The blog of the Roaring Fork Valley (Reform) Jewish community
77 Meadowood Drive • Aspen, CO • 81611
Rabbi David Segal and Cantor Rollin Simmons

Friday, April 27, 2012

When I’m 64...
When I get older losing my hair,
Many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine?
If I'd been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door,
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?
Doing the garden, digging the weeds,
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

Even if the Beatles weren’t singing about it then, this week we celebrated Israel's 64th birthday, as we marked another Yom Haatzmaut. It's amazing to think of it: only 64 years ago, a new country came into being -- really, a "new old" country -- in the ancestral land of the Jewish people. For the first time in almost 1900 years, Jews had a nation of our own, free to rule ourselves, and to live as Jews. Herzl’s dream of being a free people in our land came true.

But nothing is ever that simple, especially not for Jews, and the 64 years of Israel’s existence have been complicated by wars without, and tensions within.

Now, MAYBE, even though we Jews love to have opinions, and love to argue, MAYBE we can take Yom Haatzmaut as a day to JUST CELEBRATE: Israel as a haven for refugees, Israel as a center of Jewish culture, Israel as -- dare we say it -- a light unto the nations.

Is it possible that one day a year, we can put the political fighting and name-calling aside, and instead just show gratitude for the miracle that is Israel? After all, that does leave 359 other days (by the Jewish calendar!) to yell at each other.

In truth, we need a spirit of gratitude and humility to permeate the rest of the year as well. Without letting go of our passionately held opinions, we need to get better at talking about Israel, talking to Israelis, and relating to Israel.

What would that look like?
For starters, we need to address the reality that “ignorance and love are seen as somehow compatible.” We American Jews, left, right, and in between, love to express our opinions about Israel from the comfort of our American armchair. Without understanding Hebrew, without awareness of day-to-day Israeli life, without knowing the vast array of political and social issues that motivate the Israeli electorate far more powerfully than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we make it our business to lecture and reprimand Israel and each other.

As we mark another Yom Haatzmaut, let us celebrate the present by committing to a different kind of future. A future in which we aren’t content merely to “love” Israel, but we actually strive to know Israel: land, people, language, culture. A future in which we decide that we have something valuable to learn from our fellow Jews who disagree with us about Israeli politics, even when we continue to disagree. A future in which Israel is not a superficial tool for fundraising or affiliation, but a real place of Jewish learning, of deeper engagement with Jewish tradition, and deeper relationships with other Jews.

One opportunity to celebrate and know Israel better may be coming up next spring. Passover falls during spring break next March, and we are starting to explore a congregational trip to Israel. If you’re interested in going, or helping to plan it, or you just want to know more, let me know right away! As a community, let’s take steps like this to make Israel a real presence in our Jewish lives, not just a rhetorical shadow.
As the Beatles concluded:

Send me a postcard, drop me a line,
Stating point of view.
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, Wasting Away.

Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

64 years later, it’s worth reexamining how we relate to Israel -- so that in another 64 years, we don’t find ourselves falsely loving a projection of our own fantasies, but rather genuinely in relationship with a complex, vibrant, real place and people.

Am Yisrael Chai, Shabbat shalom.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Passover and Patriotism

Happy Passover, everyone!

Read Rabbi David's column in today's Aspen Times on the connections between the Passover story and America's story: Click here.