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Showing posts from September, 2009

Where Peace Begins

Here we are in 5770.Here we are on Yom Kippur, davening together in shul, confronting our existential fears and hopes for a new year.Today in our prayers, we ask God for all kinds of things:forgiveness, atonement, blessings, sustenance, health.In our deepest prayers, we long for Shalom, for peace:peace in our homes and families, peace among our people, peace in the Land of Israel from our enemies, peace in the whole world.If there’s any one yearning that each and every one brings to synagogue today, that all of us share, it’s the yearning for Shalom.So why is Shalom, indeed, seemingly the most elusive commodity in the world?If you look in the Torah, it would seem that violence and conflict are essential parts of our human nature.The book of Genesis is filled with stories of conflict between brothers.The conflicts begin with Cain and Abel, the two sons of Adam and Eve.They both brought offerings to God.God liked Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s offering.So what did Cain do?He killed Abe…

You Never Know!

Today is Rosh HaShanah, the New Year.We always associate the New Year with renewal and new hopes for the future.Isn’t it strange that, in the midst of this hopeful spirit, our tradition would thrust such disturbing images and stories upon us?Take, for example, the Torah reading on the 2nd day of Rosh HaShanah—the story of the binding of Isaac.You remember the story:God tests Abraham and tells him to offer his beloved son Isaac as a burnt offering, and Abraham complies, leading his son on a three-day journey to the top of MountMoriah, where he binds up his sons hands and feet like an animal to be slaughtered.He places his son on a wood pile, and lifts up his knife, about to cut his own son’s throat, until an angel calls out:Abraham, Abraham!And at the last moment, Isaacs life is spared.So imagine with me being Isaac at that moment of horror:hands and feet bound, on the wood pile.Your own father with knife raised high in the heavens glaring in your eyes, about to take your life!It’s tru…

The Importance of Keruv

I would like to teach us all a very important value in Jewish life known as Keruv.Keruv literally means ‘to bring close,’ ‘to draw near.’Throughout our history, the word “keruv” has meant the endeavor to bring close all those among are people who are, for whatever reason, feeling far away from the community.Keruv is a beautiful Jewish value that is all about welcoming.It’s the heart and soul of what has sustained us as a community for generations.The Jewish value of Keruv goes a long way back in Judaism. It seems that many of the great biblical figures were also especially concerned with Keruv. And their lives and stories teach us much about how to draw other people Karov, close to Judaism.
There was Aharon, the High Priest, the brother of Moses, for example. Our tradition tells us that he just had a magnificent talent for Keruv. When the Mishnah talks about Aharon, it says that he was Ohev Shalom v’Rodef Shalom, Oheiv et haBriot, umekarvan latorah: that he loved peace and pursued peac…