Dec 30, 2020

#RecitingTheLetterFromBirmingham - You're invited!

Friends,


You're invited to join a special effort. Here's the basic info: at 1pm Eastern on MLK Day, individuals, families, and communities will all go "live" on whatever social media platform they choose and recite the letter, either in part or the whole thing. this isn't a class about The Letter - it's ritualizing Dr King's words as we do the Scroll of Esther or Lamentations. Most important for eventually linking all the different recitations is the use of the hashtag #RecitingTheLetterFromBirmingham.

You're invited to join the group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/871268763702932

Here is the "about" for the group, framing the ritual. I'm also pasting at the bottom of this post the 28 graphics of the entire Letter created for optional sharing on social media as part of your individual recitation.

Blessings, and as Dr. King challenged us, may we be infused by the "light of human conscience" in our work in and for the world.

Love,
Menachem

********************
On April 16, 1963, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his famous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," which was addressed to Birmingham's local white clergy, including at least one rabbi, who had been critical of King's organizing tactics. The Letter, now an important part of American Scripture, passionately expressed King's visions of a just society and contained the now-ubiquitous verse, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

The Jewish community marks time through ritual. On the Ninth of Av (and Purim, Yom Kippur, Shavuot and Pesach), we recite from biblical scrolls that capture the emotions and historical consciousness of a specific moment. In 2003, an attempt to do the same for the Holocaust resulted in the new Shoah Scroll. So too has there been effort to include Israel's Declaration of Independence as a sixth scroll in the Jewish canon. In an American context, approaches like that of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan (Reconstructionist), Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise (Reform) to Jewishly sanctify American moments are joined by the more recent efforts by Rabbi Irwin Kula and Dr. Vanessa Ochs to sanctify everyday moments.

Given a renewal of Jewish attention to the ongoing work of Civil Rights, many Jewish leaders will "go live" on social media this Martin Luther King Jr Day at 1pm (Eastern) to recite portions of The Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Families can read together, schools and organizations can create multi-person Zoom meetings to be streamed live, and individuals can read portions on their own. And, while this will be a grassroots effort without requiring a centralized producer, please use the hashtag #RecitingTheLetterFromBirmingham for future searches. In addition, a Facebook group "Reciting the Letter from a Birmingham Jail" has already been created as a repository for locating and resharing all the created videos.

******************************

Broadcast #200! #Shehechiyanu

As I shared in today's 200th (!!!) broadcast, the Talmud teaches that "Just as fire does not ignite in a lone stick of wood by itself, so too, matters of Torah are not fulfillable by a person who studies by herself. (Taanit 7a)" We are Torah together, and the world we seek to build from love is only going to happen when we show up together. And for 200 weekday mornings in a row at 9am, people from around the world have shown up to create a Morning Torah community on the UJA-Federation of New York Facebook page. Thanks to the miracles of technology, people have joined in from Saudia Arabia, Holland, England, Canada, Israel, from California and Illinois, Florida - even New York. I've been overwhelmed many moments, brought to tears, witnessing and sharing my heart with so many loving souls. 


I especially want to thank my UJA colleagues and family for supporting this idea from its early beginnings a million years ago in March, when the idea of a live broadcast was a new experiment. Mark & Eric, thank you for your trust and love.

Thank you to my holy wife Neshama, for being the home for my heart as I broadcast daily from my heart in our home. Thank you to my precious Abbah, Rabbi Gary Creditor, and my precious Emah, Ruby Eisenberg-Creditor, for showing up on my screen so many mornings. Thank you to the thousands of friends, new and old, who join us to create a more hopeful day, every day. 

And thank You, Holy One, for the gift of today. We know You are calling us to do better right now, better than we've been doing for each other so far. We're in. This world must be (re)built by Love. Our love. We're ready.

Dec 26, 2020

With Eyes and Souls Wide Open: A Rabbinic Comment on "Soul"

With Eyes and Souls Wide Open: A Rabbinic Comment on "Soul"
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

It is possible, especially during these strange times, to feel dislocated from life itself. Too much screen-time. Too little touch. Too much news. As the poet William Wordsworth once put it: "The world is too much with us; late and soon..."

But what would it feel like to share a bagel or receive a lollipop? How would it feel to catch a twirling leaf or to allow rushing gusts of air from a subway grating make the edges of your clothing dance? To gather once again with friends, noticing the shapes of their unmasked mouths as you share your hearts? To taste something delicious and delight in its flavor? To close your eyes and receive the sun's ample light?

If you're looking for a deep, artful reminder of personal meaning (I was), and are ready to appreciate a truly dazzling portrayal of (re)discovery of life itself, Disney/Pixar's newest offering, "Soul," will be a gift you'll be glad you gave yourself. It might even wake your soul up again.

As the great wisdom teacher Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught us, it is not simply the beauty of a thing that inspires; it is also (and most importantly) the experience of the beauty:


“Radical amazement has a wider scope than any other act of man. While any act of perception or cognition has as its object a selected segment of reality, radical amazement refers to all of reality; not only to what we see, but also to the very act of seeing as well as to our own selves, to the selves that see and are amazed at their ability to see.” (Heschel)

What is it to see the sky so intently that you cry? To reach your hands to the person on the screen before you and truly feel their hands reaching out in response? To tend to a world in need with a broken and determined heart? What is it to remember to look up from the headlines and feel the sun on your cheek? It is to be alive.

Has there ever been a better time to reflect on these questions? Better: Is it ever the wrong time to ask?

Who knows what possibilities might present themselves when you next open your door? With eyes and souls wide open to what lies ahead, let’s feel deeply, reach to each other with intention, and live more fiercely than ever.

Dec 1, 2020

Three years ago today, I flew from California to New York to interview to become the Rabbi and Scholar in Residence for UJA-Federation of New York. Three years later, I am still overwhelmed by the privilege of serving our holy community in this way. May we be blessed to come together and do untold good for others. Today is #GivingTuesday. Please consider supporting this vital work by making a gift to support our work in the world: https://www.ujafedny.org/givingtuesday

 Three years ago today, I flew from California to New York to interview to become the Rabbi and Scholar in Residence for UJA-Federation of New York. Three years later, I am still overwhelmed by the privilege of serving our holy community in this way. May we be blessed to come together and do untold good for others. Today is #GivingTuesday. Please consider supporting this vital work by making a gift to support our work in the world: https://www.ujafedny.org/givingtuesday

Nov 25, 2020

Thrilled to share my comment on this week's Parsha, published on MyJewishLearning.com!

Thrilled to share my comment on this week's Parsha, published on MyJewishLearning.com!

"Our matriarch Leah is introduced in this portion as having “weak eyes,” while her sister Rachel is described as beautiful. (The Hebrew word for weak, rakkot, can also be translated as “soft.”) Why are Leah’s weak eyes specifically mentioned in the Torah?..."

https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/parashat-vayeitzei-leahs-hidden-blessing/

#VaYeitzei #Leah #Tears #Blessing

Angels ascend and descend, bridging Heaven and Earth, and every once in a while, our eyes open again to the wonder of it all.

 

Nov 23, 2020

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks on #hope.

"The sociologist Peter Berger calls hope a “signal of transcendence,” a point at which something beyond penetrates into the human situation. There is nothing inevitable or even rational about hope. It cannot be inferred from any facts about the past or present. Those with a tragic sense of life hold that hope is an illusion, a childish fantasy, and that a mature response to our place in the universe is to accept its fundamental meaninglessness and cultivate the stoic virtue of acceptance. Judaism insists otherwise: that the reality that underlies the universe is not deaf to our prayers, blind to our aspirations, indifferent to our existence. We are not wrong to strive to perfect the world, refusing to accept the inevitability of suffering and injustice."

- Rabbi Jonathan Sacks #hope




What does it mean to have "soft eyes," as did our Mother Leah? May we cry for the world we wish to see, may we see our tears as our teachers. Bless you, friends. #StaySafe #StayHome #Thanksgiving2020 #BuildOnLove

 

Nov 22, 2020

Six Drawings

For the past six weeks, it has been humbling and inspiring to be part of a Jewish Studio Project Spiritual Direction group, led by the amazing team of Karen Erlichman & Joel Kushner. My fellow participants were generous of soul and graceful beyond words. Each week we learned, listened, and created together, and transcended the limits of the screen with open hearts. This was a deeply real experience.

These six drawings are what poured out from my soul in conversation with text, self, God, and community.

May we be blessed with teachers and friends who draw us out and mirror the truth of our whole selves with such care and skill. Grateful, grateful, grateful. 









#art #selfcare #othercare #create #love

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks on healthy limits and survival.


"Without limits, civilizations can be as thrilling and short-lived as fireworks. To survive they need to find a way of containing energy so that it lasts, undiminished. ... As Rees-Mogg said, “uncontrolled energy is merely a big and usually destructive bang.” I believe that we need to recover a sense of limits because, in our uncontrolled search for ever greater affluence, we are endangering the future of the planet and betraying our responsibility to generations not yet born. There are such things as fruit we should not eat and fire we should not bring."

- Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

tattered abundance (a poem)


tattered abundance

© menachem creditor
.
this moment is too much
numbers on the register
register as lost lives
.
the silence of the cashier
scanning my family's nourishment
invites blind, tearful empathy
.
watching sad shoppers
in anticipation of this week's
sad day of abundance
.
my reused paper bags
are tattered after months
and months and months
of holding it all...
.
... yes, Precious Lord,
I am grateful for all I have.
And I'm so damn sad, too

Nov 20, 2020

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks on #leadership.


 "Leaders begin with an envisioned future, but they also know that there is a long journey between here and there; we can only reach it one act at a time, one day at a time. There is no miraculous shortcut – and if there were, it would not help. The use of a shortcut would culminate in an achievement like Jonah’s gourd, which grew overnight, then died overnight. Abraham acquired only a single field and had just one son who would continue the covenant. Yet he did not complain, and he died serene and satisfied. Because he had begun. Because he had left future generations something on which to build. All great change is the work of more than one generation, and none of us will live to see the full fruit of our endeavours. Leaders see the destination, begin the journey, and leave behind them those who will continue it. That is enough to endow a life with immortality."

- Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

What an honor to share time and Torah with my friend and teacher, Rabbi Mike Moskowitz, on this #Transgender Day of Remembrance (#TDOR),


What an honor to share time and Torah with my friend and teacher, Rabbi Mike Moskowitz, on this #Transgender Day of Remembrance (#TDOR), in a conversation hosted by Congregation Beit Simchat Torah - CBST, a beautiful shul community with whom UJA-Federation of New York is always proud to partner. (Note: The program actually begins at 9:21)

Click here: https://fb.watch/1TJDEr1S9u/

On this Transgender Day of Remembrance (#TDOR), may we all be seen and honored for who we truly are. May this Shabbat find us ready to see each other, truly see each other, and love each other well. #ShabbatShalom

 

Nov 19, 2020

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks on the abuse of #language.


 "...to misuse or abuse language to sow suspicion and dissension is not just destructive. It is sacrilege. It takes something holy, the human ability to communicate and thus join soul to soul, and use it for the lowest of purposes, to divide soul from soul and destroy the trust on which non-coercive relationships depend."

- Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Every generation is asked: Who are you? What do we, in our moment, answer? #Toldot #Torah #WhoAreYou

 

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks on #leadership & #responsibility.


Abraham was not a conventional leader. He did not rule a nation. There was as yet no nation for him to lead. But he was the role model of leadership as Judaism understands it. He took responsibility. He acted; he didn’t wait for others to act. Of Noah, the Torah says, “he walked with God.” But to Abraham, God says, “Walk before Me,” meaning:

Be a leader.
Walk ahead.
Take personal responsibility.
Take moral responsibility.
Take collective responsibility.


- Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Nov 18, 2020

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks on laughter and faith, grief and persistence.

 

“I find it moving that Isaac, who underwent so many trials, from the binding when he was young, to the rivalry between his sons when he was old and blind, carries a name that means, “He will laugh.” Perhaps the name – given to him by God before Isaac was born – means what the Psalm means when it says, “Those who sow in tears will reap with joy” (Ps. 126:5). Faith means the courage to persist through all the setbacks, all the grief, never giving up, never accepting defeat. For at the end, despite the opposition, the envy and the hate, lie the broad spaces and the laughter: the serenity of the destination after the storms along the way.”

- Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

To be vulnerable is to be brave, to be kind is to be strong.

 

Nov 16, 2020

So very humbled by this review of "When We Turned Within (Vol. 1)" by Jonathan Fass for the Jewish Book Council


So very humbled by this review of "When We Turned Within (Vol. 1)" by Jonathan Fass for the Jewish Book Council:

“When We Turned With­in chal­lenges read­ers to revis­it many of the com­plex, often painful moments of the past months. Its diverse voic­es con­nect us to a com­mon expe­ri­ence despite our iso­la­tion. It puts words to the feel­ings many of us have strug­gled with since March and reads as a state­ment of hope that our lives will be whole again soon.”

read more here: jewishbookcouncil.org/book/when-we-turned-within-reflections-on-covid-19

There's more than enough blessing, there's more than enough love. #Toldot #Torah #BokerTov

 

Nov 15, 2020

What a thrill to have served this last Shabbat as the Goodkind Scholar-in-Residence at Community Synagogue of Rye! [recordings]

What a thrill, to have served this last Shabbat as the Goodkind Scholar-in-Residence at Community Synagogue of Rye with Rabbi Daniel Gropper, Cantor Melanie Cooperman, Rabbinic intern Lily Goldstein. A truly inspired community, dedicated to justice and healing! So grateful to spend time with these special souls!

Here are the recordings of our learning sessions:

Nov 12, 2020

Lots of Torah coming up! Let's learn!

Lots of Torah coming up! Let's learn!

This Shabbat, Nov 13-15, as the Goodkind Scholar in Residence for the
Community Synagogue of Rye
with Rabbi
Daniel Gropper
! -
https://www.facebook.com/comsynrye
This Sunday, Nov 15 at
LimmudBoston
with
Rachel Korazim
,
Daphne Lazar Price
,
Alan Teperow
, Rabb
Isaiah Rothstein
and lots of other amazing folks!
https://www.facebook.com/LimmudBoston/
Wednesday, Nov 18, "ADAPTING: CULTIVATING GRATITUDE DURING CHALLENGING TIMES" with
The Jewish Education Project
's
David Bryfman
and
Maven Coaching and Consulting
's Heather Wolfson! - bit.ly/adaptingtjepgratitude
Friday, Nov 20, a public conversation with Rabbi
Mike Moskowitz
on the #Transgender Day of Remembrance (#TDOR) - stay tuned for details!
And, of course, every weekday at 9am on
UJA-Federation of New York
's Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/ujafedny