Today is October 17, 2019 -

Congregation Beth Israel

A spiritual oasis for the Jewish community

6 Dundee Park
Andover, MA 01810

(978) 474-0540

The Rabbi’s Column

The name of my column, lach l’cha, is found in the Book of Genesis, when in his first contact with God, Abraham is told by God to lach l’cha, which words are commonly translated as “‘go forth’ to the land that I will show you.” Heeding God’s instructions, Abraham leaves his family of origin and his community, along with his beloved wife, Sarah, to bring monotheism and Jewish values and teachings to the world.

With the words lach l’cha literally meaning, “go to yourself,” this phrase was also translated by many of the rabbis and sages of old to mean, not only for Abraham, for each of us to look outward, but for us to also take the time to look inward and at our ourselves.

Echoing the teaching from the Book of Ecclesiastes and made famous by the Byrds, lach l’cha reminds us that there is both a time to focus our attention outwardly and a time for self-reflection. For most of the year, we spend our busy and fast paced lives focusing on the external world around us—on our work, on our families and on our relationships with others, on our synagogue and other communal activities, etc. It will soon be that time of the year, however, when we Jews are urged by our Tradition to prioritize our inner being, reflecting upon what we may have been doing well, and what we may want and need to do better.

As part of this redemptive process, we are called upon to acknowledge those occasions on which we may have fallen short of the mark; to apologize directly to God to those we may have hurt or harmed; and then to commit to doing our best not to repeat the same behavior.

In the same way, if someone who has hurt or harmed us comes to us and asks for forgiveness, we are urged to accept the apology and try our best to forgive the person.

The Holiday of tisha b’av, the 9th day of Av, a fast day on which our Tradition says a number of tragic events in Jewish history occurred, is a powerful and meaningful way to jump start this process of self-reflection. We are going to be celebrating this Holiday, which falls on Saturday, August 10, this year, at our synagogue in partnership with Temple Emanu-El of Haverhill, MA. The evening is scheduled to start at 7 PM with a delicious potluck dinner; followed by Havdalah; a brief service; the chanting of eicha; the Book of Lamentations, by several of our own members; and then by a discussion of the book, “The Sunflower,”by Simon Wiesenthal, the courageous Nazi hunter, who, himself, was a prisoner in a concentration camp.

Wiesenthal’s book raises a number of provocative and interesting questions relating to the Holy Day theme of forgiveness, questions ranging from “are there any preconditions, which need to be met, before a person is obligated to forgive another person” to “even if the person sincerely apologizes and asks for forgiveness, are there some crimes that are so heinous that they are unforgiveable?”

I am extending a personal invitation to your family, friends, and you to join with your fellow congregants and our sisters and brothers from Haverhill as we celebrate this extremely meaningful Holiday in community. To ensure that we will have sufficient food, I would respectfully request that you call Amy and let her know that you will be joining us.

May the month of August be a safe, relaxing, and fun time for your loved ones and you!

Shalom Aleichem! Peace Be With Each of You!

Rabbi Mandell