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nThe rabbi was accused of using the Artscroll commentary last week. So this week he quoted the commentaries that the Artscroll Chumash quoted, using their names. Like the Artscroll Chumash, he quoted Rashi and Ramban. He usually doesn't make it past the first Pasuk in his sermons. Which goes to show how much you can learn from one verse of the Torah.
Masks turned into a thing this week. It really threw off the rabbi. He couldn’t tell who was listening. People were facing all different directions by the time the rabbi got up to speak. I think they were trying to figure out who was under each mask. It's a kind of game to try to get it right.
Rabbi Mendelchem’s Drasha
Shabbat Shalom My Flock,
Mazel Tov Yanky. We are so proud of you. Nachis… Can the family face the front…
The Menorah’s candles all faced the middle. (Bamidbar 8:2) ‘Light the candles towards the face of Menorah.’ They face towards the face… That’s the middle… Everybody look up here. I am talking…
They face towards the face… That’s the middle. You face the face… Can people listen? I know you have masks. You can listen... Everybody look here. At my face. Where is the face?... I am talking...
Why is the Menorah mentioned after the tribe’s part in the dedication? This was the Kohanim’s part… In Naso, all the tribes have their jobs... You’re supposed to be doing something in shul. Yes… This brought here to comfort Aaron, letting him know that the Kohanim have their job, kindling the Menorah every day, and that job is greater (Rashi).
Rambam explains the greatness of the Menorah being the Kohens’ role in saving the Jews from destruction on Chanukah… That was Kohanim. The Hashmonaim were Kohens. And they rekindled the Menorah… It’s what your future generations do that brings blessing. You’re not serving the shul or your people by not learning Torah. Playing Sudoku at morning services during the week does not comfort your ancestors… They know. They’re looking down right now and asking, ‘Where is the Menorah?’… Exactly. We don’t know… Being a Kohen has nothing to do with it... Let’s make a Menorah. Shlomo, come up here…
Aaron cared enough to want to be part of the dedication of the Temple. You can care less if we have a decent choolante at Kiddish... That speaks bad to your ancestors… Talking in shul with masks on is not something your ancestors did…
(Mishlei 17:6) ‘The crown of the elders is their grandchildren…’ Do you visit? Do you call? Is this Yanky? I can’t tell. Take off your mask… At weddings they uncover the bride's face to make sure it’s her. Should we not expect the same of a Bar Mitzvah? There are good gifts. Everybody wants a set of The Book of Our Heritage... You’re the crown of your ancestors… Yes. You better do good.
You’re old enough to be blamed… You’re the age of Mitzvah… Until now, it was your parents’ fault. They sinned a lot... Because of you. It still is their fault. But you get blamed now…
The Levites are the crown of the Jewish people… Yes. Figuratively Bernie…
A beautiful ceremony takes place where they gather the people to inaugurate the Levites… Yes. The people helped in the process. (Bamidbar 8:9-10) ‘Bring the Levis to the tent of meeting and gather the assembly of the children of Israel… and the children of Israel shall place their hands on the Levites.’
They showed. We can’t even get people to show up to Minyin during the week. We had a class and we couldn’t get people for the pizza… It was Pizza & Parsha… We know nobody comes for the Torah… Yes. Two ‘p’s makes for an excellent program… Are people going to show to a BBQ? Can you eat with a mask?...
Rashi explained the hands on the Levites being necessary. In their service, the Leviim were to act as an atonement offering for the people of Israel. I am an atonement for you. The Chazan, serving you from the Bima (stage) is an atonement… You need atonement.
There is a reason why the water of purity also translates as ‘water of sin.’ You all sin. You need atonement… Purity and sin are related. What we use stuff for is what makes it holy… You’ve been using your lawns for weeds. It’s weed season… It’s an embarrassment…
Everybody put your hands on the Gabai. Head of the sisterhood, over here… The chazan… Place your hands on your leaders. It shows you are taking part. Entrusting… You need people doing service for you Frank. You can’t even read Hebrew…
Let’s hear it. On the count of three. Hands on their heads… Forget about their hair… Count of three. ‘Go team’…
Hans on me… I am serving you all. Back to the Menorah placements. Facing me…
There is no doubt that many of the people in this congregation are sinners. That is why you hired me to be your new rabbi. It will all be hard to atone for all your sins, but I am willing to help.
You all need to be part of this… I am going to ask the congregants to approach the podium. You will all then place your hands on my head and cheer, 'go rabbi,' as you lift your hands in unison. This will serve as your inauguration of me as your new community leader.
Somebody please help Himey to the podium, as he is a sinner and I saw him eating shrimp the other day. Himey, I will even atone for you.
All face me… I am the center of this congregation. ‘The middle of the Menorah’ if you will…
(Bamidbar 8:11) The Levites were lifted ‘as a waving before the Lord, on behalf of the children of Israel, that they may serve in the Lord’s service.’ I am doing this for you…
When you’re for the people, you have to first do Teshuva, repentance… Because you people sin.
Wave your masks… I can finally see who’s in shul today…
Now, as Moshe and Aaron lifted the Levites, I will ask the gabai to come to the podium and wave me above his head.
As the Leviites served the children of Israel by carrying the holy objects of the temple, as your new rabbi I am going to take the shul's holy breastplates and crowns of the Torah... To ensure their safety. They will be kept in my home, along with the shul's sacred funds...
As you become a man, my Bar Mitzvah. Always look to the center of your family. The face of your family. And don’t mess up... We don’t have the Parah Adumah and there is no water of purification. Now it is just water of sin… Are you going to make your grandparents proud?!!
We are all part of the service. You are all part of what I do… You are all part of the sisterhood… It is on you.
Rivka’s Notes on Rabbi Mendelchem’s Drasha
It was a very physical sermon. All were involved.
Making a human Menorah in shul was fun for all. All ended up facing the rabbi. He got our attention. When he put us in the human pyramid, we all focused on the rabbi, for our safety.
He felt the waving service was very important. After he got waved, he felt everybody should be waved.
The rabbi waving the Bar Mitzvah boy at the end of the sermon really got his message across. After that, Yanky did whatever the rabbi wanted.
The rabbi didn't call up the Bar Mitzvah boy to the Bima, as the whole congregation was up there for the human Menorah already.
The Bar Mitzvah boy was not happy that he got 12 sets of The Book of Our Heritage. All people who forgot to get him a gift gave him what the rabbi mentioned in the sermon.
The rabbi started swinging people around. It was a new ritual. Some people felt they were being bullied. The kids loved it.
The rabbi’s message of his speech was understood. As all are part of the rabbi’s service, as the Jews were part of the Levites; service through their support, he decided to make them run his services that week. Bernie doing the funeral did not go over well.
Rabbi stopped the Bar Mitzvah boy in the middle of his Torah reading, and told him he can’t read, as he’s not old enough for service yet. He used last week’s Parsha to make the point. He started a new tradition, where the Bar Mitzvah boy placed his hand on the Torah reader’s head and services moved much faster.
A couple of fights started when people began greeting with a hand on the head. Many didn’t enjoy random people touching their skull.
Gathering all of Israel to put their hands on the Levites was a great point. Only two people showed up to the board meeting. An email was sent. This led to the rabbi having leaders invite in person and shofar blowing around Topeka on Wednesdays of the monthly board meeting.
Due to the masks, the rabbi called off shul. That affected attendance, so the rabbi called off that decision. He was very frustrated that he couldn’t identify who was talking in shul, so we never wore masks again.
Yelling at Sadie for messing up the shul quilt was not right. The rabbi was trying to talk to Karen. With the mask. He didn’t realize it was Sadie. He was just very frustrated that nobody joined in the Etz Chaim Hi song, and he didn't know who to blame.
People started showing up once they found out there was pizza at Pizza & Parsha. All programs had to start with the same letters from then on. The rabbi didn’t realize it was just the food that was bringing them. Tacos and Torah was a huge hit. They had that on Tuesdays. Guacamole and Gemara was loved. Meatloaf and Mishnah worked for many, even though it wasn’t Mexican. Ham and Halacha didn’t sell. The rabbi wants to know how that slipped in there.
Since then, they’ve went to programs and classes that rhyme. It was hard to find foods that rhyme with the sound of ‘ah.’ So, they had to move into non-food excitement. Halacha and Mula was an exciting field trip to the casino. Hookah in the Sukah is on the calendar.
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Wearing Israeli flags. Showing their support for Israel at the rally in DC. It would’ve been smarter if they brought coats. Based on experience, flags don’t work as good windbreakers.