To My Mother Rose On Mother’s Day

To My Mother Rose:

My saintly Mother, Rose Benjamin had a smile for everyone and her jolly jokes made her ever welcome. She was always ready to help out where needed and everyone spoke well of her. As a teenager she had survived the ravages of a 10 week bout with pneumonia which had left her with a rheumatic heart.  She never spoke of it to me and so I was always curious as to why she would never walk up hills, use a step ladder or engage in any heavy cleaning around our apartment. So, once a week, we had a neighborhood woman help her with any heavy cleaning tasks. When I was very young there was Mrs. Devaney who could flip  a mattress over with one hand. When she left us to take a full time job, Mrs. .Harrington took over. Since I was now in grade school, I would often spend time in her home while my mother took care of errands and chores. Josephine and James Harrington had a large picture of Jesus in their bedroom and my questions about Christianity were both intriguing and conflicting to my very young Jewish mind. Mrs. Harrington eventually went to work full time for the phone company and Mrs. O’Shea began coming to us with Irish Lamb stew, chocolate chip cookies and apple pie along with her deep faith, and very strong opinions about Anglo-Irish politics. On her way home from work every evening  she would stop at the Good Shepherd Church on Broadway and Isham Street to light a candle. There were other woman from the neighborhood who came to our home once a week. I didn’t realize the seriousness of Mom’s condition until I returned home one school day afternoon to find her unconscious on the living room sofa face down in a pool of vomit.
Dr. Horowitz rushed over and explained to me about her condition and that it would probably worsen. The years passed and when I turned nineteen, I was called back home from college to learn that my mother had become bedridden and needed to be cared for around the clock. She was suffering and having a terribly difficult time. It was Thanksgiving of 1964 and my father and I needed help, something to be thankful for.    

Then a remarkable thing happened. 

Unexpected and unasked for,serendipitous, something that restores one’s faith in the goodness of the human heart.  It seems that word about Mrs. Benjamin had gotten out and they all came back to help. Mrs. Devaney, Mrs. Harrington, Mrs. O’Shea and the others who filled my childhood memories. They were older now. and their hair was grayer but their eyes still sparkled and their willing hearts were ready for the task of giving my mother love and dignity which she had always given to them. They made up schedules to see that she was never alone; twenty four hours a day. They bathed her and dressed her and fixed her hair which was so important to her. They cooked and cleaned and even hand fed her  toward the end. My mother, Rose Benjamin, passed away during the second week of March in 1965 at the age of 57. Mother's Day

The Significance of Passover

As we follow our Chavurah‘s Haggadah at the Seder table, it clearly says several times that we celebrate Pesach “because of what God did for me when I came out of Egypt”. Egypt, “Mitzrayim” is a metaphor for our own lives.

Does each one of us have his or her own Egypt?

What is the personal bondage we each feel in real life ?  

Can we be delivered from it ?

The Passover story describes three kinds of slavery:

  1. Physical slavery, actual physical captivity and the suffering caused by oppressors.
  2. Second is psychological slavery. The Israelites were made dependant upon the whims of others causing fear and desire.
  3. The third is spiritual slavery which is ignorance of our status as human beings because of self-deception and self-forgetfulness.

How many of us are still in Mitzrayim ?

How many of us are still in Egypt ?

How many of us are addicted to behaviors we do not control but control us?

How many of us would like to stop smoking or drinking or over eating or living too sedentary a life?

Aren’t these forms of slavery?  

How many of us are emotional or spiritual slaves dominated  by thoughts, desires and will power which are imposed by someone else in our lives?

The ultimate significance of the Passover Seder is to encourage the liberation of all of us philosophically, psychologically and spiritually in every generation.

Rabbi Nat Benjamin

 

2nd Night Community Seder at Chavurah Beth Shalom

Please join us at our annual Chavurah Beth Shalom Community Seder on Saturday, April 20, 2019 at 6:00 pm in Alpine (NJ) at the Community House, 5 Old Dock Road.
Special Pricing : $39.00 per person,children under 12 free.
Join our special community of friends for a 2nd Night Seder in our Northern Valley of Bergen County.
Great food and friends!

Email us here if you’d like to attend.

Download our Passover Seder forms here:
Chavurah Beth Shalom Passover Appeal

Rabbi Nat Benjamin

 

 

In Praise of Celtic Woman ( The Ones Who Don’t Step Dance or Play a Fiddle)

          As St. Patrick’s Day draws near my thoughts return to the place of my birth, 72 Park Terrace West, in New York City which is in the Inwood neighborhood,, a fabulous place in which to grow up and to bring up children. The residents were  hard-working and the streets were clean and safe. Also, it was the well made pre-war apartments with their competitive rents that drew the younger, middle-class tenants from downtown. In 1950 there were 10,000 Jews and 27,000 Irish that lived there . Although the Jews, the Italians and the Irish have departed to the suburbs, now, in a new twist in Inwood’s history, young professionals and artists are discovering this increasingly multi-ethnic neighborhood.  Although my family attended local Jewish synagogues, most of our friends were Irish Catholic. To my thinking as a youngster, if you were weren’t Jewish you were Irish and to be sure, our Irish friends never discarded their brogues.PArk Terrace West

          My saintly mother, Rose Benjamin, had a smile for everyone and her jolly jokes made her ever welcome. She was always ready to help out where needed and everyone spoke well of her. As a teenager she had survived the ravages of a ten week bout with pneumonia which had left her with a rheumatic heart. She never spoke of it to me and so I was always curious as to why she would never walk up hills, use a step-ladder or engage in any heavy cleaning around our apartment. So, once weekly we had neighborhood woman help her with the any heavy cleaning tasks. When I was very young, there was Mrs. Devaney who could flip a mattress over with one hand. When she left us to take a full-time job, Mrs. Harrington took over. Since I was now in grade school, I would often spend time in her home while my mother took care of  errands and chores. Josephine and James Harrington had a large picture of Jesus in their bedroom and my questions about Christianity were both intriguing and conflicting to my very young Jewish mind. Mrs. Harrington eventually went to work full-time for the phone company.and Mrs. O’Shea began coming to us with her Irish Lamb stew, chocolate chip cookies, apple pie, her deep faith and very strong opinions about Anglo-Irish politics. On her way home from work every evening she would stop at the Good Shepherd Church on Broadway and Isham Street to light a candle. There here were other woman from the neighborhood who came to our home once weekly.

          I didn’t realize the seriousness of Mom’s condition until I returned home one school day afternoon to find her unconscious on the living room sofa  face down in a pool of vomit. Dr. Horowitz rushed over and explained to me about her condition and that it would probably worsen. The years passed and when I turned nineteen, I was called back home from college to learn that my mother had become bedridden and needed to be cared for around the clock. She was suffering and having a terribly difficult time. It was Thanksgiving of 1964 and my father and I needed help, something to be thankful for.  

          A remarkable thing happened. Unexpected and unasked for, serendipitous, something that restores one’s faith in the goodness of the human heart.  It seems that word about Mrs Benjamin had gotten out and they all came back to help,. Mrs. Devaney, Mrs. Harrington, Mrs. O’Shea and the others who filled my childhood memories. They were older now. and their hair was grayer but their eyes still sparkled and their willing hearts were ready for the task of giving my mother the love and dignity which she had always been given to them.. They made up schedules to see that she was never alone, twenty-four hours a day. They bathed her and dressed her and fixed her hair which was so important to her. They cooked and cleaned and even hand fed her toward the end. My mother, Rose Benjamin, passed away during the second week of March in 1965. To my thinking, it‘s close enough to St. Patrick’s Day to be considered  her Yahrzeit.

Purim Reflections

Throughout the entire story of Purim in the Megillah, God is not mentioned once. But since this is a story about God miraculously saving the Jewish community of Persia, why is the almighty left out of the story entirely ?
The response to this question are many which our sages have pondered over. Many of the great Jewish commentators had this same question and discussed this issue at length over time and circumstance.
If we compare the story of Purim with that of our other holidays it is clear that the plot featuring Esther, Mordechai and Haman present us with no new miracles. No seas split, no mass revelation, no dwelling in clouds for forty years, and no overcoming an enemy one hundred times our size using guerrilla warfare. What did happen was that a lot of people were in the right place at the right time to provide just the political clout necessary when needed. All these events were deliberately orchestrated from above by the Almighty who stood behind a stage, so to speak.—
In a sense Purim is a holiday of masks. The costumes conceal one’s real identity, just like the dough of the hamantash covers the fruit filling, the Megillah conceals God’s name and says nothing of divine intervention.
Although Purim and the characters portrayed in the story are often presented in a lighthearted narrative, the seriousness of hatred and anti-Semitism are easily stirred up. Even today we see it re emerging throughout the world and we must respond with vigilance.

Please join us for our Purim Megillah reading on Wednesday March 20th at the Alpine Community House, 5 Old Dock Road, Alpine, N.J.07620 at 4:00 pm. You are welcome to wear masks and costumes. Hamantaschen will be served.

Purim at Chavurah Beth Shalom