Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Feeling Philosophical, Part 2

Hi all.

Back in January, I wrote a posting entitled "Feeling Philosophical." In it, I told all of you that I could not go into the details of why I was writing that posting. Now I can.

We buried a friend today. Michael was 44. His three children are all within a couple of months of the ages of my three children. His youngest is in the same grade as Keren. They have attended the same school since kindergarten.

Very often, a eulogy is a testament to the deceased. It speaks of a person's decency, kindness, compassion, and all of the things for which we should all strive to be remembered. Michael was a friend. All of the words were true.

Sometimes, the testament to the deceased is beyond the words of the eulogy. In this case, the funeral home had to open up a divider between two chapels to make one large chapel. Even still, people were standing in the back.

Jennifer and I spoke to the kids over the last few days as to what they might expect at the cemetery. They fully understood, I suppose. In any event, they are old enough to go to the cemetery. I think sometimes that we shelter kids too much. Doing so creates a spookiness to cemeteries that is simply inappropriate. I would rather they understand that we will all eventually take a one-way trip. It is sad, but not remotely spooky.

I absolutely believe that a child should be able to say goodbye to a loved one. To deny a child that right can cause issues down the stretch. Furthermore, if the child is old enough to have a meaningful relationship with a mourner (beyond play group level), then the child can go and stand with a mourning friend.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Last Week's Sermon

Hi all...

I want to thank DG for her thoughts on what I should have written in a sermon about the Goldstone retraction. I am copying the sermon below.

Sometimes it happens. I am speechless. We continue on page 157...Being speechless happened to me last motza-ei Shabbat. I had turned on the computer to check the weather for Sunday. The computer confirmed what I already knew. There would be weather. Anyway, I also checked the news. And there, on the Jerusalem Post website were numerous references to Richard Goldstone's article on the infamous 'Goldstone Report.' You all know the article. This is the article in which Richard Goldstone retracted the most damning accusation in the report on Israel's operation Cast Lead, the accusation that Israel deliberately targeted civilians.

When I read this, I spent a few minutes picking my jaw up from the floor. Then I went and carefully read his article. It was missing an apology. It seemed to blame Israel for the faulty findings because his commission did not receive cooperation from the Israeli government.

Let us take a look more closely at a couple of items that are in his article from last week. First, and most obvious, is that he retracted the most libelous charge, that Israel targeted civilians. Second, he stated clearly, unequivocally, that the authority in Gaza did in fact target civilians. Third is the one everyone seems to want to brush under the carpet. I quote: "I had hoped that our inquiry into all aspects of the Gaza conflict would begin a new era of evenhandedness at the U.N. Human Rights Council, whose history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted."

My dear friends, there is so much to say. This week's parashah, Metzora, does not offer so much to us in this day and age. My house is clearly not leprous. The Rabbis pun with the word metzora, saying it means motzi ra, to speak ill of someone. I can only say that Richard Goldstone has developed a rather bad case of it.

I suppose it is best to start with the old story that most of my colleagues tell at Yom Kippur. A person goes to speak with the Chafetz Chaim, the author of all of our laws on lashon hara. "Rabbi, I spoke badly of someone. I want to make it right. What should I do?" The Chafetz Chaim says: "take a pillow, go up to the tallest building in town. Cut it open, and shake out the feathers." The man does so. He comes back. "Now what?" The rabbi says: "go collect the feathers."

These are not just feathers. These are e-feathers. There is no going back and collecting these feathers. Those feathers are in European capitals. Those feathers are in Tehran. Those feathers are on your computers. Those feathers are in the hands of those who are making the attempt to cut Israel off economically. We cannot just hit the delete key.

Worse, our early elation over his article has given way to the reality that he seems unwilling to go so much as a centimetre further.

And so his report retains its stains. It retains the stain of one of the members stating openly her concern about Israeli war crimes before so much as stepping foot on the plane for the investigation. It retains the stain that the author himself pointed out, that the UNHRC clearly does not know or even desire evenhandedness when it comes to Israel. It retains the stain of being used to pillory Israel for sins it has not committed. It retains the stain of ignoring half the report, that which pertains to rockets being fired at a civilian population.

The Mishnah tells us in Yoma: hachoteh v'hamachati ain maspikin b'yado la'asot teshuvah. - one who sins and leads others to sin can never achieve teshuvah. Mr. Goldstone, you have sinned. You have sinned against Israel. You have sinned against the Jewish people. You have sinned against every person who has ever sought to cast off the yoke of tyranny. In so doing, you have led others to sin, giving the thin veil of UN permission so that they might commit the same sins you have. Mr. Goldstone, the Rambam teaches us that an apology is the first step to teshuvah. Fixing the damage is second. You have the unique ability to make your apology and fixing the damage one and the same. Your apology should go beyond an op-ed in the Washington Post. Your apology should have you standing in front of the United Nations Human Rights Council declaring your sins for them to hear. Your apology should have you standing in front of the leadership of every nation in the world stating that you were wrong. In so doing, you will go a long way towards correcting the damage. Mr. Goldstone, we await your apology. Fix the damage you have caused. May this happen speedily in our day, and spread its feathers as quickly and as widely as your initial report.

Monday, April 4, 2011

How to Write a Sermon

Good evening all.

I am having some difficulty in deciding exactly what to write in my sermon for this coming Shabbat. Perhaps you might help me just a little. As you are aware, Richard Goldstone retracted his scurrilous statement and wrote that Israel did not intentionally target civilians during Operation Cast Lead in January 2009. There is so much here. Let me offer you some of what is going through my mind. I always read your comments, and very much appreciated them while I was in Okinawa.

1. God is "poteach yad bitshuvah - opening a hand in teshuvah" (repentance/return). We should be too. This idea, however, is diametrically opposed to....

2. "Hachoteh v'hamachti, ein maspikin b'yado la'asot teshuva - one who sins and leads others to sin can never make amends."

3. The truth will set you free, unless you are Israel.

4. The idea that metzora ('leprosy'), this week's Torah portion, refers to speaking ill of others (metzora - motzi ra).

You are all aware of how utterly ludicrous it is to have a nation like China or Cuba be in a position to accuse Israel of human rights violations. Whatever Israel's flaws may be, it is downright laughable to have such nations point an accusing finger. I believe that organizations such as the United Nations should exist. However, there should be another organization, one only of democratic nations. In such an organization, Iran and Saudi Arabia at best might be jealous spectators. In any event, it is high time for the UNHRC to be tossed out with the rest of the trash. The minimal credibility this committee might have had before Friday has vanished with Goldstone's retraction.