Thursday, September 4, 2014
Shavit’s Middle Path, Judaism’s Top 40: Shabbat, O-Gram
I look forward to a very exciting weekend here, as we welcome Cantor Fishman on Friday evening and celebrate on Shabbat the b’nai mitzvah of Ethan Moskowitz (in the morning) and Emma-Rose Strom (in the afternoon). Mazal tov to all the families and a special welcome to our new cantor!
· This week I was honored to participate in a press briefing with Senators Blumenthal & Murphy to discuss the People’s Climate March. Watch it here (my part comes about 22 minutes in). The briefing highlighted the partnership between faith communities and labor in combating Climate Change and was held at New Haven’s train station on Wednesday. The People’s Climate March takes place on Sept. 21, as hundreds of thousands are expected to send a loud message to world leaders meeting at the UN. Click here for more information.
· See this NY Times obituary of Arthur White, of blessed memory, whose funeral took place here this week.
· Read this CT Jewish Ledger interview with Ari Shavit, who will be delivering the Hoffman Lecture on Sept 16. This program is generating tremendous buzz – so plan to get here early. And by all means try to read his bestselling book before hand (see also Leon Wieseltier’s NY Times review).
An excerpt from the Ledger interview:
I think that, in an interesting way, there is a tendency both from right and left to regard Israel as omnipotent, as some superpower. The left-wing version of this is to totally focus on criticizing Israel without seeing the context that there are strong powers trying to destroy us and evil forces who are trying to kill us; actually believing that there is no limit to our power and everything that happens is only because we do it and if we just do the right thing we have peace tomorrow. The right wing version of the same phenomenon is that we can ignore the international community, and we can ignore large parts of American society, and we can ignore other forces in the world, because we are so strong that we can stick to our guns and it will be fine.
I say ‘no.’ I say that although Israel is, thank God, a strong state, the Jewish people are a very small people. We are lonely by definition. Our religion, our language, our culture are all different. We are really unique and we are alone. We have so many people who hate us; we have such a traumatic and tragic history; we face such unbelievable challenges that no other democracy faces. We are vulnerable. We are strong, but we are vulnerable.
So, I think that the right approach, which is both moral and realistic, is to keep up building our strengths while being aware of our fragile position and therefore developing a much more sophisticated attitude to our historical destiny. Not going to the left-wing extreme version that Israel is always wrong because Israel is all-powerful and everything depends on Israel; and not to go to the right-wing version, which is that Israel is so strong it can ignore the world. So, we have to act wisely and in a sophisticated manner in order to maneuver and survive in a rather anti-Semitic world.
· For the past ten days I’ve been counting down “Judaism’s Top 40,” by sending out one email each day discussing a key Jewish value or concept. This is intended to help us reconnect to our traditions as part of our spiritual preparations for the High Holidays. Now I’m going to up the ante! You’ve seen the first ten (or will have, by the end of Shabbat), so now I want you to help me choose the next 30. If you click here, you will see 52 additional values and concepts, along with the initial ten. Please let me know which ones you would like to see on the list as the countdown continues. This can both reflect your vision of what’s most important in Judaism, as well as your desire to learn more about those topics. I’ll use your guidance in drawing up the final list. Also note that any one of these could be a study session unto itself. If you are interested in learning more about a topic listed here, and want to gather a dozen or so friends, I’ll be happy to plan such a discussion.
· Finally, a reminder that our “Book of Life” is taking shape. Please click reply and send me a few lines about a loved one that is being included in our Yom Kippur “Book of Remembrance.” These blurbs will be included with the book. Let us know what this person meant to you or to the community and perhaps describe a lasting legacy of your loved one. We’ve gotten several in already. But the deadline is next Wed.
Today’s Judaism’s Top 40: Elul 10, #32 - Shabbat:
The Sabbath, our Day of Rest, may be Judaism’s greatest contribution to the history of civilization. Abraham Joshua Heschel called the Sabbath a Sanctuary in Time:
The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation, from the world of creation to the creation of the world.
And Judith Shulevitz writes:
The old-time Sabbath does not fit comfortably into our lives. It scowls at our dewy dreams of total relaxation and freedom from obligation. The goal of the Sabbath may be rest, but it isn’t personal liberty or unfettered leisure. The Sabbath seems designed to make life as inconvenient as possible. Our schedules are not the only thing the Sabbath would disrupt if it could. It would also rip a hole in all the shimmering webs that give modern life its pleasing aura of weightlessness—the networks that zap digitized voices and money and data from server to iPhone to GPS. In a world of brightness and portability and instantaneous intimacy, the Sabbath foists on the consciousness the blackness of night, the heaviness of objects, the miles that keep us apart. The Sabbath prefers natural to artificial light. If we want to travel, it would make us walk, though not too far. If we long for social interaction, it would have us meet our fellow man and woman face-to-face. If we wish to bend the world to our will, it would insist that we forgo the vast majority of the devices that extend our reach and multiply our efficacy. We would be deprived of money and, to a certain degree, of the labor of others. We would be allowed to use our hands and a few utensils, and then only for a limited repertoire of activities. There is something gorgeously naïve about the Sabbath. To forbid people their tools and machines and commercial transactions, to reduce their social contacts to those who live no more than a village’s distance away—it seems a child’s idea, really, of life before civilization.
Read some basics about Shabbat here.