CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 14
is now being
SAVE THE DATE
March 19-22, 2017
(continued from front page7) VOICES OF TORAH
Imagine there were a moment set aside during
Rosh HaShanah services for making a similar
declaration silently and privately: "I have fulfilled
my obligation of tzedakah by sharing the blessings
You have bestowed upon me with those in need in
the past year, or I will complete the fulfillment of my
obligation before Yom Kippur." And then another
on Yom Kippur setting aside a moment to confirm
that the mitzvah had been fulfilled.
Ze'ev Wolf of Zhytomir, the 18th-century Hasidic
master, recalls a parable he heard from the
Maggid of Mezeritch on Rosh HaShanah about a
king who sent his children to a far-away country.
After many years in exile, recalling how happy they
had been in their father's court, they longed to
return. They sent loving messages to their father
in advance, but once they returned to the royal
court, they could see that their father had changed.
Despite their pleas for mercy, he was silent and
expressed none of his former love and mercy for
them. How could this be? They came to realize
that in the time they had been away, they had
becomes so assimilated into the ways of the other
nations that they had forgotten the king's language
and could only speak the language of the other
nations. Their words had not even been heard by
the king. They stopped using words altogether and
simply called out, a universal human cry for mercy.
Many Jews return to synagogue on S'lichot or Rosh
HaShanah after a hiatus. Some feel distant from
the idiom of the machzor and Jewish prayer. Yet
their emotional and spiritual needs are universal.
Our task is to find a way to help them connect
in whatever "language" they speak so they can
be part of the "homecoming" and renewal of the
High Holy Days.
When two people learn Torah together it is said
that the Shechinah dwells between them.
The two traditional Torah readings for Rosh
HaShanah are disturbing. On the first day we
read how Abraham expelled Hagar and Ishmael
from his home. It is a tale of jealousy and hardheartedness. Although Ishmael is Abraham's
firstborn, he and his mother are cast out into the
wilderness and left to fend for themselves. While
Isaac's name appears no fewer than six times
in the first twelve verses of the Torah reading,
Hagar and Ishmael are simply referred to as
the "maidservant" and the "maidservant's son."
When you obliterate people's names, as the
Nazis did by assigning their victims numbers in
the concentration camps, you rob them of their
identity and individuality, making it far easier to
ignore their humanity.
This is one of the many ways the instruction
from Nitzavim is realized in our lives. Here
we are told that Torah's insights are "lo niflah"
for us to observe. Niflah means "wondrous,"
"miraculous," "stupendous," or "baffling"-
Torah is not beyond our capacity to keep or
comprehend. We know niflah for its use in other
contexts: for God's healing of all flesh, for the
wonder of the parting of the sea. In telling us
that it is "lo niflah" Torah tells us, "No, this thing
is very close to you, in your mouth and in your
heart to do."
This is our reminder that we do not need to
experience miracles to make Torah real in our
lives. It uses the straightest of straight talk
to emphasize our widely held understanding
that we were all at Sinai when Torah was
first revealed. Torah's insights sometimes are
complicated to realize, but life, as we live
it, is also complex. Just because there are
complexities does not mean that the pursuit
of Torah should be set aside. It should be
We are privileged to bring people from diverse
Jewish experiences into Torah's abundance.
In our invitation to Torah, we are able to
demonstrate that all of us have equal access,
whether we experience it in Hebrew or English.
As lovers of Torah, who make it our life's work,
we are able to deepen people's experiences of
Torah, revealing time and again Torah's many
profound and pleasant pathways.
Having disposed of Hagar and Ishmael,
Abraham is prepared in the traditional secondday reading to take Sarah's only son, Isaac,
and offer him up as a sacrifice on Mt. Moriah.
Where is Abraham's inner voice that pleaded
with God for justice in order to save Sodom and
Gomorrah? How could he slaughter Sarah's
Both tales demonstrate how easy it is to justify
the unforgivable and be indifferent to the needs
and rights of others. When we label people
"refugees" or "illegal immigrants" they become
mere statistics, robbed of a human face. How
sad that it takes a dramatic image, like that
of the drowned Syrian child, Aylan Kurdi, to
sensitize us-for at least for a moment-to the
suffering of others.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 1
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 2
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 3
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 4
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 5
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 6
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 7
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 8
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 9
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 10
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 11
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 12
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 13
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 14
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 15
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 16