With the High Holy Days soon upon us, rabbis across the country are working on their sermons, hoping they will have the chance on Rosh HaShanah and/or Yom Kippur to inform, entertain and inspire their congregants, many of whom they see only rarely in synagogue.
Another year of Ahmadinejad at the United Nations, another protest rally attended by the same small segment of the Jewish community, and the clock is still ticking, with Iran rushing to develop a nuclear program that threatens Israel and the West.
Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin may not know what the Bush Doctrine is, but be assured that the political and military leaders of Israel are well aware of the Begin Doctrine, and thinking about it every day.
On first blush, there seems to be little connection between the two seasons foremost on our minds these days: the presidential campaign and the High Holy Days.
Indeed, one seems driven by aggression and cynicism, forsaking openness and honesty for twisting the facts in a way to make one’s opponent seem wrongheaded at best, evil at worst. And the other appears to be about inner reflection, stepping away from the everyday world to reconsider our actions in light of our deepest values and faith.
While many of us have focused our attention in recent days on the presidential campaign and the frightening economic meltdown at home, Israel has been undergoing yet another political and diplomatic upheaval, further splitting the electorate and making Tzipi Livni’s job of putting together a ruling coalition that much more difficult.
My earliest memory of doubt regarding God was as a kid of about 10. As the son and grandson of Orthodox rabbis, my existential moment was not about whether there was a God, though, but rather why He wasn’t doling out more punishment.
As I recall, one of my less observant friends was visiting my house on a Shabbat afternoon, and while we were playing in my room he flicked on the light switch. Having long been taught that such acts were forbidden on the Sabbath, I immediately cringed, waiting for a bolt of lightning to come down from the heavens and strike him.
Jerusalem — How do you explain to an American Jew who hasn’t visited Israel how safe one feels being there? Or that many Israelis really do enjoy their lives, despite the constant tensions they live with every day?
And how do you make an Israeli who has not spent much time abroad understand what “Jewish identity” means to an American Jew? It’s an alien concept to large numbers of people in the Jewish state who have no need to parse the Jewish and Israeli aspects of their DNA, and see themselves simply as Israelis.