Friday, November 14, 2014

Calling Ahead

We find our life’s calling and it aligns us with our purpose for living and staying alive.

Then, unexpectedly but smoothly, another call sits side-by-side and asks us to move over.

Do we accept this new direction immediately? Do we resist indefinitely? Ask for more time? Embrace it as it follows us around? Do we begin again to follow our passion only to find that it has changed or that we have changed?

Callings are like horse whispers.  You need to distinguish one from the other in a gentle and patient manner. If you keep hearing the same sounds and the same admonitions, take time to discern the calling ahead. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Great-Grandmother's Rite of Passage

While my daughter Elisheva was laboring at Northside Hospital in Atlanta, Ga., with her first child, my 90 year-old mother was laboring at Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia, Penn., struggling with a life-threatening illness.

My mother, Bubbe Jeanette, was semi-conscious for a week.

Every hour, I reminded her of the immediate future.

“Elisheva is due soon. Do you think it will be a girl or a boy?”

Does one soul die before another one is born? Am I waiting for a new life or anticipating losing one? Would this emerging small soul support the failing body of her maternal great-grandmother?

I waited. I held onto to my mother’s hand for her dear life. Her slow rhythmic breathing chased my inhalations of hope.

As the sun was setting on Wednesday, she awoke suddenly and whispered, “Has Elisheva had her baby yet?”

“No, mom, not yet.”

“Then go. I will be okay. Go be with Elisheva.”

Ilana Ende Funk was born while I was driving back to my home in Washington, D.C., on July 3, 2002.

My mother lived another five years and witnessed the births of her four great-grandchildren.

Last weekend, Ilana became a Bat Mitzvah at the age of 12(+) and took her place as an adult in the Jewish tradition.

Twelve years ago, Ilana and her maternal great-grandmother shared a different rite of passage: the sacred passage from life to life. L’chayim!

Shabbat shalom,

Friday, October 17, 2014

Vowing to Unvow

"A sacred vow, after all is an effort to unify thought and action, taking the form of the statement, 'I will do what I believe.' And when such an effort fails, the soul finds itself in some degree of darkness." - Rabbi Benjamin Weiner

A vow is a sacred promise that binds our speech, thought and action.

When the vow is broken, the promise unkept, the actions not taken as proscribed -- downheartedness, distress and depression pervades our soul-being.

Living in integrity means doing what you say you will do so that your actions define and mirror your spoken words.

The making of a vow can be a foolish act of instinct or a deep commitment to a sacred purpose. Can we make that differentiation when propelled towards the promise?

My Aunt Faye made a vow in haste and in crisis. It became her sacred purpose.

Her baby son, Evan, was very ill. He hovered between life and death for days.

In an instant, she declared to God: “If you let my son live, I will obey the laws of the Sabbath and the laws of Kashrut.”

Baby Evan lived, and Aunt Faye kept her promise to God in exchange for a healthy son.

Her vow was an offering of gratitude to the Highest Vow-Keeper. She placed her belief side by side with her actions. She never veered from her actions. She binded herself to the spoken vow of her youth.

When the family story was revealed to me as a young girl, my respect for Aunt Faye was engraved on my heart. It was never a sacrifice from which she wanted to unvow. Rather, it became her way of life. The vow became a testament to her integrity not just to the God she called upon in desperation and grief, but it became a measurement of the way she valued her life and her relationships.

Have I ever made a vow that would last a lifetime?

Have you?

Friday, October 10, 2014

My Conscious Courtroom

The heavenly court has been calling me to stand on trial for my life as it is.

So I created my own court of appeals.

I pleaded my case.

I flaunted my flaws and unveiled the essence of my blockages.

My opened blind eye told the story of my resistance.

Fear floated around my aura of "good enough."

Fear of failure.

Fear of success.

Fear of changing my life as it is.

The judgment called me to task.

"Move through the gates of fear."

The sentence confirmed my conscious desire.

"The gates of love await you."

Friday, September 12, 2014

In Silent Company

In the company of my own silence, I choose only soothing sounds.

I keep these sounds free of falsehoods and gossip.

In the company of my own silence, I listen to my intrepid self.

I row towards the water of my natural river and reflect.

In the company of my own silence, clarity comes complete.

Friday, July 25, 2014

My Actions and My Belongings

My actions are my only true belongings. -Thich Nhat Hanh

What does it mean to have belongings?

Material belongings.

These are the belongings that we house inside our numerous residences -- that we keep in our purses and briefcases -- that we carry around in suitcases on vacations and on business trips.

With each passing day our belongings increase.

And then one day, as if on spiritual cue, our belongings become cumbersome details in a life that matters.

We begin the process of divestiture. We prepare for the day when we will no longer need anything we have been storing for all these many decades.

So what if our only true belongings were our actions?

How would we live differently?

What would we want to accumulate?

How would we feel about our acquisitions?

Where would we place our energies?

My actions belong to me and define my true wealth.

Friday, July 18, 2014

My Friend and Suitcase in Berlin

Ich hab noch einen Koffer in Berlin,
deswegen muss ich nächstens wieder hin;
die Seligkeiten vergangener Zeiten,
sind alle noch in meinem kleinen Koffer drin . . .

I still have a suitcase in Berlin,
so I must go there again soon;
happy memories of times gone by
are all still there in my little suitcase . . .

(Hear Marlene Dietrich sing it here.)

I went to Berlin to see a friend that I had met two summers before at an Ulpan class in Jerusalem.

He, a German Benedictine monk, and I, an American rabbi from Washington, D.C.

We studied and spoke Hebrew together.

When the time came to say goodbye, he sweetly asked, "Why don’t you come to Berlin?"

I laughed and smiled and thought to myself, "A German monk is asking me to come to Berlin? This invitation intrigues me."

Two years later at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof central train station, we found each other on the platform among the throng of people swishing past us.

Through his eyes, I saw Berlin.

I traveled through time and history with my guide and friend. Nazism, Communism, the fall of the Berlin Wall, democracy, the Brandenberg gate, apologies, memorials, rebirth, revival, restorations of buildings and churches and synagogues, remembrances and noveau everything.

I left my suitcase and my friend in Berlin.