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August 22, 2023 -5 Elul 5783

08/21/2023 03:28:34 PM


The heat of summer continues to bring surprises and upsets. As I scan news reports, watch televised reports, and listen to radio news, there is much turmoil boiling now or just below the surface. It makes for ‘interesting times’ on one hand. It can also lead to distress, feelings of disempowerment, and that classic of Jewish existence, alienation.

My great concern might be idiosyncratic. My viewpoint might be described as cosmopolitan. I am concerned about what happens in Israel, curious about daily life in Europe, emotionally connected to South Africa, and, of course, have a deepening interest in Tarrant County —DFW—if you will. The world of long distances and isolation of events, a world I recall from my youth, before jet travel and mass tourism, has been eclipsed by instant communication and constant communication. Social Media like Facebook or X (Twitter) are like steroids, making all users into instant pundits, and creating droves of aspirational influencers.

The role such influencers play can be highly beneficial. In the early years of social media, a dozen years ago, I sought to use it to bring light, expand knowledge and share true information; not all users appear to be equally altruistic. Over the years, my interest turned away from such broadcast statements, though I have maintained a small list to whom I address a circular letter most Fridays, anticipating Shabbat.

There is meaning in maintaining contact despite our fast-paced and often unpredictable lives. Friends of long standing who live far from me, family spread across the US, and different approaches to Judaism and Jewish life abound, even among that small number of addressees I have built up over many years.

During the depths of Covid-19, when travel became impossible, my siblings and our adult children began a monthly teleconference—bringing us closer than in many decades. Now in our 8th and 9th decades of life, our children raising families that include adults as well as multiple children still in school, it has been a real gain despite the pandemic. I suspect we are not unique in either our dispersion or our gratification at watching children succeed and grandchildren grow.

If you find yourself surrounded by negativity, by the rumblings of antisemitism and the constant stress of violence, deceit, and social antagonism, escaping from the painful past of disappointment, rush to judgment, and inappropriate attempts to direct the lives of others — especially adults— drive us through these weeks leading to the Days of Awe, Days of Repentance and Season of Atonement. 

If ever there is a time to examine the ‘broken places’, the deep hurt and unfinished business of our lives, it is clearly seasonal during this Hebrew month of Elul. I take it as an act of faith: the grudges we hold, the anger we will not let go of, impede our growth and maturation. 

Tradition takes a bleak though ultimately correct view: we are each here for a brief stay. Our end of days on earth will come. Some fear death, while others might go so far as to welcome it. Torah teaches us to choose life. Make that choice easier for yourself. Live not in fear, but with courage and humility. As the holy day prayer teaches:

Tefilah , teshuvah vetsedakah ma’avirin et ro’a ha-gezerah— 

Prayer, repentance and righteous deeds avert the harsh decree.

I don’t expect to see a physical Book of Life opened, nor a directory of all names published. Living without anger, standing with dignity, and offering acceptance to others add value and meaning to every day of our lives.


L’chaim—to life!

Mon, October 2 2023 17 Tishrei 5784