Monthly Archives: October 2014

Choosing Life Over Land in Genesis 13 and in Peace Politics: Following Abraham and Remembering Rabin—by Ayala Emmett

Choosing Life Over Land in Genesis 13 and in Peace Politics
Following Abraham and Remembering Rabin
Ayala Emmett
October 31, 2014

Yitzhak Rabin Israel’s Prime Minister was murdered by a man who confessed to hate peace, yet claimed to love God. The shooting took place nineteen years ago at a peace rally at the end of the Sabbath known as Shabbat Lech Lecha, Genesis 12-17, the very Sabbath in which Jews in synagogues around the world read the Torah portion that opens with God’s call to Abraham to literally take himself from his home and go to the land that God would show him. read more

My Father Under The Oxygen Mask Took Hold—by Barbara D. Holender

My Father Under The Oxygen Mask Took Hold
Barbara D. Holender
On the Yahrzeit of my father

The taxi arrived for me
at the same moment the paramedics arrived
for him. I want you to leave, he gasped.
Sure, I said, right now I’m leaving the country.

At eight we called the family. At ten,
the doctor asked if we wanted heroic measures.

At two, he struggled to tell me something.
Don’t, I thought, Don’t say goodbye.
I leaned closer. Pay the rent, he wheezed,
Tell Mom it’s the first of the month.

At three the doctor gave him, maybe, six months.
At four my uncle choked back tears.
Hey, you owe me two cents.
I’m broke, said my father,
Loan me two cents so I can pay you. read more

All That Glass–by Gertrud J. Lind

Kristallnacht 1938
Kristallnacht 1938

All that glass

shattered one long ago November night,
can never ever be swept away.

Splinters are pushing into the light of day,
still sharp on all sides.

When sunshine hits these broken pieces,
millions of yahrzeit lights illumine the loss,

while fragments of the rainbow flicker with hope
and the promise of Tikkun Olam.

Gertrud J. Lind


Shadow Play At The Western Wall—by Barbara D. Holender

Shadow Play At The Western Wall
Barbara D. Holender

Caperbushes sprout through dry crevices, spattering shade
on stone eighty feet above the congregation.

One chassid among the flock of crows–that one–
dances with himself in prayer,
sways left, now right seven times,
forward thirteen, now seventeen short bows,
again and again, pliant as a lulav,
is shadow advancing, earlocks matching
flying curl for curl, even the fringes
of his tallit, almost even the stripes
sharp in shadow, so clear the light,
so light the air, ah that Jerusalem air. read more

SUKKOT: The Significance of Water, Land and the Agricultural Cycle—by Matia Kam

SUKKOT: The Significance of Water, Land and the Agricultural Cycle
Matia Kam

Byzantime Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem
Byzantime Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem

The festival of Sukkot and the Eighth Day, Shmini Atzeret signify the end of the first month’s festivals in the Jewish calendar and the end of the agricultural year: “the year in Torah is an agricultural one, it begins with seeding, and the first rain.”[1] In Jewish tradition the year begins on Rosh Hashanah, yet in Torah Sukkot marks the end of the agricultural year, and the beginning of new planting cycle. Sukkot is the time of harvest in which farmers gather the crops [Exodus, 23:16]. Preparations for the new seeding of the fields awaken farmers concern about rain, not knowing if the new year would see rain, or would face drought; if there would be rains of blessing or disastrous storms. Accordingly, water rituals were performed in the Temple in Jerusalem on Sukkot, and the prayer for rain is customarily recited on the Eight day (Simhat Torah). The festival of Simhat Torah marks an end and a beginning, the end of a yearly cycle of Torah reading in the synagogue and a beginning in the reading of Genesis. read more

Bible Students In The Sukkah—by Barbara D. Holender

Bible Students In The Sukkah
Barbara D. Holender

What does it matter
that we are forever looking things up
and forgetting them?
Our minds are like the sukkah:
crowned with evergreen
open to the stars and winds
hung with our best fruits
and reconstructed each year.

The pine boughs shake down sun,
the leaves of our books cast up light,
and all our ancestors
cluster around us, saying
This is who we were
and this is what we did
and this is what it meant.

So it must have been in Pumbedita
in ample Babylon
where our Talmudic fathers
from every jot and tittle
extracted meanings
and over golden dates and wine
discoursed on the family tree read more

More on Jonah—by Peter Eisenstadt

More on Jonah
Peter Eisenstadt

My favorite book of Tanach is Jonah; short, memorable, funny, profound, endlessly enigmatic. My favorite service of the Jewish year is Saturday afternoon Yom Kippur, when the Book of Jonah is read, when because you’re getting a bit loopy from this fasting business, the story is somehow making more and more sense––“why can’t a person spend three days in the belly of a big fish, after all, stranger things have happened.”

There are many interpretations of the Book of Jonah. Some see it as a satire, some as a stern moral lesson. Some say it is supposed to be humorous, some not. Some argue it is critique of religious parochialism. Some argue—this was a favorite of the rabbis—that if read correctly, it is a defense of religious parochialism, and the insincerity of the gentiles. Others see it as the paradigmatic story of repentance—surely that is why it is in the Yom Kippur liturgy. Or a dramatization of the tension between God’s justice and God’s mercy. Ayala offered a wonderful reading of Jonah a few days ago. Let me offer another way to look at it. read more

Jewish Women for Child Refugees (JWCR) Taking Action: a Plan to Send Lawyers to Artesia N.M.

Jewish Women for Child Refugees (JWCR) Taking Action: a Plan to Send Lawyers to Artesia N.M.

Children Refugees
Children Refugees

The Crisis of Child Refugees from Central America
We all have heard about the recent crisis of children refugees from Central America seeking asylum in the United States. These children are fleeing unspeakable violence, and have risked their lives to come here, because remaining in their countries of origin is a death sentence.

A Jewish Commitment
While the question of immigration reform is a complicated and divisive issue in American politics, as Jews, we remember a time in our recent history when it was Jewish parents who put their children on trains and buses, hoping they would find safety at the end of their journey. read more

Jonah: Reluctant, Rebuked and Remembered–by Ayala Emmett

Jonah: Reluctant, Rebuked and Remembered
A Yom Kippur Reading
Ayala Emmett

Jonah would not be an interesting protagonist if his story was just about a reluctant prophet who demurs when called by God to deliver a message. There are great prophets in TANACH, like Moses and Jeremiah, who were called by God to speak truth to power, to warn rulers and nations, and who, at the moment of revelation, were reluctant. God says to Moses, “I will send you to Pharaoh, and you shall free my people” and Moses understandably says, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and free the Israelites?” (Exodus 3:10-11). God tells Jeremiah, “I established you a prophet unto the nations” and the reluctant prophet says, “I do not know how to speak for I am just a youth” (Jeremiah 1:5). In hindsight, who could blame them for their reluctance? Moses faces a rebellious people and doesn’t enter the Holy Land, and Jeremiah is threatened, stoned, imprisoned, and taken forcibly to Egypt by the exiles, his own people. read more