7-13 Tishrei 5782 Sept. 13-19, 2021 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES--658th Web Ed.
THE JEWISH OBSERVER WISHES
ALL SHANAH TOVA, TIKKAH TEVU
ROSH HASHANAH -- THE PROBLEM OF PRAYER
By RABBI DR. RAYMOND APPLE
Jews are in a high state of busy-ness. The new year is imminent. We think over all that has happened in the last twelve months. We hope this year will bring us life, calm, peace and faith. The Ashkenazim echo the Sephardim and say, "May the year begin with its blessings".
G[-]d is part of the action even for those who don’t even mention His name on other occasions. We don’t just mouth an exclamation, "O My G[-]d!" In their own way the words are a prayer, "O my G[-]d, be with us and hold us tight!" We have so much on our "O my G[-]d" list.
But there is a "but". What if G[-]d says "No", or He says nothing? Maybe He is undecided?
Presuming that He is patient and forbearing and isn’t really insulted if most of the year we leave Him to His own devices, what has He to say now when we inform Him that we are praying and expect an answer? The problem of prayer is many-sided:
· Prayers for something, petitionary prayers, are not the only kind of prayers.
· They should not seek material handouts but spiritual and ethical support.
· They should say, "G[-]d, make us better people!"
· They should say, "G[-]d, help us even when we don’t know what we really want!"
· We should utter prayers of praise: "G[-]d, what a wondrous world You have made!"
· And prayers of penitence: "G[-]d, we have wasted so many opportunities!"
· Prayers of hope: "G[-]d, help us to make the future better!"
· Prayers of probity: "G[-]d, share with us Your goodness, truth, love and mercy".
· Prayers of priority: "G[-]d, train us to put our souls before our silver and gold!"
· Prayers about prayer: "G[-]d, teach us how to keep in touch with You!"
My mother told me when I was a little boy that there was someone called G[-]d to whom I should speak every day. In time I realised that the "someone" should have an upper-case S but I also encountered non-personal notions of G[-]d as a Something rather than a Someone.
I did try but found it difficult to speak to a Something. What was I to do – envisage a vague ideal and begin, "To whom it may concern"? Was I to think of G[-]d as a greater version of myself (what spiritual egotism!)? Was I to understand G[-]d as a force without consciousness and personality? It was becoming all too complicated.
William Temple said that we cannot hope to define G[-]d, but we can certainly aver that He is a Someone, more (not less) than personality. When we pray we need not know precise details of His nature. The philosophers said, "Lu yedativ heyitiv" – "If I knew Him I would be Him".
What we can all do is to sense His Presence and say with Job, "My Redeemer liveth!"
DREAMS, HOPES & FEARS – THE TORAH READINGS & HAFTAROT
The Torah readings and haftarot for Rosh HaShanah deal with human yearnings, dreams, hopes and fears.
All the readings arise out of events in the Biblical past, but we do not read them for the sake of historical nostalgia but for the sake of destiny, constantly concerned with what the future will bring.
On the first day the theme is hope, the yearning for a new generation. In the Torah reading that day we read the story of the hopes evoked by the birth of Isaac; in the haftarah we read about the hopes evoked by the birth of Samuel.
After the first day the mood changes. On the second day we read about how our heartfelt hopes can be dashed in a moment.
The Torah reading poignantly describes Abraham’s anguish over the Binding of Isaac, with its message that the son that the patriarch and his wife so desperately yearned for might be lost forever. The haftarah that day presents a similar theme – Mother Rachel’s tears when her children go into exile.
Both days focus on dreams that might never succeed in coming to fruition, a theme that countless parents understand only too well when they yearn for the future but are apprehensive that that future might never come to be.
The lesson for us to take away is that parents should never cease to dream but should also have trust and confidence in God that He will support us and help us to make the dreams come true.
THE TEN TRIALS OF ABRAHAM
The Akedah (Binding of Isaac) is the last and greatest of the ten trials which Abraham underwent. Tradition is certain (Pir'kei Avot 5:4) that there were ten trials. Perhaps the number ten is a symbolic round figure, easy to remember.
The sages took the number more literally though they have various versions as to what the ten actually were; the Midrash has several lists whilst Maimonides has another.
Why the ambivalence? Because none of the first nine is specifically called a trial in the pages of Scripture and only the Akedah is specifically described as such in the Torah (Gen. 22). According to Samson Raphael Hirsch the common feature lies in the word "nissayon", a trial, which he says conveys the sense of movement: a trial is a stage in one's progress towards a higher position. In the case of Abraham, all the trials indicate moral progress towards becoming The Friend of G[-]d.
The sages in Pir'kei Avot explain that the trials prove Abraham's love for G[-]d: when G[-]d asks increasingly difficult things of him, Abraham responds out of love and loyalty. As Dr Meir Tamari writes in his series, "Spiritual and Ethical Issues in the Bereshit Stories", "There is no hint of any tortured discussion by Avraham, or of the inner conflict envisages by Kierkegaard and other non-Jewish philosophers or secular Jewish scholars, between morality and G[-]d's command".
Kierkegaard can ask why G[-]d asks Abraham for the apparently ethically impossible; Dr. Tamari responds that whatever G[-]d commands is by definition (since G[-]d is the origin of morality and ethics) moral and ethical, so there is and can be no conflict.
Rabbi Raymond Apple, Jerusalem, Israel
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GOV. NEWSOM STATEMENT ON JULY JOBS REPORT
SACRAMENTO – Gov. Gavin Newsom released the following statement regarding today’s July jobs report, which showed that California added 114,400 new jobs last month, more new jobs than any other state. This follows 71,500 jobs created in June, 94,700 jobs created in May, 102,000 jobs created in April, 132,400 jobs created in March and 156,100 jobs created in February – totaling 671,100 new jobs created this year.
“California continues to lead the nation’s economic recovery, adding 114,400 new jobs in July – more new jobs than any other state, and the fourth time this year of six-figure job gains. We’ll continue to lead with the science and data, prioritizing vaccinations and supporting those workers and small businesses hit hardest by this pandemic, to create the conditions for a robust economic recovery.”
The unemployment rate of 7.6 percent in July 2021 is 5.6 percentage points better than that of July 2020 and is California’s lowest unemployment rate since March 2020. From February 2021 through July 2021, California has added 671,100 total non-farm payroll jobs, which is an average of 111,850 jobs per month for that time period. Of the 2,714,800 jobs lost in March and April 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, California has now regained 1,582,900 jobs (58.3 percent). Nine of California’s 11 industry sectors gained jobs in July. Leisure & Hospitality (+56,600) continued to have the state’s largest month-over increase for the sixth straight month thanks to significant increases in Food Services and Drinking Places.
GOV NEWSOM ENCOURAGES MORE CALIFORNIANS TO
With more than 80 percent of eligible Californians having received at least one dose, Governor Newsom presses forward on vaccination efforts to reach those who remain unvaccinated
California continues to lead the nation in implementing vaccination strategies and measures to stop the spread of COVID-19
OAKLAND – Governor Gavin Newsom visited a vaccination clinic in Oakland today to promote vaccinations as more than 80 percent of eligible Californians 12 and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Underscoring the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for those 16 and older last week, the Governor encouraged unvaccinated Californians to take action to protect themselves and their communities from the Delta variant and do their part to help bring an end to the pandemic by getting vaccinated.
“Getting vaccinated is the key to protecting against COVID-19 and the faster-spreading Delta variant – it’s how we end this thing.” said Governor Newsom. “California has put more shots in arms than any other state. We’ve made incredible progress vaccinating our population in a remarkably short amount of time, and our work continues to close the gap in our most impacted communities.”
California has implemented first-in-the-nation vaccine verification or testing requirements for state workers and school staff, and vaccination requirements for workers in health care settings. Since first implementing these measures, the state has seen significant progress, with five straight weeks of more than 500,000 vaccines administered. Last week, California administered over 643,000 vaccinations, marking a 44.7 percent increase compared to mid-July. The state continues to lead the nation with 48 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered.
California is also encouraging private businesses and local governments across the state to follow the state’s lead and adopt vaccine verification systems for their employees, a move that has been followed by some of the state’s largest public and private employers. The push will allow business owners to worry less about closing their doors due to a COVID-19 outbreak and promote the state’s ongoing economic recovery.
Governor Newsom today also released his latest "On the Record" ethnic media column emphasizing the urgent imperative for unvaccinated individuals to step up and get the shot amid an increase in infections and hospitalizations driven by the Delta variant. The column, which has been translated into eight additional languages and will be published online and in print by various ethnic media outlets, underscores the safety and efficacy of the lifesaving vaccines and highlights the state’s efforts to address vaccine hesitancy and increase access.
“Unfortunately, many of our most vulnerable communities where we are seeing low vaccination rates are targets of disinformation campaigns, which continue to put lives at risk, including our youngest children who are not yet eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” wrote Governor Newsom in the column. “Working with ethnic media, faith-based and community-based organizations, and many unique partners who are trusted messengers has been crucial to dispelling some of the most prevalent myths out there. It’s time to fully embrace the facts that prove vaccines work, are safe, and are free – regardless of immigration status.”
California’s targeted outreach in hard-to-reach communities has included multimedia and multicultural public education campaigns, “Get Out the Vaccine” door-knocking efforts and supporting community and business partnerships for direct outreach and assistance. The column also notes programs and resources available to Californians struggling with pandemic impacts, including rent relief and the Golden State Stimulus, with a second round of payments being distributed for direct relief to Californians.
Recent measures by California to encourage vaccination and slow the spread of COVID-19 include:
Vaccine verification for state workers. Requires that all state workers either show proof of full vaccination or be tested at least once per week, and encourages local governments and other employers to adopt a similar protocol. Following California’s announcement, some of the largest California businesses and local governments followed suit, as did the federal government.
Vaccinations for health care workers. Requires workers in health care settings to be fully vaccinated or receive their second dose by September 30, 2021.
Vaccine verification for all school staff. Requires that all school staff either show proof of full vaccination or be tested at least once per week. California is the first state in the nation to require all school staff, including at public and private schools, to verify vaccination status or get tested. Education and labor leaders across the state welcomed the announcement.
Universal masking in K-12 settings. Aligned with guidance from the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics, California was the first state to implement universal masking in school settings to keep students and staff safer while optimizing fully in-person instruction.
Medi-Cal vaccination incentives. $350 million in incentive payments to help close the vaccination gap between Medi-Cal beneficiaries and Californians as a whole, significantly stepping up outreach in underserved communities.
Statewide mask recommendation. In response to the spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations and new CDC guidance calling for masking, the state recommended mask use for indoor public settings regardless of vaccination statuus.