Planting a tree in Israel

Planting a tree in Israel
Bringing life to Israel with my own hands by planting a tree!(summer 2010)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Loss,pain and hope...

Loss, pain and hope…                                                                                 
     We are surrounded by debris. Our state of Alabama has been struck by great forces of wind and rain. Tornadoes have demolished homes, businesses, schools, stores, emergency resources and entire neighborhoods. Life has been torn from us. Families have been stripped of their loved ones. Suffering seems without end.
     On the heels of a tsunami and earthquake in Japan and a terrifying earthquake in Haiti we are left with many questions. Are we being punished for misdeeds? Is our society in need of repair? Is God calling out to us?
     I am terribly undone by all the acts of destruction I see with you. Like you I watch the TV and read news on internet sources. The scope of recent loss is extreme. If acts like fire and flood happened in the Bible could they happen to us now?
     I believe in God but not as a destroyer of modern life. We have many possible responses to the death and loss surrounding us. We can cry out to God in accusation, or turn our faces away from the Lord. We can hide in a closet, both literally and figuratively, until we think it is safe to emerge. Or we can extend our hands to others in love and support.
     My Jewish response is to collect tzedakah and to pray. To pray means many things. I do not think prayer is always getting what I want from God. Prayer is reaching out to something bigger than myself and needing to be heard. Prayer is seeking to draw enough compassion from within me to support others when they are at their limits. Prayer is recognizing my limits and not accepting my inabilities to make a difference. Prayer is invoking sacred words offered by my ancestors in different parts of the world throughout millennia and knowing I am bound to a community. Prayer means to add my own words to the sacred chain of holy speech initiated by Sarah and Abraham. Prayer means to reach outwards and inwards simultaneously.
      I ask you to pray for our fellow Alabamians. Offer your own words of hope and prayer and strength. Offer your own tzedakah and make a difference.If you know of anyone affected by the tornadoes please contact me and share their names with me. I will pray with them and offer any and all support I can.    
      We are collecting food for the Mobile Bay Area Food Bank. Please be generous and bring a bag of groceries to the shul. Please do your best to donate a check in any amount to the Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund for disaster relief.
     Yes,God is calling out to us and yes our society is in need of repair. The challenge for us is to hear God's call and to aid in repairing our world.
     Loss,pain and hope…remember the community Yom Hashoah service on Sunday May 1 at 7:00 p.m. at the synagogue. Non-Jewish children have created artwork and written poems and short stories which will be incorporated into this special service.  You owe it to yourself and to those who cannot be here to attend.
Seeking Shalom,
Rabbi Steven Silberman

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Eyes looking heavenward

     In less than 48 hours a giant explosion will propel the Endeavor heavenward from Kennedy Space Center. Tons of fuel will detonate and the Space Shuttle will laboriously attempt to break the bonds of Earth's hold upon her, carrying six men upward and sheltering them from the nothingness we call space. Mark Kelly, Commander of the Endeavor, will be in space as his wife, Rep.Gabrielle Giffords, and millions of us watch  and pray. I remember the Challenger explosion-the shock, the astonishment, the pain and the emptiness. I remember the first time I visited the memorial to the Challenger in Israel and realized that loss of innocent life and its untapped potential resonates in every locale which cherishes freedom and human achievement.
     I remember the Columbia explosion and the emptiness which washed over me; the vast sense of loss from a tragedy which was, above all else, a colossal waste of human life. There had been such success -and on the brink of that success the nations of the world wept (including India and Israel- both of whom were represented on that crew).
     Like you I remember the emptiness which washed over me when we learned of the Tucson shooting in a strip mall. Again, the loss of life and the emptiness brought about by tragedy-this time a tragedy initiated by a thinking person. Tragedies which were worlds apart- the loss of life by forces beyond our control as explorers and scientists seeking to expand our shared knowledge and overthrow limits of space and time succumbed to accident contrasted with a destructive and malevolent act of intentional hatred and criminality targeting families and our society.
      I prayed at the times of the Challenger and the Columbia and at the time of the Tucson shooting (I continue to pray on behalf  of those who were injured- mentioning them by name). I remember hearing the words of Mark Kelly when he prayed at the National Prayer Breakfast  in Washington D.C. on Feb.3, 2011:
"You pray where you are. You pray when God is there in your heart."
      My eyes will be looking heavenward in the coming hours...praying alongside Gabby Giffords and the families of the crew of STS-134. I shall take a lesson from Mark Kelly, pray for his safe return to rejoin his wife and all of us and continue to pray for Gabby Giffords's renewed health. And may this family be granted  reprieve from future tragedy.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

More than a JV soccer game

It could have been any other Jr. Varsity soccer game.  Davidson High School was up by one.  Faith Academy scored and they were tied.  9th and 10th grade boys ran back and forth, back and forth.  I became tired just watching the boys.  The ball seemed to have a mind of its own.  Too many times to count, it went out of bounds and play slowed then resumed.  Up and down the field, up and down the field they ran.  Suddenly there was a shout, “2-1 Davidson.”  20 minutes of play and another goal ; 3-1 Davidson.  Three short minutes, 4-1 Davidson and the ball came barreling down the field approaching the other goal, but time ran out. 

            The two teams came together.  Faith congratulated Davidson and then all the Davidson players ran around the field shouting and cheering.  We spectators stood up from the bleachers and prepared to greet our players. 

            Suddenly, all the players came together in the center of the field and quietly stood in one large circle.  A hush fell over the stands as we saw red jerseys and white jerseys mixed within a circle, heads bowed.  We realized that something very special was taking place.

            When Jacob exited the field we asked what they were doing.  Jacob quietly said, “I suggested to the coach that we say a prayer for Deonte” (the Davidson High School football player who had died in a car accident two days prior).  I observed that after the prayer all of the players, coaches and refs exited the field in silence.  Our 11 year old daughter, Danit, noticed “they are all one team.”

            It could have been just an ordinary JV soccer game.  But it was not.  The athletes imbued it with special significance by remembering a fellow athlete; a friend to some and unknown to others- an athlete who was a good boy with a promising future. Deonte was a quiet and humble young man who was anticipating a college education and playing football for Alabama State; two dreams and two loves.

            I cannot speak for the boys on the Davidson and Faith JV teams as to what they will remember about this particular game. Long after the record books are closed I will remember that final scene wherein white and red jerseys stood together in performance of Jacob’s suggestion for praying for Deonte and  Danit’s words echoing through my thoughts; ”they are all one team.”