Random Gleanings

First of all, I want to acknowledge that the title of this post is taken from a financial blog. Now that I have retained my share in the world-to-come by citing my sources, I have a few random thoughts (the first two are more about the Pope of Blessed Memory and the last about Ruth Messinger).

1). A few people have commented on my posting about Pope John Paul II. Although I relied heavily on a few emails I received, I stand by it as my own work. I reworked the non-historical sections to represent what I believe about the Pope's relationship to the Jews.

2). My thoughts about the Pope should not be taken as representing everything that I think about him, his Papacy, and the Catholic Church. Yesterday, Smith's Chapel staff had a brief discussion about this. Many of Pope John Paul II's individual religious teachings are not similar to my own. I know they caused many hardship and pain. I guess you can sum up my beliefs as follows: "The Pope was good for the Jews but I am not sure he was good for the Catholics." Since, I am a Jewish communal leader, I chose to focus on his impact on my community and not his own. I believe I don't have a right to judge the leaders of other religions on their impact on their own faith--that is for the members of their faith. Enough said.

3). I never got to write about Ruth Messinger's visit to Amherst last week. She was one of the most impressive speakers and leaders I have seen--especially in regards to how she related to the students. At two meetings with students before the public lecture on the Sudan, she spoke about leadership, advocacy, and activism. Mostly, she answered student questions. While her bigger points would take a post or more, I offer a Random Gleaning: when involved in advocacy, it is important to choose achievable goals and tasks. Nothing leads to success like success. She finds that often people think about the big goals, which are unabtainable for any individual but that many smaller goals are doable (and may add up to the bigger goals over time). As it says in Pirke Avot, lo alecha hamelacha ligmor . . . aval lo ata ben horin lebatel mi-mennu. It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task but you are not free to refrain from engaging in it.

Shabbat shalom,
Rabbi Bruce

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