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Vayera

Vayera

By Melissa Berenbaum, October 27, 2018

Shabbat Shalom! This Parsha is rich, substantial and significant. There are many important topics to be discussed. I could talk about faith…. the Akeda, how Abraham seemed willing to sacrifice Isaac, and believed that God had a purpose and reason for tasking him with this unfathomable directive. I could talk about leadership… and demand for justice …. Abraham’s challenge of God’s intent to destroy Soddom and Gemorah.

But I have another subject in which to take a deeper dive. I want to talk about kindness and acting Godly.

The parsha opens with Abraham at home recovering from his circumcision. He is sitting at the entrance of his tent. Commentators note that he was sitting at the entrance to look out for travelers who made need some rest and water.

But the day was a particularly hot one. Rabbi Chama Bar Haninah wrote that God made it hot, too hot to travel, so that Abraham would not have his rest and recovery interrupted by hosting visitors.

God visits Abraham on this hot day, maybe to check in that his recovery is progressing? Or to show him honor for carrying out the commandment of circumcision.

Nevertheless, Abraham spots three strangers, and despite God’s presence and his own ailment, he runs to greet the strangers. Imagine turning your back on God to go greet strangers? You’re in the middle of a conversation with God, some strangers appear and you tell God to hit the pause button? This is rather extraordinary. Rabbi Shraga Simmons in analyzing these verses, writes, “There is an experience even greater than talking to God. To be like God. Human beings are created in the image of God. God is a giver. Thus, giving is our greatest form of spiritual expression.“

Acknowledging the profound moment, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes: The idolaters of Abraham’s time worshiped the sun, the stars and the forces of nature as gods. They worshiped power and the powerful. Abraham knew, however, that God is not in nature, but beyond nature. There is only one thing in the universe on which God has set God’s image: the human person, every person, powerful and powerless alike.”

Aaron of Karlin taught that when we turn our attention from God to tend to the needs of people, we do God’s will. Conversely, God is not pleased when we place such a great focus on God that we ignore needy human beings.

You may be questioning why I am focused on this message of the parsha. After all, we at the Library Minyan are very welcoming, we have a greeter each Shabbat, we have many programs to include many people. We arrange Shabbat hospitality. We have already taken this lesson to heart.

But I am going to challenge us to act in an even more Godly way with our fellow congregants. We need to make sure that all our Library Minyaners have access to our service in every physical manifestation. We don’t have a large space, whether it’s the Dorff Nelson or Adelson. We don’t have wide aisles. We have to cram in as many chairs as we possibly can. This makes it extraordinarily challenging when someone with a walker or wheelchair enters our prayer space. We need to make room and offer assistance to those who are less able than we. It means if you are sitting by the door or on an aisle, you need to give up your seat. Think of yourself as Abraham, leaving his own tent to greet the strangers and offer them what they needed on a hot travel day.

We also don’t have great acoustics and we have among us those who are hard of hearing. And we recognize that there are also among us, those who don’t use electricity on Shabbat. But as Abraham turned away from his conversation with God to serve strangers, we must give everyone access to every part of our service and that means the use of a sound system and microphone. I will be working with the Steering Committee in the coming weeks to address the regular use of a microphone and speakers so that all of our congregants can partake of the service, while accommodating those who don’t use electricity. And we will bring it back to the Minyan for implementation.

And there is another way in which we can act like Abraham and embody the qualities of God. In the next verses, Abraham invites the strangers for rest and water. He offers to get them a morsel of bread and then runs to find Sarah and asks her to prepare cake with the choice flour. He then ran to the cattle shed, chose a calf and asked his servant to prepare. And there were other refreshments for the strangers. Similarly, we are blessed with Kiddush and refreshments following our Shabbat service. For some, this may be their main meal of the day, and perhaps the bulk of their provisions for the week. Let us offer assistance to those who need help in sharing in our abundance. Lend them a helping hand when they cut in line. There is plenty to feed us all and for some it may be vital sustenance.

We come to shul each Shabbat to talk to God, to pray. That is mitzvah, of course. But perhaps we need to turn away from that mitzvah sometimes to do another mitzvah and assist a congregant or someone who may be visiting our community.

Abraham turned away from God to see the face of God in the strangers; we must see the face of God in each and every one of our fellow Library Minyaners and know when we accommodate them, we are acting Godly.

Shabbat Shalom.

Noach

Noach

By Judy Weintraub, October 13, 2018

The Window- TSOhar- 6:16 The word for window, Chalon, is attested 31 times in the TANACH.        TSOHAR? EXACTLY 1 time

In fact a few chapters later the word chalon is mentioned in reference to letting out the raven

Baal Shem Tov: no sun and no moon… there was no external light! This opening then, must be referring to a different kind of light – a spiritual light

 Each of us to Hashem  we must take that step –in all 3 situations- (PS 118 Min HaMetzr) Karati Ya
Our light upward… Hashem’s light down to us

Each of us to community
Our light to each other as individuals. Allowing our light to shine
Our light to our community… Our communities light to us

SOS program Rabbi .Efrem Goldberg Sr Rabbi at Boca Raton synag, FL believes so much in Community and Clal Yisrael that he has a full-time Rabbi doing outreach work through various projects one of those projects – Share One Shabbos. In this program members are asked to open their homes to people they don’t know or they don’t know well twice a year. There is no better way to build community than to share a meal in a warm and welcoming home

Each of us to the world  beyond our comfort zone-universality of R Kook, amodel for us – didn’t just see those with similar beliefs, supported Zionists, felt they had a very important function as part of the whole

SPECIFICATIONS – God gives explicit instructions-details are not random
Mishkan—-Beit Hamigdash—-TEIVA

Rabbi Avraham IBN Ezra-12th cent Spanish philosopher, biblical commentator poet: Place where the LIGHT comes from -a ladder was needed to reach it- not so readily accessible- beyond automatic reach- need to expend energy —but always open-

 Opening in the shape of a triangle- 1 measure wide on the top and 6 measures wide on the bottom. A triangle with a solid base- where else do we see that triangle- the Mogen David- with the midrash of humanity striving upward to know God by doing Mitzvot

Here to complete CREATION- but can’t do that w/o light that comes from TZOHAR.

RASHI: Tsohar=  WINDOW & PRECIOUS STONE RADIATING- access to the light coming in to us- our openness to sending our light outside
LIGHT within LIGHT               LIGHT within  DARK

Is it more challenging to see the light when times are blessed- to keep in mind the source of the blessing to remain grateful and humble- to understand the connectedness of humanity and to share the blessings with others

And let’s look at the DARK

RABBI ELIE MINK: Call of the Torah comb  classic commentary, Kabbalistic thought and his own insights.- offers his own thoughts

USING THE LIGHT FROM WITHIN TO ILLUMINATE THE DARKNESS

Another twist: Seeing the light and being open to it uplifting you—EMUNAH=faith
REB NACHMAN of Bretzlov, Aleph Bet Book—SEFER HAMIDOT
A14: Gazing at the sky when it is clear and bright will bring you to faith in the Rabbis (as the Rabbis)

REMEMBER: The window is the opening from the narrow space to the BIG space

Aviva Zornberg describes the Ark as a small enclosed safe space – Why a window if heading into a huge storm-Why do we need that window?

Window allows light to come in us and for light to go out and for us to see out and interpret – a communication between the internal and external world

Midrash Tanhuma:
Noach’s prayer was release my soul from enclosure: our souls can be caught in all kinds of enclosures

WE NEED THAT WINDOW! We need to find, as Zornburg says, our OBJECTIVE reality and our optimal place within it.

REB Nachman of Bretslov offers this beautiful drash on the opening-
Our Bodies- our souls- our essence within our dwellings-within our TEIVAH- we have the challenge of constructing our lives- we are challenged to create a WINDOW for our ark- to allow light in –to let ours flow thru- to make a space for our dove to fly out – to maintain a flow of communication between ourselves and with God, with those we love, with our community, & with the world – to use OUR TSOhar- our precious stone – OUR source of LIGHT-

The window is not just there, but ours to CREATE- it is part of our free will to do it or not- it doesn’t just happen passively- From the Torah we are given the wisdom- TSOHAR TA’ASEH L’TEVAH–AN OPENING shall you create-may we all create our tsohar – our window- our precious stone that RADIATES LIGHT and may we use it well

Shabbat Sukkot

Shabbat Sukkot

By Ilana Grinblat, Sept 29, 2018

Shabbat Shalom. Moadim L’simchah.

On Sunday, we bought our schach for our sukkah and put it in my car. The schach hung out through the right side of my car, such that Tal had to drive on the left hand side of the street, and I was thinking: Wow we have such a weird religion! Weird in the best possible sense of the term – wacky, wonderful religion. We built the beautiful sukkah, and decorated it with new lights. Zman Simchatenu, The time of our joy had come. But the world didn’t get the memo.

World: Is that too much to ask? To have one week of joy and peace?!!

Last year, the day before Sukkot was the Vegas shooting. This year the Kavannaugh hearings. To me, this was a deeply painful week.

I wish I could give a light sermon today – on the symbolism of the lulav in our wild and wacky tradition. Instead, I need to address the following questions:

What does our tradition have to say about sexual assault and harassment?

The bigger question – which I can’t yet answer, as events are still unfolding – is what message do the events of this week – and the next week going to send to the young people of our country? What are we to make what is happening in our country?

There are two stories from our tradition which inform what I want to say:

1) The Talmud (Shabbat 31a) recounts about a gentile who wanted to convert to Judaism, but would only accept Judaism if a rabbi would teach him the entire Torah while he stood on one foot.

First he went to Shammai, who refused to answer this odd request. The man then approached Hillel, who said:

“What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the commentary—go and study it!”

I love Hillel’s answer. However, I would have responded to that question slightly differently. I would have answered with Genesis 1:27: And God created humanity in the image of God:

וַיִּבְרָא אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאָדָם בְּצַלְמוֹ בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים בָּרָא אֹתוֹ זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה בָּרָא אֹתָם

 If you understand the idea that human beings are created in the image of God, then you understand how to treat other people and how not to treat them.

This principle means that while there are gradations of offences, there should be no such thing as excusing behavior “boys will be boys.” There should be no behavior that treats someone as other than in the image of God. All sexual assault and harassment treats someone as not in the image of God.

2) The second story is from Bereshit Rabbah. When God was about to create first person, he was surrounded by angels who offered different options, some for and some against creating humanity.

The angel Lovingkindness was in favor of humanity being created, and said, “People will perform many acts of lovingkindness.” The angel of Truth argued against creating humanity, saying, “People will be full of lies.” The angel Righteousness was in favor since people would be capable of doing acts righteousness. Angel of Peace was opposed, because people will be full of strife.

What did God do? God took truth and threw it down so that it broke into many pieces, so that the vote would be 2 to1 in favor of creation, and then God created humanity.

This past year and the last few weeks, the truth really took a beating, but in other, powerful ways, people picked up the broken pieces of truth from the ground and at great risk to themselves, spoken deep, painful truths about their experiences.

When I asked myself leading up to the holidays, who has inspired me the most this past year, the first on I wrote on my list of inspirational people was anyone who spoke their truth about sexual assault and harassment this past year.

This was particularly inspiring to me because it was in such stark contrast with the silence and shame that surrounded this topic when I was younger.

I am from Maryland, the same area as Dr. Ford and though she’s a bit older than me, I am basically from that time and from that place.

In college, my closest friend at the time was date raped. She didn’t tell me at first. She didn’t tell anyone. She said something vague on the phone and I asked a question which led her to me. Since she didn’t report the rape immediately, she had no evidence and no witnesses. I supported her through the process of whether to report it. I was gently encouraging her to report it, but she decided not to. She knew that if she did report it, she would be interrogated, etc. She had been through one trauma and didn’t want to go through another one.

Although we’ve been out of touch lately, I called my friend this week, as because I though the President’s statement would surely be hurtful to her. To me, one of the most painful moments of the past week was when the President indicated that if what happened to Dr. Ford was so bad, then she or her parents would have reported it at the time.

Incidentally, I also called my best friend from high school this week, just as we always do this time of year, to say Shanah Tovah, and she mentioned that she had also been in a situations where she barely got away, but didn’t report, because she thought there was nothing to report since nothing occurred. She now understands that attempted assault is a category worth reporting but didn’t have that vocabulary at the time.

If talking about this issue from a Jewish perspective, we have to wrestle with the idea of Shalom Bayit, and ask about how this concept has been applied in these types of situations. Shalom Bayit us a wonderful idea in Judaism of peace in the household. I’m in favor of this idea. Sometimes this concept is used to withhold some information for the sake of peace in the house. For example, maybe we don’t have to tell daddy that we broke that plate unless he notices. Or maybe we don’t have to tell daddy that you drew in magic marker of the floor, since we succeeded in cleaning it up for the sake of shalom bayit.

Yet, when the concept of Shalom bayit become problematic when it is applied in cases of sexual assault and harassment. For example: when I was 15, I went to visit relatives and while there we visited distant relatives. While there, the father in the family that we were visiting would say inappropriate sexual things to me and make gestures when others left the room, but stop when other returned into the room. When we left, I confided in a female relative that I was staying with. She said: ‘let’s not tell anyone because it’ll ruin their marriage. I was relieved by this answer at the time.

However in retrospect, I wonder: were we really helping them by keeping quiet? They did eventually get divorced. Were we really helping them by delaying that? Did that silence foster shalom bayit or just the appearance of shalom which prevents true shalom from immerging? With this silence and millions of other silences like it, were we unwittingly helping to contribute to the proliferation of such behavior by keeping it from having consequences?

In Ecclesiastes, it states that “there is a time for silence and a time for talking.” We’ve tried a lot of silence on this topic and it hasn’t served us well. Now is the time for talking.

To me, there a measure of simchah (joy) and inspiration from the piercing of the silence on this issue over the past year. During Dr Ford’s testimony, calls to the sexual assault hotline rose 150 percent which is positive. I’m afraid that the events of this week and of the coming week may contribute to the increase in that silence, but I hope that it will inspire others to share their truths, no matter how painful. This sukkot, I find myself torn between fear and hope.

My sukkot wish is that next year I hope that the world gets the memo. I hope that next year, we get a sukkot which is less painful, where I can give you a light, uplifting drash about the meaning of the lulav in our wacky, wonderful tradition. This year, Right now, I pray that every person REALLY gets and internalizes the memo – the Memo which says:

וַיִּבְרָא אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאָדָם בְּצַלְמוֹ בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים בָּרָא אֹתוֹ זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה בָּרָא אֹתָם

God created humanity – male and female in the image of God. The rest is commentary, and let us say Amen.

Practicing Teshuvah — RH 5779

RH 5779: Practicing Teshuvah

By Gordon Bernat-­Kunin
I. Setting the stage: Questionable Teshuvah

A. After creating millions of fraudulent accounts on behalf of its clients and having been fined over a billion dollars, Wells Fargo created a commercial in May, 2018 , entitled “Earning Back Your ” Here’s how Rolling Stone Magazine summarized it:

We know the value of trust. We were built on it. Back when the country went west for gold, we were the ones who carried it back east…

A rugged cowboy nods in agreement. Then: a montage of horses and locomotives and steamships, before we zoom into the prosperous future with stills from the happy ’70s and ’80s:

Over the years, we built on that trust. We always found the way…

…Until we lost it.

Fixing what went wrong. Making things right. And ending product sales goals for branch bankers. So we can focus on your satisfaction… It’s a new day at Wells Fargo [Asian child gives low­five to African­American female bank employee]. But it’s a lot like our first day [Wells Fargo coach barreling across the plains, horses, etc]…

Wells Fargo. Established 1852. Re­established 2018.

B. A second case:

Following Facebook’s debacle with Cambridge Analytica­­the company created the following ad.

We created Facebook to help people get together, and when we did…

We felt a little less alone [heart emoji!]…

But then something happened.

We had to deal with spam, clickbait, fake news and data misuse [angry face emoji]…

That’s going to change. From now on, Facebook will do more to keep you safe and protect your privacy.” When this place does what it was built for, then we all get a little closer.

C. Finally, by contrast, compare the case of Starbucks:

When a Starbucks manager in Philadelphia called the police to arrest two black men for trespassing, Starbucks acknowledged that its training and policies were inadequate, and then flew its CEO Kevin Johnson and chairman Howard Schultz to Philadelphia to meet with the men and with civil-rights leaders in Philadelphia. In a video speech, its CEO offered a personal apology. “To the gentlemen who were arrested in the store­­what happened was reprehensible.

They didn’t deserve this. I am accountable. There will be changes to policy, and training around unconscious racial bias. The company announced it was closing down thousands of stores throughout the country (costing 12+million) as an initial afternoon of training.

D.  Now let’s compare two fairly similar approaches to teshuvah:

Amy Morin is a psychotherapist and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do­­In a recent article in Forbes, she describes six key components of an effective apology:

  1. Expression of regret
  2. Explanation of what went wrong
  3. Acknowledgement of responsibility
  4. Declaration of repentance
  5. Offer of repair
  6. Request for forgiveness

In his Laws of Teshuvah, Maimonides describes four dimensions and six paths of teshuvah:

  1. first, awareness and
  2. second, for all sins, one must confess before God; sins against one’s fellow require confessing before others and detailing specific
  3. third, one must cease sinning and repay debts. Then, appease the injured and ask for forgiveness. In addition, teshuvah requires paths to inner change, the first of which is crying out to
  4. finally, Complete teshuvah­­the sinner is in the same situation, with opportunity, capacity, and desire, and doesn’t repeat the sin out of ..

The primary difference between these two approaches is clearly the role of God in teshuvah. In the daily Amidah, we express our vulnerability when we ask God to help us turn to God’s Torah and God’s Service in complete teshuvah. Teshuvah is not only an act of self-mastery or self-overcoming (bildung). It is also an acknowledgement of dependence. In Buber’s language, every act of teshuvah involves both will and grace.

E. How do the Wells­ Fargo and Facebook commercials measure up against these categories of teshuvah? Not so well. Listening to the Wells­Fargo and Facebook ads, it is difficult to push past cynicism, to dan l’caf zchut (judge favorably). One could say they are truly striving to renew themselves as in days of old, struggling to re­capture sources of value and vision gone You can imagine different voices in a theatre or board room in which the desire to recover one’s path vies with the marketing department and the business department and the legal department. One could say the ads mirror a battle within the human soul or they co­opt the very process of teshuvah.

II.  Two types of Teshuvah

1. For a meaning junky (like myself), every holiday has its imperative, the thing that challenges us to grow, prompting The imperative of these Days of Awe, the Yamim Noraim, is teshuvah, which induces us to shvitz­­by turning up the spiritual temperature.

Here’s another way of characterizing Jewish holidays. They create contexts or containers for fulfilling core Jewish and human needs. They create opportunities, based on the collective wisdom and experience of the Jewish people, to connect to God, others, and oneself.

2. The spiritual opportunity and demand of the Yammim Noraim is When I speak of teshuvah, I mean two things­­

  1. first, RIGHTING PAST WRONGS­­looking backwards (reactively) to repair previous sins, re­aligning broken relationships with others, oneself, and
  2. And, second, RECREATING ONE’S FUTURE­­ building proactively upon previous flaws, and embracing a vision of what could be in order to refine ourselves and repair the

For the remainder of this drash, let’s explore both types of teshuvah.

3. Particularly during this time of year, we reflect upon those we have hurt, misled, failed to support or betrayed–including Out of apprehension, fear, or shame, we avoid confrontation, rationalize and procrastinate, knowing full well that doing so hardens our hearts and deforms our souls. Each failure to risk teshuvah recalls Parker Palmer’s haunting admonition : Don’t conspire in your own diminution.

4. The 19th Century Hasidic master, the Sfat Emet comments on the following verse from Lamentations (see above­­thanks to Wanda): Hashiveynu Hashem Elechah v’nashuva (Eicha 5:21) Return us to you God, and we shall return.” According to the Sfat Emet, the terms Hashiveynu (return us) and v’nashuva (and we will return) refer to two different types of teshuvah­­one which springs from fear and one which springs from

The first type is reactive­­repairing, with God’s help, previous sins, ­­The second type is proactive­­ pursuing good and embracing God or godliness.

A.  Righting Past Wrongs
  1. TRANSITION: Let’s start with the first type of teshuvah–the type which responds to previous

One of Maimonides’ key dimensions of teshuvah is that the offender must appease the injured party and ask for forgiveness.

Now, I’m not sure where I first learned the practice, but for many years I have recited the following formula to family, friends, and sometimes colleagues: If in the past year, I have offended you or hurt you in any way, intentionally or unintentionally, I ask your forgiveness. Some reply, quoting from Bamidbar and the Yom Kippur liturgy: salachti kidvarecha. I forgive you as you have requested,. The practice attempts to enable those seeking forgiveness to confess offenses and achieve a clean slate before YK.

Now, imagine if I were to ask you–somewhat mechanically– to forgive me for anything I have done intentionally or unintentionally during the past year, and you were to reply: Well, actually, you put me in a a bit of a tight spot.  It’s a lot to respond to.

But come to think of it–I’m immensely glad you asked. Actually, I have been keeping a rather robust list in my phone. Here are 12 or 13 things which I would like to unpack with you.

2. Searching for the origins of this forgiveness formula, I began with Mishnah Yoma:

For transgressions between man and God, Yom HaKippurim effects atonement, but for transgressions between man and his fellow, Yom HaKippurim does not effect atonement, until he has pacified his fellow..

What the Mishnah doesn’t answer is: How does one pacify or appease one’s fellow?

Maimonides, connecting appeasement with forgiveness also leaves the content of how to ask forgiveness open:

In his MISHNEH TORAH, Hilchot Teshuvah 2:9-10, Maimonides writes:

Although he makes monetary restitution, he is obliged to pacify him and to beg his forgiveness…If his neighbor refuses,, he should bring a committee of three friends to implore and beg of him to forgive him (up to 3 times) We will come back to the Mishnah and Maimonides’ analysis shortly.

3. The closest I came to discovering a version of my asking for forgiveness formula was on-line:

First, on a site called “The Yeshiva World,” someone posted this rather expansive request for forgiveness:

I would like say to everyone here­ Please forgive me for anything that I may have said that caused any of you to be embarrassed, upset, hurt, annoyed, or (get this) anything less than happy, directly or indirectly. I sincerely apologize for it. And I absolutely forgive anyone here for anything they may have said that caused me any of the above feelings.

Please be mochel (forgiving) for everything.

(As an aside, on what some might consider a humorous note: the Artscroll siddur’s Bedtime prayer has a similar formula in which the person going to sleep grants every Jew forgiveness not only for intentional and unintentional sins, but for sins committed in this transmigration (gilgul) or other transmigrations.)

Like the Wells-Fargo and Facebook ads, the Yeshiva world post desire comprehensive forgiveness without much specificity or vulnerability.

4. After much fruitless searching, a friend suggested the following explanation for my quandary. The reason I couldn’t find a classic source for the forgiveness formula was that the specific content I was seeking was not meant to be found….In other words, the reason the Mishnah and the Mishneh Torah don’t fill in the blanks with a required formula for how to appease one’s neighbor and seek forgiveness is because this undermines the very purpose of seeking sincere forgiveness.

As Moshe Halbertal puts it, there are limits to what the law can and should specify. “Without the human field, the institution of forgiveness lacks any context or substance.” Put another way, just as the holidays can only create a container for meaning, the law can only get us to the threshold of asking for forgiveness. He continues “the law can only be effective where there exists a fabric of human relationships that allows for that effectiveness –a fabric the law itself cannot create.”

5. In addition to striving for sincerity and specificity in our words, it is our responsibility to create an effective and supportive context for appeasement and forgiveness. Part of that context might include sincere and sensitive listening to the conditions which could enable the other person to respond. Another part could mean seeking humility and relinquishing control by asking God for assistance in achieving teshuvah. Unlike creating commercials or asking for blanket forgiveness, which seem to maintain control, creating the proper context brings us part of the way to fulfillment.

So far, I have described two approaches to appeasement and asking for forgiveness. The first is a generic appeal for forgiveness, by which we express general regret and seek comprehensive forgiveness. The second requires a very specific acknowledgement of wrong-doing and requires a much greater degree of vulnerability. Now, I want to suggest an additional approach.

6. Each year, I approach my children (and sometimes my wife, friends, colleagues or students) with a simple question: I ask my child, in the coming year, what can I do to be a better abba to you? (husband, friend, son or teacher) I recognize that this simple question has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, it does not take responsibility for specific offenses done and would ideally be done in  addition to asking forgiveness for specific offenses.

On the other hand, I am enabling the other person to participate in identifying my shortcomings from his or her perspective. My commitment is not to do everything he or she recommends. Rather, it is to listen with as little defensiveness as possible–with an open and full heart to the possibility of change–My challenge is to prove Rabbi Tarfon wrong–when he said: I would be amazed if there is anyone in this generation who can accept rebuke.

Whether or not I agree to accept the criticism, I am open to the possibility of greater erevut— shouldering more responsibility for our relationship.

B.  Righting Past Wrongs

1. I want to conclude with (an exercise which addresses) the Sfat Emet’s second kind of teshuvah, which I would call proactive teshuvah, teshuvah not from fear but from love.

The mishnah in Brachot tells of the sage (Tanna) Nechunia ben Hakanah (Brachot 4:2) who used to offer up a short prayer on his entrance into the house of study and on his departure. They said to him, “What is the intention of this prayer?” He replied to them, “On my entry I pray that no mishap occur through me, and on my exit I offer up thanks for my portion.”

When Nechunia prays that no mishaps occur on his account, what is he concerned about? (I assume) As a conscientious scholar, he fears leading his students astray through faulty interpretations of the law. As he leaves, he expresses gratitude for the privilege of transmitting Torah and dwelling in the House of Study.

2. Let’s read the passage more When I enter a classroom or the place of my work, I ask myself what are the different ways that I might lead my students or colleagues astray. Perhaps, at times, I act impatiently, take up too much or too little room or fail to explain myself clearly. Or I place my love of texts or ideas above my students’ well being. As I leave, I stop to acknowledge the joy of collaborating with colleagues, working in service of a sacred purpose or watching students’ grow.

When we enter the threshold our homes(or our cars or the public space), what kinds of offense do we seek to avoid? And when we leave, how do give thanks for our portion?

When I enter this sacred place of gathering and worship and study, what is my prayer for sanctifying my behavior and how will I remind myself of what I cherish here before leaving?

For each entering and leaving, how will I remember my intentions?

3. Two takeaways for leaving this sermon‑‑REPAIRING AND RECREATING TESHUVAH: (1) the imperative to figure out how to confront or appease one person before Yom

(2) Figure out the mishaps you cause and blessings you receive as you enter and depart one setting of your life.

As we enter this new year with all its perils and possibilities, may we grow as individuals and as a community in our capacity for teshuvah, may we find the courage and compassion to heal broken relationships, seek forgiveness, and…. May our comings and goings refine the soul, renew the Jewish people and repair a small piece of God’s world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10

Rosh Hashanah 5779

A REFLECTION ON THE TEN DAYS OF REPENTANCE

BY RABBI JOEL REMBAUM, Rosh Hashanah 5779

LSHANAH TOVAH TIKATEIVU. MAY YOU BE INSCRIBED FOR A GOOD YEAR. WELCOME TO 5779 AND TO ASERET Y’MAI T’SHUVAH, THE TEN DAYS OF REPENTANCE.

SO, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT ON THIS FIRST DAY OF ASERET Y’MAI T’SHUVAH? I KNOW — AFTER ALL, I AM A RABBI. YOU ARE THINKING: THESE 5-DAY FRIDAY-TUESDAY SHABBAT — YOM TOV WEEKENDS ARE REALLY TOUGH. YOU ARE THINKING: THE RABBIS SHOULD RULE THAT THE JEWISH CALENDAR SHOULD BE RECALIBRATED SO THE FIRST OF TISHREI — A.K.A. ROSH HASHANAH — ALWAYS FALLS ON SHABBAT. THAT WAY ROSH HASHANAH, SUKKOT, AND SHMINI ATZERET-SIMHAT TORAH WOULD ALL FALL ON SHABBAT AND SUNDAY — NO MORE 5-DAY HOLIDAY WEEKENDS; NO MORE MISSED SCHOOL DAYS; NO MORE MISSED WORKING DAYS. RIGHT? —- SURE — DREAM ON….

BUT, I HAVE SOMETHING ELSE FOR YOU TO THINK ABOUT OVER THE NEXT TEN DAYS — AND THIS IS WHAT THIS BOOK (HOLD UP MAHZOR) SUGGESTS YOU SERIOUSLY CONSIDER: YOUR LIFE AFTER YOM KIPPUR.

YES, THE THEME OF T’SHUVAH — REPENTANCE — DOMINATES THESE YAMIM NORAIM — THESE TEN AWESOME DAYS OF REPENTANCE. BUT THIS THEME IS NOT UNIQUE TO THE HIGH HOLIDAYS. I REMIND YOU: T’SHUVAH IS A DAILY MITZVAH. EVERY WEEKDAY, MULTIPLE TIMES DAILY, WE ASK GOD TO HELP US REPENT, AND WE ASK GOD FOR FORGIVENESS.

THERE IS, HOWEVER, SOMETHING WE SAY IN EVERY AMIDAH DURING THESE TEN DAYS THAT WE NEVER SAY WITH SUCH INTENSITY DURING THE REST OF THE YEAR: EVERY DAY, MORNING, NOON, AND NIGHT, QUIETLY AND REPEATED ALOUD, WE SAY THESE FOUR PRAYERS:

.זָכְרֵנוּ לְחַיִּים, מֶלֶךְ חָפֵץ בַּחַיִּים, וְכָתְבֵנוּ בְּסֵפֶר הַחַיִּים, לְמַעַנְךָ אֱלהִים חַיִּים*
.מִי כָמוךָ אַב הָרַחֲמִים, זוכֵר יְצוּרָיו לְחַיִּים בְּרַחֲמִים*
.וּכְתב לְחַיִּים טובִים כָּל בְּנֵי בְרִיתֶךָ*
בְּסֵפֶר חַיִּים בְּרָכָה וְשָׁלום וּפַרְנָסָה טובָה, נִזָּכֵר וְנִכָּתֵב לְפָנֶיךָ — אֲנַחְנוּ וְכָל עַמְּךָ*

I SUMMARIZE: “PLEASE GOD OF LIFE, REMEMBER FOR LIFE AND INSCRIBE US FOR LIFE!”

SO DURING THE TEN DAYS WE ARE PLEADING WITH GOD FOR OUR LIVES.

THE ROOT OF THIS IS WHAT WE READ AND HENRY MORGEN SO BEAUTIFULLY INTERPRETED THIS PAST SHABBAT, IN DEUT. 30:15, WHERE GOD, THROUGH MOSES, SAYS —

:רְאֵה נָתַתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ הַיּוֹם, אֶת-הַחַיִּים וְאֶת-הַטּוֹב, וְאֶת-הַמָּוֶת וְאֶת-הָרָע

“BEHOLD, I PLACE BEFORE YOU TODAY, LIFE AND GOOD, AND DEATH AND BAD.”

THIS IS THE BACKGROUND BEHIND OUR LITURGY. I SUGGEST A METAPHOR: THE JUDGE SAYS: HERE IS THE SCALE, AND HERE ARE THE BOOKS. WHAT YOU PUT IN THE CUPS OF THE SCALE WILL DETERMINE WHAT WILL BE WRITTEN IN THE BOOKS. LIFE AND DEATH HANG IN BALANCE.

SOME FOLKS TAKE THIS LITERALLY. THEY BELIEVE IN THE CAUSE AND EFFECT IDEOLOGY EMBEDDED IN OUR ANCIENT TEXTS. THEY SAY “WHAT I DO HAS AN IMMEDIATE EFFECT ON MY LIFE.” IF GOOD ACTS RESULT IN GOOD OUTCOMES THEY SAY, “TODAH LA-EL,” “THANKS BE TO GOD.” IF GOOD ACTS RESULT IN BAD OUTCOMES, THEY SAY, “BARUKH HA-SHEM,” “BLESSED BE GOD,” AND THEY FIND EXPLANATIONS FOR WHY THIS HAPPENED IN THE MINUTIA OF THEIR LIVES. OR THEY SIMPLY SAY: “IT IS THE WILL OF GOD, SO THERE MUST BE A GOOD REASON THAT IS BEYOND MY UNDERSTANDING.”

I THINK MOST OF US ARE SKEPTICAL OF SUCH PROXIMATE CAUSALITY. NEVERTHELESS, IT IS HARD TO IGNORE THE FACT THAT WE ARE NOW PLEADING FOR OUR LIVES OVER AND OVER, EVERY DAY FOR TEN DAYS. I THINK WE ALL REALIZE SOMEONE IS TRYING TO TELL US SOMETHING: THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!!!!!!!

BUT, I ALSO THINK MANY OF US UNDERSTAND THAT THESE PLEAS ARE ALSO DIRECTED TOWARD OURSELVES, REMINDING US —

*THAT WE CAN PLEAD WITH GOD BECAUSE WE BELIEVE GOD IS FIRST AND FOREMOST A LOVING AND COMPASSIONATE GOD WHO DOES NOT WANT TO TAKE OUR LIVES;

*THAT WE ARE ALIVE AND ABLE TO REPAIR THE DAMAGE WE HAVE DONE TO OUR LIVES AND THOSE OF OTHERS;

*THAT OUR LIVES AND THE LIVES OF OUR LOVED ONES AND OF ALL PEOPLE ARE PRECIOUS, AND WE HAVE TO TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY SO WE CAN OVERCOME OUR ANGER WHEN SOMEONE HAS HURT US;

*THAT JUST AS WE PLEAD FOR FORGIVENESS FROM GOD, WE MUST PLEAD FOR FORGIVENESS FROM PEOPLE;

*THAT JUST AS WE HOPE GOD WILL FORGIVE US, SO SHOULD WE FORGIVE OTHERS.

SO, WHILE THESE PRAYERS ARE ADDRESSED TO GOD, I SAY THEY ARE ALSO PLEAS TO OURSELVES TO HAVE FAITH IN OUR AND OTHERS’ ABILITY TO CHANGE OUR WAYS AND LIVE BETTER. THEY ARE ALSO PLEAS TO OURSELVES TO APPRECIATE THE FACT THAT WE AND OTHERS ARE HAYYIM — ALIVE — AND ABLE TO SEEK OUT THE IMAGE OF GOD WITHIN OURSELVES AND OTHERS, AND TO EMULATE GOD IN HOW WE ACT.

OVER THE COURSE OF THE TEN DAYS WE ARE SUPPOSED TO GET INTO OUR METAPHOR AND REALIZE THAT THE JUDGE HAS ALSO HANDED US THE BOOKS AND THE PEN. WE WILL DO THE WRITING BY HOW WE TALK, HOW WE ACT, AND HOW WE FEEL. AND, DURING THESE DAYS GOD WANTS US NOT TO THINK SO MUCH ABOUT IF WE WILL LIVE THROUGH 5779, BUT RATHER HOW WE WILL LIVE OUR LIVES OVER THE COURSE OF THE YEAR.

*WILL WE JOIN WITH OTHERS IN REPAIRING WHAT WE BROKE LAST YEAR?

*WILL WE HOLD THE HANDS OF THOSE WHO HURT US AND WHOM WE HURT, RECOGNIZING THAT WE ALL DO BAD THINGS AND GOOD THINGS?

*WILL WE REACH OUT TO GOD AND ALLOW GOD TO BECOME MORE A PART OF OUR LIVES?

*WILL WE SAY “THANK YOU GOD FOR YOUR BLESSINGS” AND NOT JUST “PLEASE GOD HELP ME”?

*WILL WE COME TO REALIZE THAT FOR ALL OUR INTELLIGENCE, THERE IS SO MUCH WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND — ABOUT OURSELVES, ABOUT OTHERS, ABOUT THE UNIVERSE, ABOUT GOD — AND, THEREFORE, ACT WITH A BIT MORE HUMILITY AND PATIENCE?

*WILL WE RECOGNIZE THAT OUR PHYSICAL LIVES HAVE A LIMIT, AND, THEREFORE, NOW — WHILE WE ARE ABLE — IS THE TIME TO FILL OUR LIVES WITH MEANING, WITH GOODNESS, WITH GODLINESS, AND WITH HOLINESS?

THIS SHOULD BE OUR JOB FOR 5779 — AND EVERY YEAR.

I PRAY THAT WE WILL DO OUR JOB AND TRULY LIVE IN 5779 AND FULFILL MOSES’ WORDS, WHICH WE ALSO READ ON SHABBAT (DEUT. 30:19-20) —

,וּבָחַרְתָּ בַּחַיִּים–לְמַעַן תִּחְיֶה, אַתָּה וְזַרְעֶךָ: לְאַהֲבָה אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ…
….לִשְׁמֹעַ בְּקֹלוֹ, וּלְדָבְקָה-בוֹ

“CHOOSE LIFE SO THAT YOU CAN TRULY LIVE — YOU AND YOUR DESCENDANTS — BY LOVING GOD, HEARING (AND LISTENING TO) GOD’S VOICE, AND CLINGING TO GOD.” AND, I ADD, BY LOVING PEOPLE, BY HEARING (AND LISTENING TO) THEIR VOICES, AND BY HOLDING THEM CLOSE.  AMEN.

SHANAH TOVAH.

Nitzavim

Nitzavim

By Henry J Morgen, 8 September 2018

Shabbat shalom. It turns out that 30 years ago I shared my thoughts with the Library Minyan on this very parshah. After reviewing it, I’d say it’s still pretty good; however, I’d like to address something different today. First, though, I’ll paraphrase something that still holds true, and that is that it has been and continues to be an honor to be able to daven here. I especially appreciate the high level of learning and commitment to community that I’ve come to love and admire.

This morning I’d like to focus on how this parshah fits into our liturgical cycle. If you’ve been tracking the way our sages mapped the torah portions to the weeks in our year you’ll notice that Devarim always occurs just before Tishah B’Av. The seven parshi’ot of consolation always conclude with this parshah on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah. If you think of the book of Devarim as Moses’ closing remarks to the people of Israel, then it’s a classic example of “Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em. Tell ’em. Tell ’em what you told ’em.” Today’s parshah, Nitzavim, is the “Tell ’em what you told ’em” part. It’s the final words of wisdom our rabbis wanted us to hear just before we flip the calendar year and focus on renewing our commitments to ourselves, our families and our community to be our best selves. The balance of the book of Devarim is sort of transition from Moses’ leadership to Joshua, and Moses’ epitaph.

So, let’s look at this parshah a little more closely. It opens with an incredibly powerful paragraph that we actually got to read today, even though we’re on the middle third of a triennial cycle, because we got to read the whole parshah:

You stand this day, all of you, before the Lord your God—your tribal heads, your elders and your officials, all the men of Israel, your children, your wives, even the stranger within your camp, from woodchopper to waterdrawer—to enter into the covenant of the Lord your God, which the Lord your God is concluding with you this day, with its sanctions; to the end that He may establish you this day as His people and be your God, as He promised you and as He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I make this covenant, with its sanctions, not with you alone, but both with those who are standing here with us this day before the Lord our God and with those who are not with us here this day.[1]

There are some really important points in this opening paragraph: Everyone, male and female, young and old, high status and low status, part of the tribe and outsiders, and those that were present and their progeny are fully included in this covenant. This is a contract that is totally egalitarian for all that will reciprocate and be God’s people.

In the next few paragraphs God warns us to be faithful or He’ll be very angry with us. But, in the end, if we return to Him, He will take us back and bless us. I also want us to focus on the last part. Again, I’m going to quote extensively in English to point out a couple more things:

Surely, this instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us that we may observe it?” No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it. See, I set before you this day life and prosperity, death and adversity. … I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life—if you and your offspring would live—by loving the Lord your God, heeding His commands, and holding fast to Him. For thereby you shall have life and shall long endure upon the soil that the Lord your God swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give to them.[2]

Last week we read the blessings and curses associated with failing to adhere to the covenant. This week there’s an emphasis on how easy it actually is to adhere to the covenant. We’re being asked to acknowledge that Adonai, Sovereign of the Universe, has essentially committed to be a loving Parent to us. In exchange we must act with due appreciation and observe appropriate ethical and social norms. If we do that, all will go well for us; otherwise, we’ll be breaking this covenant and God will not be held to uphold it either.

So, are we individually going to be rewarded or punished for “bad behavior?” If you look at the Hebrew, it appears that we’re being addressed individually, but we’re also being addressed as the collective body. Therefore, I believe that we are individually responsible yet collectively rewarded or punished. Is that just? I can’t say, but it appears to be how the universe works. You can see this all around us all the time. Bad things happen to good people and visa-versa. Some governments terrorize their citizens to maintain power. Others war with each other displacing millions of innocent bystanders in the process. Our oceans are filling with plastic, and the temperature of our planet is rising thanks to collective lack of care for our environment. Here, in Los Angeles, hundreds of thousands of people are living with food insecurity and/or lack of affordable housing. What is our personal response to these communal and global problems?

We are in a season of reflection—both personal and collective. We will be spending a lot of time in the next few weeks focused on t’filah, or internal contemplation. What have we said or done when it would have been better to refrain from action? When would action have been more important that refraining from acting or speaking? What social and ethical norms should we focus on more acutely in the coming year? What should we do collectively to ensure continuity where it is waning or drive to change where we have veered off the proper path?

We call ourselves a “light unto the nations.” If we want to keep that light on and use it for good, we’ll need to work towards a time when the rest of mankind realizes that this covenant is available to them, too, if they act with due appreciation to God for our planet and observe appropriate ethical and social norms. Let us spend part of our time during these High Holidays reflecting on how we personally and collectively can start to be the change we want to see. Shabbat shalom. L’shanah tovah.


[1] Translation from P.379: The Torah—The Five Books of Moses ©1962 Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia

[2] Translation from Pp.381-382: ibid.

Shemini

Shemini

By Larry Herman, 14 April 2018

My Kosher Fetish

Shabbat Shalom.

Once again I dedicate this davar Torah to my friend and humanitarian, Dr. Ken Elliot, who was abducted by al-Qaida linked jihadists in northern Burkina Faso in January 2016 and remains captive, now 2 years and 3 months.

I also wish to acknowledge that as always, this drasha is a collaborative effort with Diane, who is skilled at making the incoherent comprehensible.

About thirty years ago we attended a bar mitzvah at a Conservative shul on the Shabbat of parsahat Shemini. The bar mitzvah gave a short davar torah on the laws of kashrut.  He explained that his study had inspired his parents to kasher their kitchen and begin to keep a kosher home. As he sat down and the rabbi took his place at the pulpit I thought, what a fat ball! How could the rabbi not take the opportunity to discuss kashrut and encourage his congregants to take inspiration from the young man and his family and join them in this manifestation of Jewish practice and identity?

But he did not.

  • Perhaps he felt that nothing more need be said.
  • Perhaps he felt that his community was not open to the pleading of their rabbi to become more observant.
  • Or maybe he had some ambivalence about the practice of kashrut.

I admit to ambivalence of my own. Although I grew up in a kosher home, and Diane and I have kept a kosher home from the beginning of our married life, I did not always keep kosher. My own personal standards of kashrut have varied over time. I have little tolerance for some of the stringencies that are practiced, such as Glatt Kosher lettuce. I think that kashrut is the most fetishized of all of our religious practices, something that discourages some from keeping kosher and distracts us from ethical prescripts, even as they apply to issues of kashrut.

I know that I’m not alone in these thoughts, even among those who identify as orthodox and are strict in their own practice.

I’m also bothered by how the observance of kashrut, which actually occupies a rather small part of the Torah, has expanded, become much more complicated, burdensome and expensive. Part of the problem is that the Torah is a lousy instruction manual. It reads like one of those crazy booklets that come with foreign manufactured products or Ikea assembly instructions. I know that Jewish practice requires professional interpretation. But when the instructions get so complex and seemingly illogical, it’s tempting to find shortcuts or to just ignore them entirely.

This week’s parsha which includes the basic rules of which animals we are permitted and forbidden to eat is a great example. The basic principle makes perfect sense: eating meat requires the taking of life and defiles us. Limiting the scope for taking the life of living creatures – and ritualizing the act of taking of that life – uplifts us, making something that is otherwise profane, at least a bit sacred

But I find the Torah instructions more confusing and perplexing than sanctifying. Why doesn’t the Torah just tells us which animals we can eat?

  • Ruminants,
  • Fish with fins and scales,
  • Chickens, and some similar birds,
  • And a few bugs.

Instead, it gives us a complicated and not very consistent set of rules, lists and criteria, sometimes telling us what is permitted and other times what is forbidden. At least the rules for mammals and fish are pretty clear. But birds are another matter.

Birds are the only species group for which there are no general rules. We are only given a specific list of what is forbidden. But which birds are these? I consulted three sources for English translations: Etz Haim, Aryeh Kaplan and Silberman and of the 20 varieties or groups of birds, they agree on only nine. Further, since there is no general rule it would seem that everything else is permitted. So if the little, great and white owls are all specifically prohibited does that mean the barn owl is permitted? And since there are about 10,000 species of birds in the world, that doesn’t make sense. I guess we best not think of eating our pet parakeets or parrots.

But it’s with insects that things get real confusing. We are told that

ALL winged swarming things that walk on fours are an abomination

Oh-oh. I know that insects have six legs so I’m already confused. But to add to my confusion, despite the “ALL” in verse 20, we have another rule that tells us that we can eat them if:

they have above-their-feet jointed legs to leap on the ground.

This is further qualified with a specific list of four varieties:

אַרְבֶּ֣ה       סָּלְעָ֖ם               חַרְגֹּ֣ל                 חָגָ֖ב

Our Chumash translates these as families of:

Locusts                 Bald locust           Crickets, and        Grasshoppers

On the other hand, Aryeh Kaplan translates these four as the families of red locusts, yellow locusts, spotted grey locusts, and white locusts. Kaplan really knew his locusts!

For some reason, the instruction manual takes a break until verse 41 where it states

וְכָל־הַשֶּׁ֖רֶץ הַשֹּׁרֵ֣ץ עַל־הָאָ֑רֶץ

All creeping creatures that creep on the ground (creepy reptiles and amphibians, apparently)

shall not be eaten, and then– among these creeps– those that go on their belly, walk on four legs, up to many legs also shall not be eaten.

Ok, I get it. I’m on the lookout for the two-legged creepers. Maybe they’re ok. Could be delicious with garlic butter.

Hey, don’t laugh. Rashi, benefitting from at least a millennium of rabbinic interpretation has his own linguistic and zoological take on what is included and excluded and why. I will only note as an example, that he interprets the seemingly redundant verse 23 to infer that that five-legged swarming things are indeed kosher, if one can find any such animals.

And I wonder what Rashi would say about the annual gorging on flying termites that we witnessed in West Africa as they hatch, breed, lose their wings and fall to earth in huge mounds over several days, to be scooped up and roasted for a high protein treat.

For me, the text raises a lot of questions besides the most obvious one of why.

Now I know that the traditional interpretation of “why” is that helps us to become holy as explained in verses 43-44 of our Parsha. But that didn’t stop us from coming up with all manner of other justification.

Philo (Yedidia HaCohen) thought that the laws of kashrut were intended to teach us to control our bodily appetites and to discourage us from excessive self-indulgence.

He also claimed that:

  • We are prohibited from eating carnivorous animals to teach us gentleness and kindness.
  • We eat animals that chew their cud to remind us that we must chew over what we have studied.
  • And we eat animals with divided hooves so that we learn to divide and distinguish good from evil.

The Rambam espoused similar views a millennium later and added the consideration that the laws of kashrut were healthy. Being a physician, who was going to argue with him? Well, Abarbanel for one. But the view persists to today among some Jews and even non-Jews that kosher food is healthier.

Of course we are all familiar with the claim that keeping kosher is a one of the things helps us to maintain our separate identity or to paraphrase Ahad Ha’am, “more than the Jews have kept kashrut, kashrut has kept the Jews.”

I haven’t forgotten the most fundamental and straightforward argument: kashrut is mandated by God, it is God’s diet for spirituality.

I don’t find these arguments compelling reasons to keep kosher:

When kashrut becomes a fetish it’s difficult to understand how we are made holy. Isn’t saying a bracha over all food a sufficient means of making the profane act of eating holy?

While practicing kashrut does entail a degree of self-control, casual observation would not lead one to believe that those of us who keep kosher are less gluttonous than those who do not.

As for argument that eating kosher food is healthier, I’m with Abarbanel. Most of those arguments have long been debunked. A diet heavy on schmaltz and grivenes is a fast track to a coronary.

Maintaining a kosher kitchen is expensive. Having separate sets of cookware, dishware and cutlery is wasteful. And putting hecksherim on bottles of water or disposable aluminum pans is just silly.

Still, kashrut is an important manifestation of my identity. It’s one way that I continuously remind myself and others that I’m a Jew. I want it to help me maintain my distinction as a Jew, but I still want it to make sense in the world we live in. Perhaps, just as my own practice of kashrut has changed over my life, our observance of kashrut as a people needs to change in response to changing times. To be more relevant and not just more stringent.

So now I get to the meat of the matter, as it were – the ethical aspects of being a carnivore, this being the focus of Chapter 11. Kindness in the selection, raising and slaughter of animals to be eaten is important, and is not consistent with factory production of veal and poultry or high speed mechanized slaughter. In fact, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef banned the force-feeding of geese to produce foie gras because it causes unbearable pain to the animals. The Israeli Supreme Court banned its production in 2003. And both Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and Rabbi David Golinkin questioned the kashrut of veal because the young animals are fattened by severe restriction of their movements.

Animal welfare advocates argue that the reasons for refraining from killing animals are similar to the arguments against killing humans. While it is easy to mock the arguments for speciesism, it wasn’t long ago that arguments against racism or sexism seemed farfetched. Just as we look back on slavery and the subjugation of women and are appalled, I believe that sometime in the future, as we learn more and more about the sentience of species that we use for food, our children will look back on us and be appalled by our callous carnivorousness.

As for the ecological aspects of eating meat, the modern production of meat is highly inefficient in terms of natural resources and contributes to global warming. It requires far more grain, water, land and energy than a non-meat based diet. Livestock production is responsible for almost one-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions. Meat production has a huge carbon footprint. It contributes to acid rain. It’s just plain bad for the environment.

Kashrut doesn’t mean that we have to eat meat. Kashrut doesn’t mean that we have to eat unhealthily. And Kashrut doesn’t give us license to harm the environment through our animal husbandry practices.

The Jewish Vegetarian movement is pretty strong and includes a lot of rabbis from across denominations; the website Jewish Veg lists 135 vegetarian rabbis, with many names that I recognize including Miryam Glazer, David Wolpe, Sharon Brous, and Lord Jonathan Sacks.

I don’t know how many of them actually argue that vegetarianism is a logical extension of kashrut but I do find the argument compelling. I’m struck by how many things that were not only permitted in the Torah but were regulated by Jewish law, are now forbidden. They were appropriate for that time but not for now. Slavery. Stoning. Sotah. Levirate marriage.

So perhaps that’s why the rules permitting us to slaughter and then eat meat were so complex and somewhat confusing. It was a step in the direction of limiting our biological and evolutionary cravings. The Torah recognizes that we couldn’t immediately suppress our natural human compulsions but had to be gradually weaned away from them. The real intent is expressed in the first chapter of Bereishit when the newly created humans and all the animals were instructed:

Behold, I have given you every seed bearing herb, which is upon the surface of the entire earth, and every tree that has seed bearing fruit; it will be yours for food (1:29)

We weren’t ready for that then. I’m not sure that I’m ready for that now. But I’m pretty sure that it’s coming.

Toldot

Toldot

By Larry Herman, 18 November 2017

Self-Deception

Shabbat Shalom.

What do you do when people you admire, respect, or even love, disappoint you?

My father used to use the phrase, “feet of clay” and I had a hard time understanding what he meant. The dictionary definition is a weakness or hidden flaw in the character of a greatly admired or respected person: But this hardly captures the full meaning embodied in the original source text, the second chapter of Daniel:

O king, as you looked on, there appeared a great statue.
This statue, which was huge and its brightness surpassing, stood before you,
And its appearance was awesome.

The head of that statue was of fine gold;
Its breast and arms were of silver;
Its belly and thighs, of bronze;

Its legs were of iron, [but] its feet part iron and part clay.

As you looked on, a stone was hewn out, not by hands,
And struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay
And broke them to pieces.

All at once, the iron, clay, bronze, silver, and gold were crushed,
And became like chaff of the threshing floors of summer;
A wind carried them off until no trace of them was left.
But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain
And filled the whole earth.

Not only are the feet of clay the flaw of the great and powerful idol, they are the means by which the powerful will be crushed, taking all of their richness, beauty and value with it, and leaving the destroyer made of worthless stone all powerful.

What happens when the hidden flaws are revealed? We don’t have much difficulty when those flaws are evident in people and characters that we otherwise disapprove of. We are the first to point them out, even to invent them, and to use them to denigrate and even to destroy.

But when those flaws are revealed in our heroes, in our idols, in our champions, in our leaders and in our loved ones, we face a real dilemma. And when character flaws seem to be ubiquitous, pervasive, and even to be part of human nature, we have a real predicament.

Can we live with the contradictions? Or do we acquiesce to the tendency to ignore them, to deny them, to rationalize them, or even to justify them.

Are there flaws that disqualify our heroes from that status? Can we separate the clay – the condemnable behavior – from the gold silver and bronze – the individual’s merits and accomplishments?

These questions never seemed so relevant as today, and they are the questions that also scream out at us from this week’s parsha.

As I studied the parsha, I was overwhelmed by the image of “feet of clay,” by the consequences of denying moral responsibility for the individuals involved and for society, and by the lengths to which our sages and commentators go to explain, justify and whitewash what appear to me to be undeniable flaws and shameful acts by our biblical heroes while at the same time defaming those that we identify as the villains of our narrative.

On the face of it, the actions of our heroes Yitzchak, Rebecca and Jacob seem at best morally questionable, at worst indefensible. On the other hand, the actions of Esau, the villain in our story, seem understandable and perhaps even laudable, even if he is a bit crude for our sensibilities

Let’s briefly review the main elements of the stories, the actions of our heroes, what seem to be the obvious ethical inferences, and the traditional ways that we are taught to interpret their behavior.

  • In the story of the sale of the birthright, Esau politely – using the Hebrew word נא or please, if crudely, – using the term הַלְעִיטֵ֤נִי which refers to feeding animals, asks Jacob for some porridge. Most translations ignore the please and focus on the crudeness of the request.
  • Jacob then coerces Esau, taking advantage of his famished state and demands

First sell me your birthright

I doubt very much whether any of us, let alone a court, would consider this a fair exchange made by willing and equal parties.

  • Let’s turn to the story where Yitzchak tells the people of Gerar that Rebecca is his sister. As Rabbi Dorff explained two weeks ago in Parshat Va’yera in the case of Abraham, Jacob is guilty of Geneivat Da’at, of deception, perhaps even more than Abraham. Rebecca was Jacob’s wife and his cousin once removed; but by no means was she his sister. This is not even a half-truth. It was a tactic, mistakenly used by both father and son to protect themselves. But by doing so Jacob leads the men of Gerar into temptation and endangers his wife by making them think that she was available.
  • But it is the story of the stolen blessing that is especially problematic. Rebecca instructs Jacob to deceive Isaac in order to get the blessing intended for Esau. Was she not literally putting a stumbling block before the blind seeing as her husband was for all intents and purposes blind and knowing that her son would obey her?
  • Jacob protests that his father will discover the deceit and curse him, suggesting that he more concerned with being caught than with the immorality of the deceit.
  • Rebecca’s response is that the curse will be hers and not his and demands that he obey her. She is placing him in a position that no parent should ever put their child in, to choose between their two parents.
  • Jacob flat out lies to his father and says,

אָנֹכִי֙ עֵשָׂ֣ו בְּכֹרֶ֔ךָ עָשִׂ֕יתִי כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר דִּבַּ֖רְתָּ אֵלָ֑י

I am Esau, your first-born; I have done as you told me

But many commentators parse the verse differently, to read:

I am the one who brings you food, Esau is your first born.

in clear contradiction to the obvious meaning of the verse.

  • When Isaac asks Jacob how he managed to succeed so quickly, Jacob invokes the name of God in responding to his father

Because Adonai your God granted me good fortune

Is he not taking God’s name in vain, committing blasphemy or hilul hashem?

  • When Isaac recognizes Jacob’s voice, and gives him an opportunity to admit the truth by asking,

אַתָּ֥ה זֶ֖ה בְּנִ֣י עֵשָׂ֑ו

Are you really my son Esau?

Jacob answers

אָֽנִי

I am

Is he not being as absolutely deceitful as a son can be and showing the utmost contempt for his father? But again, some of our commentators use the defense that Jacob did not say that he was Esau, but rather “It is I.”

  • Neither is Isaac blameless. He acknowledges to Esau that it was Jacob who received his blessing, instead of simply blessing Esau, as he eventually does. Is he not creating, or at least exacerbating the conditions for a fraternal death feud.
  • And when Isaac acknowledges that Jacob came to him בְּמִרְמָ֑ה, in deceit, Rashi chooses instead to translate it as subtlety or cleverness.
  • Further, Isaac shows moral weakness in asking Esau

מָ֥ה אֶֽעֱשֶׂ֖ה בְּנִֽי

What, then, can I still do for you, my son?

As if it is the son and not the father who should find a solution to this horrible situation.

  • Rebecca then determines to send Jacob to her brother, whom she already knows to be a deceiver, without any warning. Can she expect anything more than what ends up happening next week when Lavan deceives Jacob regarding Rachel and Leah?
  • Neither does Rebecca take any responsibility for the fraud perpetrated against her husband and eldest son when she tells Jacob to stay with Lavan,

until your brother’s anger against you subsides—and he forgets what you have done to him?

taking no responsibility for her role in deceiving her husband and endangering her most beloved son.

  • Adding to the deception, Rebecca manipulates Isaac, encouraging him to send Jacob to Paddan-Aram, without revealing the enmity between the brothers and depriving Isaac an opportunity to attempt a reconciliation.

All of these demonstrate our Biblical heroes feet of clay.

But what of Esau, the wounded, and we might say “innocent” party in these stories? Look at how easily we find fault and ignore virtue.

  • At the end of Chapter 26 we are told that Esau, at age 40, marries two Hittite women which displeases his parents. Without basis from the text, Rashi compares Esau to a boar, and claims that he is rebellious. But do we have any evidence to believe that the parents, Isaac and Rebecca, advised him to wed a relative rather than a Canaanite? Did they suggest that he travel to Paddan-Aram to find a wife?
  • In the story of the stolen blessing, Isaac asks Esau to do a favor for an old man. Esau responds immediately with filial obedience, but it does not seem that he receives any credit for this in our tradition. In fact, Rashi finds fault by suggesting that Esau might steal an animal rather than bring his father kosher meat.
  • After learning of the theft, in respect for his father, Esau restrains his anger and delays his intended attack on Jacob while his father is still alive, rather than lashing out immediately.
  • And even after everything, Esau attempts to please and placate his parents by marrying his cousin, the daughter of Ishmael, again receiving no credit for doing so.

Many of our sages and contemporary commentators take great pains to rationalize and explain away the obvious moral implications of the parsha by means of Midrash and contorted justifications. Jacob and Rebecca were right to deceive Esau and Isaac because they knew that Jacob and not Esau would carry on the mission of Abraham and Isaac. Jacob was worthy, Esau was not, and Isaac was psychologically blind to the merits of the two sons. Thus the ends justify the means.

But this is not the only way to understand the story. This pattern of deceit and dishonesty led to more of the same and great strife in the life of Jacob. It deprived Rebecca of the company of her beloved son. And we can only guess at how Isaac felt during the last 57 years of his life, presumably blind and perhaps estranged from his family.

I am not a Torah scholar. I am not placing my simple understanding of the text and the commentaries above those who have studied them and are better placed to make judgements about their validity. But I’m struck by how easy it is for us to turn these stories upside-down and inside out.

Is the choice to ignore, deny or rationalize the clay feet of our heroes, past and present, on the one hand; or to smash their feet of clay and with it bring down their gold, silver and bronze, on the other. Or do we recognize their complexity and imperfections, acknowledge their flaws, draw appropriate lessons, and value the goodness that they have done and may yet do in the future.

These are difficult questions and not easily answered.

Shabbat Shalom

Acharei Mot-Kiddoshim

Acharei Mot-Kiddoshim

By Henry Morgen, 28 April 2018

Shabbat shalom. Today marks half a century since my bar mitzvah. It really doesn’t feel like it’s been that long. It also marks a bit over a year and a half since the last time I gave a d’rash here. Oddly, that seems like a long time. Isn’t it interesting how elastic our perception of time is? When I spoke last it was on Shabbat Ki Tavo and I focused on what I called “our place in the universe.” I’m going to stay somewhat connected to that theme as we explore today’s par’sha. The second half of our double portion today opens with Chapter 19. It is a very unusual section of the torah. It’s referred to as the holiness code. Most of the rest of the book of Leviticus that surrounds it is full of details about the sacrificial rite that the Levites and Cohanim were expected to conduct on behalf of the community. Chapter 19, though is an ethical code that is the basis of much of Western civilization’s legal code today.

To fully appreciate the significance of the opening lines, it’s important to look at the main message that the text is trying to convey. “Adonai spoke to Moshe saying: speak to the whole community of Israel and tell them, ‘you shall be holy, for I, Adonai your God am holy.’” First, I want to point out the extra words in this introductory sentence. It’s not “speak to the community of Israel”, but “speak to the whole community of Israel and tell them.” This extra emphasis makes it clear that each and every one of us is being addressed. Here’s the bottom line up front, and the rest of my remarks are in support of this conclusion: God expects us to be responsible for finishing the world he created and bringing about a more perfect world in which to live as a result. That’s a “huge ask” in modern parlance, but it’s completely in line with the entire arc of the Torah, the prophets, the writings and the tradition as understood by all the brilliant minds that didn’t veer off course along the way.

As I walk us through the holiness code notice that each segment is punctuated by the phrase “I, Adonai, am your God,” or, “I am Adonai.” What then are the key expectations of this covenant?

  • “A person must fear his mother and father and observe Adonai’s sabbaths.” That is, one must follow the rules and traditions from his most intimate teachers and from God.
  • “Don’t worship false gods.” This is a biggie in that some Jews have turned Judaism into their god. God is not bounded by Judaism. Otherwise He would not be Melech Ha’olam.
  • To paraphrase the next grouping it says, “When you make a peace offering, don’t turn this into a feast that lasts more than two days. When you harvest your fields leave the corners untouched and the fruit that falls to the ground where it lays so the poor and the resident alien can eat.” This is an admonition not to be ostentatious, not to be gluttonous, and to ensure that the less fortunate in our communities are able to sustain themselves.
  • Paraphrasing again it says next, “Don’t steal; don’t act deceitfully; don’t debase My name.” This sets a baseline of ethical behavior expected from everyone.
  • “Don’t coerce your neighbor. Don’t rob. Don’t withhold a day laborer’s wages. Don’t insult the deaf. Don’t obstruct the blind.” This is ethics taken to a higher plane. You must put yourself in the place of your fellow and be sure to treat him at least as well as you’d want to be treated if you were he.
  • This next grouping needs a lot of paraphrasing based on the translations I’ve seen. Roughly it says, “You shall not judge unfairly. Don’t favor either the poor or the rich. Judge your neighbor fairly. Don’t gossip. Don’t ignore or benefit from the pain of your neighbor.” In a community it is essential that everyone is treated fairly and with respect. Furthermore, it is important that when someone is suffering, we do what we can to help them mitigate it.
  • “Don’t hate your relatives. Provide constructive feedback to your neighbor, and don’t be led astray because of him. Don’t take revenge or bear a grudge against your relatives. Love your neighbor as yourself.”

So far, we’ve learned that holiness means establishing a model society. Treat everyone with the respect they deserve. Don’t be led astray from doing the right thing. This is Adonai’s expectation for all of us. The chapter continues by addressing this long list of issues:

  • Don’t take advantage of unequal relationships
  • Allow trees to mature before harvesting them for food
  • Don’t eat blood
  • Stay away from divination, body mutilation or tattooing
  • Don’t degrade your children through prostitution
  • Observe Adonai’s sabbaths and revere Adonai’s sanctuary
  • Don’t worshiping the dead
  • You must respect your elders
  • Treat a stranger that resides in your land the same as a citizen; love him as yourself, because you were strangers in Egypt (remember)
  • Maintain one set of honest measures for all transactions

Finally, it sums up with “I, Adonai your God, took you out of Egypt. You will observe My laws & norms. I am Adonai.” This is God’s expectation for us as a nation of priests.

So, how are we doing? We seem to need a performance review every year on Yom Kippur. Some of us even have self-evaluations as many as three or more times each day.  What’s an imperfect being to do? First, we should be grateful that we live in a part of the world that allows us the opportunity to think about this very thing and not spend most of our thoughts and energy trying to simply stay alive. Then we should consider how we can individually and in groups invest some of our energy to helping to bring about this better world within ourselves, our family, our community, our country and our world.

To be a light unto the nations we must act on what we’ve heard. From the very beginning we learn that we must be good custodians of the planet that we have been given to live on. We are told to choose life and the blessings rather than the curses. We are assured that God’s rules are not far away and difficult, but they are very near to us and simple to follow. We must do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. We must pursue a just justice. We must not stand idly by when others are in need, but we must love the stranger as ourselves. Each of us is only capable of some small part of this enormous effort, but our tradition says we can’t desist from taking action.

I’d like to close with a poem that is outside our Jewish tradition, yet it has resonated with me since I first heard it. It is by Kendrew Lascelles, and I first heard it on a track on the album Chicago III:

When all the laughter dies in sorrow and the tears have risen to a flood
When all the wars have found a cause in human wisdom and in blood

Do you think they’ll cry in sadness? Do you think the eye will blink?
Do you think they’ll curse the madness? Do you think they’ll even think?

When all the great galactic systems sigh to a frozen halt in space
Do you think there will be some remnant of the beauty of the human race?

Do you think there will be a vestige, or a sniffle, or a cosmic tear?
Do you think some greater thinking thing will give a damn that man was here?

I have tried to live my life in such a way as to move the needle toward yes in answering that last line. That is what it means to strive to be holy. For those who haven’t thought about this in this way, I encourage you to join me.

Shabbat shalom.

Beshallach

Beshallach 

by Rabbi Rachel Adler, January 27, 2018

Shabbat shalom. I am devoting this Dvar Torah to questions and observations about the two texts of the day. Shabbat Beshallach is an unusual occasion because both the parasha and the haftorah preserve very ancient victory songs. Biblical historians date both to the late twelfth or early eleventh centuries BCE. This would make them the oldest poems in the Tanakh. Another rarity is that both these compositions depict women leading and exercising authority. Both women are designated as prophets. Exodus15:20 refers to Miriam ha-Neviah. Judges 4:4 calls Dvorah neviah, prophet, and adds that she judged Israel. This term Shofet/shofetet designates the ruling authority in the book of Judges/Shoftim.

Throughout the ancient Near East, victory songs are a recognized genre for celebrating a military victory, and throughout the ancient Near East, they are a women’s genre. With the exception of Ex. 15, everywhere in Tanakh (and there are four other examples: two in Judges (5, 11:34), one in 1 Samuel (18:6-7), and one in Jeremiah (31:4), victory songs are made by women. There are, in fact, not one but two related women’s poetic genres found all over the ancient Near East: victory songs and laments. This makes sense, alas, because the two genres are two sides of a single coin: the occasion for one woman’s victory song is the occasion for another woman’s lament.

Both these genres were ancient forms of performance art, involving music, instrumentation and percussion, and a full-body enactment: in the victory song, dance, and in the lament, beating the breast and slapping the thighs. In both genres, women composed orally and maintained repertoires for repetition. In both genres, there is evidence of solo performances and of call and response, in which female leaders called verses and male and female participants called out the response. Our tradition for chanting Shirat Ha-Yam in this very kahal uses call-and-response. We see an echo of that mode in Exodus 15:20-21 “Then Miriam ha-Nevi’ah, sister of Aharon, picked up the tof (hand-drum) and all the women went out after her to dance with hand-drums. And Miriam chanted for them: Sing (plural imperative) to YHWH for He has triumphed gloriously; Horse and rider He has hurled into the sea.” Surely this is an invitation to respond.

In the text of the Torah, this verse appears to be a postscript, drawing on words previously attributed to Moshe and the B’nai Yisrael. But, given that in every other case, the authors and leaders of victory songs are women, biblical historians have found this attribution of Shirat Ha-Yam rather puzzling. Since the mid-20th century, many of them have suggested that Shirat Ha-Yam was in fact the composition of Miriam. There is one ancient manuscript tradition that refers to the Song as “The Song of Miriam.” This is a difficulty we will not be able to resolve because the text of the Torah is the text. I would be satisfied if we simply allowed the question to haunt the text, that is, if every time we read Shirat ha-Yam, we wondered, ”Isn’t this Shirat Miryam?”

There are some other themes and motifs the two victory songs share. In both, the victory seems incredible to the stunned victors, who had been expecting a disastrous defeat. Other ancient Near Eastern victory songs do not share this theme. All the victors rejoice at winning, of course, but only these Israelite songs see victory as totally unexpected. This is a realistic assessment on their part. In Shirat ha-Yam, the Israelites are not even an army, merely a disorganized rabble of panicked, fleeing slaves. In Shirat Dvorah, they are a poorly armed, tenuously united, under-populated military confederation.

In both situations, they face highly professional armies with the latest and priciest military technologies: horses and chariots. The speed and mobility of horses and chariots allows soldiers to rampage all over the battlefield, trampling, slashing, eluding combat while cutting to pieces an army on foot. In the period of the Judges, the Phillistines have a monopoly on the making of iron, the hard metal that so revolutionized warfare, that the epoch of its introduction is called the Iron Age. More affluent kings like the Canaanite Javin can afford amass such weaponry. Iron can do immeasurably more damage than flint arrowheads or bronze swords. In both victory songs the Israelites are disastrously out-weaponed.

In both narratives, God intervenes via weather, wind and water, so that high-tech military equipment suddenly becomes a detriment rather than an advantage. Exodus 14:21, more naturalistic and less mythic in tone than Ex. 15, describes a hot, drying, chamseen-type wind blowing all night over the Sea of Reeds. This drying wind helps to create a temporary path through the sea. In Ex. 15, it is by direct divine intervention that Moshe is then able to hold out his hand and split the sea so the people can cross. When he lifts his hand again, much later in the day, the waters return and Pharaoh’s chariot army is inundated. The weather disaster that causes the downfall of Sisera’s army is a drenching rain that causes Wadi Kishon to flood, as wadis do in heavy rains. The battlefield turns to mud. The Israelites rushing down from the hills have the momentum, while the Canaanites struggle to extricate their iron chariots from the mire.

In both these victory songs, God is imaged as a warrior. The Hebrew in Shirat ha-Yam is even more shocking than the English word warrior. The Shir exclaims, “Adonai ish milchama!” To us, this description may even sound blasphemous, but we aren’t a hairsbreadth away from being dragged back into slavery. Those Israelites experienced God as an unprecedented sort of warrior: one who fights on behalf of the oppressed rather than on behalf of the power elite. There is a god-as-warrior trope in Sumerian and Canaanite myths as well. The warrior-god defeats chaos, which is usually imaged as the sea or some sort of watery mess, and triumphantly establishes order in the world. But only YHWH is an ethical warrior, a champion of the oppressed, who establishes not just order but justice.

The world that gives rise to these ancient victory songs is no less savage than our own. Shirat Dvorah describes the murder of the Canaanite general Sisera by the Kenite woman Yael as a kind of inversion of the usual reality of war in which men kill and rape and women are killed and raped. This is the reality in every war, every ethnic cleansing, every, genocide since the dawn of time. It is happening to the Rohingya in Myanmar right now. But in these two victory songs, reasonable expectations are turned upside down. In the final vignette of her song, Dvorah imagines Sisera’s mother waiting for her son to return with his battle plunder, including captive women for slavery and sex. She envisions the aristocratic Canaanite lady brutally objectifying these other lesser women, describing them casually as “rechem, rechamtayyim l’rosh gever, “a uterus or two for each man.” But life is full of surprises. It turns out that an Israelite woman will sing the victory song. Sisera’s mother will be singing the lament.

I understand the desire to sing victory songs, although they trouble me. I love chanting Shirat Ha-Yam. I couldn’t imagine myself among those angels, whom God rightly forbids to join the Israelites’ song. And I have to confess that there are exploiters and oppressors in my own political landscape over whose downfall I could sing a victory song with relish and the sooner the better. Yet when I imagine the time of redemption, I imagine it as a time when the victory song will have no dark flip side because there will be only winners and no losers. May that time come swiftly and may we live to celebrate the deliverance of all, as we pray in the machzor “V’chol ha rish’a kulah k’ashan tikhleh, ki ta’avir memshelet zadon min ha-aretz.” “And all wickedness will disappear like smoke, when You remove the tyranny of arrogance from the earth.”

Note to readers: Sorry about the transliterations. My program for inserting Hebrew words into English text is not working.