Sep 29, 2020

We Acquitted Ourselves Nobly: High Holidays 5781

 We Acquitted Ourselves Nobly: High Holidays 5781

The more digital teaching and davening I do with communities around the world, the more convinced I am that it is real. It's not that any of us would have chosen this path. I know we would give up every last one of these platforms if it meant saving just one of the over one million souls we've lost to the pandemic to date. And it's also the case the vast majority of the Jewish High Holidays were a transformation of the notion of community, a pivot point in our history.

So many communities that would not have used technology on Shabbat or holidays have invested energy and money in utilizing them to share sacred experiences. Communities that were already utilizing these methods have sharpened and widened their media skills. Many older adults, often late-adopters of technology, were brave and found their ways into Zoom Schmoozes (even if the camera angles could have used some adjusting!), and some families that would not have (could not have) snuggled in shul pews found themselves resting on each other in comfort while soul-stirring melodies and teaching poured out before them.

Friends, I'm not saying we should stop yearning for the physical intimacy of our sanctuaries. Far from it. I ache - deeply - for the sacred space we call "shul." But I am suggesting that we not stop experimenting with new media and that we allow - nay, embrace - this organic, explosive redefinition of community.

During Rosh haShannah and Yom Kippur, my holy wife
Neshama Carlebach
was lifting countless souls in Rabbi
Jeff Salkin
's community in Florida (and beyond) from her makeshift studio in one room of our home. I was mere feet away from her, in an adjoining room, helping lead davening with the amazing
Congregation Beth El
community in New Jersey with dear friends Rabbi
Jesse Olitzky
and Rabbi
Rachel Marder
. Our home has been pervaded during these days by the nervous/ecstatic energy of the chagim that I had previously only associated with physical-shul davening. Now I understand a little better: this WAS shul davening. We, all of us - rabbis, cantors, volunteers, educators, executive directors, production teams, congregants - effectively translated the rituals, and sounds, and visions of our People through the digital platforms into each other's hearts. We did it.

Was it perfect? Decidedly not. Did we ask for it? Certainly not. Did we learn at breakneck speed for the sake of our ancestors, who themselves brought the treasures of Jewish heritage to every new shore they reached? Absolutely. They would be proud. Shocked, baffled, dizzy - and proud. As should we, their pioneering descendants, be.

As my father, my teacher, has said from time to time, "We have acquitted ourselves nobly."

Sep 25, 2020

Tonight is Shabbat, and Sunday Night begins Yom Kippur - let's give ourselves the gift of pause, breath, and self-strengthening, so that we can roar into this new year, ready to accept the baton handed us by those one whose shoulders we stand! #ShabbatShalom #GmarTov


ע֭וֹלָם חֶ֣סֶד יִבָּנֶ֑ה Olam Chesed Yibaneh #BuildonLove

 ע֭וֹלָם חֶ֣סֶד יִבָּנֶ֑ה

Olam Chesed Yibaneh

I will build this world in love...
And you must build this world in love...
If we build this world in love...
Then God will build this world in love.

Hebrew: Psalms 89:3 | English/Melody: Rabbi Menachem Creditor | From the album A World of Love


Select Olam Chesed Yibaneh videos:

Sep 24, 2020

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz on Teshuvah

"Broadly defined, teshuvah is more than just repentance from sin; it is a spiritual reawakening, a desire to strengthen the connection between oneself and the sacred. The effectiveness of teshuvah is thus frequently a function of one's sense of distance from the sacred. The greater the distance, the greater the potential movement towards renewed connectedness. As one Jewish sage put it, A rope that is cut and retied is doubly strong at the point where it was severed.... All forms of teshuvah, however diverse and complex, have a common core: the belief that human beings have it in their power to effect inward change." 

- Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, z"l

Crying. Singing. Dancing a little bit. Crying some more. Thank you, Washington Square Minyan, for bringing this to life, for the faces and voices of sweet souls. This. This. Oh, how we need this. #ReturningTheKeter

Reaching higher and higher as we journey toward Yom Kippur!


Sep 18, 2020

One final blessing before Rosh HaShannah!


Three Prayers for This Strangest of New Years

 Three Prayers for This Strangest of New Years

Rabbi Menachem Creditor

NYJewish Week | September 16, 2020

This strangest of years, in which expectations of any kind couldn’t possibly have predicted our reality, we find ourselves – at least I do – craving the sound of the shofar and the sway of fellow daveners. Has there ever been such a year?

Leaders of Jewish communities of every kind are working overtime to meet these every-year needs in a blend of tradition and innovation that would fill our ancestors’ hearts to overflowing. Look at the Jewish passion and spiritual creativity flooding the internet – has there ever been such a year?

Praise: To all those whose intense leadership became even more intense with the launch of the High Holidays at last week’s Selichot services. To you all — rabbis, cantors, educators, executive directors, youth professionals, volunteer leaders, fundraisers — you are giving everything you’ve got to lift the whole world up, screen by screen, community by community. We see you, we honor you, we bless you. Amen.

Request: May we learn/remember how to open up our hearts and minds and souls. May we reclaim the headlines with the shocking good we’ll do. May our children inherit some good decisions we’ll make to offset our countless mistakes. May we take really good care of each other and heal this fragile world. Amen.

Gratitude: For the blessing of one more year, one more day, one more breath, may we be ever thankful. And may we channel all the emotions coursing through our bodies to make this a year worth praying for. Amen.

Sep 15, 2020

from UJA-Federation NY: Wisdom in the Time of Corona - Reflections for 5781

Wisdom in the Time of Corona
Reflections for 5781

As we prepare to celebrate the High Holidays, UJA-Federation of New York is delighted to share an anthology of teachings given at our virtual UJA Community Pre-Shabbat Gatherings. We're grateful to all of the wonderful leaders who participated in this series from March to July, which brought teachers and listeners of all denominations and backgrounds to learn together.

Here you’ll find a sampling of the beautiful Torah and lessons shared over these past few months, covering an array of ideas. We hope you find meaning in the essays that follow, and that they continue to inspire hope, growth, and reflection during this time.
We’ve gained lessons in the preciousness of unity, the vitality of keeping an open imagination so that we can come together as a community again. May we be blessed as we take these steps to learn well from each other, and maybe to record what we are learning so that we can move forward, having internalized these lessons, and pass them on to generations to come.

An exploration of humility and submission as necessary components for reawakening our collective potential to heal our world - from the special Aleinu in the Rosh Hashannah prayers.


Sep 14, 2020

Remembering well and fully is the best way to make good decisions for a healthy, holy future. May we do no harm, and may we do much good in the year to come, starting today! #BuildonLove


A Prayer for the New Year

A Prayer for the New Year
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Dear God,
May we learn/remember how
to open up our hearts and minds and souls.
May we reclaim the headlines
with the shocking good we'll do.
May our children inherit some good decisions
we'll make to offset our countless mistakes.
May we take really good care
of each other and heal this fragile world.

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Shavuot: The Torah of Tenacious Love