Thursday, August 26, 2010

Elul Day 16

Elul 16: Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes, "Guilt is out of fashion these days, like sports jackets, courtesy, humility and handkerchiefs...For us, when things go wrong, it was someone else’s fault: the boss, the colleague, the system, the government, the media, our parents, the way we were brought up, society, bad luck or our genes. Feeling guilty, they say, is bad for us. It lowers self esteem..."
Judaism offers an opposing perspective all about responsibility and honesty where forgiveness as Sacks writes "melts into the flames of God's forgiveness" - So do you take responsibility for your mistakes? Missteps, dare I say it sins? And equally important are you ready to offer your forgiveness to those who have wronged you...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Elul Day 4-15

Elul Day 4 and 5

In the kiddush on Friday night we recite the words, B'ahavah U'vratzon -with love and intention, God gave us Shabbat with love and will/intention/desire. How do you understand this pair? How do you give and receive gifts in your life? How about during moments of frustration, disappointment or sadness?
Shabbat Shalom U'mevorach - A peaceful and blessed Shabbat.

Elul Day 7

Rabbi David Wolpe once wrote/spoke "sometimes our relationship with money is ugly, is distasteful, it is extravagance without goodness." Judaism sees money not as entitlement but as an obligation - when you look back at this year how would you characterize your relationship to money? Are you greedy? Are you giving? Do you view your relationship to money as a religious obligation? Do you give enough?

Elul Day 8: 1 person. 1 encounter. 1 moment. This month of preparation offers the possibility we can change, our lives can be different. Change comes from others & from our own inner compass.

Who changed your life this year? 
Was it because of something positive/negative they did? Share with them. 
How has your life changed? 
How are you different? 
Do you think you changed anyone else's life?

Elul Day 9 - How do you define what it means to live Jewishly? Is it based on actions? Beliefs? 

- In what ways have you lived up to those expectations of living a meaningful Jewish life?
- In what ways have you fallen short?
- Have you thought about how you might change that for the coming year?

Elul 10:

What is your most memorable day from this past year since Rosh Hashanah 5770? 

Who do you remember most when you think of this year?

Elul 11 and 12
“We boil at different degrees” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Day 1 – what is the temperature of your anger today? This year? How do you deal with it when you boil, in a productive or hurtful way? Do you know how to let go and forgive? What is hard about this act? Why is it easier to remain angry?

Day 2- does anyone get angry with you? When do they boil? How do they deal with their anger towards you? Have you ever expressed how hurtful that is? Have you ever thought they are right? Has anyone’s anger ever helped you to change for the better? If so how?

Elul 13 Cheshbon Ha-Nefesh: An Accounting of Our Essential Self! This is the title of the work we are to be doing during these days in advance of RH. Today's questions focus on our relationship to God. Do you reach out to communicate with God-how? If not, why not? Do we hold anger/disappointment at God? What do you think is God's perception of you? Have you held up your end of the relationship, how so? If not, why not?

Elul Day 14 - Finally, David Brooks returns from vacation & does not disappoint. See this

And then ponder this quote from his column "Very few in public life habitually step back and think about the weakness in their own thinking and what they should do to compensate" - what are the weaknesses in your thinking? As we approach RH what are you doing to compensate or in other words adjusting, shifting, changing toward strength and away from weakness?

Elul Day 15 - Are you a religious pluralist? Do you value as authentic other views of your traditions or religious beliefs?? Can you see things from another persons' perspective and see its truth - or is your truth the only one?
 How can you live this year as a passionate advocate for your strongly held beliefs while not only respecting but understanding as authentic the views of others in your religious community?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Mosque

I tried hard to avoid speaking on this issue but I couldn't help it after a comment I heard riding the bus to work today "I am against it, let them go somewhere else." This has become in my mind beyond simply a political issue and has now crossed the line into question of human dignity and freedom and thus a religious issue at its heart.

The essential fundamental principle is the right of all people to practice religion, in this country, wherever they choose. There is not a blanket blame to be laid upon all Muslims for the atrocity of 9-11. Those who attacked the US on 9-11 and their supporters and trainers certainly are at fault for such a horrific crime, a crime against humanity in many ways. However, all Muslims were not complacent in said attack nor should Islam be relegated to certain locations as a result of 9-11. In the United States the entire purpose of the concept of Freedom of Religion is the ability, assuming you aren't preaching or perpetrating violence, to practice your faith wherever, whenever and however your community chooses to do so. It is this very freedom which as a Jew allows me walk the street of NYC, Missouri or Florida with a Yarmulke on my head, a tallit on my shoulders and a siddur in my hand - if I so desired. It is the same religious freedom which allows all of us to practice our religion as we choose. To me this represents the greatest gift America has given to its people. We are at home here because we are allowed to be ourselves.

The mosque near ground zero is no affront or disrespect to those people who lost their lives on 9-11 or to the families who continue to mourn their loss each and every day. In fact wouldn't religious intolerance be an affront to their memories? Wouldn't allowing bias, narrow minded and hateful views to win out disrespect their lives - for wasn't it just those things that allowed human beings to de-value human life so greatly that they flew planes into buildings. In Judaism every life matters, every life is filled with possibility and potential for godliness. Our responsibility is to ensure everyone has the ability to live in their unique, individual way. One of the ways we do this is by ensuring the ability to practice religion freely.

The mosque should be built, this is the United States of America may freedom of religion always reign as one of our highest ideals and values. If we live up to that ideal then perhaps the memory of those who lost their lives on 9-11 at the hands of fundamentalist who didn't understand the value of human life, human dignity and true freedom, will be a true blessing - ma'atah v'ad olam, from this moment forward.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Elul 5770 Kavannah Day 3

From the Bedtime Shema

“I hereby forgive anyone who has angered or provoked me or sinned against me, physically or financially or by failing to give me due respect, or in any other matter relating to me involuntarily or willingly, inadvertently or deliberately, whether in word or deed let no one incur punishment because of me. May it be your will Adonai my God and God of my Ancestors that I will not sin further and in that which I have sinned before you may you blot out with your abundant mercy…

Questions to Consider
1. What would your daily life look like if you recited this prayer each night before bed? How would it change things for you?
2. What do you think is the crux/meaning of the prayer?
3. What does the request for abundant mercy about past sins indicate about the “prayer’s state of mind?
4. Review the listing at the beginning of the prayer of sins committed – what do you notice? Is there an order of magnitude?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Human Kindness Elul 5770 Day 2

Randy Newman's Lyrics I Think Its' Going to Rain Today - sung by Bette Midler below...“Human kindness its’ overflowing and I think its going to rain today…right before me the signs implore me help the needy and show them the way, human kindness its overflowing and I think it’s going to rain today.”

Is human kindness overflowing in your life?What about in your own heart? What signs do you see in your everday life? Do they implore to act with human kindness? Do you help the needy or show them the way?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Elul 5771 Kavannah

DAY 1 – Rosh Chodesh Elul 8-10-10
Today we begin again.
We start the process officially, the work of self-work.
We come together as individuals, in community to strengthen our resolve.
Our journey towards wholeness, towards the call of shofar, towards the sweetness of the apple and honey begins right now at this moment wherever you are, in this holy space. How will you prepare:
in song, shira
in shtika, silence
in limmud, study
in tefilla, prayer.

So the journey begins…