What a beautiful Shabbos!
My wife and I took our kids (well, we can't just leave them) to Boynton Beach for Shabbos - what an enjoyable weekend! I blogged about why we enjoy Shabbos there once before, so we need not repeat.
But - man! Now that we are in the dead of winter here in Florida (not that we would know because it's in the 80s during the day and 60s at night), people are starting to come down to visit. Frequently. And with their families.
This Shabbos, the shul which had thirty people in attendance (men and women altogether) on Rosh Hashana, had approximately 75 adults and 30 kids! To make the point of the influx of numbers in attendance, the gala kiddush - which was indeed gala - was so good, there was no food leftover. And no one walked away hungry either. (Though I am sure everyone went home to enjoy lunch). My 4 year old son asked me, "Abba, was there any cake?" No - not a single birthday. Thank God for lollypops!
I spoke 5 times: Friday night, pre-davening parsha class, Morning Sermon, pre-Mincha afternoon class, and at Seudah Shlishiss.
Two approaches to what happened when Yehuda approached Yosef:
1. Went close to speak with him softly - as Koheles says "The words of the righteous are heard when spoken gently." Yehuda wanted to make sure Yosef would hear him out. If they would resort to a shouting match, nothing would get accomplished.
2. The Kotsker rebbe says, "Vayigash Eilav Yehuda" means "Yehuda approached himself." Before a person presents himself to royalty or any figure in a powerful position, it is important to be true to yourself, to know who you are and what you want out of your next human encounter. Yehuda needed to come close to his own true identity to be able to approach Yosef.
The gyst of the sermon boiled down to two points:
1. The reaction of Yosef''s brothers to his revealing his identity is one of pure stupefication. They have nothing to say. The Talmud (Chagiga 4b) says Rabbi Elazar would cry when he read this verse because of the scary nature of its consequences. Imagine how embarrassed Yosef's brothers were, when he, a brother, reminded them of their evil deed of selling him. That embarrassed feeling is what it is like - though much worse - when God "calls us" on our inconsistent behavior.
2. To improve our overall relationship with God through prayer, we ought to follow Yosef's lead when he cleared out the room to address his brothers. Yosef wanted to achieve a unique spiritual connection with his brothers, and anything which would stand in the way or distract him needed to leave the room. The Slonimer rebbe says this is how a person must pray.
Think of what it means to take out all people from our presence, all distractions - and now we are more ready to pray to God.
The Parsha Drama Experience
(Parsha Drama is a dramatic presentation of the Torah reading, aimed at children of all ages)
I heard I heard... Someone (we won't mention who) got a little excited when playing Yaakov finding out that Yosef is still alive. And the whole shul heard it in the middle of the announcements. We'll try to tone it down next time. No promises.
The entire effort is worth every minute because people give the most genuine and appreciated feedback on the Torah and thoughts I prepare and share.
And the compliments we've gotten about our kids (so cute! you have a beautiful family! "kein yirbu!" etc etc) make my wife and I want to come back for more.
What a genuine and friendly place. We are glad to be having this experience this year. It is tremendously rewarding to prepare classes and sermons. I enjoy the work, and the payoff (what can I do? - as an actor I enjoy a good performance, especially when audience members tell you how much they enjoy), and look forward to our next visits - still during the January break times when we will continue to enjoy larger crowds - which only enhance the davening - and the warmth of the community that is Anshei Chesed of Boynton Beach.
Important Final Thought
This past Thursday was the first yahrzeit of David Bilowit, ע"ה. The president, Adam Rosen, gave a warm and heartfelt tribute to his memory, not only on account of his special status as a founding member of Anshei Chesed, but as the most senior member of Anshei Chesed. Rabbi Kossowsky also spoke warmly to David's wife, expressing the need to celebrate his life and all that he meant to everybody, even as we are saddened at his no longer being with us.
It was a fitting and heartwarming tribute to a man who meant a lot to the shul.