from home during the time of our building renovation. And no one who attended will ever forget the most recent time Trinity hosted this service: we marched with the Torah scroll from the church to our new building, with the pastors of the local churches carrying the chupah and neighbors of many faiths walking the path together. Join us to renew those good feelings and celebrate our common ground.

But do not forget that the table fellowship of the holiday has its Jewish expressions. The appropriate b’rakhot and some words of Torah will put Thanksgiving into the context which will allow us to take true pride in its origins and be mindful of the mandate of every Jewish meal: to eat, to be satisfied, and to bless God.

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A short take on telephone usage on Shabbat . . .

Among the observances we uphold as a congregation is refraining from using the telephone on Shabbat. Though some do not consider such usage to be a violation of the day, even those who use the phone use it sparingly and not for workaday concerns.

Recently, we have "locked out" outgoing calls on the telephones in the kitchen and hallway on Shabbat. We have observed that congregants and non-congregants have been using those phones for personal, non-emergency calls, and challenging them at the time can be embarrassing and uncomfortable. We ask that you help us encourage the proper atmosphere on Shabbat by asking for access to the telephones only in true emergencies, and that you and any guests you might invite make arrangements for transportation in advance of any Shabbat occasion. Similarly, we ask you to refrain from the use of wireless telephones in and around the synagogue on Shabbat, except in true emergencies. Many thanks. (In an emergency, please ask an usher or Iris Henley for access to a working telephone.)

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