Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
The following is my contribution to the "Memory Book" of Kehillat Mevasseret Zion (KMZ) on the occasion of their 20th anniversary as a congregation. KMZ is the Reform Synagogue in Mevasseret Zion and is located 15 minutes down the road from Jerusalem on the way to Tel Aviv.
In 1997 I joined my friend and then Director of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA) Rabbi Ammi Hirsch and 30 North American Reform Rabbis in a mission to Israel. One day we journeyed to Mevasseret Zion to meet with your Rabbi Maya Leibovich and the leaders of the municipality to show our support for their approval of KMZ’s request that 900 dunam of land be set aside in order for the congregation to build a new Reform synagogue in the town. There had been strong resistance before that from the Orthodox of the community and a fire bombing of the synagogue's Gan (Kindergarten) was perpetrated by unknown arsonists. Ammi believed it important to show the Mayor and other city officials that American and Canadian Reform Rabbis representing 1.2 million North American Jews supported this project and the right of Jews regardless of "stream" to not only worship unfettered in the State of Israel but to be supported by the government in the same way that orthodox synagogues and communities were supported.
It was then that I first met Maya and learned more fully the story of your community. It did not take much for me to become one of Maya’s chassidim and proud supporters.
During the following High Holidays when I gave my annual appeal for funds from my congregation I requested that my members increase their gift by 10% so that we could support Kehillat Mevasseret Zion (KMZ) in your building what would become the jewel of a synagogue that is your home. My congregants responded joyfully, happily, passionately, and generously.
I continued asking them for funds for a number of years in that annual High Holiday Appeal, and whenever I would bring my congregants to Israel I would always schedule a visit to KMZ for Kabbalat Shabbat. You welcomed us with open hearts and arms. My families shared Shabbat dinner with your families. Friendships were formed and as a result your community has become Temple Israel’s synagogue home in the State of Israel.
Speaking personally, I am grateful to count not only your Rabbi and her family, but a number of your leaders as among my dear friends.
Our bodies may be at the extreme edges of the west, but our hearts are in the east with you (Yehuda HaLevi).
In your 20th year we at TIOH (Temple Israel of Hollywood, Los Angeles) send dash chamah and hopes that you will continue to grow in heart, mind and soul and touch not only the lives of your members and community, but to serve as a beacon light of yahadut mitkademet, tzedek, g'milut chassadim, and ahavah (Progressive Judaism, justice, loving-kindness, and love) in the State of Israel.
L'shanah tovah u'm'tukah!
A good and sweet New Year!
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September 6, 2012 | 8:30 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
Soren Kierkegaard said: “It is perfectly true, as philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived forwards.”
Though we are always living forward, the life lessons we learn helps to shape our future. Since this is the season of self-examination leading to Rosh Hashanah in 9 days, I offer to you a list of 32 life lessons I’ve learned in my nearly 63 years – there are others, but the number 32 is a significant one in the mystical tradition. It equals the 22 letters of the Hebrew aleph bet plus the 10 “words” of the covenant, and it is the number equivalent for the Hebrew word Lev (lamed – beit), heart, which the mystics teach are the number of pathways to God.
I offer the following, some of which I’ve borrowed gratefully from a 90 year old lady named Regina Brett and published in the Plain Dealer from Cleveland, Ohio (in italics).
They are not necessarily a way to God, but a means to a healthier, wiser and more sacred way of living, at least as I’ve come to believe in them. I encourage you to draw up your own list.
1. God gave us life and our natural abilities only – everything else is either up to us or a result of dumb luck.
2. Life isn't always fair, but it’s still good.
3. Life is short, so cut your losses early.
4. Begin planning for retirement as a teen-ager by developing your passions and interests, for they will sustain you when you get old.
5. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up your present.
6. You don't have to win every argument, so at a certain point stop arguing.
7. Love your spouse above all other people and things. If you aren’t married, then nurture the special friendships in your life.
8. Don't compare your life to anyone else’s as you have no idea what their journey has been all about.
9. If you can’t publish what you want to say or do on the front page of The NY Times, then don’t say or do it.
10. Try not to speak ill of anyone else, but if you must, do so only with trusted friends and then only in order to understand better how to cope better with people like that.
11. Don’t procrastinate seeing doctors. It may save your life.
12. Carpe diem. Take pleasure in this day and do that which inspires you for we don’t know what tomorrow will bring.
13. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
14. Breathe deeply as it calms the heart, mind, body, and soul.
15. Take your shoes off whenever possible as studies indicate that doing so will prolong your life.
16. Too much alcohol and drugs dull the mind and loosen the lips compelling us to say things we may mean but don’t want said and to say things we may not mean at all.
17. Get a dog or a cat for the love for and from such a creature is unlike anything else you will ever know.
18. Over prepare, and then go with the flow.
19. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
20. Speak the truth but only when you know you can be effective and only if it doesn’t cause another person unnecessary harm or hurt. Otherwise, just be quiet.
21. Stand up to bullies wherever they are and whenever you encounter them.
22. Time really does heal almost everything.
23. Don’t fear or resist change for it is natural, necessary and an opportunity for growth.
24. Love is not just a matter of the heart – it comes from God.
25. Learn Torah as often as possible – it will enrich, change and enhance your life and it will inspire you to do things you might never choose to do otherwise.
26. Being outdoors is almost always better than being indoors.
27. Don’t envy anyone else’s talent, circumstances or life – you already have everything you require.
28. Be modest.
29. Be forgiving.
30. Be kind.
31. Be generous.
32. Be grateful.
Now, let’s live our lives forward.
September 5, 2012 | 5:43 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
I have a friend who is convinced that President Obama and the Democratic Party are undermining the United States of America and that the President has “thrown Israel under the bus.” He believes that any statement is permissible in pursuit of victory by the Republican Party in November. He has no problem with the lies and distortions of the truth by the RNC, Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan, and the Super-Pacs that are supporting the Republican ticket. He justifies their political lies and distortions by saying that the Democrats do it too.
In fairness to truth, the Republican Party has thrown truth under the bus in a way that I have not seen in my life-time. The Democrats admittedly choose facts, skim the truth and mislead as well, but objective fact-checkers place the greatest sin of political fabrication upon the Republicans over the Democrats by factor of 3 to 1.
In this pre-High Holiday season when t'shuvah (repentance) is the principle occupation of the Jewish community, this wanton disrespect for truth is a major obstacle to true repentance and is contrary to every ethical principle Jewish tradition cherishes.
Far too many Americans dismiss objective truth when it runs counter to their passions, opinions, prejudices, and self-interests, and they believe whatever the most virulent voices are preaching.
Compare and contrast public opinion in Canada vs. the United States on the question of whether Global Warming is a scientific fact. According to a 2012 Angus Reid Public Opinion survey, 58% of Canadians believe that Global Warming is a scientific “fact” as compared with 42% of Americans. In a September 2011 Stanford University poll in conjunction with Ipsos and Reuters News, 91% of all Democrats consider Global Warming a fact as opposed to 66% of all Republicans.
Why the differences between our two countries and between the two American political parties? The surveys show that there are significant differences depending upon region and education. Those in urban areas with higher education accept the science of Global Warming as a fact far more than those living in rural areas with less education.
And there is one more factor to consider – who watches “Fox News.”
Canada does not license “Fox News” to be broadcast in that country because it does not consider it news. Rather, it considers it opinion and the licensing board seriously questioned “Fox News” journalistic integrity. One can watch “Fox News” in Canada, but it has to come through an American feed.
Republicans watch “Fox News” far more than do Democrats, and one of Fox’s pet positions is to promote skepticism about the science of Global Warming despite a very large consensus in the scientific community that affirms Global Warming as a scientific fact.
How can one explain the positions taken by another friend who told me that Obama is anti-Israel, a socialist, that the Affordable Care Act is a government take-over of the health care industry, and that global warming has not been proven. I asked her where she got her information, and she said “Fox News.”
Rashi said “God’s seal is truth” (comment on Sanhedrin 94b). Truth has all kinds of meanings, but with regards to continually seeking objectivity in news and reporting, the journalistic profession holds to a high standard of fact-checking and objectivity.
As we move through this next week when the Democrats meet to nominate President Obama and Vice President Biden at their convention in Charlotte, consider these words of wisdom on the pitfalls and importance of truth-telling for individuals and for us as a nation:
“We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” (President John F. Kennedy)
“Fear distorts truth, not by exaggerating the ills of the world…but by underestimating our ability to deal with them…while love seeks truth, fear seeks safety.” (The Reverend William Sloane Coffin)
“When money speaks, the truth keeps silent.” (Russian proverb)
“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” (George Orwell)
“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)