Thursday, October 31, 2013

October 30, 2013

As the holiday of Sukkot drew to a close a couple weeks ago, a big transition occurred in the traditional prayer service.  Daily Jewish prayer includes a plea, a supplication for moisture - different forms of precipitation.  Since our ancient prayers originated in the Ancient Near East, with Israel especially in mind, they consider the normal weather patterns of that region.  From Pesach until Sukkot, the prayer is for the dew to rise up from the vegetation.  While from the end of Sukkot until Pesach, we insert a prayer for the winds and the rain to return.

With a pre-Halloween snow storm, preceded by the wind stripping the Aspens of their golden leaves this prayer certainly seems to make sense at this time of year.  The prayer, at its core, is our people's recognition of how tied into the seasons we are as human beings.  The water cycle is something that we are deeply connected to here in the west.  Not just the tourism engine that drives our town, but certainly fire hazards and overall well being our environment.  Our Jewish tradition not only recognizes this connection to the natural world, but understands that some is beyond our control.  When it stretches beyond our reach to truly affect it, we turn to the divine mystery of this beautiful created world, hence the prayer. 

Yet, there is much we can do.  Simply by being conscious of our resources, teaching our  young people about this deep connection between Judiasm and nature and by celebrating the rain (or snow) in its season!
October 23, 2013

Over the last couple of weeks, our Torah story has displayed moments of our ancestors best character, and their worst.  We have seen moments of righteousness and moments lacking.  This week, our matriarch Sarah has the portion named for her chayei sarah - the life of Sarah, yet in the opening verses we learn of the end of her life.  It is a itme of great transition as Isaac becomes the next in the chain of our ancestors.  There is another tale of greatness from one of our ancestors in this week's story line as well.

When Abraham sends his servant Eliezer to find a wife for his son Isaac we become witness to what our tradition considers the pinnacle of chesed - kindness.  It is a a kindness that exceeds all others.  It is the moment when Eliezer is resting by the well, that Rebecca, the soon to be bride of his master's son, offers water not just to provide water for Elizer but also for his animals.  This exceeding act of care for another is what our tradition points to as the example of true chesed - kindness.

When I examine our community and consider the ways we reach out to one another, I am consistenly proud to be part of such a kehillah kedosha - sacred community.  It is a collective that often lives this kind of kindness.  The rides offered to others, the care you all take for our building, for things as simple as washing the tablecloths and taking out the trash are all wonderful acts.  They are the seeds of chesed.  To allow this plant to grow, we often reach out and help others in our wider community through social justice.  Other times we support within during times of need and celebrate at times of joy.  One additional way to water and tend these seeds of chesed is through our caring committee work.  Many of you have attended these gatherings and there are more to come.  This is one additional way we can ensure our TBY family continues to stretch beyond the walls of our beautiful building and the bonds of Jewish connection are always strengthened.
October 16, 2013

In this week's Torah portion, Abraham stands up for his view of righteousness.  He argues with God over the number of righteous people that might be living in Sodom and Gomorrah.  He questions God's sense of justice in decreeing destruction for the two cities.  In the end, it is decided that there are not even ten righteous people there.  While the annhiliation of these two cities leaves much for interpretation and debate, it is this moment of standing up to leadership, to God in the case of Abraham, that seems to ring loudly as the message this week for me.

As we endure day after day of our government failing to work, failing to fulfill their jobs, on every side of the "aisle" I hear the words that Abraham spoke to God, "Shall the judge of all the earth not deal justly?" (Gen. 18:25)  When I read this verse this week, it sounds something like this, "Should those charged with working on our behalf not even get their basic job done?"

The message rings as an opportunity for us to follow in Abraham's footsteps.  To call out to those who represent us and simply say, get the job done.  Do what you can to represent us, your constituents, but most importantly repair our reputation as a fiscally responsible nation.  This to me seems to be the common message.

It is not every week that a Torah portion echoes so clearly our current events.  Yet, standing up to injustice, speaking loudly for what matters to us is Abraham's message, and right now it is unjust that 1000s of workers are laid off, furloughed during the shutdown, that access to services, parks and other "non-esential" programs is denied and that our full faith and trust in our government is being sullied.

As this reality continues, I urge all of us to contact our representatives with a simply message:  Do your best to represent us, your constituents, but get the job done and get it done today.  That is living in the footsteps of Abraham.