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Rabbi Paskoff's Shabbat Message - Thanksgiving

Dear Friends:

I have always said that my theology is one of thanks giving. Truly, I think that’s what our tradition intends for us. We are not among those whose theology is to provide a path to an afterlife. Our theology asks for things, but on a global level to benefit all, not as much on the personal level of my needs and wants. And while our tradition answers many of life’s big questions, I have never felt like that is what is at its core. Think about our day. We wake up and give thanks that our souls have been returned to us. We then proceed to offer thanks for things like our bodies knowing the difference between night and day, the ability to stand up straight, to walk, to see, for having clothing to wear, and for being who we are. We thank God for our bodies, and only then for our souls. We thank God before and after everything we eat. We have ritualized words for seeing rainbows, witnessing thunder and lightning, tasting fruit in its season, and seeing old friends we haven’t seen in a while. We thank God when we are restored to heath after being ill. 1800 years ago, Rabbi Meir reminded us that we needed to say 100 blessings a day, not to appease God, but to awaken something in us. Jews don’t need Thanksgiving, as every day is a day for giving thanks.

Even when we ask for things, it is not as much to expect that God will provide as it is a mandate for us to step up. Each night, we recite Hashkiveinu. We ask God to let us lie down in peace, to create for us a shelter of peace. We know that our ability to sleep each night is something that is in our control more than God’s, and it makes helping others find that peace into a mandate for us. I forget how many years ago it was that the first guests of the interfaith emergency overflow homeless shelter were sheltered right here in our social hall. I can tell you with pride how our congregation has stepped up each year, and I can tell you with both sadness and a celebration of the resiliency of the human body and soul how much I’ve learned from our guests year after year. This is the sukkat shalom, the shelter of peace that we are called upon to help create.

Here I am once again reminding you that the shelter opens this coming Monday, now held at the YWCA and no longer traveling from place to place. There’s a metal locker outside the gym where our guests spend the night. On it, there is a wonderful sign that says: ““Don't be afraid of the shadows, that only means there's a light nearby.” The guests at the shelter often live in the shadows, and we are commanded by the Prophet, Isaiah, to be a light unto the peoples.

So here’s your chance. We still need volunteers for our week. We need people most urgently for December 27, 30, 31, and we need a couple of people for the 25th. Yes. That includes Christmas day and New Year’s Eve. Come alone, come as a family, a bridge game, a mahjong game, or a Yoga group. We need YOU! Come with your toddlers, and come with your college students. The bonding opportunities, the educational opportunities, and the opportunities for spiritual uplift are incredible. Please email Marilyn Stein at, or call her at 717-413-8473. If you can’t spend the whole night, join us for a few hours at the beginning of the night to help with sign in and getting our guests settled. On this Thanksgiving weekend, let’s be thankful for our many blessings, and let’s d

o our part to share them with the most vulnerable in our society.

Shabbat Shalom u’m’vorach. Have a Shabbat of peace and of blessing.


Jack P. Paskoff,


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