This past Wednesday night, we had the unique opportunity to host Anat Hoffman, a civil rights pioneer in Israel. Through her organizations, Women of the Wall and the Israeli Religious Action Center, Hoffman works to protect the rights of women, Reform Jews, Arabs and other vulnerable populations. Hoffman does not shy away from exposing Israel’s uglier side, and believes that we can love the country even more when we recognize that, like all of us, Israel is not perfect.
In an intimate scene in parashat Ki Tisa, God says to Moses: “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and the grace that I grant and the compassion that I show; but you cannot see my face… See there is a place near Me. Station yourself on the rock. And as my Presence passes by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock and shield you with My hand, until I have passed by. Then I will take my hand away and you will see my back; but My face will not be seen.” When we witness divinity, we see God’s back, but not God’s face. We do not see everything. Only part of the picture.
Last shabbat, I shared with you my heartbreak over the tragic news of the mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida; and I also shared with you the inspiration in the teen-agers activism since. I continue to think of them as I hear from my rabbinic colleagues in Florida, who have been burying the Jewish teens, who are among the slaughtered.
With those students ever still in my heart, I think this Shabbat’s Torah portion points to another angle, in the complex issues around gun violence in our nation. From the cleft of the rock, what am I not seeing? What do I need to acknowledge is there, even if it is not in full view?
A day or 2 after the tragic news of the school shooting, I watched the feature on the morning news. Devastating stories of 17 deaths, teen-agers hiding in closets, teachers heroically shielding their students, and bereavement counseling taking place as the survivors went to therapy, instead of to class.
And then, after this feature, the local news moved on to the next story. It briefly told the story of two shootings in our city, in poor neighborhoods, not far from my home, or from our congregation. I don’t think they devoted even a minute to each of the local shootings. And then they helped me, the viewer, turn away, and barely see the gun violence in our city. Barely even acknowledge the everyday, from my limited perspective. Read the rest of this entry »
As many of you know, I just returned from leading 18 teens to Israel along with our youth engagement coordinator, Jenn Reiss. On our first full day, after an amazing Israeli breakfast, we headed off to the Tel Dan Nature Reserve. As we started our hike we saw a sign with two arrows – one arrow pointed to a trail on the left and said, “Maslool Aroch.” The second pointed right and said, “Maslool Katzar.”
Maslool Aroch, the long road, or Maslool Katzar, the short road – this was the choice laid out before us. This is a choice many of face ever day of our lives, take the easy path or the hard one.
Naomi Shemer, hailed as the “first lady of Israeli song and poetry” is perhaps most famous for her song “Yerushlayim Shel Zahav” (“Jerusalem of Gold”) written in 1967 and often called an unofficial second national anthem. Shemer wrote the song for the Israeli Song Festival held on 15 May 1967, the night after Israel’s nineteenth Independence Day.
Yesterday and today marked the 79th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, when ordinary Germans demonized their Jewish neighbors and lashed out against them in violence and hate. Soon after, once Hitler had control over France, the Vichy government there sent a message to King Mohammed V of Morocco: help us deport your country’s 250,000 Jews to Nazi concentration camps. As the story goes, the king responded saying, “We have no Jews, we only have Moroccans.”