by Adam Sol, from his most recent book, Complicity
The young man knows he’s going to die today, but he’s wrong.
The other young man figures the army is the best way to improve his life, but he’s wrong.
They both think their weapons will protect them, but they’re wrong.
They both believe their prayers will help.
Their commanders have intentions and intelligence, but they’re wrong.
We’ve heard the story before. It’s wrong.
The news will document it, but it will be wrong.
The medium, the reception, the commentary, the commercial break.
The explosion will exceed the necessity of the occasion.
The exchange of fire will be unbalanced.
The response will be disproportionate.
The reporter is factually incorrect, morally misinformed.
The clear typeface and perfect binding are misleading.
The reader is uncomfortably and inappropriately implicated.
The tranquil mind is insufficient to the task.
The young men, necks dirty and damp, advance.
(Copyright (c) 2014 Adam Sol. Published by McClelland & Stewart, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.)
Strengthening the Jewish People – One by one by one by one…
It has been a frightful summer. No one wants to be an alarmist. Everyone wants to carry on with the joys of life and summer fun, but no one wants to be foolish either. With the confusion in the media, with op-ed rhetoric high, and the temperature of social media hot, it’s hard not to worry. With the relentless rockets raining down on Israel and the sudden wave of anti-semitism (one study shows an increase of reported anti-semitic incidents by 386%), it’s hard not to feel anxiety rising. We feel it even from the calm of cottage country or the pleasure of a summer evening concert in the city or the charm of a café in some far off town. An invisible weight is resting on our shoulders now. How do we carry it with calm and confidence? How do we name it? How do we give it just the right amount of attention? How do we walk with grace and balance when such a weight is placed on our shoulders?
One of the keys is a rock-solid identity.
When others don’t understand who we are, we have to be more certain of who we are. When we fear others misjudge, misrepresent, we must be more clear, more articulate. In trying days like these we have to know our stories and we must know to whom we belong.
Israel’s Consul General DJ Schneeweiss was with us this week. He spoke about the difference between “crisis Zionism” and “aspirational Zionism.” He urged us to confidently hold onto not only our pride in Israel, but also our dreams for Israel. He says Israel is not an heirloom painting we have inherited from parents or grandparents and we hang it on the wall as a finished product, but rather Israel is a canvas for the Jewish People and we are still creating it, each adding our own touches. He says, “we must not let our enemies define who we are.” The character of the Jewish people is what we say it is; and the Jewish future is what we make of it.
There is a summer ritual — making arrangements for synagogue membership and High Holy Day tickets. I’ve come to appreciate that this is much more than a simple administrative task. Many actually stop by my office, with envelope in hand – just a quick check-in with the rabbi to say without saying, “I’m here, Rabbi. Count me in. Sign me up for another year of Jewish life, Jewish commitment, Jewish attachment.” It’s a simple gesture, a quick exchange, but if I stop to reflect on it, I’m very moved by the meaning of that act. That impulse, that small act of reconfirming one’s place in the Jewish narrative, is a tie that binds us to our people, often to generations past, and to future generations we can only dream of. It can be a clarifying moment of identity. And it feels good to know who we are and where we belong.
When I urge you to invite a friend or relative to join you at Holy Blossom Temple this year, it is not a simple “membership campaign.” Extending a personal invitation to someone who is seeking a place for spiritual expression or intellectual growth is altogether different than drumming up new members for a club. It is actually about that “canvas.” Being a part of a synagogue community, is not the only way, of course, but I am convinced it is the most powerful way to hone a Jewish soul, to discover the fullest expressions of Jewish self. Especially in days like these, let it be a shared pursuit.