President’s Message – January 2012, Tevet 5772
During this time of the year, in the depths of the cold and dark, if we look closely we can see the seeds of more light and warmth. In our community, on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings, among other times of the week, there is usually warmth and light in our congregation. Outside of our sanctuary, the seeds of spring can be seen growing daily.
In my self-declared tradition of reading a book from the Bible beyond the Torah each month, this month I am looking into the book of Jeremiah for inspiration. We believe that Jeremiah prophesized during the 6th and 7th century before the common era (BCE), about 2600 years ago, at a time when Judah were under attack by Babylonia and the ruling class was sent into exile to Babylon after the destruction of the first Temple. The Book of Jeremiah provides haftorah readings about six times during the year, with a good number of these readings during the winter months.
Jeremiah is sometimes known as the “weeping prophet” for he laments the Deity’s disappointment in the people of Judah for their idol worshipping and their failure to follow the teachings. From the priestly caste, he was reluctant to be a prophet, but understood that he was “set … over nations and kingdoms, to root up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant“ (chapter 1:10). Jeremiah called for an end to slavery and foretold the destruction of Judah due to disobedience (chapter 34). He foresaw the dominance of Babylonia in the region and the destruction of Egypt and provides an interesting geo-political analysis of the time. Even though he understood that Babylonia would soon conquer the tribal lands of Judah and Benjamin and holy Jerusalem, he redeemed his family’s land as a sign that his people would return after an exile in Babylon and rebuild the land. In the face of this darkening future, Jeremiah comforts his people by proclaiming- “but fear not, O Jacob My servant, neither be dismayed, O Israel; be assured, I will save you from afar, and your offspring from the land of their captivity; and Jacob will again be quiet and at ease, and none will make him afraid” (chapter 46:27).
At this moment of history, with mid-eastern geo-political uncertainties, one would much welcome quiet and to be at ease and not be afraid. Just as the dark, cold days of January soon welcome the small signs of spring, so shall we soon have opportunities to build and to plant within our homes, community, and the world. My best wishes to you and yours for a warm and fruitful 2012.
David Stoloff, 2011-2012 President, Temple Bnai Israel, Willimantic, CT