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We started the Friday night dinner program. Dinner on Friday night. That's the program. Dinner. It’s like a soup kitchen for people with money.
It took the programming committee a while to come up with a successful program. They finally realized that food is why people go to services. Food is why people go to shul. They came to the concert last week for the same reason; food. Without food, nobody would've showed up to the concert. That's the difference between rock music and Jewish music. People go to Jewish shows for food.
Even nonJews show up for food. Why do homeless people show up to soup kitchens? There’s food there. If there is food, people show up. Look at the grocery store. Draws everybody. The kosher section doesn’t draw too many people. It’s too expensive there. If the kosher section was free, it would be packed with people all the time.
Now, the members are coming back. We have re-poached, and we are now retaining with food.
The walkway in front of the shul wasn’t shoveled before Shabbis. It was almost impossible to get in the shul. Eight men were dog digging to make room in front of the shul's entrance. They finally opened the door two hours into Shabbis. They skipped Mincha, as it was too cold outside to stand still and do the silent pray, Amidah.
It’s hard for toddlers to come shul in the snow as well. Pushing the carriage in the snow is almost impossible. I am trying to figure out why we are focusing on the toddler community so much. I believe the rabbi likes them, because they are the only ones that don't complain about him.
The shul membership has got to stop blaming the rabbi for everything. They blamed him for the walkway, for the lack of toddlers, and for not plowing the other day. His station wagon isn’t fit for plowing. I say that he is at least representing Frum Jews correctly. The only car more Frum than a minivan is a station wagon.
Everybody is doing the front arm cross now, holding their hands over the belly. Shmulik had a great affect on the other members. The people are talking about how the front arm cross is very formal. It works well everywhere. Ot wprls fpr bouncers. Teachers are using it to scare the kids. It works when standing at Kiddish, amazingly, as we know. It also works well at funerals, along with a serious face of solemnity.
Rabbi Mendelchem’s Sermon
Shabbat Shalom My Herd
(Shemot 21:1) ‘And these are the decrees…’ These are the ones. This is it... The ones from Gd, Bernie. It's not like Rivka came up with a new decree for how we have to setup the shul's Bingo program. It's not like the Pizza Parsha events now have decrees for what you have to wear…
I know I came out strong today, but that’s OK. You should listen to the decrees… Herd and Flock are the same thing. When I sermon, I am herding you. Like a shepherd… You need herding. I see you guys wandering around… How many of you make it to Minyin on time? I have to herd you. Then I have to herd you to pay your dues. A lot of herding. I hope you're hearing the decrees right now… Daven and do stuff. Stop being slaves to your desires... Your desires are messed up... I know them. To be the best at SheshBesh... Backgammon. Whatever it is. It's all pride.
This week's Torah portion starts off with the servant or slave, depending on which one is politically correct for this congregation to not fire your rabbi... I am personally offended by servants. I like to call them staff… OK. We’ll call them slaves. Does that make everybody happy?... Excellent... Slaves have laws too.
(Shemot 21:2-3) If he came in single, he leaves single… It’s a Jewish slave, Bernie. Read the Parsha before the sermons. For crying out… It’s the first Psukim of the Parsha… Your marriage is enslaving. That's a good point. I understand this is confusing now. A single person can be enslaved too...
A Jewish slave that is bought. After seven years he ‘goes free, no charge’… The master took his money. He wouldn’t be able to pay anyways… You guys can pay your dues. Not giving Tzedakah to the soup kitchen and supporting your shul, is you not living up to your obligation… I’m a slave to this… This stupidity. No more questions. He goes with his wife that he came with. He doesn’t leave with another wife. He leaves with his wife… It's not like you can just flip wives and gazunta heit, the grandkids have a new Bubby. Read the Parsha, Bernie… I don’t know how they chose them. Felvel wouldn’t have made a good slave. He saunters. He gives no energy…
The master may not let him leave with less than he came. He may not diminish this man from what he was. As you have done to your rabbi, with all your complaints.
You don’t make your slave less. You don’t make the people that serve you less than what they were. I serve this congregation… I’m a slave to this shul. My last job, I had congregants that listened. They made amazing Kiddishes. They paid their dues. They volunteered… Yes. They gave to the poor and even volunteered at the soup kitchen. They gave me a raise... You can still enslave and give a raise. Is a raise too much to ask for...
We see that he leaves with what he came with. It's like pointless years of his life. Kind of like the meeting I had with the board this week… The shul board which has accomplished nothing the last seven years. Seven years of my life, gone… Stuff costs money here. My savings are down the tube now. I have sat through seven years of board meetings.
The slave gains nothing. Over that course in time, he gains nothing. Kind of like each and every one of you living in this town who are paying 35% taxes, who are then paying town taxes, supporting your family, with children who don't appreciate it, paying for public school education while sending your kids to private school, while not being able to afford a vacation to Disney World, after 40 years of still not paying off your house, and then you die… I am not saying you're slaves. The question is 'have you listened?' Do I need to pierce everybody's ear here?... Piercings look good.
Nothing is gained... Exactly, like my relationship with Bernie. (Shemot 21:4) If the master gives him a wife, he leaves alone, he leaves single… His wife stays… His wife is the master’s. But it’s his. Kind of like when you take away every good idea we ever had at this shul, Sima… The soup kitchen Kiddish was a great idea. You killed it… You gave no money. Poor people need Kiddish too… How are they supposed to know to come if we don’t call it a 'soup kitchen' Kiddish?...
It’s your food. But you let them eat it… Exactly. That's what community is about, giving away food. Shiva, Brisis, Kiddish, Shalishudis, breakfast which nobody donates to. Bar Mitzvahs... They expect you to host their guests. That is money. you've got to put out for breakfast and coffee...
The host gets the leftovers. You don’t walk out with the leftovers, Binyamin. They belong to the Ba’alei Bayit. The people who invited you, it’s theirs. If you don’t eat during the meal… You don’t take it. They take that back. They can eat it the next day too...
You don’t stand there and put down the slaves with insults. The job of the master isn’t to rag on the guy all day... Eating what's somebody elses is a thing of freedom and wrong...
If he doesn’t want to go free in the seventh year (Shemot 21:5-6)… Yes. You take his ear to the doorpost. Of course you do that.
You let him hear that he should go free. The ears that heard the giving of the Torah. You be a slave to Gd. Not to a random guy who bought you on sale and got you a decent wife… In the door. The door that represents freedom… The Pascal lamb, Pinny. And the ear that heard the Mitzvot from Gd and that we are His chosen people… You want to be a slave to a random guy… It’s in the Artscroll. For crying out loud. Read the English, Bernie…
We are servants in this world. We end up in a place of 'dirt, worms and maggots,' to quote Akavia the Son of Mihalel. We come into this world and we go out the same... Just in case you were feeling decent about being free. I don't want you to think it's worse to be a slave... You'll die. Yes. Worms and maggots will eat you... Exactly. The point is to be a slave to Gd. You're not going to take the physical being of your family to heaven... You complain when you've got to splurge on a family dinner, Lenny...
He can leave with his connection to Gd. That's what he's leaving with. The only thing you can take with you is spirituality… Yes. It’s a lesson. For crying out… The spiritual connection to your family... The greatest gifts of this physical world, you can't take. other than Mitzvot... Mitzvot are a gift. Yes. They are... Because you don't do them. Maybe if you kept Shabbat... You don't get it, we nail your ear to the door... I am going to pierce everybody in this congregation, right now. Piercings...
Poor people have connection to Gd... I think they do. They definitely don't have the greatest clothes.... Look at the Minkowitz family...
Now that we speak of the spiritual. We must understand how to act in our physical world... Yes. Mitzvot. For crying out loud, I give the same message every week... You don't get it... Soup Kiddishes is what we need. If you give Kiddish, you can take the rugulach to Shamaim... That's heaven, Bernie.
What do we make of our lives???? What do we keep???? The children? The next generation? The people we care about? The actions we do? The last kichel that Dr. Fergowitz took from Dr. Pockstein? What we take is where we are the master. Our actions. That is where we are the master... I know that is profound. Finally, somebody listens. And they have a piercing... We are slaves in our actions we must do, and Dr. Fergowitz cannot keep on evading taxes...
These are Mishpatim... Rules of how to act. To make sure our actions don't ruin the day with killing people... Killing the Kiddish for poor people isn't good either...
If you knock out somebody’s teeth, you at least give them soup...
When you're free, you give of what is yours. You use your actions for good...
But you don’t have a plaque Bernie. There are rules. If you don’t have a plaque, the donation means nothing… We know who the cheap people are…
Shmulik, please sit down. I don’t think I need you guarding the Bima for my Dvar Torah. The sermon is fine with you in the seat… If you don’t know sign language… I don’t think I’m going to get shot. Most of the people in the back left are sleeping already…
Stop blaming me for people not coming. We have to clear the snow in front of the shul… People are slaves to the snow. They can't be good Jews in snow.
That’s why Mishpatim are clear. It’s stuff you should do. Like clearing the walkway… No. It’s an easy decision. You’re the shul president…
And the snow hurts people. After we speak of Jewish slaves and how they should go free. And after we speak of a dad who sells his daughter into slavery, where she is hurt by not being wanted (Shemot 21:8)… That's what they did when they couldn't provide. Slave sales of daughters gave hope... You wanted your daughter to have the best opportunity at a decent breakfast. You're buying store brand cereal... It hurts to be rejected by your dad and your new husband. Nobody providing anything for your. Kind of like a shul board who does nothing for you... Difference is the daughter goes free... Rejection hurts. Look at Chanan... You reject, you're taking away from somebody.
(21:10-11) You have to provide food, clothing and marital relations… With her, Bernie. Your wife… You have to provide for your family, Mark. If you don’t provide, ‘she goes free without payment’... If you can't treat the kids to pizza, that is grounds for divorce... Then downsize if you have to.
We talk about striking other people and damages after this, because you hurt her. You didn’t want her... They still have the custodian who complains about having to clean... They don't want her. The board complains about her. They do nothing... They have committees... Committees don't do anything. They talk. They do nothing... They take time.
What are the laws (Shemot 21:12-19)?
Treat people well. Don't take from them. Be free, so you can give... Yes. That's the message of the sermon... Yes. I say that every sermon, but you don't get it. You need me to spell it out... Then why did the soup Kiddish fail?! There are other laws too, that you have to hear...
Don’t hit your parents… We can curse your dad. You can’t… No. You can’t hit anybody. Hitting your parents is worse… They have to learn to share at Kinder Shabbat Groups. They're Lincoln Logs. You share them...
If a random person lives. You get in a fight and hit him, but he lives. You just have to pay for his lost time and healing… I wouldn’t say it’s worth it, because you don't have to get killed yourself… The shul president should pay for anybody who injures themselves in front of the shul… Then clear it. Make a path. Hymie is 89 years old. How is he supposed to walk on snow?...
If it’s not intentional and ‘and Gd caused it,’ he runs to a city of refuge… Striking somebody with a rock and them dying is not Gd causing it… You can’t blame Gd for everything Sarah. Your choolante last week was horrendous… Not Gd’s fault. This whole, ‘Gd makes the choolante.’ Stop blaming Gd… You not giving Tzedakah is not Gd’s intervention...
No. Kidnapping is not allowed. Even according to the Torah... You can't blame Gd for people dying when you hit them. The 'Gd did it' has to stop in this congregation. Mark took all the meat out of the choolante.
It’s about caring. It’s about caring for the slave. It’s about caring for other people. It’s about not killing them...
Then we speak about hitting a slave (21:20)… No. You shouldn’t hit your slave… You say, 'Please clean up the field and make sheaves'... Yes. They will do it. If you ask nicely...
Just like you have to pay for your wife. You have to pay damages... Not for nailing the slave's ear to the door. You're supposed to do that. That's damage with consent of Gd... For crying out loud. If you knock out somebody’s teeth, you at least give them soup... Most of the poor people don't have teeth. Pay for their dental work...
Does the slave want to stay because the master is feeding him, and it's free? That is the real question of this week's Torah portion...
When you're free, you do stuff. You do stuff and you don't hurt people when you're free. You go to Disney World and you don't cut lines...
The real question is, can you afford to go to Disney World? If you can't, are you really free... Do you even have a woman to go with?... Chanan is free and he doesn't even have a wife.
I told Chanan to hang out at the grocery to meet a Jewish girl… You won’t meet a good Jewish girl in the organic section. No good Jewish girl will pay those prices...
Don't enslave and thank Gd for your freedom... Damages enslave. And now we have a leak in the roof... The board doesn't fix anything. Damages.
Rivka’s Notes on Rabbi Mendelchem’s Drasha
The rabbi turned sermon into a verb. I respect that. His literary prowess is amazing.
A master can’t take away what was this person’s, even when he is a slave. An amazing thought shared by the rabbi. I am working on coming up with a lesson from it.
The way to use vacations was pertenanant, as many of the congregants were away for the winter ski vacations. Maybe they'll get the sermon sent to them. It's a shame we can't use a stenographer on Shabbat.
The rabbi was quite contemporary with asking the congregants if he should use the word ‘servant.’ Very neuvo of him to give us a choice. He even brought up the possibility of ‘helot’ or ‘rabbi of this shul with poor wages.’ I’m also, happy we went over the practicalities of how to treat a slave. I don’t support slavery coming back, but if it does, we know.
There are messages within slavery. I like to think of my boss as a slave master.
We learned a lot about treating people right. From now on, if somebody comes to our shul with a wife, we’ll let him leave with her.
You also have to marry the Jewish slave woman. That’s beautiful. She shouldn’t be a slave and single. The rabbi took all the singles aside later and told them it’s worse to be single than a slave. At least a slave woman has somebody.
And then there was the lesson of what we’re slaves to. All I know is that I don’t want to get my ears pierced. Never had them done. The rabbi wasn't sure if it is Halachikly correct to get your ears pierced, though he was fine with it for the congregants, because they don't listen.
Very modern. The rabbi had a group ear piercing. Most rabbis would be against that. The rabbi now thinks they'll pay their dues.
The rabbi’s message was don’t be a slave or a congregant in our shul.
We are all slaves to the new town mowing tax. 35% is crazy. Everybody was fine with the tall blades of grass.
I showed up at the board meeting. Listening to them complain is a form of slavery.
Kiddish soup kitchen was a bust. Nobody volunteered. The consensus among the congregants was that ‘if we’re not feeding ourselves, there is no reason to be cooking anything.’ And it was agreed that 90 percent of our congregation doesn’t like soup. And they weren’t going to start a gazpacho kitchen. The shul treasurer said that poor people don't eat gazpacho, 'it's a known thing.'
Truth is that I have been giving free food away for many years here. The rabbi is correct. Community is about free food. That hosting for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and any Simcha, is a scam. I end up going broke on pastries. Guests always eat a lot of pastries. Nobody eats pastries at home. When they're a guest, they eat pastries and drink orange juice. Always expensive pastries like napoleons.
Everybody is trying to lose weight until they're guests. Free food doesn't have calories. Free food on Shabbat, with that extra Neshama soul for Shabbat, you're losing weight. That's what I hear. I haven't seen it on our congregants yet.
We had a big issue in the shul where people were taking doggie bags from Shabbis meals. Word got back to the rabbi that people don't know how to be guests. Their good at inviting guests, as the rabbi stresses the Mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim. Invites went down.
We need somebody to shovel. That’s what they decided at the board meeting. They needed a board to make that decision. We couldn't trust any one person to think it was a good idea to remove the snow from right in front of the shul's entrance. We needed a vote. The board could only meet the following Monday. That was two weeks of people not being able to get into the shul. The real committed crawled on the snow and snuck through the window.
Once they met and discussed it, they decided that they had to clear the pathway by removing the snow. That decision, with the board, took two and a half weeks. Then they put together a committee to get rid of the snow. That took another three weeks and meetings. They got rid of the snow in March.
After Kiddish, people had to stay at shul, as they couldn’t get out. It was snowing during the services. We all felt like slaves to the president not shoveling.
The rabbi is our shepherd. There is much herding done in our congregation. At Kiddish, many congregants graze. I appreciate being part of a herd. I don't feel like I am flock.
'Soup Kiddishes is what we need. If you give Kiddish, you can take the rugulach to Shamaim...' That was profound. That said it all.
Rabbi is right. If you don’t have a plaque, the donation means nothing. You won’t be remembered. Nobody will care about you.
The sermon turned into a dialogue about what’s considered damage. I have a feeling that Chaim was thinking about how he can destroy stuff legally. He had a lot of questions.
After Kiddish, the rabbi pulled the singles aside and gave them their own speech regarding keeping the laws. He let them know that he felt for them, as it is hard to meet somebody nowadays, and it looks pathetic to be alone. As he said, ‘I am against slavery, and sale of young women. However, it would be easier for many of you if dads were selling their daughters. We understand that in the times of the Torah they did this if they were poor… No, Isaac, we don’t support it nowadays, even if it's a financially sound interaction. Though, it would make Shidduchim easier. And that is why I feel for you.’
The rabbi then told the singles how the Torah teaches us to date. ‘We need ordinances for dating. There should be clear signs. If a man doesn’t want the slave daughter, he must let her go free. You shouldn't marry somebody you don't like.’ Beautiful lesson from our rabbi. The divorcees really took that message to heart. A lot of ex-couple fighting followed. It was very freeing to hear the women telling their ex-husbands 'I hate you. Pay for the kids' doctors bills, you good for nothing.' That segued to the rabbi's next lesson for the singles.
He also said, ‘A man needs to provide food, clothing and marital relations.’ At this point he had a diatribe about how it’s hard to know if you are allowed to touch, and you shouldn't risk getting locked up, even if you are married. For this reason, he said that marital relations means cooking together and cousins. He also said to ask before doing anything, like visiting relatives. He then concluded from this, ‘These are your dating signs. If you don’t like somebody, don’t pay. Let them go and pay for themselves. And you young ladies should know to never date a man who says “we should go Dutch.” If he doesn’t pay for you, he’s not your husband.’ The girls were shocked, as they didn’t think a first date made a husband, but the rabbi was right.
The rabbi knows that we need clarity in the Jewish community. Dating is too hard on these kids nowadays. They have no rules. They’re just offended by everything. Half of the crowd walked out saying 'I can pay for my own meal,' and they didn't meet any men that day. Those women are still single. They have no time to date, as they had to find work to pay for food.
Free food is what is important. That's what people come for.
Bingo is important, and the shul can now use Bingo money. But it's not there. Smoking killed Bingo. People stopped coming because of smoking. What's worse is the new 'no smoking at Bingo' laws. Now we have nobody showing up. Our caller is boring as anything. What are you supposed to do at Bingo if you're not smoking? It was the last safe space for smokers in Topeka.
If we had free food, people would come back to Bingo.
I know you can take off your mask for food. I am not sure if you can take off your mask to smoke.
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I was going to do Kaparos before Yom Kippur, but I chickened out.
You get it? Kaparos is the tradition of placing your sins on something else, the day before Yom Kippur, traditionally a chicken, and waiving it. He chickened out of the chicken. He might've done it with money in the end. But that would still be without a chicken.
Designated stroller parking area. Something every shul needs, so I can get through the entrance on Yom Kippur... Truth is they should have stroller parking all the time. The entrance is always blocked.
Problem: Merv and Bernie will end up parking there. They already take the disabled parking spots and walk just fine. When it comes to parking, every member of our congregation is disabled.
Side Note: Figured out why so many kids come to shul on Yom Kippur. Because they get to eat in shul on Yom Kippur.