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Electricity went out on Wednesday and it lasted through Friday night. We had the chance for spirituality, but nobody sang. Singing would've made it spiritual. When there are no lights, you sing. It's spiritual. Jewish tradition is, you light a candle, somebody says something about how that is a Neshama, and the soul lights up a room, and then you sing Dveykus songs, and people cry. Spiritual means there is crying. But we don't have a program director, so nothing happened.
We need a committee to decide to sing. And nobody shows up to committee meetings anymore. So, nothing happened. There was no soul. No spirituality. And no candles lit. There weren't even candles. People can't even purchase candles by themselves nowadays. They need a professional for everything.
Poverty is where spirituality is found, and we had that chance to bond. Poor people bond. They talk to each other. They can't afford other forms of entertainment, like paying to watch a monologue.
No electricity. Instead of singing, everybody complained. And they blamed the rabbi. And they still were mad there was no choolante. It's a shame that nobody can take a step up and start a song. I think most are worried the harmony is going to be off. You start singing in our shul and it turns into the worst choir ensemble. You can hear all the bad voices in non-unison.
Announcement for Rosh Chodesh: 'The molad. The appearance of the New Moon will be Tuesday, at 5 and three Chalakim.' He pronounced the English 'Chalakim.' We can’t have non-Hebrew readers announcing stuff. It looks pathetic. Our leaders don’t even know their religion. They can't even say the Hebrew word for 'life' correctly. It's embarrassing. We need to ship in an Israeli who is also a program director.
They decided to bring in a prospective assistant rabbi. The search committee brought him in. The requirement was a rabbi who wants to be in Topeka. That's the standard.
We don't need an assistant rabbi. We need a program director. We already have somebody who fields complaints. And most of our complaints about the rabbi, which makes it easy for the rabbi to field them.
The trial rabbi gave a speech, then Rabbi Mendelchem still gave his Dvar Torah Sermon. I have a feeling that even when he is not around, Rabbi Mendelchem will find a way to always give a sermon. One time, his internet was down and he mailed it in.
Rabbi Mendelchem’s Sermon
Shabbat Shalom My Congregants and Those who come every week but do not pay dues, and send their children to Junior Congregation, while they sit in the nice plush movie theater seats… The theater was going out of business, but we had to refurbish all the seats. That costs money… We refurbished them in the 1970s. Maroon was considered nice back then…
When the Jews were building the Beit Mikdash, the Mishkan, there was an understanding that there were some donations that everybody gives. AKA dues… It had to look good. Gd designed it... I don't think there was 1970s maroon.
Counting chairs now. Stop counting chairs. Stop counting people. All you do is sit there and count…
(Shemot 30:12) H’ tells Moshe, ‘When you take a census…every man will give H’ an atonement for his soul… and there won’t be a plague among them when counting them.’ We don’t need another plague here. We already have the board… We are not singing that Hoshea et Amecha song again… The half shekel is an atonement. We need an atonement all the time. Every time I think of the congregants of this shul, I think, an atonement is needed. When I count a Minyin, and make sure there are ten, I see the members and think, an atonement is needed. How many donate nothing to the shul? Dues... Kiddish is atonement. It’s bad, when you serve gefilte fish balls... There’s no way those are gefilte fish. They taste off. And a toothpick?! Gefilte fish on toothpick?
Censuses are needed. When we go on a shul trip and have to find Phillip… Where does he go? Always wondering. He comes on the trip and then does his own tour… Being here with you, and leading you as your shepherd, should be an atonement for me… It’s painful, and I always feel like you guys get lost... Then tell me what page we're on right now, Pinchas. Lost... Paying dues is important for you, Rachel... You complain, you help with nothing, your kids are the loudest runners...
Giving money is not just for counting... Yes. They count at Bingo, but your dues are for Teshuva. A repentance for all the pain you have caused me... I don't need an apology. A raise is fine.
(Shemot 30:13-16) It’s half a shekel. You can afford it, Ben…
(Shemot 30:15) ‘The rich does not give more, and the poor does not give less than half a shekel… to atone for your souls.' There aren't scholarships for everything... It's half a shekel. Why do you need to get a deal all the time?
Machatzit Hashekel, the half shekel. When it comes to Kapara, an atonement, we all have the same path to share. Atonement comes as one. We’re all in a shul with Bernie, Thelma, Francine, and Frank’s section in the back left. Nobody is better in Kapara… Because we all have to be around these people. Once we understand that we have the same pain of dealing with them, we can do Kapara. We can atone, once we understand we are together in this pain. This pain of having to come to shul and see the membership. It makes me want to atone for something. I must have done something wrong.
An offering of H’ repents for our 'souls.' Our collective… I know people give nothing here. Stop putting it on Feygelstein. We know he’s wealthy and doesn’t donate anything… Invest better, Ben.
We’re a group. A people.
Purim is coming up. You give a half shekel. You don't just show up drinking your paper bag. You give too. You share what you're drinking... Then bring cups. Selfish. You can't be atoned for if you're selfish. Taking up the full armrests... Couldn't even sit next to you in a movie theater. You're selfish. You probably don't even buy your kids popcorn... You sit there with your hand in the bucket the whole time… You don't share. Do you pay your dues?... Please put the popcorn away. We're in shul... I understand the seats are comfortable....
(Shemot 30:16) That money is what is used for the work of the Tent of Meeting... The clean money. It's clean. It should be donated from money that was not stolen... What do you think we use your dues for?... We do need to fix the leak. The shul president should deal with that in the next meeting... I am sure they used money to fix leaks in the Mishkan.
‘And it will be a remembrance for the children of Israel before H,’ to atone for your souls.’ That money is used for good, and it is a remembrance. If we were to build something nice here, it would be for positive thoughts before Gd... Down the road, they have a lookout into a beautiful forest, from the sanctuary... That window?! It hasn't been cleaned in years. And we don't even have a gardener.
You have to do something decent. And we push that. Your leaders push that to Gd… So He doesn’t think of all the stupid stuff you do.
The Kohen Gadol even has your names on his shoulders, for a remembrance... The names of your forefathers were good. You should think of naming your kids Dan, Shimon... Chelsea is not Jewish... She's Jewish, but the name isn't. Dina is Jewish. Got to look to the first people with the names. If the first person with the name was a Crusader's wife... That's not a good remembrance...
If you did good deeds, we would remember. We would hang it on the wall. We would put up a plaque...
We’re not remembering the faux pas of the congregants of Beis Knesses Anshei Emes uSefilah. You want us to remember how we messed up.
You want a list. Here we go: When Rachel had her sons Bar Mitzvah and forgot to bring candy. People were throwing tie clips at the kid. When Mark... That was a messed up wedding, in a shared wedding hall... You were at the wrong party. When Bernie showed to the funeral and thought it was a big celebration, because all of his friends were there. Yelling across the room to Hymie, 'Great to see you.' When Sadie... Even Sadie messed up with the shul calling tree fundraiser, when she said the money was going to a wealthy congregation who doesn't pay their dues... The Rosh Chodesh announcement of 'CHalakim' in English...
One thing is definite. You need to atone. This congregation needs to atone.
Rosh Chodesh is a chance for Teshuva. It’s not Rosh Chodesh. You need to pronounce it in Hebrew. The Molad 10 CHalakim. Nobody knows what American CHalakim are. You need to pronounce the Hebrew. It’s not Halakim or Chalakim. It’s got to be read with a Hebrew. Not a 'cha.' It's not a dance from the 1960s. And Rosh CHodesh. It makes no sense...
A lot of stuff has to be done. A lot for you to atone for. It's a gift that the membership gives.
The laver (Shemot 30:17-21)… Yes. Water was to be put in it. You're thinking beer... the Kiddish club has got to stop...
Anointment oil (Shemot 30:22-33)… They spread it on everything. They anointed it... We are not anointing anybody hear… You don’t know the recipe and you can’t do it. It's not a soap that you... I know soap making has become very popular among our congregants. I don't think they were washing with berries in the Beit Hamikdash... Chemicals clean better.
(Shemot 30:32) ‘Don’t make anything like its formulation… anyone who makes a compound like it, or who puts it on a random person shall be cut off from the people.’ They didn’t just shpritz it around. It wasn’t an Ahava product...
I don’t know if the everything bagel spice is the formulation. I don’t think so… Then stop using the everything bagel seasoning on everything. I want to cut off your chicken from the shul potluck dinner menu... Chicken isn't an everything bagel.
And incense (Shemot 30:34-38). Incense is important. You want it to smell good… I don’t know what frankincense is. Frank do you have any idea… He has no idea too…
Don’t copy this either. You’ll be cut off from the people…
If you guys were cut off. I am getting the feeling this congregation would’ve been cut off or killed… You guys count all the time. Every time we go on a shul field trip… It’s Topeka. They’ll find their way home themselves… If they get lost? They live here. They go to baseball games themselves. No reason to count… And you spray the bathrooms. How much potpourri... And you don’t pay your dues… That’s a form of Machatzit Hashekel not coming to your rabbi...
You would be cut off. And they don't want to deal with bad jokes... If they came to a Kiddish, Hymie, they would cut off the whole community...
Because you have the wrong people doing stuff. Wrong people telling jokes... We need to give out certificates for people being allowed to do stuff here...
(Shemot 31:1-11) Betzalel and Ohaliav were appointed to not mess things up. They had the ‘spirit of God, with wisdom and understand, and knowledge and with every form of work’… You couldn’t even renovate right. The light is still hanging off to the side. No wisdom behind the update of the shul... This is why you hire professionals, like this man sitting to my left. To not mess things up...
And Shabbat (31:12-17). Don’t mess it up. If you are Mechalel. If you desecrate it, you will die… The Machatzit Hashekel doesn’t count for everything.
Purim is coming up. Give your Machatzit Hashekel.
Let’s sing ‘VShamru Bnei Yisrael’… That is more important than worrying about the plague. But you don't keep the laws of Shabbat… You’ll die if you don’t sing 'VShamru Bnei Yisrael.' If you don’t sing ‘Hoshea et Amecha,’ you can still be fine....
(Shemot 30:29) ‘And you shall sanctify them and they shall be holy of holies. Whoever touches them shall become holy.’ We sanctify and it is holy. We have to put in effort… No. Bernie, you have not put in effort for the past eighty years. Be holy…
Achrayut is what we’re talking about. We are all responsible for each other. And that is why everything is so messed up... The people who are responsible for other people's responsibilities have no idea what is going on, too.
Not asking anybody to put in more effort… I understand Michael. You are broke. But don’t put it on Mr. Feygelstein to give more money, just because he owns Feygel’s supermarket chain... You can give a different donation. Other than the Machatzit HaShekel.
When you give no money to the shul, you have no soul. You are a taker. It's not the volunteer offerings we are talking about. It is the minimal offerings you must give to be an active member of the people. You go golfing every day Dr. Rosenberg. 'The poor' I understand that we have poor people in our congregation. Dr. Rosenberg's accountant mentioned to me that he only pulled in $120,000 last year....
Everybody calm down, we have already started a shul fund to get him out of poverty. We want him to be able to afford full membership to the St. Nicholas Country Club. However, you still have to pay your dues. For the shul? No. For yourself. To share in the community and to be atoned for... Nobody wants to be here. We just need atonement.
It is this, communal contribution, which is used for the work done in the Tent of Meeting. The objects that have day to day use, as a 'Remembrance before H', to atone for your souls.'
The physical labor of the Tent of Meeting is to atone for what we did or didn't do. The actions connect to our souls... Your sinfulness affects your soul. Yes. When you talk in the middle of my sermon and don't get the message, it affects the soul...
We are dependent on our community as a whole, to come together, to be part of a communal atonement. Our are affected by each other. Even if you have no soul. If you pay your dues, you may be counted in the communal atonement of our people... Minyin is with community. The idea is for H' to not look at you. Then, maybe He'll not see how bad you are, Bernie and back left of the shul...
We pray that the Gabai and Chazan also receive a soul this year. We pray that all the women who sit in the back with their huge hats and talk throughout the sermon, receive a soul this year, along with their new face-lift. We pray that the children of our shul, who take kiddush food before everybody, receive a soul and share the Stella D'oro chocolate on the inside... Eat around the chocolate and the chocolate lasts on the cookies. May we all have souls... Like the Stella D'oro chocolate soul, we have a soul. We pray the parents receive a soul, and find their runners...
Do you need a program director for everything? Can nobody in this shul step up anymore... The sisterhood used to do stuff. Now you hire somebody to put together the Kiddish. We even hired somebody to say 'Shabbat Shalom'... There was a friendliness committee and they decided to hire somebody to make our shul more friendly... You can't even be friendly... That's the stuff the sisterhood does. You pay for a woman to be the sisterhood... The Men's Club doesn't exist... A brotherhood sounded too scary... We're now looking for a professional to have a soul for us. So, you bring in an assistant rabbi to have a soul...
Purim is coming. Start thinking of how we will witness this redemption of atonement and finally make this place holy… Maybe bring a soul to the shul. You're already drinking. Let Purim bring a soul out of your binging...
We have to make it holy, but H’ makes it holy. We have to make space… You think this room, with this lighting, makes holy. We have to do it. We have to keep Shabbat… That doesn’t mean parking a block away from the shul. It does mean paying dues.
(Shemot 31:13) ‘Observe my Shabbat, for it is a sign between me and you for your generations, to know that I am H’ Who makes you holy.’
We don’t make holy. We have to make the space. H’ really makes it holy… So what are we doing? Exactly my question… It’s a relationship Bernie. Like the way you interrupt my sermons… We need a soul and decentness for H' to remember. We need Bar Mitzvahs that make sense, and people knowing when they're at a funeral... Fundraising correctly. With Sadie's fundraising technique, they would've never got anything for Tabernacle building...
It’s holy and those who profane it will die (Shemot 31:14)… You want to die?!... Then pay your dues.
Wow. That was a long Aliyah. I will give the sermon later.
Rivka’s Notes on Rabbi Mendelchem’s Drasha
That wasn't a sermon? I'm considering that a sermon. The length of the sermon was an atonement.
Pinchas counted the minutes. He's now the board secretary. He takes the worst accounting at the meetings. But when it's the rabbi's speech, he does a great job of accounting for the minutes. That goes on record.
That was a long Aliyah and a long Parsha. That was only the rabbi’s Aliyah notes. He said he would give a sermon later, but half the congregation slipped out during the rest of the Torah reading.
Holiness is a dangerous thing. That’s what I learned from the Dvar Torah. I also learned that death and excommunication don’t phase the congregants. They still park a block away from the shul.
The neighbor started charging for parking. He opened a lot. He’s making good money off the Jews.
Should the shul open the lot? That's the question. The board is figuring if we should valet on Shabbat. This way, the congregants can still park a block away from the shul. The valet would bring the car to the lot.
Nothing gets done. It's true. Nobody participates anymore. We need to hire a program director to be a professional congregant. We need professional congregants. If we paid everybody in the shul, they would participate and maybe have a soul.
The rabbi did mention the idea of paying people to come to Minyin. I think that will help with the idea of people showing up daily. As long as shul is a job, people will be there on time.
The shul’s seats are comfortable and ugly. The Maroon doesn’t go with the brown checkered carpet. I believe board members in the 1970s made the original renovation decisions. They were board members then too.
The rabbi started calling the kids runners. It wakes the parents up. Hearing their kids are runners has them worried for some reason.
They finally started counting the kids at Junior congregation. The youth director just spaces out. She has no idea where the kids are.
Still, this week, many did not show up. They said it had to do with the snow. The plows didn’t come. What does your driveway not being plowed have to do with walking to shul? It must be something to do with the worry of what you’ll have to do after Shabbat.
Such a powerful message. In order to atone, I now look around the shul, see the other people, and wonder what I've done wrong to deserve this.
The names in the shul not being for good remembrance was true. Many are named after people who have possibly played Jews on TV. Would the rabbi wear the congregants' names on his shoulders? I don't know. I don't think so. He might die if he did that.
We did start a Mitzvah board. That was a great project. Posting Mitzvot for remembrance. It was blank for the first two weeks. There were no Mitzvot done.
The next class at shul was an investment seminar. The rabbi realized that he has the least successful congregants. They would have no chance of making it as Jews in New York. Every Jewish child from Topeka would end up in public school. How they’re in private schools in Topeka, and still don’t pay their dues, is another question.
At a hundred thousand dollars a year, the congregants are not wealthy enough to be Jewish.
Personality certificates was also a good idea. Certification to tell jokes at Kiddish had many people very happy. I think the rabbi just didn't want to have to hear more bad jokes.
I have a feeling the rabbi wants to cut off our shul from the people. He definitely wants to cut off the board.
They do count everywhere we go. When we went on the shul sledding walk to the hill, they counted thirty or so times. The numbers never the same, because people were sledding.
It's pathetic that we need to hire somebody to have a soul for us.
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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.