Friday, October 26, 2012

Lech Lecha - A journey for the self

This is my first published dvar Torah since becoming a Rabbah - thought I'd share. Lech Lecha is special to me. Not just because of the story - journeys, huge life changing events, and decisions needing to be made. It was also my son Alex's bar mitzvah portion! This dvar appears this week in the Washington Jewish Week newspaper.

At the end are some questions for your consideration. 
Enjoy! Shabbat Shalom 
Rabbah Arlene

10/24/2012 10:33:00 AM
A journey for the self

by Rabbah Arlene Berger
This week's Torah portion is Lech Lecha, Genesis 12:1-17:27.

We are taught that no word in the Torah is superfluous. The beginning of this parsha is a perfect example. Lech lecha. Lech - from the Hebrew root hey lamed chaf - meaning to go, to walk, or poetically, to journey. Lech is the command form meaning "Get on with you! Get going!" It is complete unto itself. God did not need to add the pronoun "lecha" "yourself." So why is this word there?

Rashi explains that the expression Lech Lecha can be translated as "You go for yourself" implying that Avram should leave homeland and family for his own benefit. What benefit?

The text continues "...I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you, and make your name great. ..." (Genesis 12:2). However, according to Rashi, to make this happen, you must go "sham" (there). This greatness, these blessings, won't happen if you stay where you are, outside the holy land. You must go sham to "the land that I will show you." So Rashi reconciles this extra word of lecha, this word that highlights Avram as being singled out for this task, by adding in the word sham in his commentary. Avram, God says, you have a task to do and great things lie ahead of you, but first you have a major journey to undertake. Now we understand that the word lecha isn't superfluous, but we must read quite carefully to understand its message: tough journeys often precede fulfilled promises and potential. 

The verse continues. "You shall leave me'artzecha [from your land]; u'me'moladetecha [from the place that you were born]; u'me'beit avicha [and from your father's house]." Here we have three specific places, with their own physical and emotional attributes. Avram, a successful 75-year-old man married to a 65-year-old woman, is being asked (or told) to leave his home and start over. This specific layering of places reminds him of this, of all that he will have to leave (success, power and family) and all that he will face (the need to re-establish himself). A voice, this God, promises him that he will be great, blessed, and that he will finally have children, a legacy. Somehow, Avram is ready to take such a leap of faith and begin a fantastic journey. In so doing, Avram and Sarai become examples for us all. 

My journey did not have the same earth-shattering ramifications for human kind that Avram's did, but it certainly changed my life. It began at the tender age of 5, when, according to family legend, I announced to my rabbis at yeshiva that I intended to grow up to be a rabbi. They responded that this was not possible because I was a girl. My response: I announced that I would grow up to be a boy. I have no recollection of their reply (probably stunned or amused silence, this all took place in the mid-1960s). When that didn't happen I buried my desire to be a rabbi deep within me and chose other paths to fulfillment. 

I got married, was blessed with two children and had a successful career or two. I was busy with the stuff of life and quite happy. Everything changed one fateful summer day when I was 36 and learned that I was in congestive heart failure. That Shabbat I lit candles not knowing if I'd be around to light the Havdalah candles the next night. It was the longest Shabbat of my life - for me, for my husband and children (ages 8 and 5 at the time), for my entire family. Prayer took on new meaning; I truly understood the meaning of making the mundane holy. 

I survived. I was blessed to turn 50 recently. But nothing has ever been the same. I took a long, hard look at my life and decided it was time for me to do what my neshama (soul) really wanted me to do. I listened to that still, small voice inside of me (did it say "lechi lach"?) and with my family's permission I began a journey of nearly a decade that ended with my ordination. All of our lives changed. Now that I'm a rabbah, I like to think that I am, in some small way, changing the lives of all those with whom I am privileged to come into contact. 

Lech lecha. Lechi lach. There are no superfluous words, in Torah or in life. The message of this week's parsha is that we all have journeys to take regardless of our age or stage of life. We may need to leave the comfort, safety and familiarity of our family home, of the community where we are established and known to go out into the unknown and to start over. Remember to keep an ear open for that inner voice, wherever it comes from. Lech lecha - journey for yourself - you never know what potential or blessing will be revealed. 

Rabbah Arlene Berger is education director at Beit Lev, the Hebrew School of Kol HaLev, in Baltimore, and also of the Chavurah of Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in the District. 

1. Do you agree with Rashi's take on the meaning of the word "lecha" in verse 1? Would you add in the word "sham" (meaning a specific location) to the interpretation as he did?
2. Can you think of anytime in your life when you heard such a call and ignored it? If you had heeded the call, would your life have turned out differently?
3. Look up I Kings 19:12 where we come upon the phrase "a still small voice." What does it mean in that context? What does it mean in the liturgy of the High Holidays? And lastly, how does it fit in with your reading of the saga of Avram and Sarai? 

Our weekly d'vrei Torah are written under the guidance of the Partnership for Jewish Life and Learning. They are intended to inspire discussion at your Shabbat table. To learn more about the Partnership go to

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Purim and Assimilation Shiur Sources

~ Text in previous blog post - Sorry it looks so funny, couldn't figure out how to format it properly:) ~

Purim and Assimilation Sources
By Rabbi Joel Levy

Source 1
בבלי מסכת מגילה דף ז/ב
אמר רבא
מיחייב איניש לבסומי בפוריא
עד דלא ידע בין ארור המן
לברוך מרדכי
רבה ורבי זירא עבדו סעודת
פורים בהדי הדדי איבסום קם
רבה שחטיה לרבי זירא
למחר בעי רחמי ואחייה
לשנה אמר ליה ניתי מר ונעביד
סעודת פורים בהדי הדדי
אמר ליה לא בכל שעתא ושעתא
מתרחיש ניסא
Bavli - Megillah 7b
Rava said:
It is a person’s duty to intoxicate themselves on Purim until they cannot tell the difference between “cursed be Haman” and “blessed be Mordecai” Rabbah and Rabbi Zera joined together in a Purim feast. They became drunk and Rabbah arose and cut Rabbi Zera's throat. On the next day he prayed on his behalf and revived him. Next year he said, Will your honor come and we will have the Purim feast together. He replied: A miracle does not take place on every occasion!

1. How drunk do you think you would need to be not to be able to tell thedifference between “cursed be Haman” and “blessed be Mordecai”?
2. The text involves a statement of a Halacha (law) followed by a piece ofAggadah (narrative/story). Why do you think the story is brought here? Shouldour reading of the story change the scope or power of the legal ruling? (This is an interesting example of the interdependence of law and narrative!)
Source 2
אסתר פרק ט
(א) וּבִשְׁנֵים עָשָׂר חֹדֶשׁ הוּא חֹדֶשׁ
אֲדָר בִּשְׁלוֹשָׁה עָשָׂר יוֹם בּוֹ אֲשֶׁר
וְדָתוֹ לְהֵעָשֹוֹת 􀃍 הִגִּיעַ דְּבַר הַמֶּלֶ
בַּיּוֹם אֲשֶׁר שִׂבְּרוּ אֹיְבֵי הַיְּהוּדִים
הוּא אֲשֶׁר 􀃍 לִשְׁלוֹט בָּהֶם וְנַהֲפוֹ
יִשְׁלְטוּ הַיְּ הוּדִים הֵמָּה
Esther Chapter 9
1. And in the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s command and his decree drew near to be put in execution, in the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have power over them, instead it was over-turned such that the Jews had power over those who hated them.
1. Look for the words that appear both before and after the overturning. What is itthat was over-turned according to this verse?
2. In Hebrew a revolution is a מהפכה – a “mahpeichah” – would you describe what happened in the Purim story as a ?מהפכה
3. How do you feel about this over-turning? Does it make you feel happy?                                                               

Source 3
אסתר פרק ט
(כ) וַיִּכְתֹּב מָרְדֳּכַי אֶת הַדְּבָרִים
הָאֵלֶּה וַיִּשְׁלַח סְפָרִים אֶל כָּל
􀃍 הַיְּהוּדִים אֲשֶׁר בְּכָל מְדִינוֹת הַמֶּלֶ
אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ הַקְּרוֹבִים וְהָרְחוֹקִים:
(כא) לְקַיֵּם עֲלֵיהֶם לִהְיוֹת עֹשִׂים אֵת
יוֹם אַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר לְחֹדֶשׁ אֲדָר וְאֵת
יוֹם חֲמִשָּׁה עָשָׂר בּוֹ בְּכָל שָׁנָה וְשָׁנָה:
(כב) כַּיָּמִים אֲ שֶׁר נָחוּ בָהֶם
הַיְּהוּדִים מֵאוֹיְבֵיהֶם וְהַחֹדֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר
לָהֶם מִיָּגוֹן לְשִׂמְחָה וּמֵאֵבֶל 􀃍 נֶהְפַּ
לְיוֹם טוֹב לַעֲשֹוֹת אוֹתָם יְמֵי מִשְׁתֶּה
וְשִׂמְחָה וּמִשְׁלוֹחַ מָנוֹת אִישׁ לְרֵעֵהוּ
וּמַתָּנוֹת לָאֶבְ יוֹנִים:
(כג) וְקִבֵּל הַיְּהוּדִים אֵת אֲשֶׁר הֵחֵלּוּ
לַעֲשֹוֹת וְאֵת אֲשֶׁר כָּתַב מָרְדֳּכַי
Esther Chapter 9
20. And Mordecai wrote these things, and sent letters to all the Jews that were in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, both near and far, 21. To establish this among them, that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly, 22. Like the days when the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was overturned to them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning to a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.  23. And the Jews undertook to do as they had begun, and as Mordecai had written to them;                              

1. What else was over-turned apart from the political climate?
2. What sort of joy might you feel if you experienced this kind of radical reversal of fortune?
Source 4
בבלי ערכין דף י/ב

פורים דאיכא ניסא לימא
אמר רבי יצחק לפי שאין
אומרים שירה על נס
שבחוצה לארץ
מתקיף לה רב נחמן בר
יצחק והרי יציאת מצרים
דנס שבחוצה לארץ הוא
ואמרינן הלל
כדתניא עד שלא נכנסו
ישראל לארץ הוכשרו כל
הארצות לומר שירה
משנכנסו לארץ לא
הוכשרו כל ארצות לומר
רב נחמן אמר קרייתה זו
היא הלילא
רבא אמר בשלמא התם
הללו עבדי ה' ולא עבדי
פרעה הכא הללו עבדי ה'
ולא עבדי אחשורוש אכתי
עבדי אחשורוש אנן
Bavli - Arachin 10b
Then let it (Hallel) be said on Purim, on which, too, a miracle occurred! Said Rabbi Isaac: [It is not said] because no song [Hallel] is said for a miracle that occurred outside the [Holy] Land. To this Rav Nachman Bar Isaac objected: But there is the Exodus from Egypt, which constitutes a miracle that happened outside the Land, and yet we say Hallel! There it is due to the following braita: Before Israel entered the [Holy] Land, all the lands were considered fit for song to be said [if a miracle had occurred in their boundaries]; once Israel had entered the Land, no other countries were considered fit for song to be said. Rav Nachman said: The reading [of the Megillah] that is its [Purim's] Hallel. Rava said: It works well there (At Pesach): “Praise you servants of the Lord” (Ps. 113:1) but not servants of Pharaoh; but here “servants of the Lord”, not servants of Ahasuerus. Surely they are still servants of Ahasuerus!                                                                                                                           
1. Try to identify the different answers to the question why we do not say Hallel on Purim.
2. Which is the most convincing to you?
3. Which of the three have something to say about contemporary Jewish existence in the Diaspora?
Source 5
בבלי סנהדרין דף עד/ב

והא אסתר פרהסיא הואי
אמר אביי אסתר קרקע עולם
רבא אמר הנאת עצמן שאני
ואזדא רבא לטעמיה
דאמר רבא עובד כוכבים דאמר
ליה להאי ישראל קטול
אספסתא בשבתא ושדי לחיותא
ואי לא קטילנא לך ליקטיל ולא
לקטליה שדי לנהרא ליקטליה
ולא ליקטול
מאי טעמא
לעבורי מילתא קא בעי
Bavli - Sanhedrin 74b
But did not Esther transgress publicly? Abaye answered; Esther was merely natural soil. Rava said: When they [the persecutors] demand it for their personal pleasure it is different… This [answer] concurs with Rava's view
expressed elsewhere. For Rava said: If a Gentile said to a Jew, “Cut grass on the Sabbath for the cattle, and if not I will slay you” he must cut it rather than be killed (But if he said) “Cut it and throw it into the river” he should rather be slain than cut it. Why so? Because his intention is merely to force him to violate his religion. The text begins by suggesting that perhaps Esther should have died rather than submitting to Mordechai’s plan for her to marry the king: she was being forced by a non-Jew to transgress an element of Jewish Law publicly and in such cases we generally rule that a person should prefer martyrdom. The text offers two distinct explanations for Esther’s non-martyrdom in the name of Abaye and Rava. They are hard to make sense of so maybe Rashi’s explanations of their positions will help:

 Abaye – “Esther was merely natural soil” – Rashi – “She did not do anything – 
He (Ahasuerus) did things to her!”

 Rava – “When they [the persecutors] demand it for their personal pleasure it is different…” – Rashi – “If the Non-Jew does not intend to turn aside the Jew from his fear of God but rather he only seeks his own benefit then the case is different…”
Can you translate these two categories into terms that make sense for you?

Purim and Assimilation: A Purim Teaching

I wanted to share an interesting and thought provoking Purim lesson written by my teacher Rabbi Joel Levy of the Conservative Yeshiva. This is the most recent in the CY's e-shiur series.  Rabbi Joel always provides a unique spin on familiar topics.  Enjoy! Chag Sameach.

                                                                  Purim and Assimilation
                                                                      By Rabbi Joel Levy

Alone among all the Jewish festivals, Purim is a holiday with a traditional injunction to become intoxicated. Our first text is from the Babylonian Talmud and is the primary source for that obligation (Source 1). This shiur will be an attempt to look at some different ways of understanding this obligation.

The first way is straightforward: drinking is simply a means by which to celebrate. Megillat Esther is the story of a huge inversion. The Jews of Shushan move from being on the verge of annihilation to actually wiping out their enemies. A verse found towards the end of the Megillah describes this huge change (Source 2).

Later in the same chapter we learn about the emotional correlates of this upheaval. The Megillah again uses the verb root hey-pay-chaf, this time to talk about the emotional shifts that accompanied the political one (Source 3). This text tells us that Purim is expressly a time of joy. Purim is a time of rejoicing and festivity because we were saved from genocide. The Jews felt then, and we are supposed to feel now, the inversion from powerlessness to power (source 2) and from sorrow to joy (source 3). Maybe the unique instruction to become intoxicated at Purim is a pure expression of joy! The psalmist tells us that “wine gladdens the heart of man.” (Psalms 104:15) so maybe the alcohol is there as a means to loosen us up and get us in the “right” mood!

I am generally suspicious when people tell me that it is good idea for me to get drunk. None of my own experiences of real drunkenness, either my own or my experiences of those around me, could be described as involving unalloyed joy. In an uptight country like England where I grew up alcohol is widely used to disinhibit the pathologically inhibited. We know the real damage caused by alcohol abuse in society. And beyond the psalmist’s association between alcohol and joy our tradition acknowledges other darker sides to alcohol. It can also be used to bring comfort to the afflicted: “Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto the bitter in soul.” (Proverbs 31:6). The Zohar suggests that it eventually brings on sadness. “The truth is that wine rejoices at first and saddens afterwards…” (Zohar Section III, 39a). According to the Tanach, the first person to consume alcohol was Noah in Bereshit Chapter 9. In that episode Noah does not seem to be drinking as an expression of joy – he seems to be trying to blot out his recent experience of seeing the entire world destroyed! The incident ends badly with an obscure allusion to sexual disgrace.

Returning to the issue at hand, is it possible that the prescribed use of alcohol at Purim is more nuanced? Is it possible that the story of Purim contains such painful motifs that we need to blur the boundaries of our reality, to seek some form of oblivion, to escape from or avoid a reality that seems unpleasant or impossible to deal with? Remember that Source 1 seemed to call for a quite extreme form of intoxication - until we cannot tell the difference between “cursed be Haman” and “blessed be Mordecai”. What issues might we be trying to avoid at Purim when we are commanded to seek escape?

Source 4 might point us in a different direction. This passage begins by asking why we don’t sing Hallel on Purim and offers a variety of possibilities. Hallel is normally sung on festivals and its absence on Purim is certainly noteworthy. Various answers are proposed. Rabbi Isaac says that we don’t say Hallel when recalling a miracle that occurred outside the Holy Land. Rav Nachman suggests that the reading of the Megillah constitutes Purim's Hallel so we don‘t need to say the real Hallel too. Rava, however, has a darker reading. He says that it would actually be inappropriate to sing the Hallel on Purim. Hallel contains the words: “Praise you servants of the Lord” (Psalm 113:1) and this does not ring true with our experience at Purim when even at the end of Megillat Esther the Jews are still the servants of Ahasuerus! Rava is telling us that despite all the singing, dancing and general merriment described at the end of Megillat Esther something is still fundamentally wrong with the world that is being described.

What is it that is wrong with that world? On Purim we enter a world where the Jewish community is almost destroyed. Jewish existence is presented as a fragile thing, liable to be swept away by forces beyond its control. A change in government, the rise of a Jew-hater into a position of power, these are enough to threaten the physical existence of Jewry. In the end, the Jews are saved and everyone breathes a sigh of relief, but the fundamental fragility of the Jewish community remains the same. In this tale of Diaspora existence the Jewish people are dependent on highly intelligent but Jewishly invisible coreligionists who have managed, partly by virtue of their assimilation, to work their way into positions of influence over the establishment. Thank goodness for that assimilation for it was only due to the political influence achieved by Mordechai and Esther that Jewry was saved when Haman and his henchmen came to power.

As part of Mordechai’s attempt to gain political influence he encourages his beautiful young niece (or maybe cousin) to have sex with the king and ultimately marry this non- Jewish monarch of dubious moral standing. In an extremely painful discussion in theTalmud (Bavli - Sanhedrin 74b) the rabbis agonize over how Esther could have transgressed basic elements of Jewish sexual morality in public rather than choosing to
die a martyr’s death (Source 5).

Abaye concludes that Esther was “merely natural soil” implying that she was an absolutely passive sexual victim. Rava asserts that the laws requiring martyrdom are different when the Jew is being told to transgress merely for the personal pleasure of the non-Jew rather than as part of a systematic religious persecution. Despite the rabbinic justification of Esther's actions, in the Megillah itself it is clear that the ends justify the means. Mordechai tells Esther that she must use her potent sexuality in order to gain sway over the king and to wield that influence on behalf of the Jewish community. I have heard many a shiur attempting to portray Esther as a potent female image but in the Megillah she looks like a manipulated and manipulating young woman whose only real power resides in her sexuality and her ability to seduce. She certainly does not provide an image of female power that I would be happy to teach to my daughters.

The underlying message for Diaspora Jewry that is contained in the Megillah is that their continuing survival depends on their ability to inveigle themselves into positions close to the sources of true power. That proximity can only be attained by highly assimilated Jews like Mordechai and Esther and it will only lead to influence, not to true power. Such influence can rise and fall in the blink of an eye. Thus it takes constant manipulation and vigilance to ensure its continuity. Mordechai and Esther need to use all the tools at their disposal to stay in favor of the state even if that involves sexual manipulation and the maintenance in power of unpleasant regimes.

Little wonder then that our sources command we drink to excess at this time of year. Excessive drinking blots out the indignity and fear inherent in such a precarious and conditional existence. Is it better to drink than to acknowledge soberly that our heroes and heroines are spies and seductresses, and that however hard we try, our lives will always be left hanging by a thread? Little wonder that our inebriation should be so complete that we cannot tell the difference between ‘cursed be Haman’ and ‘blessed be Mordechai’ when our vulnerability is brought home to us so chillingly.

This takes us back to sources 2 and 3 and our emotional responses to a world of overturning. I suggested at first that we feel joy at Purim simply because the Jews were saved; but surely their experience would have been relief and joy tinged with a strong sense of having been made painfully aware of the world of overturning itself, the world of venahafoch hu, a world where all is turned upside down, a world of real or potential chaos. We may drink joyfully because we are safe for a brief moment, but it is an awareness of the chaotic, capricious, dangerous nature of the world that underpins a really determined quest for inebriation.

(The sources will be in the next post)

This edition of the Conservative Yeshiva’s E-Shiur is made possible by a generous grant from Temple Zion Israelite Center, Miami, Florida.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Shabbat Zachor and a Visit to Ger, Poland

      What an amazing journey my son is on! As we are blessed to receive daily updates (except for Shabbat) from the CESJDS trip chaperones, I'd like to share with you an excerpt from Day 3. 

From Warsaw we headed to Ger (Gora Kolawaria in Polish), the former seat of the Gerer Hassidim. We were met at the remains of the Jewish cemetery by Felix Karpmann, an 86 year old survivor who is now the last Jew in Ger, a community that once numbered over 3,000 Jews (today Ger has 24,000 inhabitants; only Felix is Jewish). Felix was 17 when he was shipped to Treblinka along with his parents and two brothers. He and one brother were chosen to work, and they hid in the piles of clothes transported with the victims on the cattle cars. Twelve days later, they slit the throats of an SS officer and made their escape. He spent time in the Warsaw ghetto, joined the Jewish resistance, and he and his brother were among the Nazis’ most wanted in Gora Kolwaria for their anti-Nazi actions. Felix survived the Shoah hiding in a classmate’s barn under a stack of hay. He is now married to this classmate, and his mother-in-law is a recipient of the Righteous Gentile award from Yad Vashem.  Felix now cares for the cemetery and Beit Midrash, our next stop, which was the center of learning for the Gerer Hasidim, the 2nd or 3rd largest sect of Hasidim today (they are now centered in Jerusalem and Brooklyn).   For Felix, Judaism is about the children, the “Shayne Yiddishe Kinderlach,” a phrase that we repeated back to him with smiles on our faces. He watched as others begged God for assistance, for anything, and heard only silence. Today, he no longer believes, for how could a God abandon his people. And yet here he is, single-handedly preserving the Jewish sites and soul of Ger for those who visit each year and for those who died living a Jewish life. And yet he also urged us to remain Jewish, to remember that it is important to be proud. He survived because he “was strong as an ox,” and we should honor the lives of his families and the survivors and other victims by remembering these stories. Our visit with Felix was certainly the highlight of our day.

The Gerer Beit Midrash was once one of the most elite yeshivot in all of Poland, where students were known to climb the poles to get a glimpse of the Rebbe as he gave a shiur (lesson). We learned of the Sfat Emet, grandson of the great Rebbe of Ger. We heard a Dvar Torah about Pirkei Avot 1:6: “Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Perachya says, ‘Make for yourself a teacher and acquire for yourself a friend, and judge each person favorably.’” According to our peer, this is how the Gerer Hasidim lived. For them, the Rebbe was their teacher, a deeply spiritual friend and leader, and their lives revolved around their communities. It is our task, we were urged, to follow these same teachings as we seek to ensure a strong Jewish future. “Without teachers, there would be no Jewish education. Without friends, there would be no community.”

We took these words to heart as the A Capella choir led us in Hebrew song. The favorite, “Nachamu,” was the encore piece, and students were beaming as we sang along to the words “Comfort my people,” bringing traditional and modern Jewish words back to Ger. We sang and danced with and around Felix, singing songs of his childhood as well as modern Hebrew songs, and stealing pictures with Felix at every opportunity. We danced and jumped and brought joy and life, celebrating the Europe that was and each other. What a powerful site!

        This Shabbat is Shabbat Zachor - a Shabbat of Remembering.  Remembering what the nation of Amalek did to us as we left Egypt and blotting out their name.   It is also the Shabbat before Purim where we meet Haman, a descendant (alleged) of Amalek, and remember the desperate end he held in store for all the Jews. 
       It is a Shabbat for remembering the past and helping it shape a better future. I am thankful that both of my children have had the opportunity to meet this wonderful man, Felix, and learn about his life, his philosophy and his will to survive. Thank you, Felix, for being a teacher to our children.  
        Ideally we should be blotting out all impulses to behave in such a hostile, negative and deadly way toward others. What we need to remember is that while there is evil in the world, there is also good in the world. Let us make it our job to find the good where ever it may be and enhance it.

       Shabbat Shalom u'Vracha

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Thoughts on Holocaust and Israel

Today is my son's second day in Poland. Today he and his classmates went to the Umschlagplatz, the gathering place from which the Jews were shipped to Treblinka and their deaths, and then on to Treblinka as they followed the path of the trains. I cannot help but wonder how will this impact him? What emotions will be evoked? What discussions will they have?

At the same time, I was in my Jewish Thought class discussing how to we reconcile Israel and the Holocaust - the theologies, the philosophies, its role in our history - past and future. What is the "proper" place of Holocaust in the Jewish History and how does it stand in relation to Israel? Especially for these generations of young people who have grown up with the reality of a State of Israel their entire lives.  As the survivors of the Shoah are dying, these children will be the last who will ever meet a survivor in person - the last who will be able to personalize the experience in a very unique way. 

Where do we go from here?

What is my role as a Rabbah in this conversation?

More thoughts to follow….