What’s Your Fantasy Synagogue

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, “What’s Your Fantasy Synagogue.”

We all go to synagogues that we like in some ways and don’t like in others, but have you ever thought about what your fantasy synagogue would be like if you could make one?Last Shabbat, we were invited for lunch by some wonderful friends who had been sports writers, and the topic of fantasy football came up, where people compete for coming up with the best team by picking their own players and forming their ideal team. I said, half jokingly, wouldn’t it be great if we could do the same thing with synagogues and pick the best aspects of each and make an ideal house of worship for ourselves where we could pray, learn, grow, and experience holiness and community. 

In the article, I detail “the best of the best” when it comes to synagogues and the ultimate ideal synagogue is of course, in the coming of the Mashiach and the rebuilding of the Temple. 


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 

Purim In Israel, Chabad Style

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, “Purim in Israel, Chabad Style.”

We had the privilege to be in Israel for Purim night. We are going down Ben Yehudah Street in Tel Aviv looking for a synagogue for Megillah reading. Out of nowhere comes this Rabbi in Purim costume dashing down the sidewalk on roller skates. He pulls up in front of me and asks me to join them at the Chabad shul (#770 of course). Who can say no when Chabad is not only so cool and inviting, but also always helping to keep our minds focused on doing another mitzvah and towards the ultimate coming of Mashiach.


Over and over, I find you just gotta love everything about Chabad–they understand faith, ritual, and people’s hearts and for that and their acceptance of all Jews, I truly appreciate them. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Know Before Whom You Are Standing

So many synagogues have this important saying at the top of the Holy Ark where the Torahs are kept in front of the shul.


It says, translated into English:


“Know before who you are standing (i.e. G-d).”


The idea is to remember when you are in the holy place of worship that you are standing and praying before G-d and should conduct yourself appropriately and with respect and reverence. 


While certainly there are times when people forget themselves in the synagogue and say or do something not completely appropriate (e.g. socializing, talking, or even telling jokes to their neighbors during the service), usually it is not intended to be disrespectful, but rather to be friendly with their neighbors and community. 


However, this past Shabbat I witnessed behavior in the synagogue (name withheld)  that was truly a chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d). 


Out of respect for the Rabbi (and Rabbabite), I will neither mention their names or go into the details about what happened except to say that it involved the politics surrounding the end of the Rabbi’s 3-year term and the inability for him and the board to come to terms on a new agreement (even though one had  apparently been signed and reneged on). 


This did not belong in the synagogue on the holy Shabbat, period. 


Those embracing and kissing the Rabbi in his support and going against the President and the board that is elected to represent the congregation was disgraceful. 


Further, while I support the Rabbi saying his farewells, demanding to speak without the permission of the President and the board, and even before the President gave his regular announcements was inexcusable. 


And when the fighting between the Rabbi and President brought yelling and fighting to the congregants, this should have been a sign for that behavior to immediately cease. 


The desecration of the “peace” of the Shabbat with the politics, money, and contract issues and the ensuing fighting (almost civil war between those supporting the Rabbi and those the President and the board) before the Holy Ark filled with the Torahs was reprehensible. 


For the spiritual leadership to behave in such a crude and disrespectful fashion was a mark of utter disgrace in the synagogue before G-d. 


I have never seen anything like this before and hope never to have to witness anything so irreverent again. 


This was a most traumatic event for the community and I hope we will recover in time and have a complete healing. 


Moreover, I pray that G-d forgives the behavior that happened and has mercy on this congregation because things got out of control and I think they forgot before whom they were standing.  😉


(Source Photo and not of the synagogue under discussion: Andy Blumenthal)

Lag B’Omer Hillula @ Magen David

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Beautiful praying, learning Torah, fundraising, and evening celebration at Magen David Sephardic Synagogue.

Lag B’Omer 2016

Thank you to the Rabbi, Samy, and all our friends for a wonderful evening. 

(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)

Blessing Each Other

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Today in synagogue, we did not have any Kohanim (members of the priestly class) to do the ritual blessing of the people. 


So Rabbi Haim Ovadia did something really creative and beautiful.


He had each of us turn to our neighbor and put our hands over each other’s heads and recite the blessing from the Torah:


“May G-d bless and guide you.

May G-d shine his countenance on you and be gracious to you.

May G-d turn his countenance toward you and grant you peace.”


The gesture of brotherhood and caring for each other was very, very nice, and I got to meet someone new in synagogue today.


People need people…and we need G-d. 


Somehow it makes everything better. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Chabad Making A Difference

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Beautiful job by Rabbi Yudi Steiner of George Washington University hosting the Chabad Sukkot Barbecue in Washington, D.C.


The Rabbi was there welcoming students and Jews from around town to a sweet BBQ luncheon in the sukah. 


And the students were making the blessing with the Rabbi on the lulav and esrog for the holiday.


As always, Chabad is out there making a difference in Jewish lives, helping them do mitzvot, and spreading cheer and unity wherever they are. 


We are so lucky to have wonderful Lubavitch chasidim all around the world helping Jews be better Jews. 😉


(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)