Special Greetings from Rabbi Shaiman:
The Talmud provides us with a plethora of rules, customs, and keen insights, including this wonderful anecdote:
Rabbi Tarfon and the Elders were once “hanging out" in Lod, when this question was posed to them: Which is greater, study or action?
Rabbi Tarfon answered, saying: Action is greater. Rabbi Akiba answered, saying: Study is greater.
All the rest agreed with Akiba that study is greater than action, because it leads to action.
Fifty-two years from the “Summer of Love” of 1967, it can at times seem that we are living
today in a summer of discord, where disagreements, anxiety & even hate swirls around us.
Our natural human instincts (along with our adrenaline) tells us to fight the hate, and to get motivated and organized into “action”. Akiba certainly felt this way. Legend has it that he
was one of the leading supporters of Simon Bar Kokhba, a leader of the final rebellion of the Judeans (aka “Jews”) against the Romans which began in 132 CE, but was ultimately crushed by Roman forces within a few years.
Yet Akiba, along with his colleagues, also knew that action alone is insufficient. The world
is filled with suffering and injustice and immersing ourselves in it too deeply can be paralyzing. It can lead to what the essayist Annie Dillard calls “compassion fatigue” - being overwhelmed by the magnitude of a problem and thus stricken with an inability to act. Akiba knew that a balance was needed, and that “study” not only refreshens and inspires us, but it also directs us toward meaningful, constructive action. “Study” — by which he certainly meant to include conversation, prayer and celebration, among a community of old friends and new ones — helps us figure out what really matters, and points us toward actions that can truly impact those around us…locally, nationally and globally.
I welcome you to join us at the RIJC in the year ahead as we pray, celebrate, schmooze, and study together, to strengthen each other and ourselves as we continue to practice the art of Tikkun Olam, repairing the brokenness present in the world.
I look forward to seeing you this September and October when we welcome the Jewish
New Year of 5780. Shanah Tovah u-Metukah - may you have a wonderful, sweet New Year!
Rabbi Joel Shaiman