Here are my sermons from Rosh Hashanah 5783:
Help Me Talk About What I've Been Through and Who I Am
Wishing everyone a Shana Tova Umetukah, a good and sweet new year!
Here are my sermons from Rosh Hashanah 5783:
Help Me Talk About What I've Been Through and Who I Am
Wishing everyone a Shana Tova Umetukah, a good and sweet new year!
Posted at 09:20 PM in Calendar, Coronavirus, Current Affairs, Election, Elul, Ethics, Gratitude, Hakarat Hatov, High Holidays, Holidays, Hope, Middot, Midrash, Prayer, Rosh Hashanah, Soul, Speech Ethics, Spirituality, Synagogue, Talmud, Teacher-Student Relationship, Television, Teshuvah, Theology, Torah, Tov! Podcast, USA, Yamim Noraim | Permalink | Comments (0)
These are to me the best of my Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur sermons from years past. I'm collecting them here because you find them useful to read and think about in Elul. They aren't in chronological or any particular order.
Hope In An Uncertain World (5777/2016)
What the Chanukkah dreidel can teach us about four kinds of hope.
Who Knows? (5780/2019)
How the story of Esther even more than the Torah can guide us to live in a world of mortal dangers.
How Good Do I Have to Be? (5777/2016)
With assists from the Green Monster, Pesky's Pole, Naomi Shemer and Reb Simcha Bunem.
Still Small Voices (5778/2017)
We are a community where many people have prayers they don't reveal out loud about the difficult things happening in our lives and families. How to be there even when we don't reveal or don't know what those prayers are.
Finding Purpose and Direction (5773/2012)
Figuring out your purpose, especially in up in the air times, or transitions in life or work.
Lost and Found (5779/2018)
When the pieces of life's puzzle aren't gone, but someone else has yours to give you back, or vice versa.
V.O.R. -- Vision-Opinion Ratio (5779/2018)
Fewer superficial reactions to public things, more visions -- how to find and speak about the things you are truly committed to, and quieting down about the rest.
Holy Impatience (5775/2014)
Some impatience is selfish, unfair expectations. Holy impatience is rooted in love, a concern for someone else who doesn't have the life or peace they deserve.
Helping Someone Else Change (5771/2010)
No one can change someone else -- but sometimes we can support other people in their changes. Starring a mitzvah in Leviticus and some social psychology research.
Why "Busy" has become the answer to "How are you?" and what we can do about it.
Moral Adventure (5776/2015)
Adventure isn't just for heroes and myths. Our own lives are different when we recognize them as moral adventures, and the people we go through life with as our fellow students and sidekicks.
Long Tables, Shabbat Meals (5772/2011)
Why long tables are better than round, long meals are magical, and Shabbat creates relationships different from friendship but no less powerful.
Back to Better Than Normal (5782/2021)
As we transition from the Covid-19 pandemic, the old normal is certainly not what what we want to go back to.
Being Present in a Digital Age (5774/2013)
How to make people and not devices more central to our daily lives.
Look Up (5780/2019)
In a cynical age, we need to focus more on looking up to people -- the everyday people in our lives, the people who need us, the best leaders we know.
Body Talk (5779/2018)
How to show others we really believe they are the image of God.
Posted at 04:37 PM in Calendar, Coronavirus, Current Affairs, Election, Ethics, Gratitude, Hakarat Hatov, High Holidays, Hope, Justice, Leadership, Middot, Patience, Ritual, Rosh Hashanah, Shabbat, Teshuvah, Tikkun Olam, Torah, Tzedek, USA, Yamim Noraim, Yom Kippur, Youth | Permalink | Comments (0)
This is based on what I said on Shabbat morning, August 27, 2022 at the start of the month of Elul. It was the day of a Bar Mitzvah and an aufruf (blessing to a couple about to get married)!
Usually I think of Elul as a time of introspection before we get together in a big way on Rosh Hashanah. But the past few years I’ve been thinking that it would be great to start the month leading to the ten particularly intense days with a dance party, a disco party! First we should celebrate that we’ve gotten here -- we should look at each other and who’s in this together with us and going to help us look back and look ahead. And wow, this past year having been what it’s been and the year before that, we ABSOLUTELY should start it with a party. And my dream came true and I didn’t even realize it when we scheduled Jonah’s Bar Mitzvah celebration and when Rachel and Joel told me the date of their wedding. So this is how it should be. A new month, that little sliver of moonlight that says to the shade: You are going away, we’re going to make our own energy here and we’re going to gather our powers together so we can make a new year.
It's been quite a year, and we need more than the three days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to do our reflecting and our redirecting and our rebooting – our teshuvah, our returning. The spiritual recalculating on the GPS of our hearts. I don’t even know if a month is enough.
The point isn’t to come to services on the holidays. The point is to figure out what we each need from the next 40 days (really it’s more like 52!) – and what of the many offerings of spirituality and learning can support each of us:
I’ll send you daily e-mails with thoughts and ways to gather for conversation or learning or spiritual practice. But the point isn’t to read the e-mails! It’s to use them. It’s really simple: Use this month and the next for you, for the better life you’ve been thinking about having or creating. Use it to figure out your piece of making the world better -- boy do we need that.
Say thank you as many times as possible, in a world that doesn’t do that enough and where there’s plenty you’re not happy about. You don’t have to decide if the world is more bad than good, or maybe you have decided there is more bad now -- but just find gratitude every day and express it, out loud, to someone or to your own ears. That will ripple out. No one can change only out of sadness and anger. Not unless you can connect it to someone you love whose suffering is what powers your anger, your sadness. Not unless you can find a lighthouse ahead for hope, powered by someone you deeply appreciate.
This time of year is serious, but it doesn’t have to be solemn. That’s why it needs a party today, and at the end of the season on Simchat Torah we have another one! I am so happy we’re together, and thank you for listening to my prayers this first hour and saying Amen, even if you don’t know what all my prayers were. Thank you, even if you didn’t know that’s what you were doing.
So I hope you’ll tap into the energy of today, not just the energy of joy but of words of Torah in many forms, to help you launch into Elul and a month of individual reflection that’s good for you and good for us all when you do it.
We're deep into Season 3 of Tov!, my podcast about The Good Place and Jewish ideas related to teshuvah. You can find all the most recent episodes here, or type "Tov!" into your favorite podcast app.
Also, I have been logging in at 12:36pm Eastern time each weekday this Elul to teach and talk about some classic teaching about teshuvah, mostly Maimonides but other things maybe too. You can join here, or you can listen to the ones I've taped:
My D’var Torah from July 30, 2022 * 2 Av 5782
One of my favorite anecdotes about morning davvening (praying) comes from the Babylonian Talmud. Rabbi Chanina went to shul one day. This was some 1700 years ago, give or take, and at the time there were no siddurim (written prayerbooks). People who led knew the outline of the service, and the theme for each short section and the specific language of the blessing to end each section – Creator of lights, Yotzer hame’orot; Redeemer of Israel, Ga’al Yisrael, etc. A few prayers had been written and were well-known but the leader, the shliach tzibbur, could compose or make up his own prayer on the section’s theme to get to the very few fixed words.
So Rabbi Chanina is in shul and this guy stands up to recite the Amidah, and he starts chanting: Ha’el ha’gadol ha’gibbor v’hanora, v’ha’adir v’ha’izuz v’ha’yarui he-chazak v’ha’amitz v’ha’vadai v’hanichbad. Now you don’t need to know what all the words mean to know that what this prayer leader is doing is adding on top of the familiar prayer more praise adjectives for God. Strong, and courageous, and certain, and honored, and and and….
Anyway, the leader finishes the Amidah and Rabbi Chanina says to him: “Nu, did you get them all? I mean did you use enough words to describe the Divine, you know, better than Moshe Rabbeinu did? Because we’re using Moshe’s own words when we say Ha’el ha’gadol etc. , and some words that other prophetic figures did, and if it weren’t for these ancestors we couldn’t use any words at all to talk about the Divine. But you, you kept on going, but what did you really do? It’s like if there were a king who was known for having so much gold, and a person praised him for how much silver he had.”
So first of all I love that in shul in the Babylonian Talmud, everyone’s a critic and everyone has an evaluation of services while they’re still happening.
But I think about this teaching anytime we get into discussions like last week’s Kiddush program about theology and the Divine. It was really wonderful and thoughtful, and I appreciated everyone’s honesty in the questions you have and the views you expressed. And it did not go unnoticed by your rabbi that the ways our siddur talks about God really do not land for the vast majority of you who were there – the big metaphors of “King” and “Lord”, the importance of praising the Divine as though this was needed on high somewhere.
I just want to say a few things to open this crack more, because a lot of the ideas that you reject about the Divine and that I do not hold either — we feel like we’re breaking something when we say it out loud. And I am really working ahead about the High Holy Days, to make sure that the metaphors we are using to aid us are indeed helpful and true in the moments we need them, and I am concerned that the liturgy as it is will not help us at all unless we do some pre-thinking about it before the holy days. I’m going to say a few things today, and I have started reaching out to the people in our congregation who have been our spiritual teachers because I think we should hear many voices the coming weeks — different voices about what the Divine means to us, what it means to stand in the presence of the Divine with kavvanah, with purpose. There are people here who teach this better and more clear than I do, and you should have a chance to learn from them on Shabbat and other times. If we just walk into Rosh Hashanah without thinking about them, the words of the machzor (prayerbook) will not have depth and will not open a door for us.
So for me, one of the biggest things is maybe a paradox. I do not think of the Divine as a being in some one place, a personality of some kind whom I can address who is completely separate from myself or from us. And at the same time, I find the experience of imagining myself in the presence of a power I had no say in choosing to be very important. Visualizing that, which I do not literally believe, does something important that I won’t give up.
So to the first part of that: I wonder a bit how all of this got started and created, but not knowing doesn’t really affect my day. I take now as a given; we are here and so is the universe. It is permeated with Divinity, and just as every atom and every charge in the universe is affected somehow by every other, so too every spiritual atom and spiritual electron is linked. The totality of it is the Divine; each part of it is; and also each thing made up of it – me and you, the tent and the concrete, the trees and the engines in our cars. We are all spiritual receivers and transmitters. We have that capacity whether we use it or not, and the invisible Divinity is everywhere just as much as the gravitational force we don’t see or the radio waves that are hitting us and going through us whether we choose to tune to them or not, to produce or amplify or play for someone else. That’s my operating picture. That’s where God is for me. And in a way I can’t tell you very well I think that these Divine sparks – atoms and charges – they carry goodness and wisdom and Torah. Like a circuit that can be completed or broken by us, we can tap this goodness, which is a renewable energy and is never consumed, like the burning bush. I and we didn’t create it, but it doesn’t travel unless we extend or complete the circuit.
So I don’t think God sends floods or plagues, or heals from cancer or doesn’t, or decides on 400 years of slavery in Egypt and then its end. I don’t think God is judging or decreeing. There isn’t someone else out there doing those things. Some of the evil and suffering that happens is the fault of humans, and some just a product of nature. That’s the world as created.
Part 2 is that for me it’s good to focus on a particular cluster or manifestation of that everywhere-Divinity, on a regular basis. The metaphor of malchut, of melech or “king”, is made up for me of power and lawgiving and a selection I had no part it. And I need a reminder that there are things outside of me and that won’t disappear when I can’t hold them up, with my incomplete goodness or my incomplete spiritual focus.
Sometimes I look up at the top of the Aron Kodesh (ark) or I look up toward the Ner Tamid (eternal light) or the open sky, because I want to feel smaller than I usually do, humbler, but still present, and aware that this small person is still at the center of my horizons.
Sometimes I talk intimately to the Divine I imagine gathered up that way, atoms and charges concentrated palpably in front of me, and I like to say exactly the words in the book, and to find myself in them. To connect to the thoughts of the many, many people who put them together and sounded them out initially, and the ones who have said them before for important reasons and occasions. I like to say their words, to run them through me, because just as the Divine was not made by me — I had no say in that but I am made up of Divine stuff — so too these words change and recreate me. They make me able to say certain things and they make me into the person who can make those words more real.
I never experience my words as praise of a God “out there”, watching from afar to see what I am saying. I experience my words helping to connect the circuit, making the universe worthy of these praises, reminding me that my intentions help make the words in the siddur true when they don’t seem true in the daily news. Sometimes I’m consciously reconnecting myself to the grid, completing the circuit running through me. Sometimes I’m just noticing that there is more spiritual energy flowing than I remembered since yesterday. Sometimes it’s just cathartic to ask for things, in a chant out loud, speaking directly to the “king” who graces me with an interview. Sometimes it’s good to hear myself say the hopes and yearnings and thank-you’s out loud that I don’t otherwise say to people (but ought to more). Sometimes it’s helpful to let myself ask for things — for help for me, for a better world for you.
It helps me to approach my praying this way, with this kind of cinematography. It doesn’t bother me that I don’t believe my picture is actually there. At least, I do not anymore experience it as any contradiction. In the Kabbalah, the idea of “king” is split in two. If you look at the diagram of the ten sefirot, the ten phase-states of divine energy flowing toward our spiritual consciousness, the farthest away is called Keter, the crown; and the closest is called Malchut or royalty, sovereignty, and is identified with us, with the people of Israel. I like that the Kabbalists are messing with the king metaphor, to make it both so far away and so close by simultaneously.
That’s where I will leave it today. We are in the period leading toward Tisha B’Av, which commemorates the destruction of the two ancient Temples, and then toward Yom Kippur which recalls when we all were united with each other and the Divine name at the Temple in its glory. This is a time of year to experience the breaking of the circuit, the incompleteness of the Divine name, the breaking of ideas that have led us to inner destructions – the Jewish calendar wants us to do that, to see what’s not whole in our theology and to break what needs to be broken. As Rabbi Chanina reminded us in the Talmud, we don’t have to use words about God that don’t do the job, just to look good to others.
If the teachings you think you have heard from Judaism about the Divine cannot hold, let them break. Break them yourself. You will not hurt God; you will not hurt the shul or me, and you will not destroy Judaism or the world. Some of our old names and ideas for God, they are like building materials that are obsolete, or wires frayed from a lot of good use. But we have better stuff with which to understand and imagine and connect to the Divine. Some of it is brand new and some of it has been in spiritual storage for whatever reason. I’m grateful for the many teachers in our community who will help us find it all and take it out and learn how to use it, so we can build sturdy and electric for the new year.
This is another take on something I've written and spoken about before, how and why I chose to stay in America because of my engagement with quintessential American themes of freedom and individuality. I spoke about this last Shabbat, in anticipation of Independence Day 2022. It's published here at the Times of Israel.
Posted at 07:27 PM in #integratingamerica, Calendar, Community Relations, Conservative Judaism, Current Affairs, Election, Ethics, Exodus, Freedom, History, Holidays, Inclusion, Jewish Education, Justice, Study, Synagogue, Talmud, Tikkun Olam, Tov! Podcast, Tzedakah, Tzedek, USA, Young Jewish Adult, Youth | Permalink | Comments (0)
This is the text of a column i wrote in the New Hampshire Jewish Reporter for December 2021. I am posting this today on Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israel's Independence Day.
I have been a Zionist since I was a kid. I didn’t become an American Zionist, though, until I was 22. That was when I decided not to make aliyah and make my life in the State of Israel.
I was just back from a year in Israel as a college student. In Jerusalem, I was seeing myself a few years in the future as a Hebrew speaker, a soldier, a Masorti (Conservative) rabbi, a member of Oz V’shalom, the religious peace movement. I came home and couldn’t wait to go back.
Within a few weeks back on campus, immersed more than ever in my Hillel community, I realized how American I was feeling. I had the sudden realization that the only way I would fulfill my life was an American – an American Jew and probably an American rabbi. My great-grandparents came to America as a choice, and in flight from the czar’s tyranny. I was born American – but at the age of 22 I made my choice to be an American.
And my Zionism changed, from future Israeli to American Zionist.
I want to argue that an American Jewish Zionist is a Jew rooted in America. A first-class Zionist; not a consolation prize for not having the courage to make aliyah. A full partner in the project of Zionism. A partner with a specific and essential role that is obviously different from the role of Israelis.
My American Jewish Zionism is also a religious Jewish Zionism, and I realize that’s not the case for everyone reading. But I hope my concepts are useful regardless of whether that specific profile fits.
These are some of my fundamental tenets as an American Jewish Zionist. This thinking is hardly my own, and I owe more than anyone Rabbi Donniel Hartman, leader of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.
Israel is the original and ongoing land of the Jewish people. The claim is religious and historical. It may be complicated in terms of Palestinians and their claim, but the claim still stands without compromise.
It’s a fascinating dimension of Jewish life for the past 2500 years that even during the times of a center in Eretz Yisrael, or a longing for it, there have been strong centers of Judaism outside the land. The fact that Jews like me affirmatively choose to live in America as members of Am Yisrael does not undermine Israel at all. One of our roles as American Zionists is to explain this to people around us – the uniqueness of Jewish peoplehood in Israel and America.
Zionism is a movement of moral and spiritual excellence. Rabbi Hartman put it this way in an address to the 2007 Reform movement biennial: “The birth of the State of Israel provided Judaism with an unprecedented opportunity of permeating and actively shaping all aspects of society. Whether in areas of political theory or economic policy, religious practice or ethical conduct, human rights or environmental care, hospitals or army bases, classrooms or courthouses - Israel is where Jewish values meet the road.”
American Jewish Zionists should see ourselves as partners in Zionist excellence. Rabbi Hartman made two points about this in his 2007 talk. First, American Jews have unique intellectual and cultural contributions to make to Israel. If Israel is a unique lab for Jewish values, the American Jewish experience has been a longer and better-established lab around issues of religious freedom, minority-majority relationships, and ideological pluralism.
It is because we are in America that Jewish thinkers and leaders have had to formulate a Torah of concern for human beings and not just for Jews. A Torah of responsibility for the whole earth and not just the Jewish community. It is because of America that totalitarianism and technology forced Jewish thinking to ask questions about the ethics of power and the limits on human innovation. In the past few decades, Israeli and American Jewish thinkers have indeed become thought partners and innovators around all of these issues.
Hence Rabbi Hartman’s second point about the role of American Jewish Zionists as partners. He charged each of us to find that aspect of Israel and the Israeli striving for moral excellence that inspires us. It could be climate, or bioethics, or human rights, or aging… chances are the answer is a moral passion you already have here. Learn about its unique Israeli shape. Connect to the people who drive it and work on it there. Join those projects and institutions in any way that’s available – by taking a role, by contributing or investing money, by advocacy.
It is as partners that we move from vicarious spectators, and from our own inferiority complex about not being Israeli, to an affirmative Jewish identity as American Zionists. Israel needs this kind of American Zionists. It’s a responsibility, and it’s work.
The responsibility and the work do not come without trouble. Indeed, Rabbi Hartman says what Israel and the Jewish people need from American Zionists often is for us to be “the troubled committed.” We need to feel issues that trouble Israelis as our own issues. Sometimes we need to be more troubled than many Israelis are, and bring that to them.
But commitment first, as American Zionists. The troubled-ness of the noncommitted, the non-Zionist, is not likely to make a difference on any contentious issue. Not in Israel and not here among the many people around us who purport to care about what happens in Israel but have no commitment to it.
Every year especially around Chanukkah and around the Fourth of July, I reflect on my decision to embrace America and American Zionism. And I resolve to do both of those better, with more follow-through and more clarity to myself and as a teacher. For those of us in New Hampshire who will always be American, consider becoming a truly American Zionist.
This is the D'var Torah I gave in the synagogue on Saturday morning, March 12, for Parashat Vayikra.
Most years I trot out the T-shirt about the Jewish calendar and the baseball calendar in March. You know it’s a kind of new year when spring training begins for major league baseball, usually around Purim, and it’s fortuitous that this was the week that the owners and players resolved their labor dispute and opened spring training! This Shabbat marks an actual new year in the Jewish calendar too. In Torah time, the start of the book of Vayikra picks up where Shmot left off, on the first of Nissan in the year after the Exodus. And as it happens, Parashat Vayikra was our first pandemic parasha two years ago, the first Shabbat when it was just me and the Sefer Torah on the bimah and everyone else on a screen.
I looked back on what I said two years ago on that Shabbat, and one year ago when this parasha came around, the first parasha of the second year when the vaccines were rolling out gradually and before Delta and Omicron. Vayikra is not an easy parasha or an easy book (i.e. Leviticus as a whole), but it has opened to me in new ways these past two years.
I have been struck by the wide, blank space in the scroll between the end of Sefer Shmot (Exodus) and the start of Sefer Vayikra (Leviticus). I’ve been struck by the cloud that engulfs the mishkan, the sanctuary -- which last week looked like the certain presence of the Divine Shechinah, the palpable close presence, and this week Moshe doesn’t quite know. I’ve been struck by the tiny letter alef at the end of the first word of the book, and by the offerings the Torah describes, the korbanot, which are translated as sacrifices but come from the word for closeness and coming close.
A blank space, a cloud, a small quite letter, a list of types of closeness-offerings.
The blank is a pause between a year of revolution and tumult and reconstituting, and recovering and repurposing things to make something sacred in the center -- and the next year.
The cloud around the mishkan is somehow both a good sign and a question mark. Last year I called it "cloudy with a chance of Torah." Is there some more Torah to guide us right now? Are we ready to go get it and hear it and use it?
The small letter alef, silent by itself but the letter that could unleash the flow of all the letters, all the names of the Divine and all the good words that can flow out into the world. The alef is the first letter of Anochi, I -- the I of I am Yah your God who brought you out of slavery, the sound of that voice speaking specially to each of us in the way we need; the I of I, of each of us as agents in the world, fully capable of being active builders and fixers, mirroring the Divine Anochi.
What if that letter is too small, what I am teetering on disappearing, what if the Divine voice is. The small alef yearns to be reinflated and reconstituted -- and it is as the book of Vayikra unfolds.
How does that happen? Not all at once. It happens through the korbanot, the closeness-offerings.
In the entire book of Leviticus, the people move not an inch forward toward the promised land, after they moved so far out of Mitzrayim (Egypt) in the book of Shmot (Exodus). That drives me a crazy, I said a year ago. Come on, if there were ever a need to see a promised land and get to a new place it’s now. If there were ever a need to take this Torah out for a spin, it’s now!
But although the people don’t move forward, they do move. They move by means of the specific korbanot. They move toward the center, and back to their tents. They move toward their leaders, and away, and toward each other, and toward those giving birth or those who have died. They reconstitute the alef and reinflate it by moving in specific ways.
The offerings we learn about are the olah, the completely burnt offering -- reflecting the feeling of burnout or the frustration toward things we wish we could destroy completely. The todah, the gratitude offering. The shlamim, the offering of wellbeing and wholeness. The chattat, the offering in response to falling short, to guilt and shame -- one person, a leader, a whole community.
These are the basic emotions of the start of the new year both in the Torah and for us, after a year of tumult and revolution and making new things out of our things
Vayikra says you can’t get to the promised land without perceiving these emotional responses, and moving in response to them. You have to use them as occasions to learn how not just to go somewhere new, but to get closer to each other and close to the center that holds us together. To make the cloud less cloudy and more Torah.
So I come close today to you and to this sanctuary with my own olah offering, reflecting on the ways I have been burnt out for a time during this past year and two years. I come close today with my todah, my gratitude offering, close to you and to this sanctuary of many sanctuaries. I am thankful for you who have come, today or many times, to hear my prayers and acknowledge them even when we’re not in the same room, to sing with me even when I can’t hear you or hardly can. Thankful to my family, for staying together and being good to each other -- and to the Divine for the chen, the unearned grace of having that in in my life. Thankful to everyone who has kept this community going, creatively and with whatever gift you could use to build a sacred place in a new way and specifically by your chesed, your caring for someone. Thankful to colleagues and lay leaders in the Temple, and the six clergy people in town I’ve come to rely on and have become closer to, who have helped me grow in my voice; thankful to rabbis and other colleagues around the country willing to become new partners.
I come close today, to you and to this sanctuary of many sanctuaries, with my shlamim, my offering of wellbeing, because I am overall well, and strong and energetic about my own life at age 55 and my sense of purpose.
And I do come today, close to you and to this sanctuary, with my chattat, with my offering of guilt and shame, for missing the mark and falling short. For not keeping connecting with enough of you who are here and others I don’t see. For not growing our chesed (compassionate work) from responding to needs in the moment to more people knowing who needs more connection. For not taking enough opportunities to teach the Torah of pikkuach nefesh, of what life and death decisions require of us. For not doing enough to bring the Torah I know to you, that would have made us feel more empowered in a topsy-turvy world, because Torah has always made people strong and capable when the world seems out of control. For not starting every meeting, no matter the topic, with how are you, and has anybody spoken to so-and-so lately. For trying these things but not sticking with them when others questioned their value. Those are my chattat offerings.
Each of us has an olah, a todah, a shlamim, and a chattat to bring close -- an offering around burned out, so thankful, wholeness, and guilt. We need to take a beat and articulate these, and bring them close to someone else or to this community. Bring them as you pray in Musaf, the part of the service that recalls and substitutes for the ancient korbanot (Temple offerings). That’s what we need so we can start reenlarging the alef, the I, and reconstituting our center, and removing the cloud that obscures the voice that wants to help us move toward our next promised land.
On this second pandemic anniversary, we begin a new cycle of Torah with Parashat Vayikra and this introduction to korban, to closeness. Which is what we crave. Not just a physical closeness but a real closeness, a communal closeness, more even than we had before. Two years ago at this time, the charge came in these words from Rabbi Yosef Kanevsky, which are as wise and important now as they ever were:
"...the very last thing we need right now is a mindset of mutual distancing. We actually need to be thinking in the exact opposite way. Every hand that we don't shake must become a phone call that we place. Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern. Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another, must become a thought as to how we might be of help to that other, should the need arise..... Let's stay safe. And let's draw one another closer in a way that we've never done before.”
I haven't posted a Tov! update for a while, but a few new episodes are out the past month and one of them is keyed to Purim which begins tonight. Listen right here or on YouTube (it's just audio), or check out the episode page with the audio and full show notes. Or just subscribe on any of your favorite podcast apps. Simchat Purim, wishing everyone a joyous and meaningful Purim celebration!