Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Trying to navigate a changed Jewish landscape (part 2)

You can read part one here.

Once upon a time, when a person entered a synagogue, they could confidently assume that, unless there were a Bar or Bat Mitzvah celebration, or some other simchah (happy occasion), 95-100% of the people in attendance at any religious service were Jews.

That's no longer necessarily the case, especially in a non-Orthodox synagogue or other prayer space.

First, there's the "Who is a Jew" question, non-Orthodox version:  Do you or don't you accept the not-converted child of a non-Jewish mother as a Jew?  (See patrilineal descent.)

Conservative Judaism, like Orthodox Judaism, doesn't accept patrilineal descent, which is not in accordance with halachah (Jewish religious law).  So what's a Conservative Jew like me supposed to think of a person such as Rabbi Angela Buchdahl?  On one hand, she's ordained as both a cantor and a rabbi.  How Jewish can you get?  On the other hand, her mother's a non-Jew.  It's certainly interesting for someone of my background to try to wrap her head around the idea of a rabbi/cantor who's not halachically Jewish.

On a more practical note, what's an appropriate way for a Conservative synagogue to welcome folks who are halachically non-Jewish?  And what do we do about Hebrew School and Bar or Bat Mitzvah for their kids?

There's also the possibility that some of those present aren't Jewish by anyone's definition, meaning that neither of their parents is Jewish and they haven't converted to Judaism.  But though they're not "Members of the Tribe," they may be boyfriends, girlfriends, partners, or spouses of Jews, and/or parents of "half-Jewish" children.

It seems as if every non-Conservative prayer gathering we attend is a mixed gathering.  I'm beginning to have some sympathy for that poor rabbi whom I criticized a while back.  Given the demographics of our neighborhood, what makes us think that our own synagogue won't be forced to make a decision, soon or later, regarding whether to stick to our halachic approach or give it up as a lost cause?

Please read my September 3, 2019 post, My public apology to Rabbi Angela Buchdahl.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Trying to navigate a changed Jewish landscape (part 1)

In the small Jewish community of my childhood, it was simply taken for granted that Jews were Zionists. 

That's no longer necessarily the case.  If my personal experience of recent years is any indication, it's becoming more and more difficult to find Zionist Jews under the age of 45.

Naturally, our 36-year-old son had an explanation. (Be careful what you complain about, and/or to whom you complain).   It's one of many explanations, no doubt, so if you have another one, feel free to post it in the comments.

According to our son, the status of the West Bank would have been settled decades ago if Israel had simply declared the entire West Bank to be part of Israel when they first conquered it, because that approach would have forced the former "owners" to negotiate.  But because Israel itself has always considered the West Bank "disputed territory," the creation or enlargement of "settlements" is viewed as an invasion. 

So here we are, working with anti-Zionist Jews (and plenty of other folks, obviously) to try to close the immigrant internment camps.  What are we supposed to do, not try to close the immigrant internment camps?

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Parshat Ekev, 5779/2019 thoughts

One of the first lessons that we learn from Parshat Ekev is the importance of hakarat ha-tov, expressing gratitude.  (We also learn the traditional list of the crops of the Holy Land.)

ז  כִּי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, מְבִיאֲךָ אֶל-אֶרֶץ טוֹבָה:  אֶרֶץ, נַחֲלֵי מָיִם--עֲיָנֹת וּתְהֹמֹת, יֹצְאִים בַּבִּקְעָה וּבָהָר.
7 For the LORD thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths, springing forth in valleys and hills;
ח  אֶרֶץ חִטָּה וּשְׂעֹרָה, וְגֶפֶן וּתְאֵנָה וְרִמּוֹן; אֶרֶץ-זֵית שֶׁמֶן, וּדְבָשׁ.
8 a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and honey;
ט  אֶרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר לֹא בְמִסְכֵּנֻת תֹּאכַל-בָּהּ לֶחֶם--לֹא-תֶחְסַר כֹּל, בָּהּ; אֶרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אֲבָנֶיהָ בַרְזֶל, וּמֵהֲרָרֶיהָ תַּחְצֹב נְחֹשֶׁת.
9 a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.
י  וְאָכַלְתָּ, וְשָׂבָעְתָּ--וּבֵרַכְתָּ אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, עַל-הָאָרֶץ הַטֹּבָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַן-לָךְ.
10 And thou shalt eat and be satisfied, and bless the LORD thy God for the good land which He hath given thee.

Verse 10 is the basis for Birkat HaMazon, Grace After Meals (and is included therein).  We are commanded to express gratitude for our food.

But what happens when we take the gift of food for granted?

Let me quote from a d'var Torah by Rabbi Norman Lamm on Parshat Behar (which I first quoted here):

"in modern times, Judaism became fragmentized. Judaism became a matter of where you prayed, not how you lived; what siddur you used, not how regularly you paid employees or bills; how long was your Shemone Esrei, not how faithfully you worked for your salary; how good a tenor you got as a cantor, not how sincere your davening was; how ferociously you destroyed a competitor or “took in” a customer, not how much of your profits you gave to charity. Our whole sidra of this morning was forgotten, and business life became Godless – or better, became itself an object of worship and blind obedience.
And so Jews rejected the Lord, God of Israel, and accepted Mercury, god of commerce."

What happens when money becomes our god, and we sacrifice everything to make a profit?

יג  וְהָיָה, אִם-שָׁמֹעַ תִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶל-מִצְוֺתַי, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם, הַיּוֹם--לְאַהֲבָה אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, וּלְעָבְדוֹ, בְּכָל-לְבַבְכֶם, וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁכֶם.
13 And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto My commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul,
יד  וְנָתַתִּי מְטַר-אַרְצְכֶם בְּעִתּוֹ, יוֹרֶה וּמַלְקוֹשׁ; וְאָסַפְתָּ דְגָנֶךָ, וְתִירֹשְׁךָ וְיִצְהָרֶךָ.
14 that I will give the rain of your land in its season, the former rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.
טו  וְנָתַתִּי עֵשֶׂב בְּשָׂדְךָ, לִבְהֶמְתֶּךָ; וְאָכַלְתָּ, וְשָׂבָעְתָּ.
15 And I will give grass in thy fields for thy cattle, and thou shalt eat and be satisfied.
טז  הִשָּׁמְרוּ לָכֶם, פֶּן יִפְתֶּה לְבַבְכֶם; וְסַרְתֶּם, וַעֲבַדְתֶּם אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים, וְהִשְׁתַּחֲוִיתֶם, לָהֶם.
16 Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them;
יז  וְחָרָה אַף-יְהוָה בָּכֶם, וְעָצַר אֶת-הַשָּׁמַיִם וְלֹא-יִהְיֶה מָטָר, וְהָאֲדָמָה, לֹא תִתֵּן אֶת-יְבוּלָהּ; וַאֲבַדְתֶּם מְהֵרָה, מֵעַל הָאָרֶץ הַטֹּבָה, אֲשֶׁר יְהוָה, נֹתֵן לָכֶם.
17 and the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and He shut up the heaven, so that there shall be no rain, and the ground shall not yield her fruit; and ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you.

If we put greed above gratitude, we'll soon have nothing left--avarice will destroy our planet.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

An oldie but goodie: Gershon Veroba & Takana, Live! - "Tzur Misgabeinu" (by E. Gerstner)

Somebody posted this on a blog years ago.  Unfortunately, that blog no longer exists, but I remembered this song, and hunted for it on Youtube.  Enjoy!


Tuesday, August 20, 2019

"Harimi"--A quote from Haftarat Vaetchanan ("Nachamu"), set to music

Isaiah, chapter 40, verse 9

ט  עַל הַר-גָּבֹהַּ עֲלִי-לָךְ, מְבַשֶּׂרֶת צִיּוֹן, הָרִימִי בַכֹּחַ קוֹלֵךְ, מְבַשֶּׂרֶת יְרוּשָׁלִָם; הָרִימִי, אַל-תִּירָאִי, אִמְרִי לְעָרֵי יְהוּדָה, הִנֵּה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם. 9 O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain; O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah: 'Behold your God!'

Music by Gershon Veroba.


Friday, August 16, 2019

"Nachamu/Comfort Us" by Elana Arian

In honor of Shabbat Nachamu.


Thursday, August 15, 2019

15 and counting: Still blogging after all these years

My first post (August 2, 2004) is copied on the right side of my blog, under "About Me."  Here's my second post (one of several that I published on August 3, 2004).  I hope my posts are still at least semi-interesting most of the time.

Interestingly enough, I've found that posting on my blog can help me make good use of Facebook.  Facebook doesn't seem to be designed for long-form writing.  So it's good to have a place to publish longer posts (such as American Akeidah).  I write them here, then link to them there, which keeps all of my readers on both sites happy.

Happy Tu B'Av.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

"It's All Good," by Cantor Robbi Sherwin (music video)

My husband and I were in the audience at this performance.  What fun!  If you're looking for more of Cantor Sherwin's music, see here and here (which is where you can hear the original version of this song).


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

"P'tach Libi" - Jazz Fest Shabbbat 2015 (music video)

These days, Cantor David Mintz keeps pretty busy as Director of The Center for Prayer and Spirituality at B’nai Jeshurun, but you say see more of his videos here, and you can hear more of his music here.  And yes, that's Deborah Sacks Mintz.


Monday, August 12, 2019

"HaKel," by Mark Skier, with his Moshe Skier Band (a music video, post-Tish'a B'Av)

I first became acquainted with Mark Skier, founder and leader of the Moshe Skier Band, years ago, when we used to post comments on the same blogs, and clicked through to his music site to check out this singer/songwriter, bass player, and acoustic-guitar player.  Here's one of my favorite videos of his.


Saturday, August 10, 2019

My story about a 21st-century tragedy to mourn on Tish'a B'Av

The year is 2039.

The place:  Federal Court, El Paso, Texas.

Class-Action Lawsuit:
Association of Latinx Child Immigrants and Adoptees of the United States vs. United States.

Child Abuse, Child Neglect, Criminal Negligence.

Plaintiff charges that, as children under the age of six, they were deliberately separated from their parents and kept in squalid locations without adequate food, water, living conditions, sanitary facilities, or health care.  Furthermore, since no records or inadequate records were kept by the United States government, some children and/or their parents could not be identified, and, therefore, those children were put up for adoption without any attempt being made to reunite them with their parent(s), other relative(s), or pre-existing guardian(s).

No, the Association of Latinx Child Immigrants and Adoptees of the United States does not exist.

But it will, when these children grow up.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

I'm resetting my alarm clock as a Sleep Apnea treatment

Just when I thought I had enough doctors . . .

Oh, well, what else are seniors for, if not to keep their physicians entertained.  :)

I took the Sleep Apnea test--sleeping with electrodes glued all over me was weird enough, but being under audio and video surveillance all night by the hospital staff was even more weird--and it turns out that I have a mild case. 

So I'm now under doctor's orders to go to bed and wake up at prescribed and predictable hours, which, once my body readjusts, will give me seven hours sleep every night.

The real "fun," though, is that all napping is strictly forbidden.  There goes my Shabbos nap.  (:

Ah, the "Golden Years."  One never knows what new medical adventure awaits.  :)

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

American Akeidah

Genesis Chapter 22  בְּרֵאשִׁית

א  וַיְהִי, אַחַר הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה, וְהָאֱלֹהִים, נִסָּה אֶת-אַבְרָהָם; וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו, אַבְרָהָם וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֵּנִי. 1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did prove Abraham, and said unto him: 'Abraham'; and he said: 'Here am I.'
ב  וַיֹּאמֶר קַח-נָא אֶת-בִּנְךָ אֶת-יְחִידְךָ אֲשֶׁר-אָהַבְתָּ, אֶת-יִצְחָק, וְלֶךְ-לְךָ, אֶל-אֶרֶץ הַמֹּרִיָּה; וְהַעֲלֵהוּ שָׁם, לְעֹלָה, עַל אַחַד הֶהָרִים, אֲשֶׁר אֹמַר אֵלֶיךָ. 2 And He said: 'Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, even Isaac, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.'

. . .

י  וַיִּשְׁלַח אַבְרָהָם אֶת-יָדוֹ, וַיִּקַּח אֶת-הַמַּאֲכֶלֶת, לִשְׁחֹט, אֶת-בְּנוֹ. 10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
יא  וַיִּקְרָא אֵלָיו מַלְאַךְ יְהוָה, מִן-הַשָּׁמַיִם, וַיֹּאמֶר, אַבְרָהָם אַבְרָהָם; וַיֹּאמֶר, הִנֵּנִי. 11 And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said: 'Abraham, Abraham.' And he said: 'Here am I.'
יב  וַיֹּאמֶר, אַל-תִּשְׁלַח יָדְךָ אֶל-הַנַּעַר, וְאַל-תַּעַשׂ לוֹ, מְאוּמָה:  כִּי עַתָּה יָדַעְתִּי, כִּי-יְרֵא אֱלֹהִים אַתָּה, וְלֹא חָשַׂכְתָּ אֶת-בִּנְךָ אֶת-יְחִידְךָ, מִמֶּנִּי. 12 And he said: 'Lay not thy hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him; for now I know that thou art a God-fearing man, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from Me.'
יג  וַיִּשָּׂא אַבְרָהָם אֶת-עֵינָיו, וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה-אַיִל, אַחַר, נֶאֱחַז בַּסְּבַךְ בְּקַרְנָיו; וַיֵּלֶךְ אַבְרָהָם וַיִּקַּח אֶת-הָאַיִל, וַיַּעֲלֵהוּ לְעֹלָה תַּחַת בְּנוֹ. 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt-offering in the stead of his son.

. . .

The Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

And the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution said to the land, to all the inhabitants thereof:  "Take your children, your beloved children, all of them, of any age, color or creed, ethnic or national background, gender or sexual orientation, and line them up as a sacrifice to assault weapons.  We will not stay the hand of any murderer, nor accept a ram in anyone's place--there will be no background checks prior to gun purchases or bans on assault weapons or equipment, lest our right to bear arms be tampered with."

El Paso shooting: Mother gives life for her 2-month-old baby as she shields him from shooter

Emergency personnel pulled young baby from Jordan Anchondo's embrace in aftermath of attack

יב  הַצִּילֵנִי נָא מִיַּד אָחִי, מִיַּד עֵשָׂו:  כִּי-יָרֵא אָנֹכִי, אֹתוֹ--פֶּן-יָבוֹא וְהִכַּנִי, אֵם עַל-בָּנִים. 12 Deliver me, I pray Thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and smite me, the mother with the children.

 The literal translation is "the mother on the children."  Which is exactly how Jordan Anchondo died.

The United States of America is now under the thumb of those whose true god is Molech.

See also the depressing "Rituals of Childhood."

Monday, August 05, 2019

Appropriate after a weekend of mass murders

Seen on a T-shirt:  "Make Racism Wrong Again."

See here.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Kabbalat Shabbat experiment: Back to my old "kaddish shul"

My husband and I finally decided to take it easy on ourselves and try to attend Kabbalat Shabbat services at the nearest egalitarian Conservative synagogue likely to have a minyan.  It was a pleasure to get to shul in only about half an hour.

My old "kaddish shul" has an a cappella service, so I only had to worry about matching my harmonies with those of other people, not with musical instruments.  There was plenty of singing, so I had plenty of opportunities.  We found the service quite nice, not the least because we were already home by about 8:15 PM, rather than just starting our commute of over an hour.  We hope to attend Friday night services at my old "kaddish shul" on a much more regular basis than we expect to attend either Romemu or the Boi-i Kallah service at B'nai Jeshurun.


"Rituals of Childhood," by Kieran Healy

Many thanks to Larry Lennhoff for his Facebook link to this shocking and depressing blog post.  The fact that he thought it was necessary, given what happened in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio over the course of just two days, is tragic.

"The United States has institutionalized the mass shooting in a way that [sociologist Émile] Durkheim would immediately recognize. As I discovered to my shock when my own children started school in North Carolina some years ago, preparation for a shooting is a part of our children’s lives as soon as they enter kindergarten. The ritual of a Killing Day is known to all adults. It is taught to children first in outline only, and then gradually in more detail as they get older. The lockdown drill is its Mass. The language of “Active shooters”, “Safe corners”, and “Shelter in place” is its liturgy. “Run, Hide, Fight” is its creed. Security consultants and credential-dispensing experts are its clergy. My son and daughter have been institutionally readied to be shot dead as surely as I, at their age, was readied by my school to receive my first communion. They practice their movements. They are taught how to hold themselves; who to defer to; what to say to their parents; how to hold their hands. The only real difference is that there is a lottery for participation. Most will only prepare. But each week, a chosen few will fully consummate the process, and be killed.

. . .

. . . not every society has successfully institutionalized the mass shooting. Only one place has done that, deliberately and effectively. The United States has chosen, and continues to choose, to enact ritual compliance to an ideal of freedom in a way that results in a steady flow of blood sacrifice. This ritual of childhood is not a betrayal of “who we are” as a country. It is what America has made of itself, how it worships itself, and how it makes itself real."

I'm trying to read between the lines

My puzzlement began with this announcement.  All three founders (and U.S.-based presidents) of Hadar have strong ties to the Jewish Theological Seminary, having studied, been ordained as rabbis, and/or taught there.  Why would they want Hadar to go into direct competition with JTS by ordaining its own rabbis?

Then I read this article about a JOFA Conference, which gave me at least a little insight, perhaps, into something else that I've found puzzling, namely, why Dena Weiss is the only member of Hadar's faculty who does not have s'michah (rabbinical ordination), despite being eminently qualified for the title.  Judging by what she said in this article, she's averse to being labeled.

And she's not the only one from Hadar who's averse to being labeled.  Rabbi Ethan Tucker is on the same page (both figuratively and literally--his opinion follows hers in the linked article.)

Then there was this. Apparently, Rabbi Daniel Landes, of Yashrut, is interested in "returning to a pre-denominational Judaism."  And Rabbi Elie Kaunfer agrees with him so strongly that he got a second s'michah from Yashrut.

I'm beginning to see a pattern here.


"Synagogue Shidduch:" Who's rescuing whom?

See here to read about the possible merger of Congregation Shaare Zedek and the independent minyan Kehilat Hadar.  Shaare Zedek owns property, but has only about 70 members.  Kehilat Hadar has never owned property, but has about 130 members.  Fascinating.  I hope that whatever happens works out for the best for all those involved.
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