Really, We Are All The Same

 

Nitzavim – You stand this day, all of you, before the Eternal your G-d.  And it means everyone, from the lowliest to the highest and all those in between.  I love this, it makes everyone equal, it makes all of us the same, at least within the house of Israel.

As always, there is a two edged sword, a little threat with the promise.  Even as Moses tells the people that G-d will not forsake them, he does tell them there will be punishment if they are idolatrous.  There can never just be a promise, but that is another story.

As we are nearing the end of the story, as the generations are looking to the promised land, as the people have become a people, this leveling happens.  Community is a process, in this case forged over many trials, travels and tribulations. Today as well, community building is a process, a labor of love and work.  And in that work, we become equal. Although teams have leaders, good teams work on a level playing field no matter the assigned or adopted task of each team member.

In our current world we have forgotten what team is.  We have forgotten what community building means, from the lowliest to the highest, it takes us all.  Someone needs to adopt, or volunteer, for every task no matter what it is.  In this way society works and all the jobs are accomplished, the rewards are reaped by everyone in some proportional way.  We seek these days to eliminate those that would do the tasks we do not wish to do but have no plan as to how those tasks will be done. Nor do we wish to pay for those tasks in a way commensurate with the necessity for the work.

So to, in families. That community needs to be built as well. All the tasks need to be accomplished and some agreement needs to be reached as to who will accomplish them and how they will be accomplished.  Respect, trust, equality, fairness, love, sympathy, empathy and faith.  All are necessary to the task of building community.

So in Nitzavim we are told we are all equal, and in standing equal we will all be rewarded. The reward of course is figurative for us, we won’t all be entering the promised land. The reward is the community, the respect, trust, equality, fairness, love, sympathy, empathy and faith.  And as we approach, in mere days, these most holy of days in the Jewish calendar, we indeed stand equal before G-d and one another . There is still time to correct what needs correcting and return to those values of community building. And one more, most important of all, forgiveness.

Stay in touch!

NASO ~ Nurturing Community

This portion, Numbers 4:21 – 7:89 is about the dedication of the Mishkan, the tent in which the people gathered not only to worship but to become community.  Our “tents of offering”, our communities, are a precious and fragile thing, requiring constant care and love.

Our communities can be many things, they can be our Temple family, they can be the greater Jewish community in which we live, they can be all Israel, they can be our classmates, our colleagues, our friends and/or our families.   And each of these, each network of relationships, requires a different kind of nourishing.  And from each we seek something different in return.  It is, in some cases, a bargaining or bartering relationship as is often the case with colleagues.  But in most cases, we nourish our relationships because they provide us with something just by their existence, not because they actively “give” us something.

in the world of Naso, the idea of “home” was ephemeral as the people were still nomadic in the desert.  And so that tent of meeting, that communal place of worship and community became the stabilizing home place.  Today we are emotional/cultural nomads, living in geographically fractured families, extraordinarily fractured politics, constantly fractured finances and careers.  So home matters crucially as it did for those desert nomads.  What is home?

There are a lot of sayings about home.  It is where you hang your hat, it is where your heart is, it is where your dog is, it is where they have to take you in (thank you Robert Frost).  It may be all of these things, but it is much more complicated than that; but that is for another blog.  Suffice it to say that the Mishkan, our Temple, our place of meeting and community, matters.  It, like all our relationships, requires love and care if it is to sustain us.it is as fragile as everything else and demands our selfless service.

a belated Shabbat shalom.

 

 

 

Stay in touch!

Bemidbar ~ Counting On

We are in Numbers 1:1-2 and the Israelites are in their second year in the wilderness and G-d says “count”.  Oy vey is there counting.  Count the adult men, count the tribes, count the sons of Levi, count the first born males.  And so forth and so on.  This portion also details the duties of various muckety mucks, but that is for another blog.

There are many phrases and adages regarding counting.  For example, we “number our days” and we “count our blessings” and we “count to ten” before we speak in anger or frustration.  We say its the “little things that count” and “don’t count your chickens”.

Why did G-d instruct Moses to do so much counting?  Perhaps it was to ensure that everyone, in their wilderness community was accounted for.  Isn’t that what we are really doing when we “count” things in our lives, we are making sure they are all there, all in line, all accounted  for.  And for wandering Jews I imagine it would have been easy to lose track of people, wilderness being what it is.  When we count the number of our friends on Facebook are we assessing our community? Accounting for the people we care about?  Making sure we don’t lose track?

Counting gives us comfort, lists give us structure, assessing gives us security.  But honestly, doesn’t it work in the opposite in some ways?  When you number your days are you making them count?   Or worrying at how few they are.  When we count to ten before we speak are holding back angry inappropriate words, or are we failing to speak the words that count,  the truth.  When we say its the little things that count are we discounting the big, important things?  Because often it is the very very big things that count.  When we say don’t count your chickens are we simply saying don’t hope for things that count.

I don’t know the answers, I think each of these things can be seen in either way, from both sides.  The one that I only see one way is to count my blessings.  When I number my blessings, I can’t see the losses.  When I number my blessings, I don’t wallow in the painful.  When I number my blessings I am doing G-d’s work.

Shabbat Shalom

Stay in touch!

Things Your Father Wants You To Know #2 ~ Serve Your Country

In the news lately has been the story of an extraordinary coach at a little college in New York, Maritime in the Bronx. Clayton Kendrick-Holmes’ players wear principles on their jerseys instead of names; “family”, “respect”, “honesty”, etc. And he has led his unknown team to a potential championship. He learned, in July, that he was being called up by the Navy (he is a reservist) to serve in Afghanistan. He doesn’t think of himself as extraordinary and he did not question his deployment, it is what he signed up for.

Not everyone is cut out to be a soldier. It is clear that you are not likely to be a soldier, you are not a fighter, like your mother you are an arguer, a word person. But freedom has, historically, required soldiers. I served, your grandfathers served, Ruben and Big Mike served. That requires respect.

Not all policemen are honest, not all firemen are brave. But those who serve in these direct ways deserve the ultimate respect. They are willing to put their lives on the line to protect us. Not all service demands such great sacrifice. But most service demands some sacrifice, of time, of money, of self.

But there are many ways of soldiering. All over America kids are earning college scholarships by giving back, working for Americorps or Vista, helping with the environment, public safety, literacy, housing, poverty, to name just a few. Some are working with Habitat for Humanity, building homes for low income families. Some work with kids at the local library, upgrading literacy skills. Others serve in their churches, mosques and temples, volunteering at food banks and soup kitchens and homeless shelters.

As great as the need is worldwide, and it is great indeed, there is great need here at home as well. You know I believe that you should always ask questions of authority, develop your own ideas and talk about them. Our democracy gives you the freedom to do those things. No matter how much you disagree with our leaders, current policies or the way in which others see things, the very right to disagree, out loud and in public, is the freedom you have here that so many others don’t. Freedoms have a price. For soldiers it may be their lives, for others time or money.

So remember, it is important to give back in some way, to express your gratitude in a concrete manner for the “blessings of liberty” which are not equally enjoyed yet in this country. Like the coach who found a way to serve before he was called up, serve willingly. To help make those blessings equal, to provide for those less fortunate, is a worthy endeavor, however you choose to do it.

Stay in touch!