Shabbat Shalom ~ Reeh 2023

Shalom WJC Family,

Of the many lessons that Judaism teaches us, one of the most powerful is the art of holding two conflicting emotions at once. This is the lesson of tears at a bar mitzvah or laughter at a funeral. It is the message of ending Yom HaZikaron (Israeli Memorial Day) and going right into Yom Haatzmaut (Israeli Independence Day.) It is the wisdom of commemorating the most solemn day of the year, Yom Kippur, and a few days later celebrating Sukkot, known as the Time of Our Joy. All of these rituals give us the opportunity to practice the delicate balancing act of a healthy emotional life.

The results are extraordinary. For example, I have to believe that the spirit of these practices are being expressed by protesters on the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem who passionately cry out on behalf of democracy and against the current government while proudly singing the Hatikvah and waving Israeli flags. Where did they learn to juggle such contrary-seeming ideas? It is in their Jewish lineage from the conflicted faith of Abraham (committed to God despite longing for an heir who has not come) to the speech of Moses we are currently reading in Re’eh.

Not only is Moses conflicted – preparing the people for their eventual settlement in the Promised Land that he will never enter himself, but what about the people? How must they feel, listening to their savior, their prophet, their teacher, their protector giving them final instructions before he leaves them. Sad? Fearful? Resentful? And at the same time they are about to enter the Promised Land themselves, fulfilling the promise God made to their ancestors generations earlier. They must be excited, eager, and anxious to get started on this next step. As they say, every ending is a new beginning – the end to be celebrated and mourned, the beginning to be cherished and feared.

It is a lesson I am trying to embrace as the summer draws to a close (Rosh Chodesh Elul is a week from today which means Rosh HaShanah is weeks away) and a new year is about to begin. This new year will bring with it my oldest starting college – I am excited to drop him off at college this week, and sad that he won’t be here with the rest of us next year. This year to come may bring the anguish of more difficult news from Israel, the land I love, and more reasons to visit and support those I love there. This year will bring with it triumphs and tragedies, new friendships and losing loved ones, pleasure and pain.

Through it all, may we harness the wisdom of our faith, carrying all of it at once and living in the beauty of the balance. And when the load becomes too heavy or awkward to hold up ourselves, may we lend each other the support we need.

See you in shul,

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