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Do the 4th Differently This Year by Rabbi Dov Gartenberg


Treat this July 4th as a day of reflection.  Instead of going to fireworks, gather with friends and discuss the "situation." Ask this question. What is happening here?   If you are alone, read one of the better books that shed light on the 'Matzav-the situation'.  Israelis are familiar with this term as a way to describe the current moment in a long, extended period of crisis.  I adopt it for use during the era of the Trump administration.  It certainly feels like a period of daily crises that change shape and size over a period of years, but crisis defines the times we are in.

In Jewish tradition we have an expression on a technique to focus our minds. It is called "Dvar Shinui", changing up the routine.  It is routine to celebrate July 4th with fireworks. The Dvar Shinui is to treat it more like Yom Kippur.  I am not suggesting that you fast, but I am urging you to reflect.

During the past year I have read several excellent books to help understand the situation.

  • Timothy Snyders' On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (Penguin, 2017)
  • How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt
  • Trumpocracy, by David Frum

All three of these are written by outstanding scholars or public intellectuals who go beyond gossip and rants to a deeper understanding of our times.  Share with me books that you have read that have helped you to understand the 'Matzav'.

I hope that you are able to set aside time during the 4th to be a reflective patriot, to use this time to explore what is happening on a deeper level and to summon our inner resources to act with courage in the face of the crisis in leadership and governance of our great country.

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