- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On November 6, 2020
- 0 Comments
This week I share the words Rabbis Slipakoff, Gubitz, Jacobson and I offered on Wednesday night the night after the election when we gathered for a ritual moment to help us move forward toward healing and renewal. It had four themes with each of us reflecting on that idea. Though I have not included the poems and prayers here, we want to share what we offered. At the end, you will find Cantor Stillman’s beautiful rendition of “America the Beautiful.”
Rabbi Elaine Zecher
We gather because that is what we do
as a synagogue and individuals connected to a greater whole.
Hebrew has many words for community not just one and that means that gathering is important to Judaism even on zoom, especially on zoom.
I offer three Hebrew words for community:
Kehilah is joining together for sacred purpose. It is often accompanied by the the word kedoshah,
holy, distinct, separate.
Your being here tonight sets you and us apart to pray, reflect, and consider the role we play as part in the inclusive orbit of the Jewish people.
Kinus is another Hebrew word that implies intention. Our gathering tonight is purposeful. We planned this evening and the accompanying gatherings before we knew the outcome of the election. We did so because each one of us matters and each one of us needs each other for strength and a vision of a more perfect nation. So we gather.
The third is Adat Yisrael, which is the Hebrew name for our congregation, Temple Israel. It means to give witness and to attest. That leads us to hold each other up and be accountable.
We gather because we share fundamental values of compassion, kindness, justice, and love. Let us lift these values up not in judgement of others but to strengthen our own resolve that rampant polarization leads to despair and worse.
On this day (November 4th) in particular, twenty five years ago a polarized divided environment in Israel sewed the seeds of violence and murder pointed straight at Yitzhak Rabin. With a song of peace in his pocket and the phrase “you don’t make peace with your friends, you make peace with your enemies” as part of his legacy,
we gather tonight because we must celebrate, listen, argue, and uphold our diverse opinions and perspectives.
We are blessed by one another’s presence as we move forward towards healing, renewal, and connection as citizens of a beautiful America.
Naming our Tension, Anxiety, and even Excitement
Rabbi Dan Slipakoff
We yearn to sing in harmony again. These days our opportunities to do so have diminished, and too often we find ourselves amidst the sour notes of discord.
The Mishna asks: From when does one recite Shema in the morning?
The Acherim answer: When one can see a friend from a distance and recognize them.
Reciting the shema is the way the rabbis began every morning. It was an essential piece of their prayer ritual, an essential element of their existence as Jews and human beings.
To properly begin each day, to live life by our Jewish values – we need to be able to see one another.
For many of us, it does not feel like a bright morning, we feel cloaked in the darkness.
And in that darkness we cannot see one another clearly. Perhaps we see only vague outlines, where we fill in the forms with preconceived notions and stereotypes. Or feel others are doing the same to us.
We do not feel like we can clearly see our neighbors, or speak with them, or listen to them, or understand them.
Martin Buber taught that God is in the electricity between individuals who treat one another with dignity and compassion. For too many, our nation feels like it is in a power outage.
How can we regain that Divine spark? How do we begin to see one another again? Our families members, our neighbors, fellow citizens across the country?
It starts with listening and empathy.
It starts with learning what someone is going through and finding a deep spiritual connection to them.
So let’s start here, in our Beit K’nesset, in our house of gathering.
There is very real pain radiating through this world –
all of us carry different things for different reasons
And before we assume, before we label others, let us listen…
Where is your pain? What makes you afraid, angry, anxious?
Let us share and let us learn.
Seeking Wholeness and Healing for a Divided Nation and for Our Own Souls
Rabbi Jen Gubitz
We pray now, Mi Shebeirach, to the Source of blessing
Repair the rent garments of our souls;
Stitch the ripped fabrics of our society;
Bandage our hearts;
Cure our sicknesses, treat our ailments, lighten the burden of our treatments,
Give us strength, offer us relief, release us from suffering
Heal my dad, guard my mom, soothe my sister, love my brother,
support my loved one, revive my friend,
Nurture all who live in the in-between, notice all who are unseen,
Renew our courage, restore our breaches, rescue our wholeness
Root us all in the ever sturdy Tree of Life…
Mi Shebeirach Nishmoteinu , may the One who blesses all of our souls,
bring us healing, and bless us with love, understanding, wholeness and peace.
Discovering Historic Perspective to Offer Hope
Rabbi Suzie Jacobson
The Jewish community is no stranger to danger, injustice, unrest, disagreement, uncertainty and fear. If we tell our history through a certain perspective we could tell a story that moves swiftly from war to war, from martyr to martyr, from expulsion to pogrom to violence. But that is not the only way to frame our historical experience.
In Biblical Hebrew there is no word for tragedy. Unlike the Greeks we did not produce a Sophocles nor an Oedipus nor an Antigone. Instead, we told stories of how the patriarch Jacob united with his brother Esau. We narrate a forgiving God who brings the people back from exile. We inherit a rabbinic tradition that built a library that could live in Jewish minds and Jewish hearts as our people traveled from country to country, through empires and kings and rulers of every ideology.
Our story is not a story of victimhood, but one of triumphant survival. We carry our pain, but we refuse to be defined by it.
We the Jewish community are peddlers of hope – going door to door, year after year, inculcating our children and sharing with our neighbors a vision of peace and justice, survival and community.
Our Reform Jewish forbears articulated this hope for a modern era – We are not waiting on a messiah or a prophet from God to save us – We are the prophetic generation, we are the ones with the tools and the spiritual capacity to create a better world.
We are in a difficult moment – surrounded by illness and discord. But we do not resign ourselves to these cruelties and hardships. We are mortals, each but flesh and bone and blood, but we are also timeless – part of a chain of human relationship and rooted in a story that is wise. We are inheritors of a spiritual tradition that is powerful, meaningful and yes – so full of hope.
We live in the present moment, but we peddle our hope and raise our prophetic voices for the future.
We remind ourselves that we are not alone in this pursuit – not individually, not communally, and not as an American nation.
America the Beautiful
sung by Cantor Stillman