AIPAC and Donald Trump

Let me begin with two disclaimers:

First, I was not at the AIPAC conference so I base my thoughts on what I saw on TV.

Secondly, while I wish a different decision would have been made, I understand why AIPAC had to invite Donald Trump. If all major party presidential candidates are  invited to speak, it is difficult for me to imagine how one candidate could be excluded. That he is still a viable candidate says more about the American people than it does about AIPAC as an organization.

Donald Trump said some things last night that were reasonable and on point. He condemned terror without mincing words. He raised the issue of what the Palestinian people are teaching their children. He expressed the importance of the relationship of the United States and Israel.

But, there was so much in his speech which was unnecessary, needlessly provocative, insulting and counter productive.

So much of what Mr. Trump said served to heighten conflict in the region rather than to seek resolution and his words and facial expressions in reference to President Obama were offensive and disrespectful to a sitting president.

But, through it all, what angered me most was the response.

Hearing the applause and shouts of approval from so many in attendance was extraordinary upsetting.

A campaign can not be about one speech.

Even if one agrees with his positions regarding Israel, applause is not just for words, it is for the one who speaks them. To see so many thousands of people in a largely Jewish setting standing and applauding a man who has expressed racist, hate filled positions, used horrendous language to insult women, continuously shown an insulting contempt for other candidates,  and routinely displayed a conceited, self-aggrandizing attitude is a nightmare.

I can only draw two possible conclusions from the applause and approval.

Either people are willing to disregard everything else a candidate says or believes as long as he or she says the “right” things about Israel.

Or, people endorse all of the “other” things he says and does.

Either one scares me and should scare all of us.

 

 

 

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Being A Jew

I have written blog postings which have referenced, either by name or inference, both Pope Francis and Donald Trump. But, while the incentive for this post came from the Pope’s reported comment about Mr. Trump, I want to avoid getting into any specifics regarding that particular debate and just focus on the words themselves as they were reported in the media.

The quotation by Pope Francis has been reported as being the following: “A person who thinks only about building walls — wherever they may be — and not building bridges, is not Christian”.

I am fascinated by that statement, not for its context but rather because of the words: “is not Christian”.

When I first heard the quotation, I thought that I had heard it reported that the Pope had said that such a person is “not A Christian” (emphasis mine). But, the official statement from the Vatican says that that person who only builds walls is “not Christian”.

I am not a Christian and can not comment on the theological or sociological impact of such a statement or any difference there may be between the two. But, hearing it from the perspective of a Jew, I do hear a difference. In Jewish life, there is a difference between saying: “He or she is not a Jew” and saying “He or she is not acting in accordance with Jewish values and ethics.”

There is a beautiful and critical teaching in Jewish tradition: Yisrael af al pee she hoteh, Yisrael hu. This means: A Jew, even though he or she sins, is still a Jew.

This is a fascinating statement and has been used in various ways in our tradition including referring to the fact that a Jew who converts to another religious faith really remains a Jew. The word “sin” in this context might be misleading and I absolutely do not mean to imply that being a member of another religious faith is “a sin”, rather that a Jew who makes that decision is willingly separating him or herself from the Jewish community. The statement means that according to strict Jewish law, a person would not need to convert back to Judaism if they changed their mind and decided to return to their original faith.

But, the larger context of this is that we do not judge people as having forfeited their right to be considered a Jew based on their behavior, no matter how repugnant.  A Jew is a Jew.

It is appropriate in certain situations to say that a person is not reflecting Jewish values in the way that he or she acts. While there may be some disagreement in certain questions of values based on one’s philosophy of life, it is clear that there are times where we could say without question that an individual’s actions do not reflect Jewish values.

The Torah teaches that one shouldn’t put a stumbling block before a blind person. I would hope we would all agree that doing so does not reflect Jewish values. I would hope we would feel the same about Jews who commit acts of senseless and arbitrary violence. I would hope we would feel the same about those who steal or murder.

But, even in those situations, a Jew who performs those actions is still a Jew.

How a given community chooses to include or exclude that individual from communal Jewish life is a decision each community must make on their own. But, as a Rabbi, while I might detest the actions an individual performs, I would recognize them as a Jew and serve their spiritual needs as best I could.

This is a very serious issue in Jewish tradition as it is in other traditions as well and each addresses it in their own way. For us, as Jews, the bottom line is that our identity as a Jew is one which always stays with us and we can never take that identity away from someone else based on their actions, no matter how repugnant we feel those actions are.

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Remembering With A Smile and A Laugh

I had some time this morning to write a blog posting but couldn’t decide on a topic. Then I picked up the newspaper and read of the death of Bob Elliott, the “Bob” of the comedy team of “Bob and Ray” and suddenly there was nothing else to write about.

I know that some (many?) of you have never heard of Bob and Ray but that is your loss and thanks to the internet you can listen to their routines and may become a fan like so many millions.

Bob and Ray were originally radio comedians. There radio programs from Boston and later from New York were not scripted but were  full of ad libs. Their dry, quiet, understated humor full of satirical slaps at everything from politics to soap operas and everything in between is unforgettable. Their characters: from Wally Ballou, the “on the scene” reporter who would always begin his transmissions by starting a second or two early (“-ly Ballou in Times Square) to Mary McGoon, the home economics expert with horrible recipes to the McBeeBee twins who spoke the exact same words a split second apart to Dean Archer Armstead, the agricultural expert who mumbled so horribly that you couldn’t understand a word were absolute gems.

Bob and Ray became popular before I was born but they continued to perform well into the 80s and appeared regularly with Johnny Carson, David Letterman and once memorably with Saturday Night Live’s Gilda Radner, Jane Curtin and Laraine Newman (you can see a clip below). If you don’t have much time, start at 7:35) Their dry, deadpan humor was in some ways of another era but it still is a riot today.

Not much else to say. It was already an end to an era as Ray Goulding died in 1990 but reading the obituary this morning brought back so many memories and I’ll be driving around the next few days listening to the cds of Bob and Ray that I’ve collected over the years.

A sad morning? Yes, but with many, many smiles.

 

 

 

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The Space Shuttle Challenger- 30 Years Later

Today, January 28, 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger which took the life of 7 astronauts: Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, Judith A. Resnik,  Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, Ronald E. McNair,  Mike J. Smith, and Ellison S. Onizuka, may their memory be for a blessing.

I remember that day very well and the one thing that sticks in my mind is that I didn’t know about the disaster until 3 hours after it took place. I was out to lunch with a colleague at the time and with no cell phones and no internet, no one told me and I had no way of knowing until I happened to turn on the news later that day. Can you imagine that happening today?

But, that incidental fact aside, the explosion of the Challenger affected me personally very deeply. I have always been a “space nut” and, as you will see below, I like so many were not only saddened but deeply emotionally affected by the tragedy. Here is (with a few minor edits), the sermon I delivered on Friday evening, January 31, 1986 at Congregation Beth Israel Lansdale, Pennsylvania.

God said to Abraham: Lech Lecha Mayartzecha. Leave your land and travel to the new land that I will show you. Several times this year I have attempted to teach why I feel that this verse symbolizes the entire mission of the Jewish people. From our earliest beginnings, we were commanded to travel, commanded to find new spiritual understandings and to deepen our relationship with God. 

And, if the simple words lech lecha symbolize the Jew, then the equally simple words of Horace Greely, in the early 19th century, symbolize the American: “Go west young man, go west”. Travel not necessarily for spiritual growth but because there was an empty space begging to be filled, a new experience waiting to be share, a new frontier beckoning to be explored.

And throughout our history, we did go west…and north and south and east. And, in our day, up. And, not only with our young men as Greely called for, but with young women, older adults, elected officials. And, this week, for the first time, with you and me. For Christa McAuliffe represented no only the teachers of America but she represented all of us- all of us who have dreamed of space travel but whose physical limitations or scientific ignorance kept us earthbound. She represented every one of us who ever imagined that the dashboard of the car was an instrument panel and the long, lonely highway was the outer reaches of space as we maneuvered our craft to discover new worlds.

Each time a space flight began, we were riveted to the TV screen. We did get blasé at times, but we never got tired of seeing the awesome power of the launch, the beauty of the horizon silhouetted against the blackness of space, the amazing mechanical feats performed at zero gravity,  and the flawless landings- so graceful, so awe inspiring, and always right on the money. We always dreamed we were on board and this time, we were really going. 

 

Of course, there had been problems before: capsules had sunk, engines burned out, Apollo 13 suffered an explosion, heat shields hung precariously through re-entry, but it all had always come out A-OK. The one horrible exception, the terrible fire on Apollo 1 which took the lives of astronauts Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Ed White had taken place on the ground and there was no live TV- this was altogether different. 

Seven individuals, each representing a section of America: black and white, Jew and Gentile, protest and and Catholic, male and female. And a bit of us died with them.

These 7 memorial candles are lit for those 7 pioneers. We grieve for their families, for their friends who loved them, who needed them; and who will not even be able to bury them. 

Tuesday night, I sat glued to the TV and saw my heroes parade before the cameras. You know that I am a sports fan but my heroes growing up were not Yastrzemski and Mantle and Maris and Mays but they were Shepard and Grissom and Glenn. And, on this night, the heroes of my youth paraded before the cameras. And everyone of them said exactly the same thing: “We knew this was going to happen someday, and it is amazing that it took 26 years”.

Those astronauts and reporters admitted something that bears repeating, now that the initial shock is beginning to wear off. Make no mistake about it, despite the smiles and the playful jokes and the steak and eggs breakfasts with everyone laughing, despite all of these, every astronaut knew that they were being placed on the top of a bomb and that someday, without warning, the bomb would go off.

And because they knew that, because they willingly put themselves on top of that “Roman Candle” the astronauts passed from being merely private individuals to being common property, entrusted with billions of our tax dollars and more importantly with our priceless dreams. When they put on that uniform, they became instruments of our instinct to discover and accepted that risk willingly. 

All of the astronauts knew the risk even if we forgot it or ignored it. And no one in NASA was shocked with this explosion. Saddened, no question. Distraught with sadness. But they were not shocked because they knew it would happen someday. 

And that is why NASA needs only to investigate what went wrong. We have to do another thing. We have to learn for ourselves what NASA has known for the past 26 years and more. 

 There is only one source of perfection in this world. And when an imperfect being builds a machine, it can not be a perfect machine. No matter how many times it is used. Our intelligence is limitless but it is imperfect; our machines are amazing but they are not perfect. 

In a few moments, we will say the el maley rachamim prayer, the prayer recited at times of loss. Words written centuries ago sound as if they were written yesterday; “God grant rest under the shelter of you being to those who shine like the brightness of the heavens”. This prayer reminds us always that the works of human beings, and our very lives, are temporary. All we can do is strive to be the best we can be and hold onto our belief in the one perfect being. 

Someone asked me yesterday: Where was God? I saw God’s presence on Tuesday evening. I walked out to look the stars as I always do and there, on the horizon, was an almost full moon- so bright so round, just a bit of darkened in deference to our suffering. A moon that was close that you could reach out and touch it. As long as the moon is so close that we can touch it, as long as the stars shine so bright that we can reach for them, as long as there remain oceans and comets and mountains for us to explore, we will continue to explore. We will suffer at times for it but we must continue. The ancient human being who rubbed two sticks together one morning probably burned himself the first time. But, he must have picked up the sticks again or you and I would not be here tonight. 

Science Fiction writer Ray Bradbury wrote a story called Kaleidoscope. In this story, a space ship explodes, sending the astronauts hurtling towards the earth. Just before their death, they talk to each other by radio about their hopes for the world. One of them worries that he has not accomplished anything good in the world and then realizes he is about to become a shooting star and hopes that someone will see him. The story ends with a young boy on a country road, looking up to see a shooting star. His mother says; “Make a wish, my son, make a wish.”

There are 7 new shooting stars in the sky. While the horrible agony of their fiery death still is fixed in our minds, we make a wish that the 7 families will be comforted among those who mourn throughout the world. And we make a wish for ourselves that we keep reaching, keep exploring, keep searching. 

We owe it to the 7. We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to God who left us here on earth with the ability to reach for the stars. We owe it to all of them to keep looking up. 

May the memory of the Challenger 7 be for a blessing thirty years later and always.

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In Memoriam

This past Pesach, I invited everyone who was coming to our Seder to share  the lyrics of a song which while not written for Pesach or in reference to the Exodus, still resonated with them as we gathered for the celebration of freedom.

As one who has frequently written midrash on contemporary music, it was an easy task for me to fulfill but I searched to find something a bit more surprising, a bit less obvious. I settled on this verse from one of my favorite songs:

On the other side of town a boy is waiting with fiery eyes and dreams no one could steal.              She drives on through the night anticipating that he’ll make her feel the way she used to feel.      She rushes to his arms, they fall together. She whispers that it’s only for a while.                                She swears that soon she’ll be coming back forever. She pulls away and leaves him with a smile.”

These words do have a connection with Pesach. We have to look at the entire story of the Exodus, as many of our ancient rabbis did, as the beginning of a love story between God and the people of Israel and as Mt. Sinai being the “wedding ceremony” which we recreate every time we read Torah.  Then, disregarding for a moment the fact that the woman in the story is sneaking away from her husband to meet her lover, the words are so heartwarming. As we return as a people to that point of close relationship with God remembering “how we used to feel” during the Exodus and swearing that we won’t stray so far this time, that we’ll be “back soon”, it reminds us of the continued cycle of our Jewish year offers us many moments besides the Seder to feel the closeness we felt at that point of the beginning of our love.

I sang that verse at the Seder.

I’ll be honest. I picked the song because I love it. Lyin’ Eyes is one of my favorites; so are Take It To the Limit, Peaceful Easy Feeling, One of These Nights, New Kid in Town and…of course, Desperado.

I quoted that last one in a song one Rosh Hashana when speaking about the need for community: “And freedom, oh freedom, well that’s just some people talkin’
Your prison is walking through this world all alone”

But, there I go again. This really isn’t about sermons or Pesach seder midrashim.  It’s about the music and the words and the magic that comes when it all fits together so well, when you can’t get the tune out of your mind, when you relate it to events in your life or to people you knew, when you remember when you were young and had more energy, more mobility (it doesn’t help that I’m struggling with a strained knee ligament right now) and a longer future.

All of my favorite musicians have added so much to my life. From Harry Chapin to the Beatles to Paul Simon to all the others, they have enriched my life with meaning and with joy.

I have always loved the Eagles. I play and sing their songs often. But I never really thought about how much and how deeply I loved their words and music. Believe me, I’m thinking about it today.

May Glenn Frey rest in peace. May we continue to sing his songs and may we never take for granted how much our music means to our lives.

 

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The Video from Jerusalem

I have purposefully waited some time before writing about the video which has widely been circulated of the recent wedding in Jerusalem. I wanted some time to think about this horribly upsetting situation.

The video shows Orthodox Jews at a wedding party celebrating attacks against Palestinians, particularly 18 month old Ali Dawabsheh, who was killed along with members of his family when their house was burned down, allegedly by members of an extremist settler group. The video shows participants in the wedding of all ages, including young children, passing rifles and other weapons around during a dance and seems to show at least one of the participants stabbing Ali’s picture repeatedly with a knife. The dancing is accompanied by songs and chants of revenge and violence.

The video is sickening. There are no other words.

Before I say anything else, let me quickly point out that government officials and Rabbis throughout Israel have publicly condemned this action in the strongest terms. This is what we might refer to hetzi nechama, some form of comfort. It is absolutely and undeniably true that condemnation of such atrocious behavior is not  heard in similar situations in other nations. It is significant that the reaction has come quickly and clearly.

It is also true that, from what we see,  actions of this kind are still relatively speaking, rare and that needs to be kept in mind as well.

But,  neither the fact that this group represents an extreme position nor the negative public reaction is sufficient reason for us to ignore what we see.

Living with the threat of terror does affect the psyche of a nation or a community and that must be kept in mind. But attitudes of the kind that are reflected in this video and in so many other words and actions that we read about (and those we don’t hear about) are despicable and Israel must not only condemn them but must ask the difficult soul-searching questions about how these attitudes have developed over the years. Racist, violent statements of rabbis and governmental figures that demonize all Palestinians and all Arabs feed into this fire of hatred and talk of vengeance. Every word that is said which exacerbates the already tense situation adds fuel to the extremist attitudes which are on display in this video and Israel’s leaders can not merely discount these attitudes as being “foreign”. They must be acknowledged and stopped both by proper legal action against those who act in this way and by policies which prevent such attitudes from taking root and expanding.

And, those who give financial and emotional support to groups which espouse this type of thinking, whether that support comes from Israel or the Diaspora must accept their share of responsibility for such horrible actions. It becomes even more essential when faced with scenes such as these that donors investigate any organization that they support to know what their money is supporting.

And, one more point must be said. When attitudes of this kind are expressed in purely political terms, it is horrible enough. But, when Jews express hatred, vengeance and violence in the name of our Jewish faith, it is particularly offensive. Our faith and our tradition can be used in many ways and not everyone will agree on how it should be interpreted. But, I believe without question that people who twist Judaism to justify this horrendous type of behavior are committing a hillul hashem- a desecration of God’s name.

May this video and the ideas which are behind it not only be rejected but may we commit ourselves to turning away from hatred and to seeking and pursuing peace.

 

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The Shortest Posting

This is the shortest posting in this blog.

There is very little to say.

Yes, we are right to seek to protect ourselves from the terror that engulfs the world and our nation.

Yes, we must do all we can to insure our survival as individuals and a nation.

But, Donald Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering this country is the most horrendous, horrible, racist and bigoted statement I have ever heard from a man or woman who seeks to be the leader of our nation.

And, the fact that so many embrace him and cheer him ought to sicken all of us.

There is no more that needs to be said.

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Being God’s Angels During Difficult Times

I delivered this sermon at Beth Israel Congregation in Ann Arbor, MI last Shabbat.

 

SERMON FOR PARASHAT VAYETZE  NOVEMBER 21, 2015

This morning, I want to talk with you about angels. Then, we’ll turn to the real world.

Whether you regard angels in a literary or metaphoric or mythic sense, their role as messengers of God is worthy of serious consideration. And, angels play a major role in the life of Jacob, beginning in this parasha with the story of our patriarch’s dream of a ladder reaching up to the heavens with angels ascending and descending.

A prominent traditional rabbinic interpretation of Jacob’s dream is that he is witnessing the “changing of the guard”. The angels who have protected him within the land of Canaan are returning to the heavens while those who will protect him outside the land are taking their positions. The dream is seen as an assurance by God that Jacob will be protected in his travels outside of Canaan as he was inside the land.

In the dream, the angels are ascending and descending and this brings up a question:  Was there any overlap? Was there ever any moment when both sets of angels were directly accompanying Jacob? I would assume that there would have to be such an overlap even for only a short moment as otherwise, there would have been the possibility that Jacob would have been left defenseless even only for a moment.

This question of “overlapping angels” may be reflected in the song Shalom Aleichem. This song is based on the tradition that angels accompany us in our homes on erev Shabbat and therefore we must greet them properly with words of greeting. But, it is odd that in the second verse we welcome the angles with boachem lishalom, “come in peace” and then, in the third verse, we say tzeitchem lishalom, “go in peace”. Why would we give the angels the traditional greeting of farewell when they have just arrived?

There are several answers to this question but the one that I prefer is that we are in fact saying goodbye to different angels: the angels who have been with us through the week who now are returning to the heavens after the long 6 days of work. We say, “go in peace”, have a good rest and come back after Shabbat. Note though that we do not say goodbye to them until we have welcomed the Shabbat angels. There is overlap. We are never left without angels. Messengers of God are always around us.

This idea of two different sets of angels is found in another rabbinic context as well. There is a lovely legend that when God sought to create the human being, two sets of angels argued about the plan. One group said that God should create the human being because we would be capable of doing acts of kindness and justice. The other group said God should not create human beings because of the evil that would arise from our actions. God, chooses to creat the human being in hopes that the good will outweigh the bad.

There is another piece to the argument of the angels against creating the human being. The role of the angel was to do on earth what God can not do: to be messengers of God on earth. Therefore, the angels did not want the human being to be created because they sensed their role would be diminished. And, they were correct. It has been diminished Whatever you believe about angles, the fact is that we are God’s angels. Human beings are the ones who are to do God’s work. We are God’s messengers on earth. But, as was pointed out in one of the recent lectures in our Hartman Institute series on Dilemmas of Faith, the difference between human beings and angels is that human beings can say “no”. We can refuse to do God’s work while angels had no choice.

The debate between the angels about whether God should or should not create human beings is a reflection of the tension between what we call the yetzer hatov, the good inclination, and the yetzer hara , the bad inclination, a struggle that our tradition believes goes on inside each of us. This struggle accompanies us always and the strong person, according to Pirke Avot, is the one who conquers his or her evil inclination.

But, according to at least one rabbinic text, the yetzer hara is not necessarily the inclination to do evil. It is rather seen as the self-centered inclination, the self-protecting inclination. We read in Bereshit Rabbah that even the yetzer hare  has its place for it not for the yetzer hara, no one would build a home or choose a profession which would provide them their needs. Yetzer hatov becomes the altruistic inclination and yetzer hara becomes the self-protecting inclination and both are needed in a life. There needs to be overlap of altruism and concern for self.

And now let us turn away from angels and turn to the real world.

I am sympathetic to the persepctive that led Governor Snyder and many other governors, politicians and private citizens to decide that this is not the time to welcome Syrian refugees into our country. I understand their fears and I do not say that lightly.  Their concern that our security structures are not proficient enough to weed out any individuals or groups capable of performing the kind of horrific terrorist attacks that occurred in Paris or Beirut or Turkey or so many other places in our world is worth consideration. It didn’t take the attacks in Paris to prove that adherents of this horribly perverse way of thinking and acting are a threat to our communities and our nation as well. And, it is natural and reasonable for a Governor to see his or her role as protecting our self-interest, to listen to his or her yetzer hara rather than the yetzer hatov.

But, while it may be reasonable to be concerned, the proposal to close the doors on Syrian refugees is shortsighted, inappropriate and wrong. It is based on misleading claims and exaggerated fears concerning the refugee population. And, as this proposal has gained momentum, the rhetoric has turned increasingly racist and cruel and that is shameful.

We should care about protecting ourselves but we need to listen to our yetzer hatov, to our good and altruistic inclination as well. We need to be God’s angels on earth, doing the work of saving and enhancing lives. We need to find a way, even given our fears, to respect and continue our commitment to those in need. We cannot look into the eyes of these people who have been so horribly victimized and just close our doors. It is wrong for a country which speaks of being a source of good in the world. And, here, I want to commend our local Jewish Family Service and HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society which has rescued so many people, Jews and non-Jews in the past for committing to continuing to support and welcome, after proper security checks, Syrian refugees to this country.

Our angels must overlap. We can honor the inclination to self-protection while not dismissing the inclination that inspires us to care for the huddled masses who have been through such horrors. We need to listen to our better angels and continue to find a way, despite our fears, to reach out our hand to those whom we can help.

We all have concerns about the state of the world but those fears can not undermine our basic sense of humanity.

We can not close our hearts. We can not close our doors.

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The Day the Lights Went Out

I am convinced that one of the best usages of the Internet for people of a certain age is nostalgia. With one click, we can find videos or photos or stories that bring back memories from childhood, images that jump out at us and remind us of things we might have forgotten over the years.

I often find that I write about those images on this blog, as an opportunity to pay tribute or just remember the formative or not so important experiences of the 60s and 70s. Often, the moments I choose to write about are somewhat trivial in the long run. But, today’s is not trivial at all. It was one of the most memorable moments of my childhood.

50 years ago today, November 9, 1965, at a little after 5, I was sitting in my Hebrew School class, when the lights in the room flickered for a moment and then went out. We sat for a moment in the dark wondering what was wrong with the electricity in the building when the principal came down the hallway saying: “the lights are out all over town”.

This was the beginning of the great power blackout in the North east with the electricity remaining out until after 9 that night.

It was a night that still leaves me with intense memories.

Our Hebrew school teacher was terribly afraid as it seemed to bring back memories of World War II blackouts she had experienced in Europe. I’ve written about the impact that experience had on me in the book that I’m writing and in other places. For here, I’ll just say that it was a horrilbly scary experience to watch her wrestle with the memories of her past.

When my parents did pick me up from school, we drove through the streets of Brookline and Brighton without traffic lights. I distinctly remember college students standing in the middle of the intersection of Harvard St. and Commonwealth Avenue directing traffic with flashlights. That was a harrowing intersection under the best of circumstnaces. That night, it was a nightmare.

I remember sitting at home eating dinner by candlelight with the transistor radio tuned to the news, hearing the stories of those trapped in subways and in elevators and of emergency surgeries taking place with makeshift generators.

Mostly, I remember my parents reassuring us that all would be well.

But, how did they know? How did anyone know?

This was an era where adults were trying to come to grips with new technology, new dependence on forms of media they didn’t remember from their youth, watching the world change in ways they would never have predicted with astronauts orbiting the earth and so many other changes. For us, as kids, we were used to everything and would never remember times without TV or when landing on the moon was a plan rather than a fantasy. I remember asking my parents over and over again: “Did this ever happen before?” And, never receiving an answer.

It may not seem like much now. But, then it was just plain scary.

Sometimes, these days, as much as I do email and write this blog and do my banking on line and text (grudingly) with my family and occasionally for work, I know the whole world is moving faster than I can deal with. But, I’m part of it, I have to be part of it and I recognize the good that it does.  But, we are dependent and when the internet “goes down”, when we’re out of cell phone range,  we panic a bit and then try to reassure those younger than we are that: “it will be all right”.

But, all of us know the truth. With the vast improvements in technology which have changed our world, mostly for the better, there is always that sense inside of us that we are not in control. That’s what it felt like in 1965. Sometimes, I think that today, even when the lights don’t go out.

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E.T. remembered

Earlier today, I read of the death of Melissa Mathison who wrote the screenplay for the movie E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. That movie has great significance to me as I used a quote  and some of themes from the film, as the basis for the first Rosh Hashana sermon that I delivered as a Rabbi.

Reading one’s own words from more than 30 years ago is always eye-opening but as I read through that sermon this morning, I realized that even though I write much differently  today, the message of the sermon is still one I am more than comfortable with.

So, here is a link to the sermon, typed on my old standard typewriter, from 1982. Shabbat Shalom.

Click to access First-Day-of-Rosh-Hashana-Sept.-18-1982.pdf

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