13 Sep 2007, Thursday – MTV Chapel, Heidelberg, Germany
Rosh Hashanah, like many other holidays is traditionally celebrated for 2 days
in the Diaspora.
If you are interested in attending services for the second day – local options
include the Heidelberg Gemeinde as well as that in Mannheim.
There are two Torah readings for Rosh Hashanah – Gen 22.1-19 is often read on
the first day and Gen 1.1-2.3 on the second. They are about beginnings. The
beginnings of Isaac”s relationship with G-d (not just that of Abraham to G-d)
and the beginning of all life.
This time of year, for anyone who has school aged children is obviously about
beginnings. The school year starts in the Northern Hemisphere. Summer is over,
fall is here, vacations put away. Memories are glowing crystals to be cherished.
So it is also a time of reflection, for how can we stand anew, if we don’t
understand who we are. What we have done this past year and where each one of us
wishes to go in the next. It is a time for self-reflection and honesty. And a
time of clearing out that which is unfinished and honestly going to remain so. And
a time for making amends.
Therefore, it is about faith and trust. Abraham had that faith in G-d, Isaac had
that faith in his father. To do the right thing, to take care.
You notice that I have been using the pronoun “We” – for this is a time of
community and community responsibility. We will skip the annual request for
money or laying of guilt for not contributing enough. At the same time, it is
one of the few times in the year where the current “Gen-X” expression – “It is
all about me” doesn’t seem obscene. It is not selfish to examine “me” and my
relationships. My responsibilities and how well I have fulfilled them. The
promises I made. Those to faith, family, community. A chance given to me to set
things right and to make things better.
As we go through today and this next week, take the opportunity. Clean out the
old, make amends and start anew.
May we all have a sweet new year. May we have peace, and the swords truly become
3 October 2005 Monday
It is early, it is dark and I am on the road again in the direction of Landstuhl. I elected not to have a birthday party. And I will not apologize. Why should I have said something about my birthday several days ahead of time and given you all a chance to fill up my inbox with ecards? Do I look crazy?
Don’t answer that!
Since tonight is Erev Roshanah, I am not carpooling. I had promised to do a number of things at work today. I had also forgotten my portable hard drive at work and needed to pick it up, also a very good reason to make the drive. In either case, I am headed back to Heidelberg by early afternoon.
Most years, I am in a quiet or contemplative mood going into the holidays. This year, I am frazzled beyond belief.
Did I mention that today is also German Reunification Day? So the only other person who had to be out of bed this morning and on her way was Nina? I get home to find the rest of them slouching around. Grabbing a younger child or two, I head down the hill to the Chapel.
In the next hour, we do some major reorganization in the main sanctuary: dragging out the large Ark out of the side chapel. It does not fit through the doors. It takes two assistants to move it, tilting and dragging meanwhile carefully making sure that the Torah plus all other contents are carefully else where. Then there are all the chairs with crosses deeply etched into the backs (I don’t care but it turns out that others do) and the prayer books and Christian Bibles to be moved and…. You get the idea.
In the middle of this, Noah and I make a detour to the commissary to purchase both long range supplies and consumables for the community dinner tomorrow night. There is some money in the “Jewish Account.” Ok.
We get back, unload and head home to change and eat. Ask the rest of the crew where they were. Waiting for you to call. Yah, right sure. You were supposed to come down. Oh, well. Get over it.
All together, there are over 40 in attendance, about 2/3 of what we had last year. I view this as not bad considering that we had a Rabbi last year. This year it is me, Bill and Annette. I still do not like being up in front of anyone, in any manner or form. I will survive, but think that there are several things I need to do to improve things for the morning.
4 October 2005 Rosh Hashanah
It is a much smaller group today. Most of the military assigned to the area that I know about are either already deployed or are in Graf /Hohenfels on a field exercise since Saturday. I had passed along the information about services in Würzburg, but doubt that the average junior soldier is likely going to ask to get there. Not 90 miles up the road anyway.
I still have the English lead and the introduction. Bill is the Cantor and Annette has the Hebrew, the Torah reading and anything else. It is a small enough group that we don’t have to worry about group Aliyahs. We have to bend arms to get people to take them.
Noah and Miriam have been practicing. Neither have ever played an instrument before. No one else volunteers. I am proud of them for being brave and willing to blow the Shofar. There is a caveat, they can distract each other and it is not an easy thing to do under ideal circumstances. They alternate the sections, Noah taking the first and third, Miriam taking the second. Long blasts are one thing, nine short rapid blasts can be pretty defeating.
Taschlich we hold in Wolfsbrunn. Sounds easy? This is a carpool convoy. Around the mountain from downtown Heidelberg and buried in the hills. The running water is private, giving us some solitude for a service while offering free parking.
The evening community meal is back at the Chapel and cheerful. Of course there is enough food and that fish (complete with head) from Saturday is prominently featured. For those who can not stand to look at fish heads, I baked some regular fish fillets. Add salad, potatoes, carrots and a lot of deserts and no one went away hungry.
16 September 2004 – Thursday. Rock Creek Park, District of Columbia
There is a river of cars ahead of me, red taillights reflecting wetly in the early morning fog. Behind me, stretching back along I270 are eddies and whorls of white in my rear-view mirrors. At 0620 in the morning, hundreds are underway just within my vision, north and south bound in Maryland.
I can’t contemplate where they are all bound, cars streaming past in the HOV lane, their minimum of two people clearly visible as they pass under white lights reflecting downwards in circles watching over the cars hurrying below. I don’t remember the city being this crowded. The traffic composed of seemingly endless streams of lemmings hurrying on with their lives, traffic reports starting before 0600 in the morning. Traveling from Upper Northwest to Falls Church in 1993 along Rock Creek Parkway, I went at least the speed limit with spaces between the cars. Not at 35 mph on a 4-6 lane highway at 0620 in the morning.
I don’t want to stay in Germany forever. But commuting into the District or to the Pentagon is NOT in my future without being able to take the Metro.
So once again, I am the first person other than the organizers at the meeting location, leaving me plenty of time for tea and conversation. I did leave at 1030 in order to make services.
What they have labeled as their Dalet Hey (going to have to figure out why…) service is at an alternative site. The National 4H Center as a matter of fact, downstairs in an auditorium. Rabbi Mindy Portnoy is the official person along with Robin. I find Annie (tiny person in the back at the end of a row, not a hard location trick) and we share a book and thoughts. I am only 20 or so minutes late. Not bad considering.
The service is familiar, there is no silent Amida which I do miss. The melodies are not all the same, ok. Working as lay leader this past year, my prayerbook Hebrew skills have improved and I can follow both the Torah and HafTorah (which are done by congregants). The young man with the Shofar, longest blast any of us have heard. Perhaps otherwise a trumpet player.
If you have never tried blowing a shofar, holding a tone for a couple of minutes is not a small feat.
I delivered Annie to her husband Stan, waiting outside, reading on a bench and went off to read till Taschlich.
So perhaps I should have said Parking Area 6 on Rock Creek, right north of Nebraska Avenue. Fred Reiner, the senior rabbi now has completely silver hair. He is our age. I am not sure that I always want to be faced with such visible signs of time’s passage. Staying away from mirrors manages this on most days. There is a crowd of about a hundred. Mostly families, a few stray adults and several dogs.
I hope that there are ducks downstream, there was more than enough bread. And, contrary to the joke out there, it was mostly leftovers and some old challah.
After sundown, I finished up the evening shopping at Barnes & Nobles.
So many books, so little time…..
21Sept 1998- demonstrations, Blue Factory and Eagle Base, Bosnia
this is Monday – seems like I just got done writing that. Then again, I really would like it to be the 9th of Sept so that I could figure that I could get everything done. I have just a couple of OERs to do, and they have to be finished tomorrow – I think all the awards are done, and I have hand cramps from the amount of signing that I have done.
So this was to be a nice quiet day of contemplation – a chance to come to grips with the last year. nice idea. TOA in the middle of the High holidays is a bit of a challenge. So there we are, putting together a convoy to get the four of us from here over to Eagle and to get the rest of the folks who had business over at the same time. We finally got every one rounded up, the fill back in one Singars and the bus driver headed in the same direction.
managed to get to Eagle, and wade through five buses that looked like they were unloading from Slav Brod – the folks should understand how lucky they are – they came on real buses – not the bluebirds.
there were eight of us for services
so we got to 100 meters of the corner and found a nice size demonstration in the middle of the intersection. One convoy of 3 vehicles in front of us. completely surrounded by folks. about 150-200 out there, milling around and blocking traffic in all four directions. sticks and bricks, nothing else that looked dangerous. so we called it in. asked about local police or IPTF and told the other convoy to just sit tight. they were new in theater and just wanted to make sure that they had the ROE down. Base was NOT pleased when they finally figured out that I was in the convoy. About 45 minutes into this we finally got a chance and did the back/fill out drill – the police stopped folks from coming into the area back at the previous Tuzla cut off and the km of traffic had turned around. We passed the demonstration infor to the Nord/Swede vehicle that was about five behind us and to the Brits who got caught up in the mess as well.
So here we are 1430 – and we have gotten >….. Back to Eagle, stopped at the Vets and called in. Made everyone feel a whole lot better to know that we were out of there. At the time we managed to get out – there was a couple of G-5 folks and some translators on their way in – seems to have been a veterans demo on lack of pay of benefits.
Rest of the day should be even more of challenge as SFOR with OSCE starts decertifying candidates as they start releasing election results. I am clueless as to why people are surprised with the results. The RSS refused to play for the first couple of years, as a result, things in the RSS are much worse: fewer jobs and lower pay. So lots of people are unhappy – and it is easier to blame anyone other than the hard liners. In the Federation, there is the feeling now that the RSS is getting the Federation share. Every one just looking for an excuse.
Had lunch late with the one mail clerk, the dietitian and the rabbi, then wandered around for a short while. We tried the convoy thing again at 1600 – this time we had all eight vehicles and 33 people to get home, went without incident.
Dropped off stuff – went to dinner with Torp, started on some paperwork, then decided to go out flying with 236th. It was beautiful up, but the fog really started rolling in, Blue Factory was ok by 2100 still, but Tuzla valley was rapidly filling. So much for flying conditions holding till midnight.
By the time I got through the line at the door it is a bit late – time to read for a couple of minutes. Something light I think – no more sacrifices. wood, knives or children? I am not sure who had the most faith, Abraham, Isaac, or Sarah for letting them take off!