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Faith in the Midst of Darkness

  Dear Friends, As we are about to celebrate Shabbat Shuvah and then Yom Kippur I wanted to share with you an inspirational moment from a phone call today which rabbis around America had with President Biden. As we all know he has had to deal with the loss of a child which must be among the most painful moments in life with which to deal. In our conversation he shared that his wife, Jill, leaves him important messages on the mirror where he shaves.   The following quote from  Soren Kierkegaard   is perhaps the most inspiring message she has left him.   "Faith sees best in the dark." As we wrestle with hurricanes and storms, covid, wars, violence, and all the ills of our world, it would be easy to give in to the darkness of our world. There is a reference in our tradition that says one can curse the darkness or light a candle. As we seek change in our lives, I hope that we can eliminate the "stinkin thinkin" that plagues many of us and not be consumed with the "

Finding comfort at this time of year

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 Dear Friends, I am launching a blog, called Rabbi Bruce's reflections on life.  I have been a rabbi for over 41 years and am currently an adjunct Professor at George Mason University in Fairfax VA and also am a visiting scholar at the Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution. I will tell you more about myself as time goes by and hope you find these reflections to be inspirational and food for thought. Thanks for taking the time to read these and I welcome feedback as you wish. B'shalom, Rabbi Bruce Aft Dear Friends, I am a native to the suburbs of Chicago and served in two congregations in Glencoe and Highland Park many years ago.  I recently visited the memorial to the victims of the tragedy in Highland Park.  (You can see two pictures below). We are in the midst of the three weeks of mourning before Tisha B'Av, the 9th Day of the Hebrew month of Av which commemorates numerous tragedies in Jewish life, including the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem. I have o

Selichot Message

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  Dear Friends,   As we approach Selichot, (See the link for the article below from My Jewish Learning.com), I wanted to share some thoughts about what I believe we can gain from our participation in our Rosh HaShanah services.   Recently my wife and I had the opportunity to see Hamilton and I was very moved by the lyrics for the song that describes being in the room where it happens.   Among the themes that stood out to me is the power of compromise.  As we face the new year I  hope  that each  of us will be willing to compromise in those areas of our lives where we are facing challenges..   I am reminded of the teaching about the mezuzah which suggests that when we affix one, we put it on  an angle rather than vertically or horizontally.  We do that in order to teach us that what makes a house a  home  is the ability to compromise since some wanted it to be affixed vertically and others wanted it to be affixed horizontally..   I hope as we think about the compromises that the founder

Celebrating Rosh Hashanah Telling our Story

  Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah, I hope that everyone enjoys a wonderful new year. As we all gather for the High Holidays and join together in prayer, we share the stories of the past year and become the authors of the stories for the coming year. As you will see below in the lyrics from Hamilton, the question is who will tell our story and what will they say about us? This is the time of year when we can revise the stories we are telling by the way we have acted and we can reboot and refresh.  We can change, we can do teshuvah.  We can choose the book of life by the ways in which we care for ourselves and others.  This is not history, nor herstory, it is and will become OURSTORY. I hope and pray that the stories we author, and the stories that people tell about us, will be stories of joy, peace, and acts of kindness. May we all enjoy good health and be safe in the new year. May we all be inscribed for a sweet new year. Rabbi Bruce Aft Lyrics Let me tell you what I wish I'd known

Labor Day Reflections

 Dear Friends, As I write this column, I am very grateful for the work ethic that I was taught by my parents. As a father, I think I have made many mistakes.  However, I do believe that one of the most important lessons that I transmitted to our children was/is a strong work ethic. On this Labor Day weekend, I am always reminded of how hard my Mom and Dad worked.  My father would show me the notebooks where he recorded his hours working on the railroad (we actually visited the railroad office where he worked, earlier this summer and another article will describe that experience).  He would work double shifts and then on days off, would do "odd jobs" (as he called them) for people, including yard work and simple maintenance.  My mother would be home helping with homework and being involved as a room mother at school.  In retrospect am reminded of the words in "Leader of the Band" by Dan Fogelberg where the lyrics say (with one addition),  " I thank you for the k

My teacher, my friend, my mentor, and my sister (in-law)

Dear Friends, I am privileged to begin my  blogging career with the following tribute to Martha Aft. Without her guidance I probably would never have become a rabbi and I will always be grateful. I write this tribute as a way of dealing with my personal grief.  Earlier this summer, my brother's beloved wife, Marthajoy Aft, passed away.  Honestly, except for my Mom and my wife, she was and continues to be the most influential woman in my life. I was five years old when I met Martha from behind the hedges where we lived in Franklin Park, Illinois.  At a time when this was more accepted (if it ever was really acceptable), I hid behind the hedges and would shoot her with my cap gun as a child's way of trying to get her attention. Martha embraced me as her little brother (not a brother-in-law) and provided me with the sister I never had (I am one of four boys). She filled her life with music as she sang unto G-d a new song (she was a big Debbie Friedman fan) by going back to school