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Lox, Bagels and Cheesecake For All Part 2

pierre_100There were well over a hundred people at this Parashat Chukkat Shabbat Morning Service, honouring Rabbi Garten. The whole service made a huge impression on me and internally convinced me that coming to Temple Israel was the right decision.


Blog 2, Part 2/3

If I had to choose however, three parts of the service will stay in my mind: Cantress Lisa singing in Hebrew, the procession of the Torah and the wedding blessing.


In all my travels across three continents, my impression is that all ethnically-recognizable music have an undertone of sorrow. If you listen to such diverse music as Russian, Gypsy or Spanish music, it's there. We usually remember those upbeat ones because we in North America tend to prefer upbeat music. Sadness and sorrow are not in our musical culture (except maybe for sappy love songs), and this probably has to do with our ethnically heterogeneous population. I remember visiting Red Square many years ago and asking our personal guide why so many of Russia's leaders were monsters. She replied that the Russian people must have displeased God so much that they were to be punished for all time.


In my many, many readings of history, I remember a story about anonymous Israelite miner-slaves crying out, asking God why He had abandoned them. They are not alone. Psalm 22.1, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'; the Lamentations of Jeremiah 5.20, 'Why have you forgotten us completely? Why have you forsaken us these many days?'; our own Matthew 27.46 and Mark 15.34, with the same cry, this time from Jesus Himself, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'.

Feelings of abandonment and forsakenness have been part of Jewish and human history since the dawn of time. No need to point the finger at Inquisitions, pogroms or a Final Solution, it is still happening today. I know in my heart of hearts, a young girl from the Steppes is crying out 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' after being abducted to be sold to a Chinese farmer, because millions of girls are missing in China. There is big money to be made treating people as chattels.

CHRI Family Radio is running many ads for the '[free-them] Freedom Walk' on September 27th. The numbers on human trafficking are mind- and heart-numbing; these are millions of individuals, each one a human like us, each one wanting their only life back, each one a single lonely voice, crying out the same cry of abandonment and forsakenness. It is not God who abandons us, it is we who abandon God by abandoning each other.

When Cantress Lisa began singing in Hebrew, I thought of all this. I could hear it in her voice, that plaintive undertone, that same undercurrent of being on our own, abandoned and forsaken, found in the Torah and the New Testament, crying out to YHVH, to Adonai, to God.

It might read a bit over the top, but decades of reading human history and knowing my own family history, I was greatly affected. It's probably all the major renovations of my home these last two months, what with all the dust, early mornings and late nights of work, but it was a good thing I remembered to stuff my pocket with Kleenex before coming to Temple Israel.

Next: Blog 2, Part 3/3

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