Friday, August 29, 2014

3 Elul/4 Elul, 5774

Because tonight is Shabbat and some readers refrain from using the computer on Shabbat, today we are sending a double-portion of Elul Reflections. Enjoy!

Elul 3/August 29
Shikoba Nabajyotisaikia!
Nabajyotisaikia is a compliment used in South Africa and means: “I respect you, I cherish you.
You matter to me.” In response, people say Shikoba which is: “So, I exist for you.”
This seems to be the essence of the High Holy Day experience. Yet, so often, we may sit next to someone in synagogue and either not hear their "cry for help" or we do not recognize the power that we have as part of the greater community to lift that person up. Can we listen a little more intently over the coming weeks to those around us?

Elul 4/August 30
We learn from Torah that the people of Israel were given a code by which to live. Called the Revelation at Sinai, these laws bound humanity forever in a covenantal relationship with God. But what was revealed at Mount Sinai was not just the guidebook to live a life of connection with God-it was also a collection of commandments of how to behave toward our fellow human beings. We are told not to murder, steal, or lie. We are told to honor our parents, to observe a day of sanctity,
to uphold our relationship with the Divine. Our behavior code is meant to allow us to be the members of a community that we know we could be, that we know we should be.
As we strive to uphold our end, God, may your promise to us remain true:

May we be blessed.
May we take comfort in your nearness.
And may we live together, with our neighbors and our nature, in peace.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

2 Elul, 5774

Elul 2/August 28
Seeing the Universe in a Grape

One of my favorite practices is to lead people in eating a silent lunch. I will ensure the meal is a simple platter of fruit and invite everyone to pick up a grape and look at it. “If you look closely,” I say, “you can see that this grape came from a vine in a field, and that the vine would not have come into existence without the sun and the soil and the wind and the rain.” I spend a few minutes expanding upon this, talking about the importance of the farmer tending the field and picking the grapes; of the truck driver who brought the grape to the store; of the people who built and work in the store. I allow the holders of the grapes to see that the whole universe exists in the grape. Then I invite them to spend the next thirty minutes eating in silence and looking closely at what they are eating. 
Can you take a moment during the day and engage in thoughtful deliberation about something had previously been trivial? 

Elul Reflections...1 Elul, 5774

Elul Reflections 5774 (August/September 2014)
Success in any endeavor takes preparation.  We cannot expect to jump in to the pool for the first time and swim like Michael Phelps.  We cannot pick up the violin and instantly play like Yitzhak Perlman.  We cannot come into the synagogue during the High Holy Days and expect that we will be moved without proper preparation.  Today, we begin the Hebrew month of Elul.  Elul is the month that immediately precedes Rosh Hashanah, which begins on the first day of Tishrei.  So important are the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that the rabbis designated Elul as a month of preparation for them.  Tradition encourages us to use the 29 days of Elul for serious reflection and self-examination, for study and contemplation - in anticipation of coming before God to begin the new year.  

This year’s Elul Reflections come from the efforts of Rabbi Charlie Citron-Walker, Congregation Beth Israel, Colleyville, TX; Rabbi Bradley Levenberg, Temple Sinai, Atlanta, GA; Rabbi Eric Linder, Congregation Children of Israel, Athens, GA; Rabbi Alan E. Litwak, Temple Sinai, North Miami Beach, FL; Rabbi Daniel Treiser, Temple B’nai Israel, Clearwater, FL; and Rabbi David N. Young, Congregation B’nai Tzedek, Fountain Valley, CA. If you have missed any of these daily emails or want to go back and remember something from earlier in Elul, feel free to read them all here at

Elul 1/August 27
Granting forgiveness is an internal process. Forgiveness is the decision or choice to give up the right for vengeance, retribution, and negative thoughts toward an offender in order to be free from anger and resentment. This process promotes healing and restoration of inner peace and it can allow reconciliation to take place in the relationship.
Forgiveness is not forgetting, condoning, or perpetuating injustice. Since it is sometimes unsafe or impossible, forgiveness does not always involve reconciliation. Forgiveness is not always quick; it is a process that can take time to unfold. Taking the time to seek and grant forgiveness can play a powerful role in healing and restoring ourselves and our relationships.

(Prepare/Enrich Workbook, adapted)

Monday, August 25, 2014

What's in a Name?

Welcome to my new blog!

After blogging for 6 years under a different site (that got pulled because I was using an account from my last pulpit), I am excited to begin this page with a blank slate as we approach the month of Elul.

But before we begin that, a word about the name of this blog:

My favorite verse in the entire Bible comes from the book of Micah 6:8b. It reads, "Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before your God," which I call the superhero credo of the Bible. This simple instruction is the greatest triplet of tasks we have as human beings. If we are to behave as superheroes on earth, this is what we must do.

Do justice. We cannot simply be fans of justice. We have to engage, stand up for the rights of the orphan, the widow, the poor, the underserved. Speak out for those without a voice. Act using our knowledge of Torah, our passion for human rights, do not sit idly by. Do.

Love mercy. The foil to justice is mercy. When tempered with mercy, our deeds of justice help make us righteous. It is difficult for humans to have a perfect balance of mercy and justice, but when we get close, we are getting close to God's version of justice.

Walk humbly before your God. Know that everything we do, we do for our sense of faith. When we remain ever aware of the higher power that manifests itself through us, then we are truly being the best we can possibly be.

So why is it out of order?

Partly because, "Do, Love, Walk" didn't sound as good. But mostly because this all stems from love. Love of Judaism, love of Torah, love of friends and family--without the love it wouldn't be worthwhile to do anything or walk with anyone. It is the love that inspires us to keep moving forward with our duties as people and as Jews. So love comes first.

Welcome to the page, and welcome on this journey of loving deeds, or merciful justice, and of acting as instruments of God so that we can truly be heroes.