October 17, 2023
Dear Temple Members,
A special midrash teaches us that when Moses and Aaron mourned the death of their sister, Miriam, they sat in their tents, crying and grieving. Moses and Aaron were in such a state of sadness that they couldn’t process life and be there for the newly freed Israelites. God comforted Moses and Aaron, catching their tears. After some time had passed, God said to them, “get back into the world.” The midrash concludes by telling us that bereavement is a brutal part of the human condition. However, it does not free us from our duty to live our lives and to be there for the living.
This midrash is very important for us today. However, I recognize that so many of us do not know how to live right now. We are in that same tent; we are grieving, we are angry, we are crying, and we know that October 7, 2023, will forever impact us. The real-time footage of the medieval barbaric attack by the Hamas terrorists will haunt us forever. As your rabbi, I am in this tent too, but I am trying to get out and live and to be there for our Jewish community.
We have a duty – a special mitzvah – to live our Jewish lives for those who were murdered, raped, kidnapped, and tortured. We need to live our Jewish lives for those who are mourning and for those who do not know the fate of their loved one(s) being held hostage in Gaza. We have a sacred obligation – as Birmingham Jews – to live our Jewish lives for the brave men and women of the IDF.
We will live our Jewish lives For Them at Temple Emanu-El. I am asking each congregant to come to Shabbat Services weekly – to mourn, to pray, to sing, and above all, to be with each other. I am asking each congregant to study Torah and to perform acts of righteousness and loving-kindness. I am asking each congregant to bring an unaffiliated member of the Jewish community to Temple Emanu-El so he/she/they can be part of us. And, I am asking each former member to return to our historic temple family. A restoration to Jewish life is the remedy that we as Birmingham Jews can do for our family in Israel and for the Diasporic Jewish World.
A few notes about Shabbat Services and Temple Programming/Life:
- For the immediate future, our Shabbat Services will be a sacred space for us to reflect on the Jewish world, especially Israel. The music, sermons, and guest speakers will speak about the current situation we face as Jews.
- On October 27th, we will hold a special Shabbat Service at Temple Emanu-El with clergy and members from South Highland Presbyterian Church, St. Mary’s-on-the-Highlands Episcopal Church, Southside Baptist Church, and Highlands United Methodist Church.
- We are asking congregants to send us names of IDF soldiers to publish in our Shabbat Pulpit Folder.
- Our Religious School students will continue to send care packages to Israeli soldiers.
- We are actively supporting our teenagers about this crisis.
- Temple Emanu-El is secure. We remain in constant communication with our security experts, ready to pivot at a moment’s notice.
- Additionally, I have been speaking at churches, with interfaith leaders, and at civic clubs and with elected officials at the local, state, and federal level about October 7, 2023.
This is the darkest period for Jews since the Nazis. It is my mission to live my Jewish Life For Them. It is our mission to live our Jewish Lives For Them too. I want to conclude this letter from a teaching I shared on Yom Kippur:
Rabbi Jonathan Saks z’l wrote it perfectly, “Despair is not a Jewish emotion. For there is a Jewish way of telling the story of our situation. What happens is not chance but a chapter in the complex script of the covenant which leads, mysteriously but assuredly, to our redemption. Crisis in Jewish history has always led to renewal, not despair. So, it must be now.”
We are living in a long brutal chapter right now. But there will be renewal through living our Jewish lives For Them.
October 13, 2023
Rabbi Wright’s special Shabbat sermon from this past Friday’s Shabbat of Comfort, Community, and Unity combined service at Temple Beth El,
October 13, 2023 – Sermon Title: “Saying Goodbye”
Click below to view the sermon.
October 7, 2023
Dear Temple Members,
Early this morning (06:30 am Israeli time), Hamas Terrorists infiltrated into Israel, with the clear intention to murder and to kidnap as many Jews as possible. Moreover, since this morning, Hamas has also fired over 3,000 rockets towards Israel. This is an unprecedented attack on one of the most joyous days in Judaism, Simchat Torah. In response, the State of Israel declared war against Hamas; the IDF is defending Israel and a wide-scale callup of reservists have been ordered. Israel is not only facing an attack from Hamas, but also from Iran and from Hezbollah – another terrorist organization in Lebanon who has promised to attack Israel if IDF soldiers enter Gaza.
I want this congregation to know the following:
- This must be a time for unconditional support and unification for Israel because Israel – right now – is facing one of its most existential threats since the Yom Kippur War.
- Advocate for Israel. This is a time for all us in the Diaspora to defend Israel. American News Outlets have already began to justify Hamas’ attack. We have a duty to counter-attack any of the lies and propaganda.
- Advocate for Jews throughout the world. When Hamas attacks Israel, we see a massive increase of assaults against Jews everywhere. Every Jew – regardless of movement – are spiritually connected.
- Temple Emanu-El staff is checking in with congregants in Israel to make sure they are safe and we are in constant communication with the head of security for the Birmingham Jewish Community.
- We will continue to provide more information as events unfold; we are in the early stages of planning a Unification Rally for Israel. More information to follow.
Please pray for the State of Israel – all of her citizens and the brave men and women in the IDF who are defending the Jewish State.
O Heavenly One, Protector and Redeemer of Israel, bless the State of Israel which marks the dawning of hope for all who seek peace. Shield it beneath the wings of Your love; spread over it the canopy of Your peace. Send Your light and truth to all who lead and advise, guiding them with Your good counsel. Establish peace in the land and fullness of joy for all who dwell there. Amen.
Rabbi Adam M. Wright