Monthly Archives: October 2019

Our connection to the departed and a Yom Kippur Message

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This past week, having just celebrated the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in the same city where my parents are buried, I found myself inclined to do something I generally don’t feel an inclination towards doing. That would be to make a visit to their gravesites.  Now don’t misunderstand where I am coming from.  I have the highest level of respect for both of my parents and their memory.  In fact, my actions in honoring them and remembering them in the synagogue and in thought and discussion are not anything to be ashamed of.  I truly do my best to reach the highest level of honor and respect for both my mother and father.  It is merely the fact that although I believe in showing the utmost respect to cemeteries and individual gravesites, I personally do not put a lot of spiritual meaning into the physical location of the remains of our loved ones.  A feeling I know I share with others.  And yet, the day after Rosh Hashanah, without encouragement or even suggestion, I found myself wanting, almost needing to visit the graves of my mother and father.

I did not come away somber or haunted by my visit, in fact I’d be more likely to describe it as comforted and fulfilled, but I was intrigued to the point of inquisitive.  So I looked up the reasons why it is customary to visit our loved one’s graves between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and found all the answers I would expect.  The fact that it is a time of self-examination, soul searching and a time where we address God’s choice of who lives and who dies all would make sense in being a factor as to why it is an appropriate action during this time.  For me personally it didn’t explain why the urge came to me to do something I previously never felt the urge to do.

Whether you call it metaphysical, spiritual or hocus pocus nonsense, there are those of us who believe in what could be described as other worldly impacts or events.  I for one believe in the connection between the living and the dead, and as someone who believes in God, I believe in God’s involvement in at the very least, steering the souls of the living and the dead together.  Although I unequivocally respect everyone’s personal belief, regardless of how different it may be to mine, I find it to be particularly clear to me during this time of year that there is significantly more going on than just being born and when the time comes, dying.  If prayer is a conduit to another being or another realm, it stands to reason that a successful plea during the time of prayer would increase that connection and possibly lead to thoughts or feelings we otherwise might not have experienced.  I maintain that my desire to visit the place where my parents were buried is something to be grateful for, since it may very well mean my prayers were at the very least, somewhat acknowledged, and that maybe I was lead in a direction that will strengthen my physical and or spiritual future.  Regardless of whether or not the specifics are clear to me now or ever.  As I stood at the graves of my beloved parents I said the following words to myself.  “OK, I am here and listening. What is it you are trying to tell me?”

I know some reading this will say that what I am speaking of is more psychological than spiritual, but the fact remains that just as I can’t prove my theory, so too someone who thinks things just don’t work that way can’t prove it wrong.  I guess my question to those feeling that way is, why would you need to?

So as Yom Kippur, the most solemn day of the Jewish calendar approaches, and many who do not spend much time in synagogue will show up for Yizkor, the service honoring our departed loved ones, I leave you with this message for the coming year.  Wherever you need to go to find guidance, support or answers, be it God, your living friends and relatives, or those you remember with love and honor, let no one tell you what works best for you.  Just make sure that if you are asking questions, you keep your ears, heart and soul open to the answers.

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Open Letter to Demi Lovato

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Dear Demi,

In light of recent attacks against you from all sides, I write this to you as a voice of reason and support.  While many jumped at the headlines, I took a few minutes to read what you did, what you were criticized for, and how you subsequently reacted on Twitter.  As a Jewish American and a Zionist,  I find it incumbent on me to write you this letter of support.

Not surprisingly, the anti-Israel, anti-Jewish mob came right after you.  For what? For doing nothing other than visiting the holy land, having a very spiritual experience, and thanking those who welcomed you and took care of you while you were there.  Since nothing less than a land without Jews is acceptable to those who ambushed you, they predictably made every attempt to shame and intimidate you.  Since I am not one to speak to another’s feelings, I do not know if they were successful or not in their efforts.  I do know that it is very possible and very forgivable if your reaction was something along the lines of  ‘I don’t need this shit. I was just taking a vacation’, and since it is not what one might call ‘your fight’, you did what you felt was the decent thing and apologized to anyone you might have offended.

A pet peeve of mine has always been when people go after the wrong people. This is one of the reasons I am taking the time to write to you.  I believe almost nothing exists in a vacuum.  I recognize the fact that you are not far removed from personal issues that put your life at risk and I respect and appreciate the fact that Israel was a place you chose to visit as part of your healing process.  Regardless of whether or not you and I share the same religious beliefs.  I also know that in this situation you are the victim.  These people who came after you do so from the position of one of the most disingenuous and corrupt false narratives ever perpetrated and come after you in an effort to use you as a pawn in their self-serving, Jew hating, power driven agenda.

When these same people, the supporters and activists of the BDS movement came after the Rolling Stones for performing in Israel, guess what they did? They added another concert.  When they came after Paul McCartney he basically told them to shut up and leave him alone.  When they attacked Lady Gaga for having the time of her life in Israel she ignored them.  And if they criticized Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez for their trip to Israel, it was drowned out by their praise of the country.  But in fairness, the celebrities I mentioned are significantly older than you are and are more seasoned in responding to attacks from various people and at least on the surface seem to not be recently overcoming battles to face personal demons that almost cost them their life.  Of course nothing would make me happier than for you to stand up to these people,  but in light of what you’ve recently been through and what you are fighting to overcome, I have no trouble understanding why you do not want to be in the middle of a political firestorm over an issue you never intended to be involved in.

So Demi, I am glad you had a wonderful time in Israel and when the time comes that it enters into your mind to go back and visit once again I hope you won’t let those who master intimidation and fraud stand in the way of what you want to do and I believe know is right.  I wish you good luck in all the battles you face in the future and a wonderful time on all your future trips.

Sincerely,

David Groen

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