Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Friday, August 13, 2021 / 5 Elul 5781
Summary: This week, I continue to explore the ideal of a Jewish eiruv, or Shabbat boundary, by sharing a story or two. The eiruv is a mirror of how we think about the world itself and our place in it.
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Last week’s Oasis Songs was dedicated to the ancient Jewish custom of expanding community by setting up an eiruv, a Jewish boundary that extends the distance one can travel on Shabbat. Let’s continue reflecting on this custom.
The two largest eiruvin in which Laura and I have lived are found in Los Angeles and Jerusalem. The one in LA encompasses around 100 square miles. Some congregants reached out to me surprised that this tradition still exists. Many Jewish communities around the world maintain an eiruv, and Congregation Neveh Shalom is situated within the Portland eiruv, which is one of the many blessings Rabbi Tzvi Fischer left our city’s Jewish community.
As I noted, there is a spiritual side to an eiruv that is so much more than the physical demarcation or fence. Journalist and amateur cartographer, Frank Jacobs, once noted that “home isn’t where your heart is, where you make your bed or even where you lay your hat. It is where you draw the line that separates what’s yours from what’s not. This line surrounds your inner sanctum.”
None of us can exist without boundaries, walls, fences. It’s just that some people’s walled gardens are quite large, and these individuals normally leave an enduring impression.
On the way back from my weekend at Camp Solomon Schechter, I pulled off in Kelso, Washington so that I could meet and spend some time with Steve Goode. Steve Goode is a retired Chicago area realtor who specialized in industrial properties. He is also a Jewish motorcyclist, and Portland’s local motorcycle club learned about his cross country trip through the national Jewish Motorcyclists Alliance. In addition, Steve has been a long-time supporter of Mazon—A Jewish Response to Hunger. Some of you may recall a few years back when we invited Mazon to park their double wide trailer in the synagogue parking lot for nearly two weeks, during which many of us visited their “museum” trailer, which showcased the structural and enduring causes of hunger in our nation.
This year, Steve, who has made several cross country motorcycle trips, decided to combine those two interests by setting off on “The Great Deli Schlep.” His 16,000-mile, 75-day journey to delis across the country, supporting MAZON and raising awareness about hunger in the U.S. just ended. Last I heard, he was cruising through North Dakota on the longest leg of his trip without a Jewish delicatessen on his way back to Chicago.
What motivated Steve to take this trip? He let me know that part of what he appreciates about Mazon is that it addresses issues of hunger regardless of a person’s background or religion. Steve’s eiruv of concern, in other words, is considerably larger than 100 square miles. It’s nationwide. He not only wants to see the structural changes made to address hunger in a systemic manner, but he has literally put his rubber to the road to make that happen.
You can learn more about Steve’s trek here: https://mazon.org/events/delischlep/
It makes for engaging reading. If you wish to cast your spiritual eiruv wide, please consider donating in his honor to Mazon. They do important work.
This past week, the Portland Jewish community lost an individual whose eiruv of concern were also expansive. That, of course, was Julie Diamond. She impacted so many people, both professionally and personally.
Many people were touched by Julie’s tireless work on the communal behalf. Rabbi Posen offered a moving eulogy, and in his weekly blog, Marc Blattner of the JFGP also shared poignant remarks. Here is also a link to the Oregon Jewish Life tribute to her memory, written by Cindy Saltzman: https://orjewishlife.com/goodbye-to-our-gadol/
Thank you Julie, for your tremendous gifts to our Portland area community.
Yetziat Tzaddik Osah Roshem
Rashi, our great French Bible commentator from the Middle Ages wrote that when a righteous person leaves—whether from an unfortunate death or on a motorcycle—people feel the loss. Simultaneously, their presence leaves a spiritual residue or imprint behind. We are changed, in other words, from their goodness, and sometimes the place itself is transformed.
An older mentor once told me that in his middle years, he had trouble sleeping. Too much happening internally, his thoughts and worries kept recurring. He initially tried praying for himself. When that didn’t work, he started to pray for others, and that’s when sleep found him more easily.
There’s something deeply healing to ourselves when we are able to widen our eiruvin of concern. The mystics would call this mokhin de’gadlut, expanded consciousness. It’s worthwhile for all of us to work towards. At the same, Frank Jacobs reminded us above that “home is where you draw the line that separates what’s yours from what’s not.” No human can live without fences, walls, or eiruvin. Without boundaries, we suffer from mental illness and behavioral issues. We can’t love everyone. Still, most of us probably maintain a more constricted eiruv than is necessary.
As we rapidly approach the High Holidays, may each of us find meaningful and manageable ways to expand our circles of concern.
Shabbat Table Talk
- The traditional NY pastrami sandwich is nothing but rye bread, hot pastrami, and maybe mustard. Other cities have different deli traditions. If you are a carnivore, what is your preferred deli sandwich? Why? Does it have history for you, or is it just a sandwich?
- How wide do you think a person’s circle of concern can be? Is there a point where it becomes so watered down that it loses significance, or is it sufficient to verbalize universal concern?
- What’s your most memorable road trip? Who did you meet on the way? What did you learn?
If you’d like to continue this discussion, follow this link to CNS’s Facebook page to share your own perspectives on the topics raised in this week’s Oasis Songs. Comments will be moderated as necessary.