Congregation Ohav Shalom, Albany NY     (518) 489-4706

Letter from Rabbi Dan Ornstein

Thursday May 17, 2018

Dear Ohav Family:

One of the most famous prophecies of our bibilical tradition states that “Torah shall go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem”. (Isaiah 2:3) Isaiah’s words are part of his vision of a world at peace in which all peoples of the earth come as one human race to Jerusalem. From that holy city, God’s Torah will go forth to instruct everyone, Jews and non-Jews, in doing what is right and just. What interests me about this verse is that God didn’t originally give the Torah to the Jews and to the world in Jerusalem, but in the desert, a mere two months after we were freed from Egyptian slavery. According to an early midrash (rabbinic legend), the Torah was given in the desert to show that, just as the desert is a totally open place, so too the Torah is open to anyone and to all people as a guide for a good life. We the Jewish people took the challenge of learning and living by the Torah. It is our gift and our responsibility. However, any person wishing to be inspired by it is welcome to come and learn.

Shavuot, one of the three biblical pilgrimage festivals, begins this Saturday night as Shabbat ends. It celebrates the revelation of the Torah – specifically the Ten Commandments – by God to our ancestors. As an event that changed world consciousness and ethics, the giving of the Ten Commandments has no equal, for it made clear to the world that the One God of the universe cares passionately about how we human beings behave. That is, our ethics are not merely relativistic choices: they have a transcendent spiritual and moral basis in God and God’s relationship with us.

Our Shavuot celebration will be one filled with great Torah study led by congregation members, celebrations of our junior congregation and Torah Corps leaders, lots of ice cream (Shavuot is a holiday with a distinctively dairy theme), and wonderful community. I encourage you to join us this coming weekend, Saturday night through Monday, for our Shavuot holiday celebrations.

Please also note an important letter posted below and in the weekly email by the Vaad Hakashrut (Kosher Supervision Council) of the Capital District. The Vaad has been working closely with Price Chopper’s Kosher Store in Colonie to determine how the store can better serve the entire community. Whether or not you keep kosher, and whatever level of kosher you might observe, our kosher store is one those vital Jewish communal institutions whose presence makes a positive difference in terms of the quality of Jewish communal life. Price Chopper management wants to hear from us about what is successful and not so successful at the kosher department. I encourage you to email today to make your voice heard as a Jewish community member.

“Torah shall go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” As we know, just a few days ago, on the secular calendar anniversary of Israel’s founding, our federal government officially moved the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move that has been a long time coming, tangled as it has been in the tortuous and often tragic politics of the Middle East. This change of venue comes at a time of great uncertainty for the State of Israel, which is in conflict with Gazans on its southern border and in conflict with Iran in Syria. Whatever our individual stances about this move, and about Israeli and mideast politics, let’s not stop praying and working for the peace of Jerusalem, for peace for all of Israel, and for peace between Israel and her neighbors.

The annual Salute To Israel Parade in New York City takes place this year on Sunday, June 3. I’ll be going, and I hope you’ll consider joining me and our fellow supporters of Israel from around the country for one of our most joyous communal events. More information about our federation sponsored trip to New York (marching with us is encouraged!) can be found here.

Shabbat Shalom and all the best for a joyous Shavuot!


Rabbi Dan