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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Perspective...

Perspective...this is a word that guides me every day in my life.  When I try to accomplish anything, whether it be teaching a class, telling a story or whatever, it is the perspective of those I am speaking with that guides me.  Sometimes, though, the bigger picture comes flying right at me, causing me to readjust my perspective, and perhaps to see other nuances I may have missed.  Today, this happened.  My perspective was changed, in the blink of an eye.

You see, this morning Batya and I found out we were going to have a boy in August.  Both of us hoped for and perhaps prayed for a boy...but in the end, what we really wanted was a healthy baby.  Now, as we were told this morning we would have a boy, we were elated and overjoyed. "Finally..." as some put it.  We were going to complete the Atlanta Boxts with a boy...

And, then, within a matter of minutes, my perspective changed.  I turned on my computer at work and read about the massive terrorist attack that took place in Brussels, Belgium.  I read of the 30+ people that were killed and the hundreds that were injured.  My perspective went from elated joy to anger, frustration, sadness and even fear.  Yes - fear - for my children, for my family, for my friends, and for all of those families in Belgium and around the world that lost something so precious to them.

And, then, just a little while later, I met with a Bat Mitzvah student and watched as she nailed her Torah portion and her blessings.  I was overjoyed at her excitement and happiness as she prepares for her "big day."  And, then, just a little while later, I met with a wedding couple who is going to be making a lifetime pledge to each other in just a few weeks.  So many blessings, so much wonder...and yet,

I cannot get the pictures from the cowardly attack in Belgium out of my head.  My mind is spinning as I try to understand.  I cannot...a life is so precious - and the killing or taking of an innocent life is too difficult to comprehend.  As we learn in Tractate Sanhedrin of the Talmud, "...if anyone causes a single soul to perish, Scripture considers it as though the person caused a whole world to perish..."(Sanhedrin 4:)  And, yet, it still happened.

There is so much evil - so much hatred in the world.  And, YET, there IS so much good and so much love in the world as well.  I yearn for the day when the love overtakes the hate...when the good overtakes the evil.  I know it is possible; I refuse to believe it is not.  I look in the eyes of my children and of the children I see everyday at my synagogue and I see love...I see hope.  It is there...

May we all live one day (hopefully very soon) in a world full of love and goodness...

My prayer for those families who lost their precious loved ones:

May God hold you in God's arms, telling you your loved ones are now safe.
May God bless you with his love, reminding you that God is still there and love is too.
May each of you wake up tomorrow with less pain then you have today.
May each of you go forward in your lives, knowing your loved ones will never be forgotten.
May all people of the world learn to embrace one another, sharing our commonalities and celebrating our differences.
May all people of the world wake up tomorrow, refreshed and ready to fight for good and fight for love.

Kein Yehi Ratzon - May this be God's Will...

Rabbi Erin Boxt

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Parashat Vayakhel 5776

video

An Optimist in Ha-Aretz!!!

What a powerful week of study, friendship, camaraderie and spirituality.  During the CCAR convention this week, over 300 rabbis, spouses and friends gathered together to learn, pray and (re)experience the joys of Israel.  In our final day, we traveled to the Interdisciplinary Center at Herzliya.   We began the morning with a panel moderated by Rabbi Rick Block.  This panel, in which we were able to learn from Professor Uriel Reichman, IDC Herzliya President and founder and Amnon Rubinstein, former Minister of Justice and Education, discussed 10 questions facing Israel today, focusing on Israel and Democracy. Shortly after the panel, we were addressed by Ron Prosor, the Permanent Israeli Ambassador to the UN, who gave us an overview of some of the challenges of being an Ambassador for Israel to the UN.  These morning sessions really helped to give an “inside look” not only at the political situation Israel finds herself in, but also to the positive possibilities that lie ahead for Israel and her neighbors. 

After a short coffee break, we were broken up into 3 tracks: 1) Start Up Nation and the Israeli Entrepreneurship Spirit, 2) The Crisis of Governance in the Middle East: Implications for Israel and 3) Between Positive Psychology and Education.  As I am really interested in how Israel is able to maneuver as the only Democracy in the Middle East, I chose to go to the second option: looking at the Crisis of Governance in the Middle East.  The presenter, Amichai Magen, is a senior lecturer at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center at Herzliya.  In his lecture, Magen began by presenting a triangle of the Modern International Order.  This triangle, with Peace in the middle, had as its three points: International Organizations, Economic Interdependence and Democracy, with arrows going from every point to every other point.  According to Magen, true peace can only be obtained when the governance structures really do have relationships that lead to and depend on each other.

Israel, a very young country, is actually one of the oldest Democracies on Earth.  This is significant, as she is surrounded in Northern Africa and the rest of the Middle East by nations that are neither democratic and are not served by major world institutions such as the Euro League.  The situation really does begin to fall apart and becomes extremely fragile when those institutions that are specifically created to help to proctor peace are either not in existence or under utilized, whichever the case may be.  There are major consequences of this crisis of governance in the MENA (Middle East and Northern Africa) region which include conditions of instability, understated uncertainty in the area regarding diplomacy among others, threats to regional security, and of course humanitarian problems.

While this area of the world does seem to be in a constant state of flux, and can sometimes be scary and/or at least frustrating for Israelis, there are also some areas of good, some areas of hope.  To start with, there is some room for alignment (even it is luke-warm at best) of key interests between Israel and the pragmatic Arab states of Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia towards an “Axis of Stability” in the region.  With the rise of Kurdish autonomy and possible statehood, there is a chance for Turkish-Israeli rapprochement.  This would certainly give Israel another potential partner in the region…a plus for anyone who supports and loves Israel. 


This convention challenged each and every one of us in so many ways, and I leave Israel to head back to my community with more knowledge – with lots of ideas and ways to help educate and inform my congregation.  Israel is not perfect; however, she is a beacon of hope in a region that unfortunately has very little hope.  As the only democracy in the region, Israel must continue to lead the way in so many areas – in her democracy and human rights to begin with.  While I believe this region has a long road ahead, I do believe that peace will come…with God’s help, sooner or later.  Dr. Magen ended his presentation with the following quote, “Anyone who doesn’t believe in miracles is not a realist,” by David Ben-Gurion.  Yes, this is why Dr. Magen, and I as well, remain an eternal optimist with respects to Israel and her neighbors.