From the Rabbi's Desk December 2017

Rabbi Carla Freedman






....Different sources are reporting that this flu season is particularly nasty. And different reports indicate that the flu season has already peaked or has not yet peaked. The flu shot seems impotent against the strain that has dominated, this year. And in an average year, the flu kills at least 56,000 people in this country; it seems reasonable to think that many cases of the flu are never reported, so that the actual death toll may be much higher. Of course, the very young and the very old are especially vulnerable (already 20 very young children have died this year). So when we ask you to avoid shaking hands, hugging and kissing, and to make sure that a) you wash your hands thoroughly and often; b) that you cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough; and c) that you stay home if you are sick....we do so for good reason. Well declare an end to a) and b) when flu season is done...something to look forward to!

...The flurry of deaths we had in the first 9 days of the new year (4, to be precise) reminds us of how fragile our lives really are. But the other reminder is that our religious tradition is especially helpful in such situa-tions. Judaism provides us with a whole years worth of practices which enable us to move from the shock and grief of death into life without a particular loved one. I refer to shiva (the first seven days following the funeral); shloshim (the next 3 weeks, making up a whole month (with daily recitation of kaddish for all but parents); the daily recitation of kaddish for parents for eleven months; the unveiling of the grave stone; four times during the year (the last day of Pesakh, Shavuot, Yom Kippur, and the last day of Sukkot) when a Yiz-kor (memorial) service is held at temple and yahrzeit candles are lit at home; the annual yahrzeit (anniversary of the death) when we light the little candle-in—a glass (or can). The last two of these practic-es (Yizkor services and yahrzeit observances) occur every year, ensuring that our loved ones will not be for-gotten.

These same practices provide an opportunity for family and friends to rally round the bereaved, to provide care and support via meals and other food, to be present for shiva services, to close some of the gap that a death causes in the lives of the bereaved. These opportunities teach us that Judaism is a communal experi-ence, which is something our ancestors knew very well, and is older than, but congruent with the phrase "it takes a village"

....The cold weather we have recently experienced should encourage us to be more appreciative of the beau-tiful weather we normally enjoy here in Florida. As with so many things, it is easy to become complasiant with the weather we experience all the time, so a brief spate of north-like temperatures may be a good thing.

...At the end of February we will celebrate Purim, which many people have likened to Mardi Gras. That occasion on the Roman Catholic calendar comes immediately before the six weeks of Lent, which brings Christians to the foundational occasion of their faith, the execution and resurrection of their savior. Purim comes a month (in a non-leap year) before Pesakh, which marks the foundational event of Judaism, the exo-dus from Egypt. The period between Mardi Gras and Easter on the Christian calendar is solemn and seri-ous, while the month between Purim and Pesakh is traditionally filled with preparations for the complex celebration of Pesakh.

Mardi Gras has taken on the trappings of an adult final blow-out before the somber Lent season begins, while Purim has become an observance primarily for children, with costumes, carnivals and treats. The Megillah, on the other hand, tells a very adult story which may not be based in historical fact. It invites parodies, cross-dressing and other actions that seem antithetical to Judaism.

I think it is interesting that both Judaism and Christianity have a festival that occurs during the depth of winter (usually), which is a letting loose of the strictures of religious behaviour for a single day. Those who live in cold climates know that, after Purim and Mardi Gras, there may very well be another month or more of nasty weather, blizzards, etc, so the one-day reprieve adds some necessary colour to an otherwise drab season.

It is time to reclaim Purim as an adult do join us on February 28 in the evening for our annual Purim celebration (reading excerpts of the Megillah, a Purim shpiel, home-made hamantashen, and a Pe-sakh wine-tasting).