Rabbinic Reflections: Issue 211

May 17, 2024 - 10 Iyyar 5784

Parasha Emor - The Sounds & Silence

Dear Friends,

I hope you had a good week and that this correspondence finds you well and in good health. We look forward to welcoming you to Shabbat services this Saturday morning at 10:00 am in our newly illuminated sanctuary. We will have the pleasure of hosting Jeremy Fingerman, CEO of the Foundation of Jewish Camps, and the recipient of the 2023 Bernard Reisman Professional Excellence Award. It promises to be a fun and fascinating morning, so we hope you will join us and stay for the Shabbat Kiddush luncheon.

Long before Paul Simon appeared on the music scene, the ancient words of our wisdom literature, from the prophet Ecclesiastes, taught that “A season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven” (Eccl.3:1). This week has highlighted that there is a time for silence and a time for speaking or sound: עֵ֥ת לַחֲשׁ֖וֹת וְעֵ֥ת לְדַבֵּֽר׃ (Eccl. 3:7).

As you know, the Jewish world recently marked the two significant days of Yom HaZikaron (Israel’s Remembrance Day) and Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day). Many of us participated in a plethora of programs, Zoom lectures, and educational sessions intended to draw us ever closer to our beloved homeland, despite the ongoing challenges that we as a people continue to face.

On Monday, many participated in impactful Yom HaZikaron ceremonies, enhanced by personally shared stories of profound loss, which pulled at the heartstrings of all those gathered. Hushed participants, somber quietude, the sounds of silent contemplation, and many moments of meaningful reflection permeated these events, as Jewish people across the globe silently recalled the more than 25,000 Israeli military personnel who have died, over the years, in the ongoing struggle to protect our bequeathed Divine gift of the Holy Land.

In contrast, Tuesday’s Yom HaAtzmaut celebration at the Leffell School, where I teach, was engulfed by the welcomed cacophony of celebration. After running from session to session, our day concluded with student-led introductions to featured songs (in both Hebrew and English), class roster renditions of Israeli melodies, and dynamic, dizzying dance and jubilation. It was, in every sense of the word, a “moving,” loud, and delightful experience.

Yet, only fourteen hours later, for the 223rd consecutive day, the day began with a morning announcement asking those present to halt, inaudibly, as we invoked the pleading words of the Acheinu prayer. Caught between the silence of intention and the sound of yearning, we collectively continued praying for the return of our hostages and the protection of our brothers and sisters defending Eretz Yisrael.

Oscillation between sounds and silence and reflection and celebration is intrinsic to our Jewish journey of over 3,000 years.

As we continue our determined struggle against worldwide antisemitism, terror, and prejudice, we know that there will be days requiring silence and days demanding our steadfast unified voices.

May our silences always be imbued with meaning and may the time come soon that the voices of all of our brothers and sisters will be heard on high, boosted by the comforting resolution of peace, security, harmony, and, most importantly, Shalom Al Yisrael!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Eric L. Wasser, EdD, Hon DM.
Tel: 201-562-5277

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