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Showing posts from April, 2015

Achrei Mot-Kedoshim Riots and Earthquakes

This week we read the Holiness Code which details many ethical obligations among them the commandment to love the stranger. “You shall love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:34) I think of this verse as I read about the riots in Baltimore and the devastating earthquake in Nepal. Our hearts are joined in sorrow, our voices are combined in prayer. If you would like to support the rescue and rebuilding efforts in Nepal I recommend the American Jewish World Service , a Jewish organization that reaches out to the world and helps to bring it healing.  AJWS responds to the world's trials with a Jewish heart. We know the feelings of the stranger.  We know the heart of the outsider.  Let us reach out to those in pain.

Yom Haatzmaut and Wandering Home

On this day of Yom Haatzmaut we celebrate Israel’s accomplishments. In the first years of Israel’s existence the small country of Israel welcomed more immigrants than the number of citizens absorbing them. In its first years the state welcomed 685,000 immigrants. It was to say the least a remarkable achievement. Ari Shavit, in his remarkable book My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel , points out that this would be equivalent to 21st century America absorbing 350 million immigrants. Not only was this the fulfillment of the age-old Jewish dream of gathering the Jewish exiles from the four corners of the world, but it was as well the embodiment of the Declaration of Independence’s words: The catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people – the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe – was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of the Jews' homelessness by re-establishing in Eretz Yisrael [the land of Israel] the Jewish State, which wo

Yom Haatzmaut Blessings

This evening marks Yom Haatzmaut, 67 years since the State of Israel declared its independence.  On that day David Ben Gurion declared: We appeal to the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora to rally round the Jews of Eretz Yisrael [land of Israel] in the tasks of immigration and building up and to stand by them in the great struggle for the realization of the age-old dream - the redemption of Israel . Yehuda Amichai writes: Visits of condolence is all we get from them. They squat at Yad VaShem, They put on grave faces at the Kotel And they laugh behind heavy curtains In their hotels. They have their pictures take Together with our famous dead At Rachel's Tomb and Herzl's Tomb And on the top of Ammunition Hill. They weep over our sweet boys And lust over our tough girls And hang up their underwear To dry quickly In cool, blue bathrooms. I have since visited Israel many times.  I live in a blessed age when I can travel to Israel with freedom and eas

Yom HaZikaron Fragments

This evening marks the beginning of Yom HaZikaron, Israel's memorial day.  This is a day of mourning set aside to remember the soldiers who gave their lives defending the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Below is the grave of Hannah Senesh, the poet who gave her life trying to rescue Jews trapped by the Nazi's murderous onslaught of Hungary. Her words still ring true: Yesh kochavim… There are stars whose light touches the earth only after they themselves have disintegrated and are no more. And there are people whose shimmering memories light the world after they themselves are no more among us. These lights which light up the darkest night they are the starry lights that illumine a person’s path. A grave of an unknown soldier who died in the battle for Jerusalem in 1948. And the words of the unparalleled Israeli poet, Yehuda Amichai: God has pity on kindergarten children. He has less pity on school children. And on grownups he has

Yom HaShoah Names

In memory of the six million and in observance of Yom HaShoah, pictures from Yad Vashem's archives. Thousands of names... Millions of names... Yizkor! Remember...

Yom HaShoah and Survivor Voices

We say: Never again! Still we see: Rwanda. Bosnia. Cambodia. And then we realize.  We have failed to heed this sacred call.  We have failed to teach the world the universal import of the Holocaust.  Never again must mean an end to all genocides.  Evil still persists. One need only read the newspapers or search the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website to discover the demonic hate that we fear might become future atrocities.  How many more such instances of human beings slaughtering other human beings must our children and grandchildren read about in their history classes until never again becomes a reality?  And yet for the Jewish people never again has become real.  Because of a vibrant and strong Jewish state, the Jewish people are no longer victimized.  Antisemitism to be sure continues.  Individual Jews are harassed.  Jewish communities are under attack.  But the Jewish people can no longer be persecuted.   Now we can defend ourselves.  Today we know that

Passover, Rains and Miracles

The holiday of Passover brings with it many changes. There is of course the grand Seder meals. We eat matzah rather than bread for eight days (and some seven). We adjust our routines of where we eat out. There is a different air surrounding our kitchens and dining room tables. The week stands apart. In the prayer service as well we make some adjustments. At Pesah we stop reciting: “You cause the wind to blow and the rain to fall.” This line is added to the second paragraph of the Amidah in which we extol God’s power and might. We add this prayer for rain beginning in the fall with the holiday of Sukkot. Why recite a prayer for rain during the winter months? It is because in the land of Israel the rainy season begins around Sukkot and concludes around Pesah. Many of our prayers continue to focus on Jerusalem and Israel. Even though we do not live in Israel our prayers direct our hearts toward there. Our dreams, and the prayers that give life to these dreams, are wrapped up i

Passover Questions

Isidor Isaac Rabi, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1944 for his development of MRI technology, was once asked what made him become a scientist rather than a doctor, lawyer or businessman, like all the other immigrant kids in his neighborhood. He answered, “My mother made me a scientist without ever intending it. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: ‘Nu? Did you learn anything today?’ But not my mother. She always asked me a different question. ‘Izzy,’ she would say, ‘Did you ask a good question today?’ That difference—asking good questions—made me become a scientist.’” The entire Passover Seder is structured with one goal in mind: to elicit the asking of questions. We open the meal by washing our hands without reciting a blessing. We taste bitter herbs. We eat matzah. The Haggadah was written in fulfillment of the command to tell the story of our going out from Egypt. Central to this retelling is the asking of questions.