Rabbi Liebowitz will be using Skype for the Torah Study. If you want to join him on Saturday morning starting at 10 a.m
A dear colleague of mine and classmate wrote this very helpful and moving reflection on what is going on today. I thought it wise to share it with you. Do keep safe and calm as possible during this taxing, difficult time. I am always available to anyone via my cell number.
“Comfort, O Comfort My People”
By Rabbi John Rosove
As my wife and I enter into isolation to protect ourselves, our family, friends, and community, and as we feel the anxiety that so many share, I’ve sought words of comfort as together we face this terrible pandemic. Martin Buber, quoting Rabbi Pinchas said: “When a person is singing and cannot lift his/her voice and another comes along and sings with him/her, another who can lift that person’s voice, then the first will be able to lift his/her voice, too. That is the secret of the bond between spirit and spirit.” (Tales of the Hasidim)
How do we lift each other’s spirit as we isolate ourselves from one another? That’s a fundamental humanitarian question in these days. Thankfully, we have the internet, social media, telephones, Face-time, streaming of religious services, and the media as a whole to connect us to our families, friends, fellow Jews, and to the world beyond our front doors.
The biblical prophet Isaiah said, “Nachamu, nachamu ami – Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and call out to her…” (40:1) In times of trouble, Isaiah’s words have always inspired and comforted me. Interpreting “Jerusalem” as a place of peace, comfort, compassion, empathy, and justice, we can extend the meaning of Yerushalayim shel ma-alah (The Heavenly Jerusalem) to include our world community confronting together this frightening pandemic. “May the One Who dwells in this place comfort you” is a message inscribed on Kings Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. In our own “places,” may we know good health and feel comfort as we connect with each other in new ways in these days.
Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz
“and the Lord took Adam and placed him in the Garden of Eden, to work it and guard it. (Genesis 2:15) Upon creating the first human beings, God guided them around the Garden of Eden, saying; ‘Look at my creations! See how beautiful and perfect they are! I created everything for you. Make sure you don’t ruin or destroy My world. If you do, there will be no one after you to fix it ’ (Midrash Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) Rabbah 7:20)
Each morning we are bid to recite the following prayer which beckons us to imagine the world is being re-created every day, a new Genesis:
“Praised are You, Our God, Ruler of the universe, former of light, creator of darkness, maker of peace and the creator of all things. In Your mercy light shines over the earth and upon all who inhabit it. Through your goodness the work of the creation is daily renewed. How great are Your works, O God, in wisdom You have made all of them. The earth is filled with your creations.” (Daily Prayer, Yotzer Or (Former of Light))
The late John McCain in his presidential bid strongly argued for conservation saying that even if you don’t believe in climate change it is still important to protect our resources. That attitude even precedes Teddy Roosevelt who labored to protect our nation’s parks and their resources. I personally understand that climate change is real; from forest fires in Australia to weather weirding across the globe marked by iceberg melt and drought. Our heritage has long encouraged respect for nature and an attitude of modesty about our place in creation:
Why were human beings created last in the order of Creation? So that they should not grow proud – for one can say to them, ‘Even the gnat came before you in creation!’ (Tosefta Sanhedrin 8:3)
Sometimes the problems of this world seem insurmountable. Our concept based on mysticism Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) beckons us to do our part, however small in resurrected Gan Eden, the Garden of Eden. My rabbi versed in Yiddish would encourage me when I got frustrated with my Hebrew by saying Yidl by Yidl. Rabbi Israel Salanter (1810-1883, founder of
Lithuania’s Musar Movement) offered this perspective: “First, a person should put his house
together, then his town, then the world.”
I chair the subcommittee for the Spartanburg Interfaith Alliance called Spartanburg Green Congregations. At long last our temple is practicing what it preached. Our recycling bin is being used. (Thanks in no small measure to Susan Abelkop who made them happen!) Throughout our building are little blue recycling containers. Please use them! Plastic, paper, aluminum oh my! (Alas no glass!) The large bin is presently in the portico. Feel free to bring your own disposables when you come to Temple.
It is fairly large. I would hope it will become insufficiently small as you will fill it up, (a nice problem to have or what I call a Messianic problem!) We have taken other steps in the past (Energy saving LED bulbs in the sanctuary–thank you Rex!)
In the meantime as Purim nears, and spring is on the way I wish one and all a happy March as we march on fulfilling the imperatives of our precious faith.
Rabbi Yossi J. Liebowitz D.D.
Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God; the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” Deuteronomy 6: 4–5
In the birth pangs that separated Christianity (a onetime Jewish sect) from Judaism, lots of accusations back and forth were hurled one to the other. For our ancestors’ part we derided the legends of resurrection, virgin birth, and the claims of divinity. Early Christian assaults configured that Judaism was a religion of stern laws and their faith one of love. In its most virulent forms, Christianity divided the deity into two parts, the God of vengeance for Jews and the God of love for Christians. All this notwithstanding, Judaism hardly articulated a place of eternal punishment asserting that “all people had a place in the world to come (heaven).”
Judaism is a religion of love.
filled with love talk; Ahava rabba – With a great love have I loved the people Israel and Ahavat Olam – With an Eternal love have I loved the House of Israel.
As the celebration of love is celebrated in our culture by the day dedicated to Valentine, (Some think it is connected to a more ancient Roman festival Lupercalia) we are given an imperative to consider how caring is our heritage and how affectionate is our spiritual legacy. Though it is of Christian origins, Valentine ’s Day is one observance wherein we can all find an excuse to celebrate love from all our traditions.
Wishing one and all a beautiful month
Rabbi Yossi J. Liebowitz, D.D.
My brother, sister, and I would wait patiently as dad would eventually drive up at the end of a long hot summer’s day in his cab. Exhausted, dehydrated, and hanging on for a few more hours, dad would nevertheless summon the energy to share some of his more colorful tales from the day’s work. On occasion someone famous would hop into his cab – Sean Connery, Vincent Price, just to mention a few. Dad had made a science out of teasing. With chutzpah he would engage whichever celebrity entered into his yellow cab. Once, Joe DiMaggio “Joltin’ Joe” ambled in. Pretending not to recognize him, Dad started to make some uncouth remarks about how lousy the Yanks were doing that summer. “They’re goin’ nowhere this year,” he would intone with no small measure of chutzpah. “They’ll be fine!” DiMaggio retorted. “What the heck do you know?” said dear old dad. “Well,” said the famed Yankee clipper of years gone by (this was 1966 and he was making Mr. Coffee commercials) “I played baseball.” “Really?” said Dad, “who are you!”
“Joe DiMaggio,” came the expected response. “Not possible,” teased my father. “DiMaggio was a skinny good looking kid; you’re a fat old man!” When asked what DiMaggio then did my dad said: “He laughed heartily and then I got his autograph.” Which brings me to the other story of Paul Simon who had annoyed Joe DiMaggio with his lyric from the film “The Graduate, “Where have you gone Joe Dimaggio? A nation leans its tired eyes to you!….What’s that you say Mrs. Robinson, Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away!” DiMaggio thought the song was an insult, believing that Simon had declared him dead. He actually wanted to sue him for libel until it was explained that Joltin’ Joe was a lost figure, a celebrity that all admired, whether they were a Yankees’ fan or a Dodgers’ fan. It did not matter.
As we enter 2020, I can’t help but think about the heroes we have lost, the people we admired who transcended normal discourse. People who made us proud to be Americans! How our country longs for statesmen and stateswomen! Where have they gone? People who put principles over politics. Love of country over party. I am not much for celebrity. “A celebrity is someone who is famous for being famous.” It was not always that way! I grew up reading “Profiles in Courage” and I now wonder when those days will return. When will our political tribalism be checked by a devotion to right and justice? When will decent verbal discourse and eloquence return to the American conversation? In my youth I favored William Buckley’s TV show“Firing line!” It was a thoughtful engagement of issues. While I agreed with perhaps 10 percent of his comments, I never felt anything but appreciation for his thinking, his eloquence and his deportment. On occasion, George Will will resurrect in me similar admiration. In my work on addiction at the Betty Ford center as a 5th step counselor; they would say of some alcoholics that they had “to get sick and tired of being sick and tired.” I pray that the coming year will have us recover from the vitriol and anger that so often masquerades as genuine discourse. As the psalmist declared; “from the depths I call unto Thee!’
Happy New Year
Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz, D.D.