Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Synagogue Reading: The Sabbath, #2

Synagogue Reading:  The Sabbath, by Abraham Joshual Heschel
All this Jewish year, Rabbi Benson will read and discuss with congregants The Sabbath by A. J. Heschel following minchah services every Saturday.  For those unable to make it then, the rabbi's weekly article will be a brief summary of the pages we covered.  To order the book for yourself, buy it in our gift shop, or else click this link - PURCHASE THE SABBATH

Prologue, Pages 5-6:  "We must not forget that it is not a thing that lends significance to a moment; it is a moment that lends significance to things."  In these pages, Heschel continues to lay out the two worlds in which humans operate, space and time. 

Neither space nor time is "bad" in Heschel's thinking.  But when we think of reality as only be the world of space, then "reality to us is thinghood" and "the result of our thinginess is our blindness to all reality that fails to identify itself as a thing."  Stop and think about whether or not this is true in the way you live. 

Those things that are often most important to us are not "things" in the sense we can touch or see or smell them.  It is true about love, about happiness or contentment, or even something like family.  Yet our lives are often built around the tangible things of the world, even other people, who we all to often interact with as "things" and nothing more.  When we do this, Heschel is saying, we are missing out on an important dimension to our relationships and an important dimension to reality itself. 

We are ready, at the bottom of page seven where left off, to begin a new topic in the book, the way the Bible thinks of time and space.  Join us this Saturday following kiddush (about 12:30pm) for minchah and our study session.

Rabbi Benson

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Lech Lecha, The Covenant and the Crazies

Parshat Lech Lecha, The Covenant and the Crazies:  
“All the crazies are obsessed with the Jews and all the Jews are obsessed with the crazies obsessed with the Jews.”

That was probably the best comment on an article I read noting the latent and not so latent antisemitism on the part of many Americans. 

It is a challenging comment to encounter as we read about the birth of the Jewish People in this week’s parshah and God’s commands to Abraham (Abram) to “go forth” and become the Jewish people, to become or-lagoyim, a “light to the nations” to become, “a blessing to all peoples.”

What do we do when people are obsessed with us in wrong and dangerous and violent ways?  My answer is simple.  We continue to do what Jews have been asked to do since the very beginning of our history, as we read about this week.  To live within the covenant, the Torah, that God has given us, as he said to Abraham:
And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.”
וַהֲקִמֹתִי אֶת-בְּרִיתִי בֵּינִי וּבֵינֶךָ, וּבֵין זַרְעֲךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ לְדֹרֹתָם--לִבְרִית עוֹלָם:  לִהְיוֹת לְךָ לֵאלֹהִים, וּלְזַרְעֲךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ.
God doesn’t promise us that things will go well all the time – sure God says God will curse those who curse us, but God doesn’t promise there won’t be any cursing.

And God does promise us the Land of Israel, but from the start God admits that there will be times when the Jews do not possess it, and in fact there will be times when we are slaves.

Knowing this will be true, we need to remain faithful to the covenant, to the Jewish people, to our own conscience, which guides us to be good people – NOT because it will make the “bad people” go away – but precisely because there will always be the bad people.

Remember this, as God promises to remember the covenant with us, we’ll be ready for whatever the statistics and life, brings our way.