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Joint Thanksgiving Service

Tuesday, November 23, 2021 19 Kislev 5782

7:30 PM - 9:00 PMvirtual
Last week’s Torah reading Chayei Sarah, includes the story of Abraham sending his servant, Eliezer, to find a wife for Isaac. Abraham’s only direction to Eliezer was that he not select a Canaanite woman, and therefore travel to Abraham’s native land of Aram. Eliezer reaches the town well at nightfall, stops and prays for success (the first personal prayer in the Torah) in his mission---and he asks for a sign that will tell him if he has chosen the right woman for Isaac.  And what is this sign? It turns out to be a series of kind actions—providing water to Eliezer and his camels--that show that she is a woman of “chesed”—of what we now call “loving-kindness.”  And “chesed” is what he finds within Rebecca at the well.
As I was reading this story for the umpteenth time, I began thinking about how well Eliezer must have known Abraham and Isaac—to be able to understand the type of woman that they needed him to find, despite having no direct or substantive guidance.  I thought about how in this story, loving-kindness is the needed support for both the giver and the recipient.  Then I flashed to the present, and how it feels like loving-kindness is in short supply, and how we suffer because of it.  And I thought about how showing loving-kindness to each other, wherever possible, makes our daily lives that much richer and allows us to get along so much better. How can we get people to just be kinder to each other?
As my mind wandered, I thought about a book that I read back in the 1970s, back when doctors were still trying to establish what we now know as the strong relationship between a fatty diet and health problems.  The book was called “The Rabbit Effect,” and its starting point was a study of rabbits that had all been given a fatty diet and the expected adverse health effects generally showed up---except in one group of rabbits, the levels of fatty deposits in their arteries were roughly 60% lower than in the other group.  There was no difference in the study protocol that would explain the difference—except for one: the “healthier” group of rabbits was cared for by a post-doctoral student who was known to be very kind.  And when she fed the rabbits their kibble and took care of them during the study, she petted and hugged them, talked to them, and treated them with great kindness.  So, the doctors repeated the study, controlling every other variable they could think of other than the identity of the caretaker—and the study turned out exactly the same: the kind caretaker’s rabbits had fewer adverse effects.  This led Dr. Kelli Harding, a psychiatrist, to explore the effects of loving-kindness beyond the animal study, to examine how loving-kindness might benefit us in all of our contacts, from one-on-one relationships to communities and beyond.  I won’t go into detail on her book’s conclusions---I’ll leave that to you to explore.  I would bet that you’ll be amazed at what Dr. Harding comes up with.
But that brings me to our current month of Kislev, which this year begins on Thursday evening, November 4.  As usual, Kislev includes the holiday of Chanukah (the first candle is lit the evening of Sunday, November 28), but this year Kislev also includes the secular American holiday of Thanksgiving.  And we’re looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving this year with our good friends at the Church of the Holy Comforter at an online service the evening of Tuesday, November 23.  With loving-kindness rattling around in my brain, I had a thought: wouldn’t it be the ultimate for us to turn the month of Kislev—and the month of November—into a month of loving-kindness for our two congregations?  And wouldn’t a wonderful manifestation of loving-kindness be for us to do what we can to address the continuing problem of food insecurity in our area?  And finally, wouldn’t it be great for us to work together to raise funds during Kislev/November for our respective causes: Food for Thought and the Maryland Food Bank?  Not surprisingly, Rev. Chris of CHC agreed--and so we are asking our congregants to reach out in loving-kindness to help provide food for those in need. 
I hope that you will all join us on November 23 at our 7:00 p.m. Thanksgiving service by clicking here and that you make a donation to one of the two organizations we’re supporting, to make a difference in our community.
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Sat, November 27 2021 23 Kislev 5782