Candle lighting time is 7:44 pm
This Saturday is the big day – the Bar Mitzvah of Justin Dreyer, son of Dr. Evan and Melissa Dreyer, and brother of Samantha and Rebecca, at Ahavat Achim. We expect a very large turnout for this Sabbath so please plan to arrive early. Services begin at 9:20.
Parshah Acharey Mos-Kedoshim
This week’s parshah deals with the laws of the Day of Atonement and includes a large number of mitzvot regarding fundamental moral laws and sexual morality. Kedoshim begins, “And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying: Speak unto all the congregation of the Children of Israel, and say unto them: Ye shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am Holy.”
From this opening sentence it is clear that God intended for the Jewish people to be a harbinger of morality to the peoples of the world, people whose immorality, sinful ways, and idolatry were hardly in keeping with the laws of the Torah that God had presented to the Children of Israel.
We were to lead the way in performing charity, in equality before the law, in ethical business dealings, and in matters relating to sexual conduct. And yet, even today, we as Jews do not always hold up our end of the covenant with God. We have seen corruption at the highest levels in the government of the State of Israel. We have seen businessmen like Bernie Madoff taking advantage of others in unconscionable ways. And, unfortunately, we have not always behaved in accordance with the laws of sexual morality either.
I am not writing this blog to castigate others for their behavior for I am certainly not a person who has never sinned. What does bother me, however, is when our religious leaders betray our trust and their responsibilities to their congregants and to God.
We know all too well about the failings of so many priests in the Catholic church who have been guilty of sexual misconduct with their own parishioners, but what about our own faith?
When I lived in Harrisburg I attended a conservative shul that had a very popular cantor. The man was a terrific cantor and he was very popular with the entire congregation, both young and old. The cantor had a beautiful voice and a great sense of humor. People entrusted their sons and daughters to this man for bar and bat mitzvah training. In 2001 this cantor was arrested and convicted of corruption of minors, indecent assault and unlawful contact with a minor, and two counts each of aggravated indecent assault and endangering the welfare of a child. The charges involved sexual misconduct with girls who were under the cantor’s tutelage for their bat mitzvahs. The cantor had been employed by the congregation for 34 years and the assaults dated back to 1995.
According to court papers, the cantor confirmed that he had been teaching one 12-year-old and admitted that he placed his hand under her shorts. He claimed he was showing her a singing exercise, the documents said.
Another girl said the cantor pulled down her pants and touched her under the guise of trying to improve her singing. She said he told her he was checking whether her underwear was too tight.
The last incident occurred when the cantor touched her and told her he was trying to show her how to use her diaphragm when singing.
At about this same time, the reform temple in Harrisburg was employing a rabbi who was openly gay and living with his gay mate. Yes, I know that there are many who advocate gay rights and say that the decision to be gay is not a choice but is something that a person is born to, but the Torah clearly states in this week’s parshah, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind; it is abomination.”
I will not deny the rabbi’s right to be gay. What I do question is whether he should be on a pulpit conveying to his congregants the moral laws of the Torah while openly living in defiance of one. How can this rabbi expect his congregants to listen to his instruction on Torah if he is openly violating it himself?
The 18th annual Hoops for a Cure basketball games to benefit the Nathan S. Arenson Fund for Pancreatic Cancer Research will be held on April 27 at Chartiers Valley High School beginning at 4:30 p.m. Pancreatic cancer is a terrible disease that kills far too many people. For more information about Hoops for a Cure please visit their web site at www.hoopsforacure.com.
The next Jewish Learning Institute course, “Curious Tales of the Talmud” is being offered at the Chabad of the South Hills. The class begins on either on Wednesday April 24th or Sunday April 28th (You can attend at either time). Having attended previous JLI courses, I can tell you in all candor that they are well worth the time. For more info, go to www.chabadsh.com.