Shedding New Light on Jewish Traditions

Rabbi's Writings

"remembering a warrior for peace"
  Tomorrow, November 4, marks the twentieth anniversary of the assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, of blessed memory.  It is hard to imagine that twenty years have passed since that tragic night when Rabin was murdered by Jewish extremist Yigal Amir, an opponent of the Oslo peace process which Rabin had championed and which had led to a preliminary agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians.
  Rabin was just leaving a Tel Aviv rally that night in 1995 in support of that effort when he was murdered, dashing the momentum toward a two-state solution which at the time seemed inevitable and today seems almost unattainable.  A few months ago I stood with fellow congregants at a memorial marking the place where both Rabin and any hopes for an imminent end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were struck down.  Choking back tears, I led us in El Malei Rachamim, the memorial prayer, in remembrance of a fierce warrior for Israel's founding and safety in the
War of Independence and the Six-Day War - and then a different sort of soldier, a warrior for peace who recognized that Israel's ultimate security and stability depend on a resolution to the conflict.  Our group visited the remarkable Yitzhak Rabin Center, dedicated to his life and legacy - and reflected on how Israeli politics since that fateful day has only become more hateful and divisive.
  Tomorrow I will be fasting to mark the twentieth anniversary of Rabin's assassination
- a mark of my sorrow at the death of a great leader, murdered by a fellow Jew; of my prayers for what might have been and what might yet be; and of my commitment to continue working toward the goals that Yitzhak Rabin upheld in life and in death
- a state of Israel, free and secure, living in peace with its neighbors.  I invite you to join me in fasting tomorrow as well, and to make a donation in Rabin's memory to an organization of your choice that supports these goals.  I have included a list below, and also highly recommend listening to a recent episode of public radio's program This American Life that was devoted to the assassination and its impact on contemporary Israeli society.  And I invite you to join me at services this Friday evening when we will recall and acknowledge Rabin's legacy (in an age-appropriate manner for our second and third graders who will be attending the service!) and rededicate ourselves to hoping and working for peace for Israel.
Yehi zichro baruch - may the memory of Yitzhak Rabin ever be for a blessing.
B'tikvat shalom / With prayers for peace,
Rabbi Joshua Waxman
organizations to continue the work of Yitzhak Rabin:
- The Yitzhak Rabin Center
- J Street


"who will live, and who will die?"

The latest round of violence gripping Israel is leaving those who deeply love the country and care for its future feeling shaken and hopeless.  In the past days, there has been an escalating series of attacks and counter-attacks, a vicious and deadly cycle of recrimination and revenge that is leaving both Israeli and Palestinian families broken and mourning.  The seemingly improvisational nature of the latest round of attacks - apparently individuals acting on their own initiative rather than the work of any organized groups - only adds to the feelings of chaos and uncertainty, recalling the existential anxiety with which we begin the year just a few weeks ago asking, "mi yichyeh, umi yamut - who will live and who will die?"


We pray that the majorities on both sides of the conflict who hope for a peaceful and sustainable solution will not give in to despair or to the all-too-easy temptation to dismiss and demonize the "other."  We who are looking and worrying from afar must affirm as a core principle the dignity and humanity of both Jews and Palestinians - a shared humanity that only makes the recent bloodshed and loss of life all the more tragic.  In that spirit, I want to encourage you to read a blog post responding to recent events by Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, an Israeli settler who helps lead a dialogue group that brings together Israeli settlers and Palestinians who have both suffered violence within their families.  The difficult and sometimes painful work of Roots and similar organizations is often lost behind the bloody headlines, but the critical work of maintaining and building connections, acknowledging shared suffering, and making room for hope in the face of despair is crucial if Israelis and Palestinians will find their way out of this latest cycle of violence and to the lasting and sustainable resolution we all yearn for.


May the One who makes peace in the high places send peace to us, to Israel, and to all who dwell on earth, and may all the peoples of the land we call holy know tranquility and peace.


B'tikvat shalom / With prayers for peace



Marriage Equality in Pennsylvania - A victory for love and justice

Like many of you, I was thrilled to open my browser this afternoon and read the words "U.S. Judge Strikes Down Same-Sex Marriage Ban in PA." I am so profoundly happy that U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III has recognized that there is no place for hate or discrimination in our state's laws, which since 1996 had included a ban on legal recognition for same-sex marriages, whether performed in Pennsylvania or in other states. Pennsylvania was the last state in the Northeast that did not grant the same recognition to all couples who wanted to have their love and commitment formalized through marriage - until today. There may very well be additional legal challenges and wrangling before today's victory for marriage equality in Pennsylvania is finalized and secure, but I will celebrate this decision knowing that today, our commonwealth is one step closer to enshrining justice and equality for all its citizens. 

B'simchah / In joy,  Rabbi Joshua Waxman

P.S. Please consider joining me in signing this petition from Equality PA urging Governor Corbett not to appeal today's decision and to let marriage equality stand in Pennsylvania.