CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 6
(Continued from page 5)
influences God to act. Even before we face that question, modern neuroscience gives us pause
to ask: how do we act? Ravven argues that human ethical behavior is possible without relying on
the non-Jewish idea of free will: our neurobiology is determinative, that group behaviors matter,
and that our abilities to act are infinitely more complicated than the biblical idea of reward and
punishment. This is food for thought as Torah continues to reveal itself in every generation.
festival? Let us join in celebrating this once and
Yom Y'rushalayim 2018
Nadab and Abihu died before the Lord, when they
offered strange fire ... and they had no children.
(Mark H. Levin)
JPS translates Psalm 122:3 "Jerusalem built up, a city knit together." We've likely all struggled
with interpreting the Hebrew, k'ir she-chub'ra la yachdav. Robert Alter approximates the political
reality more closely with his translation, "Jerusalem built like a town that is fastened together".
Targum Yonatan offered a d'rash rather than a translation: "Jerusalem that is built in heaven
[bi-r'kiah], a city that is joined together as one on the earth [b'ar-ah]." Rashi builds further:
"And our Rabbis said, 'There is a Jerusalem built in the heavens [b'shamayim], and in the future
the Jerusalem below will be like her.'"
BDB connects Jerusalem with "City" or "Foundation of Peace," and Onkelos in Genesis 14:18
associates Melchizedek's city called "Peace" (Shalem) explicitly with Jerusalem, becoming the
"City of Peace," or by homiletic connection to Melchizedek, the "City of Righteousness."
Consider the paradox that the more central Jerusalem becomes, the more divisive the city. Not
only is walled Jerusalem divided into four separate quarters, but the three Abrahamic religions,
each with its essential shrine, fight for control of so-called holy places. Where is the k'ir shechub'ra la yachdav? No wonder only the Religious Zionists in Israel care any longer about
How magnificent would it be if we Reform Jews, in celebrating Jerusalem Day, pursued the ideal
Jerusalem, cooperating in creating means by which to bring the heavenly Jerusalem closer to
the earthly? Perhaps Targum Yonatan foresaw the future already two millennia ago (forgive my
paraphrase): "Jerusalem that is built in heaven is the city brought together as one on the earth."
Would such a city transformed not be heavenly?
In ancient times Sukkot was the most beloved holiday of the year, so much so that it was referred
to as HeChag, "The Holy Day." The people of Israel loved Sukkot and celebrated it with the
enthusiasm we bring to Passover in our day.
Passover celebrates part 1 of the great drama of the Jewish People-the Exodus from Egypt. It is
currently the chag celebrated by the greatest number of Jews around the world. On Shavuot, we
celebrate part 2 of the great drama. Fifty days following Passover, deep in the wilderness of Sinai,
the Israelites stand at the foot of Horeb and in a culminating act of accepting the freedom from
slavery God won for them, they agree to accept the Torah and its 613 mitzvot and in so doing
freely bind themselves to God. That covenant will shape their lives-as well as our lives and
Why is this chag practically a secret holiday to modern-day Jews? Perhaps Shavuot sits in the
shadow of the work and the drama of Passover, despite the seven weeks of the Omer. Perhaps the
American rhythm of life-school is letting out and people are leaving on holiday-conflicts with
the Jewish rhythm of the year. Certainly as we celebrate it today, it lacks the drama of Passover.
But I wonder: If Sukkot was HeChag in the past, and Passover is HeChag today, perhaps Shavuot
will be HeChag at some time in the future. Perhaps some years from now its message will come to
the fore and we will come to fully appreciate its meaning.
Can we imagine the circumstances under which Shavuot would come into its own as a beloved
The Tiferet Yehonaton (Jonathan Eibeschitz,
1690-1764) quotes BT Baba Batra 116:
"David, who left a son like himself, is referred
to as having lain down, while Joab, who left no
son like himself, is referred to as having died."
Eibeschitz comments: "Here [Numbers 3:4] we
are told that Nadab and Abihu died. Why doesn't
the Torah state that they 'lay down'? The answer
is that 'they had no children,' and therefore one
cannot say they 'lay down'" (Torah Gems vol. III,
"Lying down" is an expression for died that
connotes being at peace at the end of life, but
those who are not parents and ache for children
can never feel at peace. Having children is part
of their raison d'être. One need only remember
Rachel's lament to Jacob: Give me children, else
I am dead (Genesis 30:1). Parenting the next
generation lends our lives purpose.
Nonetheless there are other ways to shape our
posterity. Our tradition emphasizes the ongoing
legacy of learning-teachers impart Torah to
the next generation. Teachers are to be honored
sometimes even above parents. In addition,
when we reach out to an individual with respect,
empathy, and kindness, we have a positive effect
on them and those they touch in their lives,
creating ripples down through the generations.
Ours are the shoulders upon which later
generations shall stand.
Arcadia by Lauren Groff follows "Bit," the first
child born in a fictional late '60s commune
that resembled an encampment, through the
community's inception, growth, and ultimate
demise. Despite its founders' idealism, Arcadia
is place of chaos, self-indulgence, recklessness,
gnawing poverty, and ever-present hunger. It
dissolves before Bit is grown up. We meet him
again as a grown-up, a man of compassion and
commitment, integrity and ideals-values that
derive from and exist because Bit continues to be
anchored to Arcadia.
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