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You are here: about - Rabbi Wittenberg's Weekly Message - 4 Dec 09 / 17 Kislev 5770

Rabbi Wittenberg's Weekly Message


Erev Shabbat 4th December 2009 / 17 Kislev 5770

Dear Community,
 
It’ll be a very special day to bury a time capsule in the forecourt of what will soon become our beautiful new synagogue, our Jewish home. December 13, the 2nd day of Chanukkah, already binds together past and present. It’s as close as a weekday can be to our community’s birthday; we’ll be 35 years old this year. It’s Chanukkah; perhaps the first ever Jewish time capsule was that single flask of oil which the Maccabees found buried in the ruins of the desecrated Temple. The light from its flame has illumined Jewish life ever since. On a personal note, it’s my mother’s Yahrzeit. Don’t we all continue to ‘read’ what our parents and grandparents have left written of their lives in memories which suddenly emerge from nowhere and as if forty years were just a few minutes, in fading letters and photographs, and above all in the feelings they have inscribed in our hearts?
 
What is our bequest? What shall we leave for the future? Faithfulness is a term generally associated with the past: are we being true to our heritage, are we honouring our ancestors’ legacy? It seems strange to use the term with reference to time to come. Yet there is no greater test of our values than this: are we being faithful to the future? What harvest are our actions storing away for the children of the children of those who now inhabit this earth?
 
Isaac blessed Jacob with the dew of heaven and plenteous corn and wine. Can we do the same? Films like The Age of Stupid and An Inconvenient Truth remind us that our consumption patterns today are likely to be sowing for our grandchildren the whirlwind, the drought, floods and a chaos they may neither be able to control nor survive.
 
We will put into the time capsule to be buried on Sunday week pictures by children in our community, literature about who we are and what we value, and prayers of hope. But we cannot edit which of our deeds will go into the great time capsule of the future; to it we commit all our actions and their consequences. We can argue that this just isn’t our problem: ‘We can’t answer for the future. It’s not our fault. Doesn’t even the Torah say that “The secret things belong to God”?
 
But Judaism has never considered God a certificate of exemption from responsibility for our actions. On the contrary; we are the custodians of God’s world for the sake of our children, God’s children. Therefore we must not burn the future to fuel the present. We must cut the waste from our homes, change the way we travel and show our love both for God and our neighbour by loving and respecting our world. The air, the rainfall, the trees, the birds and the children – these are what time holds in trust, our trust.
 
Shabbat Shalom
 
Jonathan Wittenberg
wittenberg@masorti.org.uk