July Rabbi’s Message

Dear Friends,

June has been quiet in some ways and busy in others. On the one hand, the Jewish holiday cycle was quiet this month, with no major Jewish holidays to keep us busy with extra cleaning, special baking, or additional holiday-specific spiritual preparation. Many of our members travel or plan a vacation at this time of year, taking advantage of this quiet and peaceful moment in the Jewish calendar.

For me personally, it has been a busy month. Bina and I have been occupied with unpacking boxes,  settling into our new home in South Roanoke, finding our way around town, and meeting new neighbors and friends. We have also found a little time to explore some of the many beautiful hiking trails in the area. At the same time, I have begun meeting with officers and board members of Beth Israel and preparing myself spiritually for a life of joyful service to the Beth Israel community. I am really looking forward to joining the community in July!

There has also been much poignancy this month in our Jewish community. Several of you observed important births, birthdays and anniversaries. A few of you are transitioning into grandparenthood. Our community also supported several congregants as they observed meaningful yahrzeits. Together we remembered the life of our member Morton Rosenberg as we embraced Carol Rosenberg and her family at the unveiling of the memorial stone for her beloved husband. I would also like to thank you personally for your care and concern during my shiva period and as I continue to mourn the passing of my beloved mother, Ramona Morton Purser, z”l.

The Jewish calendar begins to “heat up” in the month of July, as we immediately transition into the period of the Jewish calendar referred to as the “Three Weeks.” This period begins on July 1 with the 17th day of the month of Tammuz, marking the three-week mourning period leading up to the 9th of Av on July 21 (Tisha B’Av). This three-week cycle at the beginning of July commemorates the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem and the ultimate destruction of both holy Temples (the first by the Babylonians, and the second Temple at the hand of the Romans).

At Beth Israel’s Tisha B’Av service on July 21, I am preparing a special study session about “Eicha,” the Jewish poem of Lament for the destruction of the Temple. I will also help lead a brief service after the study session, including a chanting of the poem by congregants and the Rabbi. After Tisha B’Av, our somber mood will quickly change to one of renewal, as we look forward with anticipation to the sounds of the shofar and the upcoming joys of the High Holidays in the months of Elul and Tishrei.

Life has a way of blending sadness and joy, and I am grateful that our Jewish tradition, sacred texts, and rituals can accommodate all seasons and emotions, of both stability and change. I look forward to the bonds of sharing and caring we will create together as we continue to mark in a sacred way the special moments in the ongoing life of Beth Israel.

Rabbi Jama Purser