President’s Message – September 2011
I hope that you have had a healthy and renewing summer. As fall begins, we begin to look to get other for comfort and support. In preparation for the new year, a new start, we ask to be forgiven for any wrongs we have done to each other during the past year, either through intention or without knowing. These days of change asks that we confront the world and try to set it right for ourselves, by changing ourselves and confronting the people and conditions that have not allow us to reach our full potential. We should ask of each other, let each other know, where and when we have not reached our target in life. For sin may be seen as not reaching our target, not being all we can be to ourselves and each other. We should confront ourselves and each other, change what can be changed, let loose the ghosts of past errors, and start afresh a new year, a new life.
In my self-declared tradition of reading a book in the Bible beyond the Torah, the five books of Moses, this month I am looking into 2 Samuel for inspiration. What is first striking is that Samuel does not appear in this book. He died after anointing David as a substitute for Saul, who had sinned in the eyes of the Lord by not blotting out Amalek, the evil kingdom that had attacked the weak among the escapees from Egypt during the exodus. Samuel appears again as a ghost on Saul’s last night before his death, representing the spirit of his guilty and troubled mind.
The David in 2 Samuel is also a troubled warrior, father, and king. Until the end of the book, he is not the poet of the Psalms, nor is he the young man who calmed Saul with his song or the boy with the sling shot who killed the giant, as found in 1 Samuel. He is a schemer, an adulterer, a murderer, an opportunist, a politician. In his defense, he does not seem to know what is expected of him as a father, husband, and king. For example, in the last chapter of 2 Samuel, the Lord is angry at Israel and Judah and requires an accounting of them, a census, from David. David sends his general Joab and the leaders of his palace guards on a nearly year-long census of the people. When the accounting is presented to the Lord, the Lord is still angry and through a prophet lets David know that his kingdom has 3 choices for its punishment – 7 years of famine, 3 months of the king being pursued by his enemies, and 3 days of pestilence. The pestilence is stopped when David begs that the people be spared and promises to bring the Ark of the Covenant to a threshing floor near Jerusalem. Perhaps one might say that David finally realizes that as king is more than just myself, he is the protector of his people, and that he must also seek to bring the presence of the Lord closer to his people in a most visible way.
During the coming month, this month of selichot, forgiveness, may we all realize our obligations to each other and strive to help bring out the presence of the Lord in more visible ways among those we love and know. Let me start by saying – please forgive me for any wrongs that I might have done to you and yours during the past year, whether by intention or unknowingly. May you have a healthy, happy, peaceful, and fulfilling new year 5772, a year of greater understanding and shared joy within our small community here in the forests of eastern Connecticut.
David Stoloff, 2011-2012 President, Temple Bnai Israel, Willimantic, CT