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A lot of internal family fights in the shul recently, and nobody knows how to say that they are wrong. There is a lot of wrong, but nobody is taking the blame. There is blaming. As a bystander, I can say that they're all to blame. I blame them all. I see them at shul and they are all annoying. Some don't let you go. They hold you in conversation and tell you jokes they already told you. Some don't even say 'Shabbat Shalom' all the time. Those are the snubbers. Some do nothing and want credit for that. I don't understand how they want credit for nothing.
There has been much splitting up of families since people started moving to Israel. Now, everybody is right when they tell their siblings that what they are doing is wrong. It makes family fights more even-keeled. You can tell your sibling that what they are doing is wrong, and you are definitely right. Living in Topeka is wrong because you're not living in Israel, and living in Israel is wrong because you're not in Topeka.
The board is trying to figure out why we are losing so many members. Some blame it on the other shuls, even though the other shuls are losing people. Some blame it on the economy. It's the rabbi's support of Israel.
The rabbi's speeches about moving to Israel have been successful. We've lost an average of five members a year. If you stay in Topeka you are wrong. If you abandon Topeka you are wrong. Everybody is confused.
Those who stayed in Topeka are definitely wrong. They do nothing for the shul.
The shul always puts on weight on holidays. Advertisements go out all over the community every holiday. This Chanukah it had a before picture of a guy taking down a doughnut and very thin. The after picture is a guy’s face full of Sufganiah powder and forty pounds heavier. It’s the only before and after picture I have ever seen that gives no hope.
The shul fundraiser is not working out right now. They just put in $20,000 on the Chanukah show. Saying it is a Chanukah success to receive $8,000; it makes no sense. I believe that if we don't lose more than what we spent, the board considers that a huge success now.
We had a guest speaker go off last week on his trip to Jewish Thailand. It was an outline of the trip and painful. Pointless soliloquies. He just went on. I think he hit every side point possible. I fell asleep. Very relaxing though. I commend him for that.
The shul decided to pay for speakers from now on. This way, they can dictate the message and tell them when to stop.
Why the shul brings in speakers makes no sense. They are never that great. I heard these people are charging $30,000 to share their thoughts. The shul already felt that the Chanukah fundraiser was a success before it began, since they made $10,000 by not hiring the speaker that people pay to get.
Rabbi Mendelchem’s Drasha
Shabbat Shalom Koolam,
Chanukah is over and this community needs a diet. I'm not going to go off on Scott... That's not just Sufganiot. That's doughnuts and binge watching. That is Chanukah plus weight... I'm not going to go off on a long speech today. Just going to review what Yehudah said...
(Bereishit 44:18-30) Yehudah starts with his whole speech to Yosef, 'We have an old dad....' Not realizing that Yosef has that same dad. This is why Rivkie always loses the family fights… You don’t realize that you have the same parents. We all understand that it is an anomaly to have your siblings donating to the shul’s New Table fund… Exactly. You live here and don’t pay your dues. How you come from the same parents… You can't say 'it's your side of the family,' when you're talking to your siblings... It works with your spouse, because he has a different side. His side doesn't pay dues either...
(Bereishit 44:18) He tells Yosef that he is ‘like Paroh.’ I am not saying you are like Paroh. Paroh would pay his dues… Each family here has somebody who is like a Paroh. I heard Yankel didn't help out with raking this year. Paroh. Paroh never helped with the raking... What does it mean to be like Paroh? The board… Who is like a Paroh here?! Let’s see. Mendel couldn’t translate anybody’s dreams correctly. We have the back left sitting on their comfortable chairs and doing nothing. We have… Is it even a board? The dumbest decisions… You do nothing. Rashi explains that like Paroh, you say but don’t do… Your jokes are not helpful Bernie. You and Hymie say a lot… Where were you for the Chanukah party? Do something. Do a talent show. That could be a good fundraiser. And people wouldn't have to listen to you at Kiddish.
The redemption begins when Yehudah finally tells Yosef about their dad. A bit of remorse. It’s a matter of looking back generations. If you were to think back to all the generations you let down... You need slavery for redemption, Bernie. What do you think I am doing here… Yes. Rivkie. They paid their dues. Yaakov's family paid dues...
If I was going to give a speech about your parents, it would be that they are worried about losing this congregation… They don’t care about losing you…
Yehudah doesn't stop. He keeps on nagging. He says, ‘My father didn't want... Then you make me bring my brother. I had to put in some effort. I had to walk all the way back home. It's Israel. Customs takes hours…’ And he keeps on going on and on, like Mrs. Feldstein, when she wanted to bring in the Baptist minister to give the speech for her daughter's Bat Mitzvah. 'Why can't I? He is clergy and you are clergy too rabbi? Jesus was a Jew!... WahWahWah…'
Yehudah’s speech made sense. He legitimately cared about his dad… He didn’t let them down Mrs. Feldstein. It wasn't like he was going Messianic… It's a different religion... I am not saying that you sold your siblings into slavery. However, I feel like working with you is slavery…
You all nag. Then you give the speech. Oh. It isn't right that we have to pay for Jewish education. It should be free...
How many of you show up to minyan? Oh, we can't... Then 'we have to wake up'... then 'I am tired'... 'the breakfast isn't good enough... I need fat free doughnuts...'
You all complain and give speeches. Yehudah's speech was about acknowledging their father. Caring for him. Remorse for the bad he did. Acknowledging what our parents need... They ate fat filled doughnuts and they were thin...
(Bereishit 44:20) Yehudah tells him that Binyamin’s brother is dead... He tells Yosef that he is dead. Family fights in this shul have to stop. Pulling hair over who gets an Aliyah… Caring for your siblings. When was the last time you asked about their kids... Yehudah could care less about Yosef's kids... They didn't even exist to him. The same way Melvin's brother takes away his Aliyahs and doesn't even care if he gets a Sufganiah... It was Kohen. It was between you and your brother. Did you forget he was there?
Let me just tell you the rest of the story. This is where you learn that it is wrong to sell you your siblings to slavery. Why I have to tell the congregants this is…
At this point, Yosef ends up revealing himself to his brothers.
Yosef couldn't handle it any longer. The yapping of Yehudah was not going to stop. He repeats the whole story of what happened. Comes up with his own lyrical prose and Yosef can't stand it. How would you feel if Melvin told you you were dead?... Exactly, Simmy. He treats you that way. He never lets you take the Aliyah. The Gabai thinks you're dead too...
Look at the Torah, it is a whole 16 psukim/sentences. It is so long that it needed a break. The rabbis decided to put in Sheini, in the middle of it… Speeches back in the day used to be only two sentences long…
Bernie. Nobody wanted to hear your jokes. They’re long... That is also why they didn't repeat stuff all the time. You’re old and you repeat stuff. Yaakov didn’t repeat constantly… I repeat, because you don’t listen… Nobody wants to hear the same joke…
Yehudah didn’t stop going on. So, Yosef gave in. The same way we have to give into Bernie and Hymie at Kiddish, when they grab our arms. It was so painful that Yosef couldn't hold back anymore from telling his brothers the truth. This is why I am extremely honest with you and how messed up this congregation is… It’s painful, and it would kill our ancestors to know this is what is going on. And no dues are paid… If you would finally listen to me, we would be redeemed. Maybe some Nachis, Michael.
When you care you nag… The sisterhood cares about the flowers. A lot of nagging.
It’s painful when people repeat old stories. Almost as painful as hearing the same jokes every day… Hymie. We love you. You are getting old, we understand. But you've got to start sharing some new material with us. We respect that you found some really good jokes that work, but you haven't had one new one in the past twenty years… We have to listen to you, because you hold our arms when you talk, and you are old... At least look on the internet and try to find a new joke... You can’t keep us hostage to your stories, with the arm hold… Yehuda had Yosef’s attention at least. It was revealing to Yosef to hear he was dead. It shows that not everything that is said is the truth… Even when Bernie says ‘it’s a true story,’ he is lying and trying to tell a joke. It's his delivery. 'This happened to me...'
We learn from Yosef to let out the truth. When you see that it is time, you must reveal the truth.
At this moment, as your rabbi, I cannot hold back from telling Mr. Osenberg, 'You really… I can’t stand you.' The truth is out. I have revealed it. You have never even as much as donated a Kiddish… There have been graduations. Your kids graduated. You show up to Minyan. We are happy about that, until you talk to us. You eat the breakfast every day. But you show up, just for the breakfast. You don’t even have Teffilin marks. You even joined the Kiddish club. You even eat at the regular Kiddish, and you take all the kichel… Other people love the stuffed air pockets too. But you never donate a Kiddish. I am not trying to get you to sponsor anything, I am just making a point that the congregation can’t stand you… You have reasons. For crying out loud, your parents are great people who sponsored kiddishes… They’re endowment sponsors Kiddishes. They’re not even alive anymore, and they still give more than you to the shul…
I feel that being honest and telling the full stories of how you are letting down your ancestors will lead to peace in this congregation. Hymie's dad was known for great jokes...
The difference between Yehudah and Mrs. Feldstein or Mr. Osenberg, is that Yehudah cared about his dad. At least until the end, when the selfishness comes out and then he complains about having to see his dad being hurt. Yehudah starts saying stuff like 'I do not want to deal with this.'
Yosef heard the pain of his father losing his son… That’s what moving to Israel does to the Fledsteins… If you would join the shul trip, you would be able to see your daughter. We commend her on joining the Israeli army... You didn't lose a daughter. You gained a country. And if the ushers can please go around with the Israel Bonds appeal cards again...
(Bereishit 44:29) Yehudah, in explaining his dad's feelings, quotes Yaakov and says that if disaster should befall Binyamin, 'Then you will have brought my old age into a bad...' End. I understand Yaakov. If he would've had to give Drashas here in his old age... He would've went into a deep despair...
Rashi explains that Binyamin is what comforts Yaakov on the passing of Yosef and Rachel. And to lose Binyamin would be like losing all 3 of them in one day. he same way we lost Felvel. He was funny...
I’ve had a lot of losses in this shul. Lost my parking spot to a handicap sign…
Yosef already lost his family. He had been there, and now he is about to come out of his own death, by becoming one with his family again. He needed comfort. Yaakov needed comfort.
Your jokes bring no comfort, Bernie. They make old age feel very bad… If we’re going to have to listen to that in old age… Laughing is healthy. The Sufganiot leftovers and your jokes are not…
The problem is the Sufganiot is where this congregation finds its comfort…
If you would’ve given a donation to the Building Table Fund and not Sufganiot… Find comfort in making your family proud. Acknowledge them and you won't be in despair. This congregation is in despair because the families are messed up...
We all have our problems. Yosef lets his family know that, here and now. As he is hearing the issues they have, he comes back and lets them know, 'We are all in the same place'... Don't do that Sharon. It is so annoying when you bring your problems into the conversation... Let other people have the problem spotlight for a few moments. They should get the attention too. You always have to outdo them and show-off... We know you have it worse. We are with you every week...
'Right now, we are all in the same place. We suffer losses. You suffer right now. I suffered before. Now you understand what I was put through with this congregation. You are now able to understand. Maybe now you will connect with me. Let us get past this and move on. Stop complaining, it is annoying.' Not a quote from the Torah, but a feeling you get when Yosef calls for an intimate moment with his brothers... Dealing with the Egyptians was like dealing with this shul...
The problem is that you shouldn't be complaining. However, we must all be one that hears the other person complaining. Hear their needs. Once we get over Mrs. Feldstein's continuous need to have a baptist minister at the shul, and Hymees' long drawn-out set-up for the joke we heard. After feeling that pain of another, the shared pain of this congregation, can we move towards redemption, and get a decent ark cover.
Seeing the way this congregation acts, it’s as if the ancestors are dead… I know they’re dead. You respond like Paroh.
It’s Yehudah’s Teshuva and caring for their dad. Caring for their ancestors. That's what keeps people good. If you did Teshuva, the new table would be here already...
Rivka’s Notes on Rabbi Mendelchem’s Sermon
The Israel Bonds appeal didn't work on Yom Kippur this year. I think that using the Feldsteins made for the perfect time for Israel Bonds appeal. The rabbi was waiting for the right moment. It took him two and a half months, but he nailed it this time. There was still little money given by the congregants. Nothing could be expected from them, as they already put out $5 a head for the Chanukah concert. Even so, it was great timing and the ushers were on cue.
The rabbi should've said that the $5 for the concert was Tzedakah. Then people would've felt like they weren't spending their money for the show. The shul could've charged a hundred-fifty bucks a ticket if the rabbi called it charity. The people in our congregation are willing to throw their tithing money anywhere. As long as the rabbi says it's charity, they'll spend it.
I don't know how the rabbi connected Yaakov's kids leaving Israel to our kids going to Israel, but that seemed to be the message.
The rabbi pushed the Israel trip again. Mrs. Feldstein won’t accept that her children moving to Israel is a positive. She says they abandoned her, and that she needs security guards at her home to keep away the 'Mushlachim,' the people who come around asking for charity.
The message of going down to Egypt wasn't what the rabbi wanted to focus on the Jewish community. The rabbi feels enslaved enough as it is in Topeka. And the congregants would rather go to Egypt on their next trip. Egypt is more exotic to them. The only reason the rabbi hasn't left this congregation is that there is no famine in our city yet.
The board feels that a trip to Egypt will have a better message to our congregants. We've lost a lot of members to Israel. It seems that Israel is not a good message for the shul's future. The board has decided that when they hire the next rabbi, it's going to be somebody who doesn't like Jews. They need someone who is anti-Israel, for retention.
That was a long speech. What Yehudah said was a long speech. The rabbi got that message across through example. I believe the rabbi set the example of what Yehudah's speech was. His speech got so long, he left the Bima and went to the congregation and held somebody's arm, to make sure that he could continue his speech.
That speech was like the Thailand speech. He hit every sidepoint about what Yehudah said. I don’t think he really touched on what Yehudah was saying. I fell asleep. From what I understand, Yehudah did stuff and never took blame. He was a holder and talker.
The shul gave up on the Building Fund. They now started focusing on a table. The idea Is to find success. The board realizes they can successfully raise three-hundred dollars. As the president said, ‘Little wins.’ The board loves the new concept. Heating is down right now, but we were told that when we get the table, we can all gather around the table for warmth.
The heating bill is too much to focus on. Small wins.
Due to the lack of dues and donations, the rabbi ordained that kids can't graduate unless if their parents donate a Kiddish. It turns out that the best time to donate Kiddish is after holidays, as the communal diet plan calls for no cakes and potato kugel at Kiddish, after holidays.
The issue with the rabbi ordaining the Kiddish rule is that some congregants took Michael's pun seriously, and now some of the congregants feel that once they sponsor a Kiddish they should get Smicha.
The leftover Sufganiot party was not a success. Those doughnuts went bad real quick.
Following the Parsha, the rabbi taught a class on family relationships and how having a bad sense of humor kills them. I think the rabbi blamed the shul board for Yosef being sold. In all of his family counseling sessions the next few months, he told the families that it's Pinchas the President's fault.
Being like Paroh was taken two ways. Some wanted to be just like Paroh. Powerful and doing nothing. Others wanted to not be like Paroh, so they stopped helping cleanup. They claimed that Paroh would've made sure the shul was clean. Not helping the family clean the leaves is a Paroh move.
The talent show of people telling jokes that we heard at Kiddish, from Bernie and Hymie, was not that great. It was like hearing Bernie and Hymie tell jokes at Kiddish. It just wasn't Kiddish. It was an embarrassment. If their ancestors would’ve seen it, they would’ve went into a deep despair.
Because they were seperated from the audience, and couldn't hold their arms, half of the audience left in the first five minutes. As they were leaving, the Finkelwitzs said they heard the joke before. Lesson learned was that telling jokes at Kiddish can kill your act.
The rabbi really hates having to listen to their jokes. He considers it slavery, and he believes that we shouldn’t be going back to Mitzrayim.
The rabbi made it clear that you can’t hold somebody’s arm when talking to them anymore. It is considered Halachikly wrong and an act of enslaving others to your story. Bernie and Hymie are now having a hard time finishing their stories. People are walking away.
Everybody was confused, as Yosef didn’t pass away. He was alive and there, and Yehudah was talking to him. The rabbi explained that it was similar to giving a sermon to our membership. They’re there, but it feels dead.
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That is how the punchline of a Jewish joke should look. Like you're questioning something, dealing with serious stomach issues, or giving a sermon.