From the Rabbi's Study
Rabbi Jenny's Bi-Monthly Sermonette — November 1, 2023
LOVE, TOLERANCE, AND TRUST:
A Leap of Faith
“Now the Lord said to Abram,
I will make thee a great nation…I will bless thee…So Abram went."
During these frightening and uncertain times for our brothers and sisters in Israel, we are challenged as Jews in the United States on how we will act and behave. We are confronted with our own limitations and prejudices, in addition to our past traumas and losses. How are we to navigate in these times? How are we to be an example of love, tolerance, and trust of humanity? Are we built for change?
Once again, the Torah provides an inspiration for our journey forward. Through the bravery and pioneering spirit of Abram and Sarai, we can be encouraged to take our own journey. This journey may not take us to a different land per se, but it will help us to arrive at a new consciousness and a new perception of the world around us. Our attitude and perception are our greatest gateway to peace.
Viktor Frankl reminded us that “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.”
We must choose to take the conscious leap of faith into an attitude of love, tolerance, and trust. We must be examples of compassion and kindness for all we encounter and walk into a new land with an open heart. Every instinct we have will scream against this. We must resist the urge to isolate into the comfortable and familiar land of our past fears. Like the idols of Abram’s father, hate and intolerance and fear are structures of the ego. They leave no room for the voice and direction of G-d. We must take the leap of faith and walk away from these idols and move into a new world. A new world of love, tolerance, and trust that we can help build.
Using prayer and community as a place to foster new thoughts and ways of being, we move like Abram and Sarai into a new land in partnership with G-d and only blessings of freedom and faith await us. True unity with all of humanity will beam from inside our hearts.
Of course, our concerns and worries for our families and friends in Israel will not go away. We must hold them all in our hearts and continue to pray for peace. We must stand together and be strong in our Jewish faith and values of Torah. Torah teaches us to be tolerant, to love another, and to trust G-d and all that comes to us.
With the upcoming Spaghetti Dinner and Interfaith Thanksgiving Service we open our synagogue to the whole community. Let’s maximize this opportunity and let us be examples of Torah for all we encounter and take that leap of faith into love!
WE ARE STRONG
By Rabbi Jenny Steinberg-Martinez JD CHT
The peaceful Buddhist country of Tibet was invaded by Communist China in 1949. Since that time, over 1.2 million out of 6 Tibetans have been killed, over 6000 monasteries have been destroyed, and thousands of Tibetans have been imprisoned. When the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan Sanctuary, was invaded by the Chinese, and the surviving monks were sent out into the world to survive, he called upon Jewish leaders for advice. Why? It is because we are strong in our identity and have remained true to ourselves in a life of Diaspora. With our strength we have managed to touch all four corners of the globe with our wisdom, joy, and traditions.
The summer time in the Western World brings celebration, barbecue, swimming and fun. It seems a strange time of year for our most somber holiday. Tish B’ Av, the sacred fast, arrives this month to remind us of the 9th day of Av a day when a number of disasters in Jewish history occurred, primarily the destruction of both Solomon's Temple by the Neo-Babylonian Empire and the Second Temple by the Roman Empire in Jerusalem.
Tisha B'Av is regarded as the saddest day in the Jewish calendar and it is thus believed to be a day which is destined for tragedy. The observance of the day includes five prohibitions, most notable of which is a 25- hour fast. The Book of Lamentations, which mourns the destruction of Jerusalem is read in the synagogue, followed by the recitation of kinnot, liturgical dirges that lament the loss of the Temples and Jerusalem. As the day has become associated with remembrance of other major calamities which have befallen the Jewish people, some kinnot also recall events such as the murder of the Ten Martyrs by the Romans, massacres in numerous medieval Jewish communities during the Crusades.
So how do we honor this day with an appropriate balance of reverence and optimism? This is how; we claim our Diaspora as a beginning and not an ending. We claim our Diaspora as a call from God to persevere in the world and be a force of Torah for all to experience. We claim our strength. It is when we claim these things that we can help bring unity and healing to the whole world without preoccupation with what was lost; for we have found more than we have lost. We have found our power. We are strong!
*To read more about the Jewish and Buddhist conversation: The Jew in the Lotus, by Roger Kamenetz