Tuesday, February 13, 2018

I Don't Know: Thoughts On Reading Parsha Mishpatim

I don't know.
I am an American,
And I was brought to believe in democracy with a small d
And I believe in it way more than I've seen it.

I grew up with crazy and arbitrary parents,
In a school system run by martinets
And a religion run by men who wouldn't answer my questions or let me participate
Because I was a girl,
During a war that was stupid and destructive
In a country run by incompetents on a good day. 
And generally, when you set rules before me,
I am going to argue with you. 
As that great sage, Bruce Springsteen, wrote,
“when they said sit down I stood up”.
Or at least that's how I like to think of myself. 

The truth is,
I'm actually a law-abiding coward. 
When they say sit down,
I sit down,
Though I make a few wise-ass comments
Out of the side of my mouth
As I park my butt in a comfy seat.

Well yes.  
But I also sit down
There IS a right and wrong. 
I don't go the wrong way down a one-way street,  
Partly because that's how I was taught
And partly because, well,  
If you go the wrong way down a one-way street
You might get killed
Or you might kill someone else.
We all know this. 
We know what is sensible. 
We are, perhaps, born knowing this.

Don't you all,
Past a certain age,
And assuming you're not a sociopath,
Know the difference between right and wrong?
Do we need religion to be ethical?
Do we need the threat that a supernatural being is going to punish us
In order not to do bad?
Do you need to be a good Jew to be good?
Jewish tradition and teaching
Comes down as firmly as it is possible to come down
On the side of Yes. 
I don’t know.

How beloved we were by Moses and our rabbis,
That that they took such care
To make sure we lead safe and righteous lives. 
And yet, how poorly Moses and the rabbis must have thought of us
To need to control us so completely with so many rules?

I don't know.
We may not need God to run things. 
We know what we need.
And maybe we don't need some self-appointed spokesperson telling us what to do,
Most of us know what is right and what is wrong.
We have internalized this God-sense
And what we need is acknowledge it
And listen to
This embodiment of our best selves,
This impulse towards community and peace
And our laws, if done correctly,
Are our blessed parameters,
And this is
As mortal humans
Our vision is limited,
Our compassion sometimes lacks,
Our self-control does not always work
And the rule of law protects us from tyrants and chaos. 

This I know:
We must always remember that
Ethical living is practical and necessary,
That when we are decent to each other,
And when we make decent laws,
We are kadosh, holy,
That we may live together
In Holy Wholeness.

This I know.


Sunday, December 10, 2017


Baruch Atah Adonai,
Brucha At Shechina,
Ruach HaOlam:

I'm over the Maccabees.
I'm done with fanatics.
I'm done with extremists who demand purity.
I'm done with fundamentalists who shut women up.
I'm done with religions that kill.

I'm over the Seleucids.
I'm done with invaders.
I'm done with outsiders telling anyone how to live in their own country.
I'm done with people telling me how to worship my God.
I'm done with liars and rapists and powerful men.

I'm over the Hellenists.
I'm done with accomodation.
I'm done with rich suck-ups.
I'm done with living in comfy bubbles.
I'm done with pretending we're one of them.

I'm over Hanukkah.
         I'm done with Hanukkah bushes.
         I'm done with eight days of socks.
         I'm done with parties at the White House. 
         I'm done with cheap chocolate gelt.

I'm okay with light in the darkness. 
And potato latkes.
Oh, and donuts.
Let's start there.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Our Broken Hearts: A Prayer For When Life Is A Struggle

Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk: “There is nothing so whole as a broken heart.”

Blessed Mystery, 

Our hearts are broken open and everything that was hidden comes pouring out.
First comes our anger and resentment,
Then our fear and anxiety,
Then our hurt and the grief.

And just when we think it's done and we are injured and dying
Out pour our cries for connection,
Then our gifts of atonement,
Then our kindnesses and our hopes.

The feelings are deep and obvious.
We are exposed to the world.
And if we pay attention we will see
That here we are, 
Ready to love and be loved.

Blessed Mystery, Breath of the Universe,
Giving us struggle,
Helping us survive.
So that we may be ready.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Covenant

Blessed Fierce Mystery
We give thanks for the opportunity to live up to our covenant,
To live in Wholeness with the deepest self
And to create a society that embodies that.

We give thanks for the forgiveness that must come
When we fail, as we will.

Together we feel good, because we are stubborn,
because we will keep on trying.

With faith in our doubt
With doubt in our faith
We continue
In covenant.

And let us say, Amen.

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.
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.