This morning I want to share with you a poem that I shared Monday night at our shul’s monthly board meeting. It was written by the late Yehuda Amichai, who was generally considered the greatest poet of modern Israel. Amichai was born in Germany in 1924 -- his birth name was Ludwig Pfeuffer -- and made aliyah with his family in 1936. He passed away in 2000.
Here is the poem:
The Place Where We Are Right by Yehuda Amichai From the place where we are right Flowers will never grow In the spring. The place where we are right Is hard and trampled Like a yard. But doubts and loves Dig up the world Like a mole, a plow. And a whisper will be heard in the place Where the ruined House once stood.
Amichai grew up in an Orthodox home and was fluent in Hebrew even before his family emigrated to British Mandatory Palestine. Although he was considered a “secular” poet his poetry often contained allusions to Biblical and rabbinic texts. The Hebrew word “bayit” in the next to last line, which does indeed mean “house”, can also be an allusion to the Temple. This allusion is strengthened by the last word of the poem, “nechrav”, which is the phrase the Sages used to discuss the destruction of the Second Temple.
We have a problem in our kehila of how we relate to each other. We have congregants who don’t speak to each other and can’t work together because of disagreements of one sort or another. I have had people tell me that they won’t apologize to someone who's feelings have been hurt because they believe that they were right. An apology does not necessarily mean that you agree that you were wrong and it is certainly not a legal admission of liability. It is a statement that the relationship is more important than your sense of being right.
If we put more value on relationships and less on being “right”, I believe that Amichai is telling us that we can bring redemption to the world and certainly to our kehila. Let’s keep this in mind as we begin a New Year.
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 email@example.com 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