Guest Post

Heschel’s Antidote to Land Obsession

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders from throughout the Jewish world. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter.  As we are in the midst of Passover, I am bringing a piece by Rabbi Shai Held who is president and dean at Hadar, a pluralistic learning community in New York. He is the author of Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Call of Transcendence and The Heart of Torah: Essays on the Weekly Torah Portion. He is at work on a book about the centrality of love in Jewish theology, spirituality, and ethics.  Passover sits at the nexus of conversations about land (leaving one place to become free and settle in the Promised Land) and of time (each generation is to collapse time and regard himself as leaving bondage).

 

It is one of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s most famous and influential claims: Judaism’s central concern is time rather than space. As he puts it in The Sabbath, “Judaism is a religion of time aiming at the sanctification of time” (italics Heschel’s). For Heschel, “The main themes of faith lie in the realm of time. We remember the day of the exodus from Egypt, the day when Israel stood at Sinai; and our Messianic hope is the expectation of a day, of the end of days.” Accordingly, for Heschel, Jewish liturgical life is an “architecture of time”; Judaism’s “great cathedral” is Shabbat, built not in space but in time.

Heschel’s prioritization of time over space is so profound that even when, in the wake of the 1967 war, he writes a book about the meaning of the Land of Israel for Jews, he titles it Israel: An Echo of Eternity and writes that Israel is “a land where time transcends space, where space is a dimension of time.”

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Progressive Jews, come to AIPAC

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders drawn from throughout the Jewish world. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter.  This week is a piece from Sarah Tuttle-Singer who blogs from Israel for The Times of Israel, Kveller, Scary Mommy, Ladies’ Home Journal, and TIME.com. 

I offer Sarah’s perspective to further challenge us to share our voices of love, concern, inspiration and disappointment for Israel.  As I did on the High Holidays and many times since, I reject the binary propositions often placed before us: Israel or Palestine, compassion or security, right or wrong, loyalty or treachery. (Click for my High Holiday sermon.) My love of Israel includes critique, embrace and a struggle to be a ‘light unto the nations’, even when it falls short sometimes… and excels at others.   — Rabbi Greg Harris

 

Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), Rachel Azaria (Kulanu), Merav Michaeli (Labor), Sarah Tuttle-Singer, and Jonathan Kessler of AIPAC, at the AIPAC conference, March 2017. (courtesy)

From The Times of Israel blog

by Sarah Tuttle-Singer

I’m going to speak at #AIPAC2019, and I’m getting these reactions from the Jewish community:

From the Right: “How COULD they?”

From the Left “How COULD YOU?”

Let’s talk about it:

They know exactly who they’re inviting.

They know I love this place.

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Posted by Rabbi Greg Harris in Guest Post, Rabbi Greg Harris, 2 comments

Closing Out Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders drawn from throughout the Jewish world. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter.

February is designated as JDAIM or Jewish Disability and Inclusion Month across the country.  For the past weeks at Beth El, we have been raising awareness and sensitivity around various issues.  From an earlier blog post (‘Being a Community of Inclusion’) to speakers including Rabbi Lauren Tuchman, the first blind woman to be ordained as a rabbi and Carly Ruderman, a teenager at Beth El who shared her enthusiasm, optimism and experiences.

One of the implicit lessons heard throughout has been never to discount or overlook people. While JDAIM is a designated month, our efforts do not start or end during these weeks.  Nurturing an inclusive community is an everyday effort.  It requires each of us to reach out to others, recognize the gifts of others and, at moments, allow ourselves to move outside our comfort zones.

As we look forward, I want to share this beautiful performance by the Israeli band, The Shalva Band.

Jenny Singer writes in the The Forward:

The eight musicians who perform on behalf of the Israeli Association for the Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities performed in the Next Star contest on Saturday night were under considerable pressure. “Kochav Haba,” or “The Next Star,” an Israeli music competition similar to “The Voice” brings in hundreds of thousands of viewers. The contest winner goes on to represent Israel in the next Eurovision contest, which, in 2019, will be held in Israel.

The Shalva Band was up to the challenge. In an electric performance, the musicians delivered a flawless rendition of The Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun,” for a stellar score of 91 percent from the judges, enough to advance into the next round of competition.

Shalva is a Jerusalem-based national center that provides care, education, vocational training, and community for people with disabilities. Its services are free, non-denominational, and inclusive of people of all religions. In 1990, Shalva began operation, caring for eight children out of an apartment as an after school program. Today it serves 2,000 people, including its house band of eight musicians.

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Religious Architecture

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders drawn from throughout the Jewish world. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter. This week’s blog is written by Yiling Shen, a frequent blogger at ArchDaily.com

We live in spaces.  Homes, schools, offices and houses of worship shape our experiences through their architecture.  I have long been interested in the connection between design and function.  After all, it was Exodus 25:8 where God commanded an awareness of design:

וְעָ֥שׂוּ לִ֖י מִקְדָּ֑שׁ וְשָֽׁכַנְתִּ֖י בְּתוֹכָֽם

Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, so I may dwell among them.

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It’s Not My Typical Wednesday

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders drawn from throughout the Jewish world. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter. This week’s blog is written by Elisha Frumkin, Beth El’s education director, while chaperoning the inaugural Sorkin Youth Trip to Israel.

Yesterday was not my typical Wednesday.

Making pita on an open fire does not usually happen in Montgomery County but today I found myself avoiding the smoke of a fire and enjoying a  lunch of pita, hummus, a variety of salads, and spaghetti, sitting at the base of a giant sand dune. We, or I should say the 18 teen participants on the Sorkin Israel Youth Trip, Matthew Jacobson, a BERS alum and Rabbi Harris, sand surfed down the dune at occasional breakneck speeds.  The entire day was outdoors. We began at Machtesh Ramon, the massive crater in the middle of the Negev desert. Then this afternoon at a dune we reached after turning off the highway at a completely unmarked location, driving through the desert over bumpy landscape, and arriving at a food truck, a Jeep, and a sign inscribed with “Welcome to the Middle of Nowhere.” Continue reading →

Posted by Elisha Frumkin in Guest Post, 1 comment

Hanukkah in Green

Military service members lighting Chanukah candles while deployed

The fifth week of the month is a wildcard in our blog schedule.  As Hanukkah begins this Sunday night, let’s think about the holiday from a new angle.  Jewish service members are deployed around the globe this Hanukkah.  Hopefully they will be able to enjoy a jelly donut, light the candles and appreciate their role in securing our freedoms… including the freedom to be proudly Jewish as the ancient Maccabees did long ago.

 

 

How the U.S. military‏ got a taste of Hanukkah miracles

By David Geffen

11/28/2018

Jerusalem Post

When Dov Peretz Elkins was ordained a rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1964, he entered the US Army as a chaplain and was assigned to Fort Gordon, just outside of Augusta, Georgia. Elkins, who made aliyah with his wife Maxine several years ago, recently reminisced about developing a Hanukkah program for 18- and 19-year-old trainees from New York who were the majority of the Jewish personnel at his installation.

“These young men, drafted just after they finished high school, were away from home for the first time in their lives. This was a half a century ago, long before most Jewish high schoolers traveled extensively in their teens as they do now. The Jewish chaplain had his work cut out for him. Since these soldiers were searching for something to fill their lives, I was presented with an opportunity to touch them Jewishly.”

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Thankful Traditions

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders drawn from throughout the Jewish world. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter. 

Judaism is filled with traditions.  Some are public events in synagogues while many more are family focused activities at home.  Thanksgiving is an American holiday filled with bountiful opportunities to create ‘Jewish’ moments at home.  As American Jews, we have many reasons to be grateful.  A Jewish moment may be reciting motzei over the crescent rolls thus marking the special meal but we can also be intentional in creating family experiences of thankfulness. Click here for a prayer written by Rabbi Debra Cantor which you can use at your table.  Below is also a blog by Cambria Bold about setting new rituals for Thanksgiving.  While it is not explicitly Jewish, many of the moments she writes about are exactly how we can use Shabbat each week.

Let’s cherish our time with family and friends this Thanksgiving and Shabbat the next evening. Whatever your plans are for the holiday, be grateful, be generous, and be proud to be living in America. Continue reading →

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Seeing Beyond God’s Gender

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders drawn from throughout the Jewish world. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter. 

I am bringing a blog by Dr. Joy Ladin who is the Gottesman Professor of English at Yeshiva University.  Reflecting on her own journey with gender, she invites us to see God in an expanded way – beyond the language of He or Him.  As I read this, I am reminded how people are continually able to find themselves reflected in the Tanach.   Our sacred texts can inspire, comfort, and nurture a sense of belonging when we invest ourselves in our ancient verses.

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It Didn’t Always Rain on Sukkot

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders drawn from throughout the Jewish world. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter. 

This year feels like a Sukkah Wash-Out… but it didn’t always rain.  Below is a 2014 Sukkot reflection from Rabbi Rachel Barenblat who has been blogging as the Velveteen Rabbi since 2003.  Her blog takes on many current issues.  She lives in western Massachusetts.

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Unicorns in the Hebraic Section of the Library of Congress

The Reading Room at the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress

One of my favorite places in all of Washington, D.C. is the Library of Congress.  My first visit was in 1981 and it has been a recurring joy and fascination for me ever since.  While on sabbatical a number of years ago, I chose to immerse myself within the riches of the Library’s Hebraic Section.  Below is a fascinating blog by Dr. Anchi Hoh, about unicorns (seriously) hidden within the library stacks.

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders drawn from throughout the Jewish world. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter.

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Posted by Rabbi Greg Harris in Guest Post, Rabbi Greg Harris, 1 comment