From The Heart with Rabbi Liebowitz


Dear Friends,

Happy New Year!

People at this time of year, a time filled with reminiscences, often recall their favorite films, family stories, and people who are gone but still admired. Included in these reveries are of course the perennial query, “What was your most cherished book?” Thinking in reverse, I pondered which book was least preferred in my youth but is strangely cherished still. George Orwell’s 1984 sends chills up my spine to this day; not merely from the authoritarian and dystopic view of a totalitarian society that was the centerpiece of the narrative, but because of the horrific ending in which a terrified Winston Smith cries out, Do it to Julia! Do it to Julia! Not me! Julia! I don’t care what you do to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me! Julia! Not me!” (3.5.24) Faced with his biggest fear (of rats), Winston finally betrays his private loyalty to Julia his paramour. That for me, more than the repetitive motif of “Big Brother is Watching You” shook me to the core with it pessimistic conclusion: There are horrific depths to which men and women can descend! The sting of that scene put a damper on my youthful and idealistic hope for mankind. It made short shrift of the beauty of Anne Frank’s penetrating optimism when she wrote, “I still believe that people are good at heart.”

The year 2016 has been a most difficult year in which civility has taken a nosedive. I do not know how or if we will recover any time soon. I do hold fast to the sentiment that one folk singer proclaimed, “Peace will come, and let it begin with me.” (Tom Paxton)

Though a bit of a Luddite, I am grateful for many things technology has brought us. Through the miracle of Skype I was able to celebrate the miracle of Chanukah with my daughter in California on this, the third night of the festival of lights. Certainly, much of our security has been enhanced by hi-tech measures upon which we rely nationwide and in the world. But everything has a downside. Recently one member to whom we are grateful for installing our camera system was trying to reach me. His phone like mine is equipped with an app that allows us or anyone if they want to download the app to look in on me in the study or to view the sanctuary as well as a few others big brotherly places. (It took more hours that you can imagine for Stan Hyman to make it happen! Blessings to him for that!) It is however, Yenta-ing on steroids!

As my cell phone went unanswered, he speculated I might be in the Temple office where indeed I was. It was as comical as it was eerie to have him chronicle my movements as I wandered within full view of Stan who saw me swiveling back and forth between desk and computer, moving to and fro about the study in search of this book and that. Nevertheless, I was pleased that I am easy enough to find. There is no greater priority than for this or any rabbi to be available. I endeavor to do so as best as I can. So, I lit the lights of freedom tonight with a hesitant nod of appreciation to hi-tech, for those who provide security and for all in our nation who are there to keep us safe. I pray that we will have the wisdom to create the balance between liberty and security that is so desperately needed in our time. *

If peace is to begin with each of us, I sense that the quote cited above about kindness is a prescription which we all should take. After all, as Orwell’s Winston Smith proclaimed “Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.”

A great year to you and all your loved ones, a year of understanding and a year of peace,

Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz, D.D.

*Please be assured that when I hold private conversations, especially those for counseling the camera is focused only in my direction and not on visitors.