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Rabbi's Update 12/23/2022

Dear Friends:

You should already know that services tomorrow morning will be on Zoom only due to weather conditions. As I write this on Friday morning it is above freezing and we are getting a mix of sleet, snow, and rain, but temperatures are expected to drop soon into the low teens. We may have patches of black ice and being outdoors for more than a few minutes will be dangerous, and so we will be on Zoom only. Please join me and Hazzan Komrad from the safety and comfort of your home tomorrow morning.

I wanted to share with you a fascinating article which appeared in the NY Times earlier this week. Many Protestant churches are canceling their Sunday services this week, when Sunday is of course Christmas Day. While Protestant Christians have a tradition of going to church on Christmas Eve, Christmas morning is generally spent at home -- opening gifts, building a fire in the fireplace, and so on. This is apparently the case even when Christmas falls on Sunday, and many churches are reluctant to open the building, make the staff work, spend money on heat and so on if attendance is going to be abysmal. I found this fascinating because we have, on occasion, either moved or not held services when we concluded that few people would attend -- New Year’s Eve, Thanksgiving, and Super Bowl Sunday come to mind. I believe that American Jews have a tendency to believe that conflicts between what the official religious rules say people should do and what people actually do are unique to Jews, but this article shows this not to be the case.

Last night our “Contemporary Jewish Controversies” class had an interesting “Ask the Rabbi” session. We had some further conversation about medical ethics, and we spoke about antisemitism and assimilation as well as some discussion about topics in Jewish history and the nature of Chanukah in the United States and Israel. You can watch it here if you wish to do so.

I want to thank Debbie Finch for all her work organizing the Christmas Brunch we are providing for the Men’s Emergency Shelter and thanks to everyone who has made or is making food, contributed money, and those who are transporting food Sunday morning. It’s a great mitzvah to help our neighbors who have fallen into difficult circumstances and Debbie works incredibly hard every year to make this happen. Thank you.

A reminder concerning Chanukah candles and Shabbat candles: this afternoon be sure to light your Chanukah candles before you light your Shabbat candles. The reason for this is that once we have lit the Shabbat candles, we have ushered in Shabbat and are no longer allowed to light the Chanukah candles. On Saturday night we follow the opposite practice: we do not light the Chanukah candles until after we have said Havdalah. Again, the reasoning is that it’s still Shabbat for us until we have said Havdalah and therefore we can’t light the Chanukah candles.

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.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Charles L. Arian

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