Oct 29, 2011

note: This post is the first in a new project: a series of reflections on the Nefesh HaChayim by Rabbi Chayim of Volozhin. I will not be posting these reflections to other lists (including TheTisch and Shefa), and invite you to subscribe to this email list by sending a blank email to rcNefeshHaChayimlist-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.  This will not be a comprehensive translation, but rather reflections on excerpts of a powerful Jewish text written by a passionate Jewish leader. 
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Nefesh HaChayim 1:1 - Language and Meaning
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Nefesh HaChayim (1:1): In the Torah, it is written "And God (Elohim) created the human, in the image of God (Elohim) did God create the human (Gen. 1:27)" and similarly it is written "for in the image of God (Elohim) was the human created. (Gen. 9:6)"  Here is the deepest, innermost, meaning of the concept of image ('tzelem'). ...The words 'tzelem/image' and 'demut/likeness' are not to be understood literally, for it is written explicitly in Isaiah "And what likeness (demut) could we possibly render unto God? (Is. 40:18)" Rather the interpretation should be an imaginative connection to some other thing, similar to the way we read the verse "I compare you to a desert pelican (Ps. 102:7)" – it's not like that person suddenly grew wings and a beak and transformed into a pelican! It indicates that a person, drifting this way and that, resembled a characteristic of a desert pelican, a lonely bird that flits from place to place.  This has been the close reading of earlier commentators such as Maimonides, and in this way we can approach the term 'tzelem/image', for the implications are similar.

Comment: Rabbi Chayim is an early post-modern reader, suggesting the importance of seeing beyond what a text seems to mean and exploring  what might be understood when read with an eye to a text's subtler implications.1 But while metaphors are designed to connect text and reader, they also depend on context, inherently different for every person, every place, every time. When Reb Chayim interprets a biblical word as a metaphor, he both clarifies and complicates.  On the one hand, it is important to assert that Modern Judaism rejects a corporeal God.2  On the other hand, by suggesting that a word in the Torah can only be understood as a metaphor, Rabbi Chayim opens up a can of worms (another imperfect metaphor!).  If one word of the Torah can only be understood metaphorically, who is to say that another cannot be?  If the literal reading of biblical text is not appropriate in this case and if metaphors are contextually dependent, can there be such a thing as a textual truth that spans generational, geographic, and personal divides?  What does Torah mean?

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1) Jacques Derrida's "Writing and Difference" (1967) points masterfully to the complicated implications of language, and to the importance of meaning.
2) For a cogent argument that the God of the Hebrew Bible has a body, see "The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel" (2009) by JTS Professor Benjamin Sommer.  But the biblical notion of God is not the same as Maimonides' notion of God, nor is Rabbi Chayim's notion the same as Maimonides'.  While doctrine is not a component of Judaism, Modern Judaism does not include the notion that God has a body.


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Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom  || Bay Area Masorti ||  ShefaNetwork 
Rabbis for Women of the Wall  ||  menachemcreditor.org 
To join Rabbi Creditor's email list, send a blank email to thetisch-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

Winter Update from NorCal Ramah


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Camp Ramah in California
Northern California Initiative
October 2011
Tishrei 5772  

L'shanah tovah!

 

A new year has begun, and our efforts to bring Camp Ramah to Northern California have been reenergized, not so much by the new year itself, but by the NorCal board meeting we had over the summer. "Big deal," you might say. But it was a big deal, because we met at Camp Ramah in Ojai. We arrived on Visitors' Day in time to see campers and their families enjoying the beautiful afternoon on "the hill." At the conclusion of these festivities, our board spent the evening meeting with a variety of camp luminaries:

  • Rabbi Joe Menashe, Camp Ramah's Executive Director;
  • Ilana Meskin, the Board President;
  • Rabbi Mitch Cohen, Director of the National Ramah commission; and
  • Julia Riseman, our newMentor/Consultant from the Grinspoon Institute for Jewish Philanthropy (a Program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation).

Each of these individuals played important roles and provided unique perspectives throughout our meetings. As our consultant and mentor, Julia facilitated our meetings and moved us through an introspective process on our desire to make Camp Ramah NorCal a reality.

On our full camp day together, we had the opportunity to see camp in action, from tefillah to meals to preparing for Maccabi games. Our meetings continued with Julia at the helm, and we had more guests join us to share their wisdom and perspective, including Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, Chair of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at American Jewish University in Los Angeles, who discussed with us the importance of the connection between AJU and our camp. Our final guest of the day was none other than Rabbi Daniel Greyber, former Executive Director of Camp Ramah in California, who made a brief appearance while in the Ojai area for a couple of days. (Under Rabbi Dan's leadership, the movement to bring Camp Ramah to Northern California was reinvigorated and swelled to its current energy level.) By the end of our 24 hours together, Julia had helped us identify some key goals for the near future and was eager to continue her work with us as we move forward.

 

nor cal board meeting summer 2011
Rabbi Mitch Cohen, National Ramah Director & Members of our Northern CA Board

nor cal board with rabbi artson summer 2011
Rabbi Brad Artson, Dean of the Ziegler School, and members of our Northern CA Board
 

And forward we move. We are continually looking at sites to call "home," but despite looking at a number of sites so far, nothing has fit the bill yet. Given this, we have decided to widen our search and are now looking at sites slightly beyond the original circle we drew around San Francisco Airport. Not so far, however, that we will not be able to drive there in two to three hours to enjoy the space, the weather, and the surroundings. To be clear, the need for a camp of the Ramah brand has never been more apparent, including the following reasons:

  • Jewish day schools are thriving and our communities are searching for ways to keep these children engaged year-round;
  • The Jewish community continues to grow in Northern California, bringing new families to the area and motivating existing families to get more involved; and
  • The number of children from Northern California attending camp in Ojai has steadily grown in recent years from 120 campers to 166 campers. This represents approximately 13% percent of the total camp population.

Without a local Camp Ramah site, this tremendous growth in Northern California children travelling to Southern California to attend camp is expected to increase further going forward.   While we realize that many of these campers will continue to spend their summers in Ojai to maintain the friendships formed there, we hope to catch the younger campers and their siblings when Camp Ramah NorCal opens.

 

Since Ellen Bob left us as our Director of Community Development for Camp Ramah in Northern California, we have spent a number of months relying on our board members to be the face of Ramah NorCal in the Bay Area. While each of us has stepped up to the plate to take on various responsibilities, we have decided that it would be beneficial to our efforts to hire another Director of Community Development. A job announcement has circulated through various channels, and is attached for your information. Please feel free to pass along the announcement to anyone whom you think will be a good fit for our organization. We look forward to finding someone with our energy and passion to help us move our mission forward.

 

If you are intrigued by what you are hearing about Camp Ramah and would like to get more involved, or if you would like more information, please contact Randy Michaels at the Camp Ramah in California office at randy@ramah.org. We would love to hear from you!

 

Again, we wish you a Shanah Tovah, a sweet and happy new year! May this year bring us closer to the realization of our dream of Camp Ramah in Northern California.

 

Oct 25, 2011

Upcoming CNS Speakers and Programs!!



Events & Speakers at CNS!

November 10, 7pm
Race, Jews and Power: A conversation with David Mamet 

In connection with West Coast premiere of Mamet's Play "Race," at American Conservatory Theatre, and hosted by CNS! Pulitzer Prize-winning  playwright, essayist, screenwriter and film director David Mamet, engages in conversation with Dan Schifrin, writer-in-residence of the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Copies of Mamet's "The Wicked Son" and "Five Cities of Refuge" will be available for purchase and signing after the conversation.

November 17, 7:30pm
Jay Michaelson, Author of "God vs. Gay" 

Jay Michaelson is a writer, scholar, and activist whose work addresses the intersections of religion, sexuality, spirituality, and law.  His newest book is God vs. Gay?  The Religious Case for Equality, will be published in October, 2011, by Beacon Press.  Jay is is the author of three other books and over 200 articles, essays, and works of fiction.  He is the Associate Editor of Religion Dispatches, a Contributing Editor to the Forward newspaper, and Founding Editor of Zeek magazine.  His work on behalf of sexual minorities in religious communities has been featured in the New York Times, CNN, and NPR, as well as several anthologies. - FREE EVENT, Books available for signing and purchase

November 19, 8pm
"Love & Taxes" on Stage & Screen with Josh Kornbluth

The inimitable Josh Kornbluth (credits include Haiku Tunnel, Red Diaper Baby, Love and Taxes, Ben Franklin Unplugged, Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews?, The Josh Kornbluth Show) will entertain, inspire, and thoroughly delight you. Josh and his brother Jake have just completed a new film, Love and Taxes, based on Josh's highly successful solo performance piece of the same name. The film is expected to be released--when else?--on Tax Day, April 15, 2012. But, as a benefit for Netivot Shalom, Josh will perform excerpts from Love and Taxes, and then he will tell us about how the theatre piece transformed into a film--including sneak previews of excerpts from the finished work.  

November 20, 10:30am
"Jewish Mysticism & the Spiritual Life" with Rabbi Or Rose 

Over the last two decades or so, increasing numbers of Jewish and non-Jewish seekers in the United Sates and elsewhere have turned to the teachings of Kabbalah and Hasidism in their spiritual journeys.  What are some of the core teachings of these mystical traditions?  What has attracted people to them? And what might we glean from our Kabbalistic and Hasidic forebears?  Our discussion will include the study of several primary textual sources (provided in the original and in translation), and an open discussion of the possibilities and challenges of engaging these sources in our contemporary cultural contexts. The author or editor of several books and articles on Jewish spirituality, social and environmental justice, and interfaith cooperation, he recently co-edited Jewish Mysticism and the Spiritual Life: Classical Texts, Contemporary Reflections.  Rabbi Rose is a member of the Shalom Hartman Institute's North American Scholars Circle, and serves on the editorial committee of Sh'ma: A Journal of Jewish Responsibility. - FREE EVENT, Books available for signing and purchase

 

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and don't miss...

December 4, 10am: a special brunch to celebrate the Publication of Netivot: Paths of Torah, a professionally-published collection of 20 years of CNS Drashot, edited by Peter Strauss and Judith McCullough, with contributions from over 50 shul members, a foreword by Rabbi Kelman, and an introduction by Rabbi Creditor.

 

December 10, 8pm: Release concert of Rabbi Creditor's new CD "Within" 

This new album, Rabbi Creditor's first solo musical creation, is a collaborative shul project featuring original compositions and the debut recording of "V'asu", a song composed by Debbie Friedman z"l upon the dedication of the physical home for Netivot Shalom on University Avenue 6 years ago.

 

February 11, 7:30pm: Anat Hoffman, Chairperson of Women of the Wall Anat Hoffman is the chairwoman of Women of the Wall. She is the executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the legal and advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel. Previously she held a seat on the Jerusalem City Council, where for fourteen years she stood in opposition to the policies of the city's right-wing and ultra-Orthodox administration. She has dedicated her adult life to the Jewish principle of tikkun olam, which literally means repairing the world.

 

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Huffpost: "Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson: The Morality of Redeeming Captives: Gilad Shalit and the Talmud"

Huffpost: "Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson: The Morality of Redeeming Captives: Gilad Shalit and the Talmud"
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-bradley-shavit-artson/talmud-and-gilad-shalit-redeeming-captives_b_1027552.html

On Oct. 11, Israel's government made international headlines when it agreed to release more than 1,000 violent prisoners to obtain the release of Sergeant Gilad Shalit, who had been kidnapped and held hostage by Hamas for more than 5 years (without any of the rights granted under the Geneva Convention for a captured soldier). His release was a cause for relief and joy throughout Israel, Jewish communities around the world, and for those moved by the humanitarian concerns of his family and friends.

But simple joy at a young soldier's release is not the only emotion friends of democracy in the Middle East feel today. Along with pent-up relief comes a sense of foreboding -- that such a disproportionate exchange may be seen as a reward to Hamas violence, encouraging the terrorists within Hamas to yet another spasm of kidnapping and murder. Indeed, the Hamas leadership wasted no time in noting that the exchange was a victory for violent obstruction, the head of the military wing of Hamas, Ahmed Jabari, promised more kidnappings, and crowds in Gaza chanted, "The people want a new Gilad!" encouraging Hamas to seize more Israeli soldiers.

In the American press -- general and Jewish -- journalists have noted that the noble impulse to redeem Gilad Shalit was in part an expression of the ancient Jewish virtue of pidyon shivuyim, redeeming the captive. This mitzvah is regarded as among the greatest of the commandments, whose timely implementation remains a supreme religious obligation. With an abundant display of pithy quotations, scholars, rabbis and bloggers have rushed to treat this redemption as the simple fulfillment of an unambiguous religious imperative.

Beware those who assume that religion can obviate reason and make obvious the complicated. There are good reasons why statescraft requires training, courage and extensive input from diverse areas of expertise. Knowledge of religious traditions or spiritual wisdom has a valuable role to play in reminding participants of the ethical concerns and parameters for such interactions. But religion cannot erase real complexity, nor substitute for reasoned, nuanced, informed reflection.

So, let's rejoice that Gilad is home with his family. That is a real human triumph and one that all decent people should celebrate.

But there is good reason to fear that the extravagant numbers of bloodstained hands released to gain his freedom will encourage yet more rounds of attack and slaughter against innocent Israeli civilians.

Without treading where statesmen and security experts ought properly to decide, this rabbi wants to speak out in favor of recognizing life's irreducible intricacy and to the proper role of religion to help us live with that complexity. I turn to a multilayered Torah to navigate situations that won't distill to simple, self-evident (and false) policy decisions.

Take this redeeming captives, for instance. The Mishnah (ancient anthology of rabbinic sayings, laws and interpretations, around the year 250 C.E.) legislates that captives should not be redeemed for more than their value, to prevent abuses. Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel says, "to prevent the abuse of other captives."

The law, as articulated in rabbinic Judaism's founding document, is unambivalent: one does not negotiate with kidnappers. Paying more than the market value for redeeming human captives is forbidden because it leads to even greater abuse.

But the sage discussion doesn't stop with a simple rule. The Gemara (later rabbinic comments on the Mishnah) seeks the reason for the prohibition: The question was raised: Does this prevention of abuses relate to the burden which may be imposed on the community, or does it relate to the possibility that kidnappers may be motivated to act in the future?

What, in other words, is the abuse that we seek to contain? Are we concerned that paying extravagantly to redeem captives will impoverish and bankrupt entire communities? Or is our concern that pirates and terrorists will be encouraged to kidnap even larger numbers of innocent people because of the remuneration?

Come and hear: Levi ben Darga ransomed his daughter for 13,000 gold dinarii. Said Abbaye: Are you sure he acted with the consent of the Sages? Perhaps he acted against the will of the sages!

The conclusion of the talmudic tale (Gittin 45a) is where my interest lies. We know the rule: no extravagant payments to redeem captives, perhaps because it simply costs too much, perhaps because it will encourage more kidnapping. But the rule and its reasons can't be the whole story. The Talmud still needs to tell us of a father who broke the rule and spent a fortune to redeem his daughter. Perhaps there is more to consider than just the principle.

Yet even that complication isn't enough: We don't even know if Levi ben Darga broke the rule with the consent of the authorities or despite their prohibition. The Talmud doesn't resolve our uncertainty. Sometimes a father's heart can't be constrained by a law. Sometimes a people must extend themselves despite established policy.

In the end, the Talmud gives us a rule and its violation. Society requires principles, and sometimes the heart requires us to go beyond established guidelines. The wisdom of the tradition doesn't specify whether or not Gilad should be redeemed at a particular price, but it does indicate that caring human beings have wrestled with this dilemma for millennia, and that the complexities of human life reverberate through the ages.

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Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom  || Bay Area Masorti ||  ShefaNetwork 
Rabbis for Women of the Wall  ||  menachemcreditor.org 
To join Rabbi Creditor's email list, send a blank email to thetisch-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

Oct 23, 2011

Nov 10 in Berkeley: "Race, Jews and Power": A conversation with David Mamet


Race, Jews and Power: 
A conversation with David Mamet
 
Thursday, Nov. 10th, 7pm
Hosted by Congregation Netivot Shalom, Berkeley

Click here to purchase tickets!

Where:
Congregation Netivot Shalom
1316 University Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94702

Driving Directions

When:
Thursday November 10, 2011 from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM PST
Add to my calendar
 
In connection with West Coast premiere of Mamet's Play "Race," at American Conservatory Theatre, and hosted by Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley.  
 
Pulitzer Prize-winning  playwright, essayist, screenwriter and film director David Mamet, engages in conversation with Dan Schifrin, writer-in-residence of the Contemporary Jewish Museum.
 
Copies of Mamet's "The Wicked Son" and "Five Cities of Refuge" will be available for purchase and signing after the conversation. 
Click here to purchase Tickets!
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Oct 19, 2011

Race, Jews and Power: A conversation with David Mamet - Nov 10th in Berkeley

From: CNS Cultural Events
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Race, Jews and Power: 
A conversation with David Mamet
 
Thursday, Nov. 10th, 7pm
Hosted by Congregation Netivot Shalom, Berkeley

Click here to purchase tickets!

Where:
Congregation Netivot Shalom
1316 University Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94702

Driving Directions

When:
Thursday November 10, 2011 from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM PST
Add to my calendar
 
In connection with West Coast premiere of Mamet's Play "Race," at American Conservatory Theatre, and hosted by Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley.  
 
Pulitzer Prize-winning  playwright, essayist, screenwriter and film director David Mamet, engages in conversation with Dan Schifrin, writer-in-residence of the Contemporary Jewish Museum.
 
Copies of Mamet's "The Wicked Son" and "Five Cities of Refuge" will be available for purchase and signing after the conversation. 
Click here to purchase Tickets!
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Save the dates! Upcoming Events at Netivot Shalom!

Upcoming Events at Netivot Shalom!

 

November 17: Jay Michaelson, Author of "God vs. Gay" 

Jay Michaelson is a writer, scholar, and activist whose work addresses the intersections of religion, sexuality, spirituality, and law.  His newest book is God vs. Gay?  The Religious Case for Equality, will be published in October, 2011, by Beacon Press.  Jay is is the author of three other books and over 200 articles, essays, and works of fiction.  He is the Associate Editor of Religion Dispatches, a Contributing Editor to the Forward newspaper, and Founding Editor of Zeek magazine.  His work on behalf of sexual minorities in religious communities has been featured in the New York Times, CNN, and NPR, as well as several anthologies. 

November 19, 8pm: Josh Kornbluth performs "Love and Taxes" 

CNS member Josh Kornbluth is a comedic autobiographical monologuist who has written and starred in several feature films, and starred in a television interview show. Love and Taxes is one of his best-known plays about royalties Josh did not report to the IRS for years despite working for a well-known tax lawyer; explores the meaning of the tax system and necessity to pay income tax, as well as events surrounding his marriage. This special performance will feature clips from the upcoming film release of "Love and Taxes!"

December 4, 10am: a special brunch to celebrate the Publication of Netivot: Paths of Torah, a professionally-published collection of 20 years of CNS Drashot, edited by Peter Strauss and Judith McCullough, with contributions from over 50 shul members, a foreword by Rabbi Kelman, and an introduction by Rabbi Creditor.


December 10, 8pm: Release concert of Rabbi Creditor's new CD "Within" 

This new album, Rabbi Creditor's first solo musical creation, was a collaborative shul project with Cantor Jennie Chabon, Liz Creditor, Julie Batz, Rabbi Kelman, Alison Jordan, Claudia Valas, Nina Meigs, Nadine Samuels, Karen Friedman, Justin Garland, Helen Schneider, and Willa Mamet.  Featuring original compositions and the debut recording of "V'asu", a song composed by Debbie Friedman z"l upon the dedication of the physical home for Netivot Shalom on University Avenue 6 years ago.

 

February 11: Anat Hoffman, Chairperson of Women of the Wall Anat Hoffman is the chairwoman of Women of the Wall. She is the executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the legal and advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel. Previously she held a seat on the Jerusalem City Council, where for fourteen years she stood in opposition to the policies of the city's right-wing and ultra-Orthodox administration. She has dedicated her adult life to the Jewish principle of tikkun olam, which literally means repairing the world.


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Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom  || Bay Area Masorti ||  ShefaNetwork 
Rabbis for Women of the Wall  ||  menachemcreditor.org 
To join Rabbi Creditor's email list, send a blank email to thetisch-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

from SF JCHS Head Rabbi Howard Rubin: "Gilad: The Mystery of Relief and Fear"


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October 18, 2011

Gilad: The Mystery of Relief and Fear

Rabbi Howard Ruben

 

Last night as we sat in our Sukkah to welcome the sixth day of the festival, we followed the mystical tradition of welcoming 'virtual guests' from Jewish history into the Sukkah. Last night, the biblical Joseph led the guest list. Joseph is known not only for his coat of many colors, but also for being held captive and, ultimately, released and reunited with his family.

 

And last night in the Sukkah we used our smart-phones to stay virtually connected to events in Israel around the pending release of Gilad Shalit from five years of isolated captivity at the hands of Hamas. We prayed that Gilad, like the biblical Joseph, be safely released and, in time, reunited with his family.

 

And now that Gilad is free, I celebrate in my heart with his family.

 

The deal for Gilad's release has stirred up many emotions for Israelis and those who care for Israel around the world. JCHS students discussed the terms of the exchange for Gilad's release at Hakhel on Monday and a number continued the conversation through lunch afterwards. Several classes have also discussed it from a variety of perspectives - political, societal, and religious.

 

I admit to being conflicted - agreeing in my heart with those who support this deal that released Gilad from captivity and agreeing in my heart with those who opposed this deal. (My colleague Avi Weiss writes today about celebrating with a heavy heart - with a heart that celebrates with Gilad and a head that recognizes the deal is bad for Israel. Link to Weiss)

 

As I reflect on the dilemmas posed by - and addressed or exacerbated, depending on one's perspective - this deal, I was moved last night and this morning by two pairs of reflections that follow below. Both pairs include a powerful and poignant statement on different sides of the issue.

 

One pair comes from two columnists, Bradley Burston (of Ha'aretz) and Jeff Jacoby (of The Boston Globe). The other pair comes from two mothers of victims of terror, Sherri Mandell (mother of Koby Mandell, who was stoned to death at the age of 13 while hiking near his home) and Esther Wachsman (mother of Nachshon Wachsman, another Israeli soldier who was captured and died in a rescue operation).

 

The timing of Gilad's release also coincides with the reading of parashat Bereisheet that includes the conflict between Cain and Abel. The first life and death struggle in the Torah occurs when Cain kills his brother Abel.

 

God accuses Cain of murder by declaring that "the voice of your brother's blood is screaming to Me from the ground." Bereisheet 4:10. The Sages puzzle over the term for blood being in the plural. Rashi, for example, interprets the plural to mean, in effect, that in addition to Abel crying out from the ground, God also hears the voices of all the children he would have had and all of their descendants but for the murder at Cain's hand.

 

These cries are the foundation for how deeply Judaism values life.

 

So it is with Gilad: many voices have been crying out in pain over Gilad's silent captivity. Many now are crying out in pain over the prisoners with blood on their hands who have been released by Israel in exchange for Gilad. And many from both of those camps are weeping together now in fear over those who may be killed in the future by some of the prisoners released in exchange for Gilad. The weeping is for each of them and for their descendants.

 

While it is true that Judaism values life, it is not clear how to enact that value when there are competing claims on it. What is clear is that Judaism encourages humility toward valuing one life over another life. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 74b) teaches that a person is not permitted to say one person's blood is redder than another's. Yet that was precisely the dilemma that Israel faced with Gilad.  

 

My colleague Jan Uhrbach, when writing about this admonition toward humility, quotes Reb Nachman of Bratslav who taught about the inevitable mysteries we confront through life. In Reb Nachman's words, "Just as there are unanswerable questions directed to (or against) God, so, too, it is inevitable that there will be questions even the wisest of us cannot answer." The power of that mystery reveals both how precious life is and how confounding.

 

That mystery is embedded in each of us. Each of us is filled with contradictions and paradoxes. We are careful in some settings and careless in others. We are generous and stingy on the same day. We are often wise and foolish in the same week - or in the same moment. If that is true for each of us, how much more so it must be true about a community or a country.

 

This is one of those mystery moments.

 

There was no "good" deal that could have brought about Gilad's release. There was only the opportunity to choose from a number of "bad" deals. A contradiction wrapped inside a paradox.  

 

We sigh with relief and joy over the deal that brought Gilad's release even as we sigh with fear that his release may/will lead to more deaths.

 

Even as we celebrate with Gilad's family, we pray for all those whose hearts have been shattered by loss - for whom there is no release from the captivity of grief. We pray for the safety and security of all those whose lives remain (and may be even more) vulnerable now because of the deal for Gilad's release.

 

Most of all, we pray for both the wisdom and strength to endure a world filled with mystery.

 

Rabbi Howard Ruben

Bravo for these people, these Israelis

 

Israel has freed 13,509 prisoners in order to win the release of a total of 16 soldiers. An average of well over 800 for each one. But this is the price.

 

 

By Bradley Burston (Ha'aretz)

October 17, 2011

(Link to Burston) 

 

Keeping a promise can entail a terrible choice. Which is why Israelis' outpouring of support for a prisoner exchange for Gilad Shalit deserves profound admiration, even wonder.

 

In driving their leaders to accept the deal, in supporting Benjamin Netanyahu for having assented to it, Israelis by the millions are gambling their very lives, and those of their loved ones. And all just to keep a promise.

 

On the face of it, the exchange is preposterous, in some ways, borderline suicidal. On the face of it, agreeing with Hamas to the release of more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners, many of them to this day proud of having committed heinous murders of innocent people in premeditated acts of terrorism, makes little sense.

 

Israelis know that the exchange will bolster the recently flagging popularity of Hamas, in particular its more militant figures. It could seriously undermine Palestinian moderates, foster a return of large-scale terrorism, and deal a telling blow to the Palestinian Authority, in the process eroding the security of Israelis on both sides of the Green Line.

The deal to bring Gilad Shalit back to his family is painful to Israelis bereaved by terror. It is, by any measure, chillingly dangerous.

 

And it was the right thing to do. (More)   

 

 

 

 

 
 

A mother's pain

 

The writer is the mother of Koby Mandell, who was stoned to death at age 13 near his home in Tekoa in 2001.

 

By Sherri Mandell (The Jerusalem Post)

October 17, 2011

(Link to Mandell)

 

Why are we against the exchange that allows murderers to go free? Because we know the suffering that they leave in their wake.

Why is it that terror victims are seemingly the only ones against the prisoner exchange? While other Israelis are rejoicing, we are in despair.

 

Arnold and Frimet Roth circulated a petition against the release of Ahlam Tamimi, an accomplice in their daughter Malki's murder at the Sbarro pizza shop.

 

Tamimi says she is happy that many children were killed in the attack. Meir Schijveschuurder, whose family was massacred in the same attack, filed a petition with the high court and says he is going to leave Israel because of his feelings of betrayal. The parents of Yasmin Karisi feel that the state is dancing in their blood because Khalil Muhammad Abu Ulbah, who murdered their daughter and seven others by running them down with a bus at the Azor junction in 2001, is also on the list to be released. Twenty-six others were wounded in that attack.

 

Why are so many of us against the exchange that allows murderers and their accomplices to go free? Because we know the suffering that these murderers leave in their wake.

 

Yes, I want Gilad Schalit released. But not at any price. Not at the price we have experienced.

 

. . . When people tell me that my son Koby died for nothing, I always used to say: No, it is our job to make his death mean something. But now I am not sure. It seems that the government is conspiring to ensure that our loved ones' deaths were for nothing.

 

Cheapening our loved ones' deaths only enhances the pain. If Israel is willing to free our loved ones' murderers, then the rest of the world can look on and assume that the terrorists are really freedom fighters or militants. If Palestinians were murdering Jews in cold blood without justification, surely the Israeli government wouldn't release them. No sane government would. (More) 

Too steep a price for Shalit's release

 

Time and again Israel has agreed to free hundreds of violent terrorists in order to bring home one or two or three captured Israeli soldiers. And time and again it has done so knowing that many of those set free will go right back to trying to kill Jews.

 

by Jeff Jacoby (The Boston Globe)

October 18, 2011

 (Link to Jacoby)  

 

Many Israelis, and many friends of Israel in the West, think there is something to be admired in the lopsided deal that will free more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners -- including hundreds of terrorists serving life sentences for murder -- in exchange for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier abducted by Hamas in 2006 and held virtually incommunicado ever since.

 

According to an opinion poll published Monday, 79 percent of the Israeli public approves of the swap, with only 14 percent opposed. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the agreement last week, he described it as evidence that "the nation of Israel is a unique people; we are all mutually responsible for each other." In an editorial, The Wall Street Journal echoed a popular opinion when it explained Israel's willingness to pay such a steep price for Shalit's freedom as "a testament to its national and religious values, which stress the obligation to redeem captives."

 

Israel is famous for its ironclad commitment never to abandon its captured or fallen soldiers. In a country where nearly every family has loved ones in uniform, the anguish of the Shalits -- whose son was just 19 when Hamas gunmen crossed the border from Gaza and grabbed him -- was a nightmare with which all Israelis could empathize. Across Israel's often volatile political spectrum, the longing for Shalit's return was universal and heartfelt.

 

But this is not the way to bring him home.

(More)

A mother's prayers

 

The writer is the mother of Nachshon Wachsman, an IDF soldier who was kidnapped by Hamas in 1994 and killed in a rescue attempt several days later.

 

By Esther Wachsman (The Jerusalem Post)

October 17, 2011

(Link to Wachsman)

 

Somewhere in my head, Gilad Schalit became my son, Nachshon, and my feelings toward him were totally maternal.

I have been praying for Gilad Schalit's safe return for more than five years.

 

Since their arrival at the tent outside the prime minister's house, I have visited Noam and Aviva Schalit many, many times. I spoke out to the media from that tent many times as well. Somewhere in my head, Gilad Schalit became my son, Nachshon, and my feelings toward him were totally maternal. Though fear and terror for his fate existed, hope and optimism were above all.

 

At different turning points over the years, the media has remembered my son and has turned to me for statements, comparisons and opinions. I am not a politician, a diplomat or an expert on terrorism, nor am I well-versed on security or military issues. I am simply a mother, a mother who went through what no mother should have to, a mother who buried her son.

 

My world crashed to pieces on the night of October 14, 1994, the 10th day of the Hebrew month Cheshvan. Of course I coped; I did not have the "luxury" of breaking down. I had six other sons to raise, the youngest of whom were then eight-year-old twins.I could not abandon them, but I couldn't abandon the son I had lost, either. It was the very bottom, the very worst time in my life.

 

When the news broke last week that a deal had been struck for Gilad Schalit's release, my husband and I were at a wedding. At that point, all we wanted to do was to get to the tent and to embrace Noam and Aviva and to rejoice with them. I had no mixed feelings then, only relief and joy that Gilad would be coming home. A mother was to get her precious son back from hell. We cried and laughed and sang and danced, fraught with anxiety that nothing should go wrong, God forbid. (More) 

 

In addition to the pair of reflections above, for more information about the Shalit deal, please check out the materials prepared by our colleagues at the San Francisco Bureau of Jewish Education: BJE Materials on Shalit    

JCHS is grateful for generous operational, programmatic, and financial aid support from the Jewish Community Federation (JCF) of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties; The Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay; The Jim Joseph Foundation; Keren Keshet - The Rainbow Foundation; and The AVI CHAI Foundation. 
 
 

  

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