The Jewish people love to share stories, as memory is a central Jewish value. We cannot forget what has happened to us because we must share it with future generations. The past is one of our best learning tools.
Related Blog Posts on Jewish Values, Death and Mourning, and Aging
Third-year Hebrew Union College-NYC student Jesse Epstein hopes to make Judaism more accessible, meaningful, and relevant for today’s Jewish community – through beer. He recently became the owner of Shmaltz Brewing Company, a beer-brewing brand aimed at providing community members with a mode and environment for consumption steeped in Jewish ethics, text, and tradition.
This time of year, we hear again and again about how much emphasis Judaism places on the nuances of how to address harm of all kinds. I am convinced that the steps of repentance and repair outlined by the medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides make sense not only in our individual lives when we harm our coworkers, friends, family, and intimate partners, but also in reference to the communal, cultural, and national levels.
Judaism encourages us to awaken each day with thoughts of gratitude. I recite the Modeh Ani each day to thank the Divine for returning my soul. I was recently asked where our soul goes while we sleep. This poem is my response.
Tishah B'Av is a day of mourning, commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples. In recent years, it's also a day to mourn other tragedies that have darkened Jewish history - the Romans putting down the Bar Kochba revolt, mass murders of Jewish communities during the Crusades, expulsions from England, France, and Spain in the Middle Ages, and the Holocaust.
We have lost one of the G'dolay ha'dor, one of the rabbinic giants of our time. Rabbi Dow Marmur's life reflected the triumphs and tragedy of 20th Century Jewish life, beginning in Poland on the eve of the Shoah to his last days in the State of Israel. He was truly brilliant, incisive, and witty, with unshakable integrity.
On Tu Bishvat we celebrated trees and a season of new growth. I've been doing lots of thinking about trees, as I frequently do, and the role they play in providing oxygen for the planet. At the Union of Reform Judaism, we provide oxygen to our communities by creating compassionate spaces for our participants to grow and thrive. We can respond to current and future challenges by fostering resilience that reflect our Jewish values.
As I thought about what would be involved if we did our own Tu BiShvat seder, it seemed interesting and fun. Tasting lots of fruits? Marking a time to appreciate, mindfully and respectfully, trees and the earth? Drinking wines and grape juices? Yes, please.
New Year's Day and the traditional resolutions that accompany it invite us to take stock of our lives. Are we living our lives to the fullest? Can we imagine a future in which the commitments we make for ourselves (e.g., healthier habits around eating and exercise) actually come true? What will it take this year to really change?
From Covid and climate change to the erosion of democratic norms and the decline of a shared sense of truth (and the list could go on), two things are clear. First, are we living in an age that tests our ability to sustain hope. Second, if despair dominates hope, we will be unable to meet the challenges that beset us.