27th September 2019 – 27th Ellul, 5779
Shabbat Shalom to one and all. I hope you are well and that the sun is shining on your day.
I’m going to write one short paragraph about Israeli politics and then we move on to that most meaningful of festivals, Rosh Hashana, the Head of the Year.
There is an Israeli expression “Shalosh pa’amim glida” which means that if something happens for a third time you get ice-cream – I can only tell you that if we go for third elections an entire country will scream! The local media all use the same word for the situation “a plonter” which is Yiddish for a problematic conundrum. At the moment neither side has a clear majority for a coalition, a party needs to garner 61 seats in the Knesset to achieve a majority, slim as that may be. There are two main centre parties, Blue and White and Likud, who should, if logical thought entered the political arena, simply join forces and form a centrist bloc. Aaah, but this is both politics and the Middle East so logic doesn’t enter the fray. Actually I understand the logic of Blue and White, they say that they are more than prepared to join Likud for a National Unity Government which would give a large enough majority to be stable, but not under a Prime Minister who is fighting legal battles, very serious legal battles. Likud is not willing to relinquish, even temporarily, Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership, thus causing a stalemate. There are two other players of influence, President Ruvi Rivlin and Avigdor Liberman – but that’s a story for another day. Perhaps we should all add an additional sentence to the Prayer for the State of Israel which we will sing in the Synagogue next week, that the powers that be change our electoral system!!!
On Wednesday, Zvi had a delightful meeting in the hallowed halls of the King David Hotel with old friends. Samuel Yekutieli and Rabbi and Mrs Pynhas Brener, the new Venezuelan Ambassador to Israel. Juan Guaido, the recognised Leader of the General Assembly in Caracas, thus President of Venezuela, decided to go over the head of Maduro and re-establish diplomatic relations with Israel and chose Rabbi Brener as his Ambassador. https://www.timesofisrael.com/venezuelan-opposition-leader-appoints-rabbi-as-envoy-to-israel/
After their meeting Zvi took them to meet the Mayor of Jerusalem Moshe Lion. We didn’t vote for Moshe but he has already proven, during his first year of office, that he is fulfilling the position with honour and has put right many wrongs of the past. They spoke of the fact that Moshe Lion often listens to the disc that Zvi’s choir (Hakol Yachassi) made in honour of Shmuel Benalal, our dear friend killed in Mali, who came from Venezuela. The high point of the meeting between Rabbi Brener and Moshe Lion came when Rabbi Brener expressed a wish to bring the Venezuelan Embassy to Jerusalem.
Last Shabbat we had an amazing visitor, a special friend who has been away in South Africa for nearly 3 years as an emissary for Habonim Dror and the Jewish Agency. When Danny Adeno-Abebe first told us that he was going to South Africa we were worried as to how he would be accepted because Danny, a highly respected journalist, was born in Ethiopia. His story has everything to do with Rosh Hashana so –
Danny, his wife and three (now 4) beautiful children decided that they would make a difference for the Jewish community in South Africa so Danny made contact with the leaders in Soweto, who were fascinated to see someone of colour representing Israel. What started as a tiny project of a few children became a weekly visit by 150 youngsters from the Jewish community who reached out and taught Soweto children (and their mothers) to read, write, mathematics etc while learning co-existence themselves. One day Danny noticed the village library, a disorganized mess of books in a building without a roof. Apparently the government wouldn’t part with the money for a roof. Danny, with the children, organised the books into library order but two days later a teeming rain storm reduced the entire library to a sodden mess.
Danny spoke to their leaders and approached our Ambassador in Pretoria, Lior Keinan who allocated the funding through MASHAV https://mfa.gov.il/MFA/mashav/AboutMASHAV/Pages/default.aspx , the roof was built and then Danny demanded 10 books from each child who attended Habonim or community events. Although Danny is back home the project continues. The story has everything to do with our ability to do better, to improve our world and to change our perceptions. Danny went back to Africa and has shown the Jewish community a new way to give of themselves, not only by donating money. http://www.adenoabebe.com/
In Judaism, the last month of Selichot has been a time of changing perceptions, of remembering, forgiving and improving, learning that before you judge people, give them the benefit of the doubt. This little story epitomises our psychological re-booting for the coming year. Thank you to my “schvester” Andrea Koven for sending it to me.
“A little boy was holding two apples one in each hand. His Mummy came in and softly asked the child “Can I have one of your two apples”? The boy looked at his Mummy, paused and took a quick bite from each apple. The Mother was very upset but tried not to show her disappointment. The little boy then gave her one of the bitten apples and said “Mummy, here you are. This is the sweeter one.”
Often in life we are too quick to jump to conclusions about other people’s motives without taking the time to understand the reasons. Sadly we are often the very hardest on those who are the closest to us. If we would just delay judgement, if we gave them the benefit of the doubt, we would save ourselves and them tremendous angst.
Remember to give people the chance to explain themselves before you jump to conclusions. At some point you’re going to want them to do the same for you.
I learn something new every time I read Rabbi Jeremy Rosen’s weekly blog. In fact I have been learning from the Rosen family since the age of four when I first went to play at their grandparent’s home in Cardiff and promptly dropped, and lost, Jeremy’s favourite white mouse in the greenhouse! Jeremy wrote “The occasion that we now call Rosh Hashana, is referred to in the Bible only as Zihron Teruah – the Day of Remembering with Sound. One is bound to ask: “remembering what? And what does the sound of the Shofar have to do with it?” Read on to find out http://jeremyrosen.com/2019/09/remember.html
Moses’ travels with the Children of Israel began on the 1st day of Ellul and ended on the 10th day of Tishrei, Yom Kippur. Ellul is a month of repenting our past sins (including the refusal of our people to accept the words that Moses brought to them, the Golden Calf etc) and our current sins, culminating in the cleansing of our souls on Yom Kippur. We pray a lot, but the big question is whether it matters that one has a new hat, suit, outfit or does it lie in the quality of one’s prayers. Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav expressed it beautifully: “Every word of your prayer is like a rose which you pick from its bush. You continue until you have formed a bouquet of blessings, until you have plaited a wreath of glory for the Lord.” The next two weeks are a time of renewal, meditation, mindfulness and acceptance of the other.
Traditionally this is a time to open one’s heart and one’s pockets. The Yuri Shtern Holistic Center for Cancer Patients and their Families is an exceptional organisation which brings succour and relief to thousands of families every year at the Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem and the tiny humble clinic in Jerusalem. I beg of you to watch (again) my interview about the organisation and its founder, the wonderful Lena Shtern https://youtu.be/ylDMRCHpOmM.
If you understand Hebrew then this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9zZ4eh0hzI
Ask your community to give a portion of your appeal – it would be a huge mitzvah. https://www.israelgives.org/amuta/580475085
It’s 55 years since 18 year old Zvi Raviv was accepted to the Juilliard School of Music to study voice but chose to return to Israel to join the IDF and the rest is history, a rich history. Well, yesterday Zvi went for an audition at the highly respected Jerusalem Music Academy and was not only accepted but came home thrilled because the Musical Director said his voice is so good that she wants him for operatic roles! Of course his response to the Director’s praise was “I wish my Mother could be here to kvell” I have a feeling that his parents were very proud of him anyway, as are all of us.
My prayer, my invocation for the 5,780th year of the Jewish Calendar lies in education. Education in tolerance which comes from home, school and leaders. Obviously I am talking about the entire world but let’s start at home, within Judaism. If we don’t learn to accept the other, to celebrate our differences then we are lost. More than anything else, for the sake of Israel, I want ALL our children to study the 3 R’s, to learn about history, geography, economics and become useful, contributing members of society. Then we can begin to talk the same language – the language of tolerance.
Yaakov Shwekey expresses our love for the boys and girls who watch over us, over Israel. Mi Sheberach, a blessing for the soldiers of the IDF. Mi Sheberach avotaeinu – He who blessed our forefathers, bless the soldiers of Israel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suKZK8O_x2s
The late President Shimon Peres, a man of deep thought and love of his people, felt that one song, one prayer epitomised the Jewish desire to overcome. Avinu Malkeinu – Our Father Our King, sung by David D’Or at Peres Funeral just 3 years ago. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7IMU40EjLc
Finally something entirely different! You get to see Jerusalem, Mahane Yehuda and the sheer joy of being here in a Rosh Hashana song! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBTfGXw69HY
So let’s forget feuds and anger and embrace a new outlook. Go and hug a person you thought you didn’t like and be amazed at the way it changes your life and theirs!!
Shana Tova, Un Ano Dulce, 美好的一年, une douce année, сладкий год, um ano doce, blwyddyn bêr, سنة حلوة, ein süßes Jahr, אַ זיס יאָר…… a sweet and generous year to all of you.
Next year in Jerusalem the Beautiful – בשנה הבאה בירושלים היפה
With all our love from the amazing view from our veranda – may it be a view of love not war.