MARCH 29, 2019 – WEEKLY MESSAGE RABBI ARNOW

Dear Kol Rinah Family,
Spring is in the air! Finally! And we have a wonderful Shabbat to enjoy spring. Tonight, services will be at 6pm in the chapel. We’ll sing, and welcome Shabbat together-join us!!! Candle lighting is at 7:04pm.
Tomorrow morning services will be in the lower auditorium. I’ll be leading Torah Talk at 10:10am. Our member Denise Field will be celebrating the anniversary of her bat mitzvah and speaking on the occasion. Tot Shabbat will be at 10:45am, and we’ll be celebrating New Baby Shabbat as well. A busy Saturday morning!
Mincha Saturday afternoon will be at 6pm and Shabbat ends at 8:02pm.
Sunday at 11am, our member Mendel Rosenberg will be signing copies of his memoir, “Thriver: My Journey Through Holocaust Nightmare to American Dream,” at the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center. I’ll be there, and I hope many of you will join us to honor and support Mendel. Info is here.
And here’s a review of the book in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that was just published today, written by our member Repps Hudson.
Sunday, at the annual Men’s Club Man and Youth of the Year awards luncheon, we’ll honor Bill Solomon and Yael Portman. It’s too late to RSVP, but not too late to say mazal tov to them!
Tuesday night (7pm) continues Rabbi Shafrin and my mini-course on Love, God and Passover. We had a great class (if I do say so myself) last Tuesday night on love, and this week, Rabbi Shafrin will be teaching on God. The classes are stand-alone-you don’t need to have been at the first to come to the next. Details here.
Thursday evening, April 4, the Jewish Light will be having an event where they’ll screen a new video they put together called “Why Be Jewish?” where they interviewed a number of 20- and 30-somethings about their answer to the question. Included among the participants are ECC parent Jeff Vines, and our member Michael Faccini. Details for the event are here.
Next Shabbat, Saturday, April 6, Rabbi Dr. Pamela Barmash will speak on her recent responsum on Jewish burial in military cemeteries.
As a reminder, please sign up for minyan here. We need more people for weekday evenings. Sign up for one a month, or for once a week, or for your yahrzeits.
Also, please remember to help us be accessible and welcoming to all by not wearing perfume or cologne to Kol Rinah, as we have some attendees who have sensitivities to scents. Thank you!
And now, for a little Torah…
The Bible is full of inexplicable, upsetting moments. Laws about slavery a few chapters after liberation from slavery; God destroying the world in a flood; God destroying “wicked” cities; men being told “don’t go near a woman” for three days before the revelation at Mt. Sinai; the rape of Dinah and the responses that are either passive or bloodthirsty; and the list goes on.
This week’s inexplicable, upsetting episode is when Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, offer strange fire to God, and fire comes forth and consumes them and they die (Leviticus 10:1-2). Interpretations abound about what exactly Nadav and Avihu did wrong. Did they offer something God didn’t want, or do it in the wrong way, or get too close to God, in a bad way and were punished, or get too close to God in a good way and were “taken” to God? Did they try to take Aaron’s place when they had no right to do this?
Whatever the explanation, it’s worth noting that the same language the Torah uses in saying that “Fire came forth from before the Lord and consumed them” was used just two verses before, in Leviticus 9:24, in describing what happened when God’s presence appeared before the people in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) for the first time-but there, what was consumed was “the burnt offering and fat parts.”
One thing this repetitive language suggests is that there’s a very fine line between proper and improper worship. What’s just perfect in one place might be disastrous and tragic and terrible in another. This is true in so many ways in the world, as well as in religion. What works perfectly in one situation (a melody, a prayer, a program, a custom) might be a failure (or worse!) in another. We need to be very carefully attuned, very finely calibrated, to notice and attend to the most minute differences in situations, lest we make a terrible mistake.
The difference between success and failure, victory and defeat, life and death, so often, can be a matter of seconds, of inches, of a few words, of a small decision.
And yet, even in things that matter, we are not always as careful as we could be. Driving comes to mind as an example. And the way we treat people is another example.
Where could you be a little more careful about getting things exactly right, so as to create success and avoid failure, to create holiness and love, and avoid pain and hurt?
Shabbat shalom and see you in shul,
Rabbi Noah Arnow