Rabbi's Letter February 2013

February 5, 2013

Dear Friends:
In the midst of our cold winter weather, I share a warm teaching from a second century text, the Wisdom of the Sages (Pirkay Avot). Who is wise?, Ben Zoma inquires, the one who learns from every person . And one Rabbinic sage further explains, that wisdom can be acquired from all the God has created.

The African scarab beetle is one prime example about gleaning sage wisdom from God's creatures. This beetle, often featured as a creepy crawly in movies set in the tombs and pyramids of Egypt, crawls through the desert sands. Entomologists have recently discovered that these lowly beetles navigate through the Sahara sands in a straight line by using the North Star as their guidance system. The fixed celestial point of the North Star is their GPS – and when the North star is not visible, they can no longer navigate in straight lines! From Monarch butterflies to sea turtles, the navigation systems that these remarkable creatures utilize are of a level of sophistication that modern science is only beginning to comprehend.

As the Jewish year navigates toward Purim and Pesach, our Torah readings at this time of year speak of the gift of Torah – the Revelation of wisdom granted to our ancestors at Sinai and lovingly transmitted from one generation to the next. The Ten Commandments are an evocative symbol of the mitzvot of our heritage – the values, rituals, teachings and ethical manual bequeathed to us since Moses. These core laws and values speak to us of honesty, integrity, the power of truth and the majesty of fidelity. The mitzvot of Torah articulate the time proven imperatives that govern our relationships and our celebrations, and imbue deep meaning to our lives. If beetles have over time come to trust that their journey in life is well lived by navigating according to a fixed heavenly point, it is easy to extrapolate that our lives are lived in more meaningful and rich fashions when guided by the Divine beacon of Judaism, the ultimate Heavenly zenith.

To quote Father Mulcahy from the classic TV series M*A*S*H, "as for the Ten Commandments, many of them are currently on the critical list". A cursory glance at the news headlines will evoke disbelief at the violations of trust, fidelity and integrity as truth and honesty are betrayed by all too many in their lives and relationships in every walk of life. Each betrayal or infidelity, lie, fraud or deceitful practice often leads to tragic consequences – often to good people caught in the ripple effect of someone's misdeeds.

Purim is our annual reminder that the courage to confront others with the truth and to speak the truth is paramount. Esther tried to masquerade as another and only once she left behind her pretensions and was true to her core identity as a Jew and spoke that truth was the tide turned. Instead of devastation befalling our people, the Jewish community in ancient Persia found a pathway beyond the challenges and intolerant realities of their time and created a transformed world. The Purim narrative ends on a happy note of tranquility, harmony and Jewish joys – leaving behind the trail of oys and laments.

Rabbi B. in JerusalemIn celebrating Purim (Saturday evening, February 23 – at 6:15 pm and Sunday, Feb. 24 – at 9 am) we recognize that joy always includes moral responsibility. Even in moments of simcha and celebration, we maintain with all the fun and antics, a clear head and always are to act responsibly. Making a l'hayim is to use, and never abuse the gifts in this world. And that wisdom is the core of our Jewish values regarding every celebration.

Passover energizes us to remember a dark chapter in Jewish history and precisely how we overcame that darkness with strength and faith. Our elaborate seder celebrations (on Monday and Tuesday evenings, March 25 & 26) and our festival joy is a counterbalance to the corrupt civilization of ancient Egypt and the immorality of that world. Judaism provides to us our GPS to remember the grave gridlock and debased dead ends that impacted upon our ancestors and the antidote: the seder is the road to liberation. Passover is our annual journey reminding us of the wisdom of our Sages – we have the power to transform our world and our lives from slavery to freedom. We do not have to be mired in the mud of the past and that persecutions in history do not determine our future. Passover is about our freedom to create joyous moments and transmit the treasured traditions of our people in the amazing ambiance of food, family and faith at the sederim in our homes.

We learn from beetles, from Torah, from Purim and Pesach the moral grandeur and the uplifting lessons how Judaism inspires, governs and guides our lives. This reality is the core of what animated Mayor Ed Koch, of blessed memory and was made clear in the assemblage of American and Israeli leadership, of leaders and politicians and the average New Yorker alike that paid homage to Koch at his funeral. Koch will always be recalled as the quintessential New Yorker: brash, outspoken, brusque and a man filled with chutzpah. He was above all a mentsch who championed in the political arena on behalf of those who had no voices in the system. He will always be recalled as a politician of the people – a man known for his absolute integrity and honesty in word and deed. In one story shared at his funeral, a constituent railed at him and chastised him in a letter for a decision the mayor had made. He replied, in his typical style, you have the " right to your opinion about me, and I have the right to my opinion about you and you are a fool ! all the best, Ed Koch ". His style may have been at times outrageous, but he was a man of courage and principled belief.

Above all, Koch was tenacious and passionate about his love for the Jewish people and unconditional support for Israel. This legacy of his absolute devotion to the Jewish people and our faith is made manifest in the monument which he had placed at his gravesite well before he died. And only Mayor Koch, a Jewish mayor would be buried in an ecumenical part of an Episcopalian cemetery (the only cemetery actually still operating in Manhattan) in a Dominican neighborhood – and near a subway stop !

In words of wisdom he quoted from the slain journalist Daniel Pearl (murdered by terrorists exactly eleven years to the day before Koch died) : My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish. His monument then has engraved the Shema Yisrael, the watchword of our faith in Hebrew and English followed by the phrasing chosen by Ed Koch that commences with the words: He was fiercely proud of his Jewish faith!

Let us ask in the words immortalized by Hizzoner, the Mayor, Ed Koch. How'm I doing? How are we doing in fiercely living the joy of Judaism. How are we doing in navigating our journey in life with the Torah and Judaism as our North Star? How are we doing living Jewish values in order to deepen our lives and powerfully help others ? May we learn and acquire rich wisdom from beetles, from Purim and Pesach and from Ed Koch, of blessed memory !

With the very best wishes for a joyous Purim and a sweetly blessed Pesach from Laura, Yael, Aviva, Hillel (in Israel), Elie and Noam and myself to you and your loved ones ! Shalom !

Rabbi Howard R. Buechler
Dix Hills Jewish Center

What's Happening at DHJC





Service Times

Normal Service Times - (Except Holidays & Shivas)

Daily Morning Minyan
Monday and Thursday, 6:45am
Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, 7am
Sunday, 9am

Daily Evening Minyan
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Saturday, 9:15am

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Welcome to the Dix Hills Jewish Center

Welcome to the Dix Hills Jewish Center, a Conservative Congregation, celebrating 50 years as a beacon of dynamic Judaism in Dix Hills. We are a traditional egalitarian synagogue committed to the reality that all Jews are full partners in the beauty of Jewish life and that all Jews are given an equal role in all rituals. The Dix Hills Jewish Center is an engaging, vibrant congregation. We are excited about the growth in our synagogue, and the wonderful growth of the Jewish community of Dix Hills, Commack and the neighboring communities. We are a community committed to learning, to supporting each other, and to being a warm and welcoming place for all who participate. Welcome to the Dix Hills Jewish Center.

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In Case Of........


For joyous occassions in your life, please share your naches with the Rabbi. Inform the Rabbi about births, engagements, weddings and other noteworthy moments in the life of your family. The Rabbi will arrange for baby namings, provide information regarding a mohel ( for infant boys), coordinate a pidyon ha-ben (the redemption ceremony for firstborn males), schedule an aufruf (to celebrate a forthcoming marriage), weddings and bring the richness of Jewish traditions and mitzvoth into your simcha(email rabbi or call 631-499-6644).


In case of illness and/or hospitalization, please notify the Rabbi at 631-499-6644 (24/6 - on Shabbat, see below for further emergency instructions)


Even before making funeral arrangements notify Rabbi Buechler at the synagogue office at 631-499-6644 (after office hours press #3 for the emergency numbers). Rabbi Buechler will assist and guide you in making the appropriate arrangements for the funeral. In the event that you cannot reach the Rabbi, contact the Jewish funeral home and begin to make your arrangements. PLEASE, if Rabbi Buechler is going to officiate at the funeral, do not finalize the funeral time until the Rabbi has contacted you. At most this will be a few hours. In the event that Rabbi Buechler is on vacation, Cantor Hevenstone is available and other local Conservative Rabbis are on call. Their names can be obtained by calling the synagogue office, an officer of the synagogue or the Ritual Chairman. It is also appropriate to contact Rabbi Buechler whenever tragedy or trauma occurs. On Shabbat and Yomtov the Rabbi does not use the telephone. Therefore, you can convey information to him on these days at the synagogue during scheduled service times, by calling him immediately after Shabbat or Yomtov or by going to his residence.

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Do you have a relative or friend in our congregation who would benefit from a personal home visit? We are here for you! Members of our DHJC Social Action Committee - Tender Loving Congregants -- will happily come to visit and chat. BIKUR CHOLIM -- we visit our friends and relatives in Gurwin. Become a volunteer. Learn how.

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