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Rabbi’s Update 10/27/2023

A Note from the Rabbi

Dear Friends:

Yesterday afternoon, in preparation for our participation in Solidarity Shabbat, I arranged a tallit, a siddur, a chumash, and a “Missing” sign on one of our pulpit chairs to honor those who are being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza and to pray for their speedy release. This display will remain intact until the hostages are freed. In all honesty, I was not prepared for how emotional an experience it would be to set up this display. Am Yisrael is truly one people no matter whether we live in the United States, Israel, or anywhere else, and we deeply feel the pain of our brothers and sisters in Israel.

As I am writing this message, I am listening to the Israeli radio station Reshet Gimmel on the Alexa device next to my work desk. Listening to Reshet Gimmel is something I have been doing most Fridays for a few years, since I learned that on Fridays they mostly play Israeli music from the 70s and 80s, the music I listened to when I lived in Israel. Every few minutes the music is interrupted by a “hatra’ah”, a warning, and the announcer reads a list of different places in Israel where the residents are instructed to enter their shelters because Hamas or Hezbollah rockets have been detected. It brought me back to the days of the first Gulf War in 1991 when I went to Radio Shack to buy a shortwave radio to listen to the Voice of Israel while Iraqi Scud missiles were falling on Israel. There was no Internet, no Alexa, and also no Iron Dome back then. It is a very different world in many ways but the challenges faced by Israel are not so different.

Tomorrow morning my Drasha will look at the mitzvah of Pidyon Shevuim, redemption of captives, in Jewish sources. It is fascinating to see that the dilemmas Israel faces today were anticipated in halachic sources going back almost 2000 years. Should Israel be willing to exchange Hamas prisoners for hostages? Pay a ransom? Prioritize the destruction of Hamas over liberating the hostages, or vice-versa?

On Thursday night, Nov. 2, my Adult Education class will look at the laws of warfare according to halacha and Jewish teaching. I also want to note that in the current situation there is always a possibility that events may overtake us and necessitate schedule changes.

As a reminder, I am having drop-in hours on Thursday afternoon from 2 to 4 at the shul. You do not need to make an appointment -- that would negate the whole point of drop-in hours -- but I’d urge you to check and make sure I am there regardless as sometimes there are unavoidable pastoral or other emergencies which might take me away from the building.

As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment. I have been spending more time in the synagogue recently but if you want to speak with me it’s best to make an appointment rather than assuming I will be there when you stop by.


Rabbi Charles L. Arian

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