pain and destructiveness of the war between Israel and Hamas this past summer
had two polar effects: it united and it divided. The Israeli population, and
those of us who are not Israelis but found ourselves there in the midst of “the
situation” this summer, were, by and large, united in the understanding that
this war, though unwanted by Israel, was necessary and unavoidable. According
to most polls, upwards of 90% of the Israeli people stood shoulder to shoulder
in support of the Prime Minister’s leadership at the time – even those who are
not particularly "fans" of his during more ordinary times.
being said, the war also stirred up an enormous backlash against Israel, from
Jews and non-Jews alike, not only regarding its policies, but in many cases,
regarding its very existence. That backlash unfortunately also stirred up the
undercurrents of global anti-Semitism that burst into the open this summer with
ugly and frightening invective.
now the war is over, thank God, and Israel itself must return to addressing its
most vexing internal social is-sues, which have become even more pressing in
recent years. After 66 years of statehood, it seems quite appropriate that we
remind ourselves of the Zionist aspiration as it began in principle, and as it
has evolved in reality; that we reset our focus upon the values of Judaism,
humanitarian ethics, and the spirit of democracy and fairness, that optimally
should be guiding principles of the State of Israel.
this coming year our Adult Education program will offer a 10-part series from the
Shalom Hartman Institute as part of the “Engaging Israel” endeavor, known as
"iEngage." We offered the first series in this endeavor two years
ago. The ten segments of this series will offer video lectures by Rabbi Dr.
Donniel Hartman, President of the Hartman Institute, along with supporting text
study that I will conduct (since text study is at the core of the Hartman
Institute). Many of the segments also will feature conversations by some of the
extraordinary scholars of the Hartman faculty, in addition to some formidable
public figures. The title of this second series in the iEngage project is “The
Tribes of Israel: A Shared Homeland for a Divided People.” See page 7 in this
Bulletin for the schedule of topics in this iEngage series.
American Jews, our relationship with Israel is a complicated one that warrants
great thoughtfulness on our part. This series will offer thought-provoking and
sophisticated content, so emblematic of the Hartman Institute. I hope that you
will attend as many of these programs as possible. They will be on Wednesday
evenings, 7:30- 9:30 PM. We are participating in this series through the
generosity of a grant from UJA-Federation of New York, so the only cost to each
of you is a one-time $20 fee for the sourcebooks that contain the texts we will
be studying together. We also promise mouthwatering desserts, and you know
we'll make good on that. The three fall sessions will be on October 22, 29, and
November 12. Please join us. We need to talk about these things together.
-Rabbi Linda Henry Goodman
The Mi Shebeirach blessing has become a regular feature of our services. Mi Shebeirach means “The One who blessed.” It begins: Mi Shebeirach avoteinu, Avraham, Yitzhak, v’Ya’akov, v’imoteinu, Sarah, Rivka, Rahel, v’Leah... Hu y’vareich et… “May the One who blessed our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and our mothers, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, bestow Your blessing upon ... and so on.”
Though most often we have recited Mi Shebeirach for those who are ill, our liturgy actually provides different Mi Shebeirach texts for various occasions. There are blessings at an aufruf for a bride and groom; blessings for new parents and blessings for their babies; and indeed, blessings for each person who is given the honor of being called the Torah to recite the Torah blessing - the honor that we call an Aliyah (going up to the Torah). The Torah blessings are completed, and then the Mi Shebeirach is recited by the Rabbi or Cantor.
While earlier generations of Reform Jews preferred to excise all these “Mi Shebeirachs” from the service, often out of a general anxiety about needlessly elongating the liturgy, our own generation has shown a marked preference for putting them back in. There is a general sense that it is important to acknowledge and bless people in their lives: whether as a prayer for a restoration to health, or in the joy of a new baby, an impending marriage, or for the honor of being called to the Torah.
Our new siddur, MISHKAN T’FILAH, has inserted a Mi Shebeirach for an Aliyah, which essentially is the traditional text. Some of the members of our Religious Practices Committee found the traditional wording objectionable from a theological standpoint, so I took the liberty of rewriting the blessing. The translation of the text now reads:
May the One Who blessed our fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and our mothers, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, bless ________ (son)(daughter) of _________ who has ascended to the Torah, with good health, happiness, prosperity and peace; with wisdom and understanding, with the love of Torah and reverence for the Divine. And let us say Amen.
We have used this already at Shabbat Morning services, and it seems to be well received by those in attendance, and appreciated by those who have been called for an aliyah. Thus, the next time you happen to be at a morning service, you’ll hear this Mi Shebeirach in addition to the one for healing. We hope you will enjoy the addition of this blessing. Though it adds little more than a few seconds to the service, it holds considerable significance for those being blessed, and their families.
Blessings to all –
-Rabbi Linda Henry Goodman