February 2019 Adar 5779
We are entering the new moon of the Hebrew month of Adar, the month where we are encouraged to find joy in the material world and perceive the hidden sparks of Spirit even in the most unlikely places. The mystical path of Kabbalah teaches that this world was created for us to experience love and joy and not suffering. Yet, we know that suffering is part of our journey to deeper understanding of our purpose, part of the learning experience of living in this world.
In our seemingly broken world, the gap between what is current reality and what we long for feels almost impossibly wide. So many of us are overwhelmed with the cruelty of our immigration policies that separate mothers from their children, with the ravages of climate change that are devastating neighborhoods and uprooting families, with the lack of adequate health care and the opioid epidemic that is decimating whole communities.
How can we find joy when there is so much suffering? This is one of the perennial questions of all wisdom traditions. One of the great sages of the Jewish tradition, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, teaches that the world is defined by this very gap between the Creator and the Creation, between the world we want to see and the world we are living in. That’s what creates such profound yearning in us, such deep disappointment at the chasm between the founding principles of our country and the policies and actions of our leaders. And that’s what ignites the exhilarating experience of elation – the unification of perceived opposites, finding each in the other.
We know in the depth of our being that this human existence can be glorious; we can live in harmony with each other, the earth, and the One. We effort and strive to do our best in our own unique way to make the world a better, healthier, more safe and beautiful place to inhabit. And still. And still.
In Adar, we are invited to live life fully, exuberantly, beautifully. It is our responsibility to find joy in just being alive. Beware of being dragged down by the bizarre illusions and false truths manufactured to lure us into fear and depression. With laughter and joy, we discover the bud hidden beneath the snow. We can re-interpret our life experience and look with radical amazement at the smallest signs of hope, of beauty, of love, in the life around us, and find delight.
January, 2019 Shevat 5779
We are entering the Hebrew month of Shevat, a time of introspection and self-reflection. Just as trees store energy in their roots during time of active growth in photosynthesis so that during the period of dormancy in the deep winter they can draw on those reserves to stay alive, so we turn inward to reflect on the past year and gestate new ideas and new directions for our life.
Like all living things, we must replenish our inner resources and tap into the deep roots of our being to allow new possibilities to emerge. Slowing down, moving inside, listening, and trusting that I will hear the call back out is the only way I can be present at this very moment.
The events of the past year, the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre, in my hometown, the desperate plight of refugees seeking asylum, the clashing versions of the “truth,” have worn me down. I need this time to listen, to be still, to have patience, to trust
We see the wheels of government grind to a halt, the old paradigm stopping dead in its tracks before our eyes. What will emerge as the wheels start up again? Will anything change from this time of hiatus? Has any new understanding emerged from this time of shutdown?
We can hope that just as the plants burst through the soil in vibrant growth once they have gathered the nutrients and energy they need, so, too, we will feel our creative sap rising and, like the trees, bloom forth in all of our glory. Let’s trust that the rigid demands and arguments in the political realm will soften and flow as well, providing creative solutions through the natural processes of growth, rejuvenation, and evolution.
May we be blessed with the emergence of something new that’s in alignment with our highest aspirations and that brings us together as a country and global community. Then, this descent into the underworld of darkness, dissension and fear can bear delicious fruit rather than producing the dry stalemate of our discontent.
September, 2018 Tishrei 5779
We are entering the new moon of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, a time of turning and returning to the essence of who we are. As the wheel of the year turns and the wheel of our life turns, we are given this powerful opportunity to stop and turn inward, to examine and take stock of how we have lived our life, how we have focused our energy, how we have interacted with our family and community. By acknowledging the missteps of the year past, we take responsibility for those places we did not live with full consciousness and integrity and ask for forgiveness from others, from ourselves, and the One.
We can approach this time of recalibration with gratitude for the opportunity to release ourselves from the burdens of carrying old grudges and judgements and come back into balance and harmony both on a personal and cosmic level. This is what the holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur invite us to do. Can we take advantage of the strong energies of rebirth and renewal that are the hallmarks of this month? Can we plug into the cosmic nervous system and begin anew with a higher level of awareness of our purpose?
Perhaps we can contribute to stabilizing the nervous system of our country which has been unsettled and disrupted by the polarization of our political discourse and action. Just in the past weeks, we have seen the passing of 2 great leaders, one white and one black, one man and one woman, who have epitomized the American values of integrity and charity – Senator John McCain and Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul. As I watched and listened to the live streaming of their funerals with tears in my eyes, I was struck by the similarity between these 2 seemingly disparate individuals. Both faced adversity with courage; both were generous with their support and resources; both tried to bridge the divides that separate the people in our country. They demonstrate the best of what we as a people in this country can embody.
It is the quality of compassion that can help us bridge what seems to be a chasm between differing voices and perspectives. This month, as part of the holiday services, we repeatedly chant “The Thirteen Attributes of Compassion” as we ask the Source for forgiveness and release. Can we bring this quality of compassion to our relationships with each other in the public arena and see through the vitriol and anger to the pain, disappointment, and fear that lie underneath?
We can tap into the powerful transformative energy of this month that over the centuries has shown us the possibility of renewal after chaos and destruction, the capacity of forgiveness after betrayal and exile. Now is not the time for despair, but the time for empowerment, recommitment, and reconnection to our highest and best self. Now is the time to breathe deeply and be grateful for the new year that we are blessed to receive. Happy New Year!
November 19, 2017 Kislev 5778
This new moon of the Hebrew month of Kislev that we are now entering invites us to see the light and radiance of possibilities even in the darkest of times. That is the essence of the miraculous story of Chanukah that is celebrated this month - the possibility of the unexpected opening even in the most dire of situations.
Now, in this darkest time of a difficult and dark year, we are immersed in the shadow of human greed, rage, and hypocrisy. Unhinged murderers mow down innocents in prayer at churches; revelations of sexual abuse and violence abound; strategies to dismantle legal protections for the most vulnerable are considered in our highest legislative bodies.
That is why it is even more incumbent on us to not lose hope in our dreams for a more equitable and tolerant nation, one that honors diversity and dissent, freedom of speech and religion. We must have faith that the darkness will expose the danger and anguish of this path and that we can once again be a country that treats all of its citizens, of all colors, gender preferences, and nationalities with respect and dignity.
The energy of this month invites us to expand our vision, our hopes and dreams for our own highest aspirations. This is a time of clarity exactly because we are guided by the light beckoning us forward. Our path is clear as we become present to what is essential, what holds the most meaning in the temple of our souls. Then our eternal “ner tamid,” the everlasting light of our soul, can burn brightly by day and night, allowing our conscious and unconscious selves to propel us toward our life’s highest purpose.
May we enter this season of darkness with the conviction that we hold the most powerful light within our own beings and have the capacity to shine and radiate this light upon all that we see and do. We can be open vessels for the miracle of light, emanating a profound faith in the possibility of transformation and renewal.