Dear Family & Friends,
Who wrote the book of life?
We assume that the author alluded to in the most well known of High Holy Day prayers is God. “On Rosh Hashanah it is written and on Yom Kippur it is sealed who will live and who will die.”
But what if God is NOT the author of our book of life? After all, the text says on Rosh Hashana it is written without specifying who is the author.
Perhaps we can find meaning in the prayer far removed from the notion of our lives being pre-ordained.
Each of us writes his/her own book of life. And the book has chapter headings. One chapter may be family, another may be titled community or ethics.
And throughout the year we add pages to the book of life each of us writes.
And then comes this holy season. We review our chapters. In so far as we can, we edit our lives. If we use this season of introspection to truly raise a mirror to our soul, then we can rewrite our lives. We can learn to better express our love for those we hold dear. We can commit to being more active in our communities. We can write new chapters of commitment to our society and our environment. And we can begin to reconcile with God.
Rabbi Jacob Rosner
The following is a summary of a sermon I delivered Saturday, June 13th.
“Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moshe regarding the Cushite (Ethiopian) woman he had married.” In their commentaries, the rabbis associate their sin of gossip with the punishment meted out to Miriam who was stricken with “snow white scales” (some sort of skin disease often mistranslated as leprosy). In interpreting Torah, we often seek present day meanings in ancient texts/stories. I can only imagine Aaron coming up to Miriam during the wedding, a drink in his hand, saying “Ess past nit” (it’s not right!) Perhaps it was subliminal. Perhaps it was overt, but what he was saying was, “She’s not one of ours!” “She’s a different race.” “She doesn’t fit.” “Look at the color of her ebony skin.” Our sages teach us that God punishes measure for measure. “You Miriam who think your whiteness makes you special!!!! You would want to judge people based on the color of their skin!! When you don’t recognize the image of God in every human being, when your whiteness becomes a weapon of privilege, I will turn that very whiteness into a disease of ugly Snow White scales.” And when we read this section of Torah, we are reminded to defend the Cushite men and women in our world. We are reminded to defend them for Lashonda Hara… Or racist language that leads to violence. Aaron and Miriam were figures of authority. And when we read this section we are reminded to protect the powerless from those who wield white power. Either the power of office or the power of the Billy Club and Gun. Because Cushite lives matter. (Yes, I know Miriam was Semitic and therefore not really white … I’m basing MY midrash on the Miriam of the Cecil B. DeMille movie).
Rabbi Jacob Rosner