Blessing Our Fallen Soldiers

(While I don’t like to re-blog, the great response I got to my Mother’s Day re-blog taught me that it is not a bad things! So, here is another re-blog from 2010, modified slightly and so appropriate for this weekend.)

On this Memorial Day weekend, as we remember our soldiers who lost their lives while serving our country, I share with you the lyrics of the famous Israeli song, “How Can I Bless?” by Rachel Shapira.

“How can I bless him, what gift shall I give
 to this child” said the angel of love.

And he gave him a smile that was radiant as light.
 And he gave him two eyes that were open and clear 
to seek out each flower and each creature and bird.
 And a heart to rejoice in each day of the year.

“How can I bless him, what gift shall I give 
to this child” said the angel of love.

And he gave him two feet that were light in the dance, a soul to rejoice in each tune and each song,
 a hand that collected the shells on the shore,
 an ear to respond to the old and the young.

“How can I bless him, what gift shall I give
 to this child” said the angel of love.

But those hands that were able to make flowers grow,
 were blessed with the skill to drive engines of might. And the feet that could dance also knew how to march. And the lips that could sing, also summoned to fight.

“How can I bless him, what gift shall I give 
to this child” said the angel of love.

“I have given him all that an angel can give,
 two light dancing feet, and a song and a smile,
 a delicate hand and a sensitive heart.
 What else can I give him? I’ve given him all.”

“How can I bless him, what gift shall I give
 to this child” said the angel of love.

 He has joined the angels, that wonderful boy, 
he has no more blessings, no longer is blessed.
 Oh, Lord above, did your angel forget
 to bless him with life along with the rest?

May we all remember and honor the sacrifices made by our soldiers. May the families of fallen soldiers feel the love and support of our nation. May the memory of those who have lost their lives while serving our country forever serve as a blessing.  They gave their lives while protecting us, insuring that we have tremendous blessings.  For this, we must insure that they are forever blessed.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach (Shavuot begins Saturday night – join us at Ramat Shalom!),

Real, Live, Jewish Superheroes

a “re-blog” from 2010

“One can be full of education and have the highest ideals, but if one eats soup from the tip of a the spoon and not from the side or one spoons the soup up towards oneself and takes too much, or one leans on the table and reaches for the milk when it is too far away instead of asking someone sitting closer to pass it – then one commits…a ‘crime,’ and that’s all that seems to matter.”

These words were written in 1903 by Abraham Cahan, the editor of the popular, Lower East Side (of New York) Jewish Daily Forward.  While the words seem funny to us today, Cahan was serious.  He was capturing a concern among the newer members of the American Jewish community that they quickly adopt the behavior and social norms of their new surroundings.  This concern grew out of the desire of Jewish families to insure that America became their home and that their children would fit in and succeed in this land of opportunity.  At the forefront of this campaign to adapt to the American way of life were, obviously, Jewish mothers.  And we know that they were successful.

For a time, it seemed that Jewish mothers were almost too successful.  An early 20th century Jewish parenting book stated: “the function of the home must…be to transmit a civilization, to provide for the continuity of a cultural inheritance as well as an ethnological one.”  Judaism in the early 1900’s was being pushed to the sidelines by the new American lifestyle.  Assimilation was putting our rituals at risk.  Mathilde Shechter, an advocate for the role of the home in early 20th century Jewish identity, wrote: “Earnest rabbis and teachers are doing their best from the pulpit and platform to turn the tide [against assimilation], but they and the synagogues are helpless, unless the women of Israel create Jewish homes again.  [Women need to] rebuild our Jewish homes.”  And many did just this.

To this day, it is my experience that it is Jewish women – largely Jewish mothers – who have kept Judaism alive in America.  Certainly, in more traditional communities, prayer and study have connected men.  In the more liberal communities, however, it is often a struggle to get men involved and connected with Jewish life.  It is usually the women in these communities (like our own) that insure that their families remain connected.  For the most part, it is mothers who insure that their home is a Jewish home and that their children attend a Jewish preschool, make it on time to Torah School, prepare for their bar mitzvah, and remain connected to Jewish life as a teenager.  And many of these mothers do this while maintaining careers that women in the early 1900’s could not have comprehended.  They are real, live, Jewish superheroes!

To all of our mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers – thank you for doing your part to keep Judaism alive and well in the 21st century.  Enjoy Mother’s Day.  May it be special.