Having just come off the week of Yom Hashoah, when we consciously called to mind memories of the very worst behavior that humanity has ever countenanced, I– like most of us, I’m sure– thought it was safe to “shift emotional gears” and anticipate the joy of celebrating Israel’s independence. But now, of course, I know I was wrong…
My sister in Israel is fond of saying that her least favorite Shabbat of the year (tongue firmly in cheek) is when we recite the blessing in anticipation of the new Hebrew month of Nisan (meaning, of course, imminent Passover and all that entails). Conversely, her favorite Shabbat is when we recite the blessing in anticipation of the new Hebrew month of Iyar (meaning, of course, the end of the Passover season, and imminent celebration of Yom Ha’atzma’ut, Israel’s Independence Day).
It is an unusual day indeed when The New York Times, not always considered sensitive to the concerns of the Jewish community, publishes a front-page obituary for a rabbi. But the Times did just that a few short weeks ago, when it noted, with appropriate pathos and respect, the death of Rabbi Hershel Schacter, of blessed memory.
I’m not completely sure why I remember this particular episode of my childhood quite so clearly, but I do…
One day, when I was in third grade, I went to the supermarket with my mother. While there, we happened upon my English teacher from the Yeshiva where I studied. I remember staring at her, completely uncomprehending of how she could possibly be in the supermarket. After all, I never, ever saw her outside of our classroom, and insofar as my third grade brain was concerned, that was where she always was. She was completely out of place in the supermarket, and again- I’m not sure I even realized that she got hungry, or ate, because I never saw her do that. David Copperfield could not have accomplished a greater illusion for me. I was thoroughly amazed.
It would be difficult to exaggerate the significance of President Obama’s official visit to Israel this week, both for the interests of the United States in the Middle East, and also, of course, for Israel.
Since Israelis went to the polls to elect a new government in late January of this year, the front pages of their newspapers have been filled with all the intrigues and arm-twisting we have come to associate with coalition negotiations in Israel.
A funny thing happened to me during my recent trip to France and Israel; I turned 60.
Rather than trot out all the usual clichés that go with aging and changing decades, I will simply say that, though the alternative is far worse (oops– a cliché!), this was not a milestone birthday that I have been looking forward to. The trip was amazing, an incredible opportunity, but being far from family and friends made me even more uneasy about reaching this age that, no matter how hard I might try, I simply could not define as young.
As I write this, I am somewhere over the Atlantic, on my way back to New York after two intense and remarkable weeks exploring the Jewish communities of France and Israel with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. I am a member of the Conference because I am the sitting President of the Rabbinical Assembly, the professional organization of Conservative rabbis.
I am writing this from Paris, where I am participating in the mission of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. We are here for five days, and will be moving on for five days of meeting in Israel this coming Sunday.