Sunday, November 23, 2014

Rosh Hodesh Kislev

Kislev is the month for losing hope.
The sun fades away
And we get depressed.
We forget that the light will return.
We dwell in darkness
We lose faith in change.

Kislev is the month for re-inventing hope.
At the worst possible moment, the day gets longer
And we have parties.
We imitate the sun with bright lights.
We eat a lot of sugar
And we make plans for the future.

Blessed holy One-ness,
Giving us the month of Kislev
In which to lose hope and find it again,
So clever.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Found: A Kavannah for a Wedding Anniversary

The hatov vehamaytiv is the fourth benediction in the Birkat HaMazon, the blessing after the meal, and  is also recited upon, among other reasons, hearing good news concerning others and for the drinking of a second cup of very good wine.

This moment is good
For all of us
And we are here today
To celebrate a particular piece of goodness:
__ years ago,  _____________ and _____________ got married.
They found each other.
And they found us.
God is good and good things happen.

We give thanks for this anniversary,
___ years of love, art, spirituality, fun, spirituality, music and community that exists because they are together.
___ years of making community with all the friends and family and colleagues who love and need them.
God is good and good things happen.

May their next ____ years be like a second cup of wine.
Even better than the first one, which maybe you drank too fast?
This second cup has all the familiar and comfortable flavors,
But having breathed a little
It offers up so much more nuance and pleasure
Than that first cup ever could.
God is good and good things happen.

Close your eyes.
Think of all the good things and people that surround you.
Wherever they are, have been or will be.
Now open your eyes.
And look around, here we are!
Right now,
This is the moment.   Here.
We are safe
We have been found.
We are home.
God is good and makes good things happen.
Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha-olam, Ha-tov V'hameitiv.


Friday, November 14, 2014

A Motzi for Sustainability

Blessed God of our ancestors, beginning the chain of work, we give thanks: 

For the portion of dough we take off the challah before we bake it in order to sustain high priests, artists and those who are in need;

For the seed and the earth and the rain and the sun and the farmer and the picker and the miller and the baker and the trucker and the packager and the store owner and the grocery checker and the shopper and the cook and the waiter and waitress and those who will clean up after us, for those who brought us this food that we bless together;

For the scientists and activists and the teachers and the learners and the new farmers and the leaders who work to help us heal this earth, our home;

For all those who work to sustain us
For all those who work for sustainability.

Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech HaOlam
Brucha at Shechina, Ruach Ha Olam
Blessed One-ness,
HaMotzi Lechem Min HaEretz.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Rosh Hodesh Heshvan: A Nice Month

I don't care what they say
About Heshvan,
About what it signifies:
It's the month the Moshiach is supposed to show up
It's Rachel's Yahrzeit, but
I really don't care.

Though of course, Moshiach,
If the Moshiach shows up
It would of course be an event of note
And I'd be happy to be there for universal peace and plenty...

And of course, Rachel,
She was Jacob's true love and Joseph's mother
And, probably, a very complex and  interesting person in her own right,
And I'd be happy to light a candle to remember her by...

But really, no.
Because Heshvan is the quiet month:
No holidays
No repentence
No redemption
No dancing,

Heshvan is the Shabbat of months.
Heshvan is when we rest
From deep thoughts
And history
And joy,
Enough already!

Heshvan is just a month.
Thank you, Heshvan.
Have a nice month, everybody.
Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Drashot for the Family Service: God Pulled Back Genesis 1:1-3

1.    In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth
2.    Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.
3 And God said: 'Let there be light.' And there was light.

We are at the beginning of the Torah readings, and the beginning of the Torah starts with the beginning of our world.    This is the story of how God created the world in seven days.  Some people believe God created the world in seven days, other people, me for instance, believe that this is a story, an important story, that forms the body of stories that we Jews tell each other, that help us remember who and what we are and what we value.  And the bit of Torah i just read tells about that very first day, when God created existence as we know it.

So I want to tell you another story, the story of what happened before this first day, if you can imagine that.

Do you know what kabbala is?  Kabbala is the Jewish mystical tradition,  which is a tradition of thinking about God and spirituality and the meaning and reasons for why we exist, and all sorts of good stuff like that.  And in kabbala there are all sorts of stories for how things came to be, and one of my favorite stories is this, the story of tzimtzum.

Before our world existed, before our universe, nothing existed but God.  Imagine that.  Nothing existed but God.  God was everywhere and everything.  The Kabbala mystics call this God the Ain Sof, which means in Hebrew, Without End.  I can't imagine it, something without a beginniing or an end, but that's God.  God is everywhere.   But one day, God says, I want to create.  I want to create the universe where there will be life and people and trees and stars and planets and you and me and everything we know and love.  But God can't, because there's no room for anything new, because God is everywhere. 

So God decides to pull back, to withdraw just enough of God's God-ness so that there's room for everything else, for the planets and the stars and you and me.  God pulls back, which was very hard for God because God was used to being everything, but God pulled back and made room for us.  And that is the tzimtzum, which means, contraction, God made some empty space so God could create  the universe that we know and live in and love.   And that's the story of tzimtzum.

So God did tzimtzum so we could be created.  So when could you do tzimtzum to help someone else be creative?  Maybe sometimes, with your younger brother or sister, or with someone in school, who isn't as quick as you, maybe sometimes when they're having a hard time, you want to tell them the answer?  Maybe sometimes, if someone is drawing a picture or writing a story or a poem, you want to tell them how to do the drawing or tell that story because you know you have the right answer or the right story and it will be better if they do what you tell them.  But then, if you do those things, you're like God before God pulled back, you're taking up all the space and not letting that person find the answer for themselves, or create their vision and not yours.  And maybe their answer or their art or their story will not be better than yours or maybe it will, or maybe it will just be different, but if you don't give them the space you will never know that answer or see that picture or hear that story. 

Because God pulled back, all of us were able to be born and live.  God wanted to create us and love us, so God made room for us to breathe and God gave us free will, to become who we want to be, and think and feel on our own, and sometimes, when we want to help someone we love, even when we know we're right and they're wrong, we have to be like God and do tzimtzum, and pull back and give them room to breathe and make their own mistakes, so they can see the world for themselves.  In this parsha, in Bereishit, God creates us in God's image and this is one way for us to be in God's image, by making room for the people we love.

God pulled back and then God said, let there be light, and there was light.  

Shabbat Shalom.