Tonight begins Tisha B'Av, the saddest day of the year. For the first time in a while I will be staying home, fasting at least to the AM but not attending a public reading of Eicha or reading it on my own. Both the shuls where I might perform this mitzvah d'rabbanan teed me off. The pseudo frummies of my home congregation, who I mockingly refer to as the Taliban of the Ritual Committee probably deserve a day of sadness and certainly do not deserve something of the holiness of a Bet HaMikdash. Having them weep together amongst themselves falls within my concept of Din. Last year I read a chapter of Eicha at the conservative shul but this year I declined their Hazzan's invitation for an encore. Interupting every chapter break with a Holocaust or related reading interupted the cadence of the Megillah. I suppose adding to the misery of the evening has its justification.
Over several decades I have acquired two identities. First I am a medical subspecialist who really has derived great personal satisfaction from the effort I put into maintaining myself as a skilled clinician and from the appreciation conveyed by many a patient whose life has proceeded in a better path than nature intended. Yet within that sphere, there are many ways in which life as a physician could have been better and is threatened now. Since I subscribe to a major physicians on-line program, with more than ample forum for my colleagues and I to express our experiences, I read a lot of notes of discontent.
My other identity is as of observant Jew. In the spectrum, I'd probably fall in the box of Conservadox. Discontent is less visible or audible here. It is measured to a large extent by attrition. Membership in my shul has plummeted, the Conservative movement which provided my core education implodes, while the finest Jewish minds in my community hold Federation and the Federation-types in sufficient contempt to sit on the sidelines, as I have done. Rabbis milk their titles to acquire authority, with a real knowledge or skill base that would not take them to an internship in my medical world. Dr. Moe, Dr. Larry, Rabbi Bob? The net result has been talented people voting silently with their feet, yet having no serious recourse for reversing what drove them away. These people of under-utilized talent have not really disappeared, yet they hide under the rocks for their own inner peace.
As I begin my public comments, I want to acknowledge that good and decent people are not always treated as they should be. Both medicine and Judaism are diminshed when leadership driven attrition takes hold. As I begin what I hope will be regular postings, I aspire to creating not only a forum to identify what has devastated a good portion of Judaism in my lifetime and jeopardizes the future of medicine as the baton passes from me to my medical student daughter, but find some means of reversal.