Shabbat and Yom ha Kippurim
Good Shabbes! Shabbat Shalom to each and every one of you; wherever you may be, whatever your form of prayer, whether you believe or not. I wish you a wonderful day of rest.
The Torah reading this Shabbat, the Shabbat between Rosh Hashana (Head of the Year mistakenly called the New Year) and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is Veyelech – and he will go (forth). It makes fascinating reading, telling of Moses’ recognition that he is tired, old and cannot lead the Children of Israel any more. Moses elects Joshua to lead the Children, Joshua, a fine and powerful leader; Moses hands the Ark of the Covenant to the learned tribe of Levites. Moses also recognises that the Children of Israel will waver from the path laid out, they will not keep the traditions or the laws but he felt that as a people we would always keep our identity. He was almost right!!!
I always remember how many years ago Zvi and I stood on Mount Nebo, where Moses stood while sending the people forth to the land of Milk and Honey, and saw Jerusalem, white and glistening in the distance. A young man, his ginger beard flowing in the breeze, suddenly pulled a shofar from his clothing and blew the shofar loud and clear, facing Jerusalem. Since we were on a special tour arranged by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (yes the Palace) I was thrilled to see the Royal Archaeologist applauding! It was right at the beginning of cell phones and Zvi called his wonderful Mother in Jerusalem, told her where we were and said “Don’t worry Mum, unlike Moses we will be back in Jerusalem in an hour”
Rosh Hashana and all its blessings and promises of kindness and sweetness have gone by and we have been preparing ourselves for atonement – many throwing their sins into a body of water, be it the sea, ocean or a local stream or rill. The symbolic throwing of sins and cleansing of our souls is not sufficient by far. We must promise to change, to improve, to be kinder, and on Yom Kippur we recite a vast number of sins that few of us succeed in committing, even the politicians among us!!!
Our world is not kind. The respect that one was expected to show to one’s fellow man has gone by the wayside and most of us forget how our meanness is like a stone thrown into a pure lake – its ripple reaching the far side disturbing the purity of the reflection of nature. It is not sufficient to pray for forgiveness, one has to develop empathy, to stop hurting, even unintentionally, those we love and those we barely know.
Sorry about the lecture but I feel deeply for those who are hurt by an unkind word and I see it all the time. We see it every day and it hurts every aspect of our lives and the lives of those around us.
This week saw the anniversary of one of the most heinous crimes known to modern man, the acts of the 9/11. The Twin Towers, Connecticut and DC, the diabolical hatred that is taught by those who would see our democratic, free world, with all its faults, wither and die of fear. We didn’t but we are scarred, lives changed that day and the world still doesn’t quite understand. Every name must be honoured https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smzJAo6yce4
This week also saw the anniversary of the massacre of Israeli athletes in Munich, an act of sheer hatred. May the souls of the athletes rest in peace and their families cope with their loss.
It is 25 years since the Oslo Accords, the Accords that gave so much hope to Israelis, and much criticism of Prime Minister Rabin. Arafat sent a letter http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/foreignpolicy/peace/guide/pages/israel-plo%20recognition%20-%20exchange%20of%20letters%20betwe.aspx outlining his willingness to recognise Israel and denouncing terrorism based upon which Rabin accepted the Accords. Subsequently, none of the points outlined in the agreements have been honoured by the Palestinians. Our Ambassador in the UK Mark Regev responds brilliantly to every one of the lies told by the Palestinian Political Representative.
On to some lovely news which requires a short preamble. As you well know, I am a proud Jerusalemite married to a man who was born here before the establishment of the State of Israel and we both believe Jerusalem to be the most beautiful city in the world……… however…….we are also pragmatic. To have held next year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Jerusalem would have been impossible on many levels, religious, political, international. Yes I know, the Minister of Sport and Culture demanded it be in Jerusalem but even she has come around. Tel Aviv is the logical venue. I am absolutely delighted that we will have the opportunity to show that very left-leaning part of the world that Israel is a wonderful place! The participants can go to the bars, beach and promenade then the organisers will bring them to Jerusalem to see the “du-kiyum” the living side by side of all the wonderful colours of our rainbow of people in the most glorious city. If the organisers know what they are doing they will not rely just on the competition itself but will film the participants all over Israel with all sectors of our community. Yes. I am pleased with the decision.
Our Rosh Hashana was delightful, spending the evening (all festivals and Shabbat begin an hour before sunset the night before) with Zvi’s son Leor’s parents in law. We do it every year and it never fails to amaze me how his Mother in law copes with 35 people! The blessings on this festival go well beyond the bread and wine – we make a blessing over an apple dipped in honey, over new fruits, over our guests, and especially thanking Hashem for bringing us to this day. The foods were both traditional and modern but most importantly we began with chicken soup and kreplach!!!
The first day was spent quietly, praying and enjoying the chorus of shofar blowing from the various synagogues in our vicinity. We have a Moroccan style synagogue, Iraqi, Kurdish, Reform, Masorti, in fact a little bit of almost everything! On second day we had a crowd of our friends over for lunch – I say “our” friends because they didn’t know each other! It was wonderful! By the end of dessert everyone was laughing and promised to meet again.
I cannot end my letter without offering my gratitude to those who have responded to my letters, those who gave generously so that I could have an expert web-builder create my website and those who greet me wherever I go and tell me they read what I write – that’s all I ask. If anything I have written has offended or hurt you I apologise and promise to try to do better in the coming year.
We are going to Leor and Shiri’s on Yom Kippur, to be with the children and because they have a lovely synagogue right nearby. We will hear the mournful tones of Kol Nidre, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpBXGIEUDKA the opening of the Day of Atonement. The prayer is not really a prayer but rather a release from their unwilling or unwitting oaths to other religions under duress, a commitment to being Jewish. Please listen to Rabbi Jonathan Sachs as he explains this beautiful prayer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hW-cSrxQ1IU . He reminds us that Jews survived poverty but forget our Judaism in wealth; we survived oppression yet reject Judaism in freedom.
I am going to Rachel’s in a minute. I can’t wait to see the children and hear their tales of their first week in school and to see Yosef’s foot – of course he hurt it just a couple of hours before Rosh Hashana but Rachel still managed to get home from ER before lighting the candles! Yet again I will climb up through Ramot to Samuel’s Tomb, Nebe Samuel, and go down again to Givat Zeev. There I will get some fruit and cookies for the weekend in the little open air shopping mall, where the owners of the business are both Israeli and Palestinian, then get to Rachel’s in time to be greeted by the incredible aroma of freshly baked Challah. My trip back home is always special – because of the panorama. I don’t know how to describe it to you and I can’t stop to take a photo since it is a main road! The undulating landscape is a painting of green trees and white buildings with the minarets, steeples and towers breaking the horizon. It simply takes my breath away!
My siblings are currently in Toronto for the wedding of my great-niece Stefanie to her Ryan. It will be a grand affair I am sure and enjoyed by all the invitees. I wish the young couple a beautiful life together, filled with joy, tradition, patience, family and love. I want them to know that they have an Auntie in Jerusalem and break one tradition of the Toronto branch of the family and come to stay with us and see Jerusalem!!!!
Blowin’ in the Wind expresses the yearning of all sane folk for a kinder world and sadness at the way things have gone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ld6fAO4idaI
Our Father our King – Avinu Malkeinu – sung by Avraham Fried https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5Z_D97X24g Hear our prayer
We have sinned before Thee
Have compassion upon us and upon our children
Help us bring an end to pestilence, war, and famine
Cause all hate and oppression to vanish from the earth
Inscribe us for blessing in the Book Of Life
Let the new year be a good year for us
The final song is written by Justin Timberlake, yes it is! It is surprising and rather fun. Written for Rosh Hashana I think it fits all the year round!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBTfGXw69HY
So dear friends, be kind to one another, exude love and smiles – it changes our world. If you hear tapping and banging when you leave the synagogue after Yom Kippur, it isn’t your imagination after fasting all day long, it is the sound of Jews building their Succah, their Tabernacles as soon as they get home!!
With all our love from Jerusalem