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Showing posts from June, 2021

Their Poems, Our Prayers

Poetry speaks in ways that prose cannot always achieve. I offer a few poems. Denise Levertov, a British born American poet, writes in "Making Peace": A voice from the dark called out,      ‘The poets must give us imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar imagination of disaster. Peace, not only the absence of war.’                But peace, like a poem, is not there ahead of itself, can’t be imagined before it is made, can’t be known except in the words of its making, grammar of justice, syntax of mutual aid.                          A feeling towards it, dimly sensing a rhythm, is all we have until we begin to utter its metaphors, learning them as we speak.                                    A line of peace might appear if we restructured the sentence our lives are making, revoked its reaffirmation of profit and power, questioned our needs, allowed long pauses . . .      A cadence of peace might balance its weight on that different fulcrum; peace, a prese

LGBTQ Rights, Juneteenth and Antisemitism

 What follows is the sermon from this past Shabbat when we also marked Pride Month and Juneteenth. On this Shabbat we recognize Pride Month and give honor to those, most especially those who are part of our congregational family and who identify as LGBTQ. We give honor to those who have struggled for equal rights for those who are gay and lesbian since the Stonewall uprising in June of 1969. We affirm that all human beings are created in God’s image, regardless of their sexual orientation. How one identifies, and to whom one is attracted, is a complicated, and mysterious, thing that is beyond human understanding and that we therefore should hesitate to judge. On this Shabbat we recommit ourselves to the Jewish values of hesed, compassion, acceptance and welcome. We open our arms to all. We celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision affirming marriage equality. It has been only six years since that date. The experience of LGBTQ teens is far different than it was when I was in high sc

First We Grieve, Then We Move Forward

In yesterday’s weekly newsletter, Frank Bruni from  The New York Times writes:  A heartbreaking and unacceptable number of people didn’t survive the coronavirus. They’re gone — their own lives cut short, their loved ones still grieving their absence. But for others, the pandemic was more of an inconvenience, and for a few, it wasn’t all that inconvenient. When they talk about how excited they are about eating in restaurants again or how eager to see a movie in a theater, their voices and manners aren’t weighed down by the recognition of what the United States and other countries have been and are going through. Of the body count. Of the ruined businesses. Of the depleted bank accounts. They mostly just sense that we’re turning a corner, and they’re looking forward, not backward. I can resonate with his description of turning a corner. I share the glee and rapture of returning to the conveniences, and luxuries of years past, of children being packed up for camp, of spontaneously going

Leadership Is About Others

This week we read about Korah and his rebellion against Moses. It is a troubling story. On the surface Korah’s complaints appear legitimate. He, and his followers, approach Moses and Aaron and say, “You have gone too far! For all the community are holy, all of them, and the Lord is in their midst. Why then do you raise yourselves above the Lord’s congregation?” (Numbers 16) This statement seems true. Judaism does not believe one person is holier than another. In fact, our greatest moments of holiness are achieved not when we stand alone but instead when we stand together. We require the voices of others to elevate our prayers. Moses does not hear Korah’s words as critiques but instead as threats. He becomes distressed. Aaron becomes crestfallen. God becomes enraged. Korah and his followers are severely punished. The rebellion is mercilessly quashed. And so, the wrong, must be with Korah and his followers. The tradition argues—at length—about Korah’s sins. What did he do to merit su

The Promised Land Is in Your Soul

When God calls to Abraham and instructs him to set out on a journey to the Promised Land, God commands: “Lech lecha—Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12) This week when God instructs Moses to send scouts to survey the Promised Land, God similarly commands: “Shelach lecha—Send men to scout the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelite people.” (Numbers 13) In both instances the Hebrew is unusual and perhaps untranslatable. God literally states, “Go for yourself” and “Send for yourself.” Commentators note the peculiar wording and imagine novel explanations to justify this Hebrew phrasing. One rabbinic midrash suggests that the command to Abraham was more about him finding himself than discovering a new land. Its author writes: “Go forth to find your authentic self, to learn who you are meant to be.” Is a promised land about its geographical contours or instead about unearthing some, hidden inner promise?