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.
Wednesday, August 9, 2023
In This Moment: A September 12 Explainer
A rap video gone viralin Israel over the past few days, with English subtitles provided by Daniel Gordis, shows the depth of animosity and civil strive tearing apart Israelis across the political and socio-ethnic spectrum right now. It helps us to gain some understanding, and maybe some hope.
In This Moment
Yes, after many weeks of waiting, we will finally be able to hold Friday evening services outdoors this week - and the weather should be delightful. Join us at 7 PM. This isn't the first summer that we've had to wait a long time for decent weather on a Friday night - but terrible heat and violent storms have now become our "New Normal." Services will also be available online on Friday evening, but not on Shabbat morning, unfortunately, for this week only.
So in anticipation of the big moment, let's take a look at some of our most memorable outdoor services through the years, from Jerusalem to Treetops to Safed to Tel Aviv to the Berkshires, to Cove island to Holiday Hills (Shabbaton - it wasn't outdoors - it was January - but it FELT camp-like) to right back here. There is nothing like an outdoor service. And given that we just survived what this week was officially proclaimed the hottest month ever, we should enjoy these gifts from nature while we can.
So...What's in Store for Sept. 12?
Sept 12, 2023, just three days before Rosh Hashanah, might prove to be as momentous in Israel as Sept. 11, 2001 was here. That's the day Israel's Supreme Courtwill take on its most consequential case ever, as it will rule on the legality of the first slice of the government's judicial coup, the Reasonableness Clause. Here are some backgrounders:
An unreasonable law (JPPI) - Stripping the Supreme Court of its ability to apply the reasonableness standard in its judicial review of decisions made by Israel’s elected officials will allow politicians to wield their power in ways that will be hard to limit.
To give you a sense of what might happen after that ruling, Ha'aretz gamed it out - though it is hardly a game. You can see below just how serious the situation is, and how it will all come to a head just in time for the holidays. As you can see, no matter what happens, it will likely result in unprecedented protests and civil unrest.
I expect that many of you feel that I am pressing the panic button prematurely. Please know that I really hope that I am wrong and that the government backs down before the dreaded date arrives. I hope the Supreme Court has a solution that diffuses the situation and maybe even kicks the can down the road. But none of that is likely, especially given the PR campaign by PM Netanyahu on American media of the past few weeks, where he has made his intentions very clear, despite the constant lies and manipulations, which have beenwell documented by Israeli media (who have not been able to interview him). Click here to see, point by point, precisely how Netanyahu manipulates the U.S. media.
We are in fact the target of his campaign, and therefore we have to make it our business to be fully informed. Why? Because unless some resistance emerges from within the ruling coalition itself (and there have been a few hints of that) resulting from increasing pressure from IDF reservists and mass protests, the only real player here who can pressure Netanyahu to back down is the US. That's why Israelis have been beseeching Joe Biden to save them. And that's why we need to stand firm - at the very least to call for consensus building negotiations - real ones, not the posturing that we've seen. At the very least, that's what mainstream US Jewish organizations have been doing.
Despite the manipulations, two truths came forth in Bibi's recent interviews with American media: 1) He will not commit to accepting the Supreme Court's decision and 2) He's not done passing devastating, radical legislation, with the next goal being to co-opt and politicize the selection of judges. Right now, the selection panel for judges has political government and opposition representation but no one political group can control it. Netanyahu is speaking of a so-called compromise that could easily result in his party gaining control of the appointment process, either directly or through coalition machinations.
Recent polls show Likud losing fully one third of its voters, and it's been getting worse for the ruling party since the Knesset vote. Netanyahu can't even spend a few days vacationing in the north without protesters shadowing his every step. It's hard to understand why he is continuing along this path. But clearly he is determined to do just that.
So stay tuned for Sept. 12. Incidentally, I hear it might be televised.
Just in case you couldn't get my sense of humor, the answer is NEVER "e."
Some of my references are dated (does anyone remember Kitty Dukakis?) but the serious parts hold up quite well. Answers at the bottom. Let me know how you did!
1) d; 2) c (but some say a); 3) b (but they had to give up their "national" Jewish identity); 4) d; 5) d (his son Jeroboam built two golden calves, so it's in the family, but there is actually some speculation that Solomon built pyramids. One of his many wives was a daughter of an Egyptian pharaoh); 6) d: 7) c; 8) a; 9) d; 10) b; 11) a; 12) b: 13) d; 14) a; 15) b; 16) d; 17) c; 18) b; 19) d; 20) b; 21) c; 22) a; 23) d; 24) d; 25) c; 26) c; 27) b; 28) b; 29) d (When Lord Balfour pushed the Uganda idea, the young Weizmann replied, “Jerusalem was the capital of my country when London was a marsh”); 30) c.
And finally, a refreshing new midrash on "Dayenu," courtesy of that great Jewish sage Arnold (Red) Auerbach, in the new season of the HBO series ,"Winning Time." Somehow I don't think this is what Moses had in mind.