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A Blog Post from Israel

02/13/2023 08:27:44 AM


Rabbi Ranon Teller

I'm spending a professional development week in Israel taking classes at the Conservative Yeshiva, clarifying our synagogue mission, and articulating a vision for the future.

Yesterday, I sat in on a class taught by my favorite former teacher from rabbinical school, Dr. Walter Herzberg. The subject was the Biblical literary use of repetitive language for emphasis. In this week's parasha, Mishpatim, God threatens us with severe punishment if we mistreat the vulnerable saying, "when [a widow or orphan] really cries out to me." The Hebrew root is repeated for emphasis, "tza'ok yitz'ak". I added to the conversation, quoting a line from Johnny Cash's Big River, "I taught the weepin' willow how to cry, cry, cry." A comparative literary use of repetition for emphasis from the American South! God bless Texas.

I visited my father's grave. My focal point became the words inscribed on his gravestone. My sisters and I chose three quotes, each based on a classic rabbinic text. 1. He served God with joy. 2. He merited to teach and to learn - to observe and to do. 3. He was loved by all. These words are now inscribed deeply onto my soul.

I visited my mother. She is in the late stages of Parkinsons and dementia and communicates intermittently. My mother was a classical pianist who put us all through piano lessons, insisting that we practice our scales and arpeggios every day. While I was there, I honored her with my best attempt at running though my scales in each key. My muscle memory guided me through the complexity of sharps and flats. Then my mother spoke, " D." I was still working out my A scale, and I figured she might not notice. More insistent, she said, "No. D!" When I played the scale in D she said, "Good" and her body visibly relaxed. I had known that her musical soul was still intact, but I was surprised that her perfect pitch was, too!

One final thought. Our hotel serves a classic Israeli breakfast buffet overflowing with all kinds of herring, cheese, vegetables, granola, fruit...and eggs. Scrambled eggs, shakshuka, hard-boiled eggs...and a chef (with a hat) preparing eggs by special order. This morning, as I was gathering my eggs from the buffet, I noticed that the omelet chef wasn't there. My heart sank with disappointment. I realized then how pampered I had become in a matter of two days! Instead of being grateful for the 99 delicious foods on the buffet, I was sad that I lacked 1!

May we live each day with our minds focused on our blessings, our hearts filled with gratitude, and our souls shining with the light of God!

Blessings from Israel,
Rabbi Teller

Wed, July 24 2024 18 Tammuz 5784