1545 Bushkill Street
Easton, PA 18042
Phone: (610) 258-5343
Fax: (610) 330-9100
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Service Schedule

Thursday, 7:25 am
Minyan

Friday, 8:00 pm
Shabbat Evening Services

Saturday, 9:30 am
Shabbat Morning Services

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Jewish WeddingFrom weddings and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs to business functions and lectures, our facility is a great setting and location for your special occasion.
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Synagogue office is closed on Mondays and Fridays. Hours open: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.

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Religious School

BAS Religious School welcomes all children ages 1-8th grade to enrolll in 2009-2010 program. Everyone is welcome.
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BAS Rabbi's Message

Message from Rabbi Daniel Stein

March, 2011

I do not envy the difficult task of our lawmakers in Washington, charged with the duty of creating a budget that is both financially responsible and responsive to the dramatic needs of the American people.  It seems that November’s midterm elections made the point that, right now, Americans would prefer not to see an increase in their taxes. At the same time, many are unwilling to accept changes to those major programs—Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—which help to insure their standard of living.  Given a decrease in revenue and a profound increase in need, our government is faced with difficult choices about where and how to cut discretionary spending.  

These painful choices mirror the reality many in our country face in the current economic climate. Families struggle to pay their utility bills and to put food on the table, and must make challenging decisions in planning their own budgets.  This economic reality has also impacted Jewish organizations.  Like our federal government, we have fewer funds to accomplish the same amount of work. Should the priority of our agencies be towards Jewish communities abroad, or should it meet local needs first?  Should our focus be on Jewish continuity or communal welfare and social services?  These questions, interestingly, sparked the interest of rabbis hundreds of years ago. Their approach to prioritizing communal need is instructive, and could perhaps serve as a tool for our community in assessing our own priorities.

The Shulchan Aruch (main code of Jewish law, 1542) gives surprisingly concrete criteria for prioritizing giving. It suggests that a person should give tzedakah first to:

1. Grown children or parents, if they are in financial need.
2. Relatives
3. Neighbors
4. Residents of the same city
5. Residents of another city.

Here,  Jewish law imagines a kind of Utopian society--if everyone takes responsibility for the affairs of their own house, the community need not step in.  Instead, families are self-reliant and attend to their own needs.  The very next law, though, reveals that the Shulchan Aruch is not blind to reality: “And, if a rich father refuses to support his poor son, the community forces him.”

After dealing with these issues, the Shulchan Aruch takes up the hardest challenge: what to

do if there is simply not enough money.  If a community can either clothe the naked or feed the hungry, it should feed the hungry.  If men and women are both in need, the women come first.  Finally, it suggests that, “If there are many poor people before the community, and not enough funds, a Cohen (priest) comes before a Levite, and a Levite before an Israelite, and an Israelite before a mamzer, and a mamzer before a proselyte. This is assuming that they are all equal in stature.  However, a scholarly mamzer should receive charity even before the high priest!”
 
I am not entirely sure that I agree with these priorities. If I were teaching this material, I would ask my students to think about the underlying values:  Why should women come before men, or scholars before fools?  Why should priests take priority over everyone else?  Can we identify anything in the rabbis’ approach to charitable giving that resonates with our own values? And, if we had to create our own list of priorities, what would they be?

For me, the most compelling aspect of the Jewish approach to charity is the way it is intertwined with everyday life.  Every occasion is a moment to give--when we repent on Yom Kippur, we are told to give charity.  When we revel on Purim, we are also commanded to give. In our joys and in our sorrows, we are always mindful of those in need.  And the responsibility is egalitarian: even a person who subsists on charity must pass a portion of that gift forward.  On Purim, when we must give gifts to the poor, the needy are commanded to gather with their friends and exchange gifts with each other.  In a sense, requiring the poor to give offers them the dignity of inclusion.  Your gifts, the law says, are as required and valued as the contributions of the wealthy.

I pray that our leaders make wise decisions and that we soon return to economic prosperity. I doubt, though, that we will soon be free of challenging choices in our own financial lives and in our charitable choices.  Purim, which we celebrate this month, reminds us that our joy is incomplete as long as need exists.  As long as hunger and want exist among millions, our enjoyment of the goodness of life is superficial. Judaism teaches us that, in making difficult choices, we must make sure we have our priorities in order.

All the best,

Rabbi Daniel Stein


All the best,

Rabbi Daniel Stein