Rabbi James Rosenberg

Rabbi James RosenbergHoward Jacobson (b. 1942), the well-respected British author, begins his speech at the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem in the fall of 2013 with three succinct and depressing sentences: “The question is rhetorical.  When will Jews be forgiven the Holocaust?  Never.”

He goes on to quote the Roman historian Tacitus (56-117) to support the contention that victimizers have a deep-seated need to blame their victims: “It is part of human life to hate the man you have hurt.”

Rabbi James RosenbergFor many years, an essential part of my Monday morning ritual had been reading Dr. Stanley M. Aronson’s wise and erudite words on the op-ed page of The Providence Journal. In his well over 1,000 weekly columns, his topics ranged far and wide from medicine to biography to religion to the wonders and peculiarities of our English language. 

Aronson was interested in everything! For example, this past Jan. 26, just two days before his death at the age of 92, his readers were treated to an exploration of our sense of smell, “Where are the aromas of yesterday?” – spiced with appropriate allusions to Samuel Coleridge (1772-1834) and Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862). 

Rabbi James RosenbergThroughout the Jewish world, Shabbat Shemot is the Sabbath on which the opening chapters of Exodus, verses overflowing with action and mystery, are read in our synagogues.  I am particularly drawn to the first 15 verses of the third chapter, which tell of Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush.

Moses is shepherding the flocks of his father-in-law Jethro; as he approaches the edge of the wilderness, Moses turns aside to take a close look at the marvelous sight of a thorn bush that is all ablaze, yet is not being consumed.  God addresses Moses from out of the flames and instructs him to lead the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt to “a land flowing with milk and honey.”  When Moses asks God for His name, He replies, Ehyeh asher Ehyeh, words of majestic ambiguity, which roughly translate to  “I will be Who I will be.”

Rabbi James RosenbergLast Jan. 15 my wife Sandy received a nine-page email from Tom Cohen, rabbi of  Paris’ Kehilat Gesher, La synagogue franco-americaine de Paris.

The email wound up in my wife’s inbox because Rabbi Cohen is a first cousin of our close friend, who happens to have stood as maid of honor at our wedding 47 years ago. Knowing that we would want to read Cohen’s letter in its entirety, she forwarded it to us.

Rabbi James Rosenberg“In 1971, I met a boy who changed my life forever. I was ten and he was twelve, when for a few indelible months, we roomed together in a British-style boarding school perched on an alpine meadow high above Geneva.”

So begins a personal history, “Whipping Boy,” in the Nov. 17, 2014, issue of The New Yorker. The author, Allen Kurzweil, a novelist and lecturer, is publishing this very month a full-length memoir, “Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully.”  Kurzweil tells us that he was “a middle-class Jewish kid from New York,” whose father died of cancer when he was only 5.