Friday, December 27, 2013

Promises: Then and Now - D'var Torah for Parashat Va-era - December 27, 2013

Promises: From Exodus Chapter 6 – expressed to Moses before he appeared before Pharaoh

I am the Eternal
·      I will free you from the labors of the Egyptians
·      And deliver you from bondage
·      I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and through extraordinary chastisements.
·      I will take you to be my people and I will be your God.
·      And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and I will give it to you as a possession, I, the Eternal One.

Promises: A Modern Reinterpretation for our own lives

I am the Eternal
·      I will free you from the burdens of your lives when you approach me sincerely in meditation and prayer
·      I will deliver you from the challenges you face when you act as my eyes, ears, hands and heart, doing mitzvot for those whose lives you touch.
·      I will redeem you by helping you to turn those mitzvot into habits that will characterize who you are at the core of your being, as you recognize your own needs for healing and hope right along with the needs of the people around you.
·      I will take you, bind you together, and fashion you into a caring, loving, and compassionate community that will make a difference in the world through empathy that leads to service.

·      I will bring you to a land of promise in which you will know the true meaning of the mitzvah, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Friday, December 6, 2013

Thoughts during Chanukah: Seeing meaning in the Light - From Nightly Facebook Posts during the 5774 celebration of Chanukah

Happy Chanukah/Thanksgiving 
Nights 1 and 2 - Chag Urim Samayach!

Chanukah - Night #3 - Now beyond Thanksgiving and focusing on LIGHT on this Friday that should be a Friday of LIGHT and not BLACK Friday!

4th Night of Chanukah - I visited congregants in the Hospital this afternoon - hoping that these flames will bring healing, strength, a renewed spirit, and hope - Happy Chanukah and Shavua Tov/A Good Week!

Night #5 - the warmth increases, the light moves towards its final destination, offering hope of progress even against seemingly insurmountable odds. Happy Chanukah!

Night # 5 - Pirsumei nisa - publicizing the miracle - is central to Chanukah. What I have always enjoyed - and preferred - is to publicize the celebration through the lights of the Chanukiot in our home. I took this photo from outside our apartment tonight, and you can also see the reflection of the candles from our Chanukiot in the windows on our patio doors on the right side of the photo. In my view, the greatest miracles that we make real are the ones that come from deep inside of us, from a place of humility and hope.

At our Psalms class at Temple Beth-El tonight, we studied Psalm 5, which includes this verse: "But I, through your abundant love (kindness), enter Your house; I bow down in awe at Your holy temple." This verse (part of the "Mah Tovu" prayer compilation in the morning service) speaks of entering sacred space. After we light the Chanukah candles each night, we recite the traditional "Hanerot Halalu" prayers, which declares, "These lights are holy!" Lighting these lights on Chanukiah can put us in a holy space, especially when we look into the flames for a moment and see miracles, courage, connection, trust, and hope. Light also signifies learning and wisdom. When we consider what the flames on the Menorah/Chanukiah mean to each of us, and share our ideas with others, we engage in the process of enhancing our wisdom and broadening the scope of our knowledge. These lights are special, because there is so much meaning that we can see in them and ascribe to them. May we continue to give them meaning by kindling the Menorah every night of Chanukah and every year.

7th Night of Chanukah 2013/5774 - one of my Chanukah gifts was Mitch Albom's new book, THE FIRST PHONE CALL FROM HEAVEN. I read the whole book within 3 hours of receiving it this past Sunday. I could write a book about this book, but the messages that remain with me from Albom's poignant tale are: 
Have faith
Be positive
Open Your heart
Let go
Forgive (others and yourself)
Move forward
Look for what is good in life
Seven lessons for seven nights...and there are many more. 
Happy Chanukah to everyone as we look forward to a menorah/chanukiah full of light tomorrow evening!

As I write this message on the 8th Night of Chanukah, the candles on our Chanukiot will soon flicker out after providing their 5774 gift of light. What lights do I want to linger in the coming months?
For the last time this year, Chag Urim Samayach - Happy Chanukah!

If one falls, one can raise the other - Remarks for the Raise the Wage Las Cruces Rally on December 5, 2013

    Today, we stand in solidarity with fast food workers, community members, and faith leaders in 200 American cities who are demonstrating against low pay.
    Today, fast food workers in a 100 American cities went on strike, demanding fair pay and a right to unionize.
     In a similar spirit, we launch our campaign, Raise the Wage Las Cruces.  as people of faith, we believe every worker deserves a living wage to provide for themselves and their families.
    From our faith-based perspective, we believe that workers should be treated fairly.  They should be paid in a way that compensates them for the services they provide.  They should be paid on time at all times.
    We believe in the highest degree of charity as stated by the 12 Century Jewish sage Maimonides:  helping a person become self-supporting by means of a gift, a loan, or finding employment for the one in need.  That means that the wages for a person must give him or her the opportunity to make ends meet: to be able to put food on the table and to provide shelter and what is necessary for the well-being of his or her entire family.  Being self-supporting means that a person can feel secure about his or her future.
    We read in the book of Ecclesiastes: Two are better than one, in that they have greater benefit from their earnings.  For should they fall, one can raise the other, but woe to the one who is alone and falls with no companion to raise him or her up. 

    Businesses and companies of all sizes need to see every employee as a partner, as someone significant, as a person who deserves to gain subsistence and satisfaction from his or her work.  That is what we ask today:  that no employee ever feel that he or she is alone.  That is why, today, we stand with those who do not make a fair wage and we declare today that they should have a chance to move out of poverty so they can be self-supporting and have a sense of hope for the months and years to come!