| Clergy Corner

CLERGY CORNER: A post-summer reset

Posted on 25 August 2016 by LeslieM

The end of summer brings an opportunity for new beginnings in a variety of ways. School children heading back to classes prepare for new lessons, projects, exams, and the like. Moving up a grade usually means meeting new teachers and possibly new classmates. Transitioning from elementary to middle school, or from middle school to high school means learning your way around a new environment, along with taking new classes and making new friends. For teachers and support staff, the experience is similar. There are new kids to work with, new schedules to keep, and sometimes new educational standards to be implemented.

Parents go through a reset as well. Vacation days with great summer experiences have ended. Kids are out of the house and back in school. There are forms to be filled out and bus routes to confirm. Traffic for the morning commute to work increases, along with anxiety levels during the ride. These end-of -summer rituals predictably occur as most of us make the adjustments both physically and emotionally. Even nature prepares to bid farewell to summer in order to make room for autumn. Change, transition, adjustment and renewal are all around us at this time of year.

Most of the year has passed at this point and we are looking at just a few months left. At the beginning of the year, many people made plans and set goals to be accomplished. Now is a great time to review and assess and to make adjustments, if necessary. The opportunity to reset or begin anew at the end of summer gives us a chance to confirm which goals are most important, and to focus on the things that matter most. Even challenging circumstances may provide us with new lessons, different options, and a change in direction.

There is a movement among churches to capture this sense of renewal at the end of summer by inviting congregants back to church. Attendance usually diminishes during the summer months, causing some churches to adopt a summer schedule of fewer services. As vacation days come to an end and the kids head back to school, people are encouraged to reconnect with the fellowship and worship that church offers. There is even a national “Back to Church Campaign” that provides resources and ideas to congregations that desire to reach out to regular attendees as well as attract new people.

In all of life’s pursuits none should be considered more important than the development of our faith. Connecting with God and finding your purpose through Him is a very rewarding experience. I was impressed with several of the athletes who publicly gave thanks to God for their victories in the recent Olympics. They acknowledged that their abilities were granted by Him and rightly gave God the glory. Even some who came up short offered thanks for the opportunity to compete at such a high profile level.

As we say goodbye to the summer months and adjust to the coming season, why not reset our spiritual lives as well. If you’ve been out of church, or out of contact with your community of faith, why not reconnect and reaffirm your relationship with God. Bring the entire family and make a purposeful decision to move forward with faith, focus and gratitude. Seize these new days, and this new season, with a fresh attitude.

May you discover the joy of the Psalm (96:1) who declared “O sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord all the earth.” There is much more to experience and enjoy in life. Sometimes all you need is to reset.

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-427-0302.

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CLERGY CORNER: Accepting a bribe

Posted on 18 August 2016 by LeslieM

A government official was arrested for accepting a bribe from a contractor. A friend who went to visit him in the lock-up asked, “How are you going to get out of this mess?”

The official replied calmly, “I got into trouble for accepting a bribe; I will get out of it by giving it.”

Five daughters petition

It is a puzzling story—the tale of the five daughters of Tzelafchad, recorded in the portion of Pinchas.

Tzelafchad was a Jewish man, of the generation born in Egyptian slavery, liberated by the Exodus, and granted the Land of Canaan as Israel’s heritage. Although that generation did not merit to take possession of the land themselves, when their children crossed the Jordan River to conquer it, they did so as their fathers’ heirs. Each family received its share in the land in accordance with its apportionment among the 600,000 members of the generation of the Exodus.

Tzelafchad had five daughters but no sons. The laws of inheritance as they were initially given in the Torah, which recognized only male heirs, in which sons inherit from their fathers and they are responsible to fully support the widow and daughters as long as they do not marry. In this case, there were no sons to inherit Tzelafchad’s portion in the Land. The daughters refused to reconcile themselves to this situation, and approached Moses with the petition.

They stood before Moses and before Eleazar the Kohen and before the chieftains and the entire congregation at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, saying, “Our father died in the desert, but he was not in the assembly that banded together against G-d in Korah’s assembly, but he died for his own sin, and he had no sons.”

Why should our father’s name be eliminated from his family because he had no son? Give us a portion along with our father’s brothers.”

So Moses brought their case before G-d.

God spoke to Moses, saying: “The daughters of Tzelafchad have a just claim. Give them a hereditary portion of land alongside their father’s brothers. Let their father’s hereditary property thus pass over to them.”

The correct decision for this question requires no more than simple logic. What else should be done with the piece of land belonging to Tzelafchad? Should it be transferred to someone who is not related to him? It would not make sense to have his brothers receive it, because, as mentioned according to Torah law, orphaned daughters need to be supported by the brothers until they marry, during which time they live in their father’s estate now inherited by the brothers. In our case, when there were no brothers, and all of the women were single, where would they live? Who would support them? If they do not inherit any part of the land or their father’s possessions, they will remain homeless and destitute. That is senseless. Logic dictates that the daughters should inherit their father’s piece of land — and logic is the way we deduce the intricacies of Torah law. Why then did Moses feel it necessary to bring this seemingly obvious ruling directly to G-d and not even begin to seek an answer?

Moses’ Integrity

If we are to look at how they presented their case, they prefaced, “Our father died in the desert. He was not among the members of Korach’s party who protested against G-d, but he died because of his own sin without leaving any sons.”

This detail is the key to it all. Korach staged a ferocious rebellion against Moses. He saw Moses as his arch-enemy and attempted to rally up the entire nation against Moses. Korach claimed that Moses was a power-hungry demagogue who craved nothing but absolute control and authority. The moment Moses heard the daughters say that their father was not part of Korach’s mutiny he felt that his psyche has just become bias toward them and their father. This was a verbal bribe, subtle as it may be, and he might not be fully objective in his decision.

The Lesson

This is the level of self-awareness G-d asks of us. Don’t be perfect, but be accountable. Don’t be flawless, but be honest with yourself. Realize how subjective and bias you may be on any given issue, perhaps beyond realizing it. Thus, always retain your humility, allow yourself to be challenged, listen to another perspective, and be open to the truth that you may really be wrong.

If Moses at the peak of his life felt that no matter his standing, a small compliment from five sisters can alter his objectivity and distort his sense of truth. Certainly you and I must ask ourselves, “Maybe there is another perspective?” “Maybe my wife has a point?” “Maybe my mother-in-law is in the right?” Okay, let’s not push it… but “maybe my husband has a point?” “Maybe I need an outside opinion?”

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the Director of Chabad of the North Broward Beaches. New location coming soon. For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: Confessions of a regional pilot

Posted on 11 August 2016 by LeslieM

At the time of writing this article, the population of the United States is 324,192,360. Of those, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 130,000 of them are employed as a commercial or airline pilot. That means only .0004 percent of the U.S. population fly cargo or people professionally. If you were to attend a sold-out Yankees game, of the 54,251 spectators, statistically there are only 22 pilots in the stands. That’s three less people than one team’s active roster! It’s a prestigious career with few completing the extensive training, unrelenting testing and demands that professional pilots experience. I know this because I was one — a captain by age 24, even.

Six years after my departure from the airline industry people still ask, “What kind of plane did you fly?” And when I reply that I operated the CRJ-200, a 50-seat regional jet, forget what I wrote above. I might as well have said that I pulled a Radio Flyer wagon behind my Big Wheel and, yet, some would still consider that the more prestigious.

Easily disregarded by the public is the fact that regional aircraft and crew are held to the same certification and reliability standards as the mainline carriers, which is proven by the regional airlines’ exceedingly unprecedented safety and reliability record. Also ignored, regional pilots — one could argue — possess surpassing “stick-and-rudder” skills as a direct result of the increased amount of operations in what is statistically considered the most dangerous part of the flight which is the take-off and landing (or terminal) environment. Finally, consider how the regional jet has positively impacted the market for the customer by expanding to service smaller cities and providing greater schedule flexibility. Yet, no one wants to fly on the “tiny” jets — the scourge of the industry. Vacation, yes; via a regional jet, no.

As a pastor, the size game continues. How many people go to your church? How many youth went on the summer trip? How many students attend the Wednesday night experience? Numbers, numbers, numbers! In aviation, you’re not a real pilot until you’ve flown a plane with 100 seats or more. And in ministry, you’re not a real pastor until your weekly attendance exceeds 2000 with the additional “pastor street credential” bonus for being multi-site.

Please hear me; I believe God has, and will, use varying church styles and sizes. But what’s being increasingly neglected by church-goers is the focus of what’s most important in the ministry — Christ. Somewhere we’ve come to measure the health and success of a church solely by two metrics: attendance and giving. Can these two be indicators of health or deficiency either way? Yes, they can. But should they be the sole qualifiers? I say absolutely not! As recorded in Matthew 7:20, Jesus says, “[Just] as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.”

Timothy Keller, in Shaped By the Gospel, writes, “The most important [action taken] is that a ministry be faithful to the Word and sound in doctrine,” with Christ at the center. We must resist the temptation to be ensnared by shallow number-crunching and instead hold fast to the promise of what God desires to accomplish through a handful of people fully surrendered to His will.

It is we, who call ourselves Christians, that have been commissioned to gather as the body, the Church, and to be known by our actions. We are people with a “passion for His presence, a deep craving to reach the lost, sincere integrity, Spirit-led faith, down-to-earth humility,” and a recognition of our own “brokenness” (It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get It and Keep It, Craig Groeschel).

When we act in such a way, we’ll see rebellious hearts turn toward God and He will “add to the Church” because we abandoned seat-counting and returned to devoting ourselves “to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayerActs 2:38-47.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at First Baptist Church of Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments he can be reached at cj@deerfieldfirst.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: The Light of Redemption

Posted on 04 August 2016 by LeslieM

A friend recently shared with me the following personal story: My business had run so successfully for the last 10 years, I thought I was headed for an early retirement. But the last six months have completely shattered that hope. My business went down big time. I went from being CEO of a large company to searching for part-time work in the classifieds online. Almost overnight, my fortunes made a 180 degree turn and I can no longer enjoy the luxurious lifestyle I once had. I no longer own a holiday home. I sold my yacht and am struggling to be able to hold on to the family home.

But with all this going on, something weird has happened. Everyone around me expected me to fall apart. I had been a workaholic. My business was my life and seeing that go down should have meant that I go down with it. But I didn’t. In fact, just the opposite happened. With less work on my plate, I now have more time to spend with my family. And guess what? I enjoy it. I have gotten to know my 8-year-old daughter better than ever, because I have the space to listen to her. I used to be at the office until 10 or 11 p.m., but now I am home to put the kids to bed, read them a story and give them a goodnight kiss. I used to eat Chinese takeout at my computer every night, but now I sit and eat with my family, hearing about their day and sharing mine with them. I have even started taking walks with my wife like we did when we were newlyweds.

I have come to realize what is really important and where my time and energy should really be spent. Thank G-d I went broke. Otherwise I’d be so rich, and yet so poor. I might have had everything, but I would have had nothing…

This is the white cheese that sometimes comes from the black goat, and the white egg that the black hen lays. We have all seen it, in our own lives and in the lives of those around us. The illness that brings us a deeper perspective in life, the relationship breakdown that allows us to find true love and humility, the passing of a loved one that gives us new appreciation of our short time in this world and the spirituality of life. What the soul understands is that there are two forms of light – light that appears as light and light that appears as darkness. The good times are good. The tough times are there for us to make them good. “Problems are only opportunities with thorns.”

Henny Youngman said: “You know why Jews don’t drink? It interferes with their suffering.” But he was wrong — on two counts. First, many Jews do drink… Second, we don’t want pain. We would rather not have to go through the tough times. We don’t seek out suffering, even if it will make us stronger. We would rather learn the lessons and gain the inspiration we need through pleasant and comfortable means, not through pain. It would be wonderful if all eggs could be born from white hens. But the reality of life is that we all have our share of challenges, difficulties and trials. And as long as that is the case, the human response to life’s challenges is to make them a springboard for positive change.

It is during this time of year, the three weeks of mourning for the Jewish Temples, that we focus on this powerful idea. Destruction is a step toward rebuilding and failure is a chance to regroup and get our strength back. We all go through black times. We all get knocked over and we all fall. But “failure is not falling down, it is staying down.” As Jews, we know that we must get back up, shake off the dust and keep on “laying eggs.”

The Three Weeks, from a Jewish perspective, are like the Black Hole in modern physics, which is filled with endless light, but does not allow it to escape its pull. (A black hole is a region of space in which the gravitational field is so powerful that nothing, including light, can escape its pull.) Our job is to penetrate the black hole and reveal its inner light, the light of Messiah.

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the Director of Chabad of the North Broward Beaches. New location coming soon. For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: Living with hope in difficult times

Posted on 28 July 2016 by LeslieM

Our world is in chaos. Increasing violence both at home and abroad has many living in fear and anxiety. Terrorist attacks upon innocent people, conflict between police and citizens, political upheaval, racial and religious aggression, all of these are signs of the difficult times in which we live. Nature’s occasional display of destructive force, and the reality of climate change add to the apprehension that many feel.

The truth is that every generation has had challenges that seemed to signal the end of life and erosion of society as we know it. There have always been wars, conflict, aggression and violence. The only difference between now and earlier times is the speed at which information from around the world is delivered. The 24 hour news cycle and instantaneous social media coverage keep us hopping from one report of tragedy to the next.

Jesus predicted the increased awareness of trouble during the week before His crucifixion. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows (Matt. 24:6-8). Even Paul, the apostle, forewarned of the perilous times that would come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:1-4).

In light of the predictions and realities of our present time, many have adopted a fatalistic view of the future and man’s hopes. Doomsday scenarios abound that see humanity devolving into a dystopian type of existence after some global tragedy caused by war, climate change, or computer malfunction (remember the Y2K hysteria?).

But it is possible and advisable to live life with hope concerning the future. Both Jesus and Paul gave encouragement following their predictions so that men could avoid giving in to despair but live with hope. The disciples were told to watch for these signs, and to make themselves ready for their Lord to return. Timothy was encouraged to continue in what he had learned, and to be faithful despite what would come.

We may not have the power to prevent others from thinking and doing evil things but we can control how each of us lives individually. Why not be true to each other and to God? Live honest and upright by treating each other with dignity, and having compassion on the less fortunate. Give room for differences of opinion and ideology while seeking to coexist peaceably. Why not strive to make yourself and the world around you better? I have noticed that even as war, tragedy, conflict and aggression has raged over the centuries, advancements and breakthrough have also occurred for the betterment of our existence.

Why not be part of the next great discovery, achievement, or invention? The world can always use another great thinker, leader or discoverer. We don’t all have to become victims of the perilous times in which we live.

The worst of times can indeed also be the best of times, if we decide to give our best to making the best of what we have. You can either be part of the good in life, or give yourself to that which is bad. It is my hope and my prayer that you will choose to be part of that which is good.

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. 954-427-0302.

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CLERGY CORNER: Curses vs Blessings

Posted on 28 July 2016 by LeslieM

The portion of Balak tells the fascinating story of Bilaam, a prophet, who was summoned by the Moabite king to curse Israel. In the end, in lieu of curses, the prophet gushes forth the most splendid poetry ever written about the uniqueness and destiny of the Jewish people. His poetry has become classic, a wellspring of inspiration for thousands of years, recited daily in Jewish liturgy and prayers.

Yet there is something profoundly confusing about the narrative. The Bible relates how the emissaries arrive from Moab and Midian. They state their mission: They want Bilaam to curse the Israelites. Bilaam tells them to stay the night, while he consults with G-d. G-d’s answer is unequivocal: “G-d said to Balaam, ‘Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.’” Bilaam obeys. He refuses to go. Balak, the Moabite king, redoubles his efforts. Perhaps more distinguished messengers and the promise of significant reward will persuade Balaam to change his mind.

He sends a second set of emissaries. Bilaam’s reply is moving: “Even if Balak gave me his palace filled with silver and gold, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my G-d.”

However, he adds a fateful rider: “Now stay here tonight as the others did, and I will find out what else G-d will tell me.”

The implication is clear. Bilaam is suggesting that G-d may change His mind. But this is impossible. That is not what G-d does. Yet, to our surprise, that is exactly what G-d seems to do: That night G-d came to Bilaam and said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.”

Bilaam followed G-d’s latest instruction. He got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab. “But G-d was very angry when he went, and the angel of G-d stood in the road to oppose him.”

The narrative now shifts to the famous scene of Bilaam’s donkey. What is going on here? Why did G-d change His mind four times?! First G-d says no, than it becomes yes, then it is no again, and finally it’s a yes! What was Bilaam suppose to do? Not go? But G-d told him explicitly to go. The story seems like an unfair setup for Bilaam. G-d tells him to go, and then gets angry at him for going!

Initially G-d prevented Bilaam from cursing because “the nation is blessed.” Therefore, he says “Do not go with them”. Bilaam passed along this message of G-d, but Balak did not believe him, and proceeded to increase to honor him with greater messengers and promised him greater reward. Bilaam answered the second group that the issue is not the money, and it is not up to him, rather it is up to G-d. He agreed to inquire again what G-d will command him. In this, he conducted himself properly, because Bilaam knew the Higher Knowledge, and that G-d’s advice is always good. Now G-d told him: “I already told you that this nation is blessed and unable to be cursed. Now, why have they, Balak’s ministers, returned to you? If they only want you to go with them and not curse at all, then get up and go with them, but only the word that I place in your mouth shall you do, and even if I command you to bless them you must bless them without being afraid of Balak.

So G-d wanted Bilaam to go with the ministers after telling them first that He would not be able to curse the Jews, and would only follow G-d’s instructions.

G-d wanted that the Jews be blessed by a prophet of the non-Jews. Bilaam was supposed to tell all of this to the ministers of Balak. However, Balak specified the second time as well, “Come, please curse this nation.” He only wanted Billam to curse, not prophesize or anything else.

But, Bilaam, in his overeagerness to go, did not tell them any of this and, instead, “he woke up early in the morning, saddled his own donkey, and went with them” as if he was going to fulfill their request.

From here, you see that “man is led down the path he wishes to travel” because, originally, Bilaam was told “Do not go with them” but since he had audacity, he went. That is why it says “G-d’s wrath flared because he was going.”

G-d said to him: “Wicked one! I do not want the destruction of the wicked, but since you insist on your own destruction, by all means, go!”

Choose your path wisely!

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the Director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches. New location coming soon. For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: When words matter in the dark

Posted on 15 July 2016 by LeslieM

Minutes before midnight on Dec. 29, 1979, Eastern Airlines flight 401, originating from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, with 163 passengers and 13 crew on board, crashed into the Everglades, just short of their destination, Miami International Airport. In total, 96 lives were lost due to a faulty light.

While on approach to land, the nose wheel “down-and-locked” indicator light failed to illuminate. A missed approach was executed, which included climbing to 2000 ft. over the Everglades. The crew re-engaged the autopilot and investigated.

During the commotion, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined the captain, when turning to speak with the flight engineer, may have inadvertently disconnected the autopilot, resulting in a shallow descent. Given the moonless night and dark terrain below, it would have been near impossible to visually recognize the departure from the established altitude.

Allow me to pause. Do you believe what we say and how we say it matters? Proverbs 18:21 teaches that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” James likens the tongue to a small rudder which “makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go — “for, if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.” (James 3:2-3). It’s important for us to understand that even seemingly insignificant words carry this same power.

We could argue the first link broke in the chain of events leading to the disaster stems from a seemingly insignificant piece of hardware. This malfunctioning light interrupted a normal approach and diverted the crews’ attention — a large catastrophe caused by a little light bulb.

If you’re like me, the latest catastrophes around the world can be overwhelming. I understand the “call to love” more. But can my personal choice to do so really make any difference in the grand scheme of the world’s problems? Then, I am reminded of Eastern Airlines Flight 401. Little things can make a huge difference — for better … or for worse.

For instance, now, if the autopilot is bumped off, an audible alert sounds. Another modest improvement, which has saved countless lives, is the concept of “pilot-flying” and “pilot-not-flying.” In the event of a situation, as with Flight 401, a crew-member’s sole responsibility would have been to positively monitor the instruments, immediately noticing the break from altitude. It’s simple, yet powerful — like our words (and even our actions).

From this day forward, recognize the power you possess to share love with others. It may seem trite, but let someone into traffic ahead of you. Buy the lunch of the person behind you in the drive-through. Visit a nursing home or VA. Write a personal note to someone. Call your parents. When someone is walking your way on the sidewalk, make room for them to pass — or honk less in traffic.

Love is a verb with limitless opportunities to be expressed. And while governing authorities may serve as relief, it is the power of love, exhibited on the personal level — albeit even minuscule — which heals a relationship, a family, a neighborhood, a community, a city, a state, a nation, a world. Never underestimate the capacity of simple words … it’s the power of life and death.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at First Baptist Church of Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments he can be reached at cj@deerfieldfirst.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: The passing of Elie Wiesel

Posted on 07 July 2016 by LeslieM

Survivors of hell have an acute focus on the objective. They have little time for pettiness and time-wasting.”Elie Wiesel

The world lost a great and indefatigable humanitarian this week with the passing of acclaimed author, journalist, academic and human rights activist Elie Wiesel. He was 87 years old.

Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor who endured the notorious death camps of both Auschwitz and Buchenwald, was also a prolific writer who authored some five-dozen books, both fiction and non-fiction, many of which related to social justice, Israel, the Holocaust and Judaism.

In one particularly moving conversation, Wiesel shared with a friend of mine R’ Simon, how he had basically given up on life after the war and the atrocities, and losses, he witnessed. Even after meeting French author François Mauriac, who persuaded him to serve as a witness and chronicle his experiences, he still felt dead inside and could not bring himself to personally commit to any life-affirming activities. But then things changed.

He told Simon, “I credit your father as being one of the first people who altered my view and attitude to life. Though he, himself, had suffered under Soviet oppression, losing his parents at a young age, your father was a shining example of positivity and celebrating life and its possibilities.”

He paused, took a deep breath and continued: “And then, in the mid-‘60s, your father introduced me to the Lubavitcher Rebbe-Menachem Mendel Schneerson. You father persuaded me to go see him, which I ultimately did. After hours of dialogue and subsequent correspondence, the Rebbe was the one who finally convinced me to marry and build a family. His most compelling argument – which I could not refute – was that the only and ultimate response to Nazi destruction was to build a family and perpetuate the memory of those they wished to obliterate.

This changed my life, forever. In the single-most important decision of my life, I married Marion in 1969, and, then, in 1972, we had our son – our pride and joy – Shlomo Elisha, named after my father, who perished in Buchenwald,” he said.

Clearly very emotional, Wiesel walked Simon over to the photos on his desk. Pointing to pictures of his son and his grandchildren, he simply said: “Everything is worth this.”

Simon once asked him whether it is true that marching into the gas chambers, Jews would sing Ani Ma’amin [I believe], a heart-stirring melody expressing one’s complete and unwavering faith in the coming of the Messiah, who will usher in a new world order of peace. Wiesel replied that the barracks where the Jews were held was a distance from the death chambers. But very often he did hear the whimpering prayers of the Jews near him. The cry of the Shema (sacred passages), the reciting of Kaddish (mourners prayer), the Shabbat or holiday prayers, and also, the singing of Ani Ma’amin.

If I may ask,” Simon continued, “How do you explain this devotion? In the face of utter abandonment, of a God who was totally concealed, allowing His people, His children, to be decimated, the Jews had the total right to be angry at God. How do you explain the fact that instead they thanked and prayed to Him, sang His praises and declared their absolute belief that He would redeem them?!”

Wiesel’s response captures his essence: “Things really don’t make sense. Life is mostly absurd. We have seen man at his worst. But for the Jew, insanity is not abnormal. I can’t tell you what was going on in the minds, hearts and souls of the Jews who walked to their deaths. But I can tell you that every single one of these sacred people knew one thing. And they declared it with their prayers and their songs:

You can take our bodies, but you can’t take our souls. You can take our lives but not our faith. We will prevail. If not today, tomorrow.

If not tomorrow, the next day. If not us, our children. If not our children, our grandchildren. But we will prevail.

Ani Maamin… I believe with complete faith…”

Dearest Elie Wiesel, you have made your mark. You have served as a child of your father’s and mother’s, and of so many fathers and mothers. You have brought into this world a son and grandchildren – and millions of students, considered to be children as well. You have prevailed, as has the Jewish people. We will live to see the world as promised to us. And if not today, tomorrow.

In 1973, Wiesel composed a cantata titled, “Ani Maamin: A Song Lost and Found Again.” The song concludes with the following verses:

I believe in you,

Even against your will.

Even if you punish me

For believing in you.

Blessed are the fools

Who shout their faith.

Blessed are the fools

Who go on laughing.

Who mock the man who

mocks the Jew,

Who help their brothers

Singing, over and over and

over:

I believe.

I believe in the coming of

the Messiah,

And though he tarries,

I wait daily for his coming.

I believe.

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CLERGY CORNER: The summer vacation of the church

Posted on 30 June 2016 by LeslieM

Trinity Season is the long summer vacation of the Christian Church. It lasts from Ascension Day (40 days after Easter) until Advent Sunday (usually the first Sunday in December), a span of seven or eight months. The rest of the year is filled with days and weeks of intense activity — a myriad of events that celebrate the life and teachings of our Lord and define Christianity. Our Lord spent six intense days of activity during the Creation; but, the seventh day, He rested. He surely knew our lives could benefit by following the same pattern, so He gave us Trinity Season to rest and re-charge our batteries.

Now, whether our own vacation is a week or more long, or simply a series of “day-cations,” we should consider our vacation a gift from our Lord and use it, as it was given, for our joy and benefit.

That raises a question … how should we use it for our joy and benefit? We are all aware of the things we need in our lives to make our lives work: time with our Lord, family, friends and time with ourselves. If you are anything like me, you have probably discovered that when your life is out of sync, you have let some of the things that make your life work, slip out of your life. Our Lord’s gift of Trinity Season gives each of us an opportunity to gaze deep into our hearts and identify those things that are truly necessary for our well-being and make certain they are right where they need to be.

Summer vacation and time with our Lord: When we gaze deep in our hearts, we had better see our Lord looking back at us, because Saint Paul reminds us, “In him we live and move and have our being.” There is no life apart from our Lord or apart from the life He planned for us.

Our summer vacation is a perfect time to make certain we are walking, hand-and-hand, with Him, in the same direction. Revisiting our prayer life is a wonderful way to enrich our walk with Him. The words we use are not important. He knows our concerns and what is in our hearts. Whether we are newbies or oldsters to daily prayer, the way we do it is the same. Find a quiet place, turn off the chatter in our minds, and be with the one who loves us most. Speak to Him as we do to a loved one, and listen to Him as we do our most trusted friends. If we make this a part of our summer vacation, then, come fall, He will have made us brand new.

Summer vacation time with family and friends: It is no secret that our Lord made us social beings, some more than others, but all in need of some measure of companionship. If you are blessed with ideal relationships with family and friends, then you have a wonderful summer vacation ahead of you. However, if you are like me, and “wonderful” does not describe all your relationships, then our Lord has given us a summer vacation promise of how He heals broken relationships. Again the words of Saint Paul: “Let peace of our Lord rule in your hearts. Forgive one another, and, above all things, put on love which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Love is the best slave for hurt relationships. Smear it on heavy and cover all that hurts!

Summer vacation and time with ourselves: Life can be exhausting, both physically, emotionally and spiritually. Shakespeare famously said that “sleep knits up the raveled sleeve of care, is sore labor’s bath and is the balm of hurt minds.” True enough, but I say that summer vacations also have a restorative effect on our exhaustion! Yes, it is good to spend time with ourselves, or as someone once said, to be alone “with the beating of our own heart.” But the wonderful thing about spending time with ourselves is that it gives us the opportunity to invite others to come into our world, and for them to invite us into theirs, so we can all share our joys, benefits and challenges together.

If all this sounds a little bit like “kumbayah” to you, please don’t blame me. Perhaps we can use some of that in this disjointed world in which we live.

Have a wonderful summer, reconnect with all those who are dear to you, and may the Lord bless us all.

Rev. M. Tracy Smith, SSA, Rector is from the Saint Peter’s Anglican Church, 1416 SE 2 Terr., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-695-0336. Morning Prayer at 10 a.m. on Wednesday; Holy Communion at 10 a.m. on Sunday, and 7 p.m. on Thursday.

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CLERGY CORNER: Challenges, comebacks and championships

Posted on 23 June 2016 by LeslieM

The 2016 NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers had quite the battle in winning the series last Sunday against the Golden State Warriors. Despite being down 3-1 by the time game five rolled around, LeBron James and his teammates found the will to defeat the defending champion Warriors for three straight games, and made history in the process. The odds-makers were sure that Golden State would repeat since no team had ever overcome a 3-1 deficit. A further hurdle was the fact that Cleveland had not had a major sports championship team since 1964, and had never won the coveted NBA title. The 2016 Champions proved that odds can be overcome and challenges can be conquered.

In the emotional post-game interviews with reporters, LeBron James acknowledged the great struggle he and his teammates had to overcome. It was a deeply fulfilling night for the Cavaliers’ star player who had made it his goal to bring the championship home to Cleveland ever since his return from a four-year stint with the Miami Heat.

Fans in Cleveland had voiced their displeasure with LeBron when he left Cleveland in 2010 to play in Miami. They had felt betrayed and abandoned, and their team suffered its worst seasons without James’ skills and leadership. But, on last Sunday night, all was forgiven as delirious fans celebrated the win in the streets of Cleveland, and hailed their hero, Lebron James.

In 1 Samuel 30, David and his men returned to their campsite in Ziklag to find it a smoldering ash heap, the result of a sneak attack by the Amalekites. Further compounding their distress was the fact that their wives and children had been taken captive by the enemy. The emotional trauma of the moment overwhelmed the tough fighting men who cried until they had no more power to weep. Frustration soon gave way to anger as they then contemplated stoning their leader, David, who had become the object of their blame. David somehow found the strength to encourage himself and inspired his men to pursue the enemy in the process.

There are powerful life lessons in both the Biblical account of David and his men, and in the championship quest of LeBron James and his teammates:

1) Never make a permanent decision in a temporary situation. Down 3-1 in the finals, LeBron could have concluded that the odds were too great and the championship run was over. David could have given in to his despair and considered suicide when his men turned against him.

2) There are times when the help you need lies deep inside of you. When you are playing on your opponent’s home court and thousands of fans are screaming and booing to distract you, it takes incredible focus and internal fortitude to stay true to your game. David was able to retreat from the unnerving sounds of mutiny around him and seek solace and encouragement in spiritual communion with God.

3) Acknowledge God’s presence and power at work in your life. LeBron opined that God (the man upstairs) must have intended for the Cavaliers to take the hard road to the championship. David looked to God for direction concerning a mission of recovery and was inspired to pursue.

4) Setbacks can turn into comebacks. The Cavaliers’ heroic effort paid off, winning them the championship and great respect in the world of sports. David eventually caught up with the Amalekites, recovered the kidnapped families and returned with the spoils of war.

May you and I find the courage to face our obstacles, confident that we can overcome them, and may God enable us to do, with His aid, what we cannot do on our own.

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. 954-427-0302.

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