I once asked a friend of mine, a therapist, what the biggest problem she encountered with her patients was. She answered swiftly. “They stay stuck. They get to a certain point of self-awareness but then cannot move forward.”
Calls to divest from Israel continue to grow louder, mostly by people who wouldn’t know the truth about Israeli society or history if it hit them on the head with a drone. Some performing artists have cancelled gigs in Israel, “academics” have voted to shun Israeli colleagues, and some British stores have stopped carrying the immensely popular and environmentally friendly product SodaStream. Did those calling for this boycott stop to consider that boycotting SodaStream hurts Palestinians and Israeli Arabs most? The factory employs 500 Palestinians, 450 Arab citizens of Israel, but just 350 Jewish Israelis. Wait, that’s not “proportionate!”
I’ve always been skeptical about “love at first sight” stories. Instant attraction is one thing, but I never believed that true love, the real deal, could blossom the instant one person first set eyes on another. But then it happened to me.
Each year on the holiday of Shavuot (Pentacost), I love reading the Book of Ruth. Like so many of the narratives that fill Jewish history, the Book of Ruth is poignant, filled with drama, emotional honesty and risk-taking. I love the fact that on the holiday where Jews commemorate receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai and become a nation defined by a covenant with God, we read the saga about a convert. As my rabbi once said so aptly, it’s not enough for Jews to consider themselves the “Chosen people;” we also need to be the choosing people. Reading the Book of Ruth affirms this idea for me. Each day, I have the opportunity to choose my Jewishness anew in any number of ways: through honest prayer, study, giving charity, looking for an additional mitzvah to do. The most famous convert in history, Ruth, reminds me that I am not defined as much by where I have been as much as where I am going.
For Walt Disney, things didn’t always go so smoothly even in his own “Magic Kingdom.” For example, it took him nearly 20 years to fulfill a promise to his daughter and make a movie based on the popular Mary Poppins books that his daughter adored. That’s because the author, P.L. Travers, was a tough and cantankerous woman who abhorred the very idea of her work being “Disneyfied,” and refused the mogul’s repeated offers to buy the rights to her work.
(Because of the Jewish High Holidays, I wanted to share an essay that I felt was particularly pertinent to this time of year, a time when the potential for spiritual renewal is great and almost palpable. Of all the hundreds of essays I have written over the years, this one, adapted from a version that was originally published on Aish.com, is especially meaningful to me. I hope you enjoy it.)
Shortly after my bat mitzvah, I decided it was time to get a better handle on God. Did He really exist? If so, did He call the shots down here on Earth, and in particular, in my own life?
My wishes for a meaningful and delicious holiday!
Gayle Redlingshafer was a minister of music at a Texas mega-church. Harold Berman was a secular Jew from New York. When they married, they agreed on a few things: they would never have children, and religion would never get in their way.
Israel is known as a land of miracles, and few have been as great as the reunification of Jerusalem as an undivided city in 1967. The tiny Jewish state had already been attacked by its neighbors immediately when it declared independence in 1948 and again in 1956. On May 27, 1967 Egyptian President Nasser announced his intent to destroy the State of Israel—a goal that many of Israel’s “neighbors” still share. Knowing that Arab armies were preparing to attack yet again, the Israeli military undertook a brilliant preemtpive strike, taking the Golan Heights from Syria; Judea and Samaria (called the West Bank) from Jordan, and most critically, the Old City of Jerusalem. The feckless UN had declared Jerusalem an “international” city but Jordan had seized control over it in 1948, barring all Jews from it.
It had been an unusually stressful week, so I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I checked into the Hilton Hotel in Woodland Hills, California on a Friday afternoon back in February. Normally, there’s no place I’d rather be on Friday afternoons than my own home, as I count the minutes until I light my Shabbat candles and bask in the glow of a sanctified oasis in time.