The holidays are late this year.” We hear that expression often, especially when Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur fall after mid-September. But what does that expression mean? What can it tell us about who we are as American Jews, and how can it help us find what we need from our tradition?
For starters, how can Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur be “late?” They always come on the same two dates — the 1st and the 10th of Tishrei. Of course, that is according to only one of the calendars on which most of us rely.
Some Jews have a medieval custom to sacrifice a chicken before Yom Kippur, “kaporos.” One grabs the chicken’s legs while pinning its wings back and swings it around one’s head. These chickens are packed into crates before this procedure and then usually sent to be slaughtered after. Others are often just left in crates to die.
In Paris, last week, when a Muslim cab driver picked me up I noticed a slight discomfort came over me. I realized, at that moment, that American religious fanatics had succeeded at convincing me to be afraid. Religion, at its best, furthers deep value formation and creates bridges and connections whereas religion at its worst is destructive and spreads fear throughout society. There is a growing religious fanaticism, with diverse manifestations, that seeks to promote fear of the other and that fear almost inevitability leads to hate. This fear and hate is unfortunately not absent from major segments of the Jewish communal discourse.
Human attempts to peer into the future, to borrow a metaphor from philosopher J.L. Austin, are like a miner’s hat. A small area is illuminated in front of us so we can adjust our footing. Yet when we project far into the future, darkness reigns and the shadows deceive. The only way to know more of the future is to move forward; with each step the light advances and the next patch of ground becomes visible.
Regarding your editorial, “Arab Spring, Awful Autumn” (Sept. 26): An oft-stated message from President Barack Obama is “elections have consequences.”
While the president used this refrain, with its not-so-subtle antagonism, more often in the earlier and heady days of his presidency, it is as true a lesson today as it was then. Therein we find one of the very few silver linings of the difficult situation Israel finds itself in today.
Your editorial, “Arab Spring, Awful Autumn” (Sept. 16), gets it right when it says that now is the time to turn feelings of love for Israel into action. However, that action needs to take the form of working for a real resolution to this conflict by pushing our elected officials to make bold moves towards a negotiated peace.
Thank you for your extended and excellent coverage last month of the 20th anniversary of the Crown Heights riots. However, your newspaper failed to mention the valiant efforts of one significant individual: my friend and mentor, Franklyn H. Snitow.
In your Sept. 9 issue, Jerome Chanes reviews a book that analyzes Leon Uris’ “Exodus” (“’Exodus’ And The Americanization Of Israel’s Founding”). His review is mostly about “Exodus” itself, however, and it is surprising.
In two places he acknowledges that “Exodus” is indeed a novel, but the rest of the time he critiques it as if it were a history textbook. He criticizes it continually for containing historical “misrepresentations, half-truths and outright inaccuracies.”