Apr 2, 2020

from an inside place: a poem

from an inside place: a poem  
rabbi menachem creditor

Oh, that moment
when sunlight intensifies
and i rush to open my window
to just let it in

Oh, cover me!
suffuse my being
pervade my cells!

But then,
through the open window,
comes a rush of very cold air
accompanying the blessed light

So, for now
I'll just sit here
and enjoy the light
from my warm
inside place.

Happy to share a blessing and some Torah this Thursday morning!

Mar 31, 2020

Please God, More Light: A Prayer

Please God, More Light: A Prayer
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

To the One whose Heavens
just erupted with Divine Light:

Shine down healing upon Your wearied children.
Give us illumination that we might
see each other well in this dark moment.

Guide with luminous clarity
and renewed spirit
the hands of our healthcare providers.

Please God, more light.
Now. Tomorrow.
Until the darkness
is limited to its right time
once more.


#sun #Prayer #healing #light

Mar 29, 2020

A Poem and Opportunities to Connect Online - For my friends on the screen

Dearest Friends,

In the midst of a world turned inside-out and upside-down, I'm so very grateful for the many opportunities we are creating to connect. Some feel incredibly intimate, and some feel like shadows of what we need. But, in aggregate, one could make the claim that this is the most creative moment in Jewish history, with leaders and artists of all kinds generating content and contexts for all of us around the world. Given technology's flat-hierarchy, there is no limit to the beauty we might unleash in this troubled moment. The platforms of zoom, facebook, google, becoming universally accessible makes each one of us a leader who can touch the lives of others. Let us be brave and offer our faces to each other, knowing that in our eyes lives the greatest of all mysteries. Screens can be portals to the Divine, and we need that now more than ever. 

I imagine I'm not alone in feeling overwhelmed by all that's being offered online, and so I'm sharing a few resources with you that I hope can support you right where you are:

In addition to these amazing global Jewish resources, here are some online experiences I'm involved in:
We dare not look away from the world around us. We must stay home to save the lives of our neighbors, perhaps the most counter-intuitive Jewish action ever. But friends, we are bound together by invisible strings that defy the distance. I share here a poem that powered out while participating in an online poetry conversation convened by friends from the Bay Area, suddenly "in the same room" with sweet familiar faces I haven't seen in a very long time. 

May we be blessed to truly embrace each other very soon. 
May we not forget the lessons tomorrow we are learning at such costs today. 
May our world soon regain itself.  


A Poem for my Friend on the Screen
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

as I sit here
in my bedroom
which has become my office
and also Sinai
and that coffee shop on Shattuck

distance is an illusion
so is time

these tears are a gift
of coming home.

(I thought I was done, but another one poured out...)

attuned hearts
need not speak
to know

There is no such thing
as alone

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Scholar in Residence, UJA-Federation NY

Mar 24, 2020

Rabbi Creditor's Testimony as Part of the 2020 Census

What an honor to represent UJA-Federation of New York and the American Jewish Community at the U.S. Census Bureau's Interfaith Census Launch last month at Washington National Cathedral! This is my testimony, offered in the name of my ancestors to all Americans. In short, the command to "love your neighbor as yourself" has two parts: love yourself enough to be counted; love your neighbor enough to remember they count too. #BeCounted #WeAreOne #Census2020

Mar 20, 2020

Birkat HaChodesh / Blessing the New Month of Nissan

Oh, this beloved soul, Rabbi Yosef Goldman. Look what power he brings, to hope for the month to come, to bless all of humanity with sustenance and health, safety and comfort, with hope and more hope and more hope. Bless you, brother. Bless you. And amen, amen, amen.

A blessing for you today, to see the holiness we share! Good Shabbos!

Mar 17, 2020

Seeing God's Face

Seeing God's FaceRabbi Menachem Creditor

I said Kaddish this morning in a virtual minyan led by my friend, Rabbi Eytan Hammerman, my first time doing that. I had previously limited digital participation to being an observer of a minyan, saying "amen" from the distance to the "real" gathering that was physically present together. Today I typed it as a comment, a digital response as my friend recited the words on my screen.

Everything has changed. Physical presence is impossible, ritually forbidden (see Rabbi Robbie Harris' powerful piece in The Times of Israel on this), and minyan *MUST* be possible. Not only because of those who need to say kaddish, but because we need each other. Minyan is the basic grouping in Jewish tradition: community. The teachings of Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt and Rabbi Aaron Alexander come to mind: "veChai Bahem/Live through the commandments" (Lev. 18:5) means that we are called by tradition to truly live. Today. Together.

I recited Kaddish with Eytan and 16 others who appeared on my screen. (Poetically, in that moment, we were 18, the numeric equivalent of the Hebrew word "chai," meaning life.) It has been deeply emotional to see the faces of others. In my soul, it has been like seeing the face of God (Genesis 33:10), nothing less.

Being "with others" is so holy, so necessary, so important. There isn't one way to do it, but in this moment, every way that is possible should be embraced. Some will draw the line at which prayers can be said without physical proximity. But let's agree that we can - and must - come close to each other in these hard times and pray together.

Seeing you all on my screen is like seeing God's face.



Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Scholar in Residence, UJA-Federation NY

Mar 15, 2020

A Meditative Mincha Moment

"Spread Life" - an exploration of Jewish Law for today with Rabbi Aaron Alexander

God, I love Rabbi Aaron Alexander's Torah. (click here)
This online class might be textually dense for those unfamiliar with halachic studies, but the values that animate his teaching on the question of Priestly Blessing ("duchening") in modern worship are clear: he teaches that, in these moments when gathering is only virtual, we must remind each other and ourselves to make sure we follow the Torah's imperative to "live by them." By which he means, and states explicitly, that any desire/need we have to gather in homes when houses of worship are closed, is forbidden (R. Alexander cites the ruling of his Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt) to do so.
I have an obligation to remove any life-endangering obstacle to the health of others. That means to host a gathering, right now, is to act against the Torah.
Ie, my body is not only my own, as its impact is so much wider than me. Self-isolation is a mitzvah, so that we might save lives. It is that simple. It is that clear.
So spread life. You're not alone. Let us see these new modes of connectivity as real and full of love.

Mar 12, 2020

The learning from Thursday night is now archived!


The learning from Thursday night is now archived! You can find it here, under "Nefesh HaChaim" (intro and 1:1,2) - rabbicreditor.blogspot.com/p/text-commentaries.html.

The text is available online at https://www.sefaria.org/Nefesh_HaChaim.1.1?lang=bi

Shabbat Shalom!


Mar 10, 2020

A Purim Thought

A Purim Thought
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

As part of the UJA-Federation family, we are involved in each other's lives, as well as the lives of countless others in our wider community. The updates and headlines regarding the spread and impact of coronavirus are thorough and important, and it’s reassuring that we're all doing our part to keep healthy and do what we can to protect others.

The inner experience of all this is also deeply important, and it is for that reason that I share these brief thoughts. It is one thing, a primary command, to be mindful of our health and well-being. But Jewish tradition also reminds us that souls require tending, especially in moments of tension and stress.

Jewish tradition tells us that one who visits the sick removes one sixtieth of the illness. This “sacred math” makes clear that visiting the sick is not a cure but rather a comfort, not the end of disease but a way of being present in the face of human vulnerability. The connections our sacred work at UJA-Federation of New York creates are part of being present with each other, a yearlong commitment to nurture a network of relationships that keep millions of people connected, even and especially in this difficult moment.

And so my friends, let's take a lesson from the light and gladness that eventually defined the holiday of Purim. Our community was beset by threat, and emerged stronger, and then recommitted to ritually mark the day with acts of mutual concern: gifts for the poor and nourishment for neighbors.

Through these lessons, and through the availability of modern technology that transcends distance, may we remember that we can be in community without being next to each other, for now, that the ties that bind remain strong, that health is a sacred priority so that we might come together even stronger than before.

The central story of Purim is summed up by two words from the Scroll of Esther from which we read during the holiday: Nafoch Hu - It is all upside down!

In that spirit, may the interpersonal distance this topsy-turvy world we inhabit currently demands be turned on its head very, very soon, bringing us closer to each other, more caring of our neighbors, more ready to share the joy and light of life with community.

Brachot! Blessings! And a safe, happy, connected Purim to you all!
#purim2020 #purim

A Purim Teaching!

UJA - Purim by Rabbi Menachem Creditor from The Audiovisual Dept on Vimeo.

Mar 4, 2020

historical consciousness and wise leadership

These images are part of a monument just across the Edmond Pettus Bridge, quotes from the Book of Joshua as the Israelites crossed over the Jordan River and committed themselves to historical consciousness and wise leadership.
So much more to say than can fit in this moment, and hard to realize that it was only last week that we trod upon the holy ground of Selma and Montgomery on the UJA-Federation of New York Civil Rights Mission, receiving testimony from witnesses and activists of the 60's and today. I spent this past Shabbat teaching in the #Pittsburgh Jewish community with my colleague Rabbi Aaron Meyer, the holy community of Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church - Official and Squirrel Hill Stands Against #GunViolence. These experiences not only cross-informed my consciousness but also supported some of the ongoing concerns over race that the Jewish community aspires to address. Directly from Pittsburgh, I gathered with thousands of friends in Washington, DC at the AIPAC Policy Conference (where a few UJA Civil Rights participants stole a brief moment trying to begin to process what we’d shared), and there the lessons swirling inside my heart from Selma and Montgomery and Pittsburgh also informed my perspective as I stood within an increasingly diverse snapshot of American society gathered in support of Israel. Friends, there’s beautiful work calling. I couldn’t be prouder than to be part of the response so many are giving of themselves to offer. May the coming days and weeks find you all and your families healthy, safe, thoughtful, and strengthened.

Feb 17, 2020

To My Daughter at the Gates of Auschwitz

To my Daughter at the Gates of Auschwitz
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Impossible. It just isn't.
I don't see it. She's not there.
There doesn't exist. It can't exist.

I can't. I can't see it.
I can't see her there.
So there mustn't be there at all.
I must be having a nightmare. 

But it is there. And she's there.
It is a real, cruel thing. It is.

(And, my deepest consciousness screams,
"Are you really surprised it is real?
Have you been paying attention to today?
How are you shocked at all?) 

I once stepped through those wretched gates, 
brick nightmares promising freedom to the damned.
My family.

I even returned with a Jewish singing group.
I'm even heading back next year
with a diverse group of leaders
determined to learn from each other's pain.

But I can't endure her there,
even now.

She shouldn't be there.
There shouldn't be there.
Barbed-wire blasphemy
doesn't belong anywhere in God's earth.
Not there, not here,
No where. No when.

(No, deepest consciousness, I'm not truly shocked. I know it's there and then and here and now and I'm just a father who wishes his children didn't have to face our own devastation and its horrors and I miss my glorious daughter and she's wearing our People's blue and white like a prayer-shawl and she saw the confiscated shawls of our murdered ancestors in glass cases beyond those gates and she is alive and we will never forget and of course I know all of this but our forged-by-fire Hope is based on cultivating the capacity to be surprised by evil, to be shocked by violence, to never accept such brutality as the way it is, to dream of the world as it ought to be, to see life through God's Eyes not only my own.)

We have to face our past and rage against it.
I know. I just hate it so much.
I wish the world were already closer
to the way it is supposed to be.
I wish this world deserved our children. 

I open my eyes.
(Hadn't realized they were squeezed shut.)

I see her. 
I see my hero.
I see the future.

Jan 28, 2020

**Big Announcement!** "Loud, Proud, and Jewish" is published!

**Big Announcement!**
"Loud, Proud, and Jewish" is published!

With essays from a diverse group of Jewish leaders, "Loud, Proud, and Jewish" explores an unapologetic Jewish Pride that stands within and for - not against - the world, even in this moment of Jewish vulnerability and growing antisemitism. Read and be inspired! 


9              Introduction
                Rabbi Menachem Creditor

13            Foreword: This is Our Moment
                Melanie Roth Gorelick

17            Raise up the Joy
                Rabbi Annie Tucker

26            My Mom Used to Say
                Ruth Zakarin

32            How We View Ourselves
                Rabbi Amitai Fraiman

37            Proudly Jewish and American
                Rabbi Rachel Ain

42            Seriously, Honestly, and Joyously
                Rabbi Jason Fruithandler

47            To Be Seen
                Rabbi Debra Newman Kamin

53            Jewish Advocacy: Privilege and Permission
                Rabbi Jack Moline

61            When Amtisemitism Becomes Us – and What We Must Do About It
                Rabbi David Evan Markus

81            Neither Silenced Nor Afraid
                Jonathan Fass

87            Privilege and Vulnerability after the Pittsburgh Shooting
                Sarah Rudolph

94            Shema
               Julia Knobloch

95            Olam Chesed Yibaneh: Building this World from Love
                Rabbi Claudia Kreiman

Jan 14, 2020

A Jewish Reflection on the Census

A Jewish Reflection on the Census

Rabbi Menachem Creditor

In Jewish terms, the act of counting residents is unambiguous: everyone matters.[1] Regarding the individual – citizen and resident alien alike – the Torah frames the governing power’s responsibility to count equally every person in its jurisdiction by invoking its opposite: Egyptian slavery.[2] Just as Jewish tradition outlines the responsibility of those in power to provide adequate food, rest, and justice[3], it also obligates residents who are not (yet) citizens to abide by the nation’s covenantal laws.[4] While the very category of ger (resident alien) indicates a legal distinction between citizens and non-citizens, there is no difference in the assertion of communal responsibility for both.[5] The poor, the widow and the orphan of society are to be represented with dignity. Judaism affirms that by counting everyone, we both distribute justice ethically in our midst and we structurally remind ourselves that everyone counts.

[1] Ex. 22:20, 23:9; Lev. 19:33; Deut. 1:16, 10:18-19, 24:17, 19
[2] Lev. 19:34
[3] see Exod. 20:10, 23:12; Lev. 19:9-10; 23:22; Deut. 5:14, 24:19-22, for some examples.
[4] Lev 24:16-22; Deut. 29:10
[5] See Jeremiah 7:6; 22:3; Ezekiel 22:7, 29; Zechariah 7:10; Malachi 3:5 for some prophetic responses to injustice perpetrated against resident aliens.

Jan 13, 2020

This Friday Night (7:30pm) at Congregation Emanu-El of Westchester​!

Looking forward to teaching this Friday Night (7:30pm) with Congregation Emanu-El of Westchester​ during services, where I'll be delivering the Isaac Memorial Lecture during Social Justice Shabbat!