Monday, April 27, 2009

Jewish Survival

היום שמונה עשר יומים שהם שני שבועות וארבעה יומים לעמר
Today is the eighteenth day of the omer - two weeks and four days

נצך שבתפרת
A day of endurance in a week of compassion

Each morning service at Beth Sholom, weekdays and Shabbat, we recite the Prayer for the State of Israel that is in our Sim Shalom prayerbook. It is a prayer for support of the land, the country of Israel. But when I heard the announcement of the prayer yesterday morning, I heard a different meaning. To me those words meant we need to pray for the state of Yisrael, pray for the state of the Jewish people, not just the real estate.

Today is omer day חי (chai), the letters of the Hebrew word for life that add up to eighteen. That the Jewish people still live, exist, through the thousands of years since Abraham & Sarah is a major miracle, especially when you consider how many of those years were spent in persecution with many trying to rid the Jews from this earth. Much of that survival can be attributed to the strong place the religion and it's rituals had in how Jews lived their lives--both among their people and in the world at large.

That last sentence was written in the past tense. Religion in the 21st Century has lost its place in people's lives. It is seen by many as something that separates rather than integrates. But that doesn't have to be. Religion is not about blind acceptance to think a certain way or do something because that's what we do. It's about looking to find our way in this world--both spiritually and sociologically. It's about studying the texts of the wise ones before us---from the ancients to those who have commented through the centuries. For the lessons are there for us to learn--we need to figure out how to absorb them, and pass them on to those who come after us.

One thing I have always been awed by is how the Torah has spoken to every generation through the years. Rabbi Arthur Green once said that the beauty of the Torah is that each generation leaves the oil from its fingertips as it passes through them. It's not easy. We must question--not take anything for granted or just accept what is there. It is this dialogue, this give and take, that we Yisraelites - we who wrestle with God - must keep doing to survive and endure.

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