sacred partnership

ב׳׳ה

sacred partnership

If i know that i’m You

and you know that you’re You,

then we can share a moment as Thee,

and create a new reality

together as One —

sacred partnership requires the presence of Three.

Happy New Year!!!!

ב׳׳ה

 

I’ve started putting my seventeen years as a professional writer and editor to use as an editor of High Holiday sermons for a Rabbi that I know.  She pays me in my favorite “currency” . . . BOOKS!!!  🤗  She’s collecting a stack for me at her house, and these four arrived from Amazon in the last two days.   

I feel spoiled!!!!   Not only am I learning more about the topics of her sermons, I’m also getting to study the source texts with her and learn more about the sermon-drafting process.  I’m accustomed to writing for readers, so it’s interesting to see how writing for a listening audience is different.  

It’s been a great learning experience AND I’m getting some reference books that I’ve been wanting for a while . . . definitely a Happy New Year!!

I led a 45-minute Rosh Hashanah service for children and their families at my synagogue yesterday morning.  Approximately twenty adults and fifteen kids between ages one and nine attended.  I feel really blessed to have been able to lead the service!   I’ll paste my “sermon” below, for those who care to see what lesson I taught the kids in about 10 of the 45 minutes.  

 Shabbat shalom to all!!!  May you be sealed in the Book of Life for a healthy and happy year,  jen

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Rosh Hashanah 5778 (2017)

Come on up, kids! Let’s have a story and discission!!

 I’m so happy and excited that our calendar has brought us back to the first day of another new Year! And I thought it might be fun to talk a few minutes about some truly awesome things that we should look for in the New Year… does that sound like a good idea?

All right, well, let’s start at the beginning… the VERY beginning… five-thousand seven-hundred seventy-eight Jewish years ago. Can anyone tell me what happened on the VERY FIRST Rosh Hashanah?
On the day we consider the first day EVER?

Yes! Gd began creating the world!! Gd separated the Light from the dark and the water from the sky. Gd removed the water from dry land, put plants and creeping things on the land, put the sun and moon and stars in space, put fish in the water and birds in the sky, and finally created all the animals that live on dry land, including humans. On Rosh Hashanah 5778 Jewish years ago, Gd started the process that led to the creation of me and you and you and you and everyone who is here today. Isn’t that amazing?!?!?

And this ongoing process of creation contains some really awesome Wonders that I thought we could read about today.

[READ WONDERS OF NATURE]


What other things have you seen in Nature that made you say “Wow! Look at that???”

Those are great examples!!!

If we are looking, we can find things in Nature every day that make us say “Wow!”, and each time we see one of these Wonders… our Jewish tradition tells us we should say a blessing.

Who remembers the special phrase that is at the beginning of all our blessings? We’ve already said it a few times here today, and we say it before we have juice or challah…

Right!! Our Blessings begin with “Baruch Atah Adonai” … and this book tells us the blessing for seeing Wonders in Creation is: “Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Mekech Haolam, oseh ma’aseh b’resheet” which means “Thank you, Gd, for making this process of creation!!”

So this year, when you see a pretty flower, I want you to say “Thank you, Gd, for making Creation.” And when you see a colorful sky, I want you to say “Thank you, Gd, for making Creation.” And when you see a rainbow or the Ocean, what will you say?

Good! What if you see a really ugly creepy bug that kinda scares you?

And when you see yourself in the mirror???

What about when you see someone in your family?

Do you think you can do that this year?

Great! Because the more blessings you say, the more blessings you’ll begin to see… and you’ll have a happier year…

Now, to help you remember to say thank yous every day, I have a little surprise for you. Who can tell me what this is?

Yes, its a Yarmukle or Kippah. And each of you can take one from the bowl. I want you to keep that kippah in a place where you’ll see it every day — like your bedside table, or your chair at the dinner table, or in your backpack — so it can remind you to say Thank You for all the awesome Wonders you find in Creation.  Okay? 

Now. One last note about your kippot… please bring them back on Yom Kippur, because we are going to learn together why they are so white in the middle! Can you do that for me? Great!  Thank you!   You can go back to your parents now.  

Strive for Justice

ב׳׳ה

 

 
 
Social action isn’t simply the intellectually correct response to a world that is frequently unjust.

Nor is it simply the currently-popular moral high-ground, the last remnant of religions demystified to appease followers after the Enlightenment.

And it most certainly ought not be something we do to boost our self-absorbed and frequently-insecure egos, whether by getting our names inscribed on a plaque for donors or by deluding ourselves with the notion that we are somehow “better than” those who face injustice.

Rather, we were (and continually are) commanded to Strive for Justice.

Everyone who has encountered The One has heard that command, for we cannot experience The One without being shaken from the deepest recesses of our souls by the deafening near-silence of The Unity.

The Unity from which we came.

The Unity toward which we move.

The Unity that inspired every religion.

The Unity that keeps whispering of our Oneness and urging us to acknowledge:

Together, we must Strive for Justice!
 
 
 
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About the featured photo

 
I took the picture a few months ago when I visited the Allen County Courthouse in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The courthouse has been restored and has amazing paintings and stained glass throughout the building and courtrooms. It’s a National Historic Landmark, and if you’re ever in that area, I recommend taking a look at it!
 
The photo, along with Deuteronomy 16:20, was the inspiration for the text, which I wrote.
shavua tov, jen

blessed with everything 

ב׳׳ה

Friday night, the Rabbi of my small congregation was out of town for Thanksgiving, and I was honored to be allowed to lead Erev Shabbat service with our song leader. It had been quite a few years since I’d led an Erev Shabbat service, and leading the service in my own religious community really was a nice experience! 

Being the geek that I am, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk about the week’s Torah portion!  So I did some studying last week and drafted the sermon below. It’s not earth-shattering, but it coordinated well with the baby-naming that we had during the service. After my words, I asked our song-leader to play and sing “Return Again” by Neshama Carlebach, and I’ve attached a YouTube link for it below.

Here’s my sermon:

This week’s Torah portion is Chayyei Sarah, a portion in which we learn: First, that Sarah has died, which leaves Abraham weeping and mourning; and second, that Abraham has to send a servant to find a wife for Isaac, because Isaac — the son through whom Abraham is to become a great nation –- is 37 years old and unmarried.  When I think about how Abraham must have been feeling in the midst of these circumstances, I imagine Abraham would not be in the best of emotional spaces . . .

And yet, the Torah tells us, in one simple verse dropped between these two stories– “Abraham was old, advanced in years, and Adonai had blessed Abraham with everything.” Genesis 24:1.

When I read that verse, I immediately wondered – “Everything???  If a man who just lost his wife and has no chance of grandchildren has been blessed with everything . . . what is everything?”

I checked my Torah commentaries and found one from Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, who said Abraham had been blessed with everything because he “attained peace.” (1)

Rabbi Nachman further explained the verse tells us that Abraham was both old and advanced in years because the Hebrew word for “old” (zaken) is not just a reference to someone’s age; it also implies a person has “obtained wisdom.”  Abraham had “delve[d] deeply into [Life’s] mysteries and deepen[ed] his understanding of Godliness.” Through the heavenly wisdom that Abraham thereby gained, he obtained peace … and, thus, was blessed with everything.

And Rabbi Nachman explained one more thing about Abraham’s wisdom: It “devolves” or flows from “a person’s imagination and faith.”

imagination and faith…

When I think of imagination and faith, I think of children . . . . Unlike adults, young children see the world around them without a filter of pre-conceived expectation and judgment. They are not self-conscious or anxious. They simply live in each moment with emotional honesty and integrity – they are themselves, and they don’t feign being anything or anyone other than who they are.

And this, I think, is what Rabbi Nachman was saying about Abraham’s wisdom and peace flowing from his “imagination and faith” . . . that Abraham was an adult who, like a small child, was present in each moment and lived with emotional honesty, so that he could look at the world with a sense of wonder and awe, and was open to experiencing the miraculous.(2)

This mindset – this “living in the presence of Gd” – brought Abraham peace, even as he faced life’s challenges — and that, indeed, is being blessed with everything!

May we each strive to be more like Abraham, to be present in each moment and see the world through the eyes of a child, so that we may obtain supernal wisdom and live with peace…

Neshama Carlebach Return Again

(1) All the Rabbi Nachman explanations and quotes are from Rebbe Nachman’s Torah (The Berkowitz Edition), Genesis at 197-198 (Breslov Research Institute 2011).
(2) Phrasing based on language by Rabbi Marcia Prager, The Path of Blessing, page 31 of 231, Jewish Lights e-book (“When we look at small children, we see their sense of wonder, their openness to the miraculous.”).

Congregation Mikveh Israel, Philadelphia 

ב׳׳ה

I’m out of town for work and taking advantage of the opportunity to attend Shabbat service at an American synagogue that was established in 1740 — Congregation Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia.   

According to the website, the congregation has changed only a few aspects of the service since its founding: the sermon is now in English, they no longer pray for the English monarch, and they now include a prayer for Israel.  

I’m genuinely happy to be celebrating Shabbat in a new town, and I hope everyone else has fun Shabbat plans as well!!! 

Shabbat shalom, jen 

How protective is your case?

ב׳׳ה

I had a phone case that I really, really loved — it was cute and unique, with characteristics that I hadn’t ever seen in another phone case. But when my phone fell, the case cracked and the phone shattered.

For a while I focused my energy on being annoyed that my phone was so fragile, because I didn’t want to admit that I needed a different case. But finally, I stopped avoiding the truth — all phones are fragile and all phones get dropped, so the most important function of a case is not its beauty or originality, but its ability to minimize the probability of shattering.

People are a lot like phones. We are fragile and Life sometimes drops us onto hard surfaces from what seems like great heights, leaving us feeling we might crack under the pressure and stress.

And what keeps us from shattering?

The community of people we have around us– the ability of others to accept and love us for exactly who we are, imperfections and all, and to catch us with compassionate lovingkindness.

How protective is your case?

Taking the leap

ב׳׳ה  

It’s taken nearly two years for me to feel comfortable joining a new synagogue, but I’m finally going to take the leap.  I found an unpretentious little shul that rents space twice a month for Shabbat service and as needed for holiday observance.  It offers religious school and Hebrew lessons for my boys.  The people are friendly and genuinely welcoming.  And the worship service . . . well, refreshingly, it seems to really be about a community of people reaching for Gd together.  

Tonight’s Shabbat service will include a celebration of Simchat Torah, and for this I am grateful, not only because I love the holiday, but also because it will provide the perfect atmosphere to coincide with my having found a new shul to call my spiritual home!! 

shabbat shalom to all, jen