Jul 30, 2017

Our Cherished Litany of Loss: Tisha Be'av 5777/2017

Our Cherished Litany of Loss: Tisha Be'av 5777/2017
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

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

millions clamor for Your love…
…You, O Jerusalem

Eternal City, why do You sit alone?

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

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

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

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

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

build burn burned dance
eat eaten …eaten

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#9av #TishaBav #Jewish #Poem

Jul 28, 2017

An Intention for Shabbat Chazon, the Shabbat Before Tisha Be'av

An Intention for Shabbat Chazon, the Shabbat Before Tisha Be'av
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

This is meant to be the saddest Shabbat of the year. May that be so.

May our vision ("Chazon") defy the limitations of our pasts and lift our whole world with determined hope and defiant light.

May our hearts be strong enough to see suffering where it endures, acknowledge it, address it, and thereby banish it forever, in fulfillment of the verse:

"Sacred Love is without end when Divine Compassion does not cease."

May we truly see every other, knowing that the destruction of the past is less possible when we look into each other's eyes.

In this way, the way of deep seeing and divine compassion and sacred love, may comfort be closer than we imagine.


#shabbat #chazon #9av #BuildOnLove

Jul 24, 2017

Among the Mourners of Zion: What Rabbis Do

Among the Mourners of Zion: What Rabbis Do
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor 

My heart is just beyond broken for the loss for our brothers and sisters Yosef Salomon z"l, 70, and his two children Chaya Salomon z"l, 46, and Elad Salomon z"l, 36, murdered this past Friday night in their home while celebrating the birth of a new grandchild.

I just left the Tent of Mourning in Elad, Israel, where many, many people are in shock and mourning. Tears streaming down my face, barely able to speak, I will never forget this wretched, awful day. 

I sat with Yosef's son, whose baby was born last week. This new father was still wearing the hospital bracelet, and his son's bris will take place during Shiva. As it turns out, this young man has worked at Camp Ramah in the Poconos, and had friends in common with some of the rabbis with whom I'm traveling. All I can see in my mind's eye is his sad eyes. Some of these words were written before the visit took place, and all of them will surely be inadequate now, as they would even more surely had been had I not stepped into that sad, sad space. 

Regardless of any political religious differences I might have with those gathered, or with this devastated family, we sat with them today because, as my dear friend and colleague, Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove of Park Avenue Synagogue, put it: this is what Jews do when one of us experiences a loss. This is what rabbis do. 

When people there asked who we were, I cannot express how moved they were to know that we, a group of female and male American Rabbis, were on a mission, and we knew we needed to pay a shiva visit. The sense of family was visceral and deep. 

And: The slaughter of a Jewish family at their own Shabbat table is an unutterable act of evil, as would be any act of terror against any family of any kind in their home. Or anyone. Or anywhere. Terrorism is beyond rationalizing. Murder is not contextualizable. To frame the murders of the Salomons as understandable in any way, as some might be inclined to do, is not only insensitive in the moment, but an abdication of a moral sensibility. This loss is trauma born of evil. Incomprehensible. 

As we left the Mourners' Tent, a chareidi (Ultra-Orthodox) man asked who we were. I quietly answered, and then said "Ein Milim (there are no words)." He looked into my eyes and said the same. Another young man, learning that I was from the San Francisco area asked me what I thought about the Temple Mount. I answered, "That's not why we're here. We're here to be together." We met eyes, very sad eyes, and nodded to each other. 

What is my responsibility right now, as a Progressive American Rabbi, as a Jew, as a human being?

My responsibility is to show up in this moment of shock and loss, as I would for a member of my home shul with whom I disagree. I do not fulfill mitzvot only for people with whom I agree. Jewish tradition brings us into each other's lives, binds Jewish to each other and to the world. It reminds us that the most important thing we can do in dark, sad moments is actually quite simple: show up.

A related teaching: The mitzvah of visiting a shiva home and serve as a comforter includes the tradition of remaining silent. We are not there to talk or socialize. All conversation in a shiva home is meant to be about the person or people who have died.

And so, in this spirit, I offered my tears and quiet presence for the tragedy visited upon the Salomon family. I and my rabbinic colleagues with whom I've been traveling in Israel on the Progressive Rabbinic Mission sponsored by AIPAC's education foundation showed up and offered comfort. This is what rabbis do. This is what family does. We show up. Broken. Together. 

May the Holy One comfort the Salomon family, their community, and all of us, among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.


Rabbi Menachem Creditor

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Jul 23, 2017

The Beginning of the Flourishing of Redemption

Tears. Free flowing tears.

I was just witness to such pain, such ravage. I've been here before. But this time overwhelmed even more. It's one of those encounters that rabbis hold onto for Yom Kippur sermons. But this real moment is not a story for me to choose to use at my leisure. That is the definition of privilege, and life is too short.

I just met with 3 Syrian refugees being treated at the Galilee Medical Center. Please, take a moment and say that out loud. Israel has brought in 3,000 Syrian refugees in need of medical treatment. We spoke with these 3 men, each of whom has suffered serious injuries and is recovering under the care of Israel.

And it is actually Israel, the government of Israel, that made the decision to offer this care at this scale. This is a government owned hospital. I'm so very proud of my homeland for demonstrating these middot, these deep humanitarian values.

The three patients were willing to share their stories with us, and I saw their faces change as they related their awareness that they had nowhere to turn for help but the country they'd always been taught was evil. And we took them in. The second person we met was an artist. I'd sensed his gentleness when we first walked into the room, but his eyes, so very expressive, triggered my own tears. He has been there, receiving treatment for deep injuries to his arm for a year. A year. The person next to him has had more than 17 surgeries to date to reconstruct his face from a shrapnel injury.

Does this answer everything for me? Friends, we must - I must - work to hold Israel's deep imperfections in the larger framework of her national life. Our ancestors dreamt of this homeland because we were refugees, strangers in every land because we did not have one of our own. And today we are welcoming the strangers in pivotal ways. Yes, the Sudanese and Eritrean refugees in Tel Aviv and the Holon Detention Center demonstrate that we are not applying these values consistently. But the Arab Israeli medical director of the Galilee Medical Center who led our visit today calls any one-dimensional caricature of Israel into question.

This morning, we met with Natan Scharansky, who exemplifies the Jewish leaders Israel needs. And has.

This past Friday night, Rabbi Tamar Elad Appelbaum of Zion: An Eretz Yisraeli Community, led Shabbat services for a community she leads including Muslims, Jews, and Christians. She embraced each in her arms as they entered the room. She also rose to welcome another Israeli hero, Alice Shalvi, whose pioneering feminist work has defined Israeli education for decades. Alice's Israeli rabbi (and mine, to be clear) is a Jerusalem-born female rabbi whose expansive Judaism embraces all. My teacher, Rabbi Daniel Gordis, went so far as to suggest after services that the State of Israel was only founded so that there would be a Rabbi Tamar Elad Appelbaum. I agree.

Friends, please pause. Violence and hate, intolerance and inadequate justice, is not the whole story. Not even close. There is beauty and wonder, goodness and love, spirit and hope here. This national home, the beginning of the flourishing of redemption, is a complicated miracle worthy of deep Jewish pride. Beginning of flourishing means that Israel could use some watering. Today, I willingly offer her my own tears.

More soon.

Jul 21, 2017

the prophets' boutique [a #poem]

the prophets' boutique [a #poem]
© rabbi menachem creditor

walk with me
through downtown Jerusalem
this Friday afternoon
see through these wide, crying eyes
the miraculous art
of Ben Gurion's dreams:

Hebrew lotto signs
ever-present Jewish cranes
King George's great synagogue
(though the truly great ones
never need to say so)

can't take one step
not even one
without noticing it all

manhole covers and exquisite flowers
spikey signs and rabbinic schwarma
overwhelm me

years ago, I sat right here
soldiers and Pre-Shabbat shoppers
passing by (maybe the same ones!)
I wept then and weep now
over their very existence
each of them a treasure.

(three Israeli girls just asked two chabadniks if they could put on tefilin. that's new.)

King David could have never imagined
the prophets' boutique
he founded.

I just can't stop seeing
can barely imagine blinking
I'd miss something

These broken stones feel somehow stable beneath my feet. They're always shifting, always slightly unstable, but today, right now, holy ground holds and grounds me.

It's just so good to be home.

Jul 18, 2017

My Souvenir Prophet 

My Souvenir Prophet 
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor 

How is any of this possible? 

As I type on a smartphone hooked up to the Tel Aviv/Jerusalem bus Wi-Fi, I reflect on my first almost-24-hours in Israel on this, my 30th pilgrimage home. 

From that first trip for my post-high school gap year on Nativ Israel, to this one coleading the AIPAC #Progressive #Rabbis Mission to Israel for the fourth time, my eyes and soul keep being overwhelmed by.... well, everything. 

Perhaps what typifies this trip was a strange, brief encounter that happened on the street just an hour ago. I stood with with my sister and baby niece on the sidewalk next to the site where Yitzhak Rabin z"l was assassinated. 

The site has become holier to me than the Kotel for many, many reasons. 

Just over 2 years ago, I brought my children to this place on a Shabbat morning, and watched as they gleefully played with the pigeons, my precious Jewish children laughing with enduring Israeli doves. For me, that made this place holier than anything else. 

I often head out for the monument, looking for a quiet moment of reflection. And then I arrive. Oh. The noise of this incredible city pervades the space. Barely a person pauses to notice, let alone acknowledge, this sad place where the world changed. 

No time to stop to say hello, goodbye, we're late we're late... 

But I do. I remember where I was when Rabin was shot. I was with Jewish campus leaders, part of the KOACH college movement led by Rabbi Elyse Winick and Richard S.Moline. We were in the midst of Shabbat, when Rabbi Moshe Edelman ran in to tell us the news. We prayed and prayed through the night until we heard that Rabin had died. At the hands of a fellow Jew. And then I heard the name of the assassin. I had attended classes with him at Bar Ilan University. I remember. 

And so I stood with my sister and niece today, on the hot, bright Tel Aviv sidewalk. That my niece is the first baby in my family to be born in Israel is never far from my consciousness. (Though, to be honest, her beautiful smile pushes it all out of my mind in an instant.) 

I looked at my sister. I smiled. I looked at her beautiful baby. I smiled. I looked that the monument. I paused. 

And then. 

A man walked up to me as I was taking a photo of the monument. Without even breaking his stride, he asked me "Nu, are you taking a souvenir?" 

Yes, he was rude, hurling a question and not waiting for a response. Yes, he doesn't know me. Yes, I was annoyed. 

But somehow his question frames well my relationship with Israel, sometimes defined by Kikar Rabin, a place of children and doves, of traffic and smartphones, of family and strangers, smog and loss, violence and fierce-paced living. Is all of this a photo montage, or is it the world our ancestors dreamt of? 

Is this deafening hum of real life, sacrifice and all, violence and all, politics and all, today's manifestation of the Zionist dream, the ongoing project of the Jewish People? Was that ordinary passersby actually the nosy prophet I need, poking at my mindful reframing with a call to pause less and pick up the pace? 

All I can say is this: the bus is making its ascent to Jerusalem right now, and it's time for me to put down my phone.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
▶menachemcreditor.net ▶netivotshalom.org

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Jul 14, 2017

for whom and how Torah is given

for whom and how Torah is given
© rabbi menachem creditor

It is not for those inhabitants of comfortable, air-conditioned halls of study that spiritual practice was devised.

Those luxurious palaces of meaning are furnished with chairs and tables, bookshelves and coffee makers. Those seeking mastery there sit and pore and pour. They arrived at the doors of depth by choice. The depths from which they call are real and can be thorny, but by dint of their very access to the recorded treasures of the spirit, they have already made it.

No, dear ones, Torah was not given for them.

No, Torah was given for the souls waiting in hot, cramped, subway stations, challenged to be kind to each other while sweating in discomfort, making effort to not push each other aside in search of cooler air.

Wait. No, not for them, actually.

Torah was given for those poor souls outside the subway station, clothes melting off them in the sweltering heat. Yes, the messages of the holy Torah were given for those who aren't waiting any more.

Torah, at its most refined, its rawest, speaks one profound truth:

Go yourself, be the Torah those poor souls haven't the hope anymore to expect. Don't wait. Torah is you. Give of yourself for another.

That is for whom and how Torah is given.

Jul 12, 2017

Attacked from Within: A New HuffPost Piece

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Huffington Post - 07/12/2017
In just a few days, I leave for Israel, ready to co-lead the AIEF/AIPAC Progressive Rabbinic Mission for the fourth time. These amazing trips have been defined in different and profound ways each summer: the Gaza war, the Iran Nuclear “deal,” and stabbing and ramming terrorist attacks. I have returned after each mission more committed to Israel’s security, more aware of the existential threats Israel faces, more appreciative of the inner dynamics of Israel’s society.
I had hoped this summer would be a calmer trip.
But, to my great dismay, this year, we rabbis head to Israel assaulted by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, an arm of Israel’s government. READ MORE HERE...

Jul 4, 2017

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(come) open to the possibility of the pain of another, just 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 young Afghani students, nor leaders who despise the free press. Are the rights to threaten and discriminate an independence 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? The answer is far from clear, two hundred and forty-one 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 declared that corporations are people and 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. 140 characters real character does not embody. 

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. 

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
▶menachemcreditor.net ▶netivotshalom.org
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