Address for High Holy Days

On Monday, September 10, I had the honor of giving the appeal speech on the first day of Rosh ha-Shana of my congregation, Leyv Ha-Ir. Here it is:

I am a Jew by Choice.

I grew up in a small township upstate in Pennsylvania, where I attended a small Methodist church in the countryside. It didn’t connect with me, all that Sunday School teaching didn’t take with me; I could never accept the idea that THIS was the only way to get to Heaven. I always had a fascination with Judaism, the Jewish people and Israel, and I always wondered what it would be like if I was Jewish.

In early 1990, I began the process of converting. At the Israel Independence Day festival of that year, I found a booth for people interested in joining a Reconstructionist congregation coming together in Center city Philadelphia. The reason I chose Reconstructionism is its belief in being both traditional and modern at the same time, and the belief that being a Jew is not just about religion but being part of a culture, a “tribe.”

My life in Leyv Ha-Ir has been important in this conversion process, taking part in the discussions of the congregation, taking part in services, and being adopted by the members. For my Jewish education, I took a series of courses, the Reform course out of the UAHC, and the Reconstructionist course, “Jewish, Alive, and American,” run out of the Rabbinical College in Wyncote. I discussed also with the rabbi, Geela Rayzel Raphael, and she outlined an informal plan of education-reading the Encyclopedia Judaica in the Paley Library of Temple University, visiting a variety of synagogues to see the variety of Jewish worship (along with the commonality), studying Kashrut, and reading the book Basic Judaism by Rabbi Milton Steinberg.

On the Sunday after Yom Kippur in 1994, I went through the Mikveh and emerged a full-fledged Jew. Four years later, I joined in an adult B’nai Mitzvah class, and I received the Bar Mitzvah in March 1998. Last year, I fulfilled my dream of visiting Israel. I took the plane to Tel Aviv, and took the bus to Jerusalem. The driver pointed out to me the various spots in Jerusalem, and then drove me close to the entrance to the Kotel. I washed my hands, put on my kippah, wrote the little note to place in the cracks in the Wall, and placed my hands on the Wall-I had no other prayer, that was my prayer. I look forward to going back again.

Leyv Ha-Ir has been, as I always say, better than a family to me. We have our Friday evening services, with our wonderful Rabbi Julie, our lay led services for Saturday morning and Friday evening, and our educational programs that Julie leads, to further our vision of our Jewish life. we hope you can support us and join us as we continue the journey.

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Elul 2018 and High Holy Days Resolutions

We are now in the month of Elul, the month preceding Rosh ha-Shona and Yom Kippur, the High Holy Days of the Jewish calendar. This is the time when we take stock of how our lives went the past year, when we did right and how we can improve ourselves. This is an important time of the year for me. I believe deeply in positive self-assessment, to forgive myself for what I’ve done wrong, and to pay attention to when I’ve done right.

A lot of the self work for the High Holy Days encompasses your/my thought patters and habits, for good or bad; what causes you/me to act and think in a certain way? This is the time to re-access your/my mind and what it thinks, so that your/my behaviors are positive.

In that spirit I continue my tradition of High Holy Days Resolutions, just like with those for New Year’s, and which I also do for Pesach and my birthday. Here they are:

I will continue to conduct myself with self-love, self-esteem, and self-respect, thinking positively about my work and my life, and practicing self-care, and know that I am worthy of it.

I will continue to advance my art and business as a freelance writer.

I will continue to advance my social and political causes.

I will continue such spiritual practices as meditation, prayer, Torah study, affirmations, etc.

I will continue to dedicate time for rest, recreation, and fun.

I will continue to be faithful to Jewish tradition, history, religion, etc.

I will continue to improve my financial situation.

Tisha B’Av

Today we commemorate Tisha B’Av, the most mournful day of the Jewish calendar. Traditionally, this is the day when the First Temple of Jerusalem, build by Solomon, was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and of the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 AD. As part of Tisha B’Av, we read the Book of Lamentations, where the Prophet Jeremiah puts into words the desolation and sheer hopelessness that has befallen Jerusalem, and the misery of its people. This is supposedly God’s punishment for the sins of the nation, and for the false prophets who denied anything was wrong in the nation.

In the midst of this desolation and despair, is there still reason for hope that their misery will end? Any situation, bad or good, does not last forever. Jeremiah writes about how God will comfort those who return to God and from their sins. The book concludes, “Return  us unto you and and we shall return. renew our days as of old.”

On a more physical level, what can we, as individuals and as a society, do to prevent such a catastrophe from happening? Who are the real “prophets,” spiritual and secular, we should listen to for the truth? And is it “too late” to change direction from going over the abyss?

A great place to read about Tisha B’Av, and the other Jewish Holy Days is the great book by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Seasons Of Our Joy: A Modern Guide to the Jewish Holidays. For an overview of Lamentations, please look up the Jewish website Aish, http://www.aish.com/h/9av/oal/48961756.html?s=mpw

The High Holy Days

The High Holy Days-Rosh haShona and Yom Kippur-are almost upon us. this is the time when we are called to look at our lives, look at how we behaved in the past year, noted where we dome well as people, and where we need to improve.

this is the time to put our mistakes and errors of the past year behind us, and to forgive ourselves of them, and know we can be better people. To any person I may have offended, I ask your forgiveness; and to all who have offended me, I forgive them.

One practice I have is my Resolutions for Rosh HaShona, like the resolutions I write also for the New Year-and for my birthday and Pesach. Here they are:

I will continue conduct myself with self-live, self-esteem, and self respect. I will not be bound by errors of the past, but continue to improve as a person, to think positively about myself and my life, and challenge negative thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts.

I will continue such spiritual practices as Torah study, yoga, affirmations, meditation, etc.

I will continue my art and business as a writer, seeking journals, attending writing events, practicing writing, etc. I will continue my activism for my various social and political causes.

I will continue to be loyal to Jewish relation, culture, history, Israel, etc.

The High Holy Days

we are coming upon the High Holy days, Rosh ha-Shona and Yom Kippur-the new year, the time for a new beginning, where we re-evaluate our lives, where we look at what we did right and what we could improve on.

I follow the High Holy Days tradition-IF I have offended or harmed ANY person, I ask that person’s forgiveness. AND, if any person out there has harmed of offended me, I forgive them.

Here are my resolutions for Rosh ha Shona:

I will continue to conduct myself with self-love, self-esteem, and self-respect, thinking more positively about myself and my life.

I will continue to be loyal to my various social and political causes.

I will continue to develop my art and business as a writer, with writing practice, prompts, attending readings and seminars, etc.

I will continue to attend all available avenues of education and cultural advancement, such as classes, galleries, libraries, museums, plays, etc.

I will continue to enter other artistic fields, such as acting, photography, etc.

I will continue to consciously attain downtime, for my rest and recreation.

I will continue to go deeper into my Jewish faith and life.

I will continue to develop my personal relationships.

 

 

 

Pesach

I join the rest of the Jewish world in celebrating Pesach, aka Passover, the celebration of the liberation of the ancient Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, the crossing the Red Sea, and the marching through the wilderness to get to the Promised Land.

The Hebrew word for Egypt is “Mitzrayim,” the place of narrowness, of limitation; where do we face limitation in our lives? Where do we limit ourselves? Where do we find ourselves stifled and repressed? What are the rivers we have to cross is order to find our fulfillment, to attain our fullest potential? What would our “promised land” look like, our place of fulfillment?

Let us ask ourselves these questions as we enjoy our Pesach.

JLC Labor Seder

Just about every Jewish movement you can think of has its own variation of the Pesach Seder, which updates for modern times while being loyal to the Pesach message of the liberation of the Jews from “Mitzraim,” the Hebrew name for Egypt. (“Mitzraim” literally means “the narrow place,” the place of few opportunities and no where to move, the place of limitations.)

On Thursday, April 9, I went to the Labor Seder of the Philadelphia chapter of the Jewish Labor Committee (JLC), an organization of Jewish trade unionists, organized in the 1930s to combat the rise of Fascism. This took place in the Calvary Center for Culture and Community, 48th and Baltimore Avenue. They had the traditional Seder place with the Maror, the Haroset, the Karpas, lamb bone, the salt water, and the Matzah, and the traditional blessings were said. But contemporary issues were addressed in the Seder, like the poor relations between law enforcement and minority communities, and police shooting unarmed African-American men.

The Haggadah also dealt with labor struggles earlier in American history, such as the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in 1911, the organizing of farm workers, and the problems on inequality in this wealthy nation. “Mitzraim” is not something in the past, there are still places and problems with people stuck in narrow, limited situations; and there will always be people fighting to get out of them.

Text of the Traveler\’s Prayer – The Prayer for a Safe Journey – Mitzvahs & Traditions

I am firming up my plans to go to Amherst for  my classes. I printed out the Jewish Traveler’s Prayer, to attain spiritual strength. With faith I know I’ll do great. Thanks to everyone for their support.

 

Text of the Traveler\’s Prayer – The Prayer for a Safe Journey – Mitzvahs & Traditions

via Text of the Traveler\’s Prayer – The Prayer for a Safe Journey – Mitzvahs & Traditions.

‘A man has to make his wife orgasm first… it’s Jewish law!’ Orthodox Rabbi on how the ‘religious obligations’ of sex favor women’s pleasure | This World

I thought this would be an important contribution to the discussion about religion and sexuality.

 

‘A man has to make his wife orgasm first… it’s Jewish law!’ Orthodox Rabbi on how the ‘religious obligations’ of sex favor women’s pleasure | This World

via ‘A man has to make his wife orgasm first… it’s Jewish law!’ Orthodox Rabbi on how the ‘religious obligations’ of sex favor women’s pleasure | This World.