Shofar (TBE Newsletter)

The Shofar, Temple Beth El’s monthly publication, keeps community and temple members up to date on what’s going on. Take a look at this month’s Shofar to see what’s coming up or browse through the archives to see all that we’ve done!

June 2024 – Shofar (pdf)


Return to Who You Are…But Who Are You?

Scholar and rabbi, Daniel Boyarin, tells the story of the time he had Shabbat dinner with lifelong friends.  There he saw grainy photos of their now-grown fraternal twins who pursued vastly different professions…twice: The taller one was into sports in his youth but became a singer as an adult, whereas the shorter twin had been a passionate boy soprano in elementary school but later coached his son’s little league team as an adult. How remarkable! These twins radically switched identities! In his book, The Jewish Gospels, he relates this to the Jewish self-understanding of who we were in the days of King Herod, when there were “Judaisms,” i.e. diverse approaches and sects within our kahal. Ultimately, as a community we came to
believe ourselves to hold a particular identity which, in reality, is only part of the story of who we are. Who are we? Our rabbinic Sages, whose lineage is directly tied to the Pharisees, imagined us to be like Yeshivaattending Jacob, a scholar and mama’s boy (i.e. Rebecca’s favorite), who lived in stark contrast with his twin brother, the hunter known as Esau, later associated with the EDOMites who were ADOM–ruddy, fleshy, brutish and ogre-like. Our people’s self-image developed early on as soft, vulnerable, peaceful, perhaps a polemic to counter the image of the Sadducean lineage which emphasized hierarchy and power as Jews. This soft identity is further reinforced through emphasis on story after story–we are David not Goliath, we are the Prophets not a corrupt king, “Not by might, not by power, but by your spirit….says A-Donai,..” we are gentle giants of justice, not brutish warmongers. Forever underdogs. But how true is this? We also conquer the land, rid Canaan of its peoples. We utterly destroy Amalekites as revenge for their brazen attacks. Haman and thousands of his supporters are killed in the Book of Esther. Ezra demands that men rid themselves of foreign women.

In the tale of the scapegoat, my teacher Rabbi David Ingber noted that the two goats–one slaughtered and the other sent off to “Azazel” to fall off a cliff- -look and act like twins, both ultimately suffering the same fate despite their different experiences in the world. Perhaps distinctions without difference. And early Zionist scholar Leon Pinsker noted that in order for form a Jewish state, we needed to reconsider our workforce, invert it; instead of the longstanding tradition Yeshiva-dwellers who sit and learn/teach Torah all day (Remember: Teyva’s ultimate dream, “if he were a rich man,” is to have a prime seat next to the eastern wall of the synagogue–closest to God–in which he would learn all day, even better than the staircase leading to nowhere “just for show”), we needed to work the land, build the high rises, create the defense systems, and otherwise use our brawn, first and foremost, to build a brand-new society for Jews to safely escape the anti-Semitism that engulfed them. Ben Gurion famously quipped that, “When Israel has prostitutes and thieves, we’ll be a state just like any other.” Jews
(and specifically Israelis) had to reinvent themselves. Perhaps Pinsker had a premonition of Boyarin’s experience of witnessing the flipping of identities that his friend’s sons embodied when he had that Shabbat dinner.

Individually, we, too, pick our own adventure, leaving behind pieces of our skills sets and perhaps under developing our gifts in one area so that we have something to say in another, a way to differentiate ourselves. We make “decisions;” like all other “-ides,” like suicide and homicide, when we “decide,” we kill something off inside ourselves, or make dormant a piece of us. Allowing our other gifts to wither, we sculpt something special about ourselves. However, We cannot do it all, so hopefully our decisions do the greatest good for ourselves and for the world around us.  Who are you? Who did you become? Did you choose this pathway, or was it handed to you? Are you happy with who you have become? I bless all of us with finding our best realities and yet reminding ourselves that we are much, much more than who we have become. And if you find yourself trapped in an identity that does not serve you, may you have the strength, the courage, to remember that which has layed dormant within you, perhaps for years, and reboot your life. Mo matter how old you may be, may your Second Act–or
third, fourth or tenth–nourish your soul and bring out the best within you, a manifestation of the dusty embodiment of Divine Image within you, brain AND braun, kindness and power, Jacob and Esau, David and Goliath…all manifestations of the E-lohim Chayim, the living God.”

Happy counting!

Rabbi Jonathan Klein


2024 2023
January January
February February
March March
June June