In The Jewish Calendar the times between Rosh Hashanah( Jewish New Year) and Simchas Torah( The Giving of the Torah) is known as the “Season of Our Joy.” It is both compelling and festive. This time ,during September and October, is an opportunity for reappraisal and redirection. We get a chance to look at our lives and project what it is that we’d like to move towards in the coming year.
Sometimes though we can get stuck. The news can be grim. We get alerts on our devices that can set us on edge. How can we each experience the possibility of joy and satisfaction? I suggest that we pause. Turn the device over and silence the news. Begin to develop a practice of gratitude. Look around. See who is in your life. Look up and take in the colors, fragrances and sounds that are all around. Really pause and consider that you and me and each of us, can make every season one of joy and fulfillment.
My Rabbi’s at Bnai Jeshurun Synagogue, in New York City have been teaching about the gap that can exist in our lives: that space between reality and aspiration. On the one hand there is the possibility of cynicism : this is how the world is and how it’s always been, so why bother to try to change it. On the other hand we can live is a place of naïveté and a place of false illusions. How do we bridge that gap?
On this Rosh Hashanah I suggest that we become the engineers of our lives.We need to build sturdy bridges that provide a solid platform. Each of us has a word that connotes a name, a face, or a place within our selves of depth and dimension.
We know that this word connects us to our higher selves. All of us need to access that word, that place or that being that allows us to cross between the real and the dreams. The gap can be bridged. Be brave! Draw up your plans and forge ahead.
I visited the Santa Fe Museum. I found a deeply moving exhibit by Judy Chicago. I was touched by these two pieces which were done in 1990. These embroidered pieces of art are so relevant now. These are difficult times in Israel and in Gaza. Sometimes all we can do is to send our hopes and dreams for better times through these streams of connection.
I would like to share the following prayer that was written at the beginning of the current crisis in Israel and in Gaza.It is entitled “Candle for Peace” and the writers are
Ibtisam Mahameed and Tamar Elad-Appelbaum
Let us Light Candles for Peace.
Two mothers, one plea: Now, more than ever, during these days of so much crying, on the day that is sacred to both our religions, Friday, Sabbath Eve, Let us Light a candle in every home-for peace.
A candle to illuminate our future, face to face.
A candle across border, beyond fear.
From our family homes and houses of worship Let us Light each other up.
Let these candles be a lighthouse to our spirit
Until we all arrive at the sanctuary of peace.
In the Jewish calendar we are in the midst of Shavuoth: The Feast of Weeks. It is called the festival of weeks because we prepare for the festival from Passover until June 3rd. The festival commemorates the anniversary of the giving of Torah to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai. We are in an auspicious time: between two great events in our history.
In a few weeks from now we will be celebrating Passover. At this yearly event, we tell the story of our people’s deliverance from slavery. The choice of which Haggadah to read from will set the tone for the evening. For example, I used the Liberated Lamb edition for many years. It was created for vegetarians. One of its themes was the environmental impact of not harming animals. For many years I attended the Debbie Friedman z”l womens seders and we used the Mayan edition. It’s central theme was women’s equality.This year,in honor of a close gay Jewish family member becoming engaged to a Catholic woman, we are using the JQ International Haggadah. The narrative is compelling and as they write in their introduction” what sets this Haggadah apart is the creation and integration of GLBT struggle, history, pain and joy throughout the text as a consciousness amalgamation to a holiday..that has grown synonymous with the Jewish GLBT civil rights movement.” Yes, we will ask the four questions. However, with this Haggadah there will be an additional fifth question: Why on this night do we have Pride? I’m already reflecting on the question and looking forward to an engaged conversation.
It’s nearly a week since Purim ended. Friends and family are now making plans for Passover. Lingering, for me, is an imagined conversation between Queen Vashti and Queen Esther. Queen Vashti, in the Megillah, is asked to appear before the King. She refuses. But what is exactly that she says ‘no’ to? We don’t have any idea. The events that we read about, purportedly take place 460 B.C.E. The Persian King needs a new Queen (it’s a long story, called a Megillah) and by the end of the tale Queen Esther is chosen.The tyrant is gone and our people are saved.Is there advise that Vashti would give to the new Queen? Will Esther, in her role of power have anything to do with the loser? I’d like to think that each of them could engage in a dialogue of inquiry.
Esther to Vashti :What happened that you needed to say ‘no!’ I can’t do that anymore”
Vashti to Esther: What happened to you that you stepped forward and said “yes, I will do what’s asked.
Meanwhile, we all celebrate and enjoy a piece of Hammentashen. After all, it is a time of triumph and joy.