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Temple Israel of Scranton

Temple Israel of Scranton

An Egalitarian, Conservative Jewish Congregation – Be A Part of Us!

918 East Gibson Street, Scranton, PA 18510
(570) 342-0350 | Email Us

Behar-Bechukotai 5781

Posted on May 7, 2021

From the Rabbi’s Desk

My father’s one and only rabbinical sabbatical coincided with my junior year in college; my parents, my sisters, Jeffrey and I all ended up in Israel together. It was, as you might imagine, quite the year. We studied, we traveled, my father worked on the book he was writing, my sister Tova got so entrenched that when my parents went home before Pesah, she stayed with a friend to complete the 7th grade.  

The concept of sabbatical comes from Parashat Behar, the first of this week’s combined Torah readings of Behar-Bechukotai. Every seventh year the land was to lie fallow and have “complete rest”. And every fiftieth year the land was to have a jubilee year, which meant that land ownership reverted back to their original family owners. In effect one could not buy land in Israel; one was only renting it until the jubilee year when it went back to the original owner.  It is not clear whether or not this economic system ever functioned exactly as outlined in the Torah, but it is very clear that the concept of family connection — connection to the land, to each other, and to God — was very important, then and now. 

To this day our Hebrew names reflect an idea of family/communal connection. We are soon going to be reading Torah from the Torah scroll (hurray!) and calling people for aliyot (yes!). (At this point you will not come all the way up on the bimah for an aliyah, but will come up to the front of the sanctuary and take the aliyah from the podium on the floor.) When you give me your Hebrew name, you have three choices and I will call you the way you tell me:

  • You can be called: Hebrew name ben (son of) parents’ names. 
  • You can be called: Hebrew name bat (daughter of) parents’ names.
  • You can choose instead to be called: Hebrew name mi’bet  (from the house of ) parents’ names. 

Jews-by-Choice typically use the names of Abraham and Sarah as their parents’ names (see the Ask the Rabbi question for more on this). 

You will also notice that I call aliyot slightly differently than you might be used to. Instead of calling “ya’amod” (male) or “ta’amod” (female) I say  “na l’amod”, “please come up”.  It is a non-gendered way of calling, allowing us to be completely inclusive. And as an extra bonus, we get to use the word “please” in the aliyah call and to use formal-sounding Hebrew. 

For more on this and many other things, please join the Cantor and me for Welcome back and Refresh: Reacquainting ourselves with the Sanctuary on Sunday morning, July 11th @ 10 AM in the sanctuary! And, of course, please join us for services every Shabbat morning, on livestream and beginning on May 22nd, also in person. 

It has been a very different year. In what ways did this year function as a sabbatical year for you?