As Israel’s war against Hamas continues in its third week and casualties among the Palestinian population of Gaza mount, it is getting awfully difficult to find people outside the Jewish community- except for a select few politicians running for office- who are genuinely supportive of Israel’s cause.
I have long been interested in the debate which continues in both the medical and mental health communities about the affect of hope on healing. Some would argue that honesty about a patient’s condition and prognosis must trump the understandable desire to give him a reason to believe in the possibility of a cure. Others say that depriving a patient of hope, even when the situation is, in reality, dire, also deprives her of the will to live, and thus can hasten death itself.
In a move that stunned the Jewish world and significant parts of the Catholic world as well, Pope Benedict XVI moved last week to revoke the excommunication of four bishops, one of whom, Richard Williamson, has denied the historicity of the Holocaust. The four are all members of the St. Pius X Society, a far-right wing schismatic group that argues generally against the modernization of the church, and more specifically against the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s.
Having experienced the almost palpable sense of exhilaration that was so much a part of the American presidential election just a few months ago, the near universal sense of frustration and despair that haunted voters after the electoral stalemate of the past week in Israel was a rude reminder of the fractured nature of Israel’s political system.
Among my friends and colleagues, I am occasionally chided for being a centrist. I am neither a leftist nor a partisan of the right, and I like to think that being open to the best thinking of all sides to an argument is the surest road to growth and wisdom.
On the way into Manhattan earlier this week to teach my seminar in the Rabbinical School of the Jewish Theological Seminary, I had my radio tuned to WCBS, an all-news station. The ride took about twenty-five minutes, and I don’t think I would be exaggerating if I said that the entire twenty-five minutes on the radio was taken up with bad news and worse news about the economy. The only thing that bordered on something other than that was a report about Bill Clinton, complaining that President Obama was too focused in his public pronouncements on how bad the economy is.
Although it is more than a little different now than it was almost thirty years ago when I was ordained, the basic requirement is the same. All graduating seniors in the Rabbinical School of the Jewish Theological Seminary are required to deliver what is called a “senior sermon,” when they either preach or teach in the presence of their faculty,
In the weeks before my first son was born (yes, the one who just became a father last week), I wore a beeper on my belt, like all expectant fathers did when their wives were due any minute. It was before cell phones, and for those few days when we really needed to be reachable, the hospital would rent out beepers so that our wives could call us. I actually remember bringing a roll of quarters with me to the hospital, and sitting in my scrubs in a phone booth in the hospital lobby, calling family and friends to tell them the good news.