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Friday, July 24: Friday Evening Service – 7:30 pm
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A Message from Rabbi Aura
July 20, 2015
I’ve been thinking about Israel lately, in part because I have received requests to talk about it, and in part because two of my cousins’ kids (making them my cousins, once removed), who grew up in Israel, just got married there earlier this month. I have family in Israel because my father lived in Tel Aviv from 1938 until the 1950s, when he and his brother, my uncle, moved to the United States for work. My father moved, with his parents, to Tel Aviv as a boy. They escaped Vienna just months before the Nazis sealed the borders. He was 19 years old in the year 1948, and fought to help create the State of Israel as a member of the Palmach, Israel’s elite fighting force. By the 1950s, when he graduated the Technion, he moved permanently to America. At that time, he left behind his parents—my Saba and Safta—and a sister, my aunt, along with her husband and two children. Those two children are my cousins. Today, my cousins are married, with five children between them, two grandchildren, and a marvelous extended family. I am happy to report that they are thriving.
When I was growing up, I only got to meet my Saba and Safta two or three times. Since they didn’t speak English, communication was hard. One funny early memory happened during a visit to their dira, their apartment, when I was seven years old. My Safta, my mother and I were all in the bathroom brushing our teeth as we got ready to go to bed. Suddenly, my Safta removed her teeth and plunked them into a glass. My eyes grew wide and still. “Safta, how did you do that?!” I asked, impressed. She and my mom started laughing so hard they were crying. I had never seen false teeth before.
My feelings about Israel today are complicated. I love Israel. However, I sometimes find myself feeling despair over the relentless stories of conflict and destruction from that part of the world. And I wish it felt easier to hold dear my highest hopes for Israel’s future.
I believe that it is important to support our fellow Jews, including those who live in Israel. This is also a core value of the congregation. This is not up for debate, even if political issues about the policies of Israel’s government are up for debate. “Kol Yisrael arevim zeh la-zeh,” teaches Pirkei Avot, our book of ancient wisdom. “All Jews are responsible for one another.”
It’s tricky because we wrestle with two important values. One is support for our fellow Jews, and the community of people who make it up. Another is to strive to be a holy people, which requires us to look at our own personal behaviors, as well as the behaviors of our community as a whole, and strive to do better. Thus, support isn’t limited to adhering to a particular political stance. We also support when we offer loving critique, motivated by our vision of how we can do better, ethically and morally, as Jews and as human beings.
It is plain that for many of us, our feelings toward our homeland are strong, profound, and often mixed with distress. For some of us, there is pain in even talking about Israel; for others, there is pain in not talking about Israel. I am coming to see my role as a rabbi to be one of offering opportunities to safely express our prayers, hopes and visions for our state and our people, even when those prayers, hopes and visions differ from those of other congregants, as they so often do. I feel that it’s important to protect the future of the State of Israel, and the people of Israel. Doing so within a diverse congregation is tricky. But, as Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav said, “Know that if there is rupture, there is also the possibility of repair.”