Thank you for an incredibly warm welcome to Shaarei Tikvah! While I can’t thank everyone who has played a role in offering us such a warm welcome, I want to express our tremendous gratitude for the open arms with which you have greeted our family. We are thrilled to call Shaarei Tikvah our new spiritual home and have enjoyed getting to know our new surroundings and meeting our new neighbors- both in the Scarsdale community and through our synagogue community. My wife, Maital and I are excited to meet all of you at upcoming events as well as introducing you to our three children.… Read more
JOIN ME— on a fantastic tour of Israel with ITC Tours in 2017. Dates and details to follow.
Please consider joining me on an incredible trip to Israel. I am so excited and proud that our congregation is embarking on a journey to Israel for joint purpose of building relationships with one another as well as creating a strong bond between us, Israel, and her citizens.
I still remember the incredible feeling I experienced of visiting Israel for the first time at the age of 14. After singing and cheering when the plane landed, I disembarked and kissed the ground (yes, it was gross but highly spiritual)! I was so grateful to walk in the footsteps of my ancestors and to experience the culture and the beauty of the only Jewish State– a place where around the whole country on Friday and Saturday every person, whether religious or secular says “shabbat shalom.” This is the only place where on Yom Kippur there are more bicycles on the roads than cars, where the ancient language of Hebrew is spoken, and where people drink chocolate milk from a bag. It is the place where Judaism is lived whether you are on the beach of the Mediterranean in Tel Aviv, the shuk (market) in Jerusalem, on the top of Metzada, or in the shadow of Robinson’s arch at the Western Wall. It is the place that Jews have dreamed about for countless generations.
To quote Jewish physician, poet, and philosopher Yehudah Halevi (c. 11-12th century), “My heart is in the East, and I am at the ends of the West.” I often feel similarly to Yehuda Halevi. Israel represents the birth place of my mother, the place my parents met, the home of my uncles, aunts, and cousins. It is the place where the Bible comes to life, where I can walk in the same places as my earliest ancestors and learn the texts that were compiled in the same places that I can study them. It is a powerful place to be– a place of beautiful simplicity and messy, complicated reality. It is a place of peace and moral values and it is a place with a history of tension and multiple narratives.
But more than anything else, Israel is a place of hope. It inspires us to live moral lives, to believe in diversity while remaining true to our beliefs. It is the result of millennia of prayer and dreaming. And of course, the young country that Israel is, she is a work in progress—finding a balance between the values of a democracy and a home for a people, persecuted through the ages. The voices of the rabbis, the priests, and the prophets of our heritage ring clearly through the streets and the valleys, in conversation with one another.
As Jews who care about our shared story of a people in search of our homeland and securing our future on this earth, we must commit to forging a relationship with Israel and her people—to study her history and know the modern issues which shape her character and her future. As American Jews, our voices matter. I believe it is essential that we know Israel in order to develop a love of Israel, in order to commit ourselves to a lifelong conversation and relationship with Israel.
Please consider the opportunity to begin or continue your relationship with Israel on this incredible journey. The trip includes a tour of Israel by an excellent tour guide, including visits to Jerusalem, Cesarea, Lake Kinneret and the Galilee, Golan Heights, Masada, the Dead Sea, Tel Aviv, and more. This trip is designed as a multi generational tour, with activities for all ages and many meals will be provided throughout the trip. We will visit, listen, discuss, learn, breathe, sing, break bread, laugh, and pray together. It will be an incredible experience.
On Thursday night of last week we entered into the new month of Av. Av is a month of sadness in the midst of destruction, yet it also contains within it the seeds of hope. The beginning of Av introduces the “nine days,” which culminates in the ninth day of the Hebrew month Av, or in Hebrew, Tish’a b’Av, a 25-hour fast which falls this year on the weekend of August 13th-14th. It began as a mournful remembrance of the historical event of the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians and went on to incorporate many other national catastrophes, up to and including the Holocaust in the 20th century. Our Tradition teaches that Tish’a b’Av calls forth the belief that these national disasters were the result of internal divisiveness, which prevented communal unity and a functioning system of justice. This undermined the nation’s ability to overcome both its external enemies and its internal challenges.
We know this divisiveness as sinat chinam, baseless hatred between individuals. It refers to that kind of enmity that is so irrationally strong as to be oblivious to the cost that it exacts from both the hater and the hated. On Tish’a b’Av, we are to be mindful of this horrible human tendency, and, through the fast, resolve to bring the opposite, ahavat chinam, boundless love, into our community. As it is written in Isaiah 58:6: “This is the fast that I desire: to unlock the fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of the yoke; to let the oppressed go free, and to break off every yoke.” We, of many different religious faiths, have much along these lines to think about in our American society today as well as many commitments and resolutions that need to be made for the future. Our national conversation is filled with fear and mistrust rather than hope, love, and sharing of our common core values.
As Jews, It is our responsibility to root out the hatred in our midst and to care for those that are marginalized or treated unfairly, as the Torah guides us, lo ta’amod al dam re’echa, “Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:16). Recent attacks against African Americans and against police officers have caused a rupture in our country’s soul. We have witnessed an upsurge in hatred and violence as well as rising inequality and racial injustice, which greatly impacts people’s lives. In response, we are called to commit ourselves to overcoming these challenges and work towards creating equal opportunities for power, access, and treatment for all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sex, sexuality, religion, country of origin, or any other classification used to unlawfully and immorally divide people. Our faith demands it, and our world requires it.
In order to heal and find a way forward together, we will be hosting members of other faith communities in central Westchester at Shaarei Tikvah on Sunday, August 14, from 3:00pm to 5:00pm. Here we will discuss the brokenness we face in America while planning together for a better future for our country and its citizens. Joining together as neighbors and people of faith will help us to better understand each other and restore hope in our country. Together, we can work towards fulfilling Isaiah’s words, to observe the “fast that God desires.”