Showing posts with label Jewish Journal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jewish Journal. Show all posts

Monday, November 24, 2014

Addicted to Redemption:
A response to Har Nof

Nearly every Friday morning for the last six months I meet Rabbi Mark Borovitz of Beit T'shuvah (BTS) in Los Angeles for coffee. Right at 10:00 a.m. unless one of us is running behind. We catch up on the past week and and study Abraham Joshua Heschel's The Insecurity of Freedom. We have gotten most of the way through the first chapter in half a year of 30 minute conversations. We may be moving too fast. I look forward to our weekly coffee. He is usually at a Starbucks somewhere between his home and Beit T'shuvah, which is in or adjacent to Culver City. I am usually at my desk or kitchen table.

It is only 7:00 a.m. his time and he has already written his weekly d'var torah which will be in the Shabbat service bulletin at BTS which they call the shmatteh. He has also written his weekly blog post for the LA Jewish Journal. I have just arrived at work following the gym and picking up my Cafe Americano. He makes me feel like a slacker and he is a decade older!

I usually don't read his blog or d'var until after we talk.  This paste week it took until just now. I need to share. Mark, thank you for putting this into words and giving me a context. I am signing the pledge.


Combating Hatred:
Honoring The Five Men Who Died in Jerusalem

By Rabbi Mark Borovitz

I am sitting in the lounge at the Los Angeles Airport, on my way to Florida with my wife to help her 102+ year-old mother, Molly, move into assisted living. I am thinking about Molly’s life and how she has survived on her own to this day. She says it is Bridge playing and a great sense of humor, as well as not getting angry with others, understanding that everyone has their way and that we can learn from each other. Juxtaposing this attitude with what happened in a Synagogue this week in Jerusalem is almost more than I can handle.

When we foster hatred in any way, we beget more hatred. When we practice a way of being that is based on personalities, it is doomed to cause destruction. Watching the way the world plays out it’s Anti-Semitism would be a great study, I must admit, if they were not out to get me. Listening to the way the “liberal” establishment has been co-opted by haters and killers is so very sad. Hearing students trash the name of Israel and Jews while saying nothing about real despots like the leaders of North Korea, Syria killing their own people, Iran, ISIS, the Chinese and Tibet, Sunnis and Shiites, the way that our “oil allies” treat their people, Russia and Ukraine, etc. All of these countries are not singled out, yet Israel is. I think that I have finally figured it out.

The “liberal” establishment is angry that Israel didn’t stay down!! Israel stood up, grew up, became self-sufficient, etc. (certainly I am not saying they did everything right) and thus betrayed the “liberal” establishment. The “Poor Palestinians” will never betray the “liberal” establishment because their leaders will not let them become self-sufficient and their benefactors will not allow them to have any power for fear of a revolution. I guess that there is a deal in place that we didn’t realize.

How often does this happen? We go into something with a “deal” in place in our minds and not in the minds of our “partners.” We make up a story and if the other person/people don’t buy into the story or change it, we get angry and walk away. I have seen it in work situations, I have seen it in family situations, I have seen it in friendships, marriages, etc. I have participated and been an unwitting participant as well.

The murder of five men in a Synagogue is a great example of the hatred of people, God, and principle. The UCLA Student Union voting for Divestiture is a mockery of what College Campus Activism was in my day. We looked for ways to make peace, to heal old wounds, to fight for the rights of all people, not just one group over another. Where do we go from here? Being an optimist, like my mother-in-law, Molly Reiffin, I have an idea.

Let us all sign on to be Addicted to Redemption by: 1) using our minds, heats and souls to connect to Truth, 2) using our sense of humor to not take ourselves soooooo seriously, 3) reaching out to understand each other and see the similarities as well as celebrate our uniqueness, 4) owning our part in our successes and our “missing the mark,” 5) continuing to learn from what did not work and repair and improve our ways to wholeness and peace.

In these ways, I believe, we will honor the lives of the 5 men who died this week in Jerusalem; we will honor and redeem the lives of soldiers who have died in these past 13 years of terror. We will honor and redeem our souls and the souls of our countries. Join me and sign the pledge to be Addicted to Redemption.

Monday, June 30, 2014

An overall anomaly
Just before Pesach, five colleagues and I went to Los Angeles for an immersion program at Beit T'shuvah (BTS). I will write a great deal more about BTS in the near future. It has taken me this long to begin to put into words I can share - in way that woudl be meaningful for others - and I promise it will be worth it. Not because my words will be so special or awe-inspiring. It will be worth it because I want you to get to know BTS and the amazing people who are there. They help people who are addicts (of all kinds) take control of their lives. And to live spiritually fulfilling lives in the real world. 

I know. Who are you and where is Ira? We will explore those questions later. 

For today, I want to share the blog of my friend Rabbi Mark Borovitz. He is "Spiritual Leader, Head Rabbi, COO, and overall anomaly" at BTS. We have been studying Heschel's "The Insecurity of Freedom" - and just being a chavruta pair via skype since I got back from LA. He blogs weekly through the Jewish Journal under the title Addicted to Redemption. Here is his posting from last week. My comments are at the end.


All week I have been thinking about this blog. I am upset, frustrated and angry. All this has to do with what is happening both inside of me and outside of me. Inside, I am upset, angry and frustrated that my message is getting lost because of my bombastic nature. As my friend and teacher, Rabbi Ed Feinstein, has said about me, I am more prophet than Rabbi and there is not a huge market for Prophets these days. At any given time, I am prone to outbursts of angry speech. I cover it up by saying I am just passionate, yet, in truth, it is anger. I am angry inside when I know that there are better ways to live than some of the ways I am living and in some of the ways the world is living. I know that I have no control over people, places and things, yet I also know that I matter and, therefore, can influence others. This paradox frustrates me and I get upset when I don’t live in the tension of this paradox.

I have been Blessed with great vision and the ability to see the soul/God-Image of others and myself. I get upset with myself when my vision of my own Soul/God-Image gets cloudy and I know that I am not perfect. I get frustrated when I KNOW what is the next right/God-Like action to take and I don’t, either because of my own foibles/ego or because I am hampered by others. The same is true when my vision is cloudy in dealing with other people and/or I am unable to find a way to speak to another in a way they can hear. All of this causes me to be upset, frustrated and angry with me. I am writing this to all of you because I am sorry when this happens, I am working on myself to be better in this area and I acknowledge that my Prophet voice is not going away. I do commit to manage it better, however.

Why am I writing about this, you may ask. I am writing about the frustration, anger and upset inside of me because some of it comes from the outside actions of the world. Over 2 weeks ago, 3 young boys in Israel were kidnapped. What is the world doing about it? NOTHING! Where are all of the people who care about humanity? Why are the countries of the world who are, supposedly, trying so hard for “peace in the Mideast” not rallying around Israel and “forcing” Hamas and the PLO to release these teenagers? I am angry, frustrated and upset because, again, Jewish lives are not as “worthy” as others. Where is the justice and compassion for these teenagers? Where is the “caring world” when it comes to Jewish lives?

I am not just speaking about Jewish lives, however. I am upset, angry and frustrated that more is not being done to protect women in Nigeria, the Congo, the United States, and throughout the world. Like Jews, women must be considered not as worthy as men. If there were hundreds and thousands of men being tortured, raped, killed, kidnapped, etc., there would be war happening to save them. Yet, where are the Nigerian women? Where is the justice and change in status for women all over the world? Where is the “caring world” when it comes to the plight of women?

I am not just speaking about Jewish lives and women, however. I am truly frustrated, angry and upset that last Saturday was the 50th Anniversary of the murders of Goodman, Chaney and Schwermer AND the Supreme Court dismantled the Voting Rights Bill they died to bring into fruition. The Congress has done nothing to rewrite this bill. So many people died, were injured, jailed and fought for everyone to have the right to vote in this country. Yet, 50 years later, we sit on our hands, don’t show up to vote and allow some of the basic rights that our soldiers died to uphold just go away.

Where is the justice and compassion for the poor and the downtrodden? Where is action of “all people are created equal”? Where is the “caring world” when it comes to people other than “them”?

I am not just speaking about “the others”, women and Jewish lives. I am also angry, frustrated and upset about our Veterans. We have treated these young people abominably. We send them off to fight and teach them to not trust anyone they come into contact with except ‘their own’. What do we do to help them re-integrate into society here when they come back? Very little!! We don’t even help them when they seek help. Where is the justice, compassion and gratitude for their service? Where is the “caring people” when it comes to serving those who serve us?

I know that I am being bombastic again. Yet, I believe deep in my soul that I am speaking a Truth that few of us want to face. I don’t have all of the solutions to these experiences and challenges. I do know and believe that “Evil flourishes when Good People do nothing.” I know and believe that just as in the 50’s and 60’s we are in need of a grassroots movement to effect change in the way we are living. I do know that this movement has to begin inside of each of us first. One of the lessons of History for me is that the movement of past generations and eras doesn’t take hold unless the changes and the movements are rooted in the souls of each of the leaders and participants of the movement.

My commitment is to keep working on my insides and outsides. This is how I live Addicted to Redemption. I am asking you to help me keep this commitment and to join me and make your own commitment to Redemption so that we can make the world Addicted to Redemption and bring about the world that has been envisioned in every Spiritual Discipline.

When Mark shared his blog on Friday I had a visceral reaction and shared it with him:

Wow. Stunning. I am reading about Mark the Prophet and remembering that most prophets did not end so well. It left me worrying for you and forgiving anything you might imagine I could forgive you for. (Actually there is nothing - your prophetic voice inspires me in ways that my hyper-rational self cannot believe!)

Then you make a sharp turn into the real issue - how "never again" is made into a hollow phrase by all of us every day. I leave on Sunday to chaperone a group of teens on the first phase of their Israel trip - by visiting Prague and Poland. We will be exploring and learning about over 1,000 years of Jewish life and then visiting Therezin, Krakow (and Schindler's factory), Auschwitz and the memorial to the Warsaw ghetto. With all of the evils you spoke of, from three young men in Mississippi to 3 young men near Kfar Etzion, the entire meaning of this journey changes.

Trips like these began in order to teach lessons like "never again." They continued to teach how the Third Reich was Egypt and Israel is again the Promised Land. 125 years ago, the early Reform rabbis in America mostly disagreed with the idea of a Jewish State being reestablished. They felt America was the promised land. In the 30's and 40's, most who held that opinion relented and the movement became staunch supporters of the Zionist dream and later of Israel. But they still held to the idealized view of the United States. I am angry with you. The lessons have not been learned. By anyone. Not just the three Jewish boys in Israel. Not just the women in Africa and in other places.

Our job as Jews, as Americans, as Humans is to protect those who need protection from evil. It is to stop genocide. It is to help one another reach our potential.

This Shabbat, I am sad angry with you. By next Shabbat in Poland, I pray that the teenagers with whom I am traveling will teach me about hope and show me the potential for good and for bringing redemption.

Shabbat shalom,