Love Your Neighbor as Yourself … Really?!

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. 

On the internet, on the radio, on television, in the newspapers. We began our summer at the end of May 2020 and into June with reports and graphic images of violence, outrage, tears of pain marching across the USA and around the world.

Right in front of our eyes we saw, over and over, the killing of a Black man on a city street. People stood around and watched. Some videotaped. Some created a human barricade around the dying man. NOBODY moved in to help!!

There are excuses for non-action, usually weak answers to critical questions. Why didn’t anybody do anything? It has become too frequent in our country to stand around and watch, then to respond with complaints and anger and violence.

The violence of the action of killing someone in real time and plain view does not seem to motivate the same kind of response as after the fact. What is wrong with this picture? Why don’t human beings reply to horrific events immediately, or work to prevent them? Why are we so jaded as to become voyeurs? Where are our values?

After the event, we will hear calls for “love your neighbor as yourself,” and we will listen to offers of assistance in the cleanup of the communities’ splinters and ashes. Where were the voices of support and caring prior to these acts? Where were the offers to reshape our society into a civil land for all, prior to devastation, riots and burnings?

Absent are the voices of national leadership. Missing are the offers to try and heal the historical pain of dysfunction that prompts these revolts. Lacking is an honest desire to create a planet with peace and harmony FOR EVERYBODY.

And sadly, when the terrifying acts and horrible images of death and fire soon become part of history, who will stand to truly love their neighbors as themselves?

Will you join me?


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. Serving as a volunteer police chaplain for more than 30 years, he regularly addresses civic and religious gatherings on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.

Choose Life… Yours, Theirs

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. 

I try to teach my granddaughter to “make good choices.” In my hospital visits I meet with patients and families who must make good choices to stay alive. In all our lives we are making choices — turn left, turn right; go up or go down; say Yes, say No; take the doctor’s advice, or not; keep this physician or choose another.

But when it comes to living, or just prolonging life, many will forget to make a choice that can immediately save lives. While we are strong and healthy, donating blood should be a no-brainer. Every donation of blood when broken down into its constituent parts and can potentially save three lives. Vitalant (formerly, United Blood Service) provides nearly two-thirds of the blood needed in our local hospitals.

As we face deteriorating health, but are still able to make a rational decision, there’s another way to positively impact the lives of others — sign an Organ Donor form. And the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles (our Driver’s License folks) allows every driver to sign-up as an Organ Donor, which then is recorded, and a small heart is added to the front of the license.

Yes, our bodies are fragile. Yes, our blood and our organs can be vital in assisting to make someone else’s life better or giving life itself.

There are many excuses that folks will provide for not doing any of this. Every religion that I am aware of preaches the sanctity of life AND loving (helping in time of need) our neighbors as ourselves.

How beautiful it is to “Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you.” Maxims and time-tested biblical quotes are only valuable when actually applied to real people. Tossing a bible phrase to show your knowledge of text is fine in the classroom or from the pulpit. Living that phrase in the real world, where lives depend on you, elevates the words to life-saving action.

Many fear needles: it really does not hurt, well, maybe for just an instant. Taking the time to donate blood (about an hour every eight weeks) to save a life of somebody in surgery or bleeding as the result of a car crash is what we call in Hebrew a Mitzvah, a righteous act.

And there are too many individuals who want their bodies left intact after their demise. To what end? If the organs can be used by another human being after they are no longer needed by us, great! Help somebody to live a healthier, more enjoyable and successful life, and in a way keep the deceased “alive.”

I’ve been a blood donor for decades, probably gallons of my blood have been used to save the lives of teens, adults and infants. And becoming a blood donor has truly saved my life (but that’s a story for another time).

On my driver’s license is that small heart indicating that I have a big heart — to share with unknown others what my body cannot any longer use, and which they cannot live without.

Daily, throughout life we make critical choices. Choosing to share life should be an easy decision. Contact DMV and Vitalant for specific details. Make your life even more worth living, by sharing it with others. It’s an easy choice, just like the good choices I’m trying to teach my granddaughter to make… and you will feel great knowing that you will give life to somebody who needs YOU!

Thanks.


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D., is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. A volunteer police chaplain, he regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


Photo: ID 161753002 © Andrii Zastrozhnov | Dreamstime.com

Musings for March 2020

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. 

With so much activity locally, nationally, globally speeding by us daily, I think it might be an appropriate time to take a few moments to sit back, relax and reflect on that stampede of news, sports, traffic that tramples us daily.

This month of March is a great way to start that dreamy interlude. In the play Oklahoma there is a song about March, which comes in “like a lion — a whippin’ up the water in the bay.” The quiet month of March at its beginning — no longer quiet. Now a wild and ferocious 31-days. What’s happening that causes such a critical transition from benign to nearly violent?

Daylight Savings Time — becomes “curiouser and curiouser” to quote the fabled monkey George. Although our state thankfully does not comport with most of the rest of the USA, this time-travel is silly. When in my lifetime, or yours, has anyone seen farmworkers who are out picking field crops, requesting more daylight? When in a blazing 113-degrees Fahrenheit Arizona summer has anyone requested more sunlight, heat? And what school system has so much in reserve monies that it doesn’t care how much it costs to air-condition their school buildings? Need extra personal outdoors time, switch your start time to whenever its cooler, change your watch, and drink a lot of water. “L’chaim!!”

St. Patrick’s Day — a bigger festival time in the USA than it is in its home country Ireland. Prompted by initiatives to be green — but not in the global warming sense — St. Pat’s Day is a fun day, unless it falls near a weekend during which several days may be set aside to remember the Irish Priest. Clogging, soda bread, corned beef and cabbage and of course beer — or green bagels (my attempt at humoring intergroup relations for more than a decade). “L’chaim!!”

Purim — the Hebrew word translates as ‘lots’ as in lottery. This annual Jewish holiday based on the Book of Esther recounts another occasion where the challenge to an anti-Semitic megalomaniac succeeds. Our heroine, Queen Esther — whose true name is Hadassah — facilitates the downfall of a wicked Persian Minister. His plan to choose the day (by casting lots) for the extermination of the Jewish community backfires. The Queen details to the King the palace intrigue surrounding the plan to misappropriate the royal document seal. A time of revelry in Jewish communities worldwide. “L’chaim!!”

With so many festive times, special events, activities and creative opportunities for revelry and celebration our formerly quiet month of March has become a beast, busy at least in the sense of filling huge amounts of time and space with big stuff. Reflecting on the once quiet month of March now is exhausting with so much zipping by.

I am going to need more time for musing and lying back on a lawn-chair looking up at the clear March sky, while conjuring up and fantasizing about all the animals and their antics up in the clouds.


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D., is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. A volunteer police chaplain, he regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


Photo: K. Miller

2020 for Good — or Not?

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. 

As you read this column, the newest year 2020 has already arrived. It’s the year we will refer to in the phrase “hindsight is 2020.” So, if this newest year does grant us the opportunity to reflect on the past, what do we see?

2019 was a year of amazing pain and conflict in the United States, not just in the streets of our cities, our schools, our houses of worship, but even in the halls of our government. It was 12 months filled with murder, rancor, swearing, bullying, harassment and mis-statements or lies. No matter the side of the aisle where you sit, 2019 presented itself as the opportunity to challenge and argue, besmirch and belittle anyone and everyone who is different. Hardly a day went by without someone using public or social media to verbally spit in the eye of someone else, without apology.

Seldom did we hear or read of people doing good for each other, except the occasional tribute to America’s military or vets. All the rest of us were fair game for targeting. We sent our “thoughts and prayers” to millions around the world who became cannon fodder for monarchs and oligarchs. Many praised ill-informed leaders. Thousands attempted to bury — online, sometimes in person — those who did not uphold their “values.” We felt the derision of those who saw human beings differently, and who made us the objects of their lunacy, the focus of their fury. Compassion and truth evaporated.

2019 was not a good year. True, we had some successes in medicine to heal the hurting; we saw advances in communication to connect us; and we responded with millions of dollars to care for victims of man-made and climate-made disasters. Nevertheless, 2019 now is over. How many hundreds of thousands remain hostages to war and displacement, seeking freedoms no longer offered, because of squandered resources.

Ours now is the responsibility to make 2020 a year where we can proudly say next year at this time — in hindsight — 2020 was better, because we worked together to make it so.


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D., is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. A volunteer police chaplain, he regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


Photo by Andrew Zuber; courtesy of Scopio.

A Most Important Season

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. 

So here we are again. The season of Jewish High Holy Days and Festivals has concluded, with hope and joy. November brings us closer to another set of holidays, another season… Of shopping and parties and good wishes, beginning with Thanksgiving Day modeled after the Jewish (harvest) festival of Sukkot.

Prior to a single day of thanksgiving, we will have a day of voting…and exercising our significant privilege as Americans to participate in the formulation of our government. How many will register, and more importantly how many will actually vote, is now the critical issue for our American democracy.

Americans — and others around the planet — will spend millions of dollars to buy products for themselves and others that have little lasting value beyond “the season.” Granted some gifting is more long-lasting, but much is purchased because we feel it necessary to do so. Much thought goes into that gift. Little time is granted to the value of voting, and its existential impact and potential to change everyone’s life.

When we vote, we become participants in the future of our country, and its future relationships around the world. When we vote, we need to take a little time in evaluating the nature of the candidates, the issues, the initiatives on our ballots. That is time well spent, and critical.

So, it’s a new season. Not the toys and games and perfumes season, but the season of democracy. The season that will impact our world well beyond our time on this planet. What we vote for, for whom we cast ballots, how we view our participation in America’s most sacred requirement will show our friends, families and people of the world whether we care or whether we don’t give a damn.

Let us also make this new season a valuable one. Register and VOTE!


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D., is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. A volunteer police chaplain, he regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.

Words Hurt and Heal

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. 

A few years ago, I delivered a sermon expressing the need for civility, integrity and honesty in government. It seemed like a normal appeal to do right, speak appropriately and act within norms established by society.

I was invited not to return to that pulpit.

Ever since, I have been trying to decide whether words really do matter and whether they are more significant than actions.

Children are most often cautioned about the use of ‘naughty’ verbiage. We don’t want them cursing, making nasty comments, or today — bullying online. We tell our kids what is appropriate and what is not. We set standards for our family vocabulary and offer punishment when those standards are violated.

Words mean something, to me. Ethnic slurs, extraordinary hyperbole, swear words have impact. Using inappropriate language is just plain WRONG. Likewise, words of love, kindness and support can heal.

The letters of the English alphabet by themselves are merely symbols for the sounds we want to connect into words. By themselves, letters are totally innocuous, without impact or meaning. Joined with other such symbols, they take on a life, a reality, a meaning — for good or for evil.

When these sounds emanate from our mouths, we become responsible for their impact, or we should be held accountable for their meaning. Letters when combined with other letters yield words, and words when blended into sentences have import and impact well beyond the individual letters.

Teaching children not to use ‘dirty’ words is something parents just do; it’s the proper way to educate the younger generation. When ‘dirty’ words are used by adults, kids often call us to task and rightfully so. (Even if the hammer smashing on my thumb does feel better by my offering an expletive.)

So why did that group feel so challenged by my words? Why were so many offended by my use of the words “integrity, honesty and civility”? Maybe it hit home, putting them on notice that language that violates these standards is a critical error in the public forum. We’ll never know.


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D., is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. A volunteer police chaplain, he regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


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A Palm Tree, a Ficus and Some Chimes

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. 

It was one of those unusual Sunday afternoons when not much was going on. The temperature was below average, and a cool breeze woke the hanging chimes prompting them to ring every now and again.

I took a sip of my drink and lay on the chaise on the back patio. Not much happening. Cool breeze, the chimes, an unusual quiet.

Then I looked up and the palm fronds were synchronized in their swaying, side to side. Long narrow stalks expanding into full, broad fronds that looked like horses’ heads nuzzling each other. Like a mother and her foal.

And the birds began a chorus of sounds starting nearby and being answered from a distance. Back and forth in their private language, only interrupted by the sweet chimes in the breeze.

As formidable as were the palm frond horse heads, was the happy face of a Disney dwarf, formed by the years of trimming branches from the ficus tree. Now the knots showed a smiling profile of a seemingly mischievous cartoon figure.

And the silence was broken by yet another bird call, and a breeze blowing through the swaying horse head palms, and the playing chimes.

Not the usual afternoon, because above the swaying horse heads and round face in the trunk of the ficus tree, were light clouds. White, fluffy and continuously moving west to east. Snails and bears and giant eagle wings hovering but for a moment, then moving on, transforming and reshaping as the chimes rang and horse heads swayed.

The little Disney character, looked like one of the seven dwarfs, still smiling as the breeze wafted by.

Just a quiet Sunday afternoon with nothing much happening, but with so much going on. I’m sitting and watching and listening as these forever friends do what comes naturally. A great day for all of us.


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D., is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. A volunteer police chaplain, he regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


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Happiness… and Holocaust

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. 

Joy-filled times of redemption and rebirth.

Many of us just celebrated the holy days of Pesach (Passover) and Easter. Family time. Good food. Fancy new spring clothing. Travels to enjoy seeing relatives. Days of revelry and joy, happiness and fun.

And now we are into the month of May where many eyes tear, families gather in sadness, and memories are all we have of our ancestors from the Holocaust.

Yom ha-Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day is May 2, or the 27th day of Nisan, on the Hebrew calendar. Reflecting on the multiple generations lost to the Nazis, six million murdered, including a million and a half innocent children.

We cry as we remember so many whose death was needless, without reason, absent of compassion.

In everyone’s life there are times of happiness and times of sadness. But grief so deep that it carries through generations around the world is seldom noted. There will surely be commemorations; names of the murdered will be read publicly; solemn memorial services will be conducted.

And still we ask… why? Why such hatred, prejudice, bigotry and horrific acts?

As rabbis, we are taught that the most difficult answer is to the simple one-word question, “Why?”

For some, there is no answer, never will there be an answer. How can we recall all the precious children whose lives could have brought us cures to disease, beautiful music and stunning inventions? How can we look back at the faces of family members eradicated from the planet, surviving only in smoke?

Why do we still have to endure swastikas and anti-Semitism in Arizona, the United States of America and globally? When will hatred, prejudice, bigotry and violent acts be squashed, and its vitriol washed away?

Our world could be celebrating joyous times in harmony. We should be recognizing the faces of so many who do good and not evil, showing love for neighbors, lifting up the righteous.

But day after day we see acts of hatred spilling into our homes and cities, and few stand against bigotry. Kudos to those who do.

Yom ha-Shoah is just one day on the calendar. A day to remember the atrocities that occur even today because of hate. Yom ha-Shoah, a moment in our busy schedules to reflect on what happens when good people stay silent, when those who could make a difference slide under their covers and allow their neighbors to continue to suffer the pain and horror inflicted by demagogues and hate-mongers.

Maybe this year, the world will finally begin to recognize that bigotry, prejudice and hatred — from the top of the mountain to the deepest valley — is wrong. Maybe this year we will be able to join hands in love and compassion: to challenge hatred and bigotry and anti-Semitism wherever it spews its odious and disgusting violence.

Maybe this year, starting with this Yom ha-Shoah, we will retake our world; and by remembering those faces, begin to heal and then celebrate both rebirth and redemption.


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D., is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. A volunteer police chaplain, he regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


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Once Upon a Time There was a Bunny …

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. 

A fluffy little bunny was scampering across a green field. Alone. With nothing special in mind to do this day. Enjoying the green of the field and the comfort of the quietude.

Suddenly he was struck by the appearance of another bunny on the other side of the field. She was going her own way and didn’t even notice him.

Bounding across the field he smiled at her; she at him. Soon they were ambling about enjoying the countryside and each other’s company. It was a special time and each bunny felt comfortable with the other. He went back to his place and she to hers.

But he could not forget the incredible joy and comfort he felt being with her. They shared so much in common; even having lived in the same cities at the same time, but not knowing the other was there.

They agreed to meet again and continued these afternoon amblings for a while, until it was time for a decision to be made.

To be forever together, or friends, or to sever their connection. After all he had a prior obligation at home. Their pain was mutual, and tears and apologies could not break the bond that had been established that afternoon in the field of green.

But bunnies have feelings, and bunnies know right from wrong and good from bad. So, they said their goodbyes and each one went home, sadly recognizing the inevitable grief they each would individually experience later, in private.

What an amazing experience. Affection and joy coming seemingly from nowhere, from a fleeting glance across a pasture. Then pain and discomfort from a needed moment of parting, forever.

Life has its ups and downs. Joy and sadness present themselves to moderate our existence and keep us on track to be human.


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. is known Valley-wide for his decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. A volunteer police chaplain, he regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


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New Year’s: 2019 and 5779

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. 

For members of my community it is already the NEWest Year, from our calendar change in the Fall when ‘traditional counting’ suggests this to be 5779 years since Creation.

Those who enjoy playing with numbers, numerology, as did the ancients of the Middle East, note the year 5779 has the equivalence of 28. Twenty-eight in Hebrew numerology produces the letters “Kaf” and “Chet”. [Every Hebrew letter has a number equivalent: Kaf = 20, Chet = 8.]

These two letters together also spell out a word, “Koach”, pronounced KOH-ach [with the ‘ach’ sounded as in the composer’s name, Bach]. Koach means ‘strength.’ So were we to look for meaning in the numbers and words of 5779, we would be pleased to see a year offering strong potential.

The dictionary defines ‘strong’ with numerous explanations — bodily or muscular power, mentally powerful, competent, courageous, influential and 11 more descriptions. Generally, ‘strong’ has to do with power of some sort. So, as we enter this new year, whether 5779 or 2019, we have the challenge of addressing power.

The world is tugging between the powerful and the rest of us. Strength may be a positive or a negative, depending on its implementation. Just being stronger does not provide entitlement for abuse or intolerance. It takes more strength to challenge the powerful, than to cower from them.

With every New Year comes a hope — to have a better year than the previous one. The year 2018 was a difficult year for many nations, for thousands of religiously persecuted peoples, for those living through the turmoil of storms and climate issues, and for hundreds dying beneath a hail of bullets.

As we muster the strength to enter this New Year, let’s try and make it an opportunity for successes and good health.


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. is known Valley-wide for his decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. A volunteer police chaplain, he regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


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