In the book of Nehemiah (chapter 8), we find a description of an ancient Rosh HaShanah at the time of rebuilding Israel after a period of exile.
“When the seventh month arrived – the Israelites being settled in their towns – the entire people assembled as one man in the square (in Jerusalem) before the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the scroll of Moses .. On the first day of the seventh month (Rosh HaShanah) Ezra the priest brought the teaching before the congregation, men and women and all who could listen with understanding…” … “Nehemiah….Ezra… and the Levites….said to the people” This day is holy to the Lord your God; you must not mourn or weep” …”Go, eat choice foods and drink sweet drinks and send portions to whoever has nothing prepared, for the day is holy to our Lord….Then all the people went to eat and drink and send portions and make great merriment, for they understood the things they were told.”
I just came back from Mt. Scopus for the annual ceremony marking the bombing of the Frank Sinatra cafeteria at Hebrew University.
When I was working at Hillel, I went almost every year. How could I not? It happened right outside my window– the bombing and the ceremony. Every year is significant, but this year marks ten years since that day when so many lives were changed forever. Time is a funny thing. While it feels like that day was long ago, it also, at the same time feels like yesterday.
Tisha B’Av is not a day ordained by G-d in the Torah, but rather it is an observance that was created by people in reaction to an event: The destruction of the First Temple. This was a tragic and traumatic time for the Jewish people and the leaders felt a need to create a new ritual – to help people recover from the trauma, to integrate the experience in order to move on, and later on, to commemorate the experience to preserve the memory. Continue reading →
I will hear Parshat D’varim on Shabbat and Lamentations on Tuesday in Jerusalem. I am here to participate in the effort to stop the Rotem Conversion Bill from passing in the Knesset. How ironic it is that the bill was voted out of committee on the first of Av and will be brought for first reading just after Tisha b’Av (the 9th of Av), the fast day on which the Jewish world commemorates the loss of the two ancient Temples. One of the reasons our ancient Rabbis gave for their destruction was sinat chinam – the internal arguing of one Jew with another.
Rabbi David Saperstein and I are in Israel to represent our Reform Movement organizations that are working alongside the Conservative Movement, the Federations of North America and the Jewish Agency for Israel to stop the Conversion legislation. Our joint efforts have involved the URJ, ARZA, CCAR, WUPJ, WRJ, MRJ, and of course, the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism and its Israel Religious Action Center.