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We just retired the first seat in shul. Michel deserved it. Would’ve hung his Tallis in the rafters, but everybody in the shul is scared of heights.
Now everybody wants to be honored. The shul is now planning an awards ceremony. The problem is that an awards ceremony needs awards. The Best Kugel Award is the most I can hope for. I’ve never gotten an award. I think I should quit.
We started a new Chesed project where we do everything kind. We don’t do much of it, but we do it all. We collect money. We shop for people. We visit the sick. We told the school in the area that we'll help with the kids after school. I think the teachers are scared they'll get a bad reputation if the kids come to our after school program and start talking. We even started a thing where we help old people cross the street. I believe that has turned into an offensive campaign, where people started yelling at us for accusing them of being old and decrepit. Many people have yelled police and hit our volunteers, as they thought we were trying to steal their purses.
We even took up a new ‘care for orphans’ program. It’s a good program. Nobody thought to take any of them in. The sisterhood feels like adopting one would kill the program.
I saw the list of orphans in our community. The orphans each have their own card. The center shows them to you like that. They feel that people like baseball cards, and the kids will be seen as more valuable if they look like The Babe. Pictures of the toddlers with bats is very cute. It gets the money hungry potential parents thinking that they could make some good return on investment in the future. I think that’s wrong, but they’re trying to do good for the kids. The cards are numbered. I wanted to get some so my grandkids could make a set. One kid that I felt bad for never got picked up. The social worker said she wasn’t draftable.
It would be nice if we donated the money somewhere. We've collected it though. It's nice to have money.
Rabbi asked his kids to share what they shared at the Friday night dinner before we started reading the Torah. That was very painful. It was like an extra three speeches. They also give long sermons like their dad. I would’ve been happier if they didn’t learn anything at school. Seeing the kids reading off their notes from Morah Felicia was very painful.
Israelis in the community has me questioning. A lot of Israelis are moving from Israel. It's a new wave of Jews moving from the Holy Land. There must be a new youth movement in Israel spreading the ideals of Yiridah. I've asked and none of them support the Beitar youth movement.
Rabbi Mendelchem’s Drasha
To sum up the plagues a bissel, the Egyptians are not happy. Nobody likes frogs jumping everywhere… I know Michael likes frogs. He collects them. If they were jumping all over the house. It’s an irritant... Try eating Cornflakes with frogs jumping around... I feel like the back left of the shul is an irritant. A plague… If frogs were jumping in the back left, it would be less of a distraction during the Torah reading... You are all very loud!
In last week's parsha, we see that Moses gives over H's message. 'If you refuse to let the Jews go, and you keep holding onto them... the hand of H' will come to your livestock.' I know we have a lot of farmers here. What's my retirement package looking like? That’s the question… People like snow. Hail is different, Yossi… The hail with fire. You like that? You want fireballs landing on your house? Little comets shooting fire with frogs jumping all over your bed? Then listen to H’… Simcha. You had a fit when your car got a ding from the ice storm last year…
I don't know why H' doesn't kill the firstborns first. Sometimes, I get the feeling like the older people are the ones causing problems... H' is building up the drama…
Yes. I'm giving the story over again, this year. It’s my duty. (10:1-2) H’ brings the plagues as signs, ‘in order that you will tell your children and children’s children…’ Not just grandkids. But it’s also grandkids grandkids. You should be telling everybody. Like the joke you've told us all about the rabbi and the imam, Hymie... You repeat it all the time... Exactly. Because you forget that you told us... You have to repeat and let everybody know.
There's a reason our Beis Kenesses Anshei Emes uSefilah Sunday School spends half year on the 'Let My People Go'... It's not just a song, Rachel... It’s our duty, Bernie!!! Pesach. Do we not do Pesach now?!... Yes. This speech is a Seder... It takes a while to teach the songs. Now, we have to show The Ten Commandments and Prince of Egypt too... Beautiful songs in that film. We play them all the time... We want the kids to look good at the Pesach Concert this year.
Now. Let us learn the lessons of Paroh. It’s like running another Seder here… Got to deal with all these questions… Read something. Look it up in a dictionary. Open up a Torah. Even Sadie doesn’t read anymore. All questions…
Paroh is afraid to let the Jews go. He is afraid to let go...
As we've noticed in our community with the leader of the Federation of Monies taken for Our Organization We Never See... A tight hold onto anything makes it hard. It makes it hard on the people. It makes it hard on our shul's renovations...
Paroh is a hoarder. Parohs have always been known to be hoarders. With the hoarding of all the food before the famine. That is how the Jews ended up in Egypt... Hoarding is how the Jews ended up in Mitzrayim. The hoarding in this community… We have fifteen hundred Siddurs piled up in the lobby. All ripped… I'm saying to bury them. Let our Siddurs go. Show respect… Then fix them, Bernie. It’s a pile… It’s a Siddur obstacle course. Tripping over Siddurs is not respectful… If we do it right, it's respectful and it praises H.' Letting go is a praise. It shows trust… This is why Chanan isn't married. He doesn't let go. He holds onto the girls. You're choking them with your helicopter dating.
I'm not saying to throw out the new siddurs... Keep some of the old ones. They're beautiful. Each family should have one... OK. Keep some of the old ones. Look to the right side of the congregation. Old is beautiful.
Sometimes you have to let go. You only have so much room in this world… It’s shameful how you protested retiring Michel’s seat. Shameful… Letting something be known that it was great is honoring. It’s respectful. We have to let that seat go and retire it… If it’s with H’ and you’re doing a Mitzvah, it shows respect… No. Disgusting. Siddur tossing is disgusting. We do Shaimos. We bury the Siddurs.
Paroh doesn’t let the people go, and thus he loses his livestock… If you don't want to lose your cattle, stop hoarding and give me a raise.
They don't get rid of the Jews. They lose their livestock. The money of their past. All that accumulated wealth they held onto. Our Tzadik, Michel, never held onto livestock…
Hakol Bidei Shamaim. 'All is in the hands of Gd.' That is the religious belief, and the belief of most of our congregation... Yes. Menachem. People who don't believe that, work.... They have jobs. They pay dues.
We need to find a solid base for our beliefs Menachem. I think people in this congregation are using Hakol Bidei Shamaim too much. When they messed up the ark, it was in Gd's hands. When they didn't adopt any orphans, that was Gd's fault. Not visiting the sick. Leave that up to H'. Why do we have the Chesed Project of acts of loving kindness, when you all expect H' to do it?... Then pray. Pray that H' will help them and relax... 'In the hands of Gd' is about partnering with Him. It's about being able to let go for the future... Exactly. Your a Paroh because you don't believe and can't let go.
It is then, that we come to this week's Parsha... Yes. The Dvar Torah is starting here... My kids talked before Torah reading. That's not part of the speech. The other stuff was a preamble... My contract says no more than thirty minutes. That's of the Dvar Torah. The sermon can't be more than thirty minutes. The preamble isn't part of the sermon...
Why can’t Paroh let go?
H' says, (Shemot 10:1) 'For I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants…' H’ hardened Paroh’s heart and that of his servants. Paroh became mean, and he had the support, like the people who can't retire Michel's seat… Michel's a Tzadik. Should I explain Tzadik to you? One who shows up on time for shul. One who gives to the needy, visits the sick, honors their parents... Honoring somebody who donated a lot of money doesn't count... Not adopting makes you worse than Paroh... At least he took in Moshe. He didn't say Hakol Bidei Shamaim...
H' hardened his heart. It was hard... Like a rock. Yes.
When you do bad, you harden your heart and becomes hardened... He didn’t learn from the past. The no hamburgers at the baseball game fiasco. Hotdogs are not enough!!! People are enslaved to them... He made the decision to keep it bad for the Jews, like the board. Now. He has a hardened heart... Somebody with a hardened heart doesn't serve hamburgers.
I see Michel’s seat and it makes me happy. He deserved for it to be retired. It unhardens my heart. I see the good… Paroh couldn’t see good. Kind of like Bernie. I can’t see any good in Bernie…
We have to hoard the good... Keep it with us. But it doesn't have to take up half the shul. It’s an obstacle course with the Siddurs thrown out like that. You’ve got to treat them with respect. Unharden your heart for the Siddurs. Pray with an open heart...
You didn't listen till now. Your heart has been hardened. Your family is gone. When you got in all those family scuffles... We saw them at Kiddush. 'Eat the herring Shloimy... we're not having lunch at home.' It is no wonder your family left you Pinny. Pinny, the whole community hated you. They stopped serving whiskey at kiddush because you noticed it was free. Now they have to serve the plastic bottle stuff...
We saw you in the parking lot. Your kid didn't want to go to the Bar Mitzvah. I think we are all sick of hearing the same Shweky song again. Played but not Shweky. But Pinny, you hold onto that Rachem song... You embarrass your kids and you make do stuff they don't want to... Then let him run barefoot. Just stop yelling at Kiddish. Yelling at Kiddish and forcing little kids to eat herring, hardens the heart...
Stop trying to control. Your control is a plague... Herring is a plague to a third grader.
Even when H' is in control, we don't see it, for our hearts are still hardened. Like a puppet who has no control over her actions. She cannot bend the arm, unless bent for her. However, if we give up and understand H' is in control, we can then bend our own arms and create a new life, of joy and care, and a willingness to create new. Like a puppet who has a good master...
'Master of puppets, I'm pulling your strings. Twisting your mind and smashing your dreams'... Yes. I'm quoting Metallica... If your dreams are good, the master is good. You won't have a hardened heart, like Bernie...
We'll have that soft heart, which Pinny doesn't have. The soft heart of a man with a family. And a woman, unlike Pinny's wife, who doesn't bring her man to take down the whole bottle of the shul's Balvenie... A hardened heart with no shame. Because she never let him go out with the guys...
And what happens? (Shemot 10:7) After all of this warning and the first plagues, and being told that locusts will come, Paroh’s servants have a change of heart. ‘Paroh’s servants said to him, “Until when are you going to be a snare to us? Send out the people that they can serve H’ their Gd. Do you not know that Egypt is lost?”' The servants know H’ already. Even they have seen H’ greatness. It’s hard to see that in this shul... Why don't you trust your rabbi? Rivka sees the goodness of her rabbi. She has a soft heart. She gives kids Stella D'oros at Kiddish...
Paroh can’t change. He has become blinded by his hatred of Jews... Yes. I am getting there... He can’t even see that Egypt is lost. I saw when this shul lost the choolnate competition. I didn’t want to, but I saw when this shul needed to stop serving alcohol at Kiddish. Thank you Pinny… Yes. I see the hoarding going on with the Siddurs and people depending on Gd to visit the sick... Ms. Frankowitz is not Avraham our father...
(Shemot 10:3-6) Paroh gets the warning of locusts now. He gets H’s word from Moshe and Aaron. Does it mean anything? No. At this point, he can care less if the children of Egypt are forced to eat herring...
Paroh doesn't have the heart anymore to see the importance of community. Of children. Of Women.
(Shemot 10:9) Moshe said, ‘With our youth and with our elders we will go, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our cattle we will go, for it is a festival of the Lord to us.’ But Paroh doesn’t allow this. He doesn’t understand the concept of community. The concept of not getting drunk in front of little kids.
‘Bo. Come for Shabbat lunch.’ Mark and Shani never hear that… You don’t remember because you’re too drunk to remember.
An invite for Shabbat lunch is what Tzadiks do. They also visit the sick… Mark was sick. Nobody cared… If you want to get your Tallis in the rafters, invitations can get you there. If you invite them, you’ll get their vote. You'll be a Tzadik in their minds… Adopting can get you vote as well. If you don't try to cash in when the kid becomes an athlete, you might get Tzadik status...
We have retired a Tzadik’s seat this past week. We have also given out the shul awards… No trophies. It was word of mouth awards. Frank was honored the least likely to understand his prayers. Bernie was the one who interrupts the rabbi the most. Sadie was awarded head of the sisterhood, though she is not the president… You shouldn’t hate her for being better than you, Sarit... You just moved here, Sarit. Your family will be awarded, maybe even get a dinner in your honor, when you know more people. The shul needs money from honorees... Don't let the members of this shul harden your heart...
Rivka’s Notes on Rabbi Mendelchem’s Drasha
The way he honored Michel was beautiful. Now, everybody else thinks their parents weren’t Tzadiks. Finally. They finally know it.
The speech felt like a second Pesach Seder. It was long.
The rabbi even started a game of H' Says. He said that is more Jewish than Simon Says, as there are only three Jews he knows, named Simon. People were very into the game, especially the devout members. They didn't want any other sins on their plate. 'If Gd says to do it, you do it.' That's what Rachel told me, even though she hasn't visited one sick person, and I can't remember the last time she gave Tzedakah.
H' says took a good twenty minutes, but the rabbi said it wasn't part of the sermon. Even so, he definitely linked it to the Parsha, telling people that H' says to kill the firstborn. Some people wanted to win real bad. The firstborns ran out of shul.
The rabbi brought ‘Hoarders’ to the shul for the Siddurs. They ended up going to the houses of the congregants. The amount of stuff they’ve stolen from the shul. The old ark cover was in the Mitzkowitz house. The havdalah candle we've been looking for, at the Cohens. The handkerchief for holding the parchment, Saul was blowing his nose in it.
I made it a point to not watch that episode of 'Hoarders.' Now they have another things to blame Jews for. As if having good jobs in Topeka isn't enough. Now they're going to say we're hoarding them. If I can't store it in my home and have it take up space that I need, it's not hoarding.
Whatever the rabbi said, many of the farmers stopped hoarding. Their barns were finally able to be used for a shul farmers market and dance we've been planning. Yankel, the little kid who's now our singer, did a great job performing on hay. It was good to be able to say 'Yankel,' as being in a barn didn't feel Jewish.
The farmers in the shul are very proud of their livestock. We had a cattle competition at the shul fair. Of course, the Mitzkowitzs brought their pigs. They’ve always been sinners.
People said the rabbi saying ‘hail with fire. You want that?’ was religious coercion. It got a cross the message to do Mitzvot. I think he got across that point real well. I think it was a good way to get across the message of how hardened the heart of the congregants is.
All I know is they started doing Mitzvot, and they started playing H' Says with more fervor.
Pinny's kids hate Kiddish. They hate having the weekends with their dad. Nobody likes the herring. It's about time they started serving schmaltz herring. People like that.
Going to plastic whiskey bottles was the best move in recent years. The real drinkers are staying away from the whiskey. They don't drink it if it's not in a glass bottle. The shul has saved a lot of money. Pinny is still getting drunk, but we're saving on the bottle material. He also has a harder time pouring the two liter bottle once he's tipsy. He just gives up and falls down near the Kiddish bar; his size and length, and the inability of the others to step over him, saves us money on extra shots.
The discussion was had to retire seats based on the Yom Kippur name tags on the back of the seats. As Phil said, 'Those seats have been retired for years. Those people never show up.'
Years ago, the shul stopped branding the names on the seats themselves, as they realized how quickly the lifetime members stopped paying their yearly dues.
The board made it clear that there is no more lifetime membership. They want most of the congregants out after three years. They want the choice as to whether or not they have to spend Kiddish with them.
Should lifetime members have their seat retired? That’s a good question. We need rules for retiring seats. If you led the sisterhood and didn't get in any fights, your seat gets retired. If you're under Bar Mitzvah age and don't run around the shul, because your parents don't watch you, your seat gets retired. If you hate the Chazin too, the rabbi said your seat gets retired.
Tallises are not making it up to the rafters. Our men are scared of heights and we’ve got to get better with our hands. The shul has too many people who are scared to do renovations. They end up calling handymen. Not craftsmen. Handymen. There is not one Jewish handyman in all of Topeka. Jewish men are not handy. I don’t even know if any of them have hands.
They say they have hands. If they do have hands, they don't use them. I think that's why they lick their fingers to turn the page.
It turns out that to be honored, you have to know people. You need to be somebody that people will pay for. Social climbing is back at the shul. People want to be friends with Himlowitzs.
Maybe there's a plague in Israel. Maybe that's why so many have left Israel and come to our community. I know that my nephews and nieces in Israel read Dvar Torahs at the Shabbat table. Hearing their school notes being read is very painful. If they didn't read it, that would be less of a punishment.
I did hear about them quarantining over in Israel. Maybe there is a plague.
The rabbi told the school that teachers can’t give Shabbat notes anymore, as they are painful to the whole congregation.
The rabbi got a lot of complaints from the congregants after his kids spoke. It was hard, as each one of them tried to tell him that it wasn’t his kids, but the notes. He wants his son to be a childhood preacher. He now knows that won't happen if he reads Morah Kimmy's notes.
The money we've collected for the Chesed project still hasn't been allotted. They're saving it to do Chesed. Nobody in the congregation wants to help other people yet. I hope we can give it to the Jewish orphan center. I think they need to make a new 2022 collectibles series, to keep interest in their brand.
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Others were to be blessed by Yakov and non-central flowing water. H' told him, 'By you and your offspring.'
You get it? Offspring. His children are offspring. Ot it's a spring somewhere out in the middle of nowhere. Off the path. Spring off. Offspring. It might be a spring in the bed mattress that isn't doing it's job. A spring that is off.
That's how the real Kotel Yarmulkes are made. Jewish origami. We origami with staple, because it makes sense. The same way we make our Sukkah decorations... I miss those Kippahs, they worked great for holding nachos too.