August 22, 2013
 16 Elul  5773
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In This Issue
Parshat Ki Tavo
Learning Opportunities
Parshat Ki Tavo
Rabbi Dorothy A. Richman


There is a striking scene imagined in Parashat Ki Tavo (Deut. 27:11-26): Upon crossing the Jordan, the twelve tribes of Israel will divide into two groups. Six tribes will stand on a southern mountain facing the other six tribes on a northern mountain. The Levites will then scream a catalogue of twelve sins, each beginning with the phrase "Cursed be the one." After each articulated sin, the other eleven tribes call out: "Amen!"

Solid Commitments

The tribes answer the curses in unison--what is the power of the word "Amen"?


"Amen" comes from the root "firm." To say amen is to make something more solid, literally, to "affirm" it. Saying amen creates a communal reality by strengthening shared commitments. Judaism normally has us say amen to blessings. We are used to calling out amen for things that we believe or wish to be true. We say amen happily, with great hope, at the blessings offered at weddings, baby namings, and holidays. In Jewish law, answering "amen" after a blessing is considered more praiseworthy than saying the blessing oneself (Shevuot 29b).

And what does it mean to say amen to a curse? By affirming each sin, the eleven answering tribes, individual by individual, voice a commitment to being a holy nation. They affirm their commitment to a shared standard of justice--each prohibited act represents a communal value.

More curses come later in Ki Tavo, and they are graphic: women eating their own children, Israelites returning to Egypt, epidemics, and exile. Perhaps the most severe comes close to the end: "v'lo ta'amin b'hayekha--and you will not believe in your own life (Deut. 28:66)." The parashah seems to say that to deny that our lives have meaning, to not believe in the power of our own lives, is the worst outcome of sin.

Blessing & Promise

If curses represent powerlessness and meaninglessness here, blessings do the opposite: they illuminate possibility and power. By offering a vision of promise, they inspire us to believe in our lives.

Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer, a rabbi and human rights activist, formulated a series of prayers for this season of the Jewish year almost a decade ago. We can imagine these as counter-blessings to the curses on the mountain; a communal call to the meaning of our lives and our ability to effect change, even in our own religious tradition:

Grant us the wisdom to create new paradigms that will carry our tradition forward into the new world. Amen!

Give us the courage to extirpate from our history those ideas and values which are inimical to the sanctity of life of other peoples, creeds, and races. Amen!

Grant us the compassion to empathize with the forgotten, the mourners, the disenfranchised, the sick, the homeless, the anxiety-ridden, the disabled, the unloved and uncared for individuals about us, the masses of humanity that grapple with desperation and hopelessness. Amen!

Enlighten our minds so that we may compose new prayers to stir our tired hearts, to awaken new tears in dry eyes, to move our all too comfortable consciences, and thus may we be moved to inscribe our own letters, perhaps even a word or two, in the eternal Book of Life. Amen!


Say It Out Loud.

There is a reason that the ceremony of curses and amens on the mountains of Israel was required to be said loudly. Our ancestors needed to hear one another's affirmations of responsibility. Don't we? In our communities this week, let us hear the curses on the mountains as an affirmation of our shared communal values. Let us also articulate new blessings to challenge the curses, affirming our power to create change.

And let our words bring us to act. Together, when we seek justice, when we volunteer, when we donate, when we engage in advocacy, we add our contemporary amens to the chorus on the mountain, to the ancient Jewish commitment to justice.

Amen, amen, and may it be so. 


Rabbi Dorothy A. Richman is the Rabbi Martin Ballonoff Memorial Rabbi-in-Residence at Berkeley Hillel.  

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phone:  248-432-2729

Shabbat Services: Ki Tavo

Friday, August 23rd

6 p.m. Services, Chapel

Saturday, August 24th
9 a.m. Services, Sanctuary
Shabbat Table
Kiddush Lunch is sponsored by Sharon and Leonard Rosen in honor of the second anniversary of Jillian and David and in honor of Lenny completing Mishnah Yomi.
Kiddush Lunch is available through the generosity of weekly sponsors.  Please e-mail or call the synagogue office if you would like to sponsor a kiddush lunch.  You may also make a donation to the synagogue specifically for the Kiddush Lunch Fund by clicking here.  

Mazel Tov
To Sue and Sandy Birnholtz on the birth of their new grandson, Elie Zvi Hildebrandt, son of Melanie and Matt Hildebrandt and baby brother of Samara.
Community Wide Selichot Service
Saturday Evening, August 31st
"Understanding Loss at the Days of Awe."
Guest speaker:  Rabbi Daniel Greyber
 9 p.m.  Light Refreshments
 9:30 p.m. Program
10:30 p.m. Selichot Service led by Hazzan Dan Gross, Marty Liebman and the Adat Shalom Choir.
Sponsored by The Michigan Region of the Rabbinical Assembly, Adat Shalom Synagogue, Congregation Beth Ahm, Congregation Beth Shalom, B'nai Israel Synagogue, Congregation B'nai Moshe, Congregation Shaarey Zedek and Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue.
B'nai Israel Synagogue High Holiday Tickets

Tashlikh, First Day of Rosh Hashanah
4:45 p.m., meet at the home of Mark and Loraine Kuhn. Click here for details.
Rosh Hashanah Carry-Out, Dish Kosher Cuisine 
Lulav and Etrog  
Lulav and Etrog Sales
Deadline:  September 2nd. 

Assistance Needed for High Holidays:
Church set up, Please e-mail the synagogue if you are able to assist.

B'nai Israel Sisterhood invites you to join! 
Click here for membership form. Contact Betsy Wolf:  248-207-0408 for further information.
Upcoming Youth and Family Activities
Upcoming Youth Services  

Supervised Youth Activities,  Room 3, lower level 

Parent volunteers staff the youth room during the summer months.

To stay current on all youth and family activities, contact Ilana Glazier  to join the B'nai Israel Families Facebook Group.


Learning Opportunities   
Adult Education
New and returning education opportunities will begin in October.  Watch your bulletins and e-mails for details.
Upcoming Community Events
and TKA/BI Joint Opportunities

Community Wide Selichot Service
Saturday, August 31st, Adat Shalom Synagogue

All stitchers are welcome.  Bring yourKnitting1 
needlepoint, crochet hook or cross stitch and join the group. There is no charge to attend.  

7 PM at the TKA/BI building.  

FUTURE DATES:   e-mail Gail Raben.

Caring Community Information

Refuah Sh'leimah/Wishing a Speedy Recovery

Please email Michael Golob or call the synagogue:  248-432-2729
if you wish to add a name to our communal list.  

Our caring community reaches out to one another in a variety of ways.  We welcome our new members warmly with a special visit and gift.  We provide shiva minyan leaders.  We call/visit/provide meals for members who are ill or home-bound, bring a home-cooked shiva meal to mourners in our community, and help to drive members who need a ride to synagogue services and events.  If you would like to help in any way, please call or 
e-mail the synagogue.

Congregant looking for a ride to services
West Bloomfield congregant is looking for a ride to morning or evening minyan and/or Shabbat services. The congregant lives behind Crosswinds Mall (Kroger), just north of Lone Pine Road. If you are available to assist, please contact Rabbi Robbins at (610) 574-5179 or Thank you.
Mazel Tov 
Happy Birthday!

Birthday Cake

August Birthdays

22  Maya Rosenberg 

23  Vernon Gordon

25  Rabbi Jonathan Berger

26  Robyn Hoffenblum

27  Noah Marcotte

27  Cary Rosen

27  Melvin Toby

29  Edward Chudnow

Jewish Wedding
August Anniversaries 

25  Jerry & Sharon Knoppow

30  Roy & Robin Rosen


If your birthday or anniversary information is not listed, please email the synagogue so we can update our records.

May Their Memories Be For a Blessing 

August Yahrtzeits 

8/23/2013 (17 Elul)

Yosef Garber

8/24/2013 (18 Elul)

Leo Orel

8/27/2013 (21 Elul)

Douglas Cohen

8/30/2013 (24 Elul)

Lawrence Sklar

8/31/2013 (25 Elul)

Mary Friedman

Lawrence Sklar

To make a donation to commemorate a yahrtzeit, please click here.  If you are a member of the synagogue and a yahrtzeit for your loved one is not on the list, please contact the synagogue office so we can update our records.


Please click here if you wish to permanently memorialize a loved one by purchasing a yahrtzeit plaque.  

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B'nai Israel Synagogue is affiliated with USCJ, 
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.