Peter Beinart has just written a fascinating piece arguing that the greatest threat to American Judaism is not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but Jewish illiteracy, and that rabbis in their derashot should focus on the Machzor and Tanakh rather than on the conflict. I agree, and think that this is the case world over, but think that if delicately done, both objectives can be achieved.
This year I will be spending Yamim Noraim with the Radlett Community just outside London, and have put together some readings which are hopefully accessible and of interest to all levels. They are simple and short enough to be read in shul when a break from the Machzor is needed, as well as beforehand if you have the time.
I’ve tried to find sources that are a mixture of ancient and modern, inspiring and provocative in equal measure – and that link up the classic texts of Rosh Hashannah to broader topics. I have added a sort of commentary alongside the readings to provide context and coherence. So here they are:
Yishmael as a Paradigm of Teshuva Midrash Tanchuma, former CR Jonathan Sacks, Meir Shalev and an amazing midrash from Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer
The Akeida in the 20th and 21st Century Haim Guri, Yehuda Amichai, Elie Wiesel, and a mini essay on the Akeida in the thought of my great teacher, Rav Yehuda Amital
Rav Soloveitchik and A.J. Heschel on Man, Religion, Prayer, and Teshuva Two of the greatest Jewish thinkers of the 20th Century with thoughts which, if we took them seriously, would shake us to our core.
Inspiration from the Nations – Three of my favourite poems from Rabindranath Tagore, Stevie Smith, and Arthur Hugh Clough as well as a piece from Vasily Grossman, whose thoughts are relevant throughout the year, but perhaps especially on Rosh HaShanna.
Whilst here I’m speaking in a few places in the UK over the coming 10 days:
Sunday 28th September 11:15AM – 12:15 PM LSJS Yom Iyun on Tzom Gedalya From Gedalya to Rabin: Political Violence in Modern Israel
Monday 29th September: Chevruta from 9:30AM, Shiur 11-12:30 Women’s Bet Midrash @ LSJS: Themes of Teshuva in Tanakh: Yechezkel, Yishmael, and The Two Goats.
Wednesday 1st October, 8PM, Shema Manchester, Yonah, Nineveh and the Positive Hypocrisy of Teshuva