Tag Archives: Jew

Timelessness our Eternal Journey

 

The Twelve Tribes by Yoram Raanan

The recent New York Times article We aren’t built to live in the moment by Martin Seligman and John Tierney proposes that it is humankind’s ability to contemplate the future that makes us unique as a species. This insightful article comes as we begin the book of BaMidbar. BaMidbar is our story in the Wilderness, a place of infinite beauty and discovery, a place where time seems to stand still. How timely is it that we read this article and this Parsha come together this week and we witness Torah’s expansiveness.

 

We are often thought of as the “People of the Book,” which often is interpreted to mean that we are also a people of memory. These memories have been codified and handed down for generations to help us with issues of meaning and morality. An extraordinary part of our journey is recounted in the book of Numbers, BaMidbar. The opening parashah starts with a census. Through the census, we are taking stock of who we are. The counting itself is based on the past, coming together into one place in preparation for moving forward under God’s guidance.

This melding of our past, present and future parallels our conception of God. The Tetragrammaton, YHVH, the four letter name we use for God is understood as a timeless representation of the Eternal One, embodying the past, the present, and the future.

All is intertwined. And that is part of the extraordinary wisdom of Judaism. Past, present, and future are inextricably bound together. We cannot understand who we are or begin to ask the deeper question, why we are until we comprehend that our past, our present, and our future all inform us. We cannot fully exist without these three pillars. It is they together that create our meaning, our context. The hope of Olam Haba, the World to Come, is a vision that we see in the present based on the place from which we have come. Past, present and future unified. BaMidbar is part of the unfolding story of our people, timeless like our God.

Shabbat Bereshit- In Beginning

set_martin_luther_king_quote5

Shabbat Bereshit, takes its name from the first word of Torah. Be-Reshit means “In Beginning.” In Beginning creation, God looked to fundamental principles upon which to build. We remember this as we read from the first Parasha of the Torah that takes its name from the first word and guides us forward in our journey.

 How interesting that we begin this journey observing Shabbat Bereshit juxtaposed against preparations around our country for a two-day Global Anti-Islam protest. A group of armed protesters will spew hatred for an entire religion and its billions of adherents because of the actions of a radical distortion of Islam by a barbarous hateful sect. Are these the principles upon which our country is founded?

 We can be a voice that rejects unbridled radical hatred. Our principles, our Beginning, as Jews and Americans command us to do better. Shabbat Bereshit compels us to look deep within ourselves and examine the core principles we will use in our creation building the world we would hope it should be.

 Catch up with the conversation on Twitter and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1712773322284720

 Shabbat Shalom

I support the Iran Agreement.

I support the Iran Agreement.

 I believe this agreement is in the best interests of the United States, Israel and to promote peace. I have read the agreement. I have carefully listened to the analyses presented by those in favor of the deal, those against the deal and those without an agenda but trying to understand the deal.

 The deal comes with substantial complications. Compliance requires the ongoing monitoring and vigilance of the IAEA, the UN and signers to the agreement particularly the United States. And we must be ready to enforce compliance with action in the event that Iran does not live up to all the obligations of the agreement (i.e., cheat). Iran remains an adversary to both the United States and Israel. We still have much work to do to thwart Iranian plans against the US and Israel.   I welcome President Obama’s offer to further enhance Israel’s defenses. Ultimately, there is the possibility to bring Iran into the community of nations. That will take time and immense effort and is far from assured. However with all that, we have through this agreement taken away Iran’s access to a nuclear device.

 I share this for two reasons. First, this is a considered decision on my part based on a deep love of country, both the United States and Israel. I believe the agreement sets out to do what it is intended to do. It is the best agreement we can achieve. The alternatives to this agreement are appreciably worse.

 Second, the legitimate differences in our opinions, even deeply held beliefs we have, should not destroy our community. The rifts in our community are getting deeper and the vitriol is terribly destructive. I hope that we can disagree with each other’s considered opinions without losing respect or fomenting hatred of another person because of their opinions. So I reach out to my community with the hopes that we can respectfully disagree with each other but remain committed to each other. We are Klal Yisrael only as long as we believe in that vision and work to achieve it.

Shalom

Shalom-

 This Shabbat I urge us to commit ourselves to civility and decorum. The debate on Iran is extremely important to us, as Americans and as Jews, and discussion should be be robust. But we are standing at a crossroads. This conversation can quickly deteriorate. We cannot allow ourselves to be ripped apart by internecine hatreds. We remain Klal Yisrael only when we choose to be so. Let us argue ideas passionately, but let us not argue against each other. Even when we come from a place of strong conviction about the Iran deal, there remains room for multiple ideas without the need to vilify those who hold other views.

 There is too much at stake here, Shalom for the world and Shalom Bayit, peace within the House of Israel.

Shabbat Shalom

The Chain of Tradition Continues if we are a Solid Link

 A meaningful connection between our elder generations of age 50+ and our synagogues has profound implications in keeping our tradition vibrant and alive. Active embrace of these cohorts is a key to Jewish continuity and enriching succeeding generations. We can accomplish this provided we are prepared to actively engage them in our tradition.

 We are inheritors of a great tradition. Accumulated wisdom and insight has been passed from one generation to the next, being revised and revived at each step along the way. We view ourselves as links in a sacred chain. As we have received the tradition, we too shall pass it on. This is the Shalshelet HaKabbalah. But transferring our legacy is not automatic. But it is a challenge however to pass on the values successfully since the next generation often speaks a different language and lives within a different culture.

 The synagogue has traditionally been a part of this process. But as choices continue to open up to us in our modern society, expressions of meaning and community do not necessarily happen by joining synagogues. We can seek meaning and community elsewhere. And so we see the Baby Boomer generation leaving synagogues and their children not joining.   We can still connect however through actively embracing those who remain connected and most visibly need us, namely the elder cohort, dubbed “The Longevity Generation” by Rabbi Richard Address. We can offer access to community and meaning-making that clearly demonstrates the value of Jewish community in connection to a synagogue. The Shalshelet HaKabbalah or Chain of Tradition is a model that still works as an expression of continuity and community but only if we fully embrace it.

 The Longevity Generation is in the greatest need of the services and community that we offer. Teaching, pastoral care, community and social engagement, end of life care including hospital visits; hospice and end of life life-cycle events are all important services to this age group. If we give this generation all that they need, providing a rich and meaningful engagement with Judaism, they are not the sole beneficiaries; the value flows to their adult children as well. Further, this is not limited to current synagogue members. It can be an effective outreach to the older unaffiliated as well. It is an investment of time and caring that might yield dividends.

 The significance of our service and community support is understood and appreciated by the Boomers through the meaning we give their parents and the burden we help to share through our caring presence.   As the Boomers live through this experience they hopefully are drawn into it, provided caregivers, the congregation, and we the rabbis purposefully reach out to them while we are reaching out to their parents. Besides the support we provide the elder generation directly, we can help facilitate the often-difficult conversations that need to occur, from ethical wills and end of life decisions, to the shift away from independence to more dependent forms of living and the sharing of personal stories and family history as legacy. We invite the Boomers to be a part of a caring community and continue the conversations with us, others like them and hopefully those who have yet to experience these important transitions.

 Through helping the Longevity Generation we help and embrace the Boomer Generation who experience the value of Jewish Community. This understanding inclines them to share the meaning that they have known. In this context of values and community, the Boomers can be prompted to reframe the congregation experience from one of obsolete Institutional membership to a relational community of belonging.

 Our elders have much to teach us. Beyond learning their wisdom, we can also learn about our own humanity through the sacred service I describe. Our elders are valuable and important parts of who we are. The Longevity Generation deserves our honor and respect. As we engage in these behaviors of lifting them up, the integral and vital values of Judaism are naturally transferred to the next generation.

Hazak Hazak v’nitchazek

We are strong and together we are strengthened.

On a Mission to Israel

I have the privilege of traveling to Israel with other community rabbis on a mission sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. I am excited to see the many landscapes: political, civic, social and to witness the wonderful work that Federation supports and makes possible through our contributions.

I am looking forward to meeting with MKs and other representatives of the Government and NGOs to learn about the very real challenges that exist in Israel today. I am also expecting to measure what I see against what I saw in the midst of the war almost one year ago during my last mission of support.

I will keep you posted.

The Real Benjamin Netanyahu

 One of the things that made Benjamin Netanyahu and others like him a powerful and persuasive Israeli voice in the US was that he was like us.

Netanyahu was schooled in the US. He spoke unaccented American English and he knew the idioms. He sounded like us. He looked like us and dressed like us. He was one of us. Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to us as a cultured sophisticated erudite person with western sensitivities. He could have come from Philadelphia as easily as from Tel Aviv.

He seemed one of us, that is until now.

 The breach of protocol in accepting the invitation to speak before Congress, the lecturing of the American people and the chastising of the American President before the Congress have created tears in the fabric of the US-Israeli relationship that at this moment seem difficult to repair. No, Bibi Netanyahu is not one of us, nor does he speak for us. In fact he has helped create a rift in the Jewish community while helping to further politicize US domestic politics.

 At this juncture, the best remedy to this situation seems to be a new Prime Minister who can rebuild what has been damaged. This goes beyond the personal issues between the two men occupy the offices of Prime Minister and President. Any future American President will not forget Mr. Netanyahu affront to the office by inserting himself into the American political system. It is hard to imagine how Mr. Netanyahu would be the best leader representing Israel in this critical alliance either now or in 2016 and beyond.