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

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 wa...