Monday, October 26, 2009

AIPAC Luncheon

On Wednesday I attended a lecture with David Horovitz, editor-in-chief of the The Jerusalem Post. After reassuring the attendees that there is a day to day feeling of calm and security in Israel and especially in Jerusalem, he went on to say that there is a sense of crisis because of three simmering issues:
1. The need to separate from the Palestinians in order to preserve the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel. This need is creating a growing sense of angst because there is no viable partner with which to make peace. The vast majority of Israelis share two conflicting feelings: the Jewish imperative to make peace tugging against the fact that there is no one with which to talk.
2. The growing existential threat of Iran. Soon there will be a regime who agitates for the destruction of Israel combined with the means (namely nuclear weapons) to carry out these aims. A nuclear armed Iran remakes the region and is unacceptable to Israel. The vast majority of Israelis have little hope and faith in Obama's diplomatic efforts. A strengthened Iran continues to embolden the radicals in the region. Israelis believe that Iran must first be de-fanged in order for the moderates to emerge and for there to be serious negotiations with the Palestinians.
3. The increasing de-legitimization of the State of Israel in the international community. The legitimacy of the modern State of Israel transcends the Holocaust and the suffering the Jewish people endured during those years. The modern state is built on the foundations of the ancient state. History binds our presence to the land of Israel. Within international discourse this very connection is being systematically severed. In a bitter irony, at the United Nations, the very institution that lent international legitimacy to the nascent state, Ahmadinejad (y'mach sh'mo) is allowed to spout venom and begrudge Israel's existence. The State of Israel means far more than the amelioration of suffering.
Despite these worries and fears, Israelis continue to sing and dance, celebrate and rejoice. The economy continues to grow and the State of Israel thrives.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Podcasts

Our synagogue's website has a new feature: podcasts. You can listen to my High Holiday sermons on the website or subscribe through iTunes. You will also find there regular interpretations of the weekly Torah portion, called "Three Minutes of Torah." Occasionally I will share longer talks about contemporary events.
To listen through the website click here.
To subscribe with iTunes click here.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Happy Simhat Torah!

Moadim l'simha--happy holidays! There are two Jewish ideals that are realized in the holiday of Simchat Torah which begins today, October 9 (according to the Reform and Israel calendar).
1. The joy of Torah. There is nothing more joyous than studying Torah. On Simchat Torah we celebrate the fact that we are privileged to begin again the Torah reading cycle. Simchat Torah is analogous to rebooting your computer. Even if you haven't finished all of your work, even if you haven't finished reading every story, even if you haven't finished studying every word, every once in a while you have to start all over again at the beginning.
2. You really can't dance by yourself. You need your friends. You need the swirl of others. You need your community. Celebrating by yourself is impossible. The community adds to your happiness. This is the Jewish contention. We understand this truth best when we are surrounded by others at our own simchas. This contention is truly realized when our happiness is bound to what lies at the center of our Jewish lives: Torah. Hence Simchas Torah.
On Simchat Torah, community and Torah are combined into one great song and dance.
For my YouTube video about Simchat Torah and for evidence of this truth click here. This evening's Simchat Torah/Shabbat celebration will be accompanied by a Klezmer ensemble and concert with Michael Winograd.
If you are looking to learn more about Klezmer read this article on MyJewishLearning.com.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Gilad Shalit Video

Below is the video, recently released by Hamas, of Gilad Shalit, who has been held prisoner since June 25, 2006. Israel released 20 female prisoners, serving terms for various terrorist activities, in exchange for the video. I imagine the video brings both a measure of relief and some pain to Gilad's parents. May Noam and Aviva soon hold their son in their arms!