Standing in the Truth of These Times

Shalom and welcome back from summer, with all its unique pandemic related limitations, creative connections, challenges, and unexpected precious moments. Welcome to the Jewish rhythms of a New Year- 5781.

As the New Year begins, the issues we have been grappling with are not disappearing; rather they seem to be intensifying. Whether it is personal health and well-being, our work for racial and environmental justice, getting the vote out or economic strain in these times of upheaval we all have work to do.

Having become one of the twenty member households who have lost a loved one in the last year, I mourn with you- and Simcha and I thank you all so much for your caring support in the wake of my father's death and my mother's health decline. My heart also aches with Sid Ozer and Mindy Maslin and all the many people dealing with the death of seventeen-year-old Sam Ozer this past summer. We will continue to encircle each other with love and support, for to be in covenantal community is to be there for each other at peak moments, and not forget each other in the face of the next moment or the march of time.

We have also found safe and creative ways to rejoice together, thanks to our member volunteers technical skill and gift of time, in the arrival of new life or a new stage such as last summer’s confirmation of Isaiah Weeks and joyful "Zoom-mitzvahs" of Joel Simon, Eddie Simon and Ben Fernandez-Sheinbaum, as well as wonderful member and rabbinic led services organized by Rivka Jarosh, programs and new additional pastoral support.

There are days where I am weighed down by the feelings of disconnection without real face to face contact with you all, and in the same day, enfolded in the joy of loving connection that even technology affords. I want to stay open-hearted in the year coming our way, in the full reality of this sadness and sweetness. That is what simcha means in Jewish life- acceptance without defeat, laughter, and tears. 

In entering the month of Elul we explored some ways of responding to our times at a recent Live and Learn on-line program that Rabbi Yael and I offered. I asked participants what preparing for the High Holy Days meant for them. One member reflected that their preparation for the New Year “was calling them to name all the difficult issues of these times and see how they could make a positive contribution in response.”

5781 calls us to remember the hard lessons learned from the year of Covid-19, ecological and racial justice upheaval and each of our personal, volunteer, and professional experiences, and see even beyond this time to the longer vision. Let us be bold and claim this coming year. Let us not wait for hindsight vision and lament what we might have done for the sake of the planet, our nation, and communities, for our own lives and those of our loved ones. Too much is at stake to "sit this one out" or wait for the perfect solution or candidate or time.

We can reach for clarity, compassion, and action, and engage more fully with the expanse of life’s choices, blessings, and challenges in clear, true and accountable ways. This does not have to mean grand gestures at every turn. It could mean a quiet loving act or supportive moment as much as safely taking to the streets and getting out the vote or actively being involved in responding to anti-Racism, antisemitism, and hateful acts of all kinds individually or systemically.

And so, we lean into the ancient call of the Days of Awe to explore with determination amid the fires burning literally and figuratively in our world- who will we be? What will you let go of or take on in your life? How can we as a sacred community realize our collective potential linking together our individual journeys with those of all in our community and country? This is not in order to “return to normal”, but rather to forge a new society that accepts the pain of the past, dismantles and changes the inequities and injustices of now, and collectively responds to humanity and the planet’s future that lies in the balance?

As we enter into this New Year and new decade, we can open ourselves to the calls, longings and values of our Jewish heritage, our country, our planet, our community, and our own souls. Will we guide each other in returning to balance, awareness, clarity and strength so that the words of our mouths, the meditations of our hearts and the work of our hands will be aligned for healing, justice and peace?

Whatever our age or stage of life, our skill, experience, or lack thereof, our tradition holds out hope that this can be a time to break the shackles that hold us and others back. We can tap into the miracle of life itself, and in community and relationship, find or refine our calling, purpose and perhaps, help liberate ourselves and others from narratives, systems and leaders who are fueled by power, cruelty and injustice.

We will explore these themes in our prayer, mindfulness services and deep Torah discussions in which we will pause to consider where our lives have been and where they are heading, and what transformation we are being called to in the year to come. We will follow the lead of the very names the sages ascribed to Rosh Hashanah: Yom HaZikaron- Days of Remembering (what do we want to remember that we learned from the real challenges of the last year?) ties to Yom Teruah- the Day of the Shofar Blast (clearing a way into the future where we can integrate and follow-through on what we have awoken to in real action in the year ahead).

As we enter another phase of this global pandemic, and continue to navigate our own health safety and connectivity to each other through the world-wide web or in small pods, we also have to deal with a politicized and contradictory federal response (whether it is health-wise, racially or ensuring our right to vote and have it count), as we mourn the loss of tens of thousands of lives. Our community, both needs you, your engagement and your support and is a place to tap into reservoirs of renewed strength, clarity, and connection to our life purpose and to the possibility of who we may yet be together.

So many of you have risen to the challenge in the last months by offering on-line programs, mutual and financial support. We are not done yet in securing a best budget scenario and the Mishkan@30: ReGeneration Campaign, nor will we pull back from offering an array of on-line options for learning, spiritual life and activism. Thanks to Gabby Kaplan Mayer's expanded on-line Hebrew School vision, our skilled teachers Amy, Cantor David, Julia, and Holli (who is adding High Holy Day and Teen Coordinator to her portfolio), Rabbi Yael, Gari, Maria, Our president Steve Jones and our board, and all of you- there is a rich array of offerings to experience, learn from and stay connected to each other through the months for all ages and interests.

As I take these words in myself, I assess my own leadership of service, my partnering, parenting, and friendships. I see my contributions and growth, and often my falling short of the person I long to be in this precious one life- especially coming off a very unusual sabbatical into societal upheaval. If I have unintentionally hurt or missed the mark with any of you, please let me know in kindness so we may move into this next year with a more open heart together. If we can strengthen our own connections to each other, please let me know better ways to do so or ways you can better support each other in conscious Jewish community. 

Throughout the Days of Awe and the year ahead we will lift our eyes to life and together focus on our vision and mission on how we can act for justice, compassion, and peace in the years(s) ahead. These are indeed the times we were made for and the times that are forging who we are becoming!

Elul tov v’Shanah Tovah U’Mitukah--wishing all of us and our precious world rebirth and renewal in the month of Elul, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and the year ahead.

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