The month of Elul is over half over and Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) is quickly approaching. The hectic days of Elul call to us not only to accomplish the many tasks of each day, but also to prepare our hearts, minds and souls for the upcoming Days of Awe.
A few years ago, Craig Taubman began Jewels of Elul – daily reflections on life, repentance, forgiveness, hope and more. Today, the 19th of Elul, Noah Alpert wrote about challenges, promises and the great gifts of life.
You may subscribe to Jewels of Elul and receive a daily reflection in your email. Go to the website to read entries for any day over the past few years.
Ima on the Bima posted this week’s Haveil Havalim “Catchy Title Goes Here” – a great collection of blog posts written over the past week. Thanks Phyllis and shavuah tov to all.
Once again Memorial Day has come to the United States. For many people the day corresponds to the beginning of summer, bbq, sales, a day off from work and getting together with friends. Memorial Day includes these things for many people, but we need to remember the original (and I say most important) reason for the holiday – to remember the members of the armed services who gave their lives in battle, in conflict, or in training.
Regardless of politics and political opinion about the wars, actions and conflicts in which the United States has engaged. we can support the men and women who serve in the armed forces.
Many years ago, I had the privilege of being in the US Navy Chaplain Candidate program. I became part of the Naval Reserves. I trained and served with men and women of passion, patriotism and devotion to call. Rabbis have served in the US military services since the Civil War, and Jews have served since the Revolutionary War. I am no longer in the Navy, yet I remain forever changed by the short time I served.
On this Memorial Day, let us remember all members of the armed forces of all faiths who sacrificed their lives. We think especially of the Jewish soldiers, airmen, marines, sailors, coast guardsmen who have died. A list of those who have died since September 11, 2001 is provided by the Jewish Welfare Board Chaplain’s Council.
Organizations Supporting and about Jews in the Military
Jewish War Veterans
Jewish Welfare Board Jewish Chaplains Council
National Museum of American Jewish Military History
Support Our Soldiers - send packages and encouragement to Jewish service members. (An effort of the Jewish War Veterans.)
The Brave – a listserv for families with members in the military
Links to some other posts on Jews in the military
I pray that the day will come soon when no country will need to send its children into battle and when armies are unnecessary, for then the words of the prophets will be evident all around – “Nation will not lift up sword against nation and they will not make war anymore. All will sit under their vines and fig trees and none will be afraid.”
I have long been a fan of the NBC television program Law & Order. I’ve watched the original and most of the spin-offs (especially SVU and Criminal Intent). The end of the original program may have been inevitable, but it is sad none the less. Heeb Magazine wrote up some of the Greatest Jewish Moments on Law and Order. Episodes often focus on issues of justice, fairness and the need to care for the less fortunate in society – key Jewish values. Perhaps in that way many shows have had Jewish themes. I’ll have to be satisfied with SVU, Criminal Intent and re-runs.
As I type this blog, we enter the final hours before the onset of Shavuot. In the hours to come Jews around the world will celebrate receiving the written and oral Torahs thousands of years ago on Sinai. The revelation continues to this day, as each generation makes the decision to accept, wrestle with, engage with and embrace Torah.
Throughout time we have studied and learned Torah with the tools at hand – our minds, our bodies, scrolls, books, computer screens and social media. Over the past 24 hours Jews throughout the world have tweeted about Torah. Read some of the tweets by clicking this link which searches for Torah related tweets.
May your celebration be sweet and filled with the miracles of Sinai.
A common practice when Jews meet one another is to play “Jewish geography,” a process in which we find people we know in common. On the face this may seem like a Jewish version of 6 degrees of separation, but it goes deeper. It is a means of finding connection. The game often succeeds, but even when it doesn’t we sometimes have the feeling that we have met before. When we cannot figure out how we know one another, we say that we saw each other at Sinai.
Jewish tradition teaches that all Jews throughout time stood at Sinai thousands of years ago and received the Torah. Tomorrow night we begin celebrating Shavuot, the day G-d gave the Torah to our people. Each of us stood there and experienced this great gift . In remembrance of the gift of Torah (and the teaching that our people overslept the morning we received it) we will study all night tomorrow night.
I invite you to think about the place of Torah in your life. Perhaps Torah resonates in ideas, in family, in friends, in your work, in your life decisions, in your passion to change the world or in your religious practice. Where is Torah today and where might it be tomorrow or the next day?
Tomorrow night, wherever you are, I look forward to seeing you at Sinai.
Happy חנוכה (or Hanukkah or Hanukah or Chanukah or Khanukah). I hope that this festival of lights is illuminated with joy, hope, health, love and inspiration for you and your entire family.
Today I finished reading the third in Maggie Anton’s series Rashi’s Daughters. The series of three historical fiction weave the lives of our ancestors in 11th century France with the study of Talmud and the incredible lives of Rashi, his three daughters, his sons-in-law, grandchildren and community. The popular volumes read accurately to me considering that outside of Rashi’s writings and responsa of the time we have little documentation of life in Troyes, France at that time.
If you haven’t read them, I encourage you to visit your local library or bookstore, open one of the volumes and start reading. I imagine that you will end up taking the book with you.
Maggie Anton is not the only contemporary author writing about Rashi. Elie Wiesel recently wrote a mini-bibliography about Rashi which has gotten good reviews. You can read Maggie Anton’s review on the Mixed Multitudes blog (from My Jewish Learning).
Have you read the books by Anton or Wiesel? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Read and enjoy!
How well do you know the maps of the Middle East, North Africa, and the “Stans?” Try your hand at this online map quiz called Rethinking Schools.
Carl Elkin wrote a Facebook Haggadah – read the Facebook version of the Passover story. [Hat tip to http://twitter.com/amygeek]