Sep 12, 2018

A Rosh Hashannah story of Shofar, Tradition, and Love 

A Rosh Hashannah story of Shofar, Tradition, and Love 

© Rabbi Menachem Creditor 

Among many high points of this Rosh HaShannah was one that will, for me, forever stand outside of time. For 21 years, I have called the blasts of the shofar according to my father's #tradition: soft, aware, quiet, standing in awe of the shofar's shattering and healing primal sound. That final call, the "tekiah gedolah," I quietly sing as a descending minor chord, just as my father did. Each and every time I have heard his voice pour through mine. It's overwhelming and glorious.

This year even moreso.

A sparkling human being blew piercing blasts each time the shofar was part of the service. I witnessed my beautiful children in the back of the sanctuary, holding each other, feeling the spirit of Rosh HaShannah in their shining eyes.

And then: for the final blasts of #RoshHaShannah, I brought my #children under my #tallit, the new, stunning tallit in which my #wife enfolded me during our #wedding just weeks ago.

And then: my eldest, my teacher, asked if I wanted them to call for the shofar's blasts with me. At first I said no. 'That isn't how it's done,' I thought to myself.

And then: I felt my children's love pervade me, God's blessing filling my eyes, gratitude for the profound gift of each of my children (what a blessing, for my wife and me, for that to have increased: now there are 5 souls to love!)... I asked my children to call for that final Tekiah Gedolah with me. They didn't miss a beat, calling it softly with their sweet voices, according to their grandfather's tradition.

Though I'm sure others in the congregation noticed, and hopefully approved, in that etetnal moment I only sensed the love I have for my children and the searing call of the ram's horn. I was suddenly Abraham, seeing the ram stuck in the bramble, hearing the painful echoes of the Jewish history, holding my children close, weeping on their heads, asking God to bless them with health and safety and love, asking God to bless me with many years to grow up with them, celebrating life and love and family.

What I'm saying is: Thank You, Holy One, for the magic of my children's hearts. Thank You for the primal power of #shofar. Thank You for every new day.


rabbi menachem creditor 

Sep 6, 2018

An Intention for the New Year (5779)

An Intention for the New Year (5779)
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Dear God, we made it.

We are here. Yes, we know where our souls belong, where our strength can be renewed, if we can use the gifts You've given us and open our hearts once again.

Precious Holy One, we are here. Yes, we are. But, O God, are we weary.

This world of ours - this world of Yours, really - seems ever-determined upon its own defeat. Needless anger and persistent belligerence fill our vulnerable air. The world around us can be so very, very loud. So we seek solace and quiet within this sanctuary in time. Quiet. A bit of peace, even.

God, during these days of heightened wonder when we express our ache for the  blessing of a New Year, touch our own wounded hearts and cast away the crumbs of egotism. In other words, Beloved God, we pause, reflect acknowledge, and return again to our best selves. 

Yes, Source of Life, this moment is one of return. We return to the world, to ancient promises of life and safety, of justice and mercy. Yes, God, we are here, weary, hearts in trembling hands. 

We wish to be with You, Holy One, to feel Your Grace once again, to taste the Hope that is Your very Breath, to cry freely, to feel deeply loved, to break free of the obstacles that have been placed in our ways, some by our own hands. We are so very powerful we can sometimes ourselves be the stumbling blocks we so desperately seek to overcome. Today we observe ourselves, acknowledge our power to clear the paths ahead, to find peace, inner and beyond. 

In this moment, we close our eyes to see the world as it could be, as it was meant to be, as You dreamt it to be. God, as we sway and feel, bless us to rediscover one way we can bring our broken open-eyed-world one step close to the beauty we sense when we close our eyes. 

God, bless us as we gratefully welcome this new year. May it be filled with immense light and love. 


rabbi menachem creditor 

Aug 8, 2018

NY Jewish Week: New Scholar At UJA-Fed.: ‘Reunifying Our People’

NY Jewish Week

New Scholar At UJA-Fed.: ‘Reunifying Our People’

Rabbi Menachem Creditor: “Hot-button issues are typically too big for only one right answer.”
Rabbi Menachem Creditor: “Hot-button issues are typically too big for only one right answer.”
Rabbi Menachem Creditor was recently appointed the Pearl and Ira Meyer Scholar-in-Residence at UJA-Federation of New York, where his role is amplifying Jewish learning, leadership and values within the charity’s community of supporters, staff and partners. In 2013, he was named by Newsweek as one of the 50 most influential rabbis in America. Before moving to Westchester County, he served as spiritual leader of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, Calif. Rabbi Creditor has been involved in the leadership of Rabbis Against Gun Violence, American Jewish World Service, AIPAC and the One American Movement, an organization dedicated to bringing together Americans of different faiths and opinions. Among his 16 books and six albums of original Jewish music are “And Yet We Love: Poems,” “Primal Prayers, and “Olam Chesed Yibaneh/A World of Love.” Later this month, he will celebrate his marriage to the noted singer Neshama Carlebach with their five children.
Q: What are the areas/themes about which you most look forward to teaching?
A:  I’ve always been moved by Jewish tradition’s ability to alternate between internal concerns and global commitments, an intersection that leads to applied curiosity. The Torah is invested in creating a just society for all, in using power ethically, in caring for each other. We must be too. A good way to determine just how we go about doing that is studying Torah together.
What are the major issues the community faces, where you might have some impact?
Jews, like every human sub-group, live in the real world, a world currently experiencing great upheaval. It is only logical to anticipate heightened levels of anxiety, as widespread instability rarely leaves the Jewish community unscathed. So, on one hand, I hope to support the community in deepening our Jewish resilience and confidence. But, with the other hand, we have the capacity to do something for others as well. We can be part of stabilizing the world around us by adding our voice to the mix. Judaism is a multi-vocal tradition, where disagreement is not the same as enmity. I hope to be part of the reunification of our people by teaching Torah that is both driven and inclusive. The world needs that dynamic more than ever.
The New York Jewish community is large, noisy, opinionated, diverse and often divisive. How do you see bringing about changes and healing divisiveness?
A dear friend, a black pastor from the Pentecostal tradition once challenged me not to be color-blind, but rather “color-bold.” This is the kind of thinking the world needs. It is disingenuous to pretend that unity in our community means uniformity. Political commitments — on Israel, American social welfare, even Jewish tradition itself — need not align in order for us to build a cohesive community. We will — and should — share when we disagree. In that spirit, I hope we can be mindfully brave and not blindly defensive. Hot-button issues are typically too big for only one right answer, and so Jewish leaders have the opportunity (and obligation, I believe) to publicly affirm the dignity and worth of those with whom they disagree.
What is your vision of the connection between diaspora Jews and Israeli Jews?
The American Jewish diaspora is a complicated and beautiful thing, firmly rooted within the dynamics of the American experiment while also facing east to pray. That implies that we feel invested in (at least) two national homes. My experience as a Zionist in Berkeley for more than a decade opened my eyes countless times to the dangers of distancing oneself from Israel, the pitfall of only relating to Israel with rebuke. It is also true that Israel has succeeded in becoming what David Ben-Gurion called a “normal state,” in need of constant perfecting. Just these past weeks horrific kite-bombs sent by Hamas terrorized communities in southern Israel. Just these past weeks a non-Orthodox Israeli rabbi was arrested for performing a Jewish marriage. We must refuse to hold our tongues when the welfare of our sisters and brothers are under attack, from without and from within. The Jewish people stands with Israel, always and unconditionally. The Jewish people stands for each other, always and unconditionally. The two things Israeli and diaspora Jews must do together is defend each other from outside harm while never permitting Jewish power to assault the place of fellow Jews.
In your early impressions, how do the Jewish communities of New York and northern California compare?
It’s been a powerful transition. Until 11 years ago, I spent my entire life on the East Coast, mostly in New York. While generalizations rarely help, I found in my experiences that tradition plays a larger role in Jewish decision-making in New York, and it therefore falls upon leadership to make the case for change. In the Bay Area, where many Jews have chosen to move (and therefore don’t have parents/grandparents in the immediate vicinity), change is the basic premise, and tradition itself can be seen as a radical decision. But, most importantly: I believe we have more in common than that which divides us, and a blend of Bay Area creativity and New York grounded-ness will be only for a blessing to the Jewish people.

Jul 16, 2018

For Tisha Be'av: Our Cherished Litany of Loss

For Tisha Be'av: Our Cherished Litany of Loss
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

You, Jerusalem,
(God, Your name burns my mouth.)
golden watch-towers,
heart-pulsing sacred stones,
center of the universe,
lion’s share of all the beauty that could be…

millions clamor for Your love…
…You, O Jerusalem

Eternal City, why do You sit alone?

I miss You so very much.
I miss You in Your absence,
long for You because You are not here,
because I am not there, with You.
That is about me,
not about you.
I mourn for myself when I mourn for You.

Just now,
I walked Your streets,
wept at your renewed splendor and excessive spenders,
cried over the ruins and the ruined people who adorn You.

Stones without end absorb us all,
joyful shouts and fallen souls,
estranged brothers and sisters,
inches away from each other’s hearts.

Hidden are the Divine ledgers of sin,
but lists upon lists of right and wrong are still kept
(those ancient stones have witnessed it all):

smothered sigh and fierce anger,
ignited faith and craven hunger,
brokenness artistry ecstasy and light

build burn burned dance
eat eaten …eaten

Jerusalem Jerusalem
You poor, aching city,
You spread Your worn hands for help,
but there are no comforters
who truly listen.

You sitting alone under all of us
is all of us sitting alone
under and on-top of each other.

Two Temples,
Nine days,
three weeks,
six million,
all numbers,
our cherished litany of loss.

You call to all Your lovers,
but we, one of your beloved lovers,
hear only our own name.

But today’s strange gift
longing for what is already restored…

Might we finally remember
to cease pretending we own
Your Infinite beauty,
that Your ruin is our own making?
Haven’t we mourned enough to learn
that we belong to You,
not the other way ‘round?

Turn us that we might return,
for we have forgotten
(You burn me)

Jul 4, 2018

On Independence: Freedom For

On Independence: Freedom For
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

"We men and women are all in the same boat, upon a stormy sea. We owe to each other a terrible and tragic loyalty." - G.K Chesterton

If I am to emancipate myself, we must emancipate each other. But, if I am to emancipate anyone, I must see each and every other anew, be(come) open to the possibility that someone besides me is in pain. And, if I am to be(come) open to the possibility of the pain of another, I must acknowledge my own.

Today, what is independence? We should desire no rockets' red glare, no gleaming empire. We should desire no borders that keep out (and cage) asylum seekers, nor leaders who despise the free press. Are the rights to threaten and discriminate worthy of the sacrifice of the men and women who defend us?

And what of the flag, colors of America's freedom. For whom does that banner yet wave? For three fifths of some of us? Not for those who kneel in challenge to enduring American inequality? The answer is far from clear, two hundred and forty-two years into this grand, imperfect human experiment.

Is this about money? The founders framed freedom in lofty terms of rights and privileges, of life and liberty, but activists threw tea into harbors over taxes. Perhaps, in today's America, finances still define freedom, as our highest court in the land recently declared that corporations are people, as our our elected president values wealth over kindness.

But. The revolution has not ended. The freedom we cherish must not remain freedom from, but must evolve into an ever-deepening freedom for. That evolution feels dreadfully far these days, when measured in tweets. So we dare not measure our independence that way.

To be the land of the free is to find common cause with those in need. We truly are all in the same boat upon a stormy sea. Only the resultant blessing of brave and tragic loyalty to each other will be what makes us worthy of our nation's power.

#4thofjuly #freedom #revolution