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Rabbi’s Update 5/29/2024

Dear Friends:

Tomorrow night for Adult Education I will be teaching about what the Talmud calls Machloket L’shem Shamayim, literally “a dispute for the sake of Heaven.” We are all familiar with the saying “two Jews, three opinions”, but the fact of the matter is that in Judaism, disagreements are not only tolerated but encouraged. The Gemara is in large part a record of disagreement between our Sages on how to understand, interpret, and implement the Torah’s commandments. Disagreement can be a good thing because it forces us to understand and sharpen our perspectives on issues which are important to us as a community.

At the same time, the Jewish tradition insists that disagreements have to be conducted respectfully. The Talmud generally prefers the position of Beit Hillel rather than Beit Shammai, not necessarily because their position is objectively more correct, but because Beit Hillel acted more respectfully towards the other side. We are in the middle of the Omer period, which is a period of semi-mourning because of a plague that the Talmud tells us killed 20,000 students of Rabbi Akiva, which was imposed by God as a punishment because the students did not treat each other respectfully. And we also learn that Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE because the various factions which existed at the time did not act with respect towards each other.

We have seen an incredible breakdown of respectful debate and dialogue in American society over the last few years. And as our kehila wrestles with tough decisions, I am concerned that we may once again fall into a pattern of disrespectful and hurtful rhetoric which will serve only to make our situation even more difficult than it is. Please attend the class tomorrow night and take what you learn to heart.

On a different topic, if you have attended Shabbat morning services during the past two weeks, you will have noticed that instead of the prayers for the hostages and for the IDF which I had been saying after the Torah reading, I have been saying a “Prayer In The Time of War” from Kehilat Sinai, the Masorti (Conservative) Synagogue in Tel Aviv. I feel it better expresses the complicated feelings which we are all feeling since Oct. 7. If you would like to have a chance to look at it more closely, it can be found here.

As a reminder, I am having drop-in hours on Thursday afternoons from 2 to 4 at the shul. For my drop-in hours, 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; 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. 

Additionally, if you know of a Kehilat Shalom congregant or another member of our Jewish community who could use a phone call, please let me know.


Rabbi Charles L. Arian

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