“How did you fare during Hurricane Irma?”

That may have been the most frequently-asked question in the entire State of Florida this week. How did YOU fare? Let us know how you’re doing.

I am glad to report that virtually all of our staff and Temple members are fine. There are reports of some damage to homes and property but nothing life-threatening.

We were shocked and saddened by the loss of life in the rehabilitation center in Hollywood and in other hurricane-related incidents. At our Shabbat service tomorrow evening, we will recite the Kaddish for those who died. We will also offer prayers for the living, such as the Mi Shebeirach for healing and the Birkat HaGomel for anyone who came through a life-threatening situation. That could include all of us.

We have no idea how bad the damage would have been had Hurricane Irma passed directly over Miami, but one thing is certain: it would have been much, much worse than it was. In acknowledging how fortunate we were, our tradition recommends expressing our gratitude in four ways. The first is by saying something, and the most appropriate expression for that in our tradition is the Birket HaGomel.


When someone chooses to say this prayer, it is usually at a Shabbat morning service when the Torah is on the reading table. But for those who cannot join us on Saturday morning, we will also say it Friday night. If you want to practice it before then, I have included it here:

Translation:Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, Sovereign of the universe who bestows goodness upon the accountable, who has bestowed every goodness upon me.

The congregation responds with “Amen!” then continues:
מִי שְגָמָלֵך כֹּל טוֹב הוּא יִגְמְלֵךְ כֹּל טוֹב סֶלָה
“Mi shegamaleich tov, Hu yig’maleich kol tov, selah.”
Translation: May the One who has bestowed goodness upon you bestow every goodness upon you forever!

In addition to SAYING something, the second way our tradition recommends expressing our gratitude is by DOING something. Donating to hurricane relief funds, such as this one from the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, or helping those in need is a wonderful expression. The Federation also has a Jewish Volunteer Center with suggested ways to help out. Or you can join me on Sept 25th to help feed the homeless at the Chapman Partnership. Let me know if you are interested.

The third way our tradition recommends expressing our gratitude is by EATING something. That’s right. We’re Jewish! Some of us have already gained a few pounds from being stuck indoors with little to do except eat the food that would otherwise spoil without refrigeration. But I mean having a celebratory meal, like a Shabbat dinner with family and friends, or joining us for the oneg or Kiddush after our Shabbat services. Or signing up for our Erev Rosh Hashana dinner on September 20th.

Finally, the fourth way of expressing our gratitude is by LEARNING something. With the High Holy Days less than a week away, our Selichot program and service will begin at 7:00 p.m. this Saturday evening. Come and learn about the ways we prepare ourselves for the High Holy Days before they arrive and enjoy a preview of the High Holy Day melodies with Dr. Alan Mason and our High Holy Day Cantor, Tanya Greenblatt. We’ll also change the covers on the Torah scrolls, symbolizing the change that comes over us all in this season of teshuvah.

Now that the storm has passed, I pray that you find satisfying ways to acknowledge our good fortune and that you be blessed with a safe and sweet New Year in the coming days.

Shabbat Shalom,

R’ Moshe Tom

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