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Rabbi Joe's Weekly Message

Week of August 24

No Time Like the Present

Rabbi Joseph Hample

This week I'm on a religious voyage, a road trip to a family bar mitzvah out of state. My destination is Memphis, TN, not usually thought of as a pilgrimage site, except by Elvis fans. But spiritual journeys are of many kinds and take us to the darndest places.

The current Torah portion suggests a visit to Jerusalem--or rather, "the place your God will have chosen" (Deuteronomy 17:8)--for those with legal problems unanswerable by hometown leaders. What issues might a pilgrim take to Memphis for resolution? A question of appropriate instruments for blues musicians? Uncertainty about the proper ingredients for barbecue?

The text then says a peculiar thing: "Go to the priests and the judge in that time" (Deuteronomy 17:9). As the Talmud (Rosh ha-Shanah 25b) quips, was there any danger people would consult a judge not in their time? The Scripture means that the sages in each era, however imperfect they may be, are empowered to speak for Jewish tradition. That is why we can have "commandments," like kindling Chanukkah lights, that are later than the Torah.

Was Judaism more authentic in the Biblical period, or in the old country? In the film Midnight in Paris, an American obsessed with the legend of Paris in the 1920s time-travels to that fabled era, only to meet people pining for still earlier eras. Ecclesiastes (7:10) advises: "Don't say, why were former times better than these?" It is idle to complain that modern Judaism is inferior to some historic variety. Yesterday's gone.

Next week I'll let you know what I learned from Jewish scholars in Memphis. New prayers, maybe? New customs, new melodies? My siblings and I have chipped in to buy our 13-year-old cousin a ping-pong table, which wasn't the standard bar mitzvah gift when I was young. But we have to live in the world of today.

Yizkor Book Announcement

The Yizkor Book for 2014 - 5775 will be coming out at the High Holidays. There are dedicatory pages. The donation schedule is: Front Inside cover--$200; Back inside cover--$160; Full page--$135; Half page--$85; Quarter Page--$60. Because of spacing concerns, we may need to limit the number of names per dedicatory page.

For the regular dedicatory list of family and friends, the cost per name for TOL members is $12; the cost per name for non-members is $20.

The names of those who passed away during the previous year, and those on our memorial boards, are automatically listed without charge. However, annual listings must be renewed; those names do not roll over.

Send all submissions and donations to:

Sylvia L. Cooper
102 Forest Drive
Morgantown, WV 26505

Make all checks payable to Tree of Life.

The absolute deadline for inclusion in the Yizkor Book is Septemberber 3. Names received after that deadline will be listed on an insert.

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