Thursday, September 17, 2020

In This Moment: Sept 18, 2020: Next Year is Here: Is That a Good Thing?


In This Moment
Shabbat-O-Gram for Sept 18, 2020



We can quibble over lots of aspects of this week's Abraham Accords, including the fact that Israel was never in a state of war with UAE and Bahrain to begin with, but the headlines from these Arab newspapers have got to bring a smile to the face of anyone who has borne the burden of Israel's geopolitical isolation over the decades. 

Some Rosh Hashanah Notes:
The more things change...  Every year for 33 years the Fein family has donated flowers for our sanctuary and lobby.  Well, we aren't going to let a little thing like a pandemic break that chain - so my special thanks to the Feins for the virtual flowers that they have donated to honor the new year, in loving memory of Lily and William Vail, z'l.

It takes a village...  We may not be together, but we will all be watching the same thing at the same time, and that counts for something.  So if you are so inclined, have someone snap a photo (not that I would ever ask anyone to do that on Shabbat) of your group / family/ self watching / participating in the service.  Send your pics to me and I'll share them.  We'll find new ways to beat this thing and come together.

- You can also join us in the live Zoom Lobby right after the final prayer of Musaf on Saturday.  You'll be able to wish your friends and neighbors a sweet new year, and chat with them.  Check your local listings for the link.  And on Sunday, we have the live shofar drive-through and Tashlich.

TBE 100

Our TBE 100 programs last Sunday, on the actual 100th anniversary of our first service, were very special. 

Thanks to the filming and editing skills of Stephany Zelazny, our 100th Anniversary Montage was a huge hit! 

At our early program, Lisa Manheim spoke at the playground's "Pre-Dedication," remembering Emmet on his first yahrzeit and TBE's 100th Anniversary. Photo by Aviva Maller Photography.  See more photos in our Fall 2020 Album

Next Year is Here!  Is that a Good Thing?

The Maccabeats have gone Jewishly viral this week with their new version of the Israeli classic, "B'Shana Ha'ba'ah,"  "Next Year."  Listen to it.

The Maccabeats - Bashana Haba'a - Rosh Hashanah
The Maccabeats - Bashana Haba'a 

Yes, next year has at last arrived, and it can't possibly be worse than the one that is ending.  Right?

Well... The Hebrew name for 5781, the year we are about to enter, says it all.  

Tav shin peh alef.  If you toss around the letters, you get the word ASHPOT - a garbage heap. Literally in the Bible, a pile of dung. The gate adjacent to the Western Wall is called Sha'ar ha-Ashpot.  The Dung Gate. It's where they carried out the residue of all those animals brought up to the temple for sacrifices. Nehemiah 2:13 mentions a Dung Gate that was probably near this one. 

Dung Gate: Sha'ar ha-Ashpot

So be careful what you wish for, or we may end up in a year that is even worse than this one has been, a dung-show of biblical proportions, a real dung-ster fire.

Or maybe, just maybe, the view from the dung heap is just what we need to assess our world, warts and all, and act on what we see. The idea is that the prevailing winds would usher foul odors out of Jerusalem through that gate, along with the carcasses and other garbage.  Dung Gate saw its share of death and suffering, sacrifice and service. And there our ancestors escorted that suffering away and brought joy in.  These days, Dung Gate happens to be where many celebrants enter the Old City for B'nai Mitzvah and other joyous occasions; it is after all, the closest gate to the Kotel.  I've seen very little suffering in the numerous times I've been there, save for the overcharging by taxi drivers lying in wait for unsuspecting (and very tired) tourists looking for a quick ride back to the hotel.

Check that - actually I have seen tense moments in that spot having less to do with taxis and more to do with the tensions between some Israelis and the residents of Silwan, a contested Arab neighborhood just below.
Maybe that's precisely where we need to enter this new year - where we leave the old one - just inside Dung Gate, a reality check for life at the limits, a place of transition, from death to rebirth; from unspeakable suffering to hope.  

Play it again, Maccabeats!

Rosh Hashanah 5781: Leadership in Action

We enter the new year with a glimmer of promise and a whole lot of concern.  As the US reaches the unimaginable number of 200,000 dead from Covid-19, Israel has entered into a lockdown that will encompass the entire fall holiday season.  Yesterday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin delivered one of the most heartfelt messages I've ever heard out of the mouth of a politician:  
I understand the feelings of confusion and uncertainty, the anxiety that many people are feeling. I understand and, first and foremost, want to apologize for that....
When the coronavirus burst into our lives, we thought it would be a tough battle, but we hoped for a swift victory and so we accepted the restrictions of social distancing with understanding, despite the costs it entails. You paid a high price, a real price for a long time - our synagogues were closed on Pesach, our mosques were closed during Ramadan, and until today I grieve when I think of the bereaved families who were unable to visit the graves of their loved ones on Yom Hazikaron.

We celebrated with our families under great restrictions, we mourned our dead in a way unworthy of them, we lived our lives in a painful compromise in the belief that the country and its institutions would get us out of this crisis quickly.
You, the citizens of Israel, deserve a safety net that the country gives you. Decision-makers, government ministries, policy implementers must work for you and only for you. To save lives, to reduce infection, to rescue the economy. I understand the feeling that none of these were done satisfactorily. And now, today, my fellow Israelis, we are forced to pay the price again. I think of those with mental health issues in hostels, of soldiers, of parents in old-age homes. The lockdown means that our ability to live together, to celebrate together, to mourn together, to pray together, to fulfill our most basic human needs together - all these are harmed. And from here, I want to say to the government of Israel - its leaders, ministers and advisors: the trust of the people is beyond value. We must do everything to restore personal, medical and economic confidence to our fellow citizens... This is a second chance and we must take it because we will not, I fear, get a third one. We must refrain from blaming other parts of the society as if one sector is 'responsible' for spreading the disease. Every group and community in our society plays a crucial role in our combined strength and in our ability to win this battle. We will not prevail through finger pointing and toxic accusations. Only together.

Rivlin has always been the consummate mensch and once again he proves that with this demonstration of mature, responsible leadership.  Israel is in turmoil over this right now, but with that kind of leadership at the helm, I have confidence that they will get this thing under control again.

Here is a photo preview of what you be watching this weekend from our sanctuary:

Some supplementary material to bring to services with you, or for other High Holiday reading:

For those looking to take a virtual excursion to Israel, check out Israel is Beautiful - a new venture produced by Peter Abelow, a tour guide that many of us have come to know and love. Israel Is Beautiful provides incredible video tours to the Holy Land of Israel for individuals, groups, families and schools.  Their first tour - of Jaffa Port - is free.

May your year be as sweet as rugelach from Marzipan, with honey as sweet as Torah.  

A sweet and healthy year to your family from mine,

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

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