Author of "Embracing Auschwitz" and "Mensch•Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi - Wisdom for Untethered Times." Winner of the Rockower Award, the highest honor in Jewish journalism and 2019 Religion News Association Award for Excellence in Commentary. Musings of a rabbi, journalist, father, husband, poodle-owner, Red Sox fan and self-proclaimed mensch, taken from essays, columns, sermons and thin air. Writes regularly in the New York Jewish Week and Times of Israel.
Thursday, August 4, 2022
What'd I Miss?; Everyone is Dead; Th...that's All, Folks! Mice, Pigs, Bioethicists and Other Living Things; TBE at the Maccabiah; Tisha B'Av
In This Moment
TBE at the Maccabiah
Nice to be back from my July break. I hope everyone is well - knowing that the Omicron variant has spread like wildfire over the past several weeks. The only thing spreading faster has been wildfire itself, and flooding, and record heat. We send healing wishes to those in Kentucky and California and all the places that have been hit so hard. Still, great to be back!
We've had several TBE congregants traveling in Israel for very special events during July. Like Mia Broder, who became Bat Mitzvah at Masada (see photo). Mazal tov to the Broders!!!!! And above you can see two TBE Maccabiah athletes, Adam Satz, who played rugby, and Nathaniel Harrison, seen in the photo above with his Under-18 US hockey team, which won a silver medal!
With Tisha B'Av this weekend (this Shabbat has a special name because of it - Shabbat Hazon), we can't help but notice the relevance of some of the themes of this fast day, and the warnings embedded therein. Causeless hatred can cause endless, corrosive damage, to a society and to each of us individually. I share below some some suggested reading on that.
So let's see, as Thomas Jefferson would say, other than the Maccabiah and Mia's Big Day, the floods and the fires....
The highlight of the visit was President Biden's unscripted conversation, on his knees, with two Holocaust survivors, Giselle Cycowicz and Rena Quint at Yad Vashem. The headline says "Tears of a President." And below to the right, click on the video to hear an inspiring rendition of "Lu Yehi - Let it Be" sung for Biden and Israeli President Herzog.
President Biden visited Israel, which was a big deal, but he had to share the front pages with the James Webb telescope, which has opened our eyes to distant galaxies dating back to the beginnings of the universe, 13 billion years ago (give or take 5782).
What else did I miss?
Apparently it got so hot in England that everyone died. Which made it the perfect time for Israeli scientists to create life - in the form of a mouse embryo generated from skin cells, bypassing the need for sperm or an egg. I wonder what the Supreme Court will do with that one. When does mouse life begin? At conception or in the lab? Will Mickey and Minnie need to cross state lines if she needs an abortion?
Forget Minnie and Mickey and the creation of mouse life. What about Porky? And when does pig life end? Scientists announced they have restored blood flow and cell function throughout the bodies of pigs that were dead for an hour, in a breakthrough experts say could mean the need to update the definition of death itself. So this a good week for pigs and mice. For humans, not so much. Man, it's hot! But maybe the new climate bill will be a step toward a healthier planet for humans, mice, and other living things. Otherwise we all might have to join in saying....
What'd I miss?
Also in July, there was another mass shooting (actually there were many), this time in the heavily Jewish suburb of Highland Park, Ill, at a July 4 parade. More gun violence, more hand-wringing, but at least Alex Jones now admits that Sandy Hook was "100 percent real."
And what else?
Meanwhile, sadly, while Israel heads toward elections yet again, the attacks on pluralism took a nasty turn, as an American boy's bar mitzvah day was desecrated at the Western Wall. The attack was so disgusting it was called antisemitic by the American special envoy on antisemitism. Thankfully, Mia Broder's bat mitzvah at Masada went much better, but do I now have to steer families away from the Kotel, our most sacred site? That would be giving in to the hatred. See below:
JERUSALEM (JTA) — An American teen was harassed during her bat mitzvah ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem Friday as haredi Orthodox protesters sought to interrupt non-Orthodox Jews’ prayer one month after a major incident drew attention from Israel’s political leadership.
No injuries or arrests were reported during Friday’s confrontation, which came during the observance of the start of the month of Av and after several months of escalating tensions at Rosh Hodesh prayers. But police and ushers hired by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, the state-funded group that manages the holy site, also did not appear to enforce Israel’s law prohibiting the disturbance of prayers, a crime that can carry a penalty of up to three years in jail.
Thousands of black-attired young yeshiva students, both male and female, swarmed a group of about 100 women and a dozen men who accompanied them to the Western Wall, where traditional prayers were to take place at 7 a.m., ahead of the bat mitzvah of Lucia da Silva, 12, of Seattle, who came to Israel with her parents and godparents to celebrate the event.
Tisha B'Av and Other Recommended Reading
The fast of the 9th of Av takes place this Saturday night and Sunday
The History Leading Up to the Destruction of JudahSituated in a land bridge between the Babylonians and Egyptians, the two great powers of the day, Kings Jehoiakim and Zedekiah of Judah kept switching allegiance depending on which seemed the more powerful. Judah first favored Egypt, then Babylon, and then returned to Egypt. The Bible and the Babylonian Chronicles help us reconstruct the events that led to the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.
Why Isn’t Tisha B’Av Working? (podcast, Hartman Institute) This day of national reckoning with our collective failures asks us to mourn as a means of preventing future tragedy. Donniel Hartman and Yossi Klein Halevi discuss its current relevance.
“Have mercy, O Eternal, our God, in Your great mercy and your trusted kindness, towards us, and Your people Israel, Your city Jerusalem, Zion the dwelling place of Your glory, and on the mourning, ruined, destroyed, and desolate city that is given into the hand of strangers, trampled down by haughty peoples, that was inherited by legions and desecrated by idol worshipers, for You had given her to Your people Israel as property, and to the seed of Yeshurun you had given an inheritance, for in fire You set her on fire, and with fire You will build her in the future, as it has been said (Zekhariah 2:9): “But I shall be for her, says the Eternal, a wall of fire around, and Glory I shall be in her midst.”
What you see here is a Judaean “sela” coin, which was overstruck on a Roman tetradrachm from the time of the Bar Kochba revolt. Tetradrachms are large, silver coins that were popular as currencies throughout Mediterranean society before the 4th century. The obverse of this Judaean coin is a contemporary depiction of the Jerusalem temple’s façade beneath a star (a reference to the meaning of Bar Kochba’s name, “Son of the Star”), the tablets of the Ark of the Covenant, a horizontal ladder indicating an ascension to the altar, and an ancient inscription of “Shimeon,”–Bar Kochba’s name. The coin’s reverse depicts a lulav and etrog surrounded by an inscription in ancient Hebrew reading “for the freedom of Jerusalem.” This coin was likely minted in the time after the Roman capture of the Judaean capital city—the imagery a bittersweet reminder of Jerusalem.
Perfect reading for a fast day: Check out this new online exhibit, POLIN Museum’s virtual exhibition on Jewish culinary culture. It takes the viewers on a journey across time and space, to different corners of the world, traveling back thousands of years, seeking answers to the question: What is Jewish cuisine?What is the connection between memories and food? How did Jewish people make matzo for the Pesach holiday centuries ago? Why Jewish cuisine is so diverse and unique? Why do the New Yorkers regard pickled gherkins and borscht as Jewish dishes and what is the link between potato pancakes and latkes?
Opinion: As a Jewish American, I don't see this country quite the same way after January 6 (CNN)Even though I am often reminded of the good that this country stands for, now when I walk the streets of my neighborhood -- the same streets that the January 6 protesters marched through -- I know that there is an undercurrent of hate and destruction in our society that sometimes threatens to become an undertow. The work of the January 6 committee in getting at the truth of what happened that day is vitally important in preserving our democracy. But for those of us still traumatized, it is also necessary for the process of healing. Until the whole truth of the events of that day is brought to light, I will keep my bag packed, just in case.
How Bill Russell learned the spirit of Judaism. Read about the relationship between Russell, the greatest champion in professional sports, and his coach and mentor, Red Auerbach. I had the pleasure of watching Russell play often, usually at a half-filled Boston Garden, where his immense skills were taken for granted. But what a giant he was. For kids liked me growing up in the Boston suburbs, he was our pathway to understanding the horrors of hate. And he was a true hero.