This week is the celebration of the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. The Hebrew word, though, is not really Commandment, but great precept. The purpose of these Ten Great Precepts are to liberate ourselves from so many things that prevent us from living our life fully.


We will study them together and develop meditations that can help us through our day in a better way.


This Sunday 6/1 at 9:30 am at Adat Shalom


Everyone is welcome

Posted by: Aaron Bergman | May 26, 2014

Thoughts on Memorial Day

Memorial Day 2014

I often talk about how Israel and the Jewish community have helped so many around the world.

Today on Memorial Day, I want to talk about how much America has done for the Jewish people.

From the very beginning of our country, we have been treated as full and equal citizens by our most important leaders, starting with George Washington.

This is from the letter that sent to the Jewish community in Rhode Island:

The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.

May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.

May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.”

Abraham Lincoln extended these protections and rights. According to Harold Holzer Lincoln was the first president to appoint a Jewish military chaplain. Until then, all chaplains had to be Christian. He rescinded Grant’s Order 11 that would Jews from Union territories under the general’s control.

Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise said at the time: “The President fully convinced us that he knew of no distinction between Jews and Gentiles and that he feels none against any nationality and especially against Israelites.”

At Congregation Shearith Israel in Manhattan the mourners’ Kaddish was recited for the first time in memory of a non-Jew. They called Lincoln “Father Abraham.”

The Jewish War Veterans were established in 1896.The group holds a congressional charter under Title 36 of the United States Code. They were the very first veteran’s group in the United States.

In the preamble to its National Constitution the purpose of the JWV is stated:

To maintain true allegiance to the United States of America; to foster and perpetuate true Americanism; to combat whatever tends to impair the efficiency and permanency of our free institutions; to uphold the fair name of the Jew and fight his or her battles wherever unjustly assailed; to encourage the doctrine of universal liberty, equal rights, and full justice to all men and women; to combat the powers of bigotry and darkness wherever originating and whatever their target; to preserve the spirit of comradeship by mutual helpfulness to comrades and their families; to cooperate with and support existing educational institutions and establish educational institutions, and to foster the education of ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen, and our members in the ideals and principles of Americanism; to instill love of country and flag, and to promote sound minds and bodies in our members and our youth; to preserve the memories and records of patriotic service performed by the men and women of our faith; to honor their memory and shield from neglect the graves of our heroic dead.

Many people know how much the American army did to liberate the concentration camps at the end of the Holocaust, and how General Eisenhower ordered every available camera to be used to document the enormity of the tragedy. He knew in the future that people would challenge the truth of the Nazi crimes and he wanted to make sure there was an incontestable record.

What is not widely known is that the army was not just concerned about the physical well being of the survivor, but their spiritual and emotional health, as well. They commissioned a special full nineteen volume edition of Talmud especially for the survivors, call The Survivor’s Talmud.

The title page of each volume depicts a Nazi slave labor camp surrounded by barbed wire. Above it are palm trees and scenes in Israel. These images are connected by the Hebrew words: “From bondage to freedom, from darkness to a great light”.

In the first volume of the Talmud, this dedication appeared in English:

In 1946 we turned to the American Army Commander to assist us in the publication of the Talmud. In all the years of exile it has often happened that various governments and forces have burned Jewish books. Never did any publish them for us. This is the first time in Jewish history that a government has helped in the publication of the Talmud, which is the source of our being and the length of our days. The Army of the United States saved us from death, protects us in this land, and through their aid does the Talmud appear again in Germany.[1]

Each volume of the Talmud also included this dedication in English:

This edition of the Talmud is dedicated to the United States Army. The army played a major role in the rescue of the Jewish people from total annihilation and after the defeat of Hitler bore the major burden of sustaining the DPs of the Jewish faith. This special edition of the Talmud published in the very land where, but a short time ago, everything Jewish and of Jewish inspiration was anathema, will remain a symbol of the indestructibility of the Torah. The Jewish DPs will never forget the generous impulses and the unprecedented humanitarianism of the American forces, to whom they owe so much.

(Signed) Rabbi Samuel A. Snieg, Chief Rabbi of the U.S. Zone

America tried to return Jewish books and ritual items after the Holocaust. The army hired a scholar to go to Europe and identify and catalogue all these books. Most of the original owners had perished, and the communities had been wiped out.The books were given to the Jewish community in America or housed at the Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress now has more than half a million pieces of Judaica and Hebraica, the largest collection outside of Jewish institutions.

There would be no state of Israel without America’s enduring friendship. No other country has consistently supported Israel or has recognized its right to survive.

America is also the place of the greatest Jewish creativity of the last several hundred years, including egalitarian approaches to prayer and community. We have been free to create our own communities, while still being fully loyal citizens.

Veterans have given so much for all of us to be free. However, we as a country have failed them in so many ways. Tremendous percentage of those who are homeless or unemployed or facing psychological or physical traumas are veterans. This is unacceptable. Support groups like Wounded Warriors. Call your representatives and demand better treatment.

I want to share the names of the most recent casualties, to at least put a name on the people who defend us.

The Department of Defense announced today the death of soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Spec. Adrian M. Perkins, 19, of Pine Valley, California, died May 17, in Amman, Jordan, from a non-combat related injury.

He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colorado.

Command Sgt. Maj. Martin R Barreras, 49, of Tucson, Arizona, died May 13, in San Antonio Military Medical Center, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, from wounds suffered on May 6, in Harat Province, Afghanistan, when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire.

He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas.

I pray that those who served will all get the help and recognition they deserve.

I pray that the families of all those who gave their lives feel our eternal gratitude and respect.

Posted by: Aaron Bergman | April 24, 2014

Passover is over. You can now begin your life again.

Who are you,

now that you

are free?

Meditation and Study

on the path to

True Liberation

With Rabbi Aaron Bergman


Sunday 4/27. 9:30 am.

Adat Shalom

Posted by: Aaron Bergman | April 13, 2014

The Real Question of Passover


According to a recent study of Jewish observance, Chanukah is the holiday that more Jews observe than any other. The Passover Seder, however, is probably the most celebrated ritual in Jewish life that does requires more than lighting candles and frying potatoes. So many people have a Seder that we do not realize what a revolutionary idea it is.


To the best of my knowledge, the Seder is the first significant religious event that took place originally at home and not in a temple. It is still primarily home based. The Sedarim not done in the home are based on the ones that are.


In the history of religion, not just Judaism, the most important rituals took place in public and were performed exclusively by the religious leadership on behalf of the people. They were completely controlled and supervised by the priesthood.


The first Seder took place in Egypt, the night before the Exodus. It took place in the homes and was conducted by the people who lived there. It would have been very dangerous to conduct it in public, perhaps, but if God had wanted it that way I am there could have been a miracle allowing it to happen.


The Torah instead empowers the people to have a discussion about freedom that makes sense to them, without outside interference or criticism.


Even later, the high priest had no more standing at a Seder than anyone else.


The Seder was the beginning of the idea that any space could be sacred and holy if the people in it made it so.


It is to remind us of our responsibility to uncover and rediscover the inherent holiness of all places.


Let’s look at some of the rituals. First, the wine. All Jewish holidays and Shabbat have a blessing over wine. On Passover, there is more than one cup. There was a disagreement whether there should be four cups or five. The rabbis decided to compromise and drink four, leaving a fifth on the table, for when Elijah would come some day and decide. The wine, then, is a metaphor for the importance of compromise. That is how we begin.


The motzi, the blessing we say over challah, is exactly the same as the one we say

over matzah. Challah is soft and chewy. Matzah is not. Both, though, are nutritious and will sustain us. The Seder teaches us to be grateful for the things in our lives that we take for granted or feel we are entitled to. We learn that everything can be delicious if we appreciate how lucky we are to have it.


The Haggadah is important for what it says, but maybe even more so for who says it. For many centuries in many cultures there was the idea that children should be seen but not heard, that they were merely empty vessels in which the adults would pour in the knowledge they felt was necessary. It is amazing to me that our sages thousands of years ago understood that education can only begin when the child is genuinely curious, and that the adults teach to the interest and level of the child. It also speaks to the importance of listening to everyone in the house, both the most powerful and the most vulnerable .At the Seder everyone is heard, and everyone deserves a good and thoughtful answer.


Preparing for Passover is a reminder that we can live every moment in a sacred and holy place. Cleaning for Pesach means getting rid of all those things that prevent us from seeing that.


What can we each do to make our homes into a place of freedom and joy in responsibility? That is the real question that we ask at the Seder.


Passover is a chance to think about how to be free and happy. We do not always take that chance. This Sunday, Rabbi Aaron Bergman will talk about an ancient approach to the Seder that can enhance the joy we have at ours today. Everyone is welcome. 9:30 am. Adat Shalom.

Posted by: Aaron Bergman | March 7, 2014

Put Your Mask on First-This Sunday Morning at Adat Shalom






Put Your Mask on First

How the Purim Story teaches us to free ourselves so we can liberate others

Purim is the last holiday of the Jewish Calendar. If Passover is about God freeing the slaves, Purim is about the people freeing themselves. Helping ourselves to live good lives, and helping others to do so is the goal of Judaism.

We will talk about and meditate on some of the themes of Purim, such as figuring out our real names, living in places that are not always warm and welcoming, and not letting the anger of others consume us.

This Sunday, 3/9

Adat Shalom Synagogue

9:30 am

Everyone is welcome

Part of hamakOhm

with Rabbi Aaron Bergman

Let it Snow!-Jewish meditations and teaching on weathering life’s storms

A hamakOhm Session with Rabbi Aaron Bergman

This Sunday, 2/9 9:30 am

Adat Shalom

The misery of the cold weather this winter is a good opportunity to look at ways that Judaism teaches us to deal with the stormy and challenging situations we all face in our life.

We will study texts and learn meditations that will help us warm up to every aspect of our lives.

Everyone is invited.

Rain, Sun, Sleet or Snow, or typical for Michigan, all four at once.

Posted by: Aaron Bergman | January 9, 2014

Hear What Your Life is Telling You, Sunday morning, 1/12

Hear What Your Life is Telling You

Meditation and Study of the Shema

for Greater Insight and Inspiration

Join Rabbi Aaron Bergman this Sunday morning, 1/12

for a look at the Shema in a new and helpful way.

You will meet wonderful people and maybe even yourself.

9:30 am

Adat Shalom

Everyone is Welcome

Posted by: Aaron Bergman | December 26, 2013

Listening to your stories

The Jewish people are wonderful story tellers. We contributed many of the tales of 1,001 Nights of Scheherazade. We brought the stories of other traditions into our own. I am teaching a course of Jewish folklore and folk tales this month. I hope you will come.

More importantly to me, though, is I want to hear your stories, the stories of who you are, and the stories of where you and your family come from. I want to hear the stories of where you want to go in your life, particularly your spiritual and intellectual journey.

I tend to meet people at events, where there is not a lot of time to speak meaningfully for more than a few minutes, or at life cycle events where we are mostly focusing on family dynamics or the details of the day itself.

Judaism has so much wisdom and so many riches to make our path in life a happy, good and meaningful one.

I would love to meet with anyone who has, or has had, or would like a connection to Adat Shalom, at a time and place that is good for you, including your favorite coffee or lunch place and talk about what matters to you and how Judaism can be an even more meaningful part of your life. We could also just chat.

You can contact me through my email,, or on Facebook (just make sure you have the right Aaron Bergman, or at the synagogue, 248-851-5100, and ask for my assistant Sheila. 

I will also be calling Adat Shalom members at random from time to time. No obligation, but I think this could be a lot of fun and very illuminating.

I look forward to talking soon.

Posted by: Aaron Bergman | December 6, 2013

Some Quiet Music for the End of The Week

Yiddish is becoming one of the languages of the world musical underground. It is being used by European avant garde and metal groups such as Gevolt and Dibbukim. I am experimenting with creating some modern approaches to Yiddish music that incorporate traditional poems and songs with contemporary melodies and rhythms.

This is my first attempt. I created and recorded all the music. The vocals are by Rahel Jaskow. It is pretty ambient and downtempo.

The painting is mine, too.

Older Posts »



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