Since Jews believe in the spiritual inevitability of bashert rather than the random chance of coincidence, perhaps there is something to the fact that on the final Shabbat morning of the two Christian millenniums, in 999 and 1999, the Torah reading was the same, Vayihi, with its implicit warning about apocalyptic speculation. Rashi writes that the patriarch Jacob wanted to reveal his vision about the end of days, but his prophetic portal was suddenly closed.
As Jewish soldiers recited the Ten Plagues and spilled wine from their cups at a seder table in a tent in the Kuwaiti desert, Rabbi Joshua Narrowe observed that the spilled wine was not only "for the Egyptians who died in the Exodus, but also for the Iraqi conscripts and civilians who died" in the 26-day Iraq War.
Despite efforts by Jewish groups to provide kosher-for-Passover food to as many as 2,000 Jewish troops involved in the Iraq War, several Jewish soldiers and chaplains complained to The Jewish Week that there is not enough for the eight-day holiday that begins Wednesday night.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) said he heard some of the same complaints but has been rebuffed in his efforts to get the Air Force to fly more Passover provisions to Kuwait and Iraq.
Just minutes after the blazing sun set in the Kuwaiti desert last Saturday, and as a lone candle flickered in a tent at Camp Commando near the Iraqi border, one of four Jewish soldiers at the evening Sabbath service began to cry when Rabbi Irving Elson put his hands on his shoulders and prayed.
"Be strong and of courage and trust in the Lord," Rabbi Elson said, quoting from the Book of Joshua.
In deciding whether the United States should attack Iraq, rabbinic leaders from the different streams of Judaism are drawing upon Talmudic and biblical sources such as the Exodus story in which Moses and Aaron ultimately resort to "force" to win freedom for the Jews.
And while the rabbinic leadership appears largely behind President George W. Bush, the Jewish community as a whole is deeply divided. Except for the Orthodox, leaders of the other movements said there was no consensus among their congregants about whether to go to war now.
Each day this week, Rabbi Jacob Goldstein of Brooklyn, chief chaplain of the New York National Guard, recited morning prayers at a sukkah erected in the plaza facing the main doors of Saddam Husseinís main presidential palace in Baghdad.
"It's a six by eight sukkah and it is there for all to see," he said by phone from Baghdad. "So there I am every morning, benching lulav and esrog," he added referring to the ritual objects used in prayers during Sukkot.
For Jewish soldiers in the combat zone, the Days of Awe have replaced shock and awe.
Rabbi Jacob Goldstein, chief chaplain of the New York National Guard, arrived in Kuwait from New York this week bringing with him four Torahs, five lulav and etrog sets for Sukkot, challahs, honey cake and other supplies to enhance the High Holy Days that begin this weekend.
Chances are you don’t associate your local synagogue sisterhood with “the edge of town,” but as money, politics, academics and religious power increasingly intrigue us, the women who simply love their shul, and want only love back, have moved to the periphery.
Oh, sisterhoods are on the edge, all right, if not on the border of oblivion, or so it seems.
There are more than 700 synagogues within the orbit of the Orthodox Union, and only about a third have a sisterhood anymore.
Eight years ago, when Rabbi Anthony Fratello became the spiritual leader of Temple Shaarei Shalom, a Reform synagogue in Boynton Beach, the congregation had 100 households — and the youngest member was 75.
Since then, its membership has grown six fold, 250 children have enrolled in the religious school and the congregation is almost doubling its 10,000-square-foot building.