Redux: Visiting Educator Rabbi Gordon Tucker, Tarbut Yisraelit, & Tu B’Av

Rabbi Gordon Tucker (bio, below) returned to Palmer during Second Session, after his initial visit at the beginning of First Session. He presented a shiur (lesson) to the tzevet (staff) on Shabbat afternoon.  Just as commercial airlines instruct adult passengers to apply their own oxygen masks before attending to those of their children — likewise, the adult tzevet here at Palmer engages in text study as a priority.

His presentation concerned “The 15th of Av: Psychological and Theological Lessons”.  He began with a somewhat ghoulish midrash from Talmud of the Land of Israel [Yerushalmi], Taanit 4:7.  “Rabbi Levi said: Each year on the eve of Tish’a B’Av Moses would announce throughout the camp that everyone should dig his/er own grave.  They dug their grave and went to sleep.  In the morning, they found themselves to be missing some 15,000 of their number.  In the last year, they did the same thing, but in the morning they found that no one was dead.  So they said: “perhaps we erred in determining the date.”  So they repeated this on the tenth of the month, and then on the eleventh, and the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth as well.  But when they saw that the moon was full [i.e. on the 15th], they said: “it appears that the Blessed Holy One has removed the harsh decree from us.  And so they created a holiday on that day.”



Rabbi Tucker commented: “The people who dug their own graves were people who could not move their consciousness away from the destructive events of their past, their failures of faith, and the decree of death that was ever-present in their lives They are like those of us who are often more comfortable with the sad moments in our collective history — and with the most alarming interpretations of surveys and polls — than we are with celebrating the vitality of Jewish tradition and truly contributing to it.”

Pictured above are the colorful, love-filled decorations made by our tzevet Tarbut Yisraelit (Israeli Culture staff) in celebration of Tu B’Av!

Rabbi Gordon Tucker 

Rabbi Gordon Tucker has been at Temple Israel Center since 1994. In 2003, he was named Senior Rabbi.

A native of New York City, he holds the A.B. degree from Harvard University and a Ph.D. (in Philosophy) from Princeton University. He was ordained a Rabbi in 1975 by The Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTSA).

Since coming to Temple Israel Center, Rabbi Tucker has worked to strengthen three primary areas of Jewish life: education for all ages, the spirituality of worship, and the obligation to reach out to the less fortunate.

Rabbi Tucker joined the faculty of JTSA in 1976 and has taught there continuously ever since. He is currently Adjunct Assistant Professor of Jewish Philosophy. From 1984 to 1992, he was Dean of the Rabbinical School at JTSA, in which capacity he directed the training of over 200 rabbis.

He is Honorary Chairman (and former Chairman) of the Board of the Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel, and served on the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly from 1982 to 2007.

While on a leave of absence from JTSA beginning in 1979, Rabbi Tucker served as a White House Fellow in the office of United States Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti.

Rabbi Tucker is the author of numerous articles on a wide range of subjects in Jewish thought, and most recently published a translation with commentary (entitled “Heavenly Torah”) on Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s major three-volume Hebrew work on rabbinic theology.