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Politics, Prayer, and Purim

04/21/2016 09:46:37 AM


March 18th, 2016
8 Adar 2 5776
Dear Friends,

What a wonderful weekend we had at Beth Sholom last week!
It was lovely to see so many people here for a magnificent Shabbat dinner, and for a service that had everyone singing and dancing together. Many of you have expressed interest in more opportunities for music, for creative prayer, for an inspired, enthusiastic, joyful approach to Jewish life, and while we already do some of that, more is definitely on the way over the next few months. Stay the meantime, we can savor the wonderful memories of Nava Tehila's visit, and we'll keep singing some of their melodies for a good long while. My thanks to Barbara Hellman and all our sponsors for making it happen, and to Michelle Less and her crew for organizing, cooking, hosting, publicizing, and for taking care of all the many things that needed to happen for the weekend to take place. 

Next Wednesday night at Beth Sholom we'll come together at 5:30 for dinner and kids games and at 6:30 for our Purim celebration, with our own Purimshpiel starring many of our favorite Beth Sholom members. (Regular Wednesday night minyan will take place at 6:00). Following the Purimshpiel, I'll be doing a creative adaptation of the Megillah reading, in English but using the Purim trope, the special melody the Megillah is read in. Those of you who want to hear the full Megillah in its original can stick around after that, or join us Thursday morning following minyan for Megillah reading.

Purim is a time where we read a story of things turning upside down. We wear costumes to be free of the masks we normally wear, and also to reveal our true character, for when we can act as we would as if no one recognizes us, we are free to be ourselves. Purim is then a time for joy, for hilarity, for celebrating the triumph of our people over the wicked Haman (BOOOOOOO!) and to examine the masks we wear each day.

Many people feel as if our election season in the U.S. has turned into a Purimspiel. I'm obviously not going to tell you who to vote for. I am, however, following the online debate as to whether or not the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) should have invited Mr. Trump to speak next week, and what response Jews should have to his candidacy. AIPAC's policy is to invite all the candidates to address their annual conference, and clearly Mr. Trump qualifies to do so. And yet, because of his hurtful, divisive, and dangerous rhetoric numerous Jewish organizations are organizing walkouts of his speech. What will he say about Israel? Will there be anyone still attending to hear it? I'm grateful I didn't have to be on the committee who had to make the decision to invite him to speak. I can see why they did, and I can well understand why so many are advocating a boycott of his speech. I haven't been to an AIPAC conference yet, but I imagine next week's will be very interesting...What do you think? Should AIPAC have invited him, or should they have said that his language and behavior is too inflammatory for them to recognize him?

I was saddened to read that the historic compromise agreement to expand the egalitarian prayer space at the southern end of the Western Wall in Israel has been torpedo'ed this week, due to increased Orthodox protest. Not exactly surprising, and I suspect we haven't heard the last of this story. I am reminded of a quote from David Ben-Gurion, who said that "in Israel, we have no choice. We must believe in miracles...." 

The Israel I hope and pray for is one where all streams of Jewish life are recognized, where all are free to live and pray in peace, where hateful rhetoric from anyone is given no place to be heard, and where the best of humanity and the best of Jewish tradition comes together to flourish. May that day come soon. 

I look forward to seeing you at Beth Sholom in the near future.
If you come for Purim on Wednesday, while we'll have some graggers for you, we invite you to bring boxes of pasta to use as shakers, and then leave them in the collection box for the food bank afterwards. Thanks everyone.

As always, I'm grateful to have each of you in our community.
May we continue to be nourished by the Torah and journeys we share, and may the upcoming holiday of Purim help us find new joy, as well as a healthy examination of our masks. May we learn when to put them on and when to take them off! Perhaps we've even outgrown some of them. Here's to hiding and seeking, playing, finding joy and our true selves in the days and weeks ahead.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Ilan

Sat, July 4 2020 12 Tammuz 5780