friday, june 8, 2012 .
the rabbi’s turn
“The issue for me is above all, domestic, moral, and democratic.”— Avner Cohen, an expert on nuclear nonproliferation, on Israel’s relationship with the bomb. See the story on page 15.
My God d the God of my
raBBi Jay rosenBauM
Herzl–Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation
When I was in my early 20s, I went through a periodo several years when I setJudaism aside. I was raisedwith the best Jewish upbring-ing you can imagine: My ather was a Conservativerabbi, our amily was shomerShabbat and our home waskosher, and I attended aJewish day school throughhigh school. Yet or several years, I exper-imented with living as i I’d had none o this Jewish inuence. Tis period o my lie coincided with a lot o personal soulsearching on my part. I was unsure o my direction, especially what career I wantedto pursue. Even aer I entered rabbini-cal school, I was ar rom clear on what Iwould do when I completed my training.Shortly ater I entered rabbinicalschool, my ather gave me a copy o Elie Wiesel’s “Messengers o God.” Teinscription my ather addressed to me onthe inside cover has oen come back as anexample o the power o words o orahto impact us in a very personal way. Teinscription began with the words o Mosesto God. When God sent Moses to rescuethe Jewish people rom slavery, the rstreaction o our people was excitement.But then Pharoah increased the already-crushing burden on the Jewish slaves andanticipation quickly turned to despair andanger. Te Jewish people complained toMoses that it would have been better i God had never sent him in the rst place.heir lives were even more miserablebecause o his intererence.When the Jewish people cried out toMoses, Moses in turn cried out to God:“Lama harei’ota la’am ha’zeh. Lama zehshlachtani?” “Why have you brought suer-ing on this people? Why did you send me?”Tese were the opening words o my ather’s inscription, ollowed by God’ssomewhat cryptic response, “VayomerAdonai…ani Adonai” “And God said…Iam the Lord,” and then Rashi’s interpreta-tion: “V’lo l’chinam shelachticha” “And Ihave not sent you in vain.”My ather was a gied writer. He knewa thing or two about words. Yet, my atherchose to speak to me in a deeply personalway in words that were not his own. Tey were words o orah. What was my athersaying to me? He was reassur-ing me that everything wasgoing to be all right.“Look at Moses,” he wastelling me. “Can you imaginea more meaningul and suc-cessul lie than his? Yet, as ayoung man, Moses had pro-ound doubts about himsel and his mission in lie. I evenMoses had his moments o uncertainty, the rest o us are entitled to ourown period o conusion. It worked out orMoses. It will work out or you, too.”O course, there was more. Te words“v’lo l’chinam shelachticha” were thewords Rashi imagined God speaking toMoses. Now my ather was speaking themto me. He was telling me he had not sentme into this world in vain. I had a purpose,my lie had a meaning. I hadn’t ound ityet, but in time I would.Looking back over the years, I’m stillamazed by how deeply aecting a mes-sage my ather was able to convey to mein words he did not compose. He let meknow he had aith in me. He dignied my own conusion by anchoring it in the his-tory o our people. He showed me that thelessons o our Jewish path could speak tothe most personal issues o our own lives.Not least o all, my ather was respond-ing to my questions about Judaism itsel.Years o Jewish learning had given bothmy ather and me a language o commu-nication: Te language o orah. I we canlearn to speak it, this language can con-nect us intimately to Jewish history, yet atthe same time it can enable us to expresssomething absolutely personal. Te wordsmy ather wrote to me were meant or meand me alone. No one but my ather wouldhave used those words the way he did. Yetin speaking to my heart in Rashi’s words,my ather was reminding me o how muchwe are connected to each other, and howour lives can mean so much more i wecan nd in them an echo o the lives thatcame beore us.Tere was a time I believed that to bemysel, I had to dene mysel in contrastto my amily, my community and my her-itage. With three simple words, my athershowed me that the deeper our connec-tions to others, the richer are our tools orsel-expression.
Our ftes re ted together
Special to JTNews
When I rst read my parashah, the parto the orah we read today, I saw wordslike leprosy, and discussion o people withboils and all kinds o skin diseases, and theorah told the story o how these peoplewere to be dealt with and treated. And therst thing I thought was, “Yuck”!But then I thought more seriously, andI could tell that the Jewish people werereally struggling with what to do — howto deal with people with illness. On onehand, these people had diseases that wouldspread by contact, and because there wasno medicine available, the disease wouldbe atal to all i caught. But on the otherhand, the Jews were still plainly strug-gling. Aer all, it would have been easy to simply banish these people and orgetabout them altogether. But that is not whatthey decided. Tat is not what happened.Instead, difcult choices were made:Choices about where one can saely live,what one should wear to cover the inectedarea, and what treatments one shouldreceive, even i there were no doctors, sothe people could go on with their liveswith as much meaning and dignity as pos-sible.It was then I realized what this part o the orah is really all about! It is aboutrecognizing the justice that is due to thosewho are inected with disease, and theneed to remember that
are a part o
. We are all in this together. As RabbiSimcha Weintraub states: “Our genera-tion, as those beore and aer us, will be judged by
we listen to those who aresick and
we care or them. In the end,there is no them. Tere is only us.”I talked to my mom, since my atheround this story rom the orah kind o gross. My mom is a doctor who treatspeople with AIDS, and she made me awareo stories rom very recent years wherepeople with AIDS were treated very badly while we all tried to gure out what to do,and about how much injury was done by
to these AIDS-stricken people.Tis made me think beyond sickness— it made me think o things I see in my own lie, at my own school. People whoare dierent in their own way. Peoplewho wear braces like I did, people whoare tall, people who are small, people whothink more quickly than others, or at leastseem to. People who set high school run-ning records, and people who have troublewalking at all. People who dress dier-ently. People whose religion is dierent.Or maybe they have no religion at all.o me, the world is anything but a uni-orm place. Anything but a single color.Or a single shape. Or size.o me, the world is one big rainbowlled with all sorts o people, healthy andunhealthy, and with all sorts o challengesbeore them! And the important thing, asthe orah teaches, is to treat everyone withdignity, airness, respect, compassion, andthe truth that we are all in this together.It is as i we are all inside one bigNoah’s ark, oating down the river, andour ates are tied by how we treat eachother. My ate is tied with that person whohas AIDS just as her ate is tied with mine.And on this ark there is no room or bully-ing. Instead, we all work together, and welaugh, and we love.
Lena Friedman is a student at the Northwest School. She wrote this dvar Torah for theoccasion of her becoming a Bat Mitzvah at Temple Beth Am on April 27, 2012.
Betwee ow d December, members of the Jewsh Dy Schoo Mdde Schoo MtzvhTem w ssembe d dstrbute 750 bgs of food d scks to gve out to peope eed. Sxth grders Rche Coskey d T Chvo wt the schoo’s prkg ot todstrbute bgs to prets so they c hd out the bgs whe they see someoe o thestreet skg for food. Two hudred bgs hve bee devered so fr.
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