Just Another Day in the Life

Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Friday, October 28th, 2016 – 26 Tishri, 5777

Just Another Day in the Life

It’s 10:40 p.m. on Thursday, and I’m reflecting on another typical day. I had an early morning meeting with a congregant, then headed over to Federation at 9:00 to meet with Israel’s Consul General to the Pacific Northwest, Dr. Andy David. Dr. David is an impressive man of intelligence and candor. Among the interesting ideas he shared with a small group was his thinking about BDS (the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement) on college campuses, which he views as a minor issue.

He proposed that addressing this is simply a matter of leadership. Specifically, he argued that our college Hillels have isolated Jewish students from the rest of the student body, so that they are not forming relationships with students of different backgrounds. If we were to offer Jewish students scholarships to take up positions in student government, the connections they’d form would curtail the BDS movement on campuses.

I don’t know if the Consul General is correct (I’m sure Hillel International might want to protest!), but his strategic approach to the problem was compelling. It offers a refreshing political perspective to an issue that if not addressed with surely continue by those who wish to delegitimize Israel.

After this meeting, Rabbi Motti Wilhelm of Chabad and I were able to catch a few moments of conversation. The focus? Rabbi Wilhelm is worried that over the last decades, Jewish engagement in Portland has lessened, even as our population has increased. It’s an interesting take; as always, deciding what and how we measure essential questions like this is a first step in seeking solutions. Regardless of the metrics one chooses, any committed Jewish professional shares this worry. I for one am always grateful that there are so many different experiments in Jewish living going on; taken as a whole, we have a better chance of stumbling on to the path/s that will best enrich our Jewish community.

After that, I ran to the synagogue to address some administrative concerns and make some headway on email. One letter that caught my attention was a multi-faith effort to teach people about organ donation from a religious perspective. That nationwide effort unfortunately falls on November 11th-13th, the same weekend as both the Greenfield bat mitzvah and our visiting Scholar in Residence, Arnold Roth. 

Since there is not a ready slot to discuss the issue then, our communications guy, Brian Rohr will be getting together information on the regional organ donor registry. Suffice it to say, the Conservative movement actually has declared that organ donation is a positive mitzvah, for we are enjoined to save a human life however we can. When I got my Oregon driver’s license, I made sure to have myself listed as an anatomical donor on my death. If you haven’t yet declared yourself an organ donor, I’d encourage you to consider this. What a wonderful legacy gift you might provide to someone in need.

After some paperwork, I grabbed a bite with a congregant, then headed off to my weekly voice lesson. The power of the human voice as an instrument is a God-given ability; like most abilities, it only comes into competence and maturation by applied diligence. As someone who didn’t grow up playing any instrument, this has been a richly rewarding exploration and deepened my sensitivity to how music and silence interact with one another and their role in prayer.

Claude Debussy supposedly stated that music is the sound between the notes. This silence also has a place in Judaism, whether in the silent Amidah, or the hushed tones in which we recite many of our psalms and prayers. Silence is also considered assent in Jewish law.

Music, it seems, is born in the organized interplay between silence and sound. Tonight, we’ll have a wonderful opportunity to appreciate that during this evening’s Shabbat Unplugged with Cantor Bletstein and the eminently talented Kim Schneiderman. Services begin at 6:15 and I promise that you ears and soul will be richly rewarded.

After my voice lesson, it was off to Westminster Presbyterian Church in NE Portland to discuss our upcoming Abrahamic Interfaith Thanksgiving Service on Wednesday night, November 23rd with our partners there and at the Muslim Educational Trust. The intention is to make this an annual celebration that will rotate between the three venues. This year will be hosted at Westminster, 1624 NE Hancock St and will run from 6-7:30 pm.

From there, it was back to South West to bid adieu to Jennifer Greenberg and then afterwards to the synagogue for the final meeting of the evening. Jennifer has served our community with tremendous dedication over the past six years, and is looking forward to becoming a congregant again as she pursues a masters in business administration at PSU. I’m sure you join with me in thanking her for her years of labor on our behalf and in wishing her much future success. On another positive note, we’ve signed on Jennifer’s successor, Daniela Meltzer, who will start in a couple of weeks. She comes with a strong background in programming and will build on Jennifer’s legacy.

So it was a good day. I hope yours was also.

Warmth and blessings,

Rav D

Shabbat Table Talk

  1. Do you spend regular time reflecting on your day and its events? If so, how does this process affect how you view your day?
  2. Have you discussed organ donation with your family or close ones? 3. What are your thoughts about your body and what you wish to have happen to it once you are deceased?
  3. How do you bring music into your life?

Reminder: Walking Our Talk with Rabbi Kosak begins next week!

email kwilkins@nevehshalom.org to reserve a place

Dates: November 2nd, 9th and 16th.

Time: 12 noon-1 pm

Lunch and learn: 12:00-12:30 pm

Meander: 12:30~1:00 pm