Rabbinic Reflections: Issue 44

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!

December 17, 2020

Dear Holy Friends,

I hope this correspondence finds you doing well and in good health. Yasher Koach to all of you who were able to join in our extensive congregational programming during these past eight days of Hannukah. I want to give a shout out to my colleagues, Rabbi Stern and Cantor Zim, as well as our lay leadership, for their participation in our Virtual Hannukah Party. Next year, in person!

Well, today (Thursday), is supposed to be a snow day. We experienced a snowfall of about 12-18 inches last night and, as history would have it, all educators and students should be tucked under their covers, drinking hot chocolate, and celebrating the day-off. But folks, this is 2020 and everything is different. Due to the “gift” of technology, all classes are fully in session and fully online. It seems that “snow days” may now be a thing of the past.

Do not worry, however. Snow remains part of my Canadian culture, Jerusalem history, and even part of our biblical traditions!

Canada: Growing up in Toronto, we loved our snow days, which could fall anywhere between Sukkoth and Pesach. For sure, I have memories of frolicking in the snow, playing soft-landing tackle football, enjoying the sun, the cold, and the gifts of nature. In many ways, being outside and enjoying the environment was liberating and even, therapeutic. Perhaps, I should call them the “good old days.”

Jerusalem: On December 13, 2013, 40–70 cm (16–28 in) of snow fell in Jerusalem and 1 m (3 ft 3 in) in the Kefar Etzion area. Although it was the Sabbath, the railway into Jerusalem continued to run for people stranded by blocked roads. Many roads in Israel were closed by deep snow and flooding. Storm clouds prompted Ben Gurion International Airport to shut down, forcing US Secretary of State John Kerry to cut short his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, so he could return to Israel before the roads and airports were out of service. Jerusalem was cut off for 48 hours by deep snow, flooding, and cars abandoned after they got stuck in snow.

Bible: There are more than two dozen Biblical verses that reference snow. The Book of Job is full of them, as is the Book of Psalms. As we all dig out of the storm, allow me to share a couple of the best Bible verses about snow.

Job 9:29-31: “If I am condemned, Why then do I labor in vain? If I wash myself with snow water, And, cleanse my hands with soap, Yet You will plunge me into the pit, And, my own clothes will abhor me.” What’s weird to me is that this is exactly, word-for-word, what I muttered as I came in after shoveling snow for two hours this morning!

Psalms 51:6-7: “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” For context, David had spied Bathsheba bathing on the rooftop. Even though she was the wife of one of his senior advisors, he seduced her and impregnated her. Then, he killed her husband Uriah to cover it all up. God sent the Prophet Nathan to David to confront him with his sin and this is part of the beautiful psalm he wrote after confessing his sin.

Proverbs 31:20-21: “She extends her hand to the poor, Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, For all her household is clothed with scarlet.” This well-known and weekly-recited text called Ashet Chayil portrays the female of the house as a great model of proper vocational service as wife, mother, community leader, and runner of house and business, regardless of the weather!

So folks, as you enjoy the beauty of the snow from your window or if you go outside, feel free to embrace your own histories, connect with the snow as a sign of purity, a sign of renewal, a gift from God, and let’s all, ENJOY OUR SNOW DAY!

Rabbi Eric L. Wasser, EdD
201 562 5277

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