Gratitude, Donald Sterling, and the Omer

Written by debra wolfson on . Posted in Rabbi's Blog

April 29, 2014

Miles Krassen once said the foundation of Judaism is the calendar. We can look and see not necessarily where we are, but where we could/should be. We can realign. Right now we are in the midst of the seven week period known as the counting of the Omer. In the Torah, it’s not said explicitly when the holiday of Shavuot will occur (the Torah doesn’t give us a date, unlike with all the other holidays), but it tells us to count 49 days after Passover, and then it will occur. Shavuot, then (which is when we commemorate the giving of the Torah on Sinai) is not a day so much as a culmination of a process. We count the days and ask the question: what does it mean to get ready to receive Torah?

I’m feeling much gratitude these days for how many people in our community are giving back to the shul with time and energy. We have had such profound congregant leadership and involvement in the Casino Mitzvah Evening, the Passover Seder, the just-completed-for-the-season homeless shelter, and the ongoing Board and Committee leadership dealing with issues and concerns too numerous to mention – but all geared around making choices and putting time in towards making this a holy community. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Lastly, I’m embarrassed to say that upon hearing of the Donald Sterling scandal (the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, who was recorded spouting bigoted and disturbing language about African-Americans), I immediately googled to see whether or not he was Jewish (he is). This made it all the more disturbing to me – though perhaps that reflex to check is a bit antiquated and a remnant of another time. However, there was a nice poetry in that the new NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, another Jew in the public sphere, came down unequivocally hard and heavy on Sterling, hitting him with a lifetime ban from basketball as well as the maximum fine. Silver is earning well-deserved praise for his courage and clarity in saying that those views will not be tolerated – end of story.

I say my impulse to check Sterling’s Jewishness may have been a remnant from a time when Jews cringed when another Jew did something that might reflect poorly on the whole people. Maybe it is a sign of the times – we hope – that most of our society knows that we are like any other people, with our collection of crazies to go with our men and women of character and vision. At the end of the day, the whole thing is not remotely about Judaism, but about our collective society’s norms changing for the better. Still, I can’t help but appreciate Silver’s swift and strong response.

Wishing everyone a sweet counting down towards Sinai.

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