Being a congregational rabbi during the High Holidays is an experience in pressure unlike anything else that occurs during the course of a Jewish year. Jews you never knew were in your neighborhood (and some you did) seem to come out of the woodwork and find their way into synagogue services, sometimes changing the nature of the congregation entirely. Often, just to make their presence known, they decide that this might be the right time to get to know the rabbi.
As I write this, the stock market is taking its first halting, spasmodic steps away from the abyss and back towards some kind of healthier state of being. Of course, now that I’ve written that, it will probably go down a few hundred points today just to prove how little I understand how these things really work. I readily admit that. But we do seem to have eased away from the bleakest, most hopeless feeling that we’ve all known these past few weeks.
The ancient rabbis famously commented on the difficult opening chapters of the book of Genesis that kol ha’hathalot kashot; all beginnings are difficult. It was a rather glib observation on the slow but steady deterioration of the state of the world from its idyllic, Edenesque state to the point where God actually regrets having created humanity.
We are, thank God, drawing closer to that glorious day when this election campaign will be over. It has been the longest and most intensive battering of our collective consciousnesses that I can recall, and if I feel this way, I can’t even begin to imagine how the candidates must feel. Surely we have enough information with which to make an informed decision.
The election is over, and President-elect Obama has won his race in a landslide. Clearly, American voters, across all lines, were sending a message that the last eight years were essentially a train wreck, and that they saw in Senator Obama the promise of a better future for themselves and for our country. On the former, I think they’re right. On the latter, I hope they’re right; I hope I was right- I hope we’re right- because I voted for him as well.
In response to the blog that I posted immediately after the presidential election, in which I called on the carpet those Jews who had spread malicious and untrue rumors about Barack Obama all over the internet, someone posted an online response accusing me of “Ortho(dox)-bashing.” I found the charge to be too glib, since there were certainly members of my own (Conservative) congregation who were both ready and willing to believe the worst about Obama, regardless of where it came from. Also, interestingly, the editor of this paper, himself an Orthodox Jew, expressed v
There are all kinds of stories, almost all of them apocryphal, about rabbis welcoming sundry physical plant problems in their synagogues in late summer/early September. The reason is obvious. Leaking roofs and broken boilers make wonderful fodder for fundraising campaigns, which almost all synagogues engage in around the High Holidays. That is, unless the roof falls in on you…
Last Wednesday, as Americans were easing into the familiar and welcome patterns of a laid-back Thanksgiving weekend, Mumbai was convulsing in a horrific spasm of violence all too familiar to us here in New York. Images of senseless carnage were all over the print and electronic media, a much beloved rabbi and his wife were among the intentional casualties, and it was woefully easy to relapse into that sense of vulnerability yet again…
Close your eyes and think back to late October. It was just after the end of the High Holidays and Sukkot, and after what seemed like interminable weeks of “one day on, two days off,” we all dreamed of a normal work week, and getting into some kind of saner and more predictable routine.