Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hope in Haste

For four hundred years (or a for a very long time), the Hebrews were slaves to the Pharaohs of Egypt.

Days, weeks, months, years of hopelessness and fatigue -- both emotional and physical -- pursued them. 

And then overnight, like in a dream, carrying the faith of their ancestors on their shoulders, the multitude ran from the bitterness of Egypt into the dawn of a free-flowing morning.

In haste . . .

Passover expresses the hopefulness that emerges often in haste. In a blink of an eye, sorrow turns to joy. Unexpected miracles arrive without precedence. A mother’s womb opens to a promise of conception. A new idea concretizes in our mind. A beautiful sight appears as we turn the bend.

In haste . . . 

We left our past in haste but we linger in joy as we instill the sweet seder memories for our future generations.

Please share your stories of "Hope in Haste" as we gather our belongings to enter into the next chapter of liberation.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Bronx Unitarian Memorial Service

If they had begun by saying that he was a Bronx boy who went to Stuyvesant High School, I would have had a moral obligation to co-officiate at his memorial service.

The Unitarian Minister who called me in the late evening ignored this significant status.

Instead the reverend pleaded on behalf of the Unitarian widow for me to suffuse the service with Jewish elements for her late husband whose core being was Jewish.

"We have been looking for a rabbi and you came highly recommended. The memorial service will take place on Friday. Won’t you please come? It would mean so much to the bereaved family."

And that is how I found myself at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Bethesda, Maryland, chanting the "El Maleh Rachamim," and leading the grieving community in the Kaddish. And did I mention the ribbon cutting ritual that the son and the grandchildren participated in before the service?

The eulogies were offered by  two of his 85-year-old male friends who grew up with the deceased in the Bronx. Did I say the Bronx? My old neighborhood in the Bronx. The Bronx Zoo. The Bronx Botanical Gardens. Crotona Park and the Cross Bronx Expressway.

My sweet childhood reflections returned rapidly at a memorial service by a man I never met, but a man I knew so much about. I knew where he played and where he went to school; I knew the sights and sounds of his native birthplace; I knew his struggles as a first generation immigrant; and I heard his Bronx accent whispering in my ear. "Wasn’t I a lucky man to have had the opportunities I had to become the scientist I was supposed to be in a country that gave me the freedom to excel and explore?"

I met Feivel’s soul last week and we traded stories about the gift of growing up in the Bronx without a map to guide us, just a path to invent.

In gratitude. In memoriam. Amen.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Cup of Morning Kindness

"If your friends don’t come, I will sit with you," said the 20-something male millennial, as he served me my first cup of coffee of the day.

It was 8:39 a.m. and I had been waiting for 15 elongated minutes for my friend and his student.

I had come unusually early.

My friend had come unusually late.

A mere nine minutes and his delay concerned me precisely because he is unusually prompt. 

Waiting is so mind-consuming.

Yet, we wait all the time for so many things, for so many people to show up, for so many wishes to be fulfilled, for so many opportunities to birth.

When my friends arrived, I was relieved, but so was the young twenty-something millennial. He had been waiting with me. His morning cup of kindness fulfilled me all day.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Details and Essence

Yesterday I misplaced my phone charger. Today I forgot to take my apartment keys. Tomorrow I will undoubtedly confront a new debacle.

How can it be otherwise? So many daily details invade our existence. If a scrabble word piece alludes us, we pronounce defeat or incompetence.cWe stand on guard for our lives.

How can our fortitude in the face of these mini-monsters be less than a miracle?

For all the things I do remember. For all the things I choose to forget. For all the things that turn out right. For all the times I accomplish a difficult task. For all these ordinary and extraordinary occasions, I stand in conscious and consistent gratitude.

Yesterday, I navigated the DC courthouse and found my way to a new destination. Today, I engaged in a smart conversation. Tomorrow, I will research an awakening opportunity.

The minutiae of my life continues to baffle and befriend me, but so does its essence.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Sound of the Chant

Megillah is the Hebrew word for scroll. On Purim, the Festival of Lots, we chant the story of Queen Esther and King Ahashverus. (Purim began last night.)

Megillat Esther tells the story of the salvation of the Jews of the Persian Empire.

When chanted, the scroll of Esther has a particular lilting sound that is repetitive with strong cadences.

Last week, the chanting began with my grandson's practicing his four lines over and over again.

Then he recruited his siblings to chant with him (in Hebrew) the same four lines in the car on their way to school.

By the time he actually chanted his portion at his school's Megillat Esther reading, it was spinning in my head and attached to my heart.

The Megillah took on a new childlike sing-song rhythm. The story is just a story. When chanted, it is a Disney classic.

Chag sameach! Have a happy, happy Purim.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Holy Listeners

To be truly heard by an ardent listener is a potent obsession.

It is more than empathy. It is more than affirming. It is more than your physical presence.

To be truly heard we must focus on the other with the same intensity that we focus on ourselves.

Holy moments equal holy listeners.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Reading is Spiritual

Reading is my new spiritual practice. It takes me far away from my everyday worries and concerns and elevates my thinking about a variety of ideas.

I am suddenly focused on something outside my narrow world while the story and the characters connect me to a larger sense of humanity.

I have a favorite reading place in the living room where the light is perfectly aligned and my body is enveloped easily into the coach.

The moment I sit down with my book and my teacup, I expect euphoria.

The luxury of reading is a luxury that freedom and fantasy provide.

The next book is already in my hands and it will gradually, but undoubtedly, open my heart to a new reality.