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.

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Shavuot: The Torah of Tenacious Love