Archive for August, 2009

August 28, 2009

IDF’s chooses western ethics over Jewish ones.

“Who is shutting the mouth of the IDF’s chief Rabbi?” – Maariv reports that a vip conference on War Ethics had invited Rabbi Ronsky the chief Rabbi of the IDF to present. The  IDF Spokesman then denied him permission to speak claiming that the topic was not in his authority and is sending the IDF’s chief attorney instead. This relates to recent limitations placed on the role of the Rabbinate in the military’s educational programing. I believe this is part of a conscious policy decision to establish western pluralistic values as the core identity of the Army, as opposed to traditional Jewish values, as demonstrated here. This is not new, almost twenty years ago as an educational officer in the IDF I was disgusted at the way the dominantly secular command promoted a secular Jewish identity while censoring anything that smelled of Torah. The most disturbing thing part of this was that it presented aggressive censorship as an enlightened pluralistic position, a skewed perspective that made it impossible for me to communicate my frustration to my commanding officer, we simply occupied different universes.
Let me make clear that at my core I am tolerant, and in many ways pluralistic in my worldview. I believe that other types of Jewish identity, including Reform, Conservative and completely Secular deserve respect and are legitimate (Mistaken, but legitimate). At the same time it seems to me that there is a cultural battle going on for the heart and soul of this country, one which threatens its meaning at the core. Most of those who are fighting it are those who would not place themselves in the moderate camp. It is extremely important that those of us who believe in this country, and the partnership between Dati and Chiloni that built it, be willing to call a spade a spade and cry foul when democracy is wielded as a sword cutting us off from our roots.

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August 25, 2009

Torah, Lies, and Photoshop.

DovBear accuses Yeshivat Chaim Berlin of photoshopping the truth to fit their version of reality. This set me thinking about the importance of Truth in the context of teshuva – how honest are we willing to be with ourselves and with God when examining our lives? I feel close to God at this time of year but the honest truth is that I know this is quite pretentious. How easily this knowledge could lead to a cynical take on any attempt at spiritual achievement. Are we stuck between pretension or skepticism?

A fantastic concept that can help maintain a truthful attempt at humility and earnest spirituality is the idea of “having perspective on yourself”. Sadly this is a rare commodity in the Torah world, as seen above. The delicate balance of “taking yourself seriously but not too seriously” is an elusive but precious bit of wisdom. This attitude would serve anyone engaged in a relationship with God well, especially as we approach the Yamim Noaraim.

August 19, 2009

Re-Turn Again

“Spill your heart like water before the presence of God” – the words of Eicha are heavily flavored for me by Rav Shlomo’s sweet sad niggun. It brings up in me the alienation that comes with mourning and sorrow, and the challenge of an opportunity to rediscover God with renewed yearning and hunger. My summer is always somewhat of a spiritual dry season as Yeshiva is out, the kids are Home, there is a needed and perhaps deserved break that I tend to use as an excuse for some spiritual laxity. I enter into the month of Elul ready for turning towards God (re-turning i.e. Teshuva?), creating an opening, I hope, for God to once again turn towards me. The vehicle and expression of this turning for me is prayer. I rediscover the deep waters of teffilah as
my somewhat dormant soul awakens. The Zohar refers to the days of Elul and Tishrei as definitive days of prayer. In a few days the small streets and alleyways of my neighborhood Nachlaot will resonate with the pre-dawn Selichot of the Sfardim, asking God for forgiveness in joyous song of re-found love. My soul stirs with anticipation of the awesome days which will be upon us shortly when I will once again meet my Father my King.

August 4, 2009

All New Me…

I just bought new glasses. Miriam and I calculated that I have worn the last ones for about ten years! Those were just like the ones before them, maybe less of a circle and more of an oval. The ones before that were John Lennon orbs, which went with the long hair my Rosh Yeshiva disdained.
Trying on glasses is a thrilling and scary experience for me. The personal statement goes far beyond clothes, my face is who I am in so many ways. I feel my power of choice heightened, as I transform myself like Mr. Potato Head in the mirror. The temptation to avoid choosing, to simply enjoy the ride and play make believe is strong, but at Home the babysitting clock is ticking.
I know I am looking for change, bold change has been part of my recent story. It comes down to two frames. One is conservative, a departure from over two decades of round frames, Delicate, sophisticated, metal half frame. The other a younger, gutsier, “Harry Potter” but cool frame made of matte copper with wooden arms, round.
I bought them both.