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An Erev Shabbat Thought from Rabbi Annie Tucker

A Life of Goodness

An Erev Shabbat Thought from Rabbi Annie Tucker

An Erev Shabbat Thought from Rabbi Annie Tucker

An Erev Shabbat Thought from Rabbi Annie Tucker

May 25, 2018 |  I Scream, You Scream III

Rabbi Tucker

June 21st may be the official start of summer, but to me Memorial Day has always seemed to signal its beginning.  And so, in honor of the holiday weekend, I’m excited to announce our long awaited line-up for Ice Cream Office Hours 2018 beginning in just a few weeks.  This year’s list has some perennial favorites along with a few newcomers and features two evening gatherings in response to feedback from those who work or are otherwise occupied during the day.  Bring your friends, your kids, your neighbors who may be shul-shopping!  Continue Reading -->

Counting Up

These days you can do just about anything on a smart phone!  And this includes, evidently, creating a customizable count-down clock which will tick off the seconds, minutes, hours, and days until an occasion of your choosing.  Not surprisingly, lifecycle events such as weddings or the birth of a child tend to be most popular for this kind of treatment along with peak moments like retirement, although some of the online count-down clocks I saw marked time until baseball season or Thanksgiving or even tax day (presumably for planning purposes rather than out of sheer joy for April 15).  Happiness research indicates that looking forward to a special event, like a big vacation, can be almost as pleasurable as the event itself.  As much as we try to live in the moment, we also like to look ahead and anticipate joyful times in our lives. Continue Reading ---> 

A Military Minyan

Earlier this week, at a hotel in downtown Memphis, I davened Shacharith with a minyan of military men and women.  This was not my first time praying with members of the armed forces -- last year on our BHBE Family Trip to Israel I had the great privilege of offering the Mi Sheberach for Soldiers to a group of young men defending our Northern border with Syria -- but what made this experience unique for me is that the individuals in this minyan were all rabbis, men and women working as U.S. military chaplains both here and abroad.  As the chaplains explained it to me, their role is to serve Jews who serve - as we do at a rate roughly proportional to our composition in the general population (if not a little bit higher).  They cannot think of a higher purpose for their life's work and, having been with them for two days, neither can I! Continue reading -->

 

Treasures

During years of scarcity King Monobaz spent all of his own treasures and the treasures of his ancestors on tzedakah (giving to others).  His brother and members of his family joined together in reproaching him, “Your ancestors stored away treasures adding to the treasures of your ancestors, and you squander them!”  He replied, “My ancestors stored away in a place where the hand of others can prevail, while I have stored away in a place where the hand of others cannot prevail.  My ancestors stored away something that produces no fruit, while I have stored away something that does produce fruit.  My ancestors stored away treasures of money, while I have stored away treasures of souls…My ancestors stored away for this world, while I have stored away for the world to come.”                                                                      -Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 11b as told in A Day Apart by Noam Sachs Zion and Shawn Fields-Meyer

Continue Reading -->

The Failure Contest

Earn $500 by making a mistake.  This, essentially, is the premise of OpenMarkets Health’s monthly “Failure Contest,” an innovation brought to the company by BHBE’s own Michael Fineberg who serves as the organization’s CEO.  After noticing his development team bury a minor data leak that occurred during software deployment, Fineberg realized how important it is not only for employees to refrain from hiding mistakes but also for them to actively share their errors so as to grow from past experience and encourage a culture of experimentation.  So he started to do the counter-intuitive thing and incentivize failure, encouraging team members to acknowledge when an error has occurred, explain lessons learned, and detail how they will work with others to prevent similar mistakes in the future.  Each month’s biggest blunder receives $500 and is greeted by a round of enthusiastic applause at the company’s staff meeting.  The wisdom gained from the mistake, presumably, has an even greater reward and more enduring payoff! Continue Reading --> 

April 14, 2018 | Happy 70th Israel!

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks tells the story of Napoleon, once passing a synagogue on the somber day of Tisha B’Av, who was struck by sounds of crying and wailing emanating from inside the building.  “What are the Jews mourning?” he asked one of his officers.  “They are grieving for Jerusalem,” came back the reply.  “And how long ago did the Jews lose Jerusalem?” asked Napoleon.  “More than 1700 years ago,” the soldier answered.  Napoleon was quiet for a moment and then said softly, “A people that remembers a place for so long will one day have it restored to them.”  And so, of course, it has come to pass in our time! Continue Reading -->

April 7, 2018 | L'Shana Ha'baah B'Yerushalayim Intro

In their Passover Haggadah, A Different Night, Noam Zion and David Dishon tell the story of a rabbi who came to shul one morning as usual to greet the older men who were his minyan regulars.  One challenged the rabbi playfully: “Aren’t you going to wish me Happy Birthday?” 

“Sure, how old are you?” asked the rabbi. 

“I’m 45 today,” the man said proudly. 

“Who are you kidding?” replied the rabbi incredulously, “You must be 75 at least!” 

“To be sure,” the gentleman said softly.  “But still today is when I celebrate my birthday.  You see, forty-five years ago I was reborn when the Allies liberated Auschwitz.  For me, the gift of life and the gift of freedom have since then been inseparable.”  Continue Reading --->

Passover 2016 | A Baseball on the Seder Plate

Over the past years, I have had the good fortune to attend many incredible Pesach seders including those led by my beloved father (z’’l) and by good friends in this community and others.  And so today I want to share a wonderful tradition introduced to me by Bob Lebeau, Leora Batnitzky, and family of Princeton with whom my Mom and I had the pleasure of celebrating Passover a number of years back.  On the Lebeau-Batnitzky seder-plate each year there is the requisite haroset and bitter herbs, the salt water and karpas for dipping, the shank-bone and the egg.  But in addition to all of these items, sitting in a proud place of prominence, is something that I had never quite seen before in this context – a well-worn, well-loved, dirt-encrusted baseball!  Why a baseball on the seder plate, you might ask?   Continue reading → 

Passover 2015 | The Burning Book

One of my favorite renderings of “The Four Children,” the section of the Passover haggadah where we are instructed to teach the learners around our seder table each according to his or her disposition and ability, displays four books: one open with Hebrew writing, one open with blank pages, one open with fire erupting from the spine, and the last closed.  At first glance, it seems like the burning book must correspond to the “wicked” child – particularly when one notices that the picture was created by David Wander in The Haggadah in Memory of the Holocaust.  There can be nothing more sacrilegious than setting holy words aflame, as we remember all too well from the horrors of Nazi Germany.   Continue reading → 

Passover 2014 | Ma Nishtana

There is a famous story about Isidor I. Rabi, the Nobel laureate in physics, who was once asked why he decided to become a scientist rather than a doctor, lawyer, or businessman like most of the other children from his immigrant neighborhood.  Rabi credited his career choice to his Mom.  He wrote, “My mother made me a scientist without ever intending it.  Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: ‘Nu?  Did you learn something today?’  But not my mother.  She always asked me a different question.  ‘Izzy,’ she would say, ‘Did you ask a good question today?’  That difference – asking good questions – made me become a scientist.” (Donald Scheff, New York Times, Jan. 19, 1988)   Continue reading →

March 24, 2018   I  March for Our Lives

It’s been a while since Shabbat got in the way of something that I really wanted to do.  At the beginning this was less true; when I started becoming observant about 20 years ago, during my junior year of college, it often felt like Shabbat got in the way – of shopping or taking the bus downtown, of doing homework (which required writing and typing) or going to the movies with friends.  But as the years have passed and I have settled into a routine, not to mention a community, I’ve come to appreciate the break from it all that Shabbat affords, the time for other things like reading or rest that Shabbat carves out, and I rarely find myself wishing that things were otherwise.    Continue reading →

March 10, 2018   I  Happy Birthday, Dad!

I almost started crying the other day smack in the middle of DSW.  You see, it seems that Bass Weejuns have made a come-back this year in women’s fashion and so the aisles of the shoe store were suddenly full of every possible variety of classic penny loafer – exactly the kind of shoe my father, of blessed memory, used to wear.  When we think about loss, we often anticipate the times and occasions that will be difficult – birthdays, anniversaries, life-cycle moments, holidays. But almost as often, at least when it comes to missing my Dad, it is the simple, everyday things that set me off.     Continue reading →

March 3, 2018   I  Kangaroos and Emus

I promise - this will be my last Erev Shabbat Message that leads with Australian wildlife!  But I learned a fun fact about kangaroos while I was abroad last month, one that happens to be true for emus as well, and I think there just might be something here that connects a little bit to our world today and to Judaism and to the Purim holiday that we’ve been celebrating all week.   So I hope you’ll bear with me; I couldn’t quite resist!   Continue reading →

February 24, 2018   I  Home Sweet Home 

I thought the koala would be a crowd-pleaser!  But rather than cuddly Australian wildlife, what I really want to write about this week is a lesson shared by my teacher, Rabbi Shai Held, at a class for clergy taught earlier this fall here in Chicago.  Speaking to a group of colleagues during the week immediately preceding the High Holidays, Held encouraged us to fight against our better instincts and to listen to his lecture not with sermons in mind but rather with a spirit of Torah lishma (Torah for its own sake), something that Jewish professionals don't always experience amidst the constant pressure to preach and teach.  Continue reading

December 1, 2017   I  Camp Shabbat III 

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and I’m particularly fond of this one, taken circa 1993.  A Camp Ramah in New England tradition, once each session – on a much anticipated but carefully kept secret day – firetrucks arrive on the sports field, spraying it with mountains of foam in which for campers to romp around.  The event, aptly named Yom Foam (Foam Day), is one of the highlights of the summer and embodies the magic that is overnight camp – a place where impromptu mosh pits of froth can suddenly appear and where there is nothing more important to do than have lather fights all afternoon with your friends.  That’s me, in the middle, with my cabin-mates Sarah (Levine) Glasser and Shira (Miller-Jacobs) Fishman. Continue reading →

November 22, 2017   I  Two Beggars 

An Afghani-Jewish folktale tells of two beggars who went each morning to the king’s palace to ask for food, each receiving a daily loaf of bread.  One of the beggars would always thank the king for his generosity.  The other would always thank God for giving the king sufficient wealth that he could give to others so graciously.
The second beggar’s words stung the king, and so he decided to teach him a lesson.  He ordered his royal baker to create two identical loaves but to place inside one of them precious gems, making sure that it was this loaf that arrived in the hands of the first beggar.  The baker did as instructed, handing the jewel-filled bread to the one who always thanked the king himself. Continue reading →

November 9, 2017   I  Burning Scrolls 

While in New York this past week for Rabbinical Assembly meetings, I had the privilege of hearing my colleague, Rabbi Phil Scheim, speak about a member of his congregation in Toronto, a 97-year old survivor of Nazi Germany.  One of this gentleman’s strongest memories of the Holocaust was of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass that we commemorated just yesterday, where he witnessed German soldiers brazenly toss Torah scrolls out the window of a high apartment building only to be trampled and burned on the street below.  Many years later, long settled in a new country across the ocean, this man had the honor of having a Torah at his beloved synagogue, Beth David, dedicated in his name.  In his words that special day he said, “This Torah at least makes up for one of those that was destroyed so long ago.” Continue reading →

October 30, 2017   I  Me Too. 

Over the last few weeks, these two simple words have launched an incredible campaign of solidarity across social media, as thousands upon thousands of women have come forward as having been the victims of sexual harassment or assault. The sheer number of testimonials, along with the terrible range of experiences which they describe, is staggering as is the fact that so many women are sharing their stories for the very first time, having long since buried them out of shame or fear or concern that they would not be believed. Continue reading →

September 19, 2017   I  Laugavegur Street 

Since my trip to Reykjavik this past summer, I have become enamored with all things Iceland which is how I came upon the story of Noel Santillan, a 29-year old New Jersey man who became an overnight celebrity in the Land of Fire and Ice all because of a very small spelling error. You see, Santillan arrived at Keflavik Airport one February after a long international flight, eager to reach his hotel in the country’s capital, and thus typed “Laugarvegur” Street into his rental car’s GPS. Continue reading →

May 9, 2017 | Counting Up 

These days you can do just about anything on a smart phone! And this includes, evidently, creating a customizable count-down clock which will tick off the seconds, minutes, hours, and days until an occasion of your choosing. Not surprisingly, lifecycle events such as weddings or the birth of a child tend to be most popular for this kind of treatment along with peak moments like retirement, although some of the online count-down clocks I saw marked time until baseball season or Thanksgiving or even tax day (presumably for planning purposes rather than out of sheer joy for April 15). Continue reading →

Mar 21, 2017 | In Vogue

Suddenly Shabbat has become very trendy. Or so it would seem from this week’s latest edition of Vogue which featured an article entitled “How to Host a Shabbat Dinner and Why You should – Even if You  Aren’t Celebrating.” I will admit that I approached this piece of journalism with more than a little bit of skepticism, wondering what of significance a women’s fashion and lifestyle magazine could possibly have to say about the holiest day of the Jewish week. Continue reading →

Mar 24, 2017 | How Free is Free Will    

What does a California home-maker have in common with Egypt’s great Pharaoh? To answer this question we begin with a 1960’s psychology experiment conducted by Drs. Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser. In this study, a team of researchers telephoned California housewives and asked the women if they would be willing to answer a few questions – a relatively simple request with which most subjects complied. Continue reading →

Mar 31, 2017 | Four Cups of Milk  

 Once, before Pesach, a man entered the home of Rabbi Yossi Ber, and asked him a question: “Tell me, Rabbi, can I fulfill the commandment of the four cups with milk instead of wine?” The rabbi asked him, “Are you – God forbid – ill?” The man answered him, “No, thank God, I am quite healthy, but I cannot afford to buy wine this year.” Rabbi Yossi turned to his wife and said,” Give this man twenty-five rubles.” Continue reading →

Apr 14, 2017 | A Band-Aid on the Seder Plate    

My teacher, Dr. David  Kraemer, tells the following story about a Passover he celebrated many years ago when his daughter was little. On seder night, the Kraemer family gathered together for candle-lighting and recited the blessing, finishing with the words l’hadlik ner shel Yom Tov – Praised are You, God, who commands us to light the holiday candles. Continue reading →

May 2, 2017 | More Exciting Than the Moon 

Thomas Friedman tells the story of the late Neil Armstrong, a devout Christian, who visited Israel after his trip to the moon and was taken on a tour of the Old City of Jerusalem by Israeli archeologist Meir Ben-Dov. When they got to the Hulda Gate, atop the stairs leading to the Temple Mount, Armstrong asked Ben-Dov whether Jesus had stepped anywhere near where they were now standing. “Jesus was a Jew,” Ben-Dov replied. Continue reading →

Wed, September 19 2018 10 Tishrei 5779