Monday, March 10, 2014
Thursday, February 27, 2014
On September 30, 1938, Neville Chamberlain returned from Berlin and said:
My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time.We know of course that the wish for "peace for our time" did not come to fruition. Often overlooked is the fact that this was the second time that a British Prime Minister had returned from Germany with such an assurance. The first was Benjamin Disraeli in 1878 returning from the Congress of Berlin. That conference concerned fighting between Russia and the Ottoman Empire. Heavily influenced by German Chancellor Otto Von Bismark and seeking to maintain the interests of Britain and other European nations, the Conference of Berlin created a solution that limited Russia's influence to the west while increasing Austro-Hungarian influence in the Balkans. The failure of the Conference of Berlin to achieve a complete solution to the problems in the Balkans and differences between the nations of Europe, the Ottoman Empire, and Russia eventually led to World War I and one could argue continued in part with World War II. Even the Cold War could be seen as being based upon this conflict. But it did not begin in 1878 with the Russo-Turkish War. It began with the Crimean War.
During the Crimean War of 1853-1856, Russia lost to an alliance of France, Britain, the Ottoman Empire and Sardinia, aided by an ostensibly neutral but functionally allied Austria. The focus of the conflict was on the rights of Christians in the Ottoman controlled Holy Land. The French promoted the Catholics. The Russians the Orthodox. Meanwhile Britain and Austria were primarily concerned with keeping the Ottoman Empire alive so as to limit the growth of Russia. Fighting began with Russia destroying the Ottoman fleet in 1853 and finally ended when Russian allied Sevastopol fell in 1856.
Today, Sevastopol is considered by many to be a Russian city within Ukrainian borders. It is a focal point in the ongoing civil strife in the Ukraine. Concerns grow that Russia may use force, perhaps even invade, in order to protect its allied citizenry in the Ukraine and particularly in Sevastopol. Additionally, the Russian navy maintains a major naval base there with a lease expiring in 2042. 15,000 Russian naval troops and support personnel are stationed there.
This conflict did not begin this month or last or last year or last decade. It didn't begin with the fall of the Soviet Union or the aftermath of World War II. It wasn't created by the events of World War I either. This conflict between Europe and Russia in the Crimea has been ongoing since 1853. It isn't a matter of Russian meddling in a neighboring country as much as it is truly about internal conflict within it.
Ukraine is a nation of divided identity. For the country to be maintained as a single nation, it will need to respect its dual nature. If it cannot do that successfully, history tells us that violence is all but guaranteed. Russia is poised to act in its best interests. It is more than questionable as to whether or not European nations along with the United States are prepared to respond as they have for the past 161 years. What is at stake is the same thing that has been at stake throughout that time, the balance of power between East and West and the security of Europe or lack thereof which is dependent upon it.
Friday, January 10, 2014
Child: “I learned about the crossing of the sea in the Exodus story.”
Mother: “Is that really what they taught you?”
Child: “Well…not exactly, but if I told you what they really taught me, you’d never believe it!”
Saturday, December 14, 2013
On Monday at 1 pm Central Time, I will be attending two very different funerals. One I will attend in person. One I will attend in spirit. Both are for wonderful human beings who had a tremendous impact on all who knew them.
In Des Moines, I will officiate at the funeral of Dr. Henry Corn. Recently turning 102 years old, Dr. Corn was a pediatrician who began his practice before there were antibiotics. He brought health and joy into the lives of thousands of people over decades. No one ever heard him complain. Every time I visited, he said "Thank you" including on his last day right after I offered the Priestly Benediction.
A life of shalom. Completion.
Thanks and thanks and thanks.
At the moment that I help celebrate his long life another much shorter life will be celebrated a few hours drive away in Chicago. I will be there too with Phyllis and Michael Sommer, with their family, with their friends, with my rabbinical colleagues, with medical providers, with angels. Tears and tears. Smiles for happy times. More tears. More and more.
EIGHT years! Superman Sam was so bright for those eight years! Thank you. Thank you. But not " Dayeinu." Not that. Not enough. Not enough at all.
Two very different lives. Two very different funerals. I will be at both of their funerals with tears for both lives lost. Celebrating life. Mourning that it is simply never enough. Not 102 years, but certainly not eight.
Again I wrestle with God this today. I wrestle with nature and life. This is Judaism. It and we as part of it, do not hide from life. We are Jews. We say "dayeinu" knowing that it never was and never will be enough for us.
Thanks, but not enough. Not enough at all.
May shalom come.
Friday, November 22, 2013
April Showers bring Mayflowers.
Friday, November 15, 2013
I thought that after Typhoon Haiyan brought devastation to the Philippines, and at a time when I am contemplating traveling to Indianapolis for a special fundraiser for Ethan Kadish, the boy who was struck by lightning while at camp this summer about whom I spoke on YomKippur, I might talk about how we react to forces of nature in our tradition even though that topic isn’t connected to our Torah portion this week. Then this week, two things happened.
We are so desperately heartbroken and filled with sadness.
Sam has relapsed.
His ninja leukemia is so very strong...
There is no cure.There is no treatment...
[The doctors] are sad too. Terribly, horribly sad.
There is no cure.There is nothing they can do to cure our boy.
520 days ago we were told "your son has cancer." I never thought I could feel more pain than that day. I was wrong.
He still feels well. We don't know how long that will last.We're going to "suck the marrow out of life" as long as we can.
Quite literally and figuratively.Capitalize on his good days.Fill them with joy and blessing and delight.Stick his feet in the ocean and his head in the clouds.Fill his days with wonder and love.
We have to tell Sam. Although we think he knows….he is wise.We have to tell David and Yael.These are the tasks that consume us today.How do we deliver such darkness into their shiny happy world?Love. We just remind them how much we love them. Over and over...
sometimes things happen that we
cannot change and
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
I would like to start with a special thank you to Judy Blank whose persistence, energy, enthusiasm and commitment of time and resources have brought this memorial to completion. It is an honor and a privilege to be here today.