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Reflections from Rabbi Waxman
Reflections from Rabbi Waxman
On Becoming Senior Citizen
Last week I officially became a senior citizen, I may have been a member of AARP for well over a decade, but I now have a Medicare card along with a supplemental insurance card. Welcome to the club.
And yet, I compare myself to how I viewed my parents and grandparents at similar ages. My grandparents were definitely old; my parents much less so, particularly my father who maintained a brutal pace into his 80’s. I look around and see those in their 80’s and 90’s still vital and active. So perhaps I am not yet an old geezer. We Boomers are not ready for our chronological age to dictate our mental outlook.
Even if I miraculously, with the help of modern medicine make it to 120, I am more than half way through my life span. I find myself thinking of “bucket lists”, of things that I want to do; places I want to visit; books that I should read; articles and books I dream of writing before…As for the second list, it is one that at the one that is most compelling: I know of too many people who deferred their dream vacations and trips and never managed to do them. There are vast parts of this country I have yet to visit, let alone many sites around the globe.
Beyond the bucket lists, I discover that it is a time for stock-taking. Some of it deals with the trivial: am I ever going to read this growing stack of magazines or is it time to say dayenu and put them in the recycled bin and vow to stay on top of what comes in now. Some of it is more profound including beginning to reflect on what I want to do with the rest of my life, on what might be my legacy. My grandfather Meyer, beyond having two accomplished children—my aunt was a distinguished economist--, left behind over a dozen volumes plus hundreds of articles which he authored. My father’s literary output was more limited—though there are probably several hundred pieces he wrote for the Temple Israel Light, in addition to other published material---, and yet clearly his impact on the Jewish world and indeed on Jewish relations with the Catholic world endures. So what trace of immortality can I yet acquire and how? A second cookbook? Perhaps. Something more scholarly? Maybe. Much to think about in the months ahead.
But first things first: time to enjoy the discounts that go with being officially a “senior.”
Chadashot MeYisrael: News From Israel
Let There Be Electricity
Glass facade buildings may yet be producers of electricity, if the efforts of SolarOr prove fruitful. Israeli electro-optical engineer Oren Aharon concluded that such buildings could be a source of energy.
Currently these glass buildings have glass and air sandwiches, designed to protect the building from the ravages of the elements, while allowing in natural light. Aharon thought that the inner layer of the sandwich could use the sunlight to generate electricity for the building.
The company has created something called BIPV—building-integrated photovoltaic—which is inserted into the air layer between the glass panels in such a way that it produces a significant amount of energy on the one hand, and still permits about 30% of visible light to enter. These BIPV panels also provide heat insulation. SolarOr’s system is designed to bring the electricity into the building via wiring that leads from the panels into the building frame, where a converter will transform the DC energy into AC current.
Chosen last years at an a major alternative energy expo here in the States as an especially promising technology by reporters, SolarOr, which is based in Nesher, in northern Israel, near the Technion, is currently seeking funding to begin producing the panels at Kibbutz Magen located in Israel’s south.
Aharon is confident of success. “We have interest worldwide. China and other countries are waiting to place orders. We applied for patents worldwide and were approved in china, Mexico and Israel. The technology is patent-pending in the US and other countries.”
A Comment on the Weekly Torah Portion
The portion of Aykev (Deuteronomy 7:12-9:3) is read this Saturday, August 16th.
8::2 Remember the long way [Heb. Is Kol Haderech; old JPS—“all the way”] that the Lord your God has made you travel in the wilderness these past forty years, that He might test you by hardships to learn what was in your hearts: whether you would keep His commandments or not.
Who remembers “all the way: that the Children of Israel were led in the desert for forty years? It is a new generation—the ex-slaves who came out of Egypt have died, many of these people on the bank of the Jordan are young, born midway through the desert sojourn. They cannot remember “all the way,” since they did no experience it. Can the command be for generations who read this verse millennia later?... (Discussion Question)
The discussion question assumes that the words “all the way” in the instruction must refer either to remembering the entire distance travelled through the wilderness of Sinai, or to remembering the whole time spent there. Rather than looking at it this way, I think this about identifying with the essential formative experiences of the Jewish people. If this is correct, this generation of our ancestors needed to remember because is necessary to the covenantal relationship.
Let me refer back to the book of Shmot [Exodus], in particular to parashat Beshalach, to make my point, There the problem in the way of accomplishing this genuine partnership was the people’s slave mentality, the mentality of a people who had been shaped and formed by their long experience in Egypt.
You asked why all the miracles weren’t enough to secure the people’s faith and why they were not enough to secure their sense of being God’s partners. My point, then, was that real faith, real partnership with God, cannot be established through the experience of miracles alone. Such partnership requires true religious character, and true religious character is built on the way we experience the regular or even ordinary aspects of routine life. As I said then, solid faith is constructed on a whole pattern of living, not on momentary experiences, no matter how dramatic.
Confident that they are God’s partners and that the covenant is real. However, now a new, yet inevitable, obstacle arises for the first time. Recognizing that the entirety of the story from Joseph on shows us God’s intent to build the relationship with the Jewish people on the formative experiences of the Exodus through Sinai, the new problem is what to do about a people who did not undergo these essential experiences themselves. As you point out, they were too young to remember for themselves, or they were not even born yet.
Indeed, for certain this issue was soon to arise anyway. If it weren’t this generation that faced it, then it would have been the next. Every generation of Jews since has had to wrestle with it. How do we who were not there experience those crucial events? This verse is pointing us in the right direction by teaching us that each individual can become part of the collective memory; that by identifying with the formative story, it is as if each individual is part of it remembers it.
Judaism accomplishes this kind of “remembering” in the Pesach Seder with the careful combination of study of the sacred story, use of symbols, and ritual experience. Everything we do that night is designed to help us experience the Exodus individually by tying ourselves into our collective memory… (Rabbi David Sofian, “Ekev: Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25” in Shammai Engelmayer, Joseph Ozarowski, and David M. Sofian, , Common Ground: The Weekly Torah Portion Through the Eyes of a Conservative, Orthodox, and Reform Rabbi, ed. By Steve Lipman, pp.335-336. Rabbi Sofian was ordained by Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. He began his rabbinic career as assistant to Rabbi Stanley Davids at Temple Emanuel in Worcester, MA. He served Temple Shaarai Shomayim in Lancaster, PA from 1980 to 1993, and Emanuel Congregation in Chicago from 1993 to 2003. Since then he has been the rabbi of Temple Israel in Dayton. He is the author of several booklets of teachers’ materials published by Ktav. He owns a home in Modi’in, Israel, and during the summer works with Yozma, the Reform congregation in that community.)