This morning many of us in this country and congregation feel as though they are in mourning. I certainly feel that way. This is not because of Democrats or Republicans but because our country has been through a horrific experience in which our language has been debased and our old hatreds, once thought to be diminishing, have returned. For those bothered by the uncertainty of the election, the uncertainty of the future is far worse.
Can we talk about things that annoy us?
Every day brings us an array of stuff that tries our patience. You buy something that needs to be assembled, and the instructions don’t make sense. You’re out on a golf course and you hit a straight drive; but when you get to where it ought to be lying, the ball is not there. You toss 16 socks into a clothes dryer and you get only 15 back.
Atem Nitzavim Hayom— You stand here this day…
These words which open our Torah portion, capture our attention— past and present converge as we stand shoulder to shoulder with all the wilderness wanderers, amassed on the border of a new land of promise— our heads of tribes, our elders, our officers, all the men of Israel, our youth, our women, the non-Jews who are part of our community; from the hewer of wood to the water drawer; those who lived in Biblical times and those of us alive today.
July has been a hard month. Elie Weisel passed away. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were senselessly shot and killed by policemen. Women wearing tallit, kippot, and tefilin while praying with the Torah were shouted down and called “Amalek” by fellow Jews at the Kotel. Eight police officers, five in Dallas and three in Baton Rouge — Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Montrell Jackson, Brad Garafola and Matthew Gerald, brutally lost their lives at the hands of snipers. My sorrow, fear, and outrage all stem from the same source: radical othering.
What does it mean to lead a Torah study? When we sit with congregants, friends, are guests in different communities, what is it we are doing when we are given the honor to lead a Torah study? There is something quite amazing that we are doing – we are framing the message for this group. For that short moment in time that we are asked to lead, we are transmitting a concept, idea, ideal or moral teaching that we believe the group needs to hear. It is a truly powerful moment and the texts, commentaries, works that we bring to the table also convey the message of what our values are or what sources contribute to our very own understanding of the week’s parashah. For the Torah studies that I lead, I am indebted to a rabbi and teacher who taught me the important lens of gender to bring forth powerful lessons, messages and teachings.
Rabbi Edwin Goldberg shares thoughts from OSRUI.
“I am spending two weeks on faculty at Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute (the first Reform Jewish camp, established in 1952) in the unit that has 83 high school students spend the summer here speaking only in Hebrew. It is called Chalutzim (pioneers). There is no other program like this for Reform Jews in the country. This is a program that is vital to the future of Reform Judaism because we need to make sure that we keep our Hebrew alive. Hebrew is more than a language. It is a way of looking at the world, a bridge to the Bible, and a means of keeping us close to our Israeli brothers and sisters.”
A story I heard yesterday from an Israeli journalist: A call goes out to all nations to find a way to take human beings to Mars. The United States announces a plan that will take thirty years, but it will bring a human mission to Mars and bring them home. The Israelis announce they can have a ship ready in FIVE years and will successfully land their crew on Mars. They just won’t have a plan to bring them home. “Once they are there, they can figure that part out.” The upshot is that, at least according to one journalist, Israel has many strengths but doesn’t always consider the long picture.
The Haggadah teaches us that בכל דור ודור חייב אדם לראות את עצמו כאילו הוא יצא ממצרים: In every generation a person is obligated to see themselves as if they were liberated from Egypt. In Hebrew, Egypt is known as ‘Mitzrayim,’ a narrow place. The seder asks that we identify with those currently oppressed, marginalized, or restricted; those who yearn and fight for freedom. Not out of pity, but because we are or have been them.
As a teenager, I would sit on my bedroom floor listening to old records of Belgian singer-songwriter, poet, and performer Jacques Brel. I didn’t need to keep a journal, because his lyrics wove together everything I felt at the time. Brel had a fire within, and his anger, longing, passion, and truth blazed through every word he sang. His music, raw and real, transformed and fed my soul; it informed and shaped who I am today.
by Rabbi Shoshanah Conover March 22, 2016 Dear Shoshanah, So much is disturbing me lately, rousing me from whatever notion I possess of comfort and ease. This is especially true during the present political season where campaigns for the presidency of the United States are bringing out, what I consider to be the worst in human relations. But when …