CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - 1


‫תמוז תש''פ‬-‫סיון‬-‫אייר‬
Publication of the Central Conference of American Rabbis
May * June 2020 | Volume 67 - Issue 5

‫איגוד הרבנים המתקדמים‬
From the Chief Executive

From the President
As president I have always
relished opportunities to chant
Torah. Thus, directing attention
to the traditional chanting of the
Ten Commandments at Shavuot
proved to be a meaningful topic
on which to focus other than the
anxiety, strain, and never-ending, pandemic-related
list of tasks most have been dealing with over the past
few months.
Many likely recall that when viewed in a tikkun
korim, the Ten Commandments are written with two
sets of trope, Taam Elyon and Taam Tachton (upper
and lower trope), so named primarily because one
system appears almost entirely above the words with
the other below the text. While the vocalization
of each individual trope mark remains the same,
regardless of which system is chanted, the functional
distinction between the two becomes evident in the
way each is arranged. Taamei Elyon are arranged
such that each of the commandments is chanted
as a single pasuk, the exception being Anochi and Lo
yih'yeh, which are chanted together. In contrast, Taamei
Tachton are grouped in a manner so as to ensure the
verses in the Ten Commandments are somewhat
comparable in length. When the Ten Commandments
are chanted publicly, such as on Shavuot, the practice is
to chant them according to the upper trope; the lower
system is used when a person is reading to fulfill the
mitzvah of learning Torah.
Functionality and ritual practice aside, it is surely
no surprise that exploring the distinction between
the two systems through a more interpretive lens
also invites thoughtful and personal consideration
of their significance. For instance, it is taught that
Taam Elyon is used for the public chanting of the Ten
Commandments in recognition and faithful awe of
the fact that this is precisely how the Israelites would
have heard the divine utterance when they stood
at Sinai, thus audibly and spiritually connecting us
to a seminal moment our history. Expanding the
interpretation to consider behavioral and emotional
lessons, the upper trope not only connects us to
Sinai, it hearkens to the moment in history when
our ancestors collectively accepted and affirmed their
shared sense of mutual responsibility and respect.
(Continued on page 3)

What a time this is. In an instant, our world has turned upside down, in ways none
of us could have expected. Suddenly here we are, working as best we can from home,
connecting only through devices, trying to hold on to our livelihoods, many of us with
"co-workers" who need to be fed, educated, played with, or put down for naps even as
we're learning new technology and processes. The rabbinate of 2020 is looking quite
different from the rabbinate of 2019.
There is one side of these changes that is challenging in the best sense of that word. We are being required to
stretch and grow in all kinds of new ways, and quickly. We are using muscles we didn't even know we had. We are
meeting needs in ways we didn't know we could. We're serving on the front lines of spiritual care. And it's not all
working well, but that's okay because we're doing the best we can do, without any preparation or warning.
There are going to be good things that come out of this moment. We are going to come out of this reshaped
but strong as a community. We are going to learn new ways to reach people, about how we can better serve
the Jewish community, about what's essential and what's not.
In the meantime, though, it's hard to focus on whatever good is going to come out of this because of the grief
and loss that we're facing. We're supposed to be the caregivers of our communities, and so this feeling may be
very hard to acknowledge. But that feeling that we have even as we try to be strong and brave and get it all done
and be there for those we serve-that's grief. Grief that we can't serve in the ways we've been trained to do, grief
that we can't rabbi in ways that are comfortable and familiar. Grief that we can't be with mourners in person,
grief that we can't enable the bar or bat mitzvah students to have their big and oh-so-planned-for day, grief that
we can't share hugs at the bris. And there's our personal grief, being alone for seder, having to put off that visit
with the grandchildren or that well-deserved vacation. The grief of simply not knowing when things will go
back to normal and what normal will look like.
The pain of course goes even deeper. The pain of job uncertainty. Friends or family sick with COVID-19, or
sick ourselves. The loss of loved ones to this virus. The loss of beloved colleagues. The pain of being, ourselves,
mourners in this age of social distancing.
We rabbis know about grief. We know the importance of grieving, of allowing grief to take over and do its
work. We rabbis are counted on to be strong and steady. But we must allow ourselves to acknowledge how
difficult this time of uncertainty and anxiety is for us. And then we must take our own best advice on the
necessity and inevitability of getting up from grieving and moving forward with the work ahead as best we can,
weaving our grief into each step we take.
As the Psalmist teaches, though we may weep at night, joy comes in the morning. None of us knows when this
will end, when we will be able to emerge from our social distancing and get back to our synagogues, our offices,
our circles of families and friends. We will emerged changed, perhaps, in needs of haircuts and with more tech
skills than we might have ever thought possible and more profoundly, some of us with jobs and roles that are
going to look very different. But morning will come, and we will go outside and greet each other once again.
Please see the practical suggestions offered in the special insert in this newsletter.


I drove two hours to Albany, New York, on Monday,
gathering in a meeting room off the Underground
Concourse of the Capitol complex. My coalition
of 200 environmental organizations had planned a
blitz lobby morning of NY legislators with two hard
asks. Four months of planning went out the window
though when an extra hundred unregistered

volunteers appeared, and we grew to three hundred
citizen lobbyists with only fifteen lobby leaders. I
huddled with my rejiggered team of novice activists
(college juniors to retirees), gave them an introduction
and instructions on how to lobby, and off we charged
to the eighth floor of the legislative office building.
(Continued on page 3)


CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020

CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - 1
CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - 2
CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - 3
CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - 4
CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - 5
CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - 6
CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - Insert1
CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - Insert2
CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - 7
CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - 8
CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - 9
CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - 10
CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - 11
CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - 12