Nov 13, 2018

here before: a poem for a world on fire

here before: a poem for a world on fire
© rabbi menachem creditor

we deserve better
every one of us
scarred scared sacred

i can't breathe
over and over we cry
be it air or arms
doing the choking

fire in our lungs, eyes, nose
ash in the burning sky
we've been here before

and, beloveds, in this
we take strange solace

beautiful
scarred
scared
sacred
beloveds

we've been here before
and we're here today
crying ashen tears
fire in our eyes

ready to bring and be
that better world
full of the air
we all deserve

Nov 4, 2018

a prayer for getting up

a prayer for getting up
- rabbi menachem creditor

up from Shiva, not ready, it's too soon, my wounds are still raw and open, I can barely see through my tears, but there's no time for grief (MygriefOurgrief)...

up from Shiva, commanded to walk back into the world, compelled to breathe, to see (seenoticewitness), to stand up (votemarchorganize), legs so shaky...

up from Shiva, excruciatingly aware: the world has changed. ButAnd in two days, two todays, Tuesday...

... we walk with bloodied feet to say enough to the willing slaughter of our nation's soul and children.

Beloveds, Shiva is over.
Get up, I tell myself (and you).
Vote your grief.

(P.S. God, are You there? Quick update: This existence You Birthed is exceedingly hard, and meanness seems closer than kindness between human beings some days. I'm grateful for life, for the changing leaves, for my children's lives, for my People, for people. And many of us feel very alone, and not so sure about the good things lasting in safety. All's not well down here. But we're determined to help, some in Your Holy Name, some because You seem a bit absent from the eyes of many humans recently. Maybe it's time for a little more Directed Love to pour out from heaven? Thought You should know we're here, hoping for more.)

#BuildOnLove #prayer #GetUp #hope #amen

Oct 29, 2018

A Few Observations...

After (in the middle actually) of non-stop speaking engagements in the aftermath of the worst terrorist attack in Jewish American history, a few observations:

1) We do not stand alone. The incredible solidarity surrounding the American Jewish community defies what my ancestors could have imagined. This attack does not represent a nation that will stand by as Jews are hurt. This is also what it means to be a Jewish American: to stand with our non-Jewish fellow Americans when they are being hurt. We should not love others less than we are loved as we weep from our deep losses.

2) We do not stand alone. This attack is one of 12 Gun Violence attacks on an American house of worship in the past 3 years. The Gun Violence epidemic claims 33,000 lives every year. This attack hit the innermost heart of the Jewish community. In the most horrifying and ironic way, this attack proves that we are truly American. The epidemic of weaponized American hatred includes us along with Sikhs, Muslims, African Americans, Immigrants, LGBTQ Americans, and every other minority. Which means...

3) We dare not stand alone. This moment of American history and this ravaging Shabbat massacre tells us that all is not well in our republic. Hate is emboldened, and White Supremacists are somehow mainstream. This was antisemitism, yes. But it is also a diseased American moment, where healing will only begin if we deny terrorism its goal: to isolate us within our particular trauma. We are not alone, we should not make ourselves alone. Even in this incalculable pain.

Much, much more to say. For now, rest well, friends. Sleep. Dream of a better tomorrow. When we wake, let's get to building those beautiful dreams into reality.

#BuildOnLove

Oct 28, 2018

Prayer at Memorial Ceremony, NYC After the Mass Shooting in Pittsburgh

Prayer at Memorial Ceremony, NYC
After the Mass Shooting in Pittsburgh
October 28, 2018
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor, Scholar in Residence, UJA-Federation NY

Dear God,

Our nation has endured this Gun Violence epidemic for far too long.

These are our devastations: 11, 96, and 33,000.
11 Jews gunned down during Sabbath prayer
96 Americans killed by guns every day
33,000 Images of God erased every year in America
by cold guns wielded by hurtful hearts.

We have every reason to become numb,
to become used to this blasphemous trend.

How can we even register that Your children,
Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Atheist,
Transgender, Gay, Straight,
Black and White,
are being erased
one bullet at a time?

And so, Compassionate One, we beg of You:
awaken us from the cruelty of our enduring dispassion.

Thoughts and prayers,
orphaned from concrete change,
are worthless in Your eyes
- as they should be in ours.

11 souls ripped from this world yesterday
for the crime of being Jewish in America,
today’s America, a country whose ongoing trauma
is fueled by too little standing up
and the growing poverty of our national soul.

Dear God, "No home is without its dead," we read in Your Holy Torah,
when the firstborns of a sinful nation were lost.
Our children, our precious children...
…seem to matter less to our nation
than automatic weapons.

Today, our Jewish community mourns our own, grieving to our souls.
But we know we do not stand alone.

The images of bloodied prayerbooks are shattering
and familiar.
12 shootings in houses of faith over the last 3 years…
Mother Emanuel AME Church,
Tree of Life Synagogue,
but also Pulse,
and also Las Vegas,
and everyday gun deaths that no one reports….

Worshipers felled by worshipped bullets,
encroaching national numbness,
while white supremacy, armed to the teeth,
decimates God’s sacred homes.

Dear God,

We know
there is only one way to repent:
we must save our children
from our sins
before…
[God forbid…]

God, we know we must act,
and we know that, in order to act,
we must feel the urgency - Your Urgency.
We must channel Your pain
at the deaths of Your children
- in Your Holy Home -
and remind ourselves and
our leaders to look to the Tree of life

and
choose
life

We've been too quiet,
mistaking status updates
and reactionary prayers for repentance.

And so, God,
as we feel the beginnings of our own weariness
in a news cycle that too quickly replaces yesterday’s devastation with today’s
we remember the eternal wisdom of Your Prophet, Isaiah:

"...those who hope in God will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint
." (Isaiah 40:31)

We pray to You for renewal
as we spread our protective wings over one another again,
courageous and hopeful,
sad and committed,
running to justice,
refusing weariness,
and choosing life,
as an interwoven community of survivors.

Holy One,
May we sing louder than the weapons
and merit to see You in each other's eyes,
sanctifying Your Name
by standing together
by rising up again,
this time rebuilding Your World
by saving each other.

Amen.

Oct 25, 2018

Sermon of the Mount

Sermon of the Mount: A Midrash on the Akedah
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor
 
At first I was frightened, but then I calmed down. 

When the blood touched me, I trembled, shaken by the unwelcome contact.  Even when they first climbed my most tortuous path with their ritual instruments I knew something was wrong.  I had felt pounding like this before. Every footstep was too heavy, pressing down new pain into the memories just inches below my surface.  Since that very day I have witnessed many burdened lives, but they all remind me of the steps that Abraham and Isaac, along with their servants, took all those years ago.

Those footsteps and that blood call out to be heard.  But no one remembers that part.
 
All I am is accumulated memory, layer after layer of experience — from earth’s core to surface gravel.  Only through stories do people today even think to explore my depths.  But even if they do consider my hidden parts, they’ll never feel the roots of the shrub violently torn from my hold, first by the ram and then by the man’s hand. They’ll never feel the altar shatter from trauma, scattering shards and pebbles into the mix of my form.  They’ll never know of the silence after the boy died at his father’s hand.  No one will hear the boy gasp for his second first breath, or feel the father’s body convulse when his reborn son stared into his eyes.
 
People don’t know me. You don’t know me. You probably think you can buy, sell, claim, and name me. I have no need for a name. I have been here, and I will always be here. This boy’s was not the last blood spilled upon me, or for me. I have no need for that blood.  If you would only rest your head on me, listening to the quiet I’ve always held, there would be no more spilled blood.
 
----
#Midrash #akidah #bindingofisaac #enoughblood #chooselife #Torah #Bible #sacrifice #Abraham #Isaac #God #life #love

Oct 23, 2018

Caravan: God's Marching Children [a #poem]

Caravan: God's Marching Children
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

marching forward,
sometimes making space for fellow wanderers
(sometimes not)
we wander. we always have.

to be God's children is to be
called/fated to tread God's earth,
tribes, nations, families, lone souls,
we are grains of sand, celestial stars.

weaving 'cross an Infinite expanse,
round and round, back and forth,
by sea, through the air, on the ground,
we march, which is to say, wander.

but there can be danger, harm waiting,
if you dare cross
this inch of sand
this portion of starry sky

Why?

some have forgotten themselves,
pretend they're no longer
vulnerable wanderers,
because their towers haven't fallen (yet).

as if they own this world,
as if they have a right
to the sand and the stars,

as if they and those who seem the same
(same color same accent same fear same pain same name same same same)

have the right to call a star dark
have the right to call sand "mine"
have the right to hurt
any of God's precious children.

dear wanderering sisters,
precious vulnerable brothers,
in the face of these wrongful claims
by the pretenders of exclusive sameness,
it is time, it always will be,
to wander once more,
which is to say, march.

#MigrantCaravan #caravan #refugees #refugeecrisis #America #nationalism #poem #poetry #poetcommunity #March #protest #justice #justicejustice #BelovedCommunity
#belovedsociety #betterworld #BuildOnLove

Oct 16, 2018

A Rabbi Goes to Church

A Rabbi Goes to Church
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

In between teaching one class and another, I stopped into a beautiful NYC church. The language outside, "all guests who present themselves are to be welcomed" had struck since the first time I'd seen them, months ago. I stood, wondering if the building was open to the public when a man wearing traditional Sikh clothing emerged and held the door open for me. I entered. The person at the desk welcomed me in, shared a brochure with me of the history of the church, and waved me in. I share this in admiration of the mission of this church, which hosts a homeless shelter every night of the year.

I type these words, sitting at the back of the glorious chapel, as a few people come in and out, as another person nearby is snoring, undisturbed, in the sacred air. And, as I sit here, no one has worried who I am, nor asked me for anything.

I am not unaware of the differences between Jewish and Christian histories, and understand the very real need in our modern world for security. But I am struck nonetheless by the following question: What would the Jewish world look like today if synagogues shared the mission "all guests who present themselves are to be welcomed?"

Oct 12, 2018

The Profound Gift of Ritual

The Profound Gift of Ritual
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

This moment is a difficult one in our world. It's true. It might also be that it is 'simply' the most recent such moment, with countless hardships in the past and a flow of challenges ahead. Hence, the profound joy of ritual, of being held by something larger than myself, the comfort of predictable stability in a shaky world, of something lasting and beautiful.

I am holding my child's tefilin in my hand. I remember when his older sister first received hers. I remember when my father gave me my tefilin. These are holy moments, where we lovingly tie ourselves to each other and to the world beyond us. My children will find their own ways, I know. I trust their hearts to find meaning in the world. This magic moment, worthy of pause, marked by blessing, is bigger than us all. It binds us to our People, to the Source of Life, to the world.

As we say while putting tefilin on, may we be bound together in Trust, Love, Righteousness, Justice, and intimate relationship with the Holy Blessed One.

Amen. Amen. Amen.

#tefilin #ritual #blessing #tradition #holiness #sacred #pause #jewish #parenting #father #son #barmitzvah #joy #gratitude #buildingonlove

Oct 8, 2018

Beyond this American Moment

Beyond this American Moment
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

As excruciating as this moment in American history may be, it is also a moment of American history and the erosion (perceived, real, and threatened) of institutions of our democracy should be deeply worrisome.

Nationalism (carefully understood as the notion that one's country is worthy of existence) requires faith in a system that surpasses the exigencies of the day, and faith is itself larger than one's own life. Therefore, we dare not abandon faith in the legitimacy of the institutions of our nation.

America has done (and continues to do) wrong things. Very wrong things. We have also accomplished great things. Truly magnificent ones. We are Senator McCarthy and we are Dr. King. We are RBG and we are DJT. In truth, America has only been as great in any given moment as Americans have acted in that given moment, and ours is one such trial. We have always been, in a word, as complicated as our citizenship, just as noble, just as unconscionably rude, just as irrepressibly hopeful. The Framers foretold such a reality because they themselves were hardly united in politics or in temperaments.

I will not wield my passionate American patriotism as a chisel against the institutions that comprise American Democracy, though I do believe unsuited human beings currently lead those institutions. A deeper view of our nation's still-short history deserves reinvestment in civic duty, not a rebellion against it.

If America hopes to transcend the harsh, partisan spirit of this national moment, we Americans must call upon their our angels in a moment when lesser ones beckon.

#America #patriotic #democracy #SCOTUS #potus #congress #faith #nation #justice #history #civic #duty

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.

#BuildOnLove


__
rabbi menachem creditor 
menachemcreditor.net 


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. 

Amen. 

__
rabbi menachem creditor 
menachemcreditor.net 


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,
sixty-seven
two-thousand,
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
Jerusalem
(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

Jun 26, 2018

For America, on an Awful Day for Democracy

For America, on an Awful Day for Democracy
©Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Yes, power can be exercised legally, and still be dead wrong, immoral even. We've always known that. Hence: checks, balances, separation of powers. The Framers knew the excesses of overly centralized power. Their judicial descendants just upheld the letter of the law while damaging its spirit.

Remember: Slavery was legal. Protecting runaway slaves was illegal. (Hitler was elected. Protecting Jews was illegal.) Laws answer to more than one historical moment, and we dare not descend placidly into the chaos of broken glass and human degradation. That's how the world ends.

Civility? When the Supreme Court's nomination process is (was) successful held political hostage, the lines separating powers are crossed, threatened, perhaps erased. How to remain civil when fundamental shifts in democracy are taking root and violations of human rights (reproductive justice, immigrant detentions, to name two) are encoded in law, what place does civility claim?

We do not resign ourselves, nor will we be polite. Dissent is something we demonstrate with our bodies. Our democracy is at stake. Nothing less. What can you do? You tell me. Show us your bravery. Get louder. Give. Love. Act. Vote. Do more.

Friends, this moment is not our last, not our last. But, Oh, the healing ahead... Please, let us commit to health and hope beyond this very bad day for America. Onward. The work begins again, for tomorrow's sake.

Jun 21, 2018

Newly Huddled Tender Masses: A Prayer for Children

Newly Huddled Tender Masses: A Prayer for Children
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Dear God, Protector of Children,
Guardian of All:

We haven't the words.
We are worse than witnesses.
We are complicit in the abuse of children.
We sin this very moment.

The horror of children torn from parents sends shockwaves through our very souls, so we turn away, remembering when children were taken to "baths," never to see their parents again. Never. Again.

So, Holy One, what could we possibly show You to be worthy of the comfort we seek? Nothing. There is little we can show You today. We show up with tears and signs, protest songs and prayers. While our children sleep in cages. Our children. Our cages.

God, the pain and sadness You must be feeling, as Your image is locked up and abused, as Your children are torn from their children, as cruelty inhabits the seat of American power. What rage You must feel at our wanton sinning. Our country is actively sinning, quickly distracted by callous clothing and damned by a short attention span.

It would be easy, God, to blame one person in one office for this evil. But we know better. We've witnessed entire societies stand idly by the misuse of legal systems to oppress others. We've seen refugees damned to death by quotas and rules.

It would be easy, God, to give up. Scattershot hatred is in the air. Where to turn. How to help. And, O God, we know there is little chance these poor children, newly huddled tender masses, will be reunited with their parents, little chance these terrorized parents will hold their children again.

God, what would You have us do now?

Perhaps there is hope. Perhaps. If we would but cry Your Tears, burn with Your Rage, act with Your Tender Mercy, and vote with an eye toward Eternity.

Please God, protect us from numbness.
Keep our children's pain present in our hearts.
Encode our next deeds with Your Love.

There will come a better day. If.

Amen.

Jun 8, 2018

The Doctor's Torah: A Poem


The Doctor's Torah: A Poem
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor
thank you, Steven Moffat. thank you, Peter Capaldi.

Without hope.
Without witness.
Without reward.

I'm not trying to win.
I'm not doing this because I want to beat someone,
or because I hate someone,
or because I want to blame someone,
not because it's fun.
God knows it's not because it's easy.
It's not even because it works because it hardly ever does.
I do what I do because it's right.
It's decent.
And above all, it's kind.

Just that.
Just.
Kind.

Everything ends.
And it's always sad.
But everything begins again, too.
And that's always happy.

Every story ever told really happened.

Amen.

#drwho #justkind #thankyoudoctor

Jun 2, 2018

Something Must Be Done

Something Must Be Done
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

As she stands before me, speechless, I realize why it's all in place, this tradition. 

You see, in moments of no need (if there truly are such things), the intricate system of rule and custom Judaism calls halacha and minhag can feel like just that: a system. But, in moments of need (if only they were that seldom) these very same rules and customs seem hardly systemic - they serve as personally stabilizing anchors in a wildly careening world. 

In short, rituals are there to hold us safe when we feel wobbly and unsure (and provide language when ecstasy renders us at a loss for words). Sure, we have a hand in our living tradition's adaptive design. But the greatest gift of spiritual tradition - ours, theirs, and ones yet to be - is that it is always larger than the self. It isn't about me, so when something must be done, it doesn't depend on my creative capacity during my time of incapacity. When something must be done, tradition provides a real and grounded way to do it.

Oh, yes. One other thing: This isn't really about a "she." It's actually about me. I know what it is to stand before a Beit Din with shaking hands, uncertain and dependent. I know what it is to dissolve and feel the stirring of new life in the tear-touched waters of the mikvah. I know what it is to be skillfully led in prayer. I've been graced by both halacha and minhag throughout my life. I'm still learning their depths and richness. Thank God.

Tradition can be so very beautiful, and I'm so very grateful. 

"Ashreinu: Mah tov Chelkeinu, Umah ma'im goraleinu, uMah yafah Yerishateinu."
"Our joy: How good is our portion, how pleasant our fate, how beautiful our inheritance."
(morning liturgy)

.......
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Apr 26, 2018

The Moment that is Calling

The Moment that is Calling
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

A moment is calling. It isn't neat, and it isn't agreed upon. It also isn't a reason for war. It is a moment of deep realness, where we set down our phones and gather the courage to look each other in the eyes. A moment is calling.

The innovation of a person finding their inner truth as a guiding light is no innovation at all. There has always been a dynamic tension, in America and in faiths of all kinds, between collective meaning and the place of the individual. Between scheduled rites and spontaneous spirit. There has always been personal striving, the seeking of "my destiny." There has always been the communal will to survive. We need more today than the delusion that these impulses are unique or new, more than the lie that we have evolved and are better than our ancestors. There is ample evidence that we are the same, that every technological advance is as prone to weaponization as it is to healing, and that every progressive social step is infinitely fragile. There is a moment calling.

Friends, it all comes down to, and could be as soaring as, looking each other in the eyes and knowing that our common destiny is as earthy and angelic as humanity has ever been. This commitment, this way of seeing, is not new, either. It is the language of holy living, of a Beloved community, of a shining city, of Heaven on Earth. No person and no nation and no People deserves it more.

This is moment that is calling: You are loved, and so are they.

Apr 20, 2018

19 years after Columbine, i believe - a #poem


19 years after Columbine, i believe
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

i believe in this world
even when it writhes
especially when it groans

it is in those very moments
moments of deep pain
that the heart of this world is revealed

moaning means our pain has a voice
hearing moaning means our ears work
noticing moaning means our hearts work
noticing others moaning means our souls are alive.

today, 19 years after Columbine
today, hundreds of thousands of our children are moaning
their tears, their eyes, their souls, their voices

where are your ears? listen.
where is your heart? feel.
where is your soul? act.

Apr 4, 2018

Why I Marched for Gun Safety on Shabbat -- By YAEL (“ELLIE”) SCHWARTZ

Why I Marched for Gun Safety on Shabbat
By YAEL (“ELLIE”) SCHWARTZ

I was fortunate to spend Shabbat on March 23-24 with Jewish teens from across the country as we marched on the U.S. Capitol to challenge the lack of sufficient gun control. More than a half million came to protest the fact students today must participate in active shooter drills, that someone who is still a teenager can buy a gun, that someone who just wants to attend a concert or a movie can be gunned down in an instant.

Since the March for Our Lives took place on Shabbat, I wasn’t sure if I could participate. Then USY announced the Shabbat for Our Lives Shabbaton would be hosted at Adas Israel Congregation in D.C. The Shabbaton was open to any Jewish teen, and kids came from as close as Rockville and as far as Sacramento, Calif. I met Jewish kids from Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and even Parkland, Fla. -- some 200 in all, united by a common cause.

Before Shabbat, we split into groups for ice-breaker activities, then rejoined for a beautiful Kabbalat Shabbat with the congregation.

After Shabbat dinner, we formed groups for discussion. We studied relevant Jewish texts from the Torah and Talmud. Some from the Talmud addressed not selling weapons to those who would be a danger to others. We considered what it means to “not stand [idly] by the blood[shed] of your neighbor,” as commanded in Leviticus.

Saturday morning we awoke at 6:15 to prepare to travel downtown—some on foot and some by train. We gathered at Farragut Square, where I met up with my parents. Then we walked down Pennsylvania Avenue with hundreds of thousands of others, many of them teens. Walking through a sea of people, I was struck by the fact that everyone was here for the same reason -- protecting lives from senseless gun violence.

I could only get as close as about four blocks from the stage, but large video screens and loudspeakers many blocks from the Capitol enabled everyone to see and hear what was going on.

All speeches were delivered by young people under 18. Naomi Wadler, 11, gave an eloquent, powerful speech, she said, “to acknowledge and represent the African-American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper.” She spoke for nearly four minutes with so much confidence one would think she had been doing it her whole life.

Yolanda King, granddaughter of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, only 9, led the entire crowd in an enthusiastic chant: “Spread the word! Have you heard? We are going to be a great generation!”
We heard from teens personally affected by gun violence across the nation, including Edna Chavez, who lost her brother to gun violence, and several survivors of the shooting in Parkland.

One of the survivors, Samantha Fuentes, who was shot in the legs and has shrapnel permanently buried in her face, came up to read an original poem titled “Enough.” In the middle of reading, she had to pause to vomit. For 40 seconds, the entire crowd in front of the Capitol cheered for her as she regained her composure and exclaimed proudly, “I just threw up on international television, and it feels great!” She finished her poem with confidence, enthusiasm, and passion.
Emma Gonzales, one of the most outspoken leaders of the #neveragain movement, came onstage near the rally’s end. After almost two minutes of speaking, she fell silent and stayed silent for another four and a half minutes before stating that she had been onstage for about as long as it took the gunman to take the lives of 17 people and leave the school. “Fight for your lives before it’s someone else’s job,” she said before walking offstage.

Following the rally, USYers reconvened at Farragut Square to return to the shul, where we heard a presentation by someone from the Brady Campaign, a non-profit organization against gun violence. Then we reflected on the memorable day’s experience.

Motivated, empowered and inspired. That was my answer to the question, “How do you feel after the march today?”

After Havdalah, my dad drove me home. I was exhausted and sunburned, but I was finally able to look forward to a future where students don’t have to practice active shooter drills, where civilians don’t have to fear for their lives on a daily basis. That future doesn’t seem so far away anymore.

(Ellie Schwartz, daughter of Elissa and Jason Schwartz, is a sophomore at Rockville High School.)

Mar 30, 2018

"Lean to the Left" or "Unshackled"

"Lean to the Left" or "Unshackled"
(C) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Ask all your questions,
but beware of calming answers.

Tomato and parsley,
orange and horseradish,
chocolate and shankbone.
Never just one,
never has been.

Lean to the left,
on an armless chair.
Feel the void
beneath your freedom.

If you resolve to open your door
and be the Messiah this year,
next year there will be less need.

Feb 28, 2018

A Purim Blessing


A Purim Blessing
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Tonight is #Purim.

Tonight we read the Megillah (Scroll) of Esther, whose central phrase is "Nafoch Hu" - "Revolution." What might that mean for us today?

On Purim, in addition to the mitzvah (commandment) to #Hear the Megillah, It is obligatory to enjoy a meal (#Seudah), send a gift of at least two portions to another person (#MishloachManot), and to provide monetary support for the poor (#MatanotLaEvyonim).

In our interconnected world, where inequality on our streets and law are growing, where any group's vulnerability on a given day seems to matter to leaders no more than a toss of the dice (literally the 'lots' of 'Purim'), all these mitzvot feel somehow connected.

How can I enjoy a meal if my privilege robs another of their dignity? On this day, a traditional fast leading up to Purim, a fast commemorating the bravery of the Biblical Heroine Esther... On this day, let us all reflect on the excesses of our portion and commit to interweaving our fates with that of all peoples. Let us commit to a revolution that turns every curse into blessing. Let us learn from Esther that, when the fate of the world hangs in the balance, we dare not wait for an invitation.

Let us be brave enough to see that we have more than we need and good enough to share.

Feb 20, 2018

witness poem

witness 
© rabbi menachem creditor 
in support of #MarchForOurLives 

gazing with tearful eyes
i witness
pure potential, boundless love
colors yet unchosen, taking form... 

feeling with a privileged heart
i sit surrounded
by tweeted headlines 
so much needless loss
not far away. here. now. 

the unbearable silence 
drives me outside
where a picnic bench silently invites

a little girl dances over to let me know she's having cucumber and a sandwich for lunch. 

life. please God, life. 
let the music play... 

Feb 15, 2018

amen? a prayer for more than thoughts and prayers

amen? a prayer for more than thoughts and prayers
© rabbi menachem creditor
chair, rabbis against gun violence

Compassionate One,
we beg of You:
awaken us from the cruelty of dispassion.

17 souls ripped from this world yesterday
for the crime of being born in America,
today’s America, a country whose ongoing trauma
is fueled by greed for profit and the poverty of our national soul.

Our children, our precious children...

"No home was without its dead,"
we read in the Torah,
when the firstborns of a sinful nation were lost.
Our children, our precious children...
They matter less to our leaders
than automatic weapons and bump-stocks.

We have sinned;
the hot blood of our dead children
is on our hands.

oh, our children,
felled, bloodied by worshipped bullets,
national (bought) numbness,
developmental anger, teenage alienation,
armed by a free, uncaring market,
cowardly politicians,
cultural weapon-fetish.

There is only one way to repent:
we must save our children
from our sins
before…
[Oh God…]
before…
[GodForbidAMillionTimes]

Dear God…
Please…


[amen?]

Feb 14, 2018

GodForbidAMillionTimes #poem

GodForbidAMillionTimes
©Rabbi Menachem Creditor 
upon the 14th school shooting in 2018

oh, our vulnerable children, 
17 felled, bloodied by cherished bullets
and national (bought) numbness. 

developmental anger, teenage alienation
armed by a free, uncaring market, 
cowardly politicians, 
and a cultural weapon-fetish. 

how long before it is your child?
GodForbidAMillionTimes

#schoolshooting #EndGunViolence

Jan 8, 2018

Diving for Hidden Treasure: Exodus, Liberation, and Light


Diving for Hidden Treasure: Exodus, Liberation, and Light
Menachem Creditor, HuffPost Contributor
01/08/2018

A powerful story, a favorite of my father’s, tells of a grandfather and a grandson. The grandfather, a traditional Jew, is on his deathbed and makes a final request of his grandson. The grandson is prepared to create a Yeshiva, give charity - anything his grandfather asks. So when the grandfather asks him to become a scuba diver, the grandson is shocked. He stammers his confusion to his grandfather, who explains,
“When I was on the boat coming over from the Old Country, I remember one picture very clearly: When we all saw the Statue of Liberty come into view, many of those on the decks of the boat threw their tefillin (prayer phylacteries) overboard. I want you to become a scuba diver so that you can rescue those pairs of tefillin.“
As it turns out, this story has made the rounds of oral traditions from early Jewish American immigrants to Shoah survivors. It is immortalized within the poetry of early 20th century American Yiddish Poet Jacob Glatstein, and later in the modern novel In the Image, by Dara Horn. They story’s historicity is simply overwhelmed by its meanings. What could those who threw their tefillin overboard have been thinking? They had suffered and survived the constriction of their religious freedoms, only to abandon the symbols of their tradition into the waters of America! [to continue reading, click here!]

Jan 5, 2018

Impatient Love (Beloved Community Writing Project, #1)


Impatient Love

Beloved Community Writing Project, #1
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Intro: For each day leading up to Martin Luther King Junior Day, I’ll choose one text by the American Prophet Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and offer a rabbinic comment. These sacred texts are more than historic statements of a champion of Human Rights: they are a roadmap to a better society, what King called a ‘Beloved Community.’

May we be strengthened by his enduring spirit to bring our communities one step closer to his vision.
________________

“There comes a time when people get tired of being trampled by oppression. There comes a time when people get tired of being plunged into the abyss of exploitation and nagging injustice. The story of Montgomery is the story of fifty thousand such Negroes who were willing to substitute tired feet for tired souls, and walk the streets of Montgomery until the walls of segregation were finally battered by the forces of justice.” (from “Justice and Freedom” in The words of Martin Luther King Jr, ed. Coretta Scott King)
“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and God swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided. The children of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.” (Ex. 14:21-22)

Splitting of the Sea of Reeds, the climax of the biblical Exodus, is typically depicted in cinema as an explosion of waters after a dramatic gesture by Moses. Truer to the text, truer to human experience, liberation is a grinding process of marching tired feet.

A classic Jewish teaching, chanted during moments in which justice and redemption feel dreadfully far in the future, affirms faith in the coming of the Messiah. “Though he may tarry, I will wait.” In contrast to this, modern religious movements, discontent abrogating joy to the World to Come and committed to changing the World That Is, require language like that of Dr. King’s.

Examples of nagging injustice abound. Will you wait for that better day to arrive? Or instead, might you find the moral courage to fan the strong eastern winds of freedom with your own tired hands, crumbling every alienating wall with a determined impatient love?

#BelovedCommunity #WritingProject #MLK #2018 #1

here before: a poem for a world on fire

here before: a poem for a world on fire © rabbi menachem creditor we deserve better every one of us scarred scared sacred i can't b...