Category Archives: Relationships

Do we Deserve our Kids?

Our tradition speaks at great lengths about filial obligations, the responsibilities of children to honor and revere their parents. Likewise, much is written about our obligations as parents to raise children properly, to teach them, and to prepare them for the world. But do we teach them Torah when we do not live it our selves? We do not teach them to build a better world but instead how to selfishly survive in it.

We offer them a world based on material gain, our nation withdrawing from its predominant place in the world, communal strife, a political system challenging the legitimacy of its fundamental institutions, and an economy that will burden them with almost intolerable crushing debt. We have not built a better world for them. And yet, these young people have galvanized in the wake of the Parkland horror. And that gives me hope. For even though we have not done right by them, they seek changes that will benefit us all.

Do we deserve our kids? That remains an open question until we begin to act as though they truly are the most prized things in our lives. We can start by supporting them in their efforts to address gun violence, this grievous wrong in our society that has murdered so many of them. Support them as they raise their voices, join them as they march in March. Help make the world they inherit better than what we have now.

 

 

 

 

 

Have a good day! (and please come home alive)

 

How many parents send their children off to school with this blessing?

The level of violence in our society is incomprehensible. It happens on so many levels but the most blatant manifestation is the tens of thousands of people who are murdered with guns. Seventeen children and teachers are the most recent victims, murdered in their school.

There is no single solution to the problem, but that cannot keep us from working hard to reduce violence and death. Mental Health issues may be at the heart of much of this, but there is an entire category called crimes of passion wherein people resort to guns when the rage is uncontrolled. But the mass murders of innocents such as children and teachers in school can only happen in a society that is content with permitting it. We cannot be complicit any longer.

We are responsible. We do not invest in adequate security for our schools, we do not invest in mental health professionals to help troubled people, we do not invest in systems to keep lethal weapons restricted, we do not ban weapons of mass destruction such as assault rifles.

We can blame feckless and craven Congressmen and State House representatives for inaction, but the ultimate responsibility is ours. If we do not demand action and accountability, these elected representatives devolve into pawns and lackeys. They will neglect the duties of their offices and work only to retain their offices by kowtowing to those with a particular political agenda and money to promote it.

Today we are reeling yet again at the tragedy in a Florida High School. But when we are finished burying the dead, we must galvanize the people to demand thoughtful action to address our horrific problem. There are important organizations advocating ways to reduce gun violence. Join them in their life-saving work.

 

 

Jethro, Ideal Father-in-Law and a man for our times

Jan_van_Bronchorst_-_Jethro_advising_Moses

Last week we read Parshat Yitro. It is filled with extraordinary things particularly the story of the title character Yitro and his interaction with Moses and the Children of Israel.

Yitro joins up with the people of the Exodus in support of their leader, his son-in-law Moses, if not in support of their journey to the Promised Land. I am taken by Jethro’s selflessness and righteousness.   For Jethro isn’t just any father-in-law, he is a priest of the Midianites. Arguably, his allegiance should be with his people, but Jethro never misunderstands that to mean he should undermine Moses.

It would be easy for Jethro to take advantage of the turmoil in B’nei Israel and steer them towards Midian, immigrants likely ready to offer their experience as slave labor in exchange for food, shelter, and security. Instead, he helps Moses organize a system that brings justice and order to the chaos, strengthening the fledgling institutions under Moses. Jethro remains in the background and not proselytizing, although he was likely a far better communicator than Moses. Finally, once Jethro shared all that he could teach Moses, he departed so that the leadership of Moses would not be challenged if people saw the power behind the power.

Jethro did not abuse his power. Indeed, he deftly manipulated his power into support of Moses. As a Midianite Priest, his worldviews and religion were different from the Children of Israel. However, he was respectful of the “other” and helped them flourish on their particular journey.

We can be different. My beliefs do not require a negation of your beliefs. We can co-exist, cooperate and even consider ourselves connected as part of a larger family. Not only a model father-in-law, Jethro is the model leader for civil pluralistic society for today as well.

The legacy of the Exodus

Crossing the Red Sea
by Yoram Raanan

We are in the midst of that transformational epic Jewish creation myth known as the Exodus. This is the beginning of the discussion of our core identity a God who has freed us from bondage so that we may serve. There is an inherent tension in this idea freedom and service juxtaposed. But also at play is our meaning relative to this Eternal One. When do we actually count? Are we only meaningful in a corporate existence in the arc of history, or do individuals matter?

The narrative begs the question by leading with being remembered after 210 years sojourning in Egypt. Then God remembers and 600thousand with their families are lead out. We cross into the wilderness and begin a two-week trek to the Promised Land that takes 40 years, a deliberate amount of time so that the entire generation that was freed will not survive to reach their goal. What about those poor souls who suffered during 210 years of deteriorating conditions in Egypt? What about those poor souls who would have found satisfaction with enough food to eat and water to drink and would have returned to bondage just for those basic needs? There are many who did not make it along the way. What about them?

For so many of us, living in this new Promised Land came at the expense of untold millions who suffered harsh lives and died ignominious deaths at human hands that practiced hate. How do we remember them properly, with respect and the knowledge that were it not for them, we would not be here. Can we simply say “there but for the grace of God Go I” that we are merely the lucky ones? Aren’t we compelled to practice an active gratitude acknowledging and cherishing those who have come before to make our lives possible and using our blessings and positions to help those who continue to struggle, who have not experienced full redemption? Our tradition suggests that it is our responsibility, not God’s.

When we say goodbye to someone we grieve the loss as we should.   The tradition says Zichrono Livracha- May their memory be a blessing. Our task is to fulfill this aspiration and continue to journey.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy New Year

This Shabbat we read Parsha Vayechi, closing the Book of Genesis. This coincides with the end of the secular year 2017. The religious and secular realms share something else as well; we immediately move forward into the Book of Exodus and seamlessly, 2018 starts.

Exodus’s incredible story awaits its unfolding. And if only based on the events of the past year, we anticipate 2018 will be filled with things that will both challenge us and have a far-ranging impact upon us. How we respond will also have a great effect on the future as well.

We end Genesis, as with every book of Torah, with the traditional closing: “Hazak, Hazak, v’nitchazek! Be strong and together we shall be strengthened!”

May we live 2018 energized with the courage of our convictions and move forward together. May 2018 be a year of blessings for us all, in which we work toward creating a legacy worthy of the next generation.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy New Year!

To a wonderful 2018

Hard to get where you are going if you don’t know where you are

And you cant know where you are if you don’t know where you’ve been.

 

As aphorisms go, mine needs some work, but I hope you get the gist of it. We are ourselves links in a chain and our life journey is similar. The things we learn along the way shape us. Knowing our past helps us understand our present; who we are and how we connect with others. And that helps us take the next steps on our journey.

Our Legacy is not merely an Ethical Will we leave behind, it is the product of our life experiences. Let’s spend some time during 2018 embracing this idea and using it to understand how better to connect and create more meaningful relationships.

 

A year-end message from Rabbi David Levin

Thank you for your support. Since our launch, Jewish Relationships Initiative has connected with thousands. It is an astounding number and I am deeply gratified that our message of Helping Seekers find Meaning using Jewish Wisdom has been successful for so many. But we have so much more to do. It is an ongoing process. New people are always welcome to connect so they can continue on their journey. Veterans of our site come and go as they find the need. Jewish Relationships Initiative is committed to the personal connections we make and the connections we make to community.

We thank you for your support and ask that you donate to Jewish Relationships Initiative so we can continue to do our important outreach work Helping Seekers find Meaning. Please click on the Donate button to help us in our work.

Todah M’rosh,

Rabbi David