Tuesday, November 6, 2018

An open hand...waiting - Meditation - November 5, 2018

Opening Meditation for Writing Contemporary Liturgy Online class with Alden Solovy 











Did you see?

Were you there? 

Did you hear? 


From many backgrounds




Spiritual orientations 


Came together

To mourn

To declare

To connect

Lifting eyes 

And hearts

To seek help. 

Do we still lift our eyes 

To the mountains? 

Will our help 

Come from the Eternal One? 

We learn

From Elie Wiesel, 

one who could have lost 

All hope

All belief

All resolve

That “life is not a fist

Life is an open hand 

Waiting for 

Some other hand 

To enter it.”


If we join hands

And lift our eyes

To the mountains


With hearts turned

One towards another

Our help from God

Will finally come. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

What do we do now? After the Tree of Life synagogue shooting

God of our lives,
Binder of our communities,
Consoler of the hurting and the bereaved
Be with us at this difficult time.
We know that, if we look for answers
to the question “why?”
We may not find them.
But we know
That the answers to the question “What do we do now?”
Come from You,
For you have put them within us.
What will we do?
We will write.
We will speak
We will comfort.
We will connect.
We will cry.
We will stand tall.
We will confidently declare our pride in who we are.
We will love. 
We will show compassion that might ultimately dispel hatred.
We will pray.
We will hope.
We will remember.
We will move forward.  
God of our lives,
Binder of our communities,
Consoler of the hurting and the bereaved,
We can feel You
As You can feel us
And Present
In the Oneness
That is You. 

Friday, October 26, 2018

When I See Strangers Coming - Parashat Vayera (Genesis 18) - October 26, 2018

Eternal God, 

When I see strangers coming

Remind me that they are potential guests

Rather than probable enemies

When I see strangers coming

Help me to prepare to be a good host

To provide food, drink, warmth and a respite

For these travelers who might be weary 

When I see strangers coming

Enable me to see them as possessing wisdom

From which I may grow

And stories of their varied experiences

That might teach me lessons for my own life. 

When I see strangers coming

Do not allow me to automatically cower in fear 

And put up impenetrable defenses

But give me the patience 

To speak directly with them

To gain an understanding of who they are

And what they might need

In order to continue on their journey. 

Or, if they want to remain among us,

May I be free with suggestions and assistance

That will facilitate their transition to a new home

And a new life. 

When I see strangers coming

Who approach without hostility

Whose hearts are open

And whose hands may be empty 

Due to oppression in the land they have left behind

Open my heart and guide my hands to reach out to them

To lift them up in their time of need

For they are not an emergency to be met with force

But, instead, bearers of a chance

For me to show 

That my people’s  history 

As strangers 

Will lead me to be

Warm and welcoming 

And to give them what my ancestors would have wanted

Upon their arrival to this new land:  

Care, hospitality, love, and hope.  

Blessed are You, Eternal One,  who gives me the opportunity

To extend my hand to the stranger 

Who, like me, is created in the image of God.  

Thursday, October 18, 2018

To Step into Future Times - Invocation for Temple Beth-El Las Cruces Board Meeting - October 18, 2018

Invocation - Temple Beth-El Las Cruces Board meeting 

October 18, 2018

Eternal God, 

The Voice who calls us to traverse a new path;

The Guide who shines a light on the road ahead;

As we continue along our journey,

Be with us as we walk in the footsteps of Abraham and Sarah,

Who left their parents’ homes to blaze a trail for their many descendants

Ever mindful that You accompanied them with every step they took. 

Stand by our side as we lay down to sleep each night

Stirring us, when we rise, to share Jacob’s realization

That our highest aspirations are always within our reach

With You as our strength to muster the confidence and courage

To ascend the ladder towards our dreams and hopes. 

When we find ourselves in deep despair, 

With few reasons to look at life with optimism, 

Grant us the insight of Joseph to ultimately recognize our own significance 

So that we will step forward with resolve, sharing and applying our abilities and our wisdom. 

And when we are faced with challenges to our well-being,

And to our very lives, 

Make us like Moses, a shepherd of a flock who became a leader of a people,

Taking them from slavery to freedom 

Like Aaron, who articulated with powerful words a belief in the self-worth and  right to life and liberty of  every human being; 

And like Miriam, who shaped words and melody into an expression of individual and collective spirit that ever connects us back to You. 

May we, in our own time, 

continue along this path begun by Abram and Sarai, 

Adding to their story

Our own experiences, our own memories, our own family histories, 

And our own legacies

As we leave the comfort of this moment

To step into future times and unknown places of growth and promise

That patiently await our arrival and our enriching presence. 


Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Bible directs us to a life of justice and fairness - Las Cruces Bulletin - October 5, 2018

    On Sunday, October 7, the NMSU Theater Department will present “Memories: A Temple in Las Cruces,” based on oral history interviews conducted with congregants of Temple Beth-El of Las Cruces.   This program will chronicle the development of the congregation and the participation of the Jewish community in Las Cruces life. 

    The presentation makes clear that ritual, study and prayer are central to living Jewishly.  

     We just completed the observance of the High Holy Days, beginning with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and, ten days later, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. 

     One of the readings in our new prayerbook for the holidays, Mishkan Hanefesh (a Tabernacle of the Soul), caught my eye this year.  The meditation that precedes prayers of confession on Yom Kippur in our previous prayerbook, Gates of Repentance, made this declaration: “Our God...grant that our prayers may reach You.  Do not be deaf to our pleas, for we are NOT so arrogant and stiff-necked as to say before you...that we are perfect and have not sinned; rather do we confess: we have gone astray.”  

    The statement in the new prayerbook is more direct, and eliminates the word “not.”  It now declares,  “We are arrogant and stubborn, claiming to be blameless and free of sin, but in truth we have stumbled and strayed.”  It is a stark admission. 

      We are, at times, reluctant to confess to ourselves when we have done something wrong in order to avoid confronting our own failures.  We may be afraid to apologize for an action which we know we committed and for which we know we have let ourselves down, not to mention adversely affecting someone else’s life.   

      Fairness, and justice, however, dictate that we step forward and take responsibility for our actions. 

     At a recent session with our middle school/high school class at Temple, we explored passages from the Bible about justice and fairness.   I first had the students identify actions that they see people commit which they believe to be wrong.  They listed stealing, hurting, lying, cheating and bullying. 

     We then reviewed rules in the Bible that list actions that we should do as well as those we should avoid. Chapter 23 of the book of Exodus directs us not to spread false rumors, not to support those who are guilty by lying in order to frame someone who is innocent, to approach people with fairness whether they are rich or poor, and to avoid offering or taking bribes that can undermine justice at its foundation. 

    Chapter 19 of the book of Leviticus directs people not to steal or be deceitful with each other. Business should be conducted based on honesty.  Decisions between people involved in disputes should be made wisely and fairly. We should not bear grudges or take vengeance, but we should love other people as we love ourselves, and extend that love to strangers.  

    Congregants who work in the court and legal system will be coming to speak to the students about how biblical values might relate to real-life cases they face on a regular basis. 

     So are we so arrogant to say that we never do wrong? Or do we realize that we might make mistakes from time to time?  Through study and through prayers that address how we can strive for perfection, we will reach our best potential to be responsible human beings who will make a positive difference in the world. 





Friday, September 28, 2018

“New Tablets” and “Turning, Turning Still” - Creative Alternatives for the Torah and Ecclesiastes Readings for the Shabbat during Sukkot - September 28, 2018

New Tablets - September 27, 2018

Eternal One,

We are ready to carve for You two new tablets of stone. 

We have, sadly, shattered the ones from the past

With our lack of empathy

With our denial of human pain

With our thirst for power

With our inability to take responsibility for our actions

With our sowing of hatred and anger

With our cruelty 

With our self-centeredness

With our forgetfulness

With our inability to forgive. 

We come to You now with new, blank tablets that await the

Guidance of Your hand to move our hearts. 

We present these tablets to You

From wherever we are now standing,  

for You are truly with us everywhere.

It is up to us to open our eyes 

To recognize and acknowledge Your enduring presence. 

Eternal God, write anew upon these tablets 

and upon our hearts















We will bear these tablets with us

As we continue on our way

Towards a new promised land

Where we will build

A world of true peace. 

Turning, Turning Still - September 27, 2018

To everything there is a season, and a time for every attitude under heaven. 

There is a time to be arrogant, and a time to be humble. 

A time to be combative, and a time to be cooperative. 

A time to be accusatory, and a time to be truthful. 

A time to be dismissive, and a time to be a thoughtful listener. 

A time to be intimidating, and a time to be considerate.  

A time to be infuriated, and a time to be calm. 

A time to be self-righteous, and a time to be just. 

A time to be hateful, and a time to be loving. 

A time to be disappointed, and a time to be encouraged.

A time to be fearful, and a time to be brave. 

A time to be divisive, and a time to seek unity 

In any way possible. 

Sunday, September 23, 2018

“The Chain” (A Story for Sukkot - and for preserving our legacies) - September 22, 2018

“Why do we always make a paper chain to decorate our Sukkah?” 
    Sarah was an inquisitive and precocious nine years old.  She was always drawing, painting, questioning, and singing.   The arts were her best mode of expression.   She liked soccer, too.  And baseball.   Somehow, though, as Sukkot was coming once again, she was thinking about how to make this year’s paper chain for the Sukkah even longer than last year.  
    She always joined in on the fun. In her small Temple, even when there were only 20 students in her Religious School, there was a friendly competition between one group of children and another.   Once they all had completed their work of carefully curling the paper segments and stapling or taping them together, admiring their miraculous work, they would join their separate chains together.   What had been a series of long chains became one mega-mega chain.   Before they attached it to the Sukkah, they extended it to its fullest length.   The rabbi and some of the parents would stand by, snapping pictures of the children brimming with pride at their work.   
    Sarah asked her parents why they thought this “paper-chain Sukkah decoration” was so popular.   They told her that they remembered doing this themselves “back in the day.”   It was fun, and no one had told them why they did the activity, other than that it was easy to prepare, it took time, and it occupied the students for a while.  And, of course, the result was always impressive. 
     So Sarah decided to ask the rabbi what the paper chain meant. 
     The day came for putting up the Sukkah and making decorations. She found the rabbi in his office before the program began, preparing for the service in the Sukkah later that afternoon.   
      “Rabbi, we always make paper chains to put on the Sukkah.  Why do we do it?   I know that it adds some color, and that it is a fun thing to do.  There has to be some other reason to make the chain.”  
       The rabbi had never been asked the question before.  He had, for many years, in several different congregations, watched the students in the Temple Religious School create construction paper-strip chains of 30 feet, 50 feet, 70 feet.  He realized that he hadn’t thought about a deeper purpose...that is, not until now.
      “Sarah, that is an excellent question.  No one has ever put that question to me.  I suppose it is because it is easy to set up and you all have so much fun doing it.   You are so excited when you are finished, and you hang the chain on the Sukkah with incredible enthusiasm!   You know, the chain doesn’t always make it through the whole week of Sukkot, due to wind and rain.   It always looks great, though, on the first day.”
    “So here is what I think.  Do you you remember, Sarah, when we took out the miniature Torah and unrolled it last year during our school assembly before Simchat Torah?”  
     “Yes, I do!” Sarah said. “You pointed out some of the special sections on the scroll, like the Shema, the special blessing of the priests, the Ten Commandments, the song the Israelites sang after crossing the sea, the dream of Jacob, and the story of creation.  That was great.  So what does that have to do with a paper chain?”
     “Sarah, sometimes I talk at services when a boy or girl becomes Bar or Bat Mitzvah about a chain of the Jewish people and our tradition,” the rabbi explained.”  Each link in the paper chain can represent a generation in your family history, or maybe special people that you recall. The chain can signify your own personal story going back for centuries.   It’s the same when we open up the Torah.  We usually just read a little bit of the Torah every week.  When we open up the Torah on Simchat Torah, and see it all at once, we realize that we are part of an amazing tale of teaching, learning and survival. It is like the paper chain, demonstrating every point in a ever-growing story.  The blessing we say on holidays and at special times thanks God for keeping us alive, for sustaining, and bringing us to special times.  Each time we say that blessing, it’s like a link in the chain.   Do you have anyone special that you think about from your family history, Sarah, someone whom you never met but about whom you have heard stories?” 
      “Rabbi, I heard that my great-grandmother Surah - I was named for her - came to this country all alone on a boat nearly 100 years ago.  She was only 15.  She did have an aunt and uncle waiting for her when she arrived, but I can’t imagine how she made that trip.  She must have been so brave.   The rest of her family - two sisters, a brother, and her parents - joined her, too.  It is because of her that we are here.    You know, we even have a photo of her with her son and daughter-in-law - my grandparents - and her oldest grandchild - my mother - at the synagogue Sukkah.”  
    “See, Sarah, that photo you just described to me is also one link in the chain of your family story and in our ever-unfolding Jewish history.   Our stories make each of us special.   So, are you ready to make a new chain this year?”
    “Yes, rabbi, am I ever!”  Sarah exclaimed.  
   She joined the other children and got to work on making the longest paper-chain Sukkah decoration ever created.    
     This time, she added something new.  She took one paper strip, found the nearest marker, and wrote the name “Surah.”   
     And she said to herself, “I am still here, great-grandma.  This one is for you.”