There's a famous Yiddish saying "shver tsu zayn a yid" -- "it's hard to be a Jew." It's hard to be a Jew*, in these times once again. (*And, of course, only we should get to define what it means to us to be Jewish.) But, it's also wonderful to be a Jew... we are fortunate to have a rich and resilient tradition to draw on, and to have each other as sources of support.
As an American Jew, this past week has felt deeply disconcerting.
Against the backdrop of impeachment proceedings, the president gave aspeech this weekend to the Israeli American Council embracing antisemitic tropes in an attempt to argue that Jews have no choice but to vote for him in the 2020 election. And then, we got wind of an executive order defining Jewish people as a national group... ostensibly drafted to combat anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses. In another time and place, we might have the luxury to debate this designation (which has some merit, but also feels terribly dangerous to me on the grounds of concerns about both free speech and ethnonationalism-gone-awry).However, this week, we don't have any such luxury, because the executive order (with language now slightly scaled back from what was initially reported) comes at the same time as a deadly, targeted attack on a kosher market in Jersey City -- the third antisemitic shooting in this country in just over a year!
There's a famous Yiddish saying "shver tsu zayn a yid" -- "it's hard to be a Jew."
When I was growing up, Jewish identity felt especially hard to me this time of year, as I experienced a keen awareness of difference in this season against the ubiquitous backdrop of Christmas in the air. Now -- in the face of antisemitic attacks, both physical and rhetorical -- the "December Dilemma" feels almost quaint (although still worth discussing, of course!).
During challenging times like these, we need to stick together. To that end, you are cordially invited to join us at Kavana this weekend for Shabbat services on Friday night, Saturday morning, or both! (There are also many other opportunities to be together over the coming week... see below for the full slate of Kavana's programmatic offerings.) Joining together for prayer and learning can help us recommit to the core values of our Jewish tradition, find camaraderie and solace in good company, and tap into the sources of spiritual renewal that give us the fortitude we need to weather the rest.
It's hard to be a Jew*, in these times once again. (*And, of course, only we should get to define what it means to us to be Jewish.) But, it's also wonderful to be a Jew... we are fortunate to have a rich and resilient tradition to draw on, and to have each other as sources of support.
The decisions handed down by the Supreme Court over the past week have been gut-wrenching. I know that many of you are sharing in my experience of grief and anger, and contending with a sense of disequilibrium, as we are forced to grapple anew with what kind of a country we’re living in. There’s a human fantasy that we can make the world work the way it should. But the radical shifts we’re witnessing in our country’s direction are reminding us of the fact that real life doesn’t work this way.
We begin our Torah portion with a minor textual dilemma. By the time we end the portion, the Israelites will have faced a major spiritual dilemma - and failed. I think the two dilemmas are related.
This week's Torah portion, Parashat Beha'alotecha, opens with instructions about how to set up a "menorah" -- literally, a lamp-stand or light source -- in the mishkan. Thus it happens that the haftarah (prophetic reading assigned to accompany a particular Torah portion) for Beha'alotecha is the same one we read on Shabbat Chanukah: Zechariah 2:14-4:7.