We recently concluded what we at JEWISHcolorado affectionately refer to as the Yoms: Yom HaShoah or Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom HaZikaron or Israeli Memorial Day, and Yom Ha’aztmaut, which is Israel’s Independence Day.
On the one hand, the celebration of these events here in the United States feels, to some degree, removed, yet gathering with a community to acknowledge and honor the rich complexity of modern Jewish peoplehood can be inspiring and uplifting.
In the Shalom Hartman Institute’s recent podcast, For Heaven’s Sake: Does Israel Still Matter?, Yossi Klein Halevi articulated the profundity of these sequential occasions. His contention, with which I agree, is that North American Jewry has become so myopically focused on the various decisions of the various Israeli governments, on this injustice or that transgression, that we’ve forgotten (or possibly never truly recognized) the miracle that emerged in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Because what emerged were some of the greatest achievements of the Jewish people. What followed was the establishment of the State of Israel and the development of the greatest diaspora community in the history of the Jewish people. And despite the agency that we now have, the power and responsibility for our own self-determination, we continue to tell a story of threat and fear.
While there are certainly threats and while that fear is sometimes based in reality, Klein Halevi argues that our story is a story of both death and survival, two themes that are reflected in this week’s Torah reading, Emor.
Emor is about boundaries, about distinguishing between the life and death, between the sanctified and the base, between what is acceptable and what is not. Judaism as a spiritual tradition is about transforming the common into the holy. It is about connecting everyday moments—a day of rest, the passing of seasons, loss and new life—to the complicated and sometime inexplicable wonder that is the human condition. It is about drawing distinction, setting boundaries, elevating and striving for sanctity.
This is essential for our unfolding narrative as a people. We were enslaved, and we were redeemed to bring forth ethical monotheism. For two thousand years, our eyes and hearts yearned for Zion and Jerusalem. On the brink of death our people survived, arose, and created the most dynamic epoch in our history.
It is in this dynamism that we are each called to write a new chapter. And your voice in this new chapter is needed.
Rabbi Jay Strear
President & CEO
Please email Rabbi Strear at CEO@JEWISHcolorado.org with comments or questions.