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Dear Friends,

We returned from our trip to Israel and Jordan early yesterday, and I am only now beginning to process all that we saw and experienced. That is especially true with regard to the new Israeli government and what the sharp turn to the right means for civil and religious rights, as well as any hope for peace, in the Jewish state. My immediate reaction to the election was quite strong. I have long been troubled by the knowledge that there are extremist, racist groups such as the Kach Party within the Jewish community. That anyone who embraces such a hateful outlook would be in the Israeli government pains and concerns me. At the same time, long discussions with Israeli friends, none of whom are happy about the outcome of the election, have prompted me to look more deeply into what the new government means. I am still upset and concerned, but also see that the immediate and intense reaction to these extremists may not be the wisest possible response.

I will have much to say when I return after my January sabbatical.

In the meantime, I want to share one of my favorite stories. I think it’s particularly relevant at this moment and reminds us that few things are ever as good, or as bad, as we first think they are.

King Solomon sought an inscription for his royal ring that would be appropriate at any and all times. Whether a person were sad, happy, or anywhere in between, the inscription would speak to where they were at that moment.

Solomon requested his minister, Benaiah, find such an inscription. Benaiah expected it would be an easy task but quickly learned this was not to be the case. He brought suggestion after suggestion, but each time the king was able to raise a situation for which the inscription was not appropriate.

Undaunted, Benaiah went out into Jerusalem and found a craftsman who worked in metal. The craftsman offered countless suggestions, but each was one Benaiah had already proffered and had been rejected. Finally, the craftsman turned to his grandfather. The old man took the royal ring, went into his workshop and, after what seemed like an eternity, reappeared with the ring, now bearing an inscription, in hand.

The minister hurried back to the palace and presented the ring to King Solomon. The King looked down and smiled when he saw that engraved on the inside of the ring were the words, “This Too Shall Pass.”

Dvar Acher—a related matter because longtime Temple leader Joel Scharf is an Abraham Lincoln expert:

In an address by Abraham Lincoln Before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society on September 30, 1859, he shared the following,

“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: ‘And this, too, shall pass away.’ How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!”

Whether from King Solomon or President Lincoln, the wisdom of this statement is as clear and as relevant as ever.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Daniel Cohen