This week I was fortunate to attend a lecture at Yale on Grace and Gratitude. The lecture was held at Yale divinity and was incredibly informative and interesting. However, it was also very theologically Christian. I left thinking of the word grace in Hebrew, Chen, and what grace means from a Jewish perspective. I found the following article online to be very helpful: http://ancient-hebrew.org/emagazine/058.html#biblicalword.
John Wooden, the basketball coach of the UCLA Bruins in the 60's, used to say that he never tried to rile his players up before a game. He always wanted them to be even keel. He believed that if you were riled up that eventually you would have an equal and opposite crash. For every high emotionally there is an equal and opposite low emotional reaction. Therefore he taught his players to aspire to have an even head emotionally.
Moses received the Torah from Sinai and gave it over to Joshua. Joshua gave it over to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets gave it over to the Men of the Great Assembly. They [the Men of the Great Assembly] would always say these three things: Be cautious in judgement. Establish many pupils. And make a safety fence around the Torah.
The shofar is a fascinating ritual object. It is a throwback to a different time. A time when rams horns were used for communication. Some blows from the rams horn would signify the start of something, other blast would signal warning of some impending danger. However, today that sound serves a very different purpose. Today the sound of the shofar serves as a way to bridge the gap between us and "the other".
The fact that we celebrate holydays by the Hebrew calendar is an interesting phenomena. By connecting ourselves to two different methods of keeping time, it makes our relationship with time very unique. Our two different timetables send a message that our bodies operate on the American/Gregorian calendar, however, our souls operate in a different sphere of time. A sphere of time that is captured through our connection to a calendar that is not our daily one.
We all remember the saying when we were little that sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me. I would like to offer an amendment to that phrase. I offer that we should change the but to an and.
As many of our younger congregant's head back to school I am reminded of a favorite teaching of mine about the different types of learners. This teaching comes from Pirkei Avot a collection of Jewish wisdom compiled by the first Rabbis between the first century BCE and 200 CE:
Last Sunday night a rally was held in front of town hall. It was a rally against racism and in support of Charlottesville. About 40 people were there with signs including children. As drivers passed by, they honked in support. All except for one car that yelled something undiscernible out the window. While the words could not be made out the tone was angry and hostile. It temporarily shattered the holy space that had been created. After a moment, the group returned to singing and cars honked more support.
Dear Temple Beth David community,
The recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past week-end where white nationalists spewed their hatred are both tragic and deeply disturbing. Both my parents and grandparents are natives of Virginia, and members of my family are graduates of UVA. These events therefore touch my life in a very personal way.