Thursday, December 13, 2018

Reveal our Lights - D’var Torah - Temple Beth-El Las Cruces Board meeting - December 13, 2018

Eternal God,

Our Creator

Who rolls darkness away from light,

Uncover and reveal the lights inside of us that You have nurtured throughout our lives

The light of kindness, which guides us to offer support and concern to our fellow human beings and to overcome heartlessness and cruelty; 

The light of truth, which leads us to discover, speak and share what is true and real and to gives us the strength to prevent deception from allowing justice and fairness to flourish;

The light of wisdom, which enables us to develop our most creative ideas and to share them in ways that engender cooperation;

The light of patience, which makes it possible for us to be accepting of others when we might not otherwise not be;

The light of leadership, which gives us the opportunity to find new abilities within ourselves and to inspire others;

The light of healing, through which we are able to let go of past hurts that can cause us pain and hold us back, and to overcome the challenges to our well-being that are a part of our present; 

The light of dedication, which binds us together in vision, friendship, and community as we walk our common path side-by-side. 

Be with us, Eternal One, and may Your light always make our lights shine.  

Friday, December 7, 2018

Faiths United in Humility, Patience, Service to Others - Column for Las Cruces Bulletin on December 7, 2018

     Several days before Thanksgiving, beginning in 2015, Temple Beth-El’s Social Action and Adult Education committees have sponsored a program of interfaith dialogue on a chosen theme.  Several local clergy and faith leaders offer their perspectives on the topics, and then they lead program participants in small group discussions reflecting on the presentations. 

     This year, at the program on November 18, the theme was “With Liberty and Justice for All - Leadership, Justice and Unity: What Can We Achieve Together?”  

       To begin, I shared two prayers for our country from Jewish prayerbooks. Both prayers spoke about liberty, justice, unity, and respect. 

      Father Ron Catherson (St. John’s Catholic Church of Antioch) defined liberty as “the power to act,” and explained that the freedoms we are granted in our country (religion, speech, peaceful assembly, etc.) carry with them responsibility and consequences.  We can use our freedom to treat others with respect and love. 

      Pastor Donna Cavedon (First Christian Church) declared that people of faith respond to the injustices they witness based on their sacred texts.   Religious teachings, rather than politics, form the foundation of a belief that justice is only justice when it is justice for all. 

      Sureyya Husain (Islamic Center of Las Cruces) said that “it is the foundation of faith to hold fast to humility that teaches us to honor the differences among us.  We are admonished to stand firm for liberty, and for justice, and to not let the hatred of any people prevent us from being just.”  

      The Rev. Carol Tuck (United Methodist), in her remarks on leadership, focused on biblical examples of leaders who served the people.   Public service is a privilege that citizens need to honor and support, because so many public servants do their work without appreciation.   Competent servant leadership is necessary for accomplishing justice and liberty for all. 

      Gordon Butler, from the Baha’i community, addressed the topic of unity.  Religion, he said, has the true purpose of bringing unity to humankind.  Even when some human communities have been at war with each other, there has always been a persistent pursuit of peace, stability, and dignity for our fellow human beings.  

       The Rev. Dr. Harvey Daiho Hilbert (Founding Abbot and Senior Teacher of the Order of Clear Mind Zen) explained that “the path of unity of spirit is a path of getting out of our own way.  When we can do that, all faith traditions can come together.  It is rather like setting ourselves aside for the sake of the higher good.” 

       Pastor Jared Carson (Peace Lutheran Church) spoke about collaboration, which he characterized as “hard, complex and messy,” but it begins when we are willing to put ourselves in the same place with people from other faith traditions. 

      Insightful comments emerged from the small group discussions following the presentations: 

  • People recognized how their respective faith traditions help them handle change in their lives.
  • Caring for others and being present with them can give us a clear perspective about their realities.
  • Collaboration and cooperation are not about being in agreement, but, rather, about the desire to be together. We, as human beings, don’t want to be alone. 

    This time of year features celebrations that are characterized by symbols of light.   May we be guided in our own lives and in our connections to the greater community by the lights of understanding and respect that can lead us all to freedom, justice and unity.  

Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Angel Who Sent Joseph on his Way - Parashat Vayeishev - D’var Torah - November 30, 2018

I didn’t want to go. 

But I was told I had to go. 

I knew about Joseph’s dreams

And his conflicts with his brothers

Because Joseph seemed to be expressing delusions of grandeur.

That view was only the understanding

Of the rest of his family.  

He was only telling them

Of the visions that had come to him as he slept. 

He was a dreamer then

But not yet an interpreter of dreams. 

That would come later.   

God told me,

“Go meet Joseph when he is searching for his brothers 

At the behest of his father.  Show him the way.”

I didn’t want to go. 

I told God, “Eternal One, you know what will happen if I tell Joseph

The location of his brothers. 

They are conspiring, even now,  

to exile him from the family one way or another. 

And we know, God, what will happen. 

They will sell him and he will end up in Egypt

Where he will meet his destiny.

His dreams will come true. 

His father and his brothers will bow down to him. 

He will be in control of the situation

Because he will learn to explain the dreams of others. 

But why, God, must he spend so much time in prison? 

Why must he suffer to make his dreams come to pass? 

God reassured me, “I will make the time pass quickly. 

People never know how one moment 

Can be so important, so pivotal, to their future. 

You have to be there to point him in the right direction.

His brothers will not appreciate his presence when he finds them. 

But they will remember after he is gone

After they have lied to their father about the death of his favored son

That Joseph had come to them 

In peace and in service to them and to the family. 

You, of all angels, know about brothers who will eventually

Find their common bonds

Find their connection

And find, on some level, the love between them. 

I sent you to be with Jacob before he met with Esau after so many years, 

And they reconciled, but only because you did so well

In wrestling with Jacob, helping him to find his true self, 

giving him his new name, Israel.

If you send Joseph to greet his brothers, 

Even knowing what they will do to him in the moments to follow,

You will set in motion the survival of Joseph and his whole family. 

So go, send him on his way.  

He will find himself, and his place in the world.

And he will be reunited with his brothers and save them.” 

I thought for a moment, and said, 

“Eternal God, my teacher, my guide, I will go 

Only if you promise to grant Joseph and every human being

An extra measure of compassion 

So that when they feel they are conflict with each other

To the point of no return,

They will be able to deeply sense each other’s feelings

To understand one another

And they will remember that they are brothers and sisters, 

Part of the same family.” 

God told me, “If you go send Joseph on his way,

I will grant your request.  People will be so inspired

By the story of the eventual reunion of Joseph and his brothers

That they will find a way to do the same with each other.  

Even when people feel they are far apart,

They will still find a way to come together.”

So I went, and I prayed for the reconciliation of humanity 

Throughout their generations 

So that they would know

Harmony and peace.  

So may there be among us.  

Thursday, November 22, 2018

I Am Grateful - For Thanksgiving 2018 - November 22, 2018

I am grateful for 

   People who give

   Leaders who serve

   Family and friends who listen 

I am grateful for

    People who provide support

    Leaders who inspire

    Family and friends who offer love

I am grateful for

     People who challenge

     Leaders who honestly communicate

     Family and friends who show compassion

 I am grateful for.    

     People who think

     Leaders who ponder  

     Family and friends who instill confidence

I am grateful for 

      People who heal 

       Leaders who protect

      Family and friends who are a refuge. 

I am grateful for 

      People who are unassuming 

      Leaders who are humble

      Family and friends who foster unity 

I am grateful for 

       People who act with decency

       Leaders who take responsibility  

       Family and friends who engender respect. 

I am grateful for

        This life. 

         This world. 

         This existence. 

For it is all I have 

And all we have.  

May we choose wisely

As we journey along our way. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

A Prayer for Prayer - November 21, 2018

I pray that I may be able to pray with a full heart 

But I am sometimes fearful that I will not be able

To open my lips, to pray the words on the page

Or even to fashion my own thoughts

into whispers

That will speak



Or Hope.

It may be that, at times,

I feel so separated

From my community

that my words

both Internal

and external

Will not be worthy

And will not be heard.

It may be

That, in some moments,

I cannot muster

The proper intention

To make my expression


And sincere.

But it may be that if I do,

In any case, allow myself

To speak, to chant, and to sing,

To offer silent thanks for just living

I will reconnect with my deepest self,

with others, and with G-d,

and I will be able overcome any barrier to sincerity

Because being honest with myself is all God wants of me

And whatever I pray will be worthy. 

So I will speak and chant and sing.  

I will openly offer thanks for every opportunity to pray 

that I may be able to pray with a full heart.

Friday, November 16, 2018

An Angel on the Ladder - D’var Torah - Parashat Va-yaytzay - November 16, 2018

I was an angel on the ladder in Jacob’s dream. 

Oh, you say that it wasn’t real?

That it was just in Jacob’s mind? 

Think again. 

God called all of us angels together 

as Jacob laid down to sleep,

Putting his head on a stone 

After leaving home, knowing he could not return soon. 

God said, “We have an opportunity 

To impress a notion upon Jacob

That will stay with him for the rest of his life. 

I can’t speak to him directly,

But whatever happens in this dream,

He will most definitely remember.

I need to reassure him that the promise made 

To Abraham and Isaac

Of many descendants 

And a land

Will rest upon him as well. 

What more should I say?” 

I said, “Be kind.”

Another angel suggested, “Be respectful.”

Yet another called out, “Be loving.”

A fourth said, “Show compassion.”

A fifth pleaded, “Listen to people’s stories.”

A sixth replied, “Be a unifier.”

God told us,

“Those are all great suggestions, 

But I don’t have a lot of time to speak to Jacob 

During a dream.  Who knows how long he will be asleep?”  

I thought for a moment,

And calmly said,

“Eternal One, now that I think about it, 

I believe that Jacob needs to learn through his own experiences

To be kind, respectful, loving, and compassionate. 

Maybe what he needs to do first is sense Your

Presence in everyone and everything. 

Once he feels that deep in his soul, 

Kindness, respect, compassion, deep listening, 

and working for unity will naturally follow.”

God thanked me profusely. 

“That is exactly what needs to happen.   

I won’t even have to tell him.

When he wakes up, the thought that

I was in that place where he slept for the night

Will overwhelm him.   

And he will name that place the House of God, Beth-El. 

And I hope he will realize that everywhere he goes,

And in eyes of everyone he meets,

I will be there.”

So Jacob dreamed of a ladder reaching to the heavens, 

With our team of angels going up and down on it. 

God promised Jacob a secure future. 

When Jacob was stirred from his sleep,

He said, “God was in this place, and I, I did not know it!”  

And when you - yes, you who are listening to my tale - 

dream at night, or even when you daydream, don’t be surprised

If we angels are there

To inspire you 


To guide you

To lead

To learn

To teach

And to be open

To finding God

In every person

And throughout creation. 

May the God who is in you and around you

Open your eyes and connect your hearts one to another.  


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Invocation - Temple Beth-El Las Cruces, NM Board meeting - November 15, 2018

God of Jacob, 

Whose eyes were suddenly opened to Your presence

After dreaming of a ladder to heaven that was full of angels, 

God of Moses; 

Who turned aside to notice a bush that burned

And was not consumed

His first step in guiding a people to freedom; 

God of David,

Who helped a leader struggle through his inner conflicts 

To compose sweet songs to You and to honor the wonders of our world; 

God of Isaiah and Micah, 

Who inspired two men of vision 

To imagine a time when implements of war

Would be turned back into tools for human nurturing

Of the natural world. 

Be with us,

Open our eyes

Turn us in the right direction so that we can find You in every human being

Make our spirits sing in praise and thanks to You

And in our mutual affirmation of the great gifts each of us 

Can bring to our community that can draw us together 

Lead us to channel possible sources of division 

Into blessings of collaboration, understanding and even unity. 

May Jacob’s words ever be on our lips: 

“God was in this place and I, I did not know.” 

Help us to realize when You have been standing by our side

And urging us to move forward, together, into your light and truth.