Jerusalem Day is a Jewish holiday celebrating the unification of the city in 1967. It happened on May 17 of this year.
Jerusalem has produced “kings, killers, prophets, pretenders, caliphs and crusaders, all surfing an ocean of blood.” It is also, says Chief Rabbi
Jonathan Sacks,“the city from the which the Divine Presence has never departed.”
In other words, Jerusalem is holy and profane. It foments war yet calls for peace. How can this all be true? Why do we care so much about it? What about Jerusalem so captures our imaginations?
1. Jerusalem is hope: The Bible recalls the cry of the Jewish exiles in Babylonia. “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand lose its strength.
Many groups have faced tragedy and exile. Many more have been oppressed and persecuted. Those who survive find a source of hope.
For Jews it is Jerusalem. Jerusalem symbolizes return. It symbolizes home. It symbolizes freedom.
People often ask me (and any rabbi) why they became a rabbi. I can answer in two words: “Ron Shapiro.” I suspect at least a dozen others of us who grew up at Congregation Shalom, which he led for 35 years, could say the same.
Role models teach us more than any book can. We know the truth of a statement attributed to Abraham Joshua Heschel. When asked how to nurture effective spiritual leaders, he said, “We do not need more text-books. We need more “text-people.”
A text-person embodies the values we cherish. He or she delivers a sermon with his life, not just his words.
Counting our blessings is not something that always comes naturally. Often it’s easier to count our problems.
We are late on a project. Our house needs work. If, God forbid, we have a serious health problem or lose our job, it can consume us.
Focusing on our problems, we sometimes overlook our blessings. As a father, I know I do this. I complain that my kids do not go to sleep on time much more than I express gratitude for being blessed with healthy, happy kids.
Sometimes we need a little push to remind us of our blessings.
“What should I call you?” Rabbis and pastors get this question a lot.
What do we say? It depends. Some times I say “Call me Evan.” Sometimes it’s “Rabbi Evan.” Other times I say say “I prefer Rabbi Moffic.” Sometimes I say in private “Evan” is fine, but in public please use “Rabbi Moffic.”
I admit I have little rhyme or reason to my answers.
I imagine doctors and teachers face a similar dilemma. The truth is, however, is that the question is about much more than names. It is about relationships, authority, respect, and maintaining proper boundaries within an increasingly informal and free-for-all culture.
Having just returned from a leading a session on boundaries at a rabbinic conference (with my friend and colleague Rabbi Leah Cohen), I realized how critical boundaries are for everybody. Boundaries are about saying yes and saying no.
A member of my synagogue recently reminded me of a basic truth. Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.
Put differently, in life the head less is less important than the heart. To do anything well, you need to know yourself and the heart that drives you.
In any job–including the clergy–it’s easy to become wrapped up in the meetings, the processes, the emails. We get so caught up in what to do that we forget why we do it. We can get so caught up in what we are doing that we fail to notice who we are becoming.
My oldest daughter just turned eight, and my youngest is about to turn six. I’ve been thinking a lot about the journey of fatherhood so far.
The best book I read before coming a dad was Crawling: A Father’s First Year. With its focus on the sheer joy and anxiety of a baby’s first year, it came closest to preparing me for the humbling shock and awe of becoming a parent.
Despite my fondness for the book, I soon realized no guide can prepare you for this journey. Every parent ultimately realizes this. The best we can do is draw from our own experience and the wisdom of those who came before us.
Three weeks ago I received a strange email. “Did I know,” my friend wondered, “about the antisemitism brewing on the Stanford University campus?”
A young woman running for student senate had become subject to a barrage of hostility because of her religion and support for Israel. A campus newspaper reported that some student groups forbid its members from affiliating with any Jewish groups. Then, three days ago, student awoke to a swastika spray painted on a fraternity house.
The Stanford University which I attended between 1996 and 2000 was far different. Israel was celebrated. The President of the school frequently noted that Israel’s then-Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, earned his graduate degree at Stanford.
Stanford has been influenced by the venomous antisemitism of groups calling for boycott, sanctions and divestment from Israel (BDS).
The death toll from the earthquake in Nepal continues to climb. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes. The future looks bleak.
What should we do? Our first responsibility is to help. We can give our support to those who are building hospitals, providing food, offering shelter. Here’s one way to do so.
We may also find ourselves wondering what kind of God allows such a tragedy to happen. In the Bible God splits the Red Sea. God topples the walls of Jericho. God heals the sick and frees the captive. How can such a God not stop a devastating earthquake?
A great Jewish leader (Rabbi Aaron Lichtenstein) and a great Catholic leader (Cardinal Francis George) died this week. Catholic thinking on life after death is fairly clear and well-known. What do Jews believe?
Faith begins in mystery. Among the greatest mysteries we face is the afterlife. What happens when we die? Do we see our loved ones? Do we know them? Do they know us?
The questions are endless. Jewish wisdom offers no definitive answer. We can identify, however, several core teachings.
- There is an afterlife: Texts from every era in Jewish life identify a world where people go when they die. In the Bible it’s an underworld called Sheol. In the rabbinic tradition it’s known by a number of names, including the yeshiva shel mallah, the school on high. The Hebrew word for skies, shamayim, also came to refer to heaven.
I met Cardinal George at a Sabbath dinner at the home of a local Jewish leader. It was during the height of the clergy sex scandal, and I did notice he drank a few extra glasses of the Sabbath wine.
At that dinner I was impressed with the Cardinal’s intellect. He talked about theology, church history, and even Jewish tradition and liturgy. He clearly had a razor sharp mind.
We never had the chance to speak in person again, but my appreciation and affection for him only grew. It grew not because I agreed with his views. It grew because of a legacy we are only now beginning to appreciate.
Cardinal George faced cancer three times. He faced it publicly and humbly. Each time he struggled, he inspired, he instructed.