another intersection


another intersection

Halfway between here and there lies another intersection of You and anywhere, where I think I saw things I won’t swear I saw as Your Light shone through leaves for You’re there under it All, where I sobbed without doubt that I’d die if I stayed, where I begged You to explain why it has to be this way, where I find faith You are with me thru whatever I must do, where I’ve stopped to fix a car seat on the way home from school. Never know what might happen or who I might meet. I call it a Stairway to Heaven. Most just call it 75th Street.

“To Belong to Allah”


To Belong to Allah

To Belong to Allah

Is to see in your own existence

And in all that pertains to it

Something that is neither yours

Nor from yourself,

Something you have on loan;

To see your being in His Being,

Your subsistence in His Subsistence,

Your strength in His Strength:

Thus you will recognize in yourself

His title to possession of you

As Lord,

And your own title as servant:

Which is Nothingness.

“Readings from Ibn Abbad”, Thomas Merton, THOUGHTS ON THE EAST at 60 (New Directions Publishing Co. 1995).

have faith


When I drove to work yesterday morning, a thin, stationary layer of translucent upper atmospheric clouds was diffusing the sun’s light and causing the sun to appear as a circle of white in the eastern sky. As thicker, low clouds floated past, that white-circle sun kept transitioning between fully and partially obscured. Watching the transitions over the course of my drive, I couldn’t help but think about Gd, Purim, and the nature of our existence.

Last week at Purim, we read the story of Esther, which is the only book of the Hebrew Bible that does not contain an explicit reference to Gd. The story is set in the Persian Empire after the fall of the First Jewish Temple, and there, a Jewish girl, Esther, was selected to be the King’s wife. As Queen, Esther was able to thwart a plan by one of the King’s ministers to kill all the Jews in Persia, making Esther a hero whose bravery and success are still celebrated all these generations later.

As my congregation read and studied that text, the issue of Gd’s “absence” from the text was raised. People discussed whether Gd was or wasn’t there. Others asked why we should read Gd into a story about human action.

But, to me, the idea that Gd could be “absent” from a story, ANY human story, is as illogical as insisting the sun doesn’t exist in the sky when it is fully obscured by clouds. We may not be able to see the sun every hour of every day . . . but it remains the source of all our natural light, a prerequisite for plant-based (and thus animal-based) foods, and an absolute requirement for our continued existence on this planet.

. . . just as Gd is the source and substance of all material existence, and without Gd we (and everything we can see and experience) would vanish in an instant. That Gd is obscured most days by finite matter, which we can more easily visually perceive and physically touch, does not mean that Gd is not still present everywhere and in everything.

It means only that we must have faith.

lean into that breeze


lean into that breeze
Some days in this Garden,
I feel You pass by,
leaving a breeze in Your wake,
so I lean into that breeze,
let Your Love lift me high,
and soar like a bird in the sky,
over mountains and lakes,
deep valleys and wide plains,
across centuries in the blink of an eye.
Each flight is too short,
so as I Journey here within You,
I keep praying I’ll feel You pass by.

we can find Ladders


What is it about this spot
that brings me nearer You?

It’s really just a step
at the bottom of some stairs…

Yet sometimes sitting here
I see Creation unfolding.
I feel Your Love as it envelopes me.
I remember there’s no moment
We are not together.
I can have faith
You’ll help guide my steps.

Throughout Creation,
we can find Ladders
that help us ascend toward our Self,
if we fight past our defenses,
open up to what’s Present,
and surrender with faith in Gd’s Love.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Shavua tov, may it be a good week for each and every one of us, jen

what I’ll be


what I’ll be

My mother really wanted
little-girl me to wear dresses,
but I was uncomfortable in them.

As a teen I really wanted
a social group where I fit,
but I felt isolation instead.

My family demanded
I not be gay; and yet,
nothing else could I be.
And my parents raised me
to be a self-loathing Baptist,
but Gd made a mystical Jew.

More than once upon a time,
I thought I’d become a rabbi,
but Gd just laughed at my plan
and gave me instead
a community to serve
as I raise my sons in Gd’s Love.

Who knows what might happen
when my children are grown
if I’m open to that voice inside me?
In the end I’m certain only
it’s not up to any human
— like Gd, I will be what I’ll be.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In the Torah story of Moses’ encounter with Gd in the burning bush, Moses is told he must go to Pharaoh and free the Israelites. Moses asks, “When the Israelites ask who sent me, what name shall I tell them?” (Ex. 3:13). Gd answered “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh,” (Ex. 3:14), which some translate as “I will be what I will be.” The last line of my poem is a reference to this name of Gd and to the fact that, as image of Gd, I too will be whatever I will be.

shavua tov, jen

at the Sea’s edge


In this week’s Torah portion, B’shalach, the Israelites finally flee Egypt, only to end up being chased by Pharaoh and his 600 chariots. As the story nears its climax, the Israelites find themselves trapped between the Sea of Reeds and the approaching Egyptian army.

Those moments at the Sea’s edge — before Moses raised his staff (and Nachshon entered) to part the water — must have been incredibly tense moments for each Israelite!! As I tried to imagine their plight, I wrote these words:

at the Sea’s edge

I’m standing at the Sea’s edge.
All degrees of freedom are gone.

One millimeter before me is
I don’t know
what monsters might be in there
or how far I can swim,
so I am

But overtaking me from behind is
being enslaved to others and
worshipping gods that are not mine.

To continue standing here
is certain death.
Yet, I am
to step forward!!

Eternal Gd of my ancestors,
give me the courage to step forward,
to choose Life,
so that my children may live . . .

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

May Gd give give each of us the strength to overcome our fear and step toward Life, and may Shabbat bring more Shalom to all, jen