Wholehearted Devotion

Tis the season for…repentance. That doesn’t exactly make for a great Hallmark Greeting card, but this past week we finally entered the auspicious month of Elul. This is a time of serious reflection and spiritual stock-taking. During this month we prepare for Rosh Hashana, the day on which we crown G-d as our king anew each year. During the month of Elul, we analyze our deeds of the past year. We reflect back on the mitzvahs we have done, recall our misdeeds, and resolve to improve in areas in which we are lacking. It is not a time for anxiety or depression (G-d forbid!), but rather one of somber introspection.

In this week’s Torah portion, Parshas Shoftim, G-d tells the Jewish people that they should appoint a Jewish king after they conquer the land of Israel, saying “You shall surely set over yourself a king whom the L-rd, your G-d, shall choose…”(Devarim/Deuteronomy 17:15). Yet later in Jewish history, when the Jewish people ask the prophet, Samuel, to appoint a Jewish king over them he is displeased with their request, (I Samuel 8:6). G-d too isn’t pleased, going as far as to say, “They have rejected me.”[1] This raises an obvious question. If appointing a Jewish king is not only a not a bad thing to do, but an actual mitzvah commanded in the Torah, why were G-d and his prophet, Samuel so bummed out about the Jewish people’s desire for a king?

Chassidus explains that ideally a Jew’s natural fear of G-d would be so strong that an earthly king would be unnecessary. If we were to operate at such a level, we would not need anyone but G-d alone to rule over us. There are two levels of fear or awe of G-d. The lowest level is a basic fear of being punished. The higher level is a desire to serve G-d that comes from a sense of His awe and majesty. However, the Jewish people requested a “king who will rule over us similar to all the other nations.” In other words, the Jewish people needed an enforcer of law and order to keep society from becoming lawless and immoral. They needed a government that would set up laws to deter people from going against G-d’s will. Rather than serving G-d out of a natural appreciation of His majesty, they needed the fear of an immediately apparent earthly punishment to whip them into shape and keep them in line. It was disappointment in the Jewish people for having only reached the lower level of fear and not the higher level that was behind G-d and Samuel’s unhappy responses.[2]

In Shoftim we also read the injunction, “You shall be whole[hearted] with the L-rd your G-d” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 18:13). Rashi explains that this is telling us to trust in G-d for what He has in store for our lives.[3] Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch approaches this verse from another angle. He writes that a person’s entire being should be devoted to G-d, including in all his or her relationships.[4] This wholeness, he explains, is the direct result of our awareness of G-d’s unity. It is the realization of our vocation as a nation belonging exclusively to G-d.[5]

During this Elul we should all merit to come to greater awareness of G-d’s unity. This awareness should permeate every sphere of our lives from the synagogue to the workplace to the home. The sages teach us that today our ‘kings’ are our rabbis and teachers who strengthen us in serving G-d. The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that there are always individuals who possess a greater love and fear of G-d than we do. It is such people that we should make our teachers.[6]


[1] The Chassidic Dimension. Kehot Publication Society, 235

[2] Ibid., 235-236

[3] Rashi Sapirstein Edition, Artscroll Series Mesorah Publications, ltd, 199

[4] The Hirsch Chumash. Sefer Devarim, 417

[5] Ibid.

[6] The Chassidic Dimension. Kehot Publication Society, 237

EntryPointDC Brunch a Success

The Newcomer Brunch this past Sunday was a huge success! Prior to Sunday, I had been concerned about the turnout due to Hurricane Irene. Instead, more than double the people projected attended the event. Over the weekend alone, 30 more people registered for the brunch, and about ten people showed up at the door, totaling the count to approximately 70 people.

I received excellent feedback from participants at the brunch. One girl, who had moved from New York City three weeks ago, came up to me and expressed how this was the best time she has had since her arrival to DC and that she was so excited that she had met so many new people. This large turn out, despite the weather, really shows the need for young adult events.

This event not only attracted newcomers, but also long time residents of DC, both singles and couples. The people at the event were eager to learn about what EntryPoint DC offers them, especially High Holiday discounted tickets and Shabbat/Special Interest clusters. With fall approaching and many newcomers arriving to DC, this event also fulfilled the need for people to start their year off building a community. I would like to see this event continue in the future!

Ilana Weltman is the Interim Director of EntryPointDC at the DC JCC

Hebrew Classes at the DC JCC

The DC JCC is offering a series of Hebrew classes of various levels, starting Tuesday.

WHEN: Tuesday evenings, September 6 – October (eight classes)

WHERE: 1529 16th St. NW

Level 1:

  • Learn the aleph bet and some vocabulary
  • 6:00 – 7:00 pm
  • Leader: Naomi McNally

Level 2:

  • Must know aleph bet
  • Learn vocabulary, basic reading, and grammar
  • 7:00 – 8:00 pm
  • Leader: Naomi McNally

Level 3:

  • Vocabulary, reading and conversation in present tense
  • 8:00 – 9:00 pm
  • Leader: Naomi McNally

Level 4:

  • Grammar exercises, verb conjugation in past and future tenses
  • Conversation using all three tenses
  • Reading newspaper headlines
  • 7:00 – 8:00 pm
  • Leader: Lorit Chai

Level 5:

  • Reading of newspaper articles and short stories from Hebrew literature
  • Discussion of current events and cultural issues
  • 8:15 – 9:15 pm
  • Leader: Lorit Chai

Cost is $195, $130 for members, $100 for Birthright alumni.

To sign up, click here.

They Must Not Have Liked My Hair! – GTJ dating series with Erika E (week 9)

“They must not have liked my hair.”

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m not only the online dating guru, otherwise known as the founder of A Little Nudge, but I’m also a singer/actor.  And that line above is what I say when I don’t get the part.  Their loss!

What does this have to do with dating?  Well, when we put ourselves out there by sending people e-mails on an online dating site, we risk the chance of not getting an e-mail back.  But let me be clear: Non-response does not equal rejection. In other words, the absence of a positive reply (an e-mail back) is not the same as someone turning you down.  As OkCupid confirms, on average, only 32% of first messages sent ever receive responses.

There’s good reason not to treat the lack of a response as a rejection.  Who knows why people don’t respond?  The why isn’t the important part because it’s often out of our control.  Maybe you look like an ex, maybe he dismissed you for having one silly typo, maybe she had a business trip that week and didn’t get to check her JDate account.  Whatever the reason, just chalk it up to, “They must not have liked my hair.”

True, the lack of response makes it that much harder to deal with when you fall in love with someone’s profile and think you’re destined to be together, right?  A guy I know (we’ll call him Joey) came across a girl online who was also a marathon-runner, loved cookie dough ice cream, and thought that doing the New York Times crossword puzzle was the best thing since sliced bread.  He was obsessed with her profile and asked me to help write her an e-mail to win her over.  I did.  But I warned him that should she not respond, they weren’t meant to be, and that was that.  He’d likely find a butter pecan-loving woman who much preferred Sudoku, and they’d be just as compatible because she’d expand his horizons.  Until someone responds, he or she can’t be the love of your life (and for poor Joey, she wasn’t) – you’re lusting over some words and a picture on a screen.  It’s only when you get a response that the person becomes real.  And for that reason, I recommend sending more e-mails to more people than you’re inclined to because, ultimately, it’s a numbers game.  The more e-mails you send, the more responses you get.  32% of 20 is more than 32% of 10, right?  And who doesn’t want responses?

Is your next question, “Are you telling me to e-mail people I’m just ‘meh’ about in order to get a response?”  Sort of, yes.  As we all know, most of us are better in person than we are on paper (c’mon – we all know it’s true), so if you’re even somewhat interested in someone online, go for the e-mail.  I’m a fan of opening all possible doors (sending e-mails) and then closing them later (after some e-mailing back-and-forth or after a date) if the person is ultimately not what you want.  But in the end, the right ones will respond because you each see something promising in each other.

So, feel free to send those e-mails.  What’s the worst that could happen… you don’t get a response?  No biggie!  They just didn’t like your hair.

Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, helping people find success in online dating and getting them excited about its possibilities. “Like” A Little Nudge on Facebook, or follow on Twitter. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.

Have questions you want answered in a future post?  E-mail date411@alittlenudge.com

Forum: Israeli and Palestinian Initiatives and the UN

J Street DC Metro and Tifereth Israel Congregation are teaming up to present a town hall forum on “The September Situation: Israeli and Palestinian Initiatives and the UN.”

The evening’s panelists will be Scott Lasensky, United States Institute of Peace; Ghaith al-Omari, American Task Force on Palestine; Jennifer Griffin, FOX News; and Greg Myre, NPR Morning Edition.   The moderator will be Aliza Marcus, Vice President for Communications, J Street.

WHEN: Thursday, September 8, 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: Tifereth Israel, 7701 16th Street NW Washington DC.

The event is free and open to the public. To RSVP and/or get additional information, click here.

Help Jews Fight Hunger

Those community members interested in hunger-related volunteer projects have several opportunities in the upcoming weeks: Hunger Action is having three events in the next two weeks, at the DC JCC at 16th and Q.

Hunger Action, one of DC JCC’s most successful year-round volunteer program, prepares over 7,000 meals a year for the homeless, at about 35 events annually. All food is donated to DC Central Kitchen. To sign up for one of the events or to find out about other volunteer opportunities at the DC JCC, click here.

Dates and Times:

  • Thursday, September 1, 7:00 p.m.- 9:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, September 4, 8:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, September 15, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Want to donate to hunger-related projects and socialize at the same time? Come to the Summer Sizzler. Join lots of other community members in the last rendezvous of the summer, all while donating to a great cause.

WHEN: Thursday, September 1, 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

WHERE: Local 16 DC, 1602 U St. NW

Cost is $10 in advance or $15 at the door. To sign up, check out the event’s Facebook page.

Israeli Art Exhibit and Sale

Come see Expressions Fine Art, an art show sponsored by the Israeli government and featuring contemporary and traditional artwork by more than 50 Israeli artists. Paintings, ceramics, sculpture, and jewelry will be on display and for sale. The art reflects the unique heritage and perspectives of artists whose origins range from Israel to Ethopia, continental Europe, and the former Soviet Union.  Proceeds from the show will be divided between the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington and the artists.

WHEN: Sunday, September 4, 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

WHERE: JCCGW, 6125 Montrose Rd., Rockville, MD

This event is free.