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Foreboding and Forward Motion

06/24/2021 06:21:50 PM

Jun24

On Sunday we observe the 17th of Tammuz, which marks the beginning of a particularly mournful time in our Jewish calendar, a time of foreboding.  One of the mournful events which it marks is the collapse of the city walls of Jerusalem.  

As I write, many of us are distressed to hear of the collapse of a large residential building in the Surfside neighborhood of Miami.  The death toll may near over 100 people, and since the building had many Jewish residents, is all too likely that the Miami Jewish community will suffer heavy losses. We are keeping that our community in our prayers.

There are other causes for concern as well.  I am delighted that our synagogue life continues to return to normal, with our sanctuary returning to a more familiar looking configuration and both a regular service and a preschool family service taking place shabbat morning, minyan every day, and junior congregation returning on select dates in July. And yet I am concerned because case numbers for the new COVID variants are increasing, including cases caused by strains that are more deadly for those who have not been vaccinated, more likely to affect even those who have been vaccinated.  Israel, which has been far ahead of the rest of the world, been forced to re-impose some restrictions.  The possibility remains that our community will need to hold steady, or even exercise greater cautions in the coming weeks. 

And yet, even a negative message can ultimately lead to a positive one.  This week we read that Balaam sought to curse the Jewish people, but that his curses were ultimately turned into blessings.  The 17th of Tammuz also commemorates Moses’ breaking of the tablets after the incident of the Golden calf.  This marked a low point for the Jewish people.  And yet, that curse was turned into a blessing.  Just 80 days later, on Yom Kippur, Moses returned with new tablets, and a message of forgiveness for the Jewish people.  This year, on Yom Kippur, we will read the prayer of the ancient High Priest, who asked that the residents of Shomron not have their homes become their graves.  We can only hope that there are blessings that come in the next 80 days.

As we head towards the high holidays, just 70 days after the 17th of Tammuz, we can recognize the destructions of the past and present, but also look forward to renewal and blessings that a new year and new beginnings can bring.  For the first 35 of those days, after this Shabbat, I will be on my own spiritual (and physical) journey, and I look forward to joining you in August with new energy and purpose, ready to turn curses into blessings, foreboding into forward motion.

Mon, October 25 2021 19 Cheshvan 5782