Rabbi’s Message: Jan.-Feb. 2017

An America of Freedom, Dissent, Debate, and Love

M’shaneh makom m’shaneh mazal / Change your position (literally place), change your fortune.   Talmud Bavli Mesechet Rosh HaShanah 47b

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Attributed to Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, and Mark Twain and also attributed to a number of other illustrious individuals

Hachaim v’hamavet natati l’fanecha habrachah v’haklalah uvachartah bachaim l’maan tichiyeh atah v’zarechah / I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse and choose life in order to give life to you and your progeny.   Devarim (Deuteronomy) 30:19

Times have changed
And we’ve often rewound the clock
Since the Puritans got a shock
When they landed on Plymouth Rock
If today
Any shock they should try to stem
‘Stead of landing on Plymouth Rock
Plymouth Rock would land on them
“Anything Goes” by Cole Porter


Happy New Year! We Jews have the good fortune of being able to celebrate two “New Years.” A few months ago we gathered to celebrate, pray, and dedicate ourselves to a sweet, prosperous, and blessed new year on Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah of course is part of our “Yomim Naariyim,” our “days of awe,” also known as the “High Holy Days,” which conclude with Yom Kippur. Ideally, we have used the spiritual energy generated on those days to focus on positive change in our lives, internally with our closest intimates and with our congregation and societally for the Jewish people, our country, and the State of Israel.

We have just celebrated our “secular New Year.” Most of us take this as an opportunity to have fun partying and perhaps popping the cork on a bottle of champagne as we “ring in the New Year.” For the most part, while fun, the New Year celebration is quite a frivolous exercise.

However, for most of us in our mature congregation, we notice that the number keeps getting larger—it’s now 2017! We can reflect on many New Years that we have ushered in and can reflect on the changes that have occurred across the span of our lifetimes. In Cole Porter’s heyday of the 1920s and ’30s, many people were shocked by the changes taking place in society at that time. And people still are shocked by changes taking place in the world today. We can also observe that some things seem to remain constant. One thing that most obviously stands out is that every era struggles with the changes that inevitably emerge throughout time.

 Often it seems to me, many struggle to apply the same old ideas and solutions to new issues that emerge. However, sometimes these new issues are actually seemingly perpetual issues that reemerge, having simply taken on a new guise that reflects changes in the style and vocabulary of the time.

Throughout the span of history and surely even in prehistoric times, human beings have dealt with war, oppression, poverty, and issues of personal liberty and religious freedom. We are blessed to live in the USA, perhaps the freest and most open society to ever exist on our planet. We all have an opportunity to contribute to the solutions to the issues of today. We have the ability to choose life and blessing. In doing so we need not always replicate the tired and failed solutions of the past, and we can recognize that today’s issues perhaps really aren’t so different from other challenges we have faced. We can recall solutions that have been tried and tried again without success. So why not try some new approaches to these issues.

I need not mention all the main issues here. I’m sure we are all well aware of them. I’ll just bless us all to open our eyes to new solutions and that we don’t fulfill the definition of insanity I quoted at the top of this article. Instead just have an insanely wonderful year!

B’Shalom, Wishing us all a Happy 2017,