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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Red is the color of humility...

For those of you who have ever seen me, you know you will always find a Red and Black kippah on my head.  As a graduate of the University of Georgia, I often wear the colors red and black – after all, they are my favorite colors.  I purchased this kippah in Jerusalem in 2007, and I have worn it ever since (Yes – I have washed it many, many times!).

During the summer between my 3rd and 4th year of rabbinical school, one of my classmates challenged me by asking me the following question, “Erin, do you wear your kippah all the time when you visit people in the hospital?”  My answer was that I wore my kippah when I visited Jewish patients.  Her response surprised me, “Do you not feel authentic when you pray with non-Jewish patients?” 

I really had to give some thought as to why I wear my kippah.  I spent the next few days giving this a lot of thought.  I decided the reason I wore my kippah was because I always wanted to be reminded that no matter how good of a person I was, no matter how good of a life I tried to live, I would never reach Godliness.  My kippah is a reminder of humility – or so I thought.

I have always been the person that spoke his mind…not always realizing the consequences until it was too late.  My mom used to tell me, “Don’t speak before you think about what you are going to say first!”  I remember hating being told that.  And, when this continued to be a theme in my life, I finally realized (probably sometime after graduating from UGA) that all of those who had once told me to think before I speak were right.  I tried…I really tried to change my behavior.  I have continued to try to change this behavior for so many years. 

Once again, my mom’s words come to the forefront.  I can hear the words being spoken to me as if my mom was saying them, “Erin, do not get mad when people confront you.  Let the red in your kippah be the only red they see – not the redness of anger in your face.  Remember, Erin, you need to understand first…and then respond.”

No truer words could be spoken right now.  My goal in the coming year and in future years is to be that person – the one who really listens and understands. 

I am a rabbi because I want to help others.  I am a rabbi because I love the Jewish people.  I am a rabbi because I want to teach and learn from others about being Jewish.  I am a rabbi because I truly do love waking up in the morning and being given the opportunity to do all of the above.  I love being one of the rabbis at Temple Kol Emeth in Marietta, Georgia.

However, sometimes, and this is one of those times, I need your help.  I want to be a better rabbi…and I want my congregants to be a part of that – actually the biggest part.  If I can better serve you as your rabbi, please tell me.  Come talk to me, call me, reach out – I really want to know.  When you think of Erin Boxt, don’t just think of the Red Kippah.  I want you to think of Erin Boxt as your rabbi - one who loves you, the Jewish people and the opportunity to be better, to do better.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Reflections on Israel

I have been thinking, reflecting, thinking, reflecting for almost 2 weeks now.  I have wanted so badly to speak about how amazing the TKE Israel 2014 trip was (and believe me, it WAS!), and yet, it is hard to speak about our trip when my emotions are running wild.  While I think today of the great independence we celebrate in the United States, I also think of those in Israel and around the world who live their lives in fear. Every day is an adventure and not always with the greatest of outcomes.

On Tuesday evening, July 1, Temple Kol Emeth hosted a memorial service for the 3 Israeli teens - Gil-Ad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah, and Naftali Fraenkel - who were kidnapped and brutally murdered.  It was a very touching service and the words of the Israeli Deputy Consul General, Ron Brummer, touched my heart and the hearts of everyone in attendance.  He spoke of Israel's need to defend her citizens while at the same time wishing for peace for everyone living in the Middle East.  When Rabbi Lebow spoke, I felt chills as he stated over and over again that revenge was not the answer.  The truth is that as Jews (anywhere in the world) we hold ourselves to a higher standard.

It is true that the world holds Israel to a higher standard (especially the United Nations).  I do not want to argue that point.  What I do want to say is that not that we should hold ourselves to a higher standard; we do.  It is as simple as that.  The government of Israel does not act quickly.  They act with the intention of achieving peace - not just for Israelis, but for Palestinians, Syrians, etc.  Some may disagree and they have the right.  But, the numbers do not lie.  Israel is the ONLY country in that region (and maybe in the world) that goes out of her way to look out for the innocent civilians.  Do not believe the very tainted "journalism" you see in the world.  Often times the pictures are doctored and the stories are very one sided.

Look - I get it.  People disagree, people argue.  I am sure many will disagree and argue with some of the valid points in this blog.  However, let me make one thing clear.  If you want to have a real discussion - one that is guided in reality and acceptance for both sides of the argument - then, please, let's have that discussion.  If someone chooses to just argue for the sake of arguing or for any other reason, what's the point?  As a rabbi, I want everyone to live as if they love their neighbors.  Unfortunately, though, sometimes it gets harder and harder to believe this reality will ever exist.  And, by the way, I am not just speaking of the three Israeli teens that were killed.  I do not support (nor will I ever) the killing of innocent Palestinians either. I would love it if our brothers and sisters (from both sides of the lines) could live in peace.  I am afraid, though, that the current situation dictates that reality as never happening.

When my congregation and I were in Israel, we were inspired by so much beauty and so many wonderful things.  From the B'nai Mitzvah ceremony on Massada to the magic of Kabbalah in Tzfat, so many amazing opportunities to celebrate being Jewish were to be had.  And, we did...we ate our way through Israel and took so many pictures!  Our trip also opened our eyes to the magnificence of Israel - so much technology and so many discoveries.  In a little over 60 years, Israelis have turned a barren desert (and swamp land) into an amazing center of technology, life and wonderment.  Yes, Israel has its own problems...but what nation doesn't?

My only hope for the Middle East can be summed up in a short prayer I have written in honor of the many Israelis and Palestinians that have lost their lives:

Almighty God, pay attention to your children of Abraham.
Do not lose sight of the wonder of their children;
The beautiful faces of all of the little ones; 
The sounds, the smells and the beauty - it's there.

Almighty God, peace is a possibility, right?
We strive for this and yet we seem to be stuck at square one;
Maybe it is time to send a helping hand as in days of old;
The desire, the want, the need - it's there.

Almighty God, I do love my brother, does he love me?
Only you know the answer - please, tell me...
From Eilat to Qiryat Shemona, from Tel Aviv to the Jordan River;
From Sea to River; from Mt. Hermon to the Red Sea - the love is there.

Almighty God, we need your help and attention.
We seek peace, we really do - but we need your help;
As humans, we make mistake after mistake - we are trying to learn;
Jews, Muslims, Christians, Israelis, Palestinians alike - we need you.

Rabbi Erin Boxt

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Shabbat in Jerusalem

Wow - what an amazing 36 hours!!!  We arrived in Jerusalem after an awesome camel ride.  We stopped at Mt. Scopus to get an overview of the city of Jerusalem.  While at the overlook, we celebrated the 25th Wedding Anniversary of Maxine and George Hess...and what an amazing toast that was!  We made our way to our hotel and had a couple of hours of rest and relaxation before we went to Jaffa Gate for an intro tour to the Old City.

We walked into the Old City and were then guided onto the rooftops of the Old City - what a view!!!  From there, we walked to the Egalitarian section of the Western Wall.  I led a short service in which we sang a few songs, said a special Mi Shebeirach for all those in our lives who needed healing.  Afterward, we made our way to the traditional section of the Western Wall (the Kotel).  Everyone was allowed to spend about 30 minutes or so observing and participating in the many Kabbalat Shabbat services and activities at the Kotel.  Kobi, our guide, danced with all 3 of our boys in the men section!

From the Kotel, we walked back to our hotel for dinner and bedtime.  This morning, we woke up for breakfast and then went to Kehillat Har El, one of the Reform synagogues in Jerusalem.  I was invited up for an Aliyah and then Rabbi Ada and Cantor Evan blessed our congregation with a wonderful blessing.  Tim Roberts was also invited to do Hagbah!  After walking back to the hotel for lunch, we then walked to the Israel Museum to see a gigantic model of the 2nd Temple Old City and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

In the afternoon, we had several hours of rest time (thank you God for Shabbat!) and then we ended Shabbat with a moving Havdalah ceremony overlooking the Old City.  Afterward, we ventured for dinner and shopping at Jerusalem's prime outdoor shopping mall - Ben Yehudah street.  I had a tasty schwarma sandwich at New Deli followed by delicious ice cream.  I was able to spend some time with my friend Jan at his store - Ora Israel - before I returned to the hotel for some well needed sleep.  Tomorrow will be a full day - and I will blog about it tomorrow night.

L'hitraot for now!
Rabbi Boxt