CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 4
Voices of Torah
Israeli poet Natan Alterman wrote:
"Dressed in battle gear, dirty, shoes
heavy with grime, they quietly ascend
the path to change their clothes, to
wipe away the traces of a gruesome
day and night on the front line....Yet
the dew of their youth is still visible
on their brows. Thus they stand at
attention, giving no sign of life or
death. Then a nation in tears and
amazement asks: 'Who are you?' And
they silently reply: 'We are the silver
platter on which you were given the
If you had told a Jew in Auschwitz in 1944 that there would be a Jewish state four years later, he would
have told you that you were dreaming.
We all celebrate Israel's Independence
Day, but it comes with a price.
Eighteen-year-olds in other countries
are at college, savoring independence
and enjoying the experiences of a
new chapter in their lives. Not so our
children, who face the harsh discipline
of military service and are sent to the
front line in defense of their country.
Zelda wrote: "Each of us has a name
given to us by God, and given to us
by our father and mother... Each of
us has a name given to us by the sea,
and given to us by our death."
When the sirens sound at 11 a.m.,
everything stops. People get out of
their cars even on Israel's busiest
highways and stand at attention for
two minutes in memory of our fallen,
who gave their lives so that there could
be an Israel.
Israel's military cemeteries are packed
with those who come to pay their
respects and identify with those of
us who mourn. Their presence is a
reminder that the sacrifice of our
children is not taken for granted.
Since Israel's independence was declared, its Jewish population has increased elevenfold. There are
more Jews living in Israel today than in any other country. Israel's GDP stands at over $300 billion. Life
expectancy is among the highest in the world. Israel ranks as the second most important high-tech center
and its shekel is the world's second strongest currency.
For 2,000 years we prayed, "Next year in Jerusalem" and "Gather in our exiles from the four corners
of the earth to our land." Those heartfelt sentiments are now an option dependent not upon divine
providence, but upon personal choice.
Nonetheless Israel has its problems. The messianic aspirations of Jewish zealots, coupled with Palestinian
obstinacy, harm efforts to achieve a two-state solution. The Iranian threat to wipe Israel off the map
remains a constant challenge for our defense forces. The coalition power exercised by religious political
parties has given the Orthodox establishment exclusive control in matters that discriminate not only against
Reform Jews, but also against all those who do not share their worldview.
As we celebrate Israel's achievements and 70th birthday, we are painfully aware of its shortcomings and
recognize that the Y'rushalayim shel matah falls far short of the Y'rushalayim shel maalah. There are many
challenges, but there is also much for which to be grateful.
Tazria / M'tzora
To the authors of Torah's Priestly Code, visible afflictions of human skin or garments caused great concern
for ritual purity. Torah's solution has the priest remove the affected individual from the population center
until a priest is able to declare the person "pure." This declaration of the person's recovery reflects a deep
concern that the Israelites be free of visual physical defects, underlying an unspoken fear of God-imposed
illness for human behaviors.
The Talmudic Sages asserted that Tazria's underlying cause is lashon hara, gossip, as we learn from the
incident in which Miriam is afflicted with tzaraat after she and Aaron gossip about Moses's wife. Our Sages
connected illness to punishment for what remains an ongoing human behavior that people do without
forethought to its consequences for themselves and for others.
To connect God-inflicted punishment for human behavior with disease is problematic. When a
person contracts illness, however it manifests, people often seek to spiritualize it, asking, "Why did God
do this to me?" Illness of all kinds, though, happens to human beings because we are biological
Often, human behavior begets ill health, but that is not the same as saying that God punishes people for
their behavior. It is incumbent that when we teach Tazria or any text that may suggest illness as punishment
from God, we should impart that the God of the Torah-the God of love-rejects malevolent action,
simultaneously emphasizing that the quality of our lives and the lives of others are incrementally improved
when we reject gossip to use our gift of speech for good.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 1
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 2
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 3
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 4
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 5
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 6
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 7
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 8
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 9
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 10
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 11
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 12
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 13
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 14