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Ismar Schorsch was the previous Chancellor of JTS. He was a learned rabbi, and while he lived, I'm embarrassed to say that sometimes I found his teachings too academic or too source driven. At the time, his Torah left me dry. But you know, people improve over time--primarily as we do; and as we do, we can see them more clearly.
This past week, the Jewish world and humanity as a whole lost one of its giants. Shimon Peres crossed over to olam ha'emet--the world of truth as one Hebrew idiom describes death. It was clear that this week's article needed to be dedicated to his memory. Yet how does one sum up a man like Peres, particularly when so much of the world press has been reporting on his passing?
Bad things really do cluster around the high holidays. It's not myth. I've spoken to funeral directors who've been in their business for long years, and they confirm that they see an increase in deaths around holidays. More Christians die around Christmas and Easter.
While in Washington, DC, for a family gathering, two unrelated events collided and provided me with some interesting reflections about how Judaism affirms life. First, I reread most of a novel by the Czech author, Milan Kundera. Then I visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. While I have contributed to the museum in the past, this was my first time visiting.
It's begun. Every year around this time, a sort of dread and anxiety washes over me. In the beginning, it would paralyze me. Now I observe it with alternating states of dispassion and curiosity as it cycles around again. If I had to name it, I'd call it the pre-high holiday terrors. Most rabbis I know experience it to some degree, because the stakes are so high.