#BlogExodus 5: Hide

We all hide.  We show some aspects of ourselves to the world, but we take others and we hold them close, hidden to the world at large…some aspects hidden even to those with whom we are close.

I go through life assume that I only see about 1/8 of everyone I meet–one slice of who they are.  That’s what, I think, most of us show to the world.  As I get to now people, I get more slices, and I share more of my own.  We all hide and share aspects of who we really are in different ways within different relationships.

As we get to know people more, we see more of their slices–we share more of ours.

But I also assume that I really only know 7/8 of most people.  I think most of us keep that one slice to ourselves, even with some of those with whom we are closest.  Not wanting to share it.  Wanting to keep it private.  For myriad reasons.

Having parts of ourselves that are private and hidden isn’t a bad thing.  It’s being human.  But we also need to be ware that we don’t keep too much private.  That we share what is appropriate, and don’t bury ourselves away from the world because of whatever reasons we are hesitant to share.  Sharing forges relationships.

And yet, it’s ok to have some secrets, I think.  It all comes back to balance.

Blog Exodus 123 #begin #bless #cleanse

Again, I am participating in Blog Exodus/ExodusGram, a project that brings together Jewish bloggers in preparation for Pesach. I have treasured the opportunity to write in this realm and it has become an important aspect of my preparation for the holiday of Passover.  I hope you enjoy my writing–and follow the hashtag to find other interpretations on the topics.

The Jewish calendar has 4 celebrations of the new year: the new year for kings (now Rosh Hashanah, also the time for setting the Sabbatical Year and for tithes), the new year for trees in sh’vat, the new year for months in Nisan (the month in which we find ourselves), and the new year for the tithing of cattle.  I think that there is a great lesson here–that the new year starts more than once.  That we have multiple points of entry to start anew. We all have multiple celebrations of new years–birthdays, anniversaries, times that mark our own calendar…there are several times a year when we start anew in different ways, like birthdays or the first day of school.

For me, the CCAR Convention is one of those times.  The years when I’ve missed out have been years during which I’ve felt the loss.  But in those years during which I’ve had the opportunity to join with my fellow Reform Rabbis, I’ve felt a profound sense of renewal.  Of a new year.

Because of the learning, because of the inspiration, because of the late night conversations, because of the hugs, because of the laughs, because of the tears…because of all of that, these conventions help to shape my rabbinate and shape my life.  They give me the chance to start anew each year.

In happy times, it is wonderful to celebrate with dear friends.  In challenging times, it is helpful and meaningful to cry with dear friends.

This year, I felt both.  I had many moments of inspiration–of sharing memories and creating new memories.  Of having amazing moments of wonder.  And I had moments–one in particular–in which I cannot be more thankful for being around those with whom I have shared memory.  A moment in which the hearing of difficult, horrible news was not softened by the presence of friends, but during which holding on to and being held by friends helped to get through the moment.

Each year, this conference helps to shape my year to come.  I am always thankful.  I am always inspired.  I am always blessed.  And so, I begin a new year.

A moment

Every now and then

I have a moment

Just going about my day to day life

Suddenly realizing how glorious life is

Today, it was while at a Bat Mitzvah rehearsal with a lovely young woman

Listening to her practice leading the service, as I do with so many young people

One of those moments where it all felt kind of rote to me

(not because of her skills, she was doing beautifully, but because of my monotony feeling mood)

And then I looked up

And saw the light shining through the stained class into the sanctuary

And suddenly realized the magnificence of the space I was in

And how beautiful the moment was

And how amazing an opportunity it was to be with this young woman as she prepared for such a big moment in her life

And how lucky I am to be in this position

To appreciate such beauty

The beauty of sacred moments

The beauty of sacred space

The beauty of life.

#BlogElul 29 Return: EEEEK!

And so, we’re there.  I wonder what we return to this year?

My mind’s eye wanders to Enders Game (the book, not the movie–only because I didn’t think the movie portrayed the game well) and to Ender’s struggle with the video game that was designed to help teach him in battle school, through which he could get a little bit further as he learned–the game responding to his responses in order to create challenges just for him.

That’s a lot like life.  We return to familiar situations with new knowledge and new experience, and sometimes we’re able to accomplish new things. Sometimes life offers us new challenges that we’re not sure what to do with them. Sometimes we need to return again in order to figure out the puzzles life offers us.

Sometimes, it’s the actual process of returning that helps us.  The going back again and again.  The comfort in repetition, but also the opportunity to find that one thing that we didn’t find last time that gets us just a little bit closer.

Maybe that’s why we do this every year.

And, along the way, we never know who might drop by with apples and honey and help us in our struggle.  Returning a smile that maybe never should have left.  Helping to bring us a taste of sweetness, even through challenges.

#BlogElul 25: Begin

Last night, following our program for Selichot, I had a great conversation.  One of those informal talks that get to your core in a way that only informal side conversations can.  The program had focused on the topic of forgiveness, as did our talk, and centered on this video from Jewish Food for Thought:

In this conversation, I realized what had been bubbling up inside me throughout the video and during the programmatic discussion.  Forgiveness is about us and really has little, or even nothing, to do with the other person.  When we do not forgive, we allow the other person who hurt us to continue to hurt us.  When we forgive, we are able to stop them.

Forgiveness, as I wrote a few weeks ago, is an internal act. It is one which empowers us to heal ourselves. It is not really saying that we are ok with the act that someone did to us–that we approve of what they did.  Instead, it is an acknowledgement that it happened, and that we can move ourselves beyond that moment in time.  Not so much that we accept the other’s action, but that we accept the reality that the action happened.  We can’t change that.

Real forgiveness is not superficial.  It is so much more than the words we might utter when someone offers us an apology.  Real forgiveness takes time.  Maybe that’s why we have Yom Kippur every year to focus on this–sometimes the process takes more than a year. We need to allow ourselves more time to get there.  Another chance to forgive.

Because once we forgive, we are able to begin–to start a new phase of life in which we have changed and we have grown.

#elulgram 19: ask

Today we began post confirmation.  I’m so excited that we’ve added this opportunity this year for our 11th and 12th graders. And I’m even more excited for our curriculum. Based on the idea of civic responsibility, we are really asking the question of who we are in the world?

What’s our responsibility in this world to build the world that we envision? How do we figure out that vision?

One of the students today commented that it’s such a big question that it’s a little scary to consider. I think that the student is right. It is a little scary. A lot daunting.

Asking important questions often is.

#BlogElul #ElulGram Pray

I have a confession.  I don’t really like services all the time.

It’s been a hurdle for me in the rabbinate, but I’ve figured out over the years how to find a prayerful moment in services that I lead.  It’s harder when I’m a congregant.

That’s not to say that I don’t like prayer.  I love when i’m able to have a true prayer moment! But those moments are rare for me–and don’t always come during services.

And yet I keep trying.

And sometimes, it’s through observing the inspiration of others that I’m able to connect, myself.  And the more I try, the more successful moments I have.  And the longer I lead worship, the easier it is to find at least a moment in each service during which I’m truly able to connect to the Divine in the Universe.

That’ why it’s important to keep praying.

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#BlogElul #ElulGram 17: Awaken

Some days, we need help waking up.


Sometimes, that help comes from a cup of coffee.  Other times, that help comes from others.

When we wake up to the beauty in the world around us because of the amazement we notice in the face of a small child…

When we wake up to reality because of the words of a friend…

When we wake up out of the false illusions that are holding us back because of the wisdom of a loved one…

When we wake up to new knowledge because of the insight shared by an author…

When we wake up to new experience because of the invitation of a teacher…

When we wake up to truth because of the comment of a student…

What do you need to be woken up from?

#BlogElul #ElulGram 16: Understand

Yesterday, I was talking to some sixth graders when one of them mentioned that tomorrow was 9/11. As they nodded thoughtfully, I had a moment of realizing that they were not born yet in 2001. A brief moment of understanding how long it’s been since that day when the world changed.

I’ve written before about my memory of that day. But it’s only now, 13 years later, that I really realize the extent to which that moment shaped not only a skyline and the world, but also my own life.  And certainly my rabbinate.

3 months, 3 weeks, and 1 day before 9/11 was my ordination. I’ve never known a High Holy Days as a rabbi that didn’t exist in that reality. The High Holy Day preparation that year certainly looked different than any other I’ve experienced since, but reflecting back on that year has since been a part of that preparation.  When I read the words of Unetaneh Tokef “Who shall live and who shall die,” I will always be reminded of reading them in 2001. My brain will always flash to remembering my internal, silent addition of “who by jumping and who by burning.” But what struck me as I spoke to those 6th graders, is understanding that enough time has passed now that the new normal has begun to feel, well, normal.  Except for those moments when I’m reminded that it wasn’t always like that.

I recently watched Ghosbusters during its rerelease. Seeing pre-2001 images of New York City is always difficult. But there’s a scene in the movie in which you see rescue workers running towards a building explosion in lower Manhattan, as civilians run the other way. It was painful to watch. To remember that there used to be a different reality.

But then, at other times, I remember that there is rebuilding. And a never ending scope of new realities–some of which are painful, but some of them are full of hope.


#BlogElul15 Learn

This week, Newsweek Magazine put out the 2014 list of America’s top high schools. My own alma mater, Westfield High School, was ranked as number 29. I feel a sense of pride in that–a sense that is probably much higher than any school spirit I might have had when I went there. And I realize how lucky I am to have learned in such an environment. Did I love every day of high school? No. Not at all. Did I like every teacher? Every class? Also no. Not even close.

But I recognize that it was an environment in which learning thrived–and in which, ultimately, my love of learning was nourished. I realize that those teachers I did like, whose classes helped to spark engaged learning for me, really made a difference in my life in the long run.  And my classmates, even the ones I wasn’t friends with, helped to perpetuate a learning atmosphere that was challenging in a good way.

And I realize I’m lucky to have had that. And that socioeconomics, unfortunately, have all too much to do with the environment in which kids learn. I have hope, though, that there’s potential for change. Newsweek also published a list of schools who beat the odds–the top schools for low income students.  And there are several schools that are on the top of both lists. Education disparity is something that we need to address–so that all kids, no matter where they are from, can learn in an environment that fosters good learning.

Because from that, we get a society full of educated people. And we get kids who love learning.  And adults who continue to love learning.