Friday, October 20, 2017

I Am So Blessed In My Annoying Friends



I am so blessed in my annoying friends:
Those women and men who will not let me sink,
Who text me every day,
Who insist on knowing if I've made those phone calls,
Written that essay,
Applied for that job,
Asked for much needed help.

I kept thinking it would get better.
This couldn’t be happening to me!
I’m smart,
I’m self-aware,
I take care of myself.
Until one day I had to admit
That I was in trouble, deep trouble.
I cried
And I cried out.

It took me so long to ask for help
I pray it isn’t too late.
And when I asked
I received.
Amazing.
But now that I've got it
I wish it would go away.
Because my annoying friends will not leave me alone
To wallow in my distress and denial,
And I do so like to wallow.

I am so smart
I am so self aware
And I have always taken care of myself
Except I can’t right now
And I am so ashamed.
I am so embarrassed,
To need help.
How can this be me?
Maybe I should just disappear.
But they will not let me go!

It is a revelation
To need help
And get it,
And at the same time
To learn to give the gift
Of receiving gifts.
I hope my annoying friends know
How much strength it requires
To admit that.

I am so blessed in the people who worry about me,

My beloved annoying friends.

Monday, October 16, 2017

A PRAYER FOR THE LEVITES: A Contract Between The Community and Its Workers


The Levite:

Blessed be Ruach HaOlam, Breathing Us In and  Breathing Us Out,
Help me with my obligations as a Levite for my congregation.
May I serve my community to the best of my ability with hard work and creative problem solving.
May I remember the larger goals when I am bogged down in the small details.
May I learn to set limits and know when I must ignore or enforce them.
May I never forget that that everyone means well.
May I represent my community to the wider Jewish kahal well and appropriately.
May I always remember to work with my community with respect and diligence so together we may serve and repair our world.


The Congregation:

Blessed be Ruach HaOlam, Breathing Us In and  Breathing Us Out,
Help us with our obligations to our Levites:
May we serve them to the best of our ability with fair wages and benefits.
May we understand that they are professionals and not volunteers.
May we remember that they must have their days of rest.
May we remember that they love what they do and who they do it for and may we not take advantage of that love too often.
May we always remember to employ them with respect and appreciation so that together we may serve and repair our world.


Together:

Blessed be Ruach HaOlam, Breathing Us In and  Breathing Us Out,
Help us with all of our mutual obligations:
Hard work and fair compensation, 
Diversity and safety, 
Opportunity and study.
Just as Bezalel built the Mishkan with his labor, and as he also took joy in the beauty of his creation, may we build this community together and take joy when it flourishes so that we may better serve and repair our world.

Blessed be Ruach HaOlam, Breathing Us In and  Breathing Us Out,
And bless the community, the work and the workers, that we are one in the One-ness.  
Amen.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Stars In The Sky: A Kavannah for Sukkot


We can see the stars in the sky
Through the slats covering the roof of the sukkah.
And as metaphors go, that's apt.
But it's Sukkot and
Today we;re celebrating the mysterious vertical God:
The God of Heaven,
The God of the Harvest.
God, all the way from Down here to the mysterious far Up There,
Where the rain comes from.
And it would be presumptuous of us to claim clarity.

This all feels so very ancient, doesn't it?
Maybe thousands of years ago they took a break from the harvest
And shared a nice meal in a temporary shack built for sleeping
So they wouldn't waste time walking home.
Hey, they lived in a desert and they knew it wouldn't rain
So they built it so they could see the stars before falling asleep.
Maybe they thanked their gods for their good harvest.
And when Big Daddy Torah God came on the scene
They folded it all into the calendar.
It would have been foolish of them to give up such a good thing.

On our temporary sukkah walls there are pictures of the ancestors
Invited in to share a meal and a chat.
Some of us invite in the patriarchs, some the matriarchs,
Some invite in the scholars, others hope for the artists
And of course there’s family and friends, and wine.
So let's shake some of that pagan foliage
East West North South, Up and Down.
And have a sniff of a most expensive piece of fruit
And look up at those same stars.
It would arrogant of us to forego the joy or the ritual.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Blessing For When Good Things Happen



The fourth benediction in the Birkat HaMazon,
The Blessing After the Meal,
Is the hatov vehamaytiv.
It is also recited upon,
Among other reasons,
Hearing good news concerning others
and
For the drinking of a second cup of very good wine:

May this (new good thing) be like that 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 good things happen.

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha-olam, Ha-tov V'hameitiv.

Amen


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Inside The Holy Of Holies



Inside the Holy of Holies, I see
An empty room.
There is a roof on top of four walls
And a door but no windows.
We declare the inside, divine
And the outside, mundane.
This is arbitrary but okay with me,
I like holy separation.

Inside the Holy of Holies, I see
Judgement.
God speaks to me and tells me
Of God's disappointment with all my mistakes.
I apologize and promise to do better.
We both know this is unlikely but God appreciates the sentiment.
This is great for me,
I have faith in the rituals.

Inside the Holy of Holies, I see
Hate.
I see racism, murder, ethnic cleansing,
Misogyny, homo- and transphobia,
Rape, fascism, privilege,
Lies, manipulation, collusion.
If this is God,
I give up.

Inside the Holy of Holies I see
Hope.
People rise up, demanding action.
Investigators and organizers reject cynicism and despair.
We light candles, pray and make change.
Everyone votes and democracy rules.
God manifests
And I rejoice.

Inside the Holy of Holies, I see
The Jewish people.
Our stories create me,
Our culture animates me,
Our society challenges me,
Our past scars me.
I couldn't escape them if I tried.
Could be worse.

Inside the Holy of Holies, I see
Myself.
Years of therapy allow me to make
An honest evaulation
Of who and what I am.
I criticize myself appropriately.
I honor self-awareness,
Anything else is boring.

Inside the Holy of Holies, I see
The Infinite.
I meditate on the Ruach Ha Olam
And each breath is a prayer.
I feel the Presence,
I am unaware of the past and unworried about the future.
It is amazing.
I give thanks.

Inside the Holy of Holies, I see
The God I need to see.
Today, God is ancient wishful thinking.
And tomorrow, Aveinu Malkeinu, Who will make miracles.
Next week, I ponder the Fierce Mystery,
And the week after, I know the One-ness that is everywhere in all things.
Whatever.
Here I am
In the Holy Of Holies.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

BE SAFE: A Prayer For Those Facing Disaster

Be safe,
Be warm,
Be dry,
Be alive.

Be useful,
Be attentive,
Be mindful,
Be whole.

Blessed Fierce Mystery,
Aware of the danger
And fear
And the possibilities of hope and succor,
We give thanks for all those who respond
And pray for all those who need rescue.
We pray that we will not be ashamed to ask for help when it is needed
And we pray that we will know what to do when it is our turn to assist.

Be safe.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Meat and Feathers: We Confess (For Rosh HaShanah LaBehama/Rosh Chodesh Elul)



(leader)
I feel the Presence
Of what today I call God
Tomorrow I may call nature--
The Fierce Mystery
All around us,
This connection that must know everything because it is everything.

During Elul we must confess to people before we confess to God
And perhaps on Rosh HaShana LaBehama we must confess to animals before we confess to people.

So let us begin.

We acknowledge our debts to and our transgressions against
The domesticated beasts, 
Our food, our clothes, our decoration.
They are
Our property, our friends, our victims.

And we ask that they hear our confessions and our blessings: 

(together)
Cattle
Sheep
Pigs
Goats
Chickens
Ducks
Geese
Peacocks
Horses

We celebrate the many gifts you give us, willingly and unwillingly.

(leader)
We eat you,
We eat your bodies and reminisce over the best parts,
We share recipes.

We eat your children,
We drink the milk and the honey you make to feed those children,
We eat your eggs before they can even  be children.

We keep ourselves warm with your skin
And steal your beauty to enhance our own.
We cultivate you for your fur and feathers and kill you whenever we need them.

We like the way you look.
We make art and poetry to celebrate you in the fields and farms
Just before we slaughter you.

For thousands of years
We have used your bodies to plow our fields and mill our grain,
We have used your bodies to ride from place to place
And now that we don't need you quite as as much
We use you for sport or dog food.

We bless your memory.

(together)
Cattle
Sheep
Pigs
Goats
Chickens
Ducks
Geese
Peacocks
Horses
We acknowledge how we have abused you.

(leader)
We imprison you.
We torture you.
We test our make up and drugs on you.

We ride you.
We train you.
And we discard you when you're old.

We enclose herd animals alone in stalls instead of with their own kind,
We cram  you into metal enclosures that won't allow any movement,
We raise thousands in spaces fit only for hundreds.

We murder you.
We wring your necks.
We behead you.
We bang you on the head.
We shoot you.
We pluck you.
We skin you.
We chop and grind you up.

We acknowledge our cruelty and ask for your forgiveness. 

(together)
Cattle
Sheep
Pigs
Goats
Chickens
Ducks
Geese
Ostriches
Peacocks
Horses

We confess how we have lied to ourselves about what we do to you.

(leader)
We call you
  Porterhouse Steak
  Buffalo Wings
  Venison
  Mutton
  Camembert
  Yogurt
  Leather
  Feathers
  Down
  Sunny Side up.
  Shofar
Anything but what you really are.

We buy slabs of meat in transparent packages that don't look like you
So we don't have to think about how you were raised and slaughtered.
You are a breast or a leg or a steak,
You are a hamburger, a wing or a bucket.
We tool and dye your skin and call it leather
So we don't have to acknowledge we're wearing your skin.
We arrange your feathers artfully
And admire the beautiful colors,
Ignoring why you have them in the first place.
We put your feathers in our pillows
And we sleep well.

We give thanks for denial, without which we could not get through the day.

(together)
Cattle
Sheep
Pigs
Goats
Chickens
Ducks
Geese
Peacocks
Horses
Forgive those of us who cannot give you up.

(leader)
You domestic beasts are all vegetarians, why is that?
Why don't we eat predators? 
Is it because you are docile and easy to domesticate?
Or is it because predators remind us of ourselves?

Maybe some of us here don't eat you
Maybe some of us here don't wear you.
Maybe none of us should.
But many of us do.

(optional)
I do.
I eat meat.  I love meat.
I love eggs, honey, yogurt, chicken, steak.
I wear leather.  I'm wearing it on my feet right now.
My pillow is filled with down.  I slept okay.
I know all about how you suffer and still I partake of it all.
I don't eat veal.  That's it.  Not much.
I think about helping you.
I guess I wrote this.
But really, I don't.
So I can't ask for forgiveness
because I'm not going to change.
This month, anyway.

(optional:  are there any other confessions, besides mine?  anyone?)

(together)
Cattle
Sheep
Pigs
Goats
Chickens
Ducks
Geese
Peacocks
Horses
            We could try to make at least small changes.

(leader)
We can eat less meat.
We can wear less leather.
We can refuse to wear real fur.
We can refuse to eat veal.
We can only buy grass fed and pasture raised poultry and meat, if we can afford it.
We can stop wearing feathers.
We can use alternative down feather pillows, though that's plastic and not so good for the environment.
(optional) What else can we do? (wait for suggestions)

Maybe we become vegetarians or vegans,
Maybe we don't.
But we can do a little.
We can start.


(together)
Baruch Atah Adonai
Brucha At Shechinah
Blessed Yah, 
Breath of Life,
Remembering us in Death,
The Fierce Mystery:
We acknowledge, celebrate, and give thanks for all the ways the animals have made our lives possible.
We confess to cruelty and hypocrisy.
We ask your forgiveness for all the wrongs we have done our domestic beasts,
We are blessed by their lives.
May we learn to be a blessing to them.
And we wish them a Happy New Year and a Hodesh Tov

And let us say, 
Amen



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