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My Day in Court

04/21/2016 09:44:37 AM

Apr21

February 26th, 2016
17 Adar 1 5776
Dear Friends,

Yesterday we lost a beloved member of our community.
Saul Kaplan was always a delight to be around, and Saul and Bene have given so much to our community over the years. He is already missed. Please note that the funeral on Sunday (at 1 pm) will be at Beth Sholom, following which we will move to the cemetery for burial. The family appreciates your help making minyan Sunday through Tuesday nights at 7 pm at David and Jan Kaplan's home - 6628 Conifer Cove. Our regular minyans at Beth Sholom will still happen each night at 6 pm. 

In between my time with the Kaplan family yesterday, I went to court. In January, I was pulled over for not having renewed my registration, for which a court appearance is mandatory. The officer told me I would need to bring proof that I had taken care of it to court with me, and they'd probably not charge me with anything. 

Except....I couldn't actually do that.

My car was registered in New Jersey, where I bought it in 2010, and when I went to the DMV here the first time they told me they couldn't register it in Tennessee without the title, which Hyundai wouldn't send me, since I didn't fully own the car yet. They made an exception last-time so i could use the car in Tennessee. 

Knowing that this might be an issue, I paid the car off a few months early so that Hyundai would send me the title. Hyundai told me I'd have it ten days after I paid it off.....and it's been a few weeks and it hasn't arrived. Uh-oh. 

I went to the DMV to ask for another exception, and they could not oblige. Thankfully, they gave me a letter stating that I had at least tried to do so, and when I brought that letter to the court clerk yesterday, she dismissed my case and sent me home. Phew.

What do I learn from all this?

First, it was nice to hear from Dot and a few others that if I'd have been arrested, they'd help me make bail. To quote a line from popular culture: I feel the love.

Second, it was nice to be reminded that while ostensibly there to help society live up to its best values, law at its best should also be compassionate. I didn't think to ask the clerk what would've happened if I hadn't brought the note from the DMV, though I am curious. I doubt they'd have arrested me, though I imagine I would at least have been fined, and perhaps they would have suspended my license. Nice of her to give me the benefit of the doubt. Admittedly, I wonder whether the color of my skin or the suit and tie I was wearing affected her decision or whether she would have made the same decision for anyone in the same situation. There was a long line so I didn't stop to ask.

Third, it was interesting to see people from all walks of life in court. It was a nice reminder that we're all human, regardless of age, race, gender, ethnicity, financial income, or any other way we can be measured. We all make mistakes and breaking the law doesn't necessarily make anyone a bad person - law is relative so it depends on which laws you break. Apparently violating the law that says I should renew my registration every year is not quite as harmful to society as is many others (stealing, murder, etc).

I wish our presidential candidates from both parties would invite us to think about how we can become not just a safer society but also a more compassionate one. I know that all candidates have to talk about foreign policy, immigration, healthcare, the economy, etc. I hope more of them talk about values of how they try to treat others. Admittedly, from that perspective, some of them don't appear to be doing very well but that's a sermon for another time (or not). I'm sure in their hearts each of them think that the proposals they have for the country will make for a more just and compassionate society. It saddens me that our elections process has turned into such a bloodsport, but that, too, is another problem I don't see improving any time soon.

I was happy to read this week that one of my colleagues, Rabbi Gershom Sizomu who was ordained at the Conservative-affiliated Ziegler School for Jewish Studies in Los Angeles, won a seat in the Ugandan Parliament. Rabbi Sizomu is the Chief Rabbi of Uganda and a leader of the Abayudaya community. It will be fascinating to see what he's able to do as a member of the Ugandan Parliament. (He's in the opposition party, and one of his opponents is challenging the results. Nevertheless, the very fact a rabbi was elected to such an important position is certainly noteworthy).

There have been a few rabbis who've run for Congress here in the U.S. None have been elected. We've certainly had and still have our share of Jewish members of Congress - it would be interesting to see a rabbi be elected and what impact that would have (which I'm sure also depends on which rabbi it is).

Anyway, I hope to see some of you at our inaugural DrumDaven this evening. 5:45 for a light refreshment, and the service will begin at 6:15. (My aim is to keep it on the shorter side so you can be home for dinner around 7:30. We'll see how that works). Given that this will be our first one, I wonder how it will go but we'll continue learning as we do them and I suspect each one will be better than the last. 

Of course, please call the office to make your reservations for Shabbat dinner with Nava Tehila on March 11th - love to see you all with us for a wonderful weekend on March 11th and 12th.

Wishing us all a Shabbat of peace and compassion - towards ourselves and others. So often we forget that treating others as we wish to be treated means we have to treat ourselves well too. May we continue learning this lesson, and may we know that even when we don't live up to our best selves, we can still be kind to ourselves. We don't need to be the prosecuting judge all the time. Sometimes, we can have a little rachmanus (compassion), look ourselves in the mirror, smile, and say the wonderful words I heard yesterday: 

Case dismissed!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Ilan

Mon, November 18 2019 20 Cheshvan 5780