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03/13/2019 12:24:50 PM


I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about belief in God. Yesterday, a teenager I was teaching asked me if I believed in God. She does. And, recently, another child very respectfully asked how he could say the words of our prayers when they assume a belief in God that he’s not sure he has. Baruch ata Adonai, Elohainu melech ha’olam, Blessed are you Adonai, our God, Ruler of the universe, it’s the start of every blessing. Is it reasonable to say it if you don’t believe in God?

Firstly, I want to say that I love that our children are grappling with this issue as are many of our adults. Jews are supposed to question, not just accept things.

So, how do I answer these questions? I always begin by saying that I’m sharing my thoughts. Yes they’re based on Jewish study, but still, they’re just my thoughts. I tell them the expression “Two Jews, three opinions.” Judaism isn’t just about set answers, we’re meant to grapple with things.

Often when people say they don’t believe in God, their idea of God is the “old man” in Heaven looking down on us, answering our prayers and pulling strings for us. I don’t believe in an intervening God either. And yet, often I experience, or hear about others’ experiences where there seem to be coincidences that can’t be explained. My explanation is that we’re all interconnected in some way that we don’t yet understand. And that there is some sort of force beyond us. And I call that force God.

So why do I find our prayers so meaningful when I don’t believe in an intervening God? I’m aware that many of these prayers are ancient and they help me feel part of a long line of Jews. This connection to our past also struck home when I recently had genetic testing and found I had a gene that predated the destruction of the first Temple!

Another way I give our prayers meaning is by looking at their themes. The blessings, to me, are about gratitude for what we have: bread, wine, vegetables and fruits, freedom, life, our blessings go on and on! There’s been many studies outlining the health benefits of gratitude. How wise our ancestors were! We have various prayers asking for peace: Sim Shalom, Shalom Rav, Oseh Shalom. That’s easy. The Mi Chamocha reminds me of the joy we felt when we were truly free and safe from slavery. It reminds me of the importance of freedom and helping others achieve it. V’Shamru makes me think of how wise our ancestors were in understanding the importance of not working all the time.

I also find that the beauty of the music transports me. Prayer is so much more than finding meaning in the words. It’s why so many of our prayers are sung. Music moves us.

So, I want to thank our children, for raising such important issues. What are your thoughts about God?

At our recent LunchNLearn, one of our congregants quoted Einstein. I’ll end with a few quotes from Einstein:

A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty - it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude… (Albert Einstein)

I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings. (Albert Einstein)



01/14/2019 01:07:52 PM


Cantor Rush Ussher

From Cantor Ruth:


We ended this secular year with a wonderful demonstration of the power of community. Each year on the anniversary of the death of a mother or father, husband or wife, sister or brother or children, it’s traditional to attend services and say kaddish. For that, 10 adult Jews are needed. One such kaddish fell on the recent holiday break when many of our regular service attendees were going to be away. We put out a request and HCS members responded with gusto. We had our minyan very early on and by the time kaddish happened we had a good-sized group. It was heartwarming to see HCS community in action!


I’ve been thinking about the power of our joining together in prayer. Every service I read our misheberach list, the names of congregants, their family members or friends who are in need of prayers of healing and of strength to deal with their illnesses. We then sing Debbie Friedman’s Misheberach. Often, I hear directly from people on the list about how much it helps them knowing that we’re praying for them. They tell me they feel lifted up. Some believe the prayers have a direct effect, others aren’t sure but absolutely know that they feel less alone and more supported. It feels wonderful to know that we impact people that way.


Speaking about community, our Hanukah service and dinner was a great success! There were around 90 people attending and the service was great fun. Jill and I are discussing making some changes to our Friday night services. We’ll be doing some experimenting and, of course, welcome all feedback.


If anyone is interested in leading the English readings at Shabbat morning services please let me know. It doesn’t need to be often, whatever fits your schedule. I would appreciate the help.


Lastly, the BFOR study is still open. This study tests Ashkenazi Jews for BRCA mutations. So why bother to get tested? Simply because, if you know you have this genetic mutation, there’s improved screening, risk-reducing medication or preventive surgery that can save your life. I have the mutation and have chosen a combination of improved screening for breast cancer and preventive surgery for ovarian cancer. I’ll be happy to discuss it with you if you’d like. I strongly encourage you to participate in the study. It’s simple, free, convenient and, potentially, life-saving for you and your children. If every Ashkenazi Jew in the US got tested, 100,000 lives would be saved!


Ruth Ossher

Cantorial Soloist



Thu, April 18 2019 13 Nisan 5779