November 2014 - Rosh HaShana Afterward
I have been unpacking my two week-long stay in Israel in various venues in our synagogue since my circuitous journey back to New York late July. A Friday night service, a session of the Men’s Group, the first meeting of this year’s seminar on Zionism, and many, many conversations over meals and in the synagogue parking lot have provided me with opportunities to reflect on the complicated and fraught fortnight Jodie and I spent in what one contemporary Zionist has called “The Too Much Promised Land.” The most challenging forum for me was Rosh HaShana morning. To offer a coherent narrative in ten pages (double spaced) that did justice to the many people with whom we met who represented political views ranging from right of center Israelis to left of center Palestinians, with a graffiti artist, a circus comprised of Israeli and Palestinian teenaged gymnasts, and a secular rock star who teaches Talmud to other secularists thrown into the mix while Hamas and Israel were battling out in the foreground, was most difficult. It took many weeks to sort it all out and a few weeks more to write it all down.
I appreciate your appreciating how difficult it all was for me. I appreciate more how generously you received my thoughts, which are part of my ongoing written and mental journal that began with my first year-long experience in Israel forty years ago. I especially appreciate how well received the talk was by people who do not agree with me. This is uncommon in today’s Jewish world where civil discourse about Israel is almost impossible to find. I do not take for granted that our congregation is still a place where ideas can be exchanged with respect and consideration, where we can live with our own opinions while engaging in dialogue with others.
I think that rabbis are as good as the congregations they serve. To quote a lesson from the Talmud: “A rabbi cannot teach what a community cannot receive.” The positive responses to my address are a reflection of a community that is open, responsive, tolerant, and accepting. After thirty-three years, I still feel privileged to be a part of it.