Aug 10, 2011

Va'etchanan 5771: "Jewish Riverdance?"

Va'etchanan 5771: "Jewish Riverdance?"
(C) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

In honor of Camp Ramah Ojai

I can't help but begin a reflection on Parashat Va'etchanan with this question: what would Moses, who begs in our week's Torah Portion to see the Israelite dream realized, make of today's Jews? 

I write these words while witnessing hundreds of joyful Jewish role models and American and Israeli staff dance and sing in a happy kind of semi-chaos of line-dances and laughter.  But while the dance steps might be called out in Hebrew, and the lyrics might be Hebrew, the melodies are Turkish, Rap, and Celtic, and the content varies between mentions of the signs of the zodiac and universal themes of love, longing, and peace. 

Would Moses have been satisfied by Jews enjoying a 'Hebrew Mighty Rumpus,' more defined by exuberance than any particular message, or would he have demanded pervasive Jewish content of every Jewish experience?  And furthermore, need today's dreams line up with Moses' to be authentically Jewish? 

But despite these questions in my heart, and despite the profounding implications involved in any conversation regarding the definition of 'Jewish Culture,' I witness the frenetic energy being happily expended by the young and less-young Jews around me, and I weep.  I sob looking at these silly happy Jewish people around me.  Somehow, despite my own few years, I feel my soul bridge an expanse of centuries and millenia, overwhelmed with relief and gratitude that we are still here, that our People can sing and dance and rap and riverdance and ask self-reflective cultural questions.  I am somehow seeing tonight's celebration as a Jewish survivor who never thought this could be real.  One day after ritual memory of Jerusalem's destructions washed over us all for Tisha Be'av, and tonight Jews break free of fear and dance.  Words cannot express my heart's gratitude to feel this way.

So, while Moses might be confused if he showed up tonight at Camp Ramah Ojai, i believe he'd also be comforted to know a dream birthed by his life's work was alive - and so inspiring to share. 

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Rabbi Menachem Creditor
netivotshalom.org ::  menachemcreditor.org

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