Shabbat message, Friday, January 17th, 2014

Shalom Shaarei Kodesh,

We just observed the holiday of Tu BeShvat (the 15th of Shevat) which is commonly known as the birthday of the trees and one of our four New Year’s celebration in our tradition (Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 1:1).  I had the pleasure of being a part of our Tu BeShvat Seder at our Ruth and Lewis Davis Religious School, and as I sat there, amongst our children, and after hearing the news of two new babies in our congregation, I thought about the beauty of our tradition, and the rebirth that happens every year.  In recent times, Tu BeShvat has become a holiday that connects the Jewish people to the land of Israel.  In Israel, around this time, the majority of the winter season’s rainfall has already fallen, and the fruit trees begin to blossom.  It is a literal vision of continuity, one season to another, one generation to another.  As I thought about Israel, I could not help but be reminded of the loss of Ariel Sharon, the former Prime Minister and one of the greatest military commanders in Israel’s history (click here to read a statement on the passing of Ariel Sharon from the Rabbinical Assembly).  When I heard the news about Sharon’s passing, I immediately thought back to one of the years I spent living in Israel, 2002-2003, during the height of the second Intifada.  Ariel Sharon was the Prime Minister at the time, and he governed a country in fear of their lives wherever they went due to the weekly (sometimes daily) suicide bombings in buses, restaurants, nightclubs, and other places that all of us deem as safe and 'normal'.  During those years, and in years passed, he played the role of protector for our state.  He was the last of his generation, those who fought for Israel’s independence, to be the Prime Minister.  He was a complicated figure, but no one, even his most vociferous detractors, could doubt the love he had for our people.  He had the courage both to go to war, and to make difficult compromises for peace. 

I read his auto-biography, aptly titled, Warrior, during that difficult year living in Israel (2002-2003).  In his book, he writes about the great love he has for our people.  He writes about how fortunate we are to be born into the most dramatic period of 3,800 years of Jewish history, and that living during this period comes with tremendous responsibility for our future.  He did not mince words in his book, and often times, the challenges he outlines that Israel will face in the future seem insurmountable, but he ended with words of optimism:  “We are, after all, a people with almost 4,000 years of history linking one generation to the next, a people who despite everything have been able to overcome whatever was inflicted on us both by our enemies and by ourselves.  It is the business of our generation to summon up that same genius and insure that our link in this ancient chain remains unbroken.  We understand that clearly, all of us do.  We also know that in the face of a mountain of problems, our parents and we ourselves have managed the most remarkable achievements.  So when I consider how hard it looks now, I think back to when I was a child, working with my father on that arid slope of land (in pre-1948 Israel), walking behind him to plant the seeds in the earth he had turned with his hoe.  When I felt too exhausted to go on, he would stop for a moment to look backwards, to see how much we had already done.  And that would always give me heart for what remained.”  

Yehi Zichroh Baruch - May Ariel Sharon’s name be a blessing for us all.
Rabbi David Baum


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