Sunday, September 13, 2015

And Yet...

Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld, zt"l, said that the most hopeful phrase contains just two words -- and yet.

Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa also expresses this in his haiku:

Tsuyu no yo wa tsuyu no yo nagara sari nagara
The world of dew –
A world of dew it is indeed, 
And yet, and yet . . .”

while the world is fragile, it is the only world we have.

Last summer three teenage boys were kidnapped and murdered. Operation Defensive Shield led to the discovery of tunnels and a heinous terrorist plot.  More than 70 people, most of them young soldiers, were kill in the operation.  The sirens went off and I spent some time in the bomb shelter.  This summer has been just as emotional: a toddler and his parents were killed because of an arson attack on their house, and a 16-year-old girl died as the result of stabbing wounds inflicted by someone opposed to the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade.

And yet, this evening I am sitting outside recalling the song I sang at summer camp and thinking how it came true:

Next year we'll sit on the porch and count the birds;
Children on vacation will play tag between the house and the fields...
(Bashana Haba'ah - lyrics Ehud Manor; music Nurit Hirsch)

Elul is the time in the Jewish calendar when we reflect on the past year and hope to do better in the coming year. I try to find reading at this time of year that will inspire this goal:

Koren has published The Neuwirth Edition of Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) with translation by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks and commentary by Rabbi Marc D. Angel. One of my favorite Jewish texts, it is customarily read on the long summer afternoons between Passover and Rosh Hashanah. At this time of year, the words of Rabbi Tarfon has particularly meaningful:

The day is short, the task is great, 
the laborers are lay, the reward is much, 
and the Master insistent.

He used to say:

It is not for you to complete the task, but neither are you free to stand aside from it. 

(Ethics of the Fathers, 2:20-21)

Rabbi Tarfon's kever in the Galilee

I've been reading a lot of review books, and I have not been impressed with any of them.  Taking a break, I read an ARC I picked up at Book Expo in 2013: Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan (Dial Books for Young Readers). Though I am assuming the author is Jewish, there is no overtly Jewish content. But the story of a quirky genius who unites other quirky people into a community and a family has so many Jewish values laced through it -- kindness to others, tikkun olam, treating everyone with respect and acceptance of others, quirks and all -- that it was a perfect pre-Rosh Hashanah read. 

Shana Tova!

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