Religion

Stock photo

By Rabbi Motti Grossbaum

“I shouldn’t have…” “If only I’d known…” Whether it’s an outright wrong, an unwise decision or a missed opportunity, we humans tend to harp on the past, often to the detriment, or even paralysis, of our present endeavors and future potentials.

Some would advise us to let bygones be bygones and get on with our lives. We are physical beings, and the laws of physics (at least as they stand now) dictate that time runs in one direction only. So why not simply put the past behind us, especially since the past is behind us whether we put it there or not?

It’s advice we do not take. We continue to feel responsible for what was, continue to attempt to rewrite our histories, continue to regard our past as something that somehow still “belongs” to us. Something in our nature refuses to let go, refuses to reconcile itself with the one-directional flow of time.

Yes, we are physical beings; but there is something in us that transcends the physical. Man is an amalgam of matter and spirit, a marriage of body and soul. It is our spiritual self that persists in the belief that the past can be redeemed. It is our connection with the spiritual essence of our lives that grants us the capacity for teshuvah — the capacity to “return” and retroactively transform the significance of past actions and experiences.

What is this “spiritual essence” with which we seek connection? And how does it enable us to literally change the past? Not just man, but every object, force and phenomenon has both a “body” and a “soul.” A thing’s body is its physical mass, its quantifiable dimensions, its “hard facts.” A thing’s soul is its deeper significance — the truths it expresses, the function it performs, the purpose it serves.

By way of example, let us consider the following two actions: in a dark alleyway, a knife-wielding gangster attacks a member of a rival gang; a hundred yards away, a surgeon bends over a sedated patient lying on the operating table. The “body” of these two actions are quite similar: one human being takes hold of a sharp metal object and slices open the belly of a second human being. But an examination of the “soul” of these two events—the desires that motivate them, the feelings that suffuse them, the aims they seek to achieve—reveals them to be vastly different deeds.

In other words, man is a spiritual creature in that he imparts significance to his deeds and experiences. Things don’t just happen — they happen for a reason, they mean something, they further a certain objective. The same event can therefore mean different things to different people; by the same token, two very different events may serve the same purpose and elicit identical feelings, imbuing them with kindred souls despite the dissimilarity of their bodies.

The body of our lives is wholly subject to the tyranny of time — the “hard facts” cannot be undone. A missed flight cannot be unmissed; a harsh word uttered to a loved one cannot be unspoken. But the soul of these events can be changed. Here we can literally travel back in time to redefine the significance of what occurred.

You oversleep, miss that flight, and never show up for that important meeting. The initial significance of that event: your boss is furious, your career suffers a serious setback, your self-esteem plummets. But you refuse to “put the past behind you.” You dwell on what happened. You ask yourself: What does it mean? What does it tell me about myself? You realize that you don’t really care for your job, that your true calling lies elsewhere. You resolve to make a fresh start, in a less profitable but more fulfilling endeavor. You have reached back in time to transform that slumbered hour into a wake-up call.

Or you have an argument, lose your cool, and speak those unforgivable words. The next morning you’re friends again, agreeing to “forget what happened.” But you don’t forget. You’re horrified by the degree of your insensitivity; you agonize over the distance that your words have placed between the two of you. Your horror and agony make you realize how sensitive you truly are to each other, how much you desire the closeness of the one you love. You have reached back in time to transform a source of distance and disharmony into a catalyst for greater intimacy and love.

On the material surface of our lives, time’s rule is absolute. But on its spiritual inside, the past is but another vista of life, open to exploration and development with the transformative power of teshuvah.

This Yom Kippur, let us reflect on the challenges, pains and the “pulling back of our slingshots” in the last year to ensure that they serve as stimulants and inspirations for collective good health and much personal growth in the year ahead.

Shana Tova!

Rabbi Motti Grossbaum is director of programming and development at Village Chabad Center for Jewish Life & Learning in East Setauket.

METRO photo

By Rabbi Aaron Benson

Rabbi Aaron Benson

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  We all know the saying and it does seem to be true. It also captures nicely the spirit of the Jewish New Year season which starts Monday night, Sept 6th, with the beginning of Rosh Hashanah. What do I mean?

In synagogues around the world, we read the Torah, the Five Books of Moses, the first five books of the Bible, on a yearly cycle reading a portion every week. As the New Year holidays begin, we find ourselves coming to the end of the annual cycle with the reading of the Book of Deuteronomy.  That book is read over the course of 11 weeks, about a fifth of the year. And for those not familiar with its subject matter, Deuteronomy is primarily a review of the events of the previous four books.  

We spend a fifth of the year, and a fifth of the Torah, doing review. This is intentional because our New Year season is meant to be one of review and reflection.  We consider our shortcomings, failures, and misdeeds of the past year, actively seek to mend hurt and broken relationships, and plan for how to do better in the year ahead.  

That is a lot to do! If you hadn’t started yet, you’d have a lot to accomplish between now and Monday! Judaism is an optimistic faith. We do not believe anyone is condemned to be bad with no hope of changing. Every year at this time, we celebrate the idea that people can change. But our tradition, as reflected in our liturgical calendar, also understands it is a lot of work to change what’s wrong in our lives.  

Using the annual reading cycle as a guide, we probably should be spending a lot more of our time reflecting on what we do so that we can learn from our mistakes and try again — try again carefully and with the wisdom of experience to guide us.

If you will be celebrating Rosh Hashanah, I wish you a sweet and happy new year. And to everyone, I strongly recommend a life with ample time carved out for reviewing who you are, who you want to be, how to become that person, and never giving up on that process. A lifetime dedicated to such a process will be one well lived.

The author is the rabbi of  North Shore Jewish Center in Port Jefferson Station.

Rabbi Dovid Weinbaum. Photo courtesy of The Chai Center

Rabbi Dovid Weinbaum, Director of the Chai Center Noskin Hebrew School in Dix Hills, was named Educator of the Year by Ckids, a leading programmer of Jewish education. Rabbi Weinbuam earned the honor for his stellar leadership navigating a seamless transition to online learning during Covid-19. He pioneered an entirely new structure, and directed and produced creative and engaging classes and curriculums, ensuring children around the country were able to not only continue their Jewish education during unprecedented times, but also thoroughly enjoy the experience.

As Director of The Chai Center Noskin Hebrew School, Rabbi Weinbaum is launching a new immersive and transformative Hebrew school curriculum this year called Israel Quest. According to Rabbi Weinbaum, “The program will explore the history of the people of Israel, with lessons tailored to a child’s grade level, enabling them to discover the history and secrets of our homeland through an unforgettable Hebrew school experience.”

Using educational tools, such as virtual reality, topography, theater, filmmaking, STEAM activities and more, students will relive the journey of the Jewish People in the Land of Israel, from the time the Jews entered the land led by prophets and kings, until the untimely destruction of the Holy Temples.

“By incorporating the latest technology, hands-on activities, and inspired and inventive programs, we are creating an environment where children embrace coming to Hebrew school and are eager to learn and participate,” said Rabbi Weinbaum.

Registration for The Chai Center Noskin Hebrew School is now open. For more information and to register go to www.DixHillsHebrewSchool.com or call 631-351-8672.

Retiring Pastors David and Diane Knapp. Photo from Full Gospel Christian Center

After a 50-year career, a local pastor has decided that it was time to retire. Pastors David and Diane Knapp have already relocated with their family to South Carolina this year, after serving the Port Jefferson Station community for 43 years.

Full Gospel Christian Center congregants describe the reverend as a powerful speaker, an incredibly knowledgeable man in the Word of God, in current events with regard to the Bible, and prophecy. 

They describe his wife, Diane, as a wonderful woman of God. She always had a smile on her face and a very loving, caring disposition with everyone she meets. She is a tremendous worship leader, and a great friend to the many women of the church.

Many have been in this congregation for over 30 years alongside these pastors. They have learned a wealth of knowledge from the many sermons and teachings delivered by Knapp. 

The couple had been at the 415 Old Town Road church address together with his elders, since 1983.  Previously they were at the old Fox Theatre in Port Jefferson Station, where they began their ministry in 1979.

New pastors, Pastor Bill and Damaris Lind that are getting ordained this Sunday, June 27. Photo from Full Gospel Christian Center

Knapp has been a great teacher, family man and community warrior. Last year, the whole church celebrated the couple’s 50 years in ministry and 50 years of marriage at The East Wind — just before the COVID-19 closures — where they got remarried and renewed their vows. 

There is much to be said about the hearts of these beloved pastors. In reflecting upon their life and ministry, it is evident that they are truly honorable and full of compassion. With unselfish hearts, longing to see people come to know Jesus. They served as missionaries in 12 different nations.  

As the pastors now go into retirement and have stepped down from Full Gospel Christian Center, they welcome its new pastors with open arms.

Pastor Bill and Damaris Lind have been at Full Gospel Christian Center for over 25 years alongside the Knapps.

These new pastors have hit the ground running as they accepted their new positions. They have worked to bring the building up to date, as well as adding new ideas, new ministries and new ways of spreading the gospel. 

The Lind’s bring a wealth of knowledge from their previous careers in the area of business operations that they will need to run the church operations. The humble tender-spirited hearts of the new pastors have touched all our hearts. 

We at the church will be forever grateful for their godly example, honesty, positive attitudes and encouraging ways, serving with love, and spurring us on to reach further and dream bigger.  

Graduates of Rhema Bible School, they have come up through the ranks serving at Full Gospel as Deacons, heading up both the men’s and women’s ministry, teaching, preaching, doing dramas, serving in the prayer ministry, youth work, evangelism, maintenance and ushering. They not only know God’s Word, but they actually live it. Everyone here at Full Gospel feel extremely blessed to have such wonderful loving people as our pastors.  

Pastor Damaris has been a pastor’s kid since birth and has many years of spiritual experience. They recently completed their biblical studies from the Rhema Bible School and their diplomas will be awarded at their ordination day on June 27. This will be a historical day in the life of Full Gospel Christian Center as they come into their ministry.

Pastors David and Diane Knapp remain as the Bishops of Full Gospel Christian Center and will oversee and provide guidance to the new pastors together with the trustees of the Church; Pastor Ron Stauch, Elder Dolores Roncketti and Patricia Ensley.

We invite you to visit our Full Gospel Christian Center Church, support the community effort to bring gospel teachings to Long Island, and to help you “Get from where you are, to where God wants you to be.” 

From Full Gospel Christian Center

Author Yakov Saacks

“The Kabbalah of Life,” a new book by Dix Hills Rabbi Yakov Saacks, is a look at current events as seen through the eyes of a Rabbi and working man. This unique blend of his Chassidic background and a commonsense approach gives way to unique and bold compositions. One part spiritual, one part constructive, this is one man’s pensive search for insight in all that he encounters.

This introspective journey examines common sense, relationships, spirituality, and wisdom. Topics are current and relatable to those of all faiths and backgrounds.

“The world has felt so chaotic over the past few years… an unlikely pandemic followed by US elections and so many crises around the world,” RabbiSaacks says after a few moments in thought. “Our minds are confronted by so much information on social media on a daily basis, we barely have time to decide what we think about a matter before we are bombarded by even more opinions. And these are important topics that require much thought and care.”

He began writing what is now his first book as weekly articles to help encourage his community, and as a way to process what was going on all around him. Rabbi Saacks concluded, “My hope is that this book will help people take a step back from all of the noise and be able to see the heart of each matter, which in turn will help us all have a more honest, compassionate approach to everything we encounter.”

The new release was awarded a five-star review by K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite, one of the largest book review and award contest sites on the Internet. They have earned the respect of renowned publishers like Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harper Collins, and have received the “Best Websites for Authors” and “Honoring Excellence” awards from the Association of Independent Authors. They are also fully accredited by the BBB (A+ rating), which is a rarity among Book Review and Book Award Contest companies.
Read the complete five star review of “The Kabbalah of Life.”

Rabbi Saacks is the founder, director, and senior Rabbi of the Lubavitch Chai Center in Dix Hills, Long Island, NY. In late 1993, Rabbi Saacks, together with his wife Zoey, moved to Dix Hills from Brooklyn to initiate what is today a vibrant organization and institution affectionately known as The Chai Center.

The book is now available online at BookBaby.com, Amazon.com, and many other online retailers.

 

From left, Rob Seiler; Peter Klein, Executive Director, Claire Friedlander Family Foundation; and Rabbi Jeffrey Clopper,
Renovated with the help of the Claire Friedlander Family Foundation

Temple Beth El recently announced the opening of their new state-of-the-art kitchen, brought about in part due to a generous $15,000 grant from The Claire Friedlander Family Foundation.  After years of planning and construction, Temple Beth El is utilizing their new facility to provide meals for the food insecure in the Huntington community.

“The substantial grant from The Claire Friedlander Family Foundation not only helped in our kitchen redesign efforts but is now positively impacting our ongoing community involvement,” said Rob Seiler, Chair of the Temple Beth El’s Kitchen Renovation Committee.  “We will be ramping up our operations moving forward as restrictions due to the pandemic lift.”

On the day of the dedication, Temple Beth El volunteers were busy preparing meals for seniors living in Paumanok Village as well as families associated with Tri-CYA.

“Temple Beth El is committed to aiding the poor and feeding the disadvantaged, providing much needed help for Huntington residents, a mission which is also celebrated by The Claire Friedlander Family Foundation,” said Rabbi Jeffrey Clopper.  “We are very thankful to be recognized by The Claire Friedlander Family Foundation for their generous grant as we continue to make a positive difference in our community.”

 

Reverend Mother Agnes Hiller in an undated photo.

Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci, the Huntington Town Board and Town officials will be joined by Rev. Bernadette Watkins, pastors and members of Mt. Calvary Holy Church of Huntington and family of the late Rev. Mother Agnes Hiller for a street dedication ceremony in Mother Hiller’s honor at the corner of East 10th Street and New York Avenue in Huntington Station on Monday, February 22.

Please note: public attendance is limited to guests related to Rev. Hiller and church members who have pre-RSVPed.

Rev. Bernadette Watkins met with Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci in the summer of 2019 to discuss honoring the late Reverend Mother Agnes Hiller and her contributions to the Huntington Station community. Mother Hiller, as she came to be known, dedicated her life to serving the Huntington Station community by taking in dozens of children and organizing various programs to address issues of hunger, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, and families in need.

At their September 2019 meeting, the Town Board officially recognized Mother Hiller’s untiring work to improve the lives of residents of the Huntington Station community by renaming the block of East 10th Street, from New York Avenue to First Avenue, in Huntington Station as East 10th Street/Dr. Agnes Hiller Way. A street dedication ceremony was planned for May 2020 but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the event’s postponement.

Agnes Hiller was born in 1903. As a young woman in 1932, she became one of the first members of the newly formed Mt. Calvary Holy Church of Huntington. She later became assistant pastor and then was named pastor of Mt. Calvary Holy Church soon after the church relocated to its present location at East 10th Street. She served as pastor until she retired in 1994 at the age of 90.

Rabbi Motti Grossbaum. Photo courtesy of The Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn

By Rabbi Motti Grossbaum

As we kindle the Menorah’s lights, we pay tribute to the heroes of long ago. The courage of the Maccabees (the small band of Jewish fighters who led the revolt against the Syrian Greek religious oppressors) and their refusal to surrender in the face of terrible and overwhelming odds blazed a trail for the survival of the Jewish people and the freedom to practice our faith.

As the Chanukah story goes, the Maccabees came into the desecrated Holy Temple but they could not find any pure oil with which to light the menorah. All the oil had been defiled by the Greeks. Miraculously, they found one small jug of pure, holy, undefiled oil, enough to illuminate the temple for one night. But as we all know; a miracle took place. The tiny jug of oil lasted for 8 nights.

Friends — every single one of us is a candle. We all have a jug of oil deep inside, which is our divine soul — a spark of G-d. We may at times feel that our oil is defiled — we are uninspired. But deep down, every one of us has a small jug of untouched pure oil that, when lit, can outshine any darkness inside and out.

So the question is asked, why is it that lighting candles is such a big part of Judaism?

Candles are lit by Jewish women every Friday at sunset for Shabbat, we light candles on every festival, and Chanukah is all about candles. What is the connection between candles and spirituality?

Jewish tradition teaches that there is something about a flame that makes it more spiritual than physical. A physical substance, when spread, becomes thin. Spirituality, when spread, expands and grows. When you use something physical, it is diminished. The more money you spend, the less you have; the more gasoline you use, the emptier your tank becomes; the more food you eat, the more you need to restock your pantry (and unfortunately, the heavier you become).

But spiritual things increase with use. If I use my wisdom to teach, the student learns, and I come out wiser for it; if I share my love with another, I become more loving, not less. When you give a spiritual gift, the recipient gains, and you lose nothing. This is the spiritual property that candles share. When you use one candle to light another, the original candle remains bright. Its light is not diminished by being shared; on the contrary, the two candles together enhance each other’s brightness and increase light.

We sometimes worry that we may stretch ourselves too thin. In matters of spirit, this is never the case. The more goodness we spread,  the more goodness we have. By making a new friend you become a better friend to your old friends. By having another child you open a new corridor of love in your heart that your other children benefit from too. By teaching more students, you become wiser.

My spiritual mentor and teacher, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, taught us that when we kindle the Chanukah flames, we should “listen closely and carefully” to what the candles are telling us. And this is what they are saying: Keep lighting your candles. There is an endless supply of light in your soul. You will never run out of goodness.

The Chanukah story happened so long ago – yet carries a timely message for us, even today.

Science has given us the greatest technologies and conveniences, yet it alone cannot free us from the moral and social challenges of our day. From gun violence and simmering racial tension, to corruption in politics, material pursuits alone do not lead to a happy and meaningful life.

Our children need a better diet than the value-system fed to them by Hollywood, the internet and mass media. They need, no, they want, inspiration, a noble cause to live for, a moral purpose that frames their pursuits and interests with meaning and direction.

Like the flames of the menorah, with a desire to make an impact and illuminate, and an ever-persistent desire to reach higher, we too can do the same, and be a beacon of light to all.

Rabbi Motti Grossbaum is director of programming and development at Village Chabad Center for Jewish Life & Learning in East Setauket.

Rabbi Chaim Grossbaum sounds the Shofar, a hollowed-out ram's horn used to usher in Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Photo from Village Chabad

By Rabbi Chaim Grossbaum

Can we cancel 2020? Like simply skipping directly to 2021? Will anyone be upset about it?

I have seen many funny memes about 2020. But one particular meme got me to laugh pretty hard. It’s actually not about 2020 but about the current Jewish calendar year we are about to close, 5780.

“They say our actions on the High Holidays determine what will be decreed for the upcoming year. So whatever the heck you guys did last year, please don’t do it again!”

LOL.

After LOL’ing, it got me thinking about “cancelling 2020” and “cancelling 5780.” And then, a quote came to mind. A quote that is simply so perfect for our situation.

The quote is from Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe. He was imprisoned and tortured in Soviet Russia because of his work to spread Judaism behind the Iron Curtain.

After he was released from prison, his disciples asked him how he felt about it. He replied, “If I would be offered millions to experience one more moment of suffering – I wouldn’t buy. And if anyone would want to pay me millions to take away one moment of my suffering – I wouldn’t sell!”

The Rebbe didn’t elaborate further, but I think that the message is simple. Challenges are difficult, but they can also uplift you. One should never choose to experience challenges, but in hindsight we can appreciate how it made us better.

So I don’t want to cancel 5780.

Not the moments that forced me to take a step back from the hustle of life.

Not the moments that reminded me what’s important and what’s less important.

Not the new appreciation of what is essential, and what is not truly essential.

Not the beauty I saw all around me, when the entire country simply rallied to help one another.

Not the feeling of closeness to G-d when I prayed from the bottom of my heart that things should get better already.

Not the time spent with my family with very little distraction.

Do I want more of it? Not even if you pay me millions. But I do know that 5780 had many gifts. Hidden, but gifts nonetheless.

Onward and upward!

May we all be blessed with a Shana Tova U’metuka. A happy, healthy and sweet new year up ahead for ourselves and our loved ones.

Rabbi Chaim Grossbaum is the senior rabbi and spiritual leader at the Village Chabad Center for Jewish life & Learning in East Setauket. Visit EnjoyHighHolidays.com for a schedule of COVID-safe outdoor holidays at Village Chabad. Masks, social distancing, and preregistration is required. To RSVP for a “60 Minute Power Hour” Rosh Hashanah service and Shofar blowing on Sept. 20, visit MyVillageChabad.com/HHPowerHour.

By Melissa Arnold

For the past 40 years, Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson has provided a safe haven of support and recovery for thousands of Long Islanders struggling with poverty, addiction, homelessness, family conflicts and more.

To founder Father Frank Pizzarelli, every passing year at Hope House is a miracle. He said that the non-profit receives no government or church support and runs entirely on the backs of volunteers, donors and some paid staff.

Among those volunteers is Barbara Morin, who’s been a part of the Hope House family since she moved to the area in 2003. 

In November, Morin became the shopkeeper at Hope Springs Eternal Second Chance Boutique, a new venture that sells high-quality new and gently-used goods including fine crystal and china, glassware, furniture, handbags and name-brand clothing. All proceeds from sales at the shop will benefit Hope House Ministries.

“I knew that I wanted to get involved in the community and help give back to people in need, and so I started volunteering almost as soon as I got here,” Morin recalled. 

She began to collect merchandise to sell seven years ago, and the response has always been positive in the community, which was eager to both donate and purchase.

“We started with yard sales and would make $1500 in an afternoon, and so that germinated an idea: What if we set up a place where we could sell goods all year long?” Pizzarelli said.

Using seed money raised from those yard sales, they were able to find a building with affordable rent in Port Jefferson Station. It was in terrible condition, Morin said, but with a lot of help from individuals going through rehab with Hope House, they were able to renovate and ready the space for business.

“No one is safe from the opioid epidemic. It’s not about their past and what they’ve been through — everyone has a story. We focus on how far they’ve come and where they’re going,” Morin said.

 “We have all kinds of people walk through the doors [seeking treatment]. Tradesmen, electricians, artists, scholars — all of them have come together to help us make the shop a reality, from scrubbing and cleaning to carpeting and carpentry. They restored two bathrooms and a kitchen. We’ve gotten so attached to them all, and wouldn’t be where we are now without them.”

Running with five key volunteers and a few men in recovery, Hope Springs Eternal opened its doors on Nov. 15. The business did well, and by early March, Pizzarelli said they’d made $25,000 in sales.

But then begins a story that will sound familiar. As COVID-19 cases spread, Hope Springs began working on a limited schedule before shutting down completely on March 18.

Since then, Pizzarelli said Hope House has lost $1 million in revenue they would normally see from sales, donations and other events. While it’s a stressful time, he said that he’s much more concerned for the many people that depend on the ministry.

“In this community, we have people who are really struggling, both unemployed and working poor who are barely getting by,” Pizzarelli said. “We’ve been inundated with requests for counseling. Every night I go to bed with a heavy heart because I have people that call me who are ready to make a commitment to long-term recovery, but I have to put them on a waiting list. We have some people who have the access to technology for telecounseling, but not everyone does.”

Happily, things are slowly returning to normal. Employees and volunteers are coming back to Hope House as they feel  comfortable, and Hope Springs Eternal reopened for business the week of June 8.

“Everything happened gradually when we first opened back in the fall, and so we never really had a grand opening celebration. But it really feels like one now,” explained Morin. “We did $1,000 in sales in the first two days alone, and we made some new friends in the process.”

Pizzarelli said that he remains committed to serving the poorest of the poor in as many ways as he can, and is grateful for the continuing support of the surrounding communities.

“People have really stepped up with donations and financial support, even without solicitation, because they know how hard it is for everyone,” he said. “It means a great deal to me, and to all of us who are serving here.

Hope Springs Eternal Second Chance Boutique is located at 19 Chereb Lane in  Port Jefferson Station 

Hours of Operation: Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

▶ For information about donating and to view items for sale, visit www.hopespringseternalboutique.com or call 631-509-1101. 

▶ Learn more about Hope House Ministries at www.hhm.org or by calling 631-928-2377.