November 7, 2014
It was quite a week.
I had another near-disaster on the freeway. The alternator died, with the result that by the time I was able to get off the road and stop, it was just me, 2 tons of car, and the laws of physics. Still a good day because I lived to tell about it.
Friends have had unhappy things happen: serious bicycle accidents, skunks under the house, car accidents, failures of technology with consequences, illness.
The Jewish People have had a hard week: violence in Jerusalem, rising anti-Semitism in Europe, nasty stuff on the internet. We remembered a very difficult week 19 years ago, when we lost Yitzhak Rabin, one of our heroes.
We are coming up on an anniversary this weekend: the 76th anniversary of Kristallnacht. If you don’t know about it, or are only vaguely clear about it (“a Holocaust thing”) then follow the link and read about it. We should reflect upon it before slinging around the word “Nazi.”
Many heavy burdens to carry, but tonight the sun will go down, and we will welcome the Sabbath in all her glory. Let those burdens drop from our shoulders, take a deep breath, and let us welcome the peace, if only for a little while.
If we make our best effort to experience the Sabbath, perhaps we can carry some of that peace into the week that follows.
Kein y’hi ratzon: May it be the will of the Eternal. Amen.
November 6, 2014
Probably the most famous photo of Prime Minister Rabin, taken on Sept 13, 1993.
This week we observed the 19th yahrzeit (anniversary of the death) of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. I have read several remembrances of him, which I would like to share with you:
“Remembering Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin” on ReformJudaism.org
“Remembering Yitzhak Rabin, 19 Years Later” by Times of Israel blogger Arielle Yael Mokhtarzadeh.
“For the sake of Zion I will not remain silent,” Remembering Yitzhak Rabin on Food for Mind, Body and Spirit, Rabbi Sharon Sobel’s blog. This post includes a remarkable poem by Rabbi Zoe Klein.
“Choosing Life over Land in Genesis 13 and in Peace Politics: Following Abraham and Remembering Rabin” by Ayala Emmett, in The Jewish Pluralist
Also, if there are readers who are thinking, “Who was Yitzhak Rabin?” here is the official biographical material from the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Israel.
November 6, 2014
“The Hospitality of Abraham” 13th c. Byzantine icon
Parashat Vayera (Genesis 18:1 – 22:24) offers a lesson on the mitzvah of hospitality. Abraham, our role model, runs to greet his guests, even though they are unexpected, even though he is old and recovering from circumcision. The text is generous with details: he washes their feet, calls upon Sarah to bake, and orders a calf slaughtered and dressed. Abraham himself waits upon their table.
The contrast is stark between that story and the next. The angels proceed to the city of Sodom. Lot greets them at the gate, hurrying them to his house. Lot is afraid for a reason: a mob surrounds the house and demands that the strangers be given to them: they intend to rape them. The prophet Ezekiel clarified: “See, this was the sin of your sister Sodom: pride, gluttony, and uncaring were in her and her daughters, nor did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16:49) The Talmud expands on the story, explaining that the men of Sodom systematically abused all strangers and the poor in their city, enshrining that abuse in law. (Sanhedrin 109a-b) Like all rape, this was not a sin of sex, but a sin of violence. These sins merited their utter destruction.
This week we might ask ourselves: when did I last personally welcome a stranger to my table? Or have I reserved my personal hospitality for those best known to me, and to those who might profit me? Does my community welcome visitors, or only look to profit from them? Are we following the example of Abraham, or Sodom?
A version of this d’var Torah [word of Torah] originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of the CCAR Newsletter.
November 1, 2014
US Geological Survey photo shows the lava crossing Cemetery Rd and Apa’a St in Pahoa.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the plight of the people of the Lower Puna district in Hawai’i in Suffering is Not a Show. Kilauea volcano’s most recent eruption took an unexpected turn this past summer when lava began oozing toward the homes of the small town of Pahoa.
Real estate in Lower Puna is among the cheapest in the Hawaiian islands because of the nearness of Kilauea. It is a gamble to buy land there, because the volcano is so close. On the other hand, if a person of ordinary means and no inheritance wants to own land, that is the only affordable property; much of the rest of the Island belongs to land trusts or owners with very deep pockets. Until June, the village of Pahoa was one of the fortunate places. Then the lava began moving their way, just before the brunt of Hurricane Iselle hit that part of the island.
Now these people of modest means are scrambling to get out of the way of the lava before it takes their property and burns their homes. If you would like to help them, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency recommends cash donations to any of these organizations:
American Red Cross, Hawaii Chapter
Aloha United Way
Hawaii Food Bank
Helping Hands Hawaii
Tzedakah is the Jewish word for money given for the relief of suffering. It is a mitzvah to assist someone in such a situation.
The Hawaiian people speak of Madame Pele, the deity of the volcano. They regard her with reverence and awe. As a Jew, I see the awesome power of the volcano. God in nature can indeed be fearful, but as a human being I can perform mitzvot, extending the mercy of God with my helping hand.
October 31, 2014
This week I have no time. The faster I go, the worse it gets. I am behind on so many things, and Shabbat is coming. What to do?
One option is something I just did: Crock Pot Shabbat. That means I take whatever I have that will make a good soup, a really good soup, I put it in the crock pot and the crock pot will take care of dinner. Tonight’s offering:
4 potatoes, cut into chunks
1 lb ground beef, browned
3 onions, sliced
1 bunch of celery, sliced
1 bunch of collard greens, sliced into ribbons
1 32oz box of chicken stock
Dump all ingredients into crock pot. Set to cook on low for 6 hours.
Add one challah, and a couple of glasses of wine. Hineh! (Voilá!) Shabbat dinner.
- If you are vegetarian or vegan, adjust ingredients accordingly.
- Chopped tomatoes are good in it.
- If you like, you can add an envelope of “beef stew seasoning” or similar for flavor.
- If you are more domestic than I, make your own broth.
- If you are even less domestic than I, it is not strictly necessary to brown the meat.
The point is, you dump the ingredients in, and there is no more work. Cleanup is limited.