CCAR Newsletter November/December 2019 - 1


‫כסלו תש"פ‬-‫חשון‬
Publication of the Central Conference of American Rabbis

November * December 2019 | Volume 67 - Issue 2

‫איגוד הרבנים המתקדמים‬

From The Associate Director of Digital Media

From the President
I have great admiration for
colleagues who are disciplined
writers, those who not only
appreciate the advantages of
writing sermons, columns,
and book chapters in advance
of when they are due, but
who actually act upon this
understanding. Despite the potential adversities of
procrastination-unplanned pastoral emergencies,
family crises, added stress-personal understanding
has, regrettably, yet to evolve into changed behavior.
Thus, the fact that this particular column was due
to the office by October 1 meant that it, along with
a delayed Holy Day sermon and other preparation,
were all in process simultaneously.
However, it was not merely the predictable
procrastination at play this year, but also
a prolonged period of personal distraction
that contributed to the situation. A lapse
in concentration and distraction during a
recent backcountry hiking trip, for instance,
unquestionably contributed to an alarming (and
slightly painful) tumble over a tree branch. And I
was certainly distracted when I unthinkingly set
down-and lost-my backpack while in New York
for a meeting a few weeks prior to Rosh HaShanah.
In essence, I believe there were simply too many
proverbial "irons in the fire." Begging indulgence
for the personal sharing, it is ultimately a desire
for greater presence and focus throughout the year
that emerged from these experiences and this year's
Holy Day season-surely a timeless aspiration for all
rabbis (regardless of one's writing efficiency).
The consequences of personal distraction are
addressed as early the 11th century, in Rabbeinu
Bachya's Chovot HaLevavot (10th Treatise on
Devotion to God 7:19) where he adjures his
colleagues as follows:
"Know, my [colleague] ... that it is your mental
distraction concerning secular matters that will
impede your thinking about what will benefit you
in your study of Torah and in your fulfillment of the
Creator's commandments, which you undertook to
toil in all the days of your life. The consequence [of
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How do Reform Jewish values manifest in the work of the CCAR, especially when those
values come into conflict? For example, when it comes to patrilineal decent, despite
the rift we know it causes with K'lal Yisrael (even within our own movement) our value
of inclusion takes priority. On the other hand, in order to participate in pluralistic
community celebrations, our members may choose to yield to the "frum-est common
denominator" (e.g., only having strictly kosher foods available at an event). In the case of
the Reform luach, we find ourselves embracing two seemingly conflicting values.
As Reform Jews, we typically follow the Israeli calendar when it comes to the celebrations
of holidays. This is, in part, due to our ability to precisely determine the dates of holidays, negating the
traditional need for a second day of chag. There are still some Reform communities who choose to celebrate
second day for other reasons. Conversely, in order to remain in sync with other Jewish communities around
us, we follow the Diaspora Torah reading schedule. For the most part, this straddling of two calendars works
well. However, in a few instances, a conflict that arises that must be resolved.
For example, if the 8th day of Pesach falls on Shabbat, most non-Reform communities in the Diaspora
will read a special Pesach Torah portion. On the other hand, since according to the Israeli calendar it's no
longer Pesach, in Israel the reading of the weekly parashah continues. If Reform communities were to follow
the Israeli Torah reading calendar, it would leave us out of sync with our neighbors for up to a few months.
The clever solution was to repeat the parashah over two weeks, reading the first half in parallel with the Israeli
calendar, and the second half when the other Diaspora communities "catch up."
In the process of creating our most recent CCAR Press app, Reform Luach, we had to break down the conflict
and solution into a core coding concept, nested if-then statements, and convey them to our Indian Sikh
development team. Here is the logic expressed in pseudo-code:
IF "the 8th day of Pesach" = "Saturday"
IF "the following week's parashah" = "Sh'mini"
THEN "this week's parashah" = "Sh'mini I"
AND "next week's parashah" = "Sh'mini II"
IF "the following week's parashah" = "Acharei Mot"
THEN "this week's parashah" = "Acharei Mot I"
AND "next week's parashah" = "Acharei Mot II"
The same logic has to be applied when the second day of Shavuot falls on Shabbat, as well. The process of
breaking down our ancient calendar, and our Reform innovations, into logic that could be understood by
programmers and thereby computers was not something I learned at HUC-JIR. However, this challenge,
among others that arise from our Reform Jewish values and our contemporary tools, is a welcomed aspect of
my rabbinate.
Another important Reform value is the diversity of practice within our Movement. As such, we also included
options for users of the Reform Luach app to download the Israeli and Diaspora calendars. Additionally,
in keeping with contemporary practices of app development, as well as the Reform tradition of ongoing
innovation, this is merely the first version of this app. We have already collected a number of feature requests
and corrections for the next update. If you have any ideas or find content that needs correcting, please reach

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CCAR Newsletter November/December 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter November/December 2019

CCAR Newsletter November/December 2019 - 1
CCAR Newsletter November/December 2019 - 2
CCAR Newsletter November/December 2019 - 3
CCAR Newsletter November/December 2019 - 4
CCAR Newsletter November/December 2019 - I1
CCAR Newsletter November/December 2019 - I2
CCAR Newsletter November/December 2019 - 5
CCAR Newsletter November/December 2019 - 6
CCAR Newsletter November/December 2019 - 7
CCAR Newsletter November/December 2019 - 8