This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Rabbi Bulka, Have You Forgotten?

Where were you, most esteemed man of letters, undeniable personage of note. We understand, recognize and appreciate your dedication to Judaism, to the furtherance of understanding between peoples. We acknowledge your activism in the name of accommodation toward inclusiveness, in society and with respect to other religions. Your wisdom and empathy have gained you much-deserved admiration and respect. You are a good man.

Dr. Bulka, Rabbi Reuven Bulka, where were you today? We observed the proceedings at the National Memorial, before the beautiful Cenotaph erected to honour Canada's fallen soldiers, those who gave their lives in the battles in which Canada took part to ensure peace and world stability. You are the military chaplain of the Jewish Canadian Military Museum, and it is your presence that we greet at these annual ceremonies representing the face of Canadian Jewry and those Canadians who fought for Canada in the world wars and beyond.

Yes, we know, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day had the misfortune to fall upon the Jewish Sabbath. As an orthodox Jew, as the rabbi of an Orthodox Jewish congregation you are traditionally forbidden to take part in such public events, or so one would assume. You conveyed a formal regret to your Christian counterpart to be read out on your behalf (on behalf of Canadian Jews), indicating that the Sabbath forbade your participation on this signal event.

Rabbi Bulka, you should have been there. Did you forget that you represent the entire Jewish community within Canada on this occasion? Did you overlook the fact that not all Canadian Jews have religious affiliations? Did it slip your mind that many if not most of those Jews who fought for Canada and for our freedom were likely not orthodox Jews, and many of them would have been secular Jews? Jews, withal.

Yours was the privilege, the honour and the duty to represent all of the Jewish community in paying our respects and humble homage to those from among the community who fought on behalf of the community, on behalf of those of our brethren whose lives were forfeit by their geographic circumstances and the murderous intent of a megalomaniac dictator. They fought for us, they fought for Canada, to preserve the freedoms we hold dear.

We are so utterly dismayed at your unfortunate decision.

The good rabbi's response:
Thank you very much for your thoughtful letter.
I too deeply regretted not being there today. Specially with the tenuous, dangerous situation of our dear young soldiers standing on guard for freedom in dangerous places.
My Christian counterpart hopefully delivered not just regret, but also my entire message. The Dominion Command of the Royal Canadian Legion, which I have the great honour of serving as Chaplain, fully understand this situation.
The issue is not only the matter of being there. It is of breaching the Sabbath regulations in the way that I participate. We looked at ways of getting around it, but there were none that worked.
It is unfortunate, but please take into account that if I had breached the Sabbath, I would have insulted the many Jewish people today, Orthodox and, even non Orthodox, who still respect the Sabbath protocols. Not to mention the many generations of Jews who died rather than compromise their faith.
In a way, not being there was the greatest affirmation of what our heroic soldiers achieved, namely setting up the parameters of religious freedom that allow practitioners of all faiths to adhere to their principles.
I thank you for feeling free to share your views, to share them in such a sensitive and caring manner, and for your kind comments.
I hope that my response to you alleviates somewhat the upset that you feel.
Be well.
Rabbi R. Bulka

Yes, he is a good man, an honourable man. Do I feel his generous explanation justifies his absence? No.
Do I feel personally placated? No.
This is not a personal affront, it is a symptom of a singular lapse of judgement in an otherwise supremely intelligent and empathetic person.
Does he still have my respect? Yes. There are reservations.


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