Friday, July 31, 2009

Mazel Tov! (this Sunday)

Mike Wenthe writes in:

I am very happy to announce that on Monday, July 27, Rebecca Boggs gave birth to a healthy baby girl. Mother and daughter are both doing well. (Dad is okay, too.) As of yet, the child has not officially been named, though she has heretofore been known as "the critter" and Juniorina...

But a formal naming ceremony will be held this Sunday, August 2, starting at 2:30 P.M. at Adas Israel Congregation, 2850 Quebec Street NW, Washington, DC (just around the corner from the Cleveland Park Metro, Red Line).

You are most welcome to join us for the event, at which we will reveal our daughter's names and some of the thinking behind the choices thereof. Also, it being a Jewish event, we will eat: probably a buffet of pastries, bagels, fish, fruit, and vegetables, with coffee and tea available, and some bourbon to honor the child's Kentucky heritage.

Best wishes to all,

P.S.  Welcome to the world, Shira Rose Boggs Wenthe!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Voices of Eicha

(suggested by Rabbi Chuck Feinberg)

Who speaks in the Scroll of Lamentations?

Many voices:
  • The witness: I've seen such terrible things
  • The community: How could this happen to us
  • The survivor: Woe is me!
  • The angry victim: It's all the fault of our leaders
  • The narrator: Look at how bad things have gotten
On Tishe b'Av, the daled amot of torah (literally “four paces of the law” -- the breathing room for learning torah, a defined space that is nonetheless big enough to move around) shrinks to Megillat Eicha and a handful of other passages. So it makes sense to spend a little extra time pondering a text that is unpleasant and often ignored the rest of the year.

1:1 to 1:10 – The Narrator
1:11 to 1:22 – The Survivor

2:1 to 2:10 – The Narrator
2:11 to 2:22 – The Witness

3:1 to 3:66 – The Survivor
(3:40 to 3:47 – The Community)

4:1 to 4:10 – The Witness
4:11 to 4:16 – The Angry Victim
4:17 to 4:20 – The Community

5:1 to 5:22 – The Community

One voice is completely absent. Though it fills most of the books of the prophets – namely, the voice of the prophet – we never find the people of Israel referred to in the 2nd person: You, Israel, have been laid low, got what you deserved, will yet see redemption, etc., etc.  

Another voice is so expected, yet so sparse, as to cry out in its absence – the voice of prayer. How rarely we ask, on Tishe b'Av, for God to make things better!

What do we ask ha-Shem to do? In many places, we ask ha-Shem to see, to hear, to listen, to behold, to remember – but not to act. Only to acknowledge our existence and our suffering. And we never use the “jussive” voice, may God cause such-and-such to happen, as in, “ha-Shem oz l'amah titen, ha-Shem tivarech et olamah va-shalom” (May ha-Shem bring about strength for Her people, may ha-Shem cause peace to bless Her world)

Our actual requests of ha-Shem are appear to be quite limited:
  • 1:22 – Wreak the same misery on my foes as you did upon me
  • 3:64-66 – Pursue my foes in anger and destroy them 
  • And the famous second-to-last verse (5:21) – Return us to You, Renew our days as of old
What can we conclude from this accounting of the voices present and absent in Eichah? It is an unusual text, because our relationship with ha-Shem and with the future is so blunted. We don't ask ha-Shem to make things better. We just acknowledge, and ask ha-Shem to acknowledge, how miserable everything is.  

That's not a bad description of the function of Tishe b'Av itself. We're not trying to rouse ourselves to teshuvah, as if this were Yom Kippur. Or to tell ourselves of the miracles that ended the misery, as if this were Pesach. We're not even trying to get drunk and forget how bad it was, as if this were Purim. We're just here, permitting ourselves to see, opening our eyes and hearts to just how bad it can get. It's the one day of the year we force ourselves, not to try to make things better, but instead, simply to not turn away.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The last Fri. night Zoo Minyan of summer - July 24

Come for a beautiful evening!

This is our last Fri. night Zoo Minyan of the summer, as we're on an "every 6 weeks" schedule for Fri nights. (By the time the next one rolls around it will be almost the Chaggim!) So come for sweet summer Erev Shabbat.

We'll have spirited songful Davening and delicious dinner (catered entrees from Sienna's). This week we'll be in Woodley Park, at the home of Deborah & Shalom. We're still seeking davenning leaders, and there's always room for davenning treats, special niggunim, etc., just write back to to volunteer.

Please make a donation toward dinner and/or bring a potluck contribution (veggie/dairy) -- details below.

The Details:
This Friday night, July 24th
Shmoozing plus set-up: 6:30pm
Rockin' Kabbalat Shabbat -- 7:00pm sharp!
Followed by Ma'ariv, dinner, singing, drashing, more shmoozing....

At the home of Deborah Hittleman Flank and Shalom Flank. For directions, check your Zoo mail, or email per below.

+++ ABOUT DINNER (it's not just a pot-luck!)

We will have main courses from Siena's! Kosher, lots of dairy plus at
least one non-dairy option, all veggie, and all yummy! Vegetable
lasagna, eggplant parmesan -- send in your requests

For shabbat dinner, the community provides some hearty entrees. You
1) Contribute to the kitty to help pay for the entree
2) Bring a side dish, salad, drink, or desert as a dairy / veggie pot-luck contribution.

Don't worry about whether your kitchen is kosher (or “kosher enough”), everyone gets to contribute. But please be prepared to explain what's in your dish, to help people avoid allergy or kashrut issues.

If you're worried about whether you'll be able to eat at Zoo Minyan, there is always a critical mass of pot-luck contributions with a heksher or cooked in someone's heksher-only kitchen. There are always hekshered challot and grape juice, plus the entree is hekshered. And you'll get to know people as you ask who brought which dish. Questions? Ideas? Want to help? Need the address or directions? Write back to Shabbos is coming!

!!! NEXT ZOO -------
And the next time Zoo Minyan meets will be Shabbat Shoftim --right after Rosh Chodesh Elul-- Saturday morning, August 22nd, when folks have returned from NHC Summer Institute. Grab your leyning slot early, at

For more FRIDAY NIGHT INFO, get all the details here. And for all the upcoming Friday night dates (through September), check the Zoo Minyan Google calendar.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Changed August date to: Aug 22nd

Greetings Zoo Minyanites,
after some discussion, the date for the August Zoo Minyan has been changed (due to a Bar Mitzvah in the greater community).

We will now be meeting on Sat. Aug. 22.

Please adjust your calendars. The Zoo Minyan Google calendar has been updated - and if you are a Google Calendar person, feel free to add the Zoo Minyan Events calendar to your view.

Shavua Tov.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Good ol' fashioned Sat. at Zoo Minyan - July 11th

We'll be gathering for davenning, lunch, shmoozing, singing, etc., this Saturday in Woodley Park at Deborah and Shalom's house.

Volunteers still sought for Zoo Minyan veggies, davenning treats (i.e. Kavanot or creative tidbits, not actual food ;) also Torah Transporter, and davening leaders – write back to

If you'd like to Leyn there's one aliyah left (Revii)...use the self-service leyning spreadsheet to sign up, or email

The Details:

Zoo Minyan
This Saturday, Pinchas, 11 July
10am sharp, with a joyous Psukei d'Zimrah
Pot-luck dairy/veggie lunch -- main courses especially appreciated

At the home of Deborah Hittleman Flank and Shalom Flank. For directions, check your Zoo mail, or email

Shabbat Shalom, hey!

Friday, July 03, 2009

July 11th - coming soon

Shabbos is coming!

Reb Deb here with a brief reminder that Zoo Minyan will be meeting next week, Parshat Pinchas, July 11th.

(I kinda' wish it was this week so i could drash on Parshat Balak, and use my famous utterance from a Tish preceding a wedding ceremony, where i had the opportunity to shout as the groom spoke about Balak & Balaam, "Tell us about your as&!" (referring to the talking donkey, not groom's backside of course!) Oy!

So, re: Pinchas, come bring your thoughts on Brit Shalom, or on continuity or succession (Joshua & Moses). Or just come for the Ruach and the singing ;)

Leyners, davenners, davenning treats, Zoo Minyan veggies, torah schlepping-- it's all yours for the asking. Just write back to Or for leyning, head to to claim your slot.

(location Details in your next Zoo Mail)

Shabbat Shalom!