Shalom Chaverim (Dear Friends),
As this week comes to an end there are several new beginnings off of the top of my head. First, we are entering the first chapter of the fifth and final Book of Moses, Deuteronomy. This of course signals to me, as I’m sure it does to many of you, that Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year is around the corner – now less than eight weeks away. (More on the Torah portion in a bit.) Another beginning is that of the return of Major League Baseball. In the midst of COVID-19, a planned 60 game schedule replaces the normal 162 game schedule we baseball fans have become so familiar with. No one really knows how this season, without fans in the stands, will play out, but it will be a nice distraction to look at the box scores again and root for my “boys of summer,” the Boston Red Sox.
Other things that have provided me with comfort during this pandemic and all the fractures in our social fabric have been some great Netflix series — I am currently watching Money Heist, healthy home cooking, attention to exercising every day, and thereby dropping 15 pounds, and a renewed commitment to reading books.
Thank you so much to Rabbi Shmuly and his team for inviting me to serve as a facilitator for the Valley Beit Midrash’s Scholars’ Circle. I was so excited to lead the latest installment of their book club, which took place earlier this week. Our discussion focused on Cilka’s Journey: A Novel by Heather Morris. This book was particularly meaningful to me given the difficult times we are living through. In light of what the novel’s main character, Cilka, had to endure, first at Auschwitz and then in Vorkuta, a gulag at the Northern tip of Russia in Siberia, my and our “discomfort” needs to be kept in the context of so much human misery throughout history. It reminds me to be very grateful for all I have. Even now.
ABOUT THE BOOK: Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in 1942, where the commandant immediately notices how beautiful she is. Forcibly separated from the other women prisoners, Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly taken, equals survival. When the war is over and the camp is liberated, freedom is not granted to Cilka: She is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and sent to a Siberian prison camp. But did she really have a choice? And where do the lines of morality lie for Cilka, who was sent to Auschwitz when she was still a child?
This week’s Torah portion is Devarim (the words) as I mentioned earlier. In it, Moses’ message to his successor, Joshua, who will lead the people into the land of Israel is “Fear them not, for the Lord your G-d, He shall fight for you.” I think for me, feeling a sense of connection to something bigger and believing and trusting that goodness and light from the creator will prevail, does allow me to sleep better at night. I hope you too have faith and find peace in your connection to your people and your heritage.
I wish you all a Shabbat Shalom.
Light candles on Friday at 7:15pm. Shabbat ends on Saturday at 8:13pm.
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