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.


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
[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


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.


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


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

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