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This is my God and I will Glorify Him

 

At the beginning of December, I received the following email:

Dear Rabbi Joel Landau,

It is with great pleasure that I am writing to inform you that you have been selected to participate as a part of the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office 2024 Jewish Community Advisory Board (SFDACAB). You have been identified as a leader in your respective community who we believe can serve as an ambassador to the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office.

SFDACABs will provide knowledge, guidance, and support to the District Attorney’s office as it relates to relevant topics that intersect with the ongoing work of the District Attorney’s office and the community. SFDACAB members will help solve problems, explore opportunities, and stimulate conversations designed to create mutual understanding and bridge gaps between your community and the District Attorney’s office.

SFDACABs will meet every four months in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, 350 Rhode Island Street.  Meetings will be held in-person from 5-6:30pm, with the first meetings taking place in January and February. Agendas will be distributed in advance and will include discussion items that are recommended by SFDACAB members. We will provide light refreshments, and street parking will be available.

Please reply to districtattorney@sfgov.org by Friday, December 15th to confirm or decline your participation. We are asking for your commitment for a one-year term. In the event you need to decline or would like to invite a proxy in your stead, please let me know.

Thank you,

Brooke Jenkins

San Francisco District Attorney

I was intrigued by the invite and agreed to participate.  

Last night, SFDACAB met for the first time. There were rabbis from Emanuel, Sherith Israel, and Beth Sholom, as well as representatives from the JCRC, ADL, AJC, JCC, JFS and Federation. Several key staff members from the DA’s office were also present.

The initial focus of the meeting was the rise of antisemitism since October 7th and how the DA’s office has been addressing it. We were then asked to give feedback and share our perspectives on the situation and what more could/should be done. Tentatively, there will be a community wide program led by the DA and her staff to educate the community about how to address hate crimes so that they can lead to prosecution and to hear from the community. In addition, the DA and members of her staff will be visiting congregational and organizational events for no other reason than to demonstrate their support for the Jewish community.    

Overall, it was a very pleasant meeting (under the circumstances), and I came away feeling that the DA and her office were VERY serious about prosecuting crime in general and hate crimes in particular. She came across as being down to earth, attentive, intelligent, and really caring about the welfare of the people of San Francisco. 

I’m looking forward to the next meeting.

Now to the Parasha:

In this week’s parasha, we read “The Song of The Sea” (Shirat HaYam).  The song was sung by Moshe and the Israelites after their crossing the Red Sea in safety and celebrates their freedom after generations of slavery and oppression by the Egyptians. 

The second verse of the song states: “Zeh E-li ve-anvehu,” “This is my God, and I shall glorify Him” (Exodus 15:2). Not only does this verse serve as the source of the title of a popular book written by Herman Wouk years ago, but it also provides, in kernel form, a useful and comprehensive blueprint for Jewish life and living.

  1. Rashi interprets “ve-anvehu” as related to “noi” or beauty. We are required to glorify God by proclaiming His beauty and praiseworthiness to all the inhabitants of the world.
  2. The Talmud (Shabbat 133b) has a different explanation. It also understands “ve-anvehu” as being associated with beauty, but not to God’s beauty. For the Talmud, the reference is to the beauty of God’s commandments, the mitzvot. “Act beautifully in His presence via [the performance of] mitzvot. Make before Him a beautiful sukkah, lulav, shofar, tzitzit, and sefer Torah. Write it with a beautiful pen by a master scribe and tie it with a beautiful wrapping.”
  3. Abba Sha’ul says (Shabbatloc.) that “ve-anvehu” is meant to evoke “ani ve-Hu,” “I and He.” It obligates “I” to act like “He.” Just as “He,” namely God, is gracious and merciful, so should we human beings be gracious and merciful.

Three important components of Jewish life are being underscored here. 

First, we are to recognize God’s role in the world and not be self-conscious about articulating that recognition. Acknowledging the centrality of God in the world has become more common nowadays (especially in Israel) with people saying “Baruch HaShem” (thank God), “Eem Yirtzeh HaShem” (if God wants), “B’ezrat HaShem” (with God’s help), or just simply in English “Thank You Hashem.”

Second, we glorify God by observing His commandments with beauty and joy, sitting in a beautiful sukkah, shaking a beautiful lulav, buying beautiful; tefillin, mezuzot, kiddush cups, candle sticks, chanukiyot, etc. We demonstrate our love for our religion and God by performing mitzvot in the most beautiful way possible. 

Third, be a mentsch, - behave in a caring and sensitive manner to all of humanity, old and young, healthy and ill, needy and wealthy, Jew and Gentile alike. 

This is my God and I will glorify Him!”