Even the ordinary soldierWhose blood fell upon the ancient pathKnewThat the splendor of Mountains,the silvery treetops,And the glittering domeAre the outer goldOf the song of Solomon and of David’s tear. Dear God, The One we always turn toWe gather as one community in this spaceAnxious, angry, sad, confused, concerned.
Our children are dying.
Their children are dying.
A generation is being stolenBy rockets in the nightBy those obsessed with blood and martyrdom—ours, theirs, it never mattered to them—So we come to You.
We remember the words of the songwriter“All will be good, yes all will be good,
though sometimes I break down.” (Yihye Tov, David Broza) God, sometimes we break down.
Our hearts ache for our People in IsraelWho have already buried too many beneath the cypresses;For the innocents of Gaza being used as human shields;For Jews around the world and here at homeNow feeling the touch of ancient hatreds clothed in new garments.
“Because of this our hearts are sick.” (Lam 5:17) God, take note of our prayerWe speak with one voice the words of our prophets“’The Eternal is my portion’ I say with full heart, therefore will I hope in You”. (Lam. 3:24)Shield and shelter us. Heal us. Let all of us stand in safetyBeneath the silvery treetopsTo sing and no longer shed tears for each other.
Renew our days, O God,
That we may say with all our breathAll will be good. Yes, All will be good.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Friday, July 18, 2014
Friday, July 4, 2014
Thursday, July 3, 2014
Reflections on the death of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali
"For the thing which I greatly feared has come upon me, and that which I was afraid of has come unto me." (Job 3:25)
This past Friday, as we recited the blessings welcoming Shabbat into our home, I got to do something that the parents of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali weren’t able to do: recite a blessing over my son, a blessing that every parent recites over their children at Shabbat, a blessing, proscribed in Torah, that ends “May God give you Peace.” At my synagogue we left three seats as you see here, reserved for when the boys would return home to their parents’ Shabbat table.
Eyal, Gilad and Naftali’s parents will never get to recite a blessing over their sons’ heads. They will never sit at their parents’ tables again. As Naftali's mother said in her son's eulogy, they will have to learn to sing without them. Nor will Muhammad Qaraqara’s parents, he now laid to rest mere days before we learned of our three boys’ loss. And this morning brought news of more death, another teen, Muhammad Abu Khdeir, possibly out of rage and hate. Five teenagers, four Israelis, three Jews, innocents lost forever.
Two of them were students of Adin Steinsaltz, the sage of our time, and upon hearing of their passing he cried out the words of the psalmist: “Awake! Why are you sleeping O Eternal! Rouse yourself! Do not abandon us forever.” And then told his companion, Rabbi Pinchas Allouche, “All we can do…is shout and protest…People will light memorial candles, recite prayers, and attend vigils,” he said. “Our boys were killed al Kiddush Hashem, because they were Jews…Therefore, to best honor their memories – indeed, to confront evil –we must act always as proud Jews, in our deeds and through our lives.”
Naftali Frenkel, Eyal Yifrach , and Gil-ad Shaar
Sunday, June 29, 2014
Tourists by Yehuda Amichai
Visits of condolence is all we get from them.
They squat at the Holocaust Memorial,
They put on grave faces at the Wailing Wall
And they laugh behind heavy curtains
In their hotels.
They have their pictures taken
Together with our famous dead
At Rachel's Tomb and Herzl's Tomb
And on Ammunition Hill.
They weep over our sweet boys
And lust after our tough girls
And hang up their underwear
To dry quickly
In cool, blue bathrooms.
Once I sat on the steps by a gate at David's Tower,
I placed my two heavy baskets at my side. A group of tourists
was standing around their guide and I became their target marker. "You see that man with the baskets? Just right of his head there's an arch
from the Roman period. Just right of his head."
"But he's moving, he's moving!"
I said to myself: redemption will come only if their guide tells them,
"You see that arch from the Roman period? It's not important: but next to it, left and down a bit, there sits a man who's bought fruit and vegetables for his family."
I had planned to speak about Israel tonight. To reflect on our trip that just ended, a spiritual journey by three congregations, three rabbis and thirty-three people just experienced, from the Haas Promenade in Jerusalem to dinner in Tel Aviv only two nights ago. But that was before were kidnapped from their families while tremping home, before Muhammad Qaraqara was killed on the first day of summer vacation helping his father in the Golan, before the Presbyterian Church decided to uphold the values of antizionism and anti-Semitism, all the while insisting it’s for our own good with the kind of smug self-righteousness that only comes when one is truly, authentically naïve.
On Shabbat last week in Jerusalem, at Har-El and Hebrew Union College, we prayed for Eyal, Gilad and Naftali with other Israelis. We travelled up to the Golan Heights the day after Muhammad was killed, We received news of The Presbyterian Church’s decision while traveling in the holy land, But more than that, we met and spoke with people: at moshavim and Kibbutzim, at services, in the street, at Lifeline For The Old, in cities and hilltops, singing Shir HaShalom at Rabin Square, at schools in Ibellin and Haifa. More than Masada, or the Wall, more than archeological ruins or jeep tours, we met people, heard their voices, felt what they felt, were with them and each other in a deep and rich way.
There is a Hasidic story – of the rabbi who asks his good friend, “Do you love me?” and the friend responds by saying: “Of course I love you.” To which the rabbi responds: “Do you know what gives me pain?” To which the friend replies: “How can I know what gives you pain?” To which the rabbi replies: “If you don’t know what gives me pain, how can you say that you love me?”If we didn’t know before, we know what gives the Israeli—Arab and Jew—pain. We know and we love deeper than we did before. Would that that brought about redemption, but for now, it will have to be enough.
Saturday, June 14, 2014
We want to share with our Beth Emeth family news about the exciting and wonderful new program we held on Shavout on Wednesday June 4th. Shavout, in addition to commemorating the giving of the Torah at Sinai, is the festival of first fruits, the 'Chag Ha-Bikkurim, which we have traditionally celebrated with a flower offering. This year, we decided to do a different kind of flower offering. So we chose to celebrate this holiday by planting flowers at Harlan Elementary School, just a few blocks from our synagogue. Thirty-one of our congregants and about twenty-five fourth graders filled the planters around the school with a myriad of beautiful flowers, donated by Old Country Gardens and our congregants.The children and teachers joined in prayers and songs in Hebrew as Rabbi Robinson and Cantor Stanton led a short service, explaining the meaning of Shavout and why we were sharing our holiday with them. We had a very attentive and engaged group who were having a good time and it was a delight to see the children interacting with our Beth Emeth folks in such a beautiful and meaningful way. The children read poems and writings about flowers and gardens that we had prepared for them. We ended the day with cookies and ice cold water and every child got to take home a plant. It was a wonderful, meaningful experience for all of us and the weather was spectacular!
We followed this with another planting and service at a small Community Garden in Hedgevile in the inner city.
This exciting project came out of a suggestion from Cantor Stanton and Sonia Sloan at a meeting of the Ritual and Choir Committee in discussing a different way to celebrate this lovely holiday,
Our goal was to build bridges between our Beth Emeth community and the city community and we most certainly achieved that goal. We now plan to make this a yearly celebration of Shavout, with the children and staff at Harlan.
We want to thank Rabbi Robinson, Cantor Mark Stanton, Esther Timmeney and Sonia Sloan for planning and arranging the service and enlisting the volunteers. Thanks too to Wilmington City Councilwomen Sherry Dorsey and Maria Cabrera, and Stacey Henry of Harlan School for their help and support.
Friday, May 2, 2014
This morning I received a text message from my colleague Pastor Andy Jacob. He messaged me and other clergy of the old 9th ward to tell me that a person has been shot and killed at the corner of 24th and market. He asked if we could be there to create a presence of peace and blessing.
So I went. I went to be with Pastor Andy, to be with the police, my fellow clergy, to be with whoever needed me to be there.
The shooting had happened the night before so by the time we arrived it was just us, the police and someone from the attorney general's office. You couldn't tell that someone had lost their life in front of the Chinese restaurant there on the corner. People were going about their day: waiting for the bus, taking their morning stroll, walking their dogs just as I had been doing only an hour before.
It us not the way a shooting interrupts and tears apart our reality that I'd most disruptive, but the ongoing trauma of acceptance. It is the way violence insinuates itself. We become inured it to it. We forget that the taking of life is a profane act, not something normal no matter what the neighborhood or the victim. So if I and my colleagues from the 9th ward can go and shine a light, reminding us all that we should be uncomfortable with violence, that we should not accept violence, that we should remember that it destroys not only one life at the entire world, then truly we can be a presence of peace.
May we learn to make our presence a blessing.