Rabbinic Reflections: Issue 150

March 10, 2023 (17 Adar 5783)

My Heart is in the East

Dear Friends,

I hope this correspondence finds you in good health and cheer. We look forward to you joining us tomorrow morning for Shabbat services, which will take place in our beautiful sanctuary at 10:15am and be available on our regular Zoom prayer link. We would also like to thank Gary Miller for sponsoring this week’s Kiddush to honor and mark the Yahrzeit of his late-grandfather, Abraham Schwartz.

This Sunday and the next two, we invite you to join us for an in-person adult education series cleverly entitled, “Sunday Morning Study with the Rabbi.” Yes, we could have been a little more creative with the name, but the course will feature the study of classical rabbinic texts, presented both in English and the original Hebrew & Aramaic. You will be challenged to grapple with the texts in Hevruta (classic partner-learning dyads) and to develop your own questions and comments. Come study and join us for refreshments and camaraderie at 11:00am in our social hall.

A famous medieval poem was written by Judah Halevi, the renowned rabbi, poet, and philosopher, who lived most of his life in Muslim Spain. “My heart is in the East, and I am at the edge of the West,” which expressed the ageless longing of the Jewish people for Zion, for the land of Israel. Halevi penned these words sometime in the early 12th century. Years later he let his actions speak louder than his words as he left behind all the good things of Spain while attempting to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Halevi made it as far as the port of Alexandria in Egypt, where he died 6 months after he arrived. Although he never realized his dream, his poetry lives on as a symbol of the yearning of the Jewish soul to connect with its spiritual center — Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel.

As many of you know, I recently returned from a wonderful ten-day trip to the Holy Land, where I had the opportunity to travel throughout the north and enjoy numerous experiential educational programs with a group of high school students. It was invigorating to walk there. It was renewing to breathe the air. It was uplifting to eat the hummus. And finally, it was unbelievable to witness the fulfillment of the Zionist dream, to which Halevi alludes.

Nonetheless, not all is perfect.

On March 3, 2023, the Bloomberg Report shared the following:

”Tens of thousands of Israelis are protesting a government plan to overhaul the judiciary that’s deepened the divide between traditional, more religious Jews, who mainly back the change, and the secular professionals, who see it as a threat to the Middle East’s most developed economy and democracy.

The effects are being felt in markets. This week the cost of insuring Israeli debt against default rose to the highest since 2019 for five-year credit-default swaps, and the shekel is among the worst-performing emerging market currencies.”

“Israel is on the brink of internal disintegration and severe social rift,” Yuval Diskin, the former head of the domestic security agency, said at a demonstration this week, warning of the threat of civil war.

And as if the internal political tension was not enough to deal with, the country still is on edge due to various plans in Iran. In addition, even yesterday, another terrorist attack occurred, this time in the center of Tel Aviv on Dizengoff Street.

Today, the Times of Israel published the following:

“Three people were shot and wounded in a terrorist shooting near a cafe in central Tel Aviv on Thursday night, police and medics said. Police said the Palestinian attacker opened fire at people outside the cafe on the corner of Dizengoff Street and Ben Gurion Street, an area typically bustling on Thursday night. He then fled the scene while shooting at other people in the area, before being shot dead in a shootout with police officers a short time later.

One victim was listed in critical but stable condition after undergoing surgery and was still fighting for his life, said doctors at Ichilov Medical Center, where the injured were taken. The other two were listed in serious and moderate condition, the Magen David Adom ambulance service said.”

Given the complexity of being the only Jewish State in the world and, simultaneously, being the only democracy in the region, I believe that we must challenge ourselves to learn as much as possible, as soon as possible, regarding Medinat Yisrael. With that in mind, I encourage you to keep abreast of our emails as we prepare to launch some targeted programs entitled Israel Update.

As we enter into Shabbat, I echo the passion of Halevi, “My heart is in the East” and pray that together we can learn, support, and discuss Israel in an open, honest and loving way. Perhaps, in that manner, we can do our small part to bring fruition Halevi’s dream, Shalom Al Yisrael.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Eric L. Wasser, EdD., Hon.DM.

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