Reflections from Rabbi Waxman
Reflections from Rabbi Waxman
The Music of the New Year
The temperature is still in the 80’s; the humidity is not much lower. And the extended forecast calls for temperatures in the 80’s for another couple of weeks. This is not Rosh HaShanah weather, which in our minds needs a hint of fall in the air, although I must admit that through the window in my study at home I can see leaves changing color on a few trees. Nonetheless, summer is still in the air. (In 2021 it gets worse: Rosh HaShanah begins on a Monday evening, which turns out to be Labor Day. A double Oy!!)
There is an old Hebrew song from the days of the chalutzim, of the pioneers:
Hayamim cholefim shana overet
Aval ha-mangina tamid nisheret
Aval ha-mangina tamid nisheret
The days are changing, the year passes
But the melody/the song remains the same.
But the melody
Remains the same.
We are mindful of the passage of yet another year. Our days seemingly flit by and another year comes to an end. Where does the time go? We want to take comfort in that there are some eternal and enduring verities: the unchanging nature of the melodies/the songs.
But do the melodies really remain the same? Should they remain the same?
We come to synagogue on the High Holy Days to be inspired, to be renewed, and to be immersed in an ancient ritual with time-worn words and melodies that touch our souls. We may bow to a recognition that time has passed; that we have gotten a bit older; and perhaps it is precisely for that reason that we seek the warmth of ritual with melodies that stir deep memories.
Over the past couple of weeks, Cantor Rubinstein and I have begun reviewing the services for the high Holy Days, including the melodies that he will be using. And so I have had a taste of the familiar melodies that are comforting as we hear them year after year. Yes, there will be a few new melodies by some contemporary composers, but on the whole, we will be enwrapped by the familiar.
May I suggest you get into the mood by spending a few minutes listening/watching some Youtube videos with the music of the season
The first will take you to Shlomo Carlebach and the second will take you to a Reform congregation near San Diego. Both ways to begin to get into the mood of the holidays that begin a week from Sunday evening.
Shabbat shalom and shanah tovah.
Chadashot MeYisrael: News From Israel
Surprising Find in the City of David
This week Israeli archeologists announced the discovery of a pyramid-shaped staircase on a street in the City of David, which is located south of the Old City of Jerusalem. The structure was revealed during an excavation of an ancient roadway ascending from the Siloam Pool—in the southern part of the City of David—to the Temple Mount.
The structure which is built of enormous stone slabs was probably constructed in the 4th decade of the 1st century CE.
According to Nahshon Szanton and Joe Uziel, the archeologists who directed the excavation such a finding is unprecedented. “The structure is unique. To date such a structure has yet to be found along the stepped street in the numerous excavations that have taken place in Jerusalem, and to the best of our knowledge, outside of it.” They admit its exact use “remains enigmatic.”
“We believe the structure was a kind of monumental podium that attracted the public’s attention when walking on the city’s main street. It would be very interesting to know what was said there 2,000 years ago. Were messages announced here on behalf of the government? Perhaps news or gossip, or admonitions and street preaching? Unfortunately we do not know.”
Rabbinic sources speak of “stones” that were used for public purposes during the second Temple period. The Sifra—a commentary on Leviticus—mentions an auction block for slaves. And a passage in Bava Metzia mentions “a Stone of Claims” where lost articles were proclaimed and owners went to claim them.
Below is a picture of the stepped pyramid.
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Joe Uziel, co-director of the excavation from the Israel Antiquities Authority, sitting atop the 2,000-year-old stepped structure.
A Comment on the Weekly Torah Portion
The portion of Kee Tavoh (Deuteronomy 26:12-28:6) is read this Saturday, September 5th.
27:9 Moses and the levitical priests spoke to all Israel saying: Silence! Here, O Israel! Today you have become the people of the Lord your God.
Today you have become the people. To-day you have become a people! The common duty to, and responsibility for the Torah which has just been declared for all of you without exception, the common care of the Torah to the guard of which you have all been posted, that makes you into a nation. To-day, before you get the impending possession of the Land, the common possession of the Torah, is what makes you into a nation. You can lose the Land, as indeed you may, but the Torah and your everlasting duty it remain your everlasting,unbreakable, bond which united you as nation. This fundamental fact, deeply buried in Israel’s being, differentiates it sharply from that way all other nations have been formed, the secret of the national immortality of the Jews with all the consequences for Israel’s future which are attached it, that is what—if we understand it rightly—which is the grave moment importance of the sentence Hayom Hazeh N’he’yeat L’am [today you have become the people]…. (Samson Raphael Hirsch, The Pentateuch: Deuteronomy, translated by Isaac Levy [2nd ed.] Rabbi Hirsch was born in 1808 in Hamburg. He attended German public schools, but was privately tutored in Judaic studies. He was encouraged by Rabbi Isaac Bernays, the university trained chief rabbi of Hamburg, to become a rabbi, rather than a merchant as his parents desired. Before entering university, he spent 6 years studying with Rabbi Jacob Ettlinger who granted him semichah [ordination]. He attended the University of Bonn, where his classmate was Abraham Geiger, who went on to be a leading figure of German Reform Judaism. In 1830, Hirsch became the chief rabbi of Oldenberg. It is there that he wrote his first two volumes. The first, published in 1836, was written under the pseudonym of Ben Uzziel and was entitled 19 Letters on Judaism, which served as a defense of traditional Judaism. 2 years later he published a textbook entitled Horeb—the alternate name for Mount Sinai. In 1841 he assumed the position of rabbi of the districts of Aurich and Osnabrueck, residing in Emden. It is there that he first used his motto of Torah Im Drech Eretz, as he established a day school in which Jewish and secular studies were taught. In Hirsch’s thought the phrase exemplified both fidelity to traditional Judaism and an engagement with Western culture. Hence, he preached in German, wore clerical robes, allowed for a male choir and even shaved his beard. In 1843 he was one of 4 finalists for the position of Chief Rabbi of the British Empire: he came in a distant 3rd to the winner, his fellow German rabbi, Rabbi Nathan Adler. In 1846 he moved to Nikolsburg, Moravia—now Mikulov in the Czech Republic—and a year later became the chief rabbi of Moravia and Austrian Silesia. 1851 there was a decisive turning point, as he assumed the rabbinate of the separatist Orthodox community in Frankfurt am Main, known as "Israelitische Religions-Gesellschaft". [German Jewish communities operated under a communal umbrella with Orthodox and Reform and later “Conservative” congregations. Hirsch’s community remained apart.] In time this community, with its own school system, would number 500 families. His community was transplanted to the States in the 30’s and continues to survive as the “Breuer Community” in Washington Heights, under the title Kehillath Adath Jeshurun. [Breuer was his grandson.] Hirsch wrote an extensive German commentary on the Torah, published over the course of a decade, from 1867-1878. He was also the editor, and principal contributor, to a monthly magazine called Jeschurun, which was published from 1855-1870 and then from 1882.He died in 1888.)