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TOL Board meeting postponed to November 2

Rabbi Joe's Weekly Message

Week of October 26

Bread and Wine

I love having guests from out of town. I get the pleasure of maintaining far-flung contacts without the bother of traveling. At the High Holidays I hosted my friend Cantor-Rabbi Yossi Carron from California. Last weekend I greeted my sister-in-law from Maryland and my colleague Rabbi Ellen Jaffe-Gill from Virginia. Now I'm conversant with the latest developments in all these distant places.

In the next few days TOL will welcome Israeli illustrator Hanoch Piven and Jewish historical novelist Maggie Anton. It's a privilege to have these famous people turn up in our smallish city. Both have made unique contributions to world culture and Jewish living. I don't know exactly what they'll do in Morgantown, but I'm sure we'll learn something interesting from them.

In this week's Torah portion, Melchizedek, priest of Salem, extends the hand of kindness to an important visitor: our forefather Abraham. Melchizedek takes out bread and wine and offers his guest an elaborate blessing (Genesis 14:18-20). This sets a worthy example for us all. Hospitality consists of food, drink, and encouraging talk.

Committees and volunteers are planning programs and menus for Mr. Piven and Ms. Anton. Ms. Anton tells me she's crazy about authentic Jewish rye bread, which I'll have to track down in Pittsburgh: it's probably unavailable in Monongalia County. The Bible doesn't say if Melchizedek served rye bread. I'm guessing it wasn't a specialty of Salem.

Other than that, I'm not worried about these travelers' physical well-being. But it's everyone's responsibility to chat with our visitors and pick their brains about the meaning of the contemporary Jewish experience. You'll be glad you did. In the Torah portion, the grateful Abraham gives Melchizedek "a tenth of everything" (Genesis 14:20). I don't expect a tithe from Hanoch and Maggie, but if they can share 1% of their wisdom with us, we will be very much the richer for it.

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