Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Tu Bishvat Sameach

Shalom and Tu Bishvat sameach (happy Tu Bishvat). Today as we celebrate the biblical New Year of the trees and plants may we have an awareness of the majestic beauty of nature and may we participate in our partnership with G-d to maintain it.

Here are some informational sites about Tu Bishvat:
My Jewish Learning
URJ on Tu Bishvat
USY Program on Tu Bishvat

Go and Learn!

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Powerful saying on Truth

Thanks to The Fourth Rabbi for the following quotation from Nachman of Bratslav.

To be a person of truth, be swayed neither by approval nor disapproval. Work at not needing approval from anyone and you will be free to be who you really are.

-- Reb Nachman of Bratslav

Belated Greeting

A very belated Eid Mubarak to all my Muslim friends and readers!

Monday, January 17, 2005

On the Life and Legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In celebration and remembrance of Dr. King's life and work, I participated in the local commemoration of his birthday. I humbly share with you an excerpt of my brief welcoming remarks.

Dr. King shared his message of hope, faith and non-violence with all who would listen. Over forty years ago, long into his mission, he challenged our country to participate in his dream of a society open, available and free for all – regardless of skin color, national origin, socio-economic status or religion. We gather today as religious people to celebrate, to learn and to challenge our own response to King’s message – especially his message of non-violence. We are here to say to each other, to say to ourselves and to the broader community that we, a community of diversity, embrace The Rev. Dr. King’s message and through faith and hope we continue his work of non-violence.

Nearly 40 years ago many people marched with Dr. King from Selma to Montogomery Alabama. The march included leaders of the Civil Rights movement – Dr. King, Ralph Bunche, Ralph Abernathy and a Rabbi by the name of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. I’m told that Rabbi Heschel was called “Father Abraham” by Dr. King and his other friends in the movement. "Father Abraham" shared many views with King. Heschel joined the throngs on the Selma march and spent some of the time arm-in-arm with King. In his diary "Father Abraham" wrote, “I felt a sense of the Holy in what I was doing, during the march our legs uttered songs. Even without words, our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying.”

Let our presence, our words and our actions here tonight contain a similar sense of the holy and may we feel that our bodies, hearts and minds are praying as we continue the work and mission of King’s life.

Weekly Torah Portion - Beshalach

This week is Shabbat Shirah, the sabbath during which we read/sing the Song at the Sea. The crossing of the Reed Sea (which some call the Red Sea or Yam Soof) is a climatic moment for our people and represents G-d's care for the Jewish people. Yet, this climatic moment does not solve the Israelites problems. This is mearly the next stage in their journey.

Today, some 3400 years later, we too face obstilces and challenges in our lives. One place where some problems may be manifest is in our work life. This week's Torah portion commentary looks at Judaism, ethics and work life. Ranon Cortell examines this balance in All Work and No Pray as published by Torah From Dixie.

As we enter our place of work, we must remember that, as part of our mission on this earth, we must bring holiness and the ways of Hashem to our most mundane and physical tasks.

This shabbat, as we sing the Song at the Sea, may we feel the joys of freedom and gain strength from our ancestor's ability to purseveer in difficult times. Perhaps then we can find G-d's Presence in all our activities.

Go and learn!

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Rabbis & Imams Praying Together

Wonderful, hopeful news out of Brussels in Sunday's Ha'aretz. On Wednesday, Rabbis and Imams prayed together (following a moment of silence) for the tsunami victims. The participants spoke of the spontaneity, joy and camaraderie of doing so. Read all about it in the article.

Also hopeful is the fact that the rabbis and imams had been together to seek means of greater involvement for religion in quietening the bloody Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

May these efforts in peace, coexistence and understanding continue and grow.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Some thoughts on Sunday's Palestinian Authority Elections

Sunday will be election day in the Palestinian areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Palestinians will elect a new President to replace Arafat. There are many predictions, pronouncements, warnings and hopeful statements on the web and in the media. I do not intend to duplicate any of them nor even summarize them. Rather, I share with you some signs and evidence of work already happening on the ground to continue to nurture co-existence and peace.

All Nations Cafe, has been engaging in coexistence for some time now. Take a look at the beautiful
pictures on their website of some of their activites. (Who are they, their information page includes the statement, "We believe that people can live in peace if they get to know each other, through sharing food, having an open conversation, through celebrating and through working together."

According to the Jerusalem Report, the Israeli Army may not re-enter Palestinian areas after the election.

Leslie Susser of the Jerusalem Report details some of the mechanism of the election,
The January 9 election will be monitored by about 250 international observers. Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter will head a 90-member supervising committee. The election will be conducted according to the 1996 model, in which East Jerusalem Palestinians voted at post offices, rather than at regular polling booths. Israel did not want to deny East Jerusalemites the right to vote, but at the same time did not want the fact of their having voted to imply anything about the territorial status of disputed East Jerusalem. The dilemma was resolved by having them cast what could be regarded as a postal vote. The same procedure will be followed this time too.

I have hope which I pray will not be dimmed by terror or extremism on any side that Sunday will be a step toward democracy and peace for the Palestinians.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Israeli Company Donates Tsunami Warning Systems

This morning's news from Israel includes a great statement about generosity, hope and help above profit. Meir Gitelis of Avtipus Patents and Inventions Ltd. is giving away - for free - tsunami alert systems to countries in South East Asia affected by the devastating earthquake and tsunamis. What a moment of pride. I learned of this from an article in Ha'aretz. Here is an excerpt,

An Israeli company said on Monday it planned to distribute free to Asian countries hit by last week's tsunami a device it says could save lives by warning holiday-makers directly that a tidal wave is coming.
The system developed by Israeli inventor Meir Gitelis uses land and water sensors, smaller than a shoe box and each costing $170, to measure seismic activity and wave motion.

Like other systems already in operation, the sensors can send alerts in seconds by satellite to governments anywhere in the world. Unlike others, this system can also relay warnings directly to private subscribers over cell phones, pagers or dedicated receivers, spreading the message more widely.

Seaside hotels could install a satellite receiver to pick up warnings broadcast over the system seconds after an earthquake that could cause giant waves. Local cell phone or pager networks could do the same and send SMS messages to their subscribers....."We're not doing this to make money," Gitelis said. "He want to help people. We plan to give our product to poor countries for free and we will not charge the countries that were affected by the disaster in Asia."

Read the rest of the article here.

May this act of generosity inspire others.