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Rabbi’s Update 10/20/2023

Dear Friends:

My apologies to those of you who were planning to participate in last night’s opportunity to discuss together our concerns, thoughts, and prayers concerning the war in Israel. After being contacted by some of our congregants who were planning to participate but also wanted to watch the President’s speech last night live, I decided to delay our discussion by a week. When I set up my schedule for Adult Education, I had originally thought that during the Thursday post-minyan slot next week I would give an update on the situation in Israel focusing on the Netanyahu government’s “judicial reform” efforts and the massive protest movement opposing it. The situation has of course changed in light of the current war. Both the “judicial reform” efforts and the protests have been frozen, and some but not all of the opposition party leaders have joined an emergency National Unity Cabinet. An example of the change is a Hebrew language Whatsapp group to which I am subscribed. This group is made up mostly of DC-area Israeli expats and was set up to share information about efforts to stop the “judicial reform” package. It is now devoted to information about demonstrations of support for Israel (like the one which we cosponsored last week).

I also want to note that in the current situation there is always a possibility that events may overtake us and necessitate schedule changes.

If you did not see President Biden’s speech Wednesday morning in Israel, it is worth watching. A video of the speech can be found here. I want to share a section of his remarks which I found to be incredibly moving and empathetic:

“To those who are grieving a child, a parent, a spouse, a sibling, a friend, I know you feel like there’s that black hole in the middle of your chest. You feel like you’re being sucked into it.“The survivor’s remorse, the anger, the questions of faith in your soul.

“Starting at—staring at that empty chair, sitting shiva. The first Sabbath without them.

“They are the everyday things—the small things that you miss the most.

“The scent when you open the closet door. The morning coffee you shared together.

“The bend in his smile, the perfect pitch of her laugh, the giggle of your little boy—the baby.

“For those who have lost loved ones, this is what I know: They’ll never be truly gone. There’s something that’s never fully lost: your love for them and their love for you.

“And I promise you, you’ll be walking along some days and say, ‘What would she or he want me to do?’ You’ll smile when you pass a place that reminds you of them. That’s when you know—when a smile comes to your lips before a tear to your eye—that’s when you know you’re going to fully make it.

“That’s what will give you the fortitude to find light in the darkest hours when terrorists believed they could bring down—bring you down, bend your will, break your resolve. But they never did, and they never will.

Let us hope and pray that this resolve continues and let us vow to continue doing everything we can to strengthen it.

As a reminder, I am having drop-in hours on Thursday afternoon from 2 to 4 at the shul. You do not need to make an appointment -- that would negate the whole point of drop-in hours -- but I’d urge you to check and make sure I am there regardless as sometimes there are unavoidable pastoral or other emergencies which might take me away from the building.

As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment. I have been spending more time in the synagogue recently but if you want to speak with me it’s best to make an appointment rather than assuming I will be there when you stop by.


Rabbi Charles L. Arian

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