On Sunday I am going away again for almost a week. This time, it is to Gadna, an introduction the Israeli Army for teenagers. I'm scared shitless.



We were in Poland for five days. There are about 6 million things I could say about our trip there. It focused not just on the Shoah (Holocaust), but on the incredible Yiddish culture that was centered in Poland before the Shoah.

First, some things to look into because I found them interesting:
Righteous Gentiles. Skip the paragraph about the halachic origins of the term.
Beit Warszawa. During dinner on our last night in Poland, we received a talk from Rabbi Schuman, the first Progressive Rabbi to serve in Poland since 1939. It was incredible.
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. I am proud to say that the first violent resistance against Nazi oppression in all of occupied Europe during WWII was carried out by young Jews.

Now, my brief comment about the Shoah. 6 million is a lot. 1 1/2 million, the number murdered at Auschwitz/Birkenau, where we spent considerable time, is also too many to people to conceive of. One third of the population of Warsaw, the number of Jews imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto, most of who were murdered in death camps, is too many people to think of! Even a thousand, I can not handle. One, however, I can do.

Esther, the grandmother of X, a fellow EIE student, died very recently. She spent time in Auschwitz. Her timing was brilliant. Less than a week after her death, we departed for Poland. The experience, especially the day we spent at Auschwitz was rough on X, whom I have become close to as of late. I was honored that she let me share Esther for the day. Thus, I had my one person to mourn for.

I think I'm getting the following story correct. If not, you will get the gist of it anyway. Esther was a Greek Jew. She grew up in a relatively affluent family. When the Nazis took Greece, they took refuge with business connections who hid them. One of the people in on the secret got drunk in public one night and gave them up. You have heard of the three day train rides from across Europe that many Shoah victims endured without food or water. The Jews of Greece took three week long train rides without much food or water. Esther survived this. Then she survived Auschwitz. She returned to Greece after the war where she met the man who became her husband. Alzheimer's, however, she did not survive.

So thank you Esther, for letting the Shoah move me.



The Tzitzit Report: I quite enjoy wearing them. Aside from the expected effect that I think twice before being mean now, I am in a perpetually good mood when they are on.


The Sidur Report: In the last post, I wrote that I want to write my own sidur. This caused several comments and more than a few emails. Let me clarify my intentions.

For the several of you who wanted to know what happened to my rabidly pro-Mishkan T'filah stance, no, I have not abated on this front. I still believe that URJ institutions should adopt MT and that it is the best sidur out there for leading a congregation of American Reform Jews. However, yes, I will now admit that there are flaws. Sadly, for some of my more traditional readers, this doesn't mean that I have acknowledged that lack of moshiach-oriented prayers is a bad thing. On the contrary, I think that the CCAR needs to grow some balls and make it even less moshiach-oriented. When we open up MT to the Amidah, we see that the people who constructed this sidur do not know what the hell they are doing.

The traditional Amidah represents all of the central desires, longings, and beliefs of the people who created it. Why shouldn't the Reform Amidah reflect mainstream central Reform desires, longings, and beliefs? Why is that when I look at y'shuah, the traditional prayer for the moshiach in the Amidah, I see that the CCAR, in its infinite wisdom, has not chosen to create a prayer for the Messianic Age, but instead to water down an orthodox prayer so that it becomes a meaningless five-line piece of pseudo-poetic garbage? You tell me what central longing this represents:
Truth springs up from the earth;

Justice looks down from the heavens.
May the strength of Your people flourish through
Your deliverance for we continually hope for Your deliverance.
Blessed are You, Adonai, who causes salvation to flourish.


The questions that MT poses to me are these:
Why is there no Messianic Age in this?
Where is a prayerful mention of educated choice, the cornerstone of Reform?

The additional questions that I pose to myself which are sidur-related, but not MT-related:
Why is the Shma, the central theological statement of our people not placed along with the all the other central statements in the Amidah?
How can I pray with a community, but use a different sidur? Can I?

These are the questions I attempt to answer in thinking about constructing a new sidur. This new sidur is not one at all intended for mass use. This is Minhag David. The entire thing will be for me and me alone. The Amidah will represent all of my central ideas about Judaism. Every moment of it will be carefully constructed, redacted, and written so that I can most effectively express myself in personal prayer.


Gilanah Shoshanah said...

Those five lines sound like the current equivalent of "puppies and aspens" passages that were appropriate for GOP in the 70s.

I was recently surprised to read that Messianic Age doesn't refer to a time after a messiah comes, but a time when everything is that good and everyone is behaving that well. Maybe we all need fringes (or other alerts) to bring that on.

Sarah Vowell read a story at the Paramount about the Oneida Colony, which was a bunch who believed that they were in the Messianic Age (started in 70CE in their belief system), but interpreted it rather oddly. For example, in heaven there will be no marriage, so if we are already essentially in heaven, then free love is OK, so particular love is bad, so passions and attachments are forbidden, so you can't develop talents, genius, or special abilities. If that's heaven, I'd rather stay here for a while longer....

David A. M. Wilensky said...

That's very strange.

lbk said...

I actually like the imagery. It's used in a civil rights memorial by the "teaching tolerance" folks, etched into stone under a perpetual fountain. (I think Martin Luther King quoted the Christian version: Let truth well up from the earth/And justice flow like a mighty stream.) My major objection is to the repetition of "deliverance" and the almost equally redundant "salvation," which smacks of Christianity to me.

I do not,however, agree that the lines are meaningless. To me they are simply a community version of the silent prayers I recite for myself: "Please help me improve the way I do thus and so. Please help me be a better thus and such." Truth and justice are, I think, admirable traits toward which a community can strive.

Thus, so and such,