Yud Hei Vuv Hei
compassion and tenderness, patience, forbearance, kindness, awareness
bearing love from age to age lifting guilt and mistakes and making us free.
יְהוָה יְהוָה אֵל רַחוּם וְחַנּוּן אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם וְרַב חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת.
נֹצֵר חֶסֶד לָאֲלָפִים נֹשֵׂא עָוֹן וָפֶשַׁע וְחַטָּאָה וְנַקֵּה
I asked a mentor why we ask for forgiveness in the prayer book over and over again? We know that forgiveness is a given for God, in fact the Gemara teaches that forgiveness comes before creation. Forgiveness is built into the foundation of existence.
We can see it in the garden each year. I planted 2 morning glories last summer and by the end of the season I had damaged them with overwatering, they no longer flowered and their leaves turned yellow. To add insult to injury I left them uncovered in the harsh winter frost. By spring the vines were browned and dead. So I cleaned out one of the pots to reuse but left the other intact planning on getting to it later, as many of us experience later, never happened and I left it bare. Nevertheless as the summer progressed seedlings began to pop out of the soil and slowly vines wound their way up the trellis and then when I least expected it one flower bloomed and then another. No matter the damage I did, the plant knew how to return to its fullness.
Unfortunately for us it is not so easy- YES God forgives and it is this forgiveness that teaches us how to do it. But our prayer books are misleading- they are written from the perspective and life experience of man- They think God needs cajoling, praise and convincing, but this is not the truth. God needs none of that. Who needs to work at forgiveness? Who needs to hear it over and over, and this way and that way until the songs are stuck in our head and our fists are strained from pounding our chest? We do. In our humanity, in our ego states we are the ones that need to repeat the words over and over. not for God but for each other.
The Rambam teaches that in order to achieve teshuva we must state our confession to God verbally. The words that you speak begging god for forgiveness those are not for god, those are for us. Those are mirrors, mirrors of our inner reality, mirrors of our truth, mirrors that reflect back to us the places that needs healing. Don't ever confuse GOD with humans. God does not need the repetition- from Gods perspective you are forgiven already. But the second part of the biblical statement that is omitted from your prayer books that is where the truth lies.
לֹא יְנַקֶּה פֹּקֵד עֲוֹן אָבוֹת עַל בָּנִים וְעַל בְּנֵי בָנִים עַל שִׁלֵּשִׁים וְעַל רִבֵּעִים.
You will not be free- the sins of the fathers will rest on the children to the third and forth generation.
The pain and suffering we create in the world it has an effect on the other, it travels through time and space effecting generations. As we stand this week after 3 Hurricanes and 2 earthquakes have hit the southern part of this world in painful succession we can see the effects of our intergenerational ignorance. As we look around our country this year we are seeing the effects of years of hidden fear and pain coming to the surface. And as I look into my family life, I am seeing the intergenerational trauma that was hidden for so long. How many of us keep secrets and hide the truth in the guise of protection? And how many of us find that no matter how hard we try to hide the truth, the truth seeps in whether we speak it or not? And ultimately when it comes out of hiding when the words are spoken aloud when we can claim our victimhood, our pain, our reality, that is when the healing begins. And if we don’t come to terms with it if we are unable to speak the truth out loud, eventually it returns in all of its power causing the exact damage we were hoping to keep away.
I pray for the ability to stand in truth, name it and slowly heal all that comes afterwards.
It was so wonderful to spend the last moment of Shabbat in community, learning Torah, singing and getting to know the divine in each of those present. To all of those in attendance, thank you for being a part of my first of many. And I am in gratitude to all of those that keep reminding me that I don't need to know every melody and I can ask for help. Shavua Tov!
Here is a taste...
And then the moment comes,
the moment that all lovers fear,
the moment of return,
return to the seen world.
The searing pain is tangible.
The lovers cling to each other
as our melodies beckon shekhina back to us
their arms outstretched,
trying to maintain their connection
for the last fleeting moments.
Their hearts grasping at each other
trying not to let go
but their bodies aware that the time has come
as Shekhina’s outstretched arms mimic Michelangelo’s
our melodies attempting to sweeten this moment of deep pain
God’s anger aroused that Shekhina is forced to leave
We send up reiach nichoach, the pleasing scent of incense
in an attempt to sweeten it and we sanctify it.
We sanctify this moment of brokenness
We elevate it to a level of holiness.
So that when Shekhina brings down that light from above-
the light that we cannot see with the eye
the light that shines through cracks,
and brings us our own wholeness.
It is for this, that she returns, bitteresweet.
For she wishes to remain in the unseen world,
but for us, she lovingly returns.
So that, we can bring her light into the world
through all of our cracks of imperfection.
As last week was the 20th Yartzheit of Yitzhak Rabin and my dear friend Shir Yaakov begins The Bearing Witness Retreat I pray that we lift ourselves above the current reality and find a new peace in the world.
As I walked through the gray pained roads of Majdanak
I could feel the agony of hundreds of thousands of souls as they ascended to heaven.
Double chai in the thousands-the life beaten out of them.
I watch the ashes of my human family fly through the air like snowflakes in the winter.
Auschwitz, the tracks and the ancient howling screams held fast in the wind.
A bunker empty, I ponder the largess of the appearing sleep space
quickly realizing that their thinning bodies lay one on top of the other
as 20 men filled each one, I stifle a scream.
My body shakes and heaves with the intense pain of a world that was mad
and yet my eyes are dry.
Maybe it is the separation of years or the shock of it all, I will never know.
But standing in the center of pain did not bring me to tears.
I step off the plane for the first time and I kiss the ground.
The ground I have been dreaming of for 16 years.
I travel the countryside starting out the window of the bus,
the bedouin tents dotting the road bring up the deep seated pain
I have been fed for years, in a world more interested in appearances than truth.
A world where the hyenas of Disney’s Lion King ravaging the promised land
are represented by those bedouin tents on the side of the road.
A world where Jews were right and Arabs were terrorists.
A people who claim Torah’s vision in their hatred of another.
But then, in my youthful naïveté I too believed.
Believed in a world black and white,
a world where only one group was suffering at the hands of another.
We approach Mount Herzl with heavy hearts
only five months after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.
I walk through the maze of steps surrounded by earthy growth,
the smell of life penetrates this space of death
The lush greens of this space juxtaposed
by the gray of death 100s of miles away in that world ravaged with darkness.
I step around a corner and I see it, I see that which I never saw before.
In clear Black and White the marble of the stones glint in the sunlight.
Their flash like a sharp needle puncturing my eyes
as a heaving of my soul reverberates through my body.
My tears like a tsunami crashing against the rigid walls of my heart
as I realize that we are continuing the work that began in 1939.
We who have been murdered and slain in the millions
stand self righteous in indignation of each other.
We who claim that we are the children of Israel
have not learned from those sacred books.
We continue the struggles laid out in the opening chapters
Brother killing Brother, war in the name of peace.
"Rabins' Grave" by User:Pharos
This week we explored balance- balance in our prayer and balance in our lives. Where are you living in balance? Where in your life do you need more balance?
I stand naked on the threshold of a new reality, unsure of where I am going.
The rumble of existence vibrates around me, like overpowering waves in the dark of night.
I am tumbled and tossed but I must step, just one step they keep telling me,
just take a step and you will be in the light.
The darkness clears way and the blue sky permeates my being,
the suns rays stream into my heart.
In the appearing light my eyes are blinded by its power,
and once again darkness descends and its waters crash all around me.
Do we think that it is different, that Yah is above all of this, without feeling;
sitting up on his imperial throne looking down in amusement?
Don’t you see?
There is no difference in the pain you feel,
the fractured self split into thousands of pieces.
God too fractured, shattered, split amongst us all,
like the sliver of ice in the snow queens heart.
The shard slowly penetrates until our fracture becomes its totality,
before we can recognize that our fracture, has become God’s.
The queen tries to make amends, melting the shards with the warmth of the sun.
It is too late, our eyes are blinded, our hearts hardened by the pain remembered.
Even by the light of the sun we are being pulled down under the waves
tossing and turning until we stop and notice that as above so below.
If we are in pain, if we are tumbling, so is God.
And the only thing left is to find the compassion that comes with pain.
And fall back into our own loving arms
as we wrap Yah in our embrace and cry together.
Praying that our tears joined will melt hearts
and birth a new world.
Oftentimes Cheshvan is referred to as the bitter month, Mar-Cheshvan, since there are no holidays or specific mizvot/deeds to fulfill. But this idea of bitterness is actually an illusion. The truth of the matter is that Cheshvan is the 8th month of the year and, according to our rabbis, the number 8 is actually a symbol of that which is beyond the physical world. There are no actions to take in the number 8 because this is a month that is beyond physical action. It is a hidden time of spiritual renewal. After the preparation in the 6th month of Elul leading up to the 7th month of Tishrei and its intense spiritual work, the 8th month becomes a time of absorption: a time where we appear more focused on the physical world. Who could blame us, after 4 weeks of holidays? But if we were to truly dig deeper we might notice the spiritual dormancy that lies beneath.
It is the beginning of the darkest part of the year. It appears as a time of death, but actually it is the appearance of death that brings forth new life. Ultimately this is a moment of hiddenness where physical appearances fail us and we must literally dig deeper into the earth to notice the activity that is happening.
It is no surprise that this month brings with it water, the water of Noah and the prayer for rain. Water in our tradition symbolizes the flow of God’s love. Although Noah’s waters appear as destruction, they are also, and maybe even more importantly, the waters of rebirth. This water is God’s overflowing love that waters the seeds of our spiritual selves that lay in the depths of our being, preparing to birthe into our renewed selves for this coming year.
The number 8 and the month of Cheshvan is the time dormancy in preperation of new birth, so please take a moment now to think about what is birthing in your life.- What appears dormant on the surface but is actually doing the deep work to manifest who you really are in your deepest self?
Be Lost in the Call
Lord, said David, since you do not need us,
why did you create these two worlds?
Reality replied: O prisoner of time,
I was a secret treasure of kindness and generosity,
and I wished this treasure to be known,
so I created a mirror: its shining face, the heart;
its darkened back, the world;
The back would please you if you've never seen the face.
Has anyone ever produced a mirror out of mud and straw?
Yet clean away the mud and straw,
and a mirror might be revealed.
Until the juice ferments a while in the cask,
it isn't wine. If you wish your heart to be bright,
you must do a little work.
My King addressed the soul of my flesh:
You return just as you left.
Where are the traces of my gifts?...
...Remember God so much that you are forgotten.
Let the caller and the called disappear;
be lost in the Call.
"Love is a Stranger", Kabir Helminski