Rabbi Arnowitz Attends AIPAC’s Annual Gathering

Dear WJC Family,
Wow! My first month as rabbi of this wonderful synagogue has flown by, filled with sharing services, studying together and learning your names (still working on that one, but thanks for all the help!). This past Wednesday, I had the opportunity to take a break from meeting and greeting and attend an annual gathering AIPAC (the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee) hosts for rabbis. The day was filled with meetings giving us an insider’s update on news and events that impact Israel, the US, and the US-Israel relationship.
While there is no lack of news about politics in America and Israel surrounding the upcoming elections (Israelis go to the polls on September 17 for a special Knesset election and, in America, it seems like there is always a campaign going on), and we did review some of the facts about what-he-said-and-she-said, that wasn’t really the main focus. We focused on other important news items that are getting drowned out—military skirmishes with Iran in Syria and Iraq, the 72 Congressman, 41 of whom are Democrats (more than half the first-term class), who recently traveled to Israel on an AIPAC sponsored trip and more.
A highlight for me was a presentation at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum by Yonatan Winetraub, one of the co-founders of SpaceIL, telling us all about the Beresheet mission to the moon, what worked, how it failed and the cooperation between NASA, The Israel Aerospace Industries and SpaceIL that made it all possible—really cool stuff!
In one of my favorite learning sessions, we spoke about why God asked Abraham and Sarah to leave “their country, their birthplace and their father’s house” to go to Israel. The question is eloquently stated in the commentary of the Ramban, who explains that leaving the place you know and the people you know and the family you know is a lot to ask of anyone. Why would Abraham and Sarah agree to this trip? I am really moved by the Ramban’s answer: they would leave all that and move across the world for the opportunity to be in a loving relationship with God, just as a person might leave their home to be with their beloved. God is the beloved of Abraham and his family. What a beautiful way to think about Jewish settlement in Israel, that we went there out of love and can still go there to be part of that special relationship. In fact, that is much of the motivation of so much that we do in Judaism – we follow this complicated Jewish way of life for a simple reason, the oldest and most fundamental reason—love; to be in a loving relationship with God. What an absolutely beautiful way of looking at Jewish practice and theology and probably one we don’t talk about enough.
That’s is about to change, however, at least for the next month. This Shabbat and Sunday we will celebrate Rosh Hodesh Elul, the beginning of the new month of Elul. Elul is famous for being the lead up to Rosh HaShanah and the High Holiday season. It is meant to be a month of “heshbon nefesh” accounting of the soul, trying to sense the path that God has laid for us in life and finding our way back to walk that path. However, it is also a month of rekindling that loving relationship with God that started with Abraham’s move to Israel and has been a gift to us ever since. As a matter of fact, the Hebrew letters that spell Elul are sometimes said to be an acronym for, “Ahni L’Dodi v’dodi Li, I am my beloved and my beloved is mine.” Next Friday night, September 6th, I will be making a special presentation after the Rhythm and Ruach Service called “Ahni L’Dodi V’dodi Li – Love and Repentance in the Month of Elul” all about what romance and repentance could possibly have to do with each other and helping us to recapture that loving relationship with God that we hope to rekindle during this season of holidays.
This Friday I will be sharing a Dvar Torah about Parshat Re’eh. Then on Saturday morning I am looking forward to learning with Ruth Obernbreit-Glass as she delivers our Dvar Torah called, “Mother’s Milk.” At mincha/maariv I will be teaching the shiur in honor of Rosh Hodesh Elul, “Heshbon HaNefesh – A Primer.” Looking forward to seeing you there this Shabbat and for Rhythm and Ruach next week.
See you in shul and Hodesh Tov,

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