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.
As a Rabbinic Pastor I get asked about my feelings regarding the “real world.” “How’ I am asked ‘do you deal with the infinite amount of problems in the world?
Seems that we don’t even have to wait for the evening news to learn about painful and difficult world events. The news spews out onto our smartphones both day and night.
As a Rabbinic Pastor I also live in the “real world.” I feel heard when a friend listens without interrupting and ‘sees’ me with eye contact. It’s when a family seeks pastoral advice regarding palliative care for a loved one. The real world is being an officiant who assists couples in making marriage arrangements that honor each others’ faith and traditions.
I venture to guess that each of us, day by day, has the possibility to be a real in our daily connections as the alerts on those smartphones.
It was during a break today at a women’s group that I’m in that I mentioned a good auto body shop. Three of the women in the group said, ‘yes that’s what I need: a body shop: to change my hips and lift off my lines.’ These women are creative and active in the world. Yet the first chance they had they went to self-criticism.
In January many of us made New Year resolutions. I’ll bet you a shekel that most were about fixing and changing our bodies: eat fewer carbs, get into shape and give up dessert.
In a few days, we will be celebrating Rosh Chodesh Adar. According to our tradition, Rosh Chodesh, the holiday of the new moon, was given to Jewish women because in Ancient Israel these women refused to donate their jewelry for the creation of the golden calf.
We are at the cusp of this new month. Perhaps we could step on the break of being hard on ourselves. In this new month let’s resolve to look at all of the embodied miracles that are in us and around us. These daily miracles only ask is that we remain awake to take their wonder.
It’s a snowy and blustery day, here in New York. The trees look mummified and the Evergreens are wilted.
Just a few days ago we celebrated Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish Arbor Day and the New Year for the trees. This is a winter holiday and in many places, around the world we gather for a Seder. At the Seder table you will find figs, dates, pomegranates, olives, grapes, and cakes. The focus of the Seder is an appreciation of trees: what they bare and their shelter.It is also a reminder to us to look around to those in the community who are hungry and to be generous to them.
Celebrating trees at this cold time of year gives us hope, joy, and knowledge that no matter what the circumstances of our lives, things will get better and we can shake off the winter’s bluster.