President’s Message – October 2011, Tishrei 5772
When you read this message, we will be celebrating the Days of Awe, the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Shabbat, October 1, is Shabbat Shuvah, the Sabbath of return. During this season, we return home, to ourselves, to each other. We also turn over a new leaf, return for a new start in the cycle of the year. May you and yours have a healthy and happy, peaceful and fulfilling new year 5772, an awesome, not awful, holiday season.
In my self-declared tradition of reading a book from the Bible beyond the Torah, the five books of Moses, this month I am looking into I Kings for inspiration. This book starts with the last days of King David and the establishment of Solomon’s kingdom. Then it too quickly moves to the history of the David’s kingdom being torn apart by the generations after Solomon and the stories of Elijah, our prophet who visits our home during the Passover sederim, and his struggles with Ahab and Jezebel to keep the people loyal to our Creator.
Sections of this book appear throughout the year in our Shabbat and festival services. Solomon’s construction of the Temple and its dedication are readings during Succoth, sometimes during Hanukah, and at the end of winter during the final chapters of Exodus. In mid-autumn on the anniversary of our wedding, Debbie and I have the tradition of performing the short play that is 1 Kings 1 and the haftorah reading for Chayei
Sarah, with Debbie as the beloved Bathsheba and me as the lecherous old king who has to be reminded that her son, Solomon, will be
king after David dies. Around Hanukah, during the drama of the Joseph novella, we sometimes read from chapter 3 about Solomon’s dream and his judgment about splitting a baby into two to satisfy the call for justice by two new mothers. In our family, the haftorah reading of 1 Kings 2, at the beginning of the winter, David’s death-bed scene, is known as David as Mafioso.
In mid-summer, as the haftorah reading for Pinchas, we sometimes read from 1 Kings chapter 19 about Elijah’s transcendent meeting with the Divine Presence. Particularly appropriate for these days of awe, we read –
|19:11||And He said:
‘Go forth, and stand on the mountain before God.’ And, behold, God passed by,
and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke the rocks in pieces
before God; but God was not in the wind. An earthquake followed the wind, but
God was not in the earthquake.
|19:12||A fire followed the earthquake, but God was not in the fire; and after came a still,
(From World ORT (2000). Navigating the Bible II: Kings 1 19:12. Retrieved from http://www.bible.ort.org/books/haftarotd4.asp?action=displayid&id=999 .)
Please forgive me for any wrongs I might have done to you and yours, whether by intention, by accident, or by not thinking, during the past year. May the judgment for a happy, healthy, peaceful, and fulfilling new year 5772 come to you in a still, small, sweet voice and in the joyous noise of your family and your community. Shana Tova Umetukah – a good and sweet year to you.
David Stoloff, 2011-2012 President, Temple Bnai Israel,