Posts Tagged ‘ Being Jewishly ’

History Lesson: Chain

2017.09.08
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adtn“Everything you do, here and at home, is part of Sonoma Valley Jewish history.”

That’s what I like to tell the students in our synagogue’s Hebrew school, and it’s also one of the lessons from this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo.

The relevant piece of Torah comes at the beginning of the portion, when the Israelites are commanded to bring the season’s first fruits to “the place where G?d will establish His name” — meaning, in later years, the Temple in Jerusalem. Part of the agricultural primacy ceremony involves reciting the formulaic history of the Jewish people we review every year at Pesach, beginning “My father was a wandering Aramean” and recalling the slavery in Egypt before ending with “And now I’m here, in this land, with these fruits.” (Those aren’t the actual words, but they’re close.)

To know where you stand, it’s important to know where you’ve been. Read more »

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Lamed-Vavniks, Unite!

2017.06.08
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adtnAre you a Lamed-Vavnik?

According to Jewish tradition, there are 36 exceptionally righteous (read: supermensch-like) people in the world in each generation, and without whom the world would cease to exist. (In Hebrew counting, 36 is “lamed vav” (lamed = 30, vav = six)). The thing about Lamed-Vavniks is that they are secretly righteous; they do their deeds under the cover of anonymity.

That type of exemplary behavior is modeled for us in the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, according to the Kotzker Rebbe (1787-1859). The portion begins with G?d telling Moses to tell his brother Aaron to light the menorah inside the Tabernacle — where no one outside could see it. “This was a matter of the inmost heart,” writes the Kotzker. “All the great things have as their central idea something that is hidden and concealed in the heart — with no outward manifestation whatsoever!”

This idea is also substantiated by Pirke Avot, a collection of wise sayings of the sages and early rabbis: “Do not be as servants who serve the master in order to receive a reward, rather be as servants who are serving the master not in order to receive a reward.” That reward could include recognition via Facebook posts or “bragging rights” — both of which are incompatible with the concept of the Lamed-Vavnik.

May we all merit to serve each other in quiet humility, and with a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunity.

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Confronting Evil

2017.04.24
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(From a friend, for Yom Hashoah/Holocaust Remembrance Day.)

April 15, 1965
יוסף דוב סולוביצ’יק
JOSEPH SOLOVEITCHIK

Dear Dr. Vogel:

I received your letter. Of course, you may quote me.

The gist of my discourse was that Judaism did not approach the problem of evil under the speculative – metaphysical aspect. For such an inquiry would be a futile undertaking. As long as the human mind is unable to embrace creation in its entirety and to gain an insight into the very essence and purposiveness of being as such it would not succeed in its attempt to resolve the dilemma of evil. Read more »

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Midrash Beshallach

2017.02.06
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adtn

WORF: These are our stories. They tell us who we are.
BA’EL: …Are they true?
WORF: I have studied them all of my life, and find new truths in them every time.
– “Birthright,” Star Trek: The Next Generation

Here’s a radical thought: does the story of the Exodus and its miracles — including this week’s splitting of the Sea of Reeds — need to be true in order to be meaningful?

Biblical literalists, who take the Torah to be G?d’s word, see the text as the ultimate truth and the miracles as G?d’s handiwork. Modern critics see the Torah as a unique document compiled from numerous sources, and explain the miracles in terms of natural events. But both may be missing the point.
Read more »

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Happy 5772!

2011.09.28
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THIS PHOTO FEATURES PEOPLE SPELLING out in Hebrew the words “Shanah Tovah,” or “good year.” I like it because it shows us that the year is ultimately made up of the people who live it — of every moment and every second that lives in human consciousness and memory — that everything within eyeshot is to some extent a human creation, even if only through the act of its being perceived. Live it well, live it fully, live it with joy — but live it.

Happy New Year from The Metaphorager!

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The Aim Of All TRUE Religion

2011.09.05
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PROLONGING THE GOD EXPERIENCE INTO every waking moment. (All else — songs, prayers, chants, acts, texts, charity, incense, beads, building fund — is just stage direction. Which is not to dismiss the stage direction, since that’s one of the keys to the Experience. But the key isn’t the lock, and what you really want anyway is to open.)

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Slouching Toward Tishrei

2011.09.01
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TODAY IS THE SECOND OF Elul, the month preceding Rosh Hashana, and that fact lends the period an air of expectancy and overhaul.

The Jewish New Year is less a time for partying all night and more a time for reflection and making right, especially of our relationships. Have we wronged anyone? Hurt anyone? Been less than true or right or kind? Now’s the time to fix that.

So if I have in the past year treated you less than you deserve, or been blunt or flip where tender seriousness would have been better, please let me know. Life is too short not to live it fully, and it’s hard to live it fully if there’s an interpersonal problem sticking things up. As Elwood P. Dowd would say, “I’d rather be kind than right.” (I’d actually rather be both, but sometimes you can’t have everything.)

May your own annual journey to renewal and rebirth go as smoothly as it needs to be, and, to paraphrase Ecclesiastes, may you become no wiser than necessary.

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Pithyism #10,000

2011.08.30
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A MODERN SENSIBILITY IS THE greatest impediment to understanding ancient traditions. (And sometimes vice-versa.)

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An Erev Shabbat Invitation

2011.08.26
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YOU ARE CORDIALLY INVITED TO attend tonight’s Erev Shabbat service at Sonoma’s Congregation Shir Shalom, 252 W. Spain St., which service I am both grateful and privileged to lead. Services begin at 7:30 p.m. PDT and will be followed by an oneg Shabbat. (If you’d like to attend an informal Saturday morning Torah study, please RSVP.) Shabbat shalom!

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The Purist’s Question

2011.08.21
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HOW MUCH CAN YOU CHANGE something before it no longer resembles the original — yet still call it by the same name?

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Echo (Pithyism #18)

2011.08.19
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Fig. 1.

YOU REALLY FEEL LIKE A Jewish Teacher when a former student says “This needed to be here” and gives you a rock he picked up at Masada.

(Thanks, Nick. May you also be blessed to know the difference you make.) (Photo by Ann.)

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“Self-Deleting Jews”

2011.08.16
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(Feel free to skip if you’re not hot for ethnoapologetics.)

THERE’S AN UGLY MEME IN the Jewish community that may or may not have analogs among other minority groups: the so-called “self-hating Jew.”

This term, most often used in online Jewish fora (the Forward, Tablet, Jewschool, et al) when someone Jewish posts a critically outre comment about Israel, is more generally used to describe one who turns his or her back on “the tribe” and spends some significant time publicly railing thereupon. (Peter Beinart and Adrienne Rich come most prominently to this writer’s mind, but someone once used it to describe me when I naively asked in one forum, “Is there such a thing as ‘too Jewish?’” I don’t think so, but some apparently do.) Read more »

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Recent Tales

Not Like It Used To Was

Mom in the drug store Called out to her son: “Brooklyn!” Am I getting old?

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Prosatio Silban and the Starving Survivor

A BUOPOTH IS A STRANGE beast: some say it is half-composed of men’s dreams, others prefer not to speculate. But of the little that...

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Prosatio Silban and the Visitor From The Sands

PROSATIO SILBAN WAS NOT KNOWN for nothing as “The Cook For Any Price.” He had long ago foresworn the Sacreanthood and serving people’s souls...

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The Poet

HE COULDN’T TELL WHETHER HE loved beauty or women more until the day he called his mom and said “Guess what? I’m marrying a...

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Storyteller’s Knot

THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF any story is the point at which it’s attached to the reader.

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