Although I live in the world of words and communication is generally considered to be my strong suit, I, like so many others, am at a loss to adequately express my dismay, disgust, and profound sadness over the recent revelations of voyeurism at the mikvah in Washington, D.C. My dismay is only compounded by the fact that Rabbi Freundel, the popular and accomplished rabbi of the prominent Orthodox synagogue Kesher Israel who allegedly perpetrated this crime, was a college classmate of mine at Yeshiva University. We lived only a few doors down from each other in the dorm all those years ago. I knew him well then. It seems that no one really knew him all that well now.
The ancient rabbis referred to the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur by a number of names. One, “bein Kesseh Le’Asor,” means between Kesseh (the full moon, Psalm 81), another name for Rosh Hashanah in the Torah, and Asor, “the tenth,” meaning of course Yom Kippur, which falls on the tenth of Tishrei. The other, more commonly used phrase is the Asseret Y’mei T’shuvah- literally, the ten days of penitence.
I don’t anticipate having a chance to write for next week’s paper– the week of Rosh Hashanah is just a little busy for rabbis in the pulpit– so I hope you’ll indulge me in sharing a thought that, though a few days early for the holiday itself, is actually timely for the Shabbat of S’lichot, the penitential prayers recited on the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah.
With the revelation this week of a video clearly and unambiguously showing former Baltimore Raven football player Ray Rice punching his wife in a casino elevator in Atlantic City, knocking her unconscious, and then unceremoniously dragging her out of the elevator, a whole host of disturbing questions have come to the fore.
The end of our stay in Okinawa, where my wife and I had been staying with our daughter and son-in-law upon the birth of their first child, coincided with the arrival of my son-in-law’s parents. Our brief overlap allowed all us to be present for our granddaughter Calanit’s Simhat Bat, the ceremony in which she was formally welcomed into the community of Israel, and the eternal covenant between God and the Jewish people.
A Queens rabbi gets a little goofy for a good cause.
Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik
Jewish Week Online Columnist
Story Includes Video:
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, and particularly if you’re on Facebook, as I am, you’ve no doubt been (wait for the pun!) deluged with brief videos of people like me pouring buckets of ice water over their heads, or, more commonly, having someone else do the pouring. Were I to stop here, and you were, indeed, unaware of this phenomenon, you might simply think that it was some kind of fraternity initiation rite, or maybe a practical joke that had caught on.
Long before I was a rabbi, during the Musaf services of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I wondered how it came to pass that the Aleinu prayer became such a liturgical centerpiece of what are arguably the most important prayer services of the entire Jewish calendar year.
As I write, I am about as far from my home and synagogue in Forest Hills as I can be, or at least as I am likely to get. I am sitting in the living room of my daughter Leora’s apartment on Marine Camp Foster, one of some fifteen American military bases on the tiny but strategically important island of Okinawa, Japan. She is married, as many of you know, to Rabbi/Lieutenant Yonatan (Yoni) Warren, a Navy chaplain who is currently posted to a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) here in the Far East. A MEU is basically a Rapid Deployment Force that can move quickly to where the trouble is. There are a few of them stationed around the world in potentially volatile areas; this one covers the Far East. We are very, very proud of his service, and hers.
Like every war, the current conflict between Israel and Hamas has a broad narrative that varies according to who is telling the story. But it is also true that this war, like every war, is made up of countless stories of individual soldiers and civilians whose lives have been directly impacted.