Congregation Beth Abraham-Jacob
March 17, 2020
Dear CBAJ Family,
As our building remains closed for the next few weeks, we will continue offering a variety of Jewish spiritual and educational programs online. Please see the full schedule below. In addition to the regular weekly schedule, we will have guest speakers on Zoom and other programs periodically - please check your email. The weekly Shabbat Notes will also contain updated information.
I would like to appeal to our members who fall into what have been deemed "high risk" categories based on age, medical conditions, or other vulnerabilities. I implore you not to endanger yourselves needlessly and to follow the suggested social distancing guidelines; please take advantage of the support your friends in our amazing Beth Abe community can offer. If you would like help with shopping, errands, or other things since you are remaining home as much as possible, or conversely, if you would like to volunteer to help people in the community who may need help, please fill out the form at this link.
Once again, should you or someone you know experience financial distress related to purchasing essentials like food or household items, paying regular bills, etc., please let me know now and do not wait until crisis hits. I keep a discretionary fund for use as gifts or loans specifically for these reasons, and any calls to me will remain strictly confidential. Please assess your needs, and keep in mind the upcoming Pesach holiday.
Finally, I know this time can be worrisome and difficult. If you need or would like to chat - please feel free to call or text me. If you know someone who you think would be interested in a conversation with me, please feel free to give them my number. This time can be very difficult for people living alone, empty nesters, and others, and depression or anxiety can set in without warning. Shabbat and Yom Tov can be especially difficult, and if they are, I have some ideas I can share with you. We are here for you always, and especially during these trying times.
Stay healthy and safe,
Our Zoom conferences can be accessed on a computer or smartphone at: https://zoom.us/j/9405089347 ; or on any phone by dialing 929-205-6099 and using Meeting ID 940 508 9347.
For Facebook programming, visit facebook.com/rabbifeldman
Sunday to Thursday at 1 pm: 5-minute live videos on Halakhot of Pesach on Facebook
Monday to Friday at 1 pm: Orthodox Union Communal Tehillim and Words of Inspiration, call (773) 249-0370
Sunday to Thursday: Mincha, Mishna study in memory of our loved ones (for mourners and Yahrzeit), a prayer for the ill, and Ma'ariv, on Zoom Conference. See Shabbat notes for weekly time (this week, 6:50 pm).
Weekly Adult Education
Sundays at 8pm on Zoom: In Depth Talmud, Tractate Megilah
Mondays at 8pm on Zoom: Contemporary Halakhic Issues
Thursdays at 9:30 am on Zoom: Tanakh, Sefer Melakhim
More special programs and guest speakers to be announced
Fridays at 3pm on Zoom: Tot Shabbat
Sundays at 10:30 am on Zoom: CBAJ Kid's Club for grades 2-5 with Youth Director Jory
Shabbat Family Programming
Fridays at 6:00 pm on Facebook Live: Pre-Shabbat singing and Dvar Torah (30 minutes)
Saturday nights, 15 minutes after Shabbat ends, on Zoom: Musical Havdalah and Melaveh Malka (some post-Shabbat singing)
March 15, 2020
Dear CBAJ Family,
Shavua tov. As we enter this week and the coming weeks in which our health experts have advised to maximize "social distancing" and avoid public gatherings in order to slow down the spread of COVID-19, I would like to emphasize the importance of full communal cooperation. This project will only succeed in slowing down the spread of the virus if people truly comply - whether or not there are "known cases" of it.
Our role, in the service of living by the Torah and Pikuah Nefesh (saving lives) is to limit public gatherings as much as possible. As I expressed in our live pre-Shabbat video gathering, this makes communal Jewish life more difficult but not impossible. It requires us to remember that CBAJ is not the name of a building, but the name of a community and a strong one at that. I have always said that our Jewish life revolves around the formula found in Pirkei Avot: Torah, Avodah, and Gemilut Chasadim (study, prayer/action, and acts of kindness). We will continue all three together as a community in the coming weeks. Please read the information below to hear about our virtual "community prayer," options for people reciting Kaddish, and other opportunities.
The most obvious way we can continue communally is through Torah study. Aside from your own learning projects (I am happy and eager to give suggestions for books or articles you may find interesting - shoot me an e-mail to chat about what you might like to learn!), if you use Facebook, please stay tuned on my Facebook page facebook.com/royfeld for short videos and other Torah.
We will also continue our weekday classes via Zoom Conference.
Join us for:
1) Tanakh Class Thursdays at 9:30 AM (we are studying Sefer Melachim).
2) Talmud class Sundays at 8 pm starting next week, March 22, Tractate Megilah.
More classes will be added soon, including a weeknight Practical Halakha class also on Zoom. If you have suggestions or requests for topics, please e-mail me.
You can access Zoom on a computer with a webcam/microphone, your smartphone with a camera, or also dial in from a regular telephone. Use this link for classes: https://zoom.us/j/9405089347 ; if you prefer calling in, call 929-205-6099 and use Meeting ID 940 508 9347.
2. Avodah (Prayer and Kaddish info below)
"Tefilah B'eit Tzarah:" Our sages teach us that in a time of crisis, we must pray for that crisis. Please recite Tehilim (Psalms) in prayer for those who are ill. My revered teachers have also suggested inserting a prayer we traditionally recite on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that specifically asks God to spare us from pandemics. The prayer is to be recited in the "Shema Koleinu" blessing in the Amidah as below:
שְׁמַע קוֹלֵנוּ יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ, חוּס וְרַחֵם עָלֵינוּ וְקַבֵּל בְּרַחֲמִים וּבְרָצוֹן אֶת תְּפִלָּתֵנוּ,
כִּי אֵל שֹׁמֵעַ תְּפִלּוֹת וְתַחֲנוּנִים אָתָּה,
וּמִלְּפָנֶיךָ מַלְכֵּנוּ רֵיקָם אַל תְּשִׁיבֵנוּ,
אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ זְכר רַחֲמֶיךָ וּכְבשׁ כַּעַסְךָ וְכַלֵּה דֶבֶר וְחֶרֶב וְרָעָב וּשְׁבִי וּמַשְׁחִית וְעָון וּמַגֵּפָה וּפֶגַע רַע וְכָל מַחֲלָה וְכָל תַּקָּלָה וְכָל קְטָטָה וְכָל מִינֵי פֻרְעָנֻיּות וְכָל גְּזֵרָה רָעָה וְשִׂנְאַת חִנָּם מֵעָלֵינוּ מֵעַל כָּל בְּנֵי בְרִיתֶךָ ומעל כל העולם:
כִּי אַתָּה שֹׁמֵעַ תְּפִלַּת עַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּרַחֲמִים.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, שֹׁמֵעַ תְּפִלָּה
Unfortunately, for the time being we cannot pray with a minyan. I urge you not to find other minyanim or to create your own - the guidelines from health experts are that all public gatherings should be avoided in order to slow down the spread of this virus. I understand that this means that mourner's Kaddish cannot be recited and how difficult that will be for some of us. I include here the words of my teacher, Rabbi Yuval Cherlow (translation from Hebrew is mine):
"I understand the great difficulty we have with the inability to recite Mourner's Kaddish. We must remember two central principles:
First, is that in Jewish Law, the living always take precedence over the deceased, and our responsibility to keep healthy takes precedence over the ascent of a soul. That is one of the great principles of "V'chai Bahem" ("You shall LIVE by the Torah"). Moreover, the essence of the Kaddish is that it is a part of public prayer, and it is the mourners' right to recite it as part of public prayer, but it is not an obligation in and of itself.
However, it would not be right to be satisfied with just not saying Kaddish. The right thing is to do other things for the ascent of the deceased's soul, such as learning Mishna, and with God's help to complete the Mishnayot being studied, and reciting the Kaddish following that completion for the ascent of the soul (when it is possible, in the future, to gather with a minyan)."
To that end, we will convene daily via Zoom Conference to daven Mincha and Ma'ariv together virtually (it is still "private prayer" without the prayers that are only to be recited with a Minyan). Between the two prayers, I will teach a Mishna in memory of all those for whom Kaddish is being recited. After that Mishna, in place of Kaddish, anyone with Yahrzeit will have an opportunity to say a few words about their loved one. If no one has Yahrzeit, those who are saying Kaddish can share a few words if they would like. We will meet this week each evening at 6:50 pm sharp for Mincha (I will start the "Zoom Conference" at 6:50 pm and begin my Mincha then). Use this link: https://zoom.us/j/9405089347; if you prefer calling in, call 929-205-6099 and use Meeting ID 940 508 9347.
3. Gemilut Chasadim
As we have noted, it is recommended that anyone over 65 and anyone with other medical conditions that deem them "high risk" for COVID-19 should stay home as much as possible. Out of an abundance of caution and to stay ahead of the curve, it has been recommended that everyone stay home as much as possible. With that being the case, there are people in our community who need our help: some need help with groceries and errands as they cannot leave the house. Other need financial help as they cannot go to work or are out of work due to this pandemic.
With regards to Shiva visits and Bikkur Cholim (Visiting the sick): please conduct these by phone call for the time being. Please continue reaching out to those who you know who may be isolated and need to know we are thinking about them. Of course, I will be calling people, but if you know of someone who could particularly use a phone call from me, please let me know.
We will get through these weeks together. With God's help, we will remain healthy, and we will have done our part in the holy work of keeping as many people healthy as possible. After all of it, we will emerge stronger.
Wishing everyone a Shavua Tov U'vari U'mevorakh, a good, healthy, and blessed week.