Bach ‘n Yitz (1 cent)


The renowned Washington Bach Consort performs the first Tuesday of each month, at noon, for free, at the downtown Church of the Epiphany.  As opposed to the normal Tuesday crowd of 50 to 75, several hundred people turn out to hear performances by the ensemble that they would need to pay retail prices to hear at their normal concerts (such as the upcoming St. Matthews Passion concert at Strathmore this weekend).  They generally play/sing a Bach cantata, and there is usually one other piece.  This Tuesday, it was Bach’s cantata #71 (“Gott is mein Koenig”), and Bach’s Toccata in E major for solo organ, played by the organist for the National Cathedral.

I wish I liked this music, but I don’t.  I am no expert on Bach’s many, many cantatas, and there are some which I enjoy, but this one left me particularly cold.  And the organ toccata was, to me, a lot of noise, signifying nothing.  Just not my thing.


Rabbi Irving (‘Yitz’) Greenberg spoke at Adas Israel last night, the annual Nehemiah Cohen (think Giant Foods) lecture.  Last year, we heard former Israeli attorney general Avrum Burg give a perspective on Israeli politics from his increasingly leftist viewpoint, which to me was very thought provoking.  The lecture this year was by modern orthodox Rabbi Yitz Greenberg who gave a somewhat rambling, but ultimately engaging, hour long talk whose subject was “the state of Jews and Israel today”, and whose general premise is that we are living at a time of transformation.  Following the last 2000 years of rabbinic Judaism, where the rabbis were the glue that held the Jews together, we were now entering a post-rabbinic period, which seems to be a period of increasing Jewish involvement with the world, increasing empowerment of individuals to make their own decisions, and a time when Jews were no longer victims, but (largely through Israel and to some extent through economic achievement and modernity) where Jews were taking upon themselves the negative, as well as the positive, traits that accompany positions of power.

This is an interesting thought, of course, and he focuses on what Judaism (or is it Jews?) have to offer the rest of the world, and how important it is to enable Jews (who now have choices) to choose to remain, and identify as, Jewish, and in particular the role of parents.

I think I would agree with 3/4 of what Greenberg says, but in order to make his points, he has to be very selective as to the topics he discusses and those he neglects to discuss, and he is.  This leaves you with a feeling that he is being a little conclusionary and glib, and that he may be 100% wrong.  But, I would guess that he knows that.

It is refreshing, of course, to hear from an orthodox rabbi, who does not talk about Jewish law and ritual observance, but who has a much more expansive view of what Judaism is all about.  And he did get his small cuts in at the Lubavitchers and heredi in general, but their growth (and particularly their prominence in Jerusalem and all of Israel, is one of those topics he needed to ignore in order for his point to be made.

Interesting evening.  Challenging topic. A lot of people could have given the same speech.


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