THE DIVINE IMAGE
By RABBI DR. RAYMOND APPLE
Central to the Rosh HaShanah services are the twin concepts of G[-]d and Man. Their partnership and dialogue is the theme of millennia of history.
Genesis begins with G[-]d making the world and crowning the Creation by making Man.
Where did G[-]d get the idea of Man? He looked at Himself and made Man in His image (Gen. 1:27).
The simplistic conclusion is that Man is a photograph of G[-]d. And that whatever man looks like, that suggests the Creator’s image.
It is an impossible interpretation since by definition G[-]d is totally non-physical and has no material shape or form. The word image cannot possibly be taken literally. Whatever it denotes, it has no connotation whatsoever of physical shape or bodily appearance.
The image that the Bible speaks of in relation to G[-]d has four aspects – intellectual, articulate, spiritual, and moral.
Man was made with these four characteristics – or rather, with the capacity to emulate them. G[-]d is the acme of perfection in each case.
Man cannot possibly be or become G[-]d but he is capable of gradually-growing G[-]dliness, making him (Psalm 8), "just beneath the angels".
ALPHABETS & ACROSTICS
The High Holyday services are full of alphabetical acrostics, poems and prayers where the initial letters of words, lines and stanzas follow the order of the Hebrew alphabet or the letters of the author’s name.
This device dates back to the time before printing, when it was hard to remember the sequence of the verses by heart. "Acrostic" entered English in the 16th century, deriving from a Greek word. In the Bible acrostics are common, e.g. in the long Psalm 119.
In "Ashrei", Psalm 145, the lines are in alphabetical order except that there is no verse beginning with "n". The Talmudic view is that the missing verse was dropped because it had unpleasant words beginning "naf’lah", "fallen".
Many of our Sabbath and festival songs have acrostics; alphabetically in "Addir Hu" and using the author’s name in "Ma’oz Tzur". The Book of Lamentations ("Echah") has four alphabetical chapters and one non-alphabetical.
But how can a poem flow naturally if it has to fit into a predetermined structure?
The Midrash explains the alphabetical structure of the list of sins ("Ashamnu, Bagadnu, Gazalnu") on the basis that we have committed every sin from "alef" to "tav".
Acrostics of the author’s name look like a wish for immortality but it saves the reader from having to remember the text unaided.
An acrostic adds to the impact of the poem in that it provides a visible shape and not simply an aural effect.
MENDING THE MEANING – HOW "TIKKUN OLAM" HAS CHANGED
On Rosh HaShanah morning, the introduction to the "Malchiyot" section of "Musaf" is the poem which we know as "Alenu".
"Alenu" tells us that Judaism has a double duty – to create a believing, committed community, and through "tikkun olam" to mend the world.
However, the term "tikkun olam" has a long lineage and its meaning has changed over the centuries.
Originally it indicated preparing the world for the coming of G[-]d’s kingdom ("l’takken olam b’malchut Sha-d-dai"). It is in this sense that the phrase is used in the second paragraph of "Alenu", which speaks of defeating and destroying all idols and making the world ready for G[-]d’s rule.
The mystics spoke of the completeness of the post-B’reshit world being shattered and humanity being engaged in seeking the broken shards. Until these shards are found and restored to their place, G[-]d does not rule and His word does not hold sway.
"Tikkun Olam" historically was preparation, not purpose – the means to an end – but now it seems to have become the purpose itself.
ONE IN A HUNDRED
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev said to G[-]d one Rosh HaShanah:
"Ribbono Shel Olam, Master of the World!
"You ordained 'a day of t’ru’ah' – blowing the shofar (Num. 29:1). See how much Your children love You! You commanded a 't’ru’ah' – and they blow a hundred notes.
"Thousands, tens of thousands, millions of Your people Israel have blown those hundred notes for millennia.
"How many shofar notes have been sounded over the ages? No-one can count them. But at the same time they have called upon You with the words, 'T’ka b’shofar gadol l’cherutenu' – 'G[-]d, blow just one note on Your great shofar to herald the beginning of our freedom and redemption.
"G[-]d, You asked us for one 't’ki’ah', and we give You a hundred multiplied over and over again. All we ask from You is one 't’ki’ah'. Why can’t You give us just that one note?"
A modern Levi Yitzchak would not leave it at that. This might be what he says:
"Ribbono Shel Olam, Your people suffer so much. Please hasten the day of their redemption. They really try to be good human beings but they have to fight an environment of immorality.
"They try to be good Jews but they have to struggle against temptations that are hard to resist. They enrich the world but they receive insults in return.
"They have a tiny Holy Land where they work miracles but even some of their own people want to dismember it. They know You are on their side but they yearn for a sign of Your love.
"I implore You, Ribbono Shel Olam, come to their rescue with Your one shofar note!"
A BILL MAKING INHERENTLY-ANTI-SEMITIC ‘CRITICAL’ ETHNIC STUDIES COURSES A H.S. REQUIREMENT - OR ESTABLISH SAFEGUARDS TO PREVENT BIGOTRY
SANTA CRUZ – Eighty organizations recently demanded California Gov. Gavin Newsom veto a bill that will require all California high school students take a course in ‘critical’ ethnic studies, a field known to promote political beliefs that breed anti-Semitism. If Newsom insists on signing the bill, the organizations urged him to fix the underlying problem by requesting that lawmakers establish safeguards to prevent teachers from using their classrooms to politically indoctrinate students.
The bill awaiting Newsom’s signature, AB 331, will mandate that high school students take a course based on the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC), a curriculum currently being developed in California whose first draft was met with enormous opposition from dozens of California lawmakers, nearly 20,000 California citizens, and almost all of the groups on today’s letter.
The groups pointed out that although commitments were made by the governor and state board of education to address the anti-Semitic nature of the original curriculum, new additions in the latest version will incite increased anti-Semitism. For example, the latest draft “gives school districts the option of offering a UC A-G pre-approved course that includes a unit on ‘Irish and Jewish Americans: Redefining White and American,’ which requires students to write a paper ‘detailing certain events in American history that have led to Jewish and Irish Americans gaining racial privilege’ and asks students to ‘think critically about why and who is allowing this evolution in white identity.’ At a time when anti-Jewish sentiment, hostility and violence has reached truly alarming levels, indoctrinating students to view Jews as ‘white’ and ‘racially privileged’ is tantamount to putting an even larger target on the back of every Jewish student,” warned the groups. In addition, it was recently announced that an Arab American Studies lesson, the source of much of the blatant anti-Zionism and BDS promotion in the original draft, would be added back into the curriculum, without the option of review before the public comment period ends.
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CALIFORNIA EXTENDS ANTI-FORECLOSURE PROTECTIONS IN THE HOMEOWNER BILL OF RIGHTS TO SMALL LANDLORDS
SACRAMENTO -- Governor Gavin Newsom recently announced that he has signed legislation to protect millions of tenants from eviction and property owners from foreclosure due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. These protections apply to tenants who declare an inability to pay all or part of the rent due to a COVID-related reason.
“COVID-19 has impacted everyone in California – but some bear much more of the burden than others, especially tenants struggling to stitch together the monthly rent, and they deserve protection from eviction,” said Governor Newsom. “This new law protects tenants from eviction for non-payment of rent and helps keep homeowners out of foreclosure as a result of economic hardship caused by this terrible pandemic. California is stepping up to protect those most at-risk because of COVID-related nonpayment, but it’s just a bridge to a more permanent solution once the federal government finally recognizes its role in stabilizing the housing market. We need a real, federal commitment of significant new funding to assist struggling tenants and homeowners in California and across the nation.”
On Friday, the Governor, Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced an agreement on the legislation, AB 3088, co-authored by Assemblymembers David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara) and Senators Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) and Anna Caballero (D-Salinas).
Under the legislation, no tenant can be evicted before February 1, 2021 as a result of rent owed due to a COVID-19 related hardship accrued between March 4 – August 31, 2020, if the tenant provides a declaration of hardship according to the legislation's timelines. For a COVID-19 related hardship that accrues between September 1, 2020 – January 31, 2021, tenants must also pay at least 25 percent of the rent due to avoid eviction.
Tenants are still responsible for paying unpaid amounts to landlords, but those unpaid amounts cannot be the basis for an eviction. Landlords may begin to recover this debt on March 1, 2021, and small claims court jurisdiction is temporarily expanded to allow landlords to recover these amounts. Landlords who do not follow the court evictions process will face increased penalties under the Act.
The legislation also extends anti-foreclosure protections in the Homeowner Bill of Rights to small landlords; provides new accountability and transparency provisions to protect small landlord borrowers who request CARES-compliant forbearance; and provides the borrower who is harmed by a material violation with a cause of action. Additional legal and financial protections for tenants include:
Extending the notice period for nonpayment of rent from 3 to 15 days to provide tenant additional time to respond to landlord’s notice to pay rent or quit. Requiring landlords to provide hardship declaration forms in a different language if rental agreement was negotiated in a different language. Providing tenants a backstop if they have a good reason for failing to return the hardship declaration within 15 days.
Requiring landlords to provide tenants a notice detailing their rights under the Act Limiting public disclosure of eviction cases involving nonpayment of rent between March 4, 2020 – January 31, 2021.
Protecting tenants against being evicted for “just cause” if the landlord is shown to be really evicting the tenant for COVID-19-related nonpayment of rent.
Existing local ordinances can generally remain in place until they expire and future local action cannot undermine this Act’s framework. Nothing in the legislation affects a local jurisdiction’s ability to adopt an ordinance that requires just cause, provided it does not affect rental payments before January 31, 2021.
The legislation builds on the state’s strongest-in-the-nation rent cap and eviction protections passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor last year. The Governor also signed major legislation last year to boost housing production, remove barriers to construction of accessory dwelling units and create an ongoing source of funding for borrower relief and legal aid to vulnerable homeowners and renters. Last year’s budget made a historic $1.75 billion investment in new housing and created major incentives – both sticks and carrots – to incentivize cities to approve new home construction. In the first weeks of his administration, Governor Newsom signed an executive order that created an inventory of all excess state land and has launched partnerships with California cities to develop affordable housing on that land. This year, the Governor prioritized $550 million in federal stimulus funding to purchase and rehabilitate thousands of motels around the state for use as permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness and provided an additional $350 million in general fund support to California’s cities and counties for homeless services and housing.
Local leaders and advocates welcomed the signing of the Act:
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti: "No one should lose their home due to this public health crisis -- and while cities like Los Angeles have strong tenant protections in place, there is no substitute for a clear, statewide framework that keeps hard-hit Californians under a roof. With the state legislature's action and Governor Newsom's signature, tenants and landlords can rest easier tonight, but the fight continues for every dollar in federal assistance to help struggling families survive the choppy waters of COVID-19 and navigate the economic destruction left in its wake."
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg: “The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated low-income families across the state and right here in the City of Sacramento. The eviction protections signed into law today will protect some of the most vulnerable – those who have lost income or suffered other unimaginable hardships in these past few months -- from falling into homelessness. I appreciate the work of the Legislature and the Governor to provide this meaningful relief.”
San Francisco Mayor London Breed: “Protecting people from eviction has been critical from Day One of the COVID crisis, when it became clear that this pandemic was going to threaten our residents and our economies like nothing we have ever seen. People are living in fear of losing their homes because they have lost their jobs, seen their wages cut, or have been forced to close their businesses. I want to thank Governor Newsom for working with our Legislative leaders to pass AB 3088, especially our own Assemblymember David Chiu who has been an early and tireless fighter for tenants on this issue.”
UC, Berkeley Terner Center Faculty Director Carol Galante: “California is taking a big step forward today to protect the most vulnerable tenants at this moment of acute crisis. As our research has shown, more than one million California renters households have experienced job loss during COVID-19, and this directly impacts their housing security. While today’s new laws are necessary, more must be done – and this means the Congress and the President stepping into their rightful role as provider of a meaningful renter relief package as part of the next stimulus. California deserves credit for acting, and now we must demand the Federal government follow suit.”
The Governor also announced that he has signed the following bills:
AB 2782 by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) – Mobilehome parks: change of use: rent control.
AB 3364 by the Committee on Judiciary – Judiciary omnibus.
Additional information on the Tenant, Homeowner, and Small Landlord Relief and Stabilization Act can be found here. For full text of the bills signed today, visit: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov
SURGEON GENERAL DR. JEROME ADAMS ADDRESSES RABBIS IN ADVANCE OF UPCOMING HIGH HOLIDAYS
The Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America recently convened a call for rabbis and community leaders with US Surgeon General Vice Admiral Dr. Jerome Adams, the Nation's Doctor. The call consisted of a presentation by Dr. Adams geared specifically for the rabbinic and lay leadership of the Orthodox community hosted by Rabbi Moshe Hauer, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union. The call was approximately 30 minutes in length.
If you would like to join us for the call, please click here to register: https://www.ou.org/adams.
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