A Yom Kippur confession: as many of the readings in our new Machzor demonstrate, I don’t believe life-changing wisdom is limited to Jewish sources. As the ancient rabbis declared, Torah was given to the Jewish people but wisdom was given to all people. (Midrash Lamentations Rabbah 2:13) I am not just speaking about Shakespeare or various modern poets. I am …
Before I begin this evening, I’d like to ask a favor. If you have a watch on, smart, analog, digital, or, what may be more common in 2015, are sitting next to someone with a watch on, take note of the time. According to my watch it is (LOOK AT WATCH!) …. Just keep note of the start time for now, and we’ll return to it at the close of my words this evening. OK, now I can really begin.
A story: There once lived a king much beloved by his subjects. He ruled a little kingdom tucked away in a corner of Europe.
One day an army came and overran the castle, making off with half the treasury. The king decided he had to increase taxes to make up for his losses, and called in one of his wise courtiers to ask how to tell the people the news without inciting a revolt.
I sat in a bit of a daze in a small, packed church in Cheraw, South Carolina on the evening of August 27, 2015. Full from a dinner prepared lovingly by volunteers in a local community center, comfortable in the air-conditioning, I struggled to keep my eyes open for this NAACP Mass Meeting. After a few brief welcomes, the small choir began:
The Talmud (BT Gittin 55b-56a) records a fascinating but very relevant debate between the Rabbinic leaders and Rabbi Zechaiah b. Abkulas. It occurred in 66 BCE when Judea was under Roman control. Bar Kamza, a Jew, felt slighted by Judea’s Rabbinic and political leadership and was determined to avenge this insult. He thus informed Emperor Nero that the Jews were not loyal subjects and as proof he proposed that Nero send a calf to be sacrificed as a gift offering in the Temple. Bar Kamza delivered the calf but not before he had made a slight cut on its lip that the Jews regarded as a blemish but not the Romans.
This blog is based on a Dvar Torah that I shared with my Hartman Cohort last Shabbat. It feels even more relevant on this Shabbat just before Tisha B’Av that begins on Saturday evening.
This week’s blog brought to you by Rabbi Shoshanah Conover and Orr Shalom (Temple Sholom Youth Group) Social Action Chair Sydney Baer
In the second of this week’s double Torah Portion, Matot-Masei, we read the recounting of the Israelites’ journey through 42 stations on their trek toward Israel. Many commentators puzzle over why the Torah enumerates each of these stops—some of them preferring to simply dismiss this enumeration as superfluous. Yet, as sixteen year-old Sydney Baer has become part of our family in Israel, joining us in Jerusalem as our babysitter, we have realized the importance of recounting the minor moments in our days that accumulate into one powerful experience. While many of the places recounted in the last parashah in the Book of Numbers are ones of strife, we have taken the time to recount the moments of joy and appreciation in our own journey. We hope you will enjoy reading about some of these moments and what we’ve learned from them.
This week at Hartman, we took our exploration of Justice outside of the classroom and into Israeli society. Some colleagues went to south Tel Aviv to learn more about the issue of African Asylum Seekers. Others focused on the inclusion of the physically and mentally challenged in Israel. I went to the town of Kiryat Gat (Chicago’s sister region through JUF) to find out more about the issues that the Ethiopian Jewish community continues to confront. This seemed especially relevant after the protests of racism by the Ethiopian community in Tel Aviv which coincided with the protests of racism in Baltimore. http://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-failed-ethiopian-community-president-says-at-memorial/
My time this summer at the Shalom Hartman Institute as a fellow in the 5th Cohort of the Rabbinic Leadership Initiative has been alive and inspired by the famous phrase by the prophet Micah in this week’s haftarah:
What does Adonai require of you?
I have just returned from spending time in our nation’s capital with 2500 people, many but not all Jews, and quite a number of them diplomats and representatives of more than thirty nations. A number of Temple Sholom members were in attendance. The Chicago contingent from the AJC local chapter numbered more than one hundred!