Friday, September 18, 2020

Every Breath




Inhale. 
Holy Wholeness,
Breath of the universe, 
Ruach HaOlam,
Everywhere
In holy conversation.  

Exhale. 
If every breath is in relationship 
With everything, 
Then perhaps 
Every breath is a prayer.
Every breath is a new year. 

Amen

Monday, September 14, 2020

Invitation to the Builders to the Virtual Sukkah

You are invited, please do come in,

Honored Guests, builders of this virtual sukkah.

 

You are invited,

Builders of our past sukkot

In the backyard, the park, the roof:

Every year

You put up the walls

You hung the decorations. 

Where are you this week?

 

You are invited,

Builders of our Torah and Midrash 

In the shul, in the ark,

In the books and the scrolls:

For thousands of years

You told the stories,

True even if not true.

We need good stories.

 

Builders of Halakha and Talmud

In the home, on the street, in the Beit Midrash:

All those many do’s and don’ts and questions.

This year we have too many challenges.

This year we are all questions.

All of us, trying to make sense 

Of the unexplained and incongruous.

Can you make meaning of this year?

 

You are invited,

Builders of Jewish culture,

All the creatives

Currently forced to sit on your hands.

Please, find a way to reach us.

We wish it was safe to sing.

Builders of ideas and rational thought,

Science and philosophy, change and experimentation

In universities and conferences and back rooms across the world,

Ask the questions, do the science, challenge us. 

Don’t be nice, make us listen.

 

You are invited,

Builders of social change,

Of unions and parties and social movements,

Of agitation and resistance,

In the streets and online,

Join us in the voting booth,

This year’s most important sukkah.


You are invited,

Builders of pandemic rituals and services,

Clergy and prayer leaders,

Inventing Judaism in 2020. 

Help us save ourselves,

And save yourselves, too, please.

Have a sip or two of wine, say a blessing. 

Rest for a second.  You okay?

 

And you are invited,

Builders of necessary services,

Food and sanitation and transportation,

Caregivers and medical workers,

On zoom and online and on our doorstep.

You are all essential workers

Essential to our souls and our bodies

And we pray for your health and well-being.

We pray you are paid a living fair wage,

We cannot survive without you.

How can we serve you?

 

You are each invited,

You are the builders of all our virtual sukkot.

Please do come in, Honored Guests.

Sit. Eat.  Have you shaken the lulav yet today?

Stay safe,

Amen

A Prayer for Anger and Gratitude

 Baruch Atah Adonai,

Brucha At Shechinah,
Ruach Ha Olam,
Holy Wholeness,

Every Shabbat
I attend services on Zoom
And almost every single time we are asked by the rabbi,
What are you grateful for?
(A reasonable question)
Write it down in the chat room, she says
And a long list from the congregation rolls out
Of family members
And pets
And clergy
And social justice leaders
And victories
And sour dough bread recipes.

I am also grateful
For the usual stuff
But
The thing is
I hate this question.
I really hate this question.
I am annoyed not grateful.
I am annoyed and not grateful on a daily basis,
I am annoyed and not grateful when I wake up in the morning
and annoyed and not grateful when I go to sleep at night.
I am angry!
Modeh Ani? Hell no.
Bedtime Shma? I forgive no one!
I am angry
and annoyed
and disputatious
and frustrated
but the people who deserve my anger and resistance
do not know or care that I exist.
So I take it out on people who I know mean well
like my rabbi.

Because damn it
This country was founded on genocide and slavery and murder
And it continues:
Rayshard Brooks was murdered
George Floyd was murdered
Breonna Taylor was murdered
Atatiana Jefferson was murdered
Philandro Castile was murdered
Freddie Gray was murdered
Eric Garner was murdered
Sandra Bland was murdered
Michael Brown was murdered
Tamir Rice was murdered
Trayvon Martin was murdered
Emmet Till was murdered

The disproportionate numbers of black COVID deaths;
The mortgages that were turned down;
The jobs that weren’t offered;
The food deserts that led to malnutrition;
The schools with no budgets;
Being afraid to drive or walk or leave the house or breathe.
Murders of opportunity and hope,
Murders of body and soul.
Yeah, I’m angry!

And I’m ashamed of all my white privilege that allows me to know about this
And do nothing
If I want
Except feel bad
And write the occasional check
And mostly not pay attention.
I’m so angry at myself.

So sorry, no gratitude in the chat room today from me.

And?
the things that I am grateful for that you are so curious about,
why do I have to announce them?
You want me to spread my gratitude all around like manure
In this garden of good vibes?
Why?
And please, don’t tell me yours,
I am neither interested nor moved by your gratitude!
Really.
Except of course I am,
I love you
I love you all,
I like it when people are happy.
I like it when people share their happiness,
But not on demand
Not in a chat
And not every week.
Not now
Not this week.
I am happy to share my happiness when it occurs.
When it occurs.

But my gratitude is not for tourists.

The planet is on fire,
Sickness of all kinds surrounds us and
People are being killed by racists and idiots.
Cruelty goes unpunished
The greedy and stupid are in charge
And we can’t get away from it.
No distractions work for long.
Which is probably a good thing.
It feels hopeless
I suspect that’s a white privilege, too.

Protests and Solidarity help
And I see change happening.
But it is a fight that never ends
So screw gratitude.

Sorry.

There is a parable in the Sefer Ha-Aggadah,
The Book of Legends,
About a king who had a beautiful orchard
Which, when he had to leave for a year,
He left in the hands of a keeper.
And when the king returned,
The orchard had been terribly neglected,
Overgrown with thorns and thistles.
He was going to tear the orchard down
But looking down at the thorns
He noticed among them
A rose-colored lily.
And the king said
“Because of this lily, let the entire orchard be spared.”
And the rabbis say,
“Likewise the whole world is spared, for the sake of Torah. “

And if I acknowledge the beauty in my life, what will be spared?
If I have hope, will institutional racism disappear?
How does my gratitude change the world??

I’m asking because I really want to know.

Baruch Atah Adonai
Brucha At Shechinah,
Ruach Ha Olam,
Holy Wholeness,
Thank you for listening.
Amen.

Sukkot: SITTING IN EMPTINESS

 


On Sukkot, we sit in the sukkah:

In an empty room

Porous walls

Holes in the ceiling

No door


And we feel the same:

No hope

Unprotected

Everything bad gets in

And no way to get out


And we feel the same:

Possibilities for miles

Vulnerable to love

Safe in the community’s hut

Open to Holy Wholeness


We sit in this emptiness that is not empty

And in a week it will be gone.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Tashlich 2020

This year for Tashlich,
I’m not going to the park or the river or the ocean. 
My life is constricted and crappy this year
And I don’t need poetic rituals or metaphors.
My sins 
(procrastination, laziness and lethargy with some despair sprinkled on top)
Are mostly against  myself more than anyone  else
And I forgive me. 

So
This year I’m going to write down my little sins
On toilet paper.

Then I’m going to flush them away. 

 2020?  Feh. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

THE FOUNDATION OF FORGIVENESS (For Selichot)



In the divine and great love of One-ness
That is the foundation of forgiveness,
It is really good
To be part of a community of people
Who want to be kind to each other. 
Sometimes that’s more aspirational for us than achieved,
But here, secure in acceptance and compassion,
We know
We are where we can keep trying,
Where kindness
And apologies
And forgiveness
And safety
Come our way when needed
And even when not. 
In the divine and great love of One-ness
It is good to remember. 
Amen

Monday, August 17, 2020

Draw A Line: Creating Sacred Space During The Pandemic

Kadosh means holy but it also means separate. Conscious separation and mindfulness create holiness, so you may want to create a sacred space by drawing lines and deciding when to cross them.



Draw a line in space around yourself,

As you sit in front of your screen

Declare, “Here is where I have holy conversations.” 


Trace a line in time to separate Now from Before and After.

These are the hours for rest and joy, redemption and community.

Happy New Year!



Create a line around sound and sing at home with the Cantor.

Make the music holy with your breath.

Every breath is a prayer.


Drape a line around yourself!

Put on a tallis and a kippa,

Everything underneath them is holy and that means you. 


Decide that there are lines of privilege you won’t cross

And consider that there are lines you should join:

Picket lines, protest lines and lines to vote.


Blessed Holy Wholeness,

Though apart we are together

As we stand on Holy Ground.  

Shabbat Shalom, Shanah Tova and G’mar Khatima Tova!


Amen


Sunday, July 26, 2020

Alas: A Lament for Tisha B’Av During The Pandemic


1.
Alas, the city!

All the good things of a city,
These marvelous people,
And all that push and that pull!
All that effort and disputation,
Those meetings and glorious conversations,
And all those show offs and all the crowds that love to watch and listen to them!
All that science and knowledge,
The teaching and that learning,
All this glorious movement of air and breath!

Alas, the city,
Shut down.
The city cries.
We have lost our hearts.
Blessed Holy Wholeness,
Breathing us in and breathing us out,
We forgot to give thanks.

2. Alas, God’s anger!

Let’s assume that God,
However you understand or don’t understand God,
Is irked.

It’s only logical.
Yet it is unclear which irks God the most:
The lies, the greed and corruption,
Or is it a package deal?
But perhaps these are “only”
Sins against people, not sins agains God,
So as to be dealt with during Elul
While we work it out amongst ourselves.

Because we will have our say:
We have
Our lawyers, our judges, our prisons,
Our protests, our actions, our votes.
And everyone knows what you’ve done.

But for the sins against the One-ness,
Prepare yourself to be weighed and found wanting.
You reveled in how you broke our connection to the Whole,
You are appalling!
You attacked our hearts and
You used our fear against us.
These are sins against God,
The ones that break true connection,
And it is known who and what you are.

Alas, Gods anger,
Is fierce
And deserved.

3.
Alas, loneliness!

Eating, Sleeping, Walking
Alone

TV, Facebook, Prayer
Alone

Coughing, Crying, Dying
Alone

Alas, loneliness!
I am so frightened.
I weep and who will hear me?

4. Alas, compassion!

You were willfully foolish.
You were cruel and used hate as a tool.
In your greed and stupidity,
You ignored the degradation of our planet
And the answers of science
And look where it has led us!
Species and forests disappear.
Old people and the poor are sacrificed.
Essential workers, disproportionately People of Color,
Are used and discarded
And die in disproportionate numbers.
Racism is celebrated,
Misogyny extolled.
Sexual and gender diversity denied.
Where is normal human empathy?
It’s so creepy.

We grieve for the sick and the dead,
We grieve for the murdered and the neglected,
We grieve for all we have lost and will lose.

Alas, compassion!
Pray for mercy.

5.​ Alas, memory!

We remember
Those who died by virus
And those who died by police,
Those who died by gas
And those who died by suffocation,
Those who died by infection
And those who died from neglect.

We remember
Those who were shot in trenches
And those who died alone in the ICU,
Those who died by starvation
And those who were shot in the back,
Those who died with a knee on their neck
And those who died hanging from a tree.

And because we remember
We resist our privilege if we have it;
We resist racism when we see it;
We resist cruelty and stupidity when they beckon;
We resist lethargy and despair when it calls us.

Alas, memory!
We remember and promise to change
Ourselves and the world,
Returning to our true selves
Via
Holy Conversation,
Sacred Disturbance
And Necessary Trouble.

Amen

Five Offerings For Tisha B’Av



I’m so honored to be part of this Tisha B’Av offering of new prayers/poems/readings by Rachel Barenblat, Sonja Keren Pilz, Devon Spier, Evan J. Krame and myself.  Read them all, they’re each very different but all together I think they capture much of the experience of the day this year.  We offer them to be used for personal meditation or for your Tisha B’Av service.  thank you to Rabbi Barenblat for organizing this. Each is written in its own style and evokes Eicha / Lamentations in its own way. These readings are meaningful and powerful and real and I hope they will bring spirit and heart to your Tisha b'Av. There's also a recording by R' Jennifer Singer, and there's a beautiful sketchnote from Steve Silbert, too!

https://yourbayit.org/megillat-covid/

Monday, July 20, 2020

Prayer For When It’s Too Much

Holy Wholeness, 

Well the news sucks.  
No wonder we’re  angry, 
No wonder we’re bewildered. 
Cruel idiots are running the world 
And it’s exhausting 
And weird.

If there’s a way to cope, 
I hope we’ll find it.   
If there’s a way to give ourselves a rest, 
I hope we’ll use it.
If there’s a way to not despair,
I hope we’ll feel it.
If there is a way to make things whole,
We better do it. 

Amen