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Max Roytenberg

Max Roytenberg: Elul - "I AM TO MY LOVER AS MY LOVER IS TO ME"

by Max Roytenberg July 31, 2013 Dublin

August 6th and 7th are the two days of Rosh Chodesh ushering in the month of Elul. Some see Elul as the acronym for “I am to my lover as my lover is to me”. Aside from the obvious affirmation of one lover to another, others see it, in this month before Rosh Hashana, as an affirmation of a Jewish person and/or of the Jewish people, of their relationship to God.

I see it in an even broader context of the “yiddishe neshoma”. I see it in what I believe is an innate component of the Jewish character, extended not only toward Jewish people, but to all people, that of kindness to all-a feeling of personal responsibility for actions likely to “repair the world”, even in small ways. Why are so many Jews involved in medicine, so many involved in charitable pursuits, so many paying close attention to familial responsibility, some at great sacrifice to their personal interests? And this out of all proportion to our numbers, relative to many other communities.

We are not unique in this, of course, but our prominence cannot be denied. An aspect of our “chosenness”? Our grounding in the “ethics of the fathers”, the ten commandments inaugurated in our writings? We can be, and are often criticised for our pretentions in this respect. What of that? These do not change the facts on the ground.

Look at our latest evolution! The State of Israel, a tiny country in area and population, beset with enemies on every side, is in the forefront of advances that ameliorate the human condition, whether in science or medicine or better ways of feeding the growing population of the world. We may have been forced to seek measures that advance our security, including the destructive power of our weaponry, but even these have evolved into new ways to better the condition of mankind (sic- lasers that permit the eradication of disease without surgery). Our occupation of the Sinai, surrendered in the search for peace, left a miserable Egyptian economy with energy resources they never had before. The industrial infrastructure built by Israelis in Gaza was purchased by Jews as a gift to the Palestinians when Israel abandoned the Territory to Palestinian self-rule.

We remain in a quandary. Why are good deeds met with calumny and threats of destruction? Why are we the sole nation condemned for efforts to defend ourselves, for seeking measures to ensure survival, openly targeted for destruction only seventy years after the most horrific example of depravity and immorality on a grand scale in human memory? It is a conundrum we live with. It is one we must continue to cope with.

Through this we must continue to find ways to love ourselves even with our many faults and weaknesses, for we are good people, despite the occasional Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Bugsy Seigel.

" ani l'dodi v'dodi li”




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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

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