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Rabbi Joe's Weekly Message

April 13, 2014

Blowin' in the Wind

It's often painful to read the news. Our elected officials in Charleston or Washington relentlessly attack each other's agenda, character, and motives. I have to remind myself that politics is contentious by definition. If everyone agreed about everything, representative government would be unnecessary.

A couple of weeks ago I had coffee with a rabbi of another denomination. Though we confront similar challenges in our pulpits, we deal with them quite diversely. My colleague disapproves that I do interfaith weddings. It's important that some rabbis maintain traditional boundaries and other rabbis meet the Jews where they actually are. It's what philosophers call dialectics, creative controversy.

Jewish history is full of arguments. The ancients quarreled about the right way to light the Chanukkah m'norah: add a flame each night or subtract a flame each night? Medieval sages quibbled about the right way to mount the m'zuzah: vertical or horizontal? Placing it on the diagonal is a compromise, a token of honoring both viewpoints. Judaism wouldn't have lasted this long if we didn't know how to manage discord.

At Passover we recount our liberation from Egyptian bondage. Moses was right and Pharaoh was wrong. But there's something else we read at this season: the Song of Songs is the m'gillah for Passover, just as Esther is the m'gillah for Purim. The Song of Songs (yes, that's a book of the Bible) says this about conflict: "Awake, O north wind; come, O south wind" (Song of Songs 4:16). Can the north wind and the south wind blow at the same time? They can if God wills it. God gives us permission to disagree.

To be human is to have differences of opinion. We should demur respectfully, of course, because today's adversary may be tomorrow's ally. But it would hardly be worth talking if we had to parrot what others say. In case of dissent, the Talmud (Eruvin 13b) counsels: Ellu v'ellu divrei Elohim chayyim, both these and those are the words of the living God.

Passover Congregational Seder

Tree of Life will hold a Congregational Seder on Erev Pesach, the first night of Passover. It will take place at Lakeview Resort. It will begin 5:30 PM and last until about 9:00 PM. Please contact Steve Markwell,, 304-680-1897, for reservations. For dietary questions, please contact Steve Sharkey at

This event is one of the most popular activities of the year for Tree of Life. This seder will feature the Haggadah written by Tree of Life Sunday School students.

$40--TOL member adults, $20--TOL member children age 3-11
$50--non-member adults, $25--non-member children age 3-11,
Children 3 and under are free.

If you would like to sponsor a WVU/Hillel student, full and $18 donations are welcome. Checks, payable to Tree of Life, may be mailed to:

Tree of Life Congregation
PO Box 791
Morgantown, WV 26507-0791

Tree of Life Congregation, Morgantown, WV Contact Webmaster with questions or comments about this site.
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