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Connections: new liturgy, poetry, and art for Tu BiShvat

New from Bayit’s Liturgical Arts Working Group comes this interdisciplinary and pluralist collection of new work for Tu BiShvat, the New Year of the Trees.

Here are prayers and practices for solitary pandemic celebration, meditations on trees in urban settings, coloring pages for contemplative creativity, prayers looking ahead to the year 2030, and more:

“TU biShvat is an invitation to focus on the natural world surrounding us–and at the same time, it makes us aware of our connectedness to each other, to the flow of time and stories, to the flow of cyclical renewal, to the spiritual worlds. We remove the shells (literally) that protect, obscure, and incubate, step by step reaching toward inner sweetness. We use our sense to internalize those messages–maybe we plant things, too.

This year, connection also is digital–we use a digital ecosystem to supplement a natural one.  

This little machberet (this little “journal”) can be used simply as a reading resource, but it can also become, by means of a printer and a couple of crayons, a source of meditation, coloring, tapping into the flow, and celebrating the playful child in all of us that lies beneath the shells.

We play and draw and read and speak… about the very personal, the sensual, the broken, the sad, the budding, the blossoming, the growing, the changing… the healing. Together, may we root ourselves in connectedness.”

Download the whole collection:

Connections – Liturgy, Poetry, and Art for Tu BiShvat – Bayit [pdf]

Contents include:

Introduction

Birthday of the Trees, illustration by Steve Silbert

A Blessing: FOR PLANTING THE FUTURE, R. David Evan Markus

A Blessing: OF BIRTHDAYS, BREATH, AND BLESSINGS, R. Dara Lithwick

Fruit of the Tree, illustration by R. Allie Fischman

INSTRUCTION, R. Rachel Barenblat

A BLESSING FOR A TREE IN THE CITY, Trisha Arlin

A Tree in the City, illustration by Steve Silbert

FOUR TREES, R. Rachel Barenblat

Tree of Life, illustration by Steve Silbert

BREATHING OUT, BREATHING IN, R. David Evan Markus

TREE:  A GUIDED MEDITATION, Trisha Arlin; illustration by Steve Silbert

PREPARING, R. Sonja K. Pilz, PhD

TO 2030 / 5790, R. Dara Lithwick

Those Who Sow in Tears will Reap in Joy, illustration by R. Allie Fischman

ZOONOSIS, R. Sonja K. Pilz, PhD

Connected, illustration by R. Allie Fischman (also seen above)

ROOTING, R. David Evan Markus

MAPLE MY LOVE, R. Dara Lithwick

Maple, illustration by R. Allie Fischman

 

Download the whole collection:

Connections – Liturgy, Poetry, and Art for Tu BiShvat – Bayit [pdf]

 

  Allie Fischman      

Liturgy and poetry by Trisha Arlin, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, Rabbi Dara Lithwick, Rabbi David Evan Markus, Rabbi Sonja Keren Pilz. Artwork by Rabbi Allie Fischman and Steve Silbert.

“If you really hear…” – a new prayer-poem by R. David Markus

This new prayer/poem arises from the second paragraph of the Sh’ma and from the deep ecumenism that cherishes all paths to the Holy. Use it during Shabbat services on the Shabbat that begins as Christmas wanes, or whenever speaks to you.

 

If you really hear yourself into becoming a sacred act of connection
Each moment, that living connection I give from Myself to you this day,

Then You will love and serve all that is sacred, knowing all are sacred,
Each one a precious one of the One, each an ongoing rebirth of hope.

The hope born this day is Immanuel, God with us, a prophet’s good news
Beaming with stardust light, a gift more precious than gold and incense,

A burning bush for Moses, a Sinai covenant for freed slaves,
A midnight ride for Mohammad, an enlightenment for Buddha,

Each one refracting the One light through the prism of that moment,
Each one priming the holy flow of love among us, that freedom to see again

That on this day from the City of David, we are called to the Beloved anew,
So that we can make heavenly days right here on this Earth.

Written for Chag HaMolad 5781 (Christmas 2020)

 

 

By Rabbi David Evan Markus, a founding builder at Bayit.

 

Great Miracles Happen Here: Liturgy, Poetry, and Art for Chanukah

Illustration by Steve Silbert

This new collaborative offering from Bayit’s liturgical arts working group comes to bring light in dark times. Here you’ll find new liturgy (including an “Al HaNisim” looking back on the miracles we haven’t yet lived into being, and a “Hanerot Hallalu” for this pandemic year), evocative poetry (on finding light without a chanukiyah, on kindling lights alone, on the windows where we light our lights and the Zoom windows where the pandemic allows us to gather, and much more), and meditations on Chanukah through all five senses, all accompanied by heart-opening artwork. This collection was co-created by Trisha Arlin, R. Rachel Barenblat, R. Dara Lithwick, R. David Evan Markus, R. Sonja Keren Pilz, R. Jennifer Singer, Steve Silbert, and Devon Spier, and is intended for use by individuals and communities across and beyond the denominational spectrum.

Download the whole collection:

Great Miracles Happen Here: Liturgy, Poetry, and Art for Chanukah [pdf]

 

Above you can see a glimpse of one of the illustrations. Here are tastes of a few of the poems, prayers, and meditations contained in this collection:

From “Hanukkah Poem #1,” Devon Spier:

i figure the day before Hanukkah
is the right time to begin
a new time
in inhuman history…

From “Hanerot Hallalu for 2020,” by Rabbi Dara Lithwick:

This Chanukah we honour those whose light has shone throughout the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the helpers who despite the tohu and bohu, the chaos and confusion, trauma, fear and disinformation have served and continue to serve, illuminating our communities by their commitment and caring…

From “Al Hanisim: Future Miracles Unfolding Now, ” by Rabbi David Evan Markus:

In the days of Stacey Abrams, Jacinda Ardern, William Barber, Anthony Fauci, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, John Lewis, Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai, peoples of the Earth had forgotten Your teachings and transgressed Your ways of justice. Greed corroded truth. Ignorance mocked science. Fossil fuels burned without end, defiling Your temple of nature. Zealotry and corruption flourished, defiling Your temple of democracy…

From “Rededication,” Rabbi Rachel Barenblat:

It’s not like the Temple, sullied
by improper use and then washed clean
and restored to former glory.
This house is tarnished by familiarity…

From “My Maccabees,” by Trisha Arlin:

…This year
My Maccabees
Wore masks
Washed their hands
Kept their distance
Stayed home…

From “Chanukah of Stars,” Rabbi Jennifer Singer:

The year I had no hanukiah
No candles
Not even a match
Because I had let the last cigarettes crumble in a drawer…

From “Second Calendar,” Rabbi Sonja Keren Pilz:

There is a Jewish calendar for those who came late.

Until Tuesday afternoon,
One might prolong the shabbes
For all those still in need
Of a second soul…

 

Download the whole collection:

Great Miracles Happen Here: Liturgy, Poetry, and Art for Chanukah [pdf]

And find all of our liturgical collaborations here: Liturgical Arts for Our Time.

 

    

Liturgy and poetry by Trisha Arlin, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, Rabbi Dara Lithwick, Rabbi David Evan Markus, Rabbi Sonja Keren Pilz, Rabbi Jennifer Singer, and Devon Spier. Sketchnotes by Steve Silbert.

Palabras del Torá / a “vort” of Torah by R’ David Markus

Each month Bayit offers regular video “vorts” (words of Torah / teachings from Jewish tradition) offered in or translated into Spanish, designed for Cuban Jewish communities and available to Spanish-speaking Jews everywhere. This month’s video offering features a teaching from Rabbi David Markus. The text follows the video, in Spanish and then in English. Deepest thanks to Rabbi Juan Mejia for translation.

 

 

Hola mis amigos.  Desde mi corazón en Nueva York al vuestro en Cuba, envío mis bendiciones para esta sagrada temporada de “lo que viene después”.

“Lo que viene después” es nuestra eterna pregunta humana y también es nuestra pregunta espiritual para este mes.  Es una pregunta sagrada no porque este mes contenga fiestas sagradas, sino justamente por la razón contraria.

En nuestro calendario laico, es noviembre.  Escasamente puedo creer que ha sido un año entero desde mi visita a Cuba.  Aún un año después siento cuán viva se sentía Cuba en Noviembre comparado con Nueva York.  El poeta británico Thomas Hood escribió que todas las cosas más bellas terminan en noviembre.

Sin calor, ni alegría, ni saludable facilidad,

Sin sensación cómodo en ningún miembro-

Sin sombra, sin brillo, sin mariposas ni abejas,

Sin frutas, sin flores, sin hojas, sin aves,

Noviembre!

Pero no en Cuba.  Y no sólo por el clima.  Especialmente en medio de la dificultad, la comunidad judía de Cuba compartió  su tesón, su pasión, su espíritu de bienvenida y su propio ser.  Nos fuimos cambiados para siempre.  Parte de nuestros corazones todavía está con ustedes, especialmente ahora en medio de la adversidad que azota a gran parte del mundo.

Así que es especialmente significativo que este noviembre comience en el medio del mes judío de Jeshvan.  Jeshván es nuestro único mes sin fiestas-  sin tiempo sagrado dedicado a nuestros rituales, reuniones, devoción, orgullo, alegría, dolor, ansia y aprendizaje.  Después del intenso mes judío de Tishré, lleno de fiestas como Rosh Hashaná, Yom Kippur, Sukkot y más, súbitamente ya no hay más.

A veces la sabiduría más grande del judaísmo es sutil: el judaísmo nos enseña no sólo a través de las grandes fiestas y proclamaciones sino también a través de lo que el profeta Elías experimentó como la “tranquila voz susurrante” de nuestro interior.

Igualmente con Jeshván.  Un mes entero con una súbita ausencia de fiestas judías nos enseña que la vida judía no gravita alrededor de las fiestas.  Más bien, la vida judía tiene que ver con nuestro día a día, la rutina aparente con la que interactuamos los unos con los otros.  El judaísmo gravita alrededor de nuestra devoción, orgullo, alegría, dolor, ansia y aprendizaje a través de todo nuestra vida, y no sólo en ocasiones especiales.

Sí, las ocasiones especiales son jusatmente eso: especiales.  Son oportunidades especiales para reunirnos y celebrar, especialmente cuando el esfuerzo implicado en reunirnos es física y económicamente desafiante.

En contraste, Jeshván centra nuestra atención en el judaísmo y las mitzvot (mandamientos) de la vida judía en el resto del tiempo, ya que no vivimos sólo para las fiestas.  En efecto, vivimos todos los días. Vivimos para nuestras familias y amigos, para tener oportunidades de aprender, para tratarnos bien los unos a los otros, para buscar y encontrar gratitud por nuestras bendiciones así sean pequeñas, para la alegría de celebrar shabbat cada semana.  Buscamos y, a veces, incluso encontramos lo sagrado en nuestras vidas cotidianas.

Tal vez ese sea el secreto judío para sobrevivir y prosperar a través de los siglos.  Nuestro secreto está en nuestras fiestas compartidas, pero más aún en vivir nuestra identidad orgullosamente, nuestra misión y nuestro credo todos los días.  Que este Jeshván, el mes sin fiestas judías, nos recuerde que el amor, la alegría y el sentido de nuestra vida judía nos aguarda en cada día, en cada alma, en cada lugar y en cada momento.

Hello, my friends.  From my heart in New York to yours across Cuba, I send blessings for this sacred season of “what comes next.”

“What comes next,” our eternally human question, also is our spiritual question this month. It’s a sacred question not because this month brings sacred Jewish holidays, but precisely for the opposite reason.

In our secular calendar, it’s November.  I barely can believe that it’s been a whole year since my community and I visited Cuba.  Even a year later, I feel how alive Cuba’s November felt compared to New York.  British poet Thomas Hood wrote that most everything beautiful ends in November:

No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member—
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,
November!

But not in Cuba – and not only because of climate.  Especially amidst hardship, the Jewish communities of Cuba shared with us your resilience, your passion, your welcoming spirit and your very selves.  We left changed forever. Part of our hearts still is with you, especially now amidst continuing adversity for so much of the world.
So it’s especially poignant that this November begins midway into Judaism’s spiritual month of Cheshvan.  Cheshvan is our only month with no holidays – no specially sacred times to focus our rituals, gatherings, devotion, pride, joy, grief, yearning or learning.  After Judaism’s intense month of Tishrei full of holidays like Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and more, suddenly there are none.
Sometimes our Jewish tradition’s greatest wisdom is subtle: Judaism teaches us not only in the big festivals and proclamations but also in what Elijah the prophet experienced as “the still, small voice” inside.
So too with Cheshvan. A whole month’s sudden absence of Jewish festivals can teach us that Jewish life actually isn’t about festivals at all. Rather, Jewish life is mostly about our day to day, our seemingly routine of how we treat each other. Judaism is about our devotion, pride, joy, grief, yearning and learning together throughout our lives, not just on special occasions.
Yes, special occasions are just that – special.  They’re special opportunities to gather together and celebrate, especially when the effort of gathering can be physically and economically challenging.
But Cheshvan focuses us on our Judaism, and mitzvot (commandments) of Jewish life the rest of the time, because we don’t live only for festivals. After all, we live each day.  We live for our families and friends, for chances to learn, for treating each other well, for seeking and finding gratitude for blessings however small, for joyfully making Shabbat every week.  We seek and sometimes even find the sacred in our daily lives.
Maybe that’s Judaism’s secret of surviving and thriving over the centuries.  Our secret is partly in our shared festivals, but mostly in pridefully living our identity, our calling and our creed every day.  May this Cheshvan, this month with no Jewish holidays, remind us that the love, joy and meaning of Jewish life await us every day, in every soul, in every place and in every moment.
By Rabbi David Markus. Translation by Rabbi Juan Mejia.

Isaiah + Sounds of Silence: video

Last year we shared a Yom Kippur haftarah from founding builder R’ David Markus — Isaiah 58 + Sounds of Silence. (At that link you can find a recording of the haftarah plus a marked-up PDF of the text annotated with haftarah trope.)

In response to a request on the Dreaming Up High Holidays 2020 Facebook group, R’ Shafir Lobb combined the recording from Soundcloud, the image from the blog post, and the text of the haftarah into a video suitable for screenshare during this pandemic year:

The video can be downloaded from google drive here.

If you are leading Zoom (or other digital) services during this pandemic year, you are welcome to use the video in your services, and/or to chant the haftarah yourself if you’re comfortable with haftarah trope.

May we all be sealed for goodness in the year to come.

 

Shafir Lobb

Haftarah by R’ David Markus. Video by R’ Shafir Lobb, rabbi of Congregation Eitz Chayim in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Ushpizin: liturgy for Sukkot in time of covid

Sukkot this year will be unlike any other. Some of us won’t be able to safely build a sukkah; others will find in the sukkah the outdoor safety that indoor ventilation doesn’t provide. What does it mean to invite ancestors when we can’t invite guests in person? With what, or whom, (or Whom!) are we sitting when we dwell in our sukkot this year — whether our sukkot be literal or metaphorical? What structures can we build liturgically and spiritually to protect us in these vulnerable times? Four liturgists from within and beyond the denominations collaborated on this set of offerings from Bayit to accompany us through this year’s festival. Here are excerpts; you can download the whole collection at the end of the post.

 

0. This Year’s Sukkah – With Words, by Rachel Barenblat and David Evan Markus, with illustration by Steve Silbert:

We build this year’s sukkah with words. Our words keep us company.  We read the words of this Teaching: this Teaching gathers us in…

1. Invitation to the Builders / Invitation to my Virtual Sukkah by Trisha Arlin:

…You are invited,
Builders of our past sukkot
In the backyard, the park, the roof:
Every year
You put up the walls
You hung the decorations.
Where are you this week?…

2. Far Away So Close by Rachel Barenblat:

…How can I welcome Abraham
and Sarah, David and
Rachel, when I can’t welcome
my own neighbors?…

3. UnSukkah by David Evan Markus:

We don’t build our sukkah with nails
Sharply hammered into sturdy place.

We don’t build our sukkah with roof shingles
And sustainable solar panels for midnight light…

4. In the Open by Sonja Keren Pilz:

Vulnerable
Under the open sky.

The air gets thinner;
Canadian geese fly by…

5. Sitting in Emptiness by Trisha Arlin:

On Sukkot, we sit in the sukkah:
In an empty room
Porous walls
Holes in the ceiling
No door…

6. Sit With Me / Not Alone by Rachel Barenblat:

…The safest companion in times of covid:
Myself. Or you, Holy One:
dressed for the season in worn jeans
and flannel shirt, and maybe flip-flops
reluctant to let summer end…

7. Sitting neither Here nor There by Sonja Keren Pilz:

We used to sit, huddled together,
Sharing blankets, often too cold.
We used to drink,
Hot tea or cider,
Passing the water, the soda, the coke…

8. Tomorrow Again (for Shemini Atzeret) by David Evan Markus:

This is the breezy feeling I hope to remember
Starting tomorrow when beginning begins again

Pulsing reborn from the jumble of these many months
Left on pandemic ground to decay as pungent compost

For the first daring shoots of next year’s who-knows…

9. Simchat Torah, by the ensemble together:

We dance by ourselves.
We dance in our living rooms with Sefaria on our phones.
We dance in the falling rain.
We dance cradling toddlers, or dogs, or emptiness…

Download the whole collection here: Ushpizin [PDF]

 

Prayers by Trisha Arlin, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, Rabbi David Evan Markus, and Rabbi Sonja Keren Pilz. Sketchnote by Steve Silbert.

Mah Nora HaMakom Hazeh – a chant for (digital) sacred space

One of the challenges of convening a group for prayer over Zoom is shifting gears into sacred space.

How can we sanctify the space where each of us is planted, knowing that as we shelter-in-place during the pandemic, our desks or dining tables or coffee tables serve purposes both secular and sacred? The table from which I’m joining the Zoom call might be the same table where I paid bills an hour ago, or folded laundry, or homeschooled my kid. How can we skillfully make that space feel holy when it’s time for prayer?

And how can we sanctify the placeless place of the Zoom room itself? A Zoom room doesn’t have the comfort or majesty or familiarity of a synagogue. We may associate Zoom spaces with committee meetings and other secular activities, not the sacred purpose of prayer. And a Zoom room isn’t a “place,” exactly, any more than the internet is a “place.” How can we make that “place” holy and fitting to hold a community gathering in prayer?

At a recent digital Shabbaton convened to explore these questions, we used this chant by Rav Kohenet Taya Mâ Shere for both of these purposes. We sang it as a call-and-response. (Participants were muted, but the two of us sang the back-and-forth, inviting the community to sing along with the response half of the chant.) We sang it explicitly to sanctify the physical place from which each of us was calling in and to sanctify the Zoom space.

We used this chant as our melodic and thematic throughline. We sang it at the start of services, during the d’var Torah (The Mishkan’s Next Digital R/Evolution, on this very theme), and again to close the service and seal our time together. The call-and-response linked us together across nine different states and two different countries. And the words reminded us that where we are is holy — where we are in the world and in our homes and in our bodies, and where we are in the space of the internet and our hearts’ interconnection.

 

מה נורא המקום הזה/ Mah nora hamakom hazeh

How awesome is this body!

How awesome is this place!

How awesome is this journey

Through time and space.

 

(If you can’t see the embedded audio player, try going to this post directly at yourbayit.org/makom/.)

 

Chant by Rav Kohenet Taya Mâ Shere. Her albums include Wild Earth Shebrew, Halleluyah All Night, Torah Tantrika and This Bliss; find her music at her website.

 

 

Post by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat and Rabbi David Markus.

The Mishkan’s Next Digital (R)Evolution

Reb Zalman Memorial Shabbaton 2020

June 13, 2020 • 21 Sivan 5780

מה נורא המקום הזה

How awesome is this body!

How awesome is this place!

How awesome is this journey

Through time and space.

(Chant by Rav Kohenet Taya Mâ Shere.)

Shabbat shalom to all of us together במקום נורא הזה / in this awesome place, to honor Reb Zalman’s living legacy.  Wherever you are, our Zoom spiritual link is part of what Zalman imagined decades ago.  This spiritual space is what today is about.  We’re coming to know digital not as a mere filler for what’s real, but as a real vibrant מקום of its own.  Today is about what that might mean, and what it may ask of us.

Zalman might start us with a paradox about what we know and how we know it.  Zalman famously put it this way:

I start looking ahead … and suddenly I find [that] I am looking through the rearview mirror.  When you ask, “What would the future look like?,” I go into a nostalgic past, a romanticized past, and then go into a tribal thing, and think for a moment, “It would look like that.”  But it’s not going to look like that.  We are on the verge of breakthroughs that are so immense that we can hardly imagine them.  But it pays to imagine them, and it pays to … figure [them] out.

Zalman’s rearview metaphor is about humility.  Maybe Zalman wouldn’t call himself modest – not the guy who urged us all to melitz yosher, spiritual intercession with holy chutzpah.  Still, there’s humility to know that the future won’t look how we imagine it.  Our history refracts future-questing vision so insidiously that usually we end up seeing the rear view of experience as some great vista up ahead.

Thus Torah this week calls Moses האיש אניו מאוד מכל האדם אשר אל פני האדמה / “the earth’s most humble person” (Num. 12:3).  Only such a person could see divinity באספקלריה מאירה / by a clear lens (B. Yevamot 49b) rather than hindsight.  Even more, in this week of Beha’alotecha – which opens with נרות המנורה / the menorah lights of the Mishkan, our first מקום נורא – our haftarah proclaims explicitly what the menorah light  means: לא בחיל ולא בכח כי אם ברוחי אמר יהו”ה / “Not by might and not by power but by My spirit, says [God]” (Zach. 4:6).  All light that we see is reflected light – rearview in all our vision and willful certainty.

Hence our paradox.  If only by anavah, not the might or power of rear-view vision by reflected light, how can we see the future – much less build it?

Zalman had advice on this.  Paradigm shifts like the one we’re in now – can anyone deny the tectonic shifts underfoot? – ask both anavah and holy chutzpah, humility and audacity.  No, the future won’t look how we envision it, but still we must build that future because people, communities and the planet need it now.  So we build what we see, and what gets built itself will end up different.  Fine!

So it’s in both chutzpah and anavah that we reach this Zoomosphere moment.  There’s no going back: yesterday’s “normal” is history, and mere nostalgia will cheat the future.  We must build the future, even if we only see it in the rearview mirror.

Thankfully not everything in the rearview is mere nostalgia.  Our hindsight can trace human spiritual history leading to our Zoomosphere, all of us “log[ging] onto God” exactly where we are, as Rachel quoted Zalman last night.  We might sense that history as the divine flow Itself, and imagine where that flow is leading.  And with some chutzpah, we might tell that story, all of spiritual time from the Beginning, על רגל אחת / “on one foot.”  One story in two acts.  Ready?

In a Beginning, the One created space and time.  Eternal sacred space called Eden ejected humanity; space itself re-booted with a flood of new life.  The One told Avram: lech lecha from ancestral space “to a land I’ll show you” (Gen. 12:1).  Avram raised sacred markers along the way.  Yitzchak “went out to talk [with God] in the field” (Gen. 24:68).  Jacob dreamed an angelic ladder highway: מה נורא המקום הזה / “Right here is the House of God” (Gen. 28:18), forgetting that every right here is, too.  His sons also missed it: cue centuries of bondage building sacred space for Pharaoh.  Freedom!  Sand-blind weeks to camp at history’s most famous sacred place nobody can find.  Two tablets!  Oops; two more tablets!  Build a Mishkan, complete with menorah.  Light it up and follow the cloud.  (That’s this week.)  Too afraid to go where I’ll show you?  In 40 years, a next generation will try again.  Enter the Land.  Build a Temple, with menorah.  Light it up!  Exile 70 years by the waters of Babylon, where we sat and wept remembering Zion.  Go back.  Build a second Temple, with menorah.  Light it up!  Exile.  End of Act One.

Intermission: God won’t be fixed in any one place.  The Sfat Emet (1846-1905) taught that we are God’s menorah, so “the essence of the Mishkan and Temple is that it’s in everyone.  That’s the point of ועשו לי מקדש שוכנתי בתוכם / ‘Make Me a Sanctuary that I may dwell in them’ (Ex. 25:8)….  When the Temple stood, all knew that all life came of God,” but this knowledge kept depending on place.  So the Temple had to be destroyed to upshift our search for God from the constraining particularity of any place: “With the Mishkan hidden [in us], God’s presence can be found everywhere.”

Act Two: Sacred space on the go.  The Mishkan’s table became every Shabbat table, learning centers like Sura and Pumbedita, Talmud, shuls, printing presses, books, liturgies, “correct” ways carved by power and custom.  Trade routes, living most anywhere but hearts still in the East.  Exile and inquisition.  Not so much the East: go West.  Enlightenment!  Liberty? Assimilation!  Denominations?  Fractures!  World wars?  Israel!  The nuclear age, the digital age, de-centering of every kind of institution, now a global pandemic bringing us together by separating us.  “With the Mishkan hidden, God’s presence can be found everywhere.”  How about on Zoom?

Rearview vision is good for seeing patterns.  The pattern seems to be that, all along, God used examples of sacred space to teach us cosmology.  Eden, Avraham’s matzevot, Yitzchak in the field, Jacob’s ladder place, Egyptian temples, Sinai, mobile Mishkan, two Temples, post-exile Shabbat tables, houses of learning, shuls – each sacred place was an example to show that מלא כל הארץ כבודו / “the whole Earth is full of God’s glory” (Isaiah 6:3).  But we confused example for essence; as Zalman put it, we “confused the pointer for the point.”  So pointers kept coming.  But rather than get the point, grief aroused nostalgia.  In Zalman’s words from 1993, we venerated each pointer as a holy “relic” rather than a “catalyst for the future.”

And again today.  Many grieve Jewish institutions failing by the day.  Many grieve physical shuls as the pandemic exiles us to our homes.  Now we must make sacred space in our homes – it’s here, or nowhere.  And that was the point all along.

Today’s exile to our homes is no ordinary exile.  It’s an inzile: it turns us in, and it turns us inward.  We’re roused to seek the very thing for which our inzile most cues our yearning – real connection.  And for once, the whole world can start to see the same things.  Now all humanity can experience each place, each home, that way.

In wise words inscribed on rearview mirrors: “Things are closer than they appear.”

Just as the menorah light lifts divine spirit over human might, digital means divine connection everywhere – or, at least, it can.  It’s not automatic: it asks us to transform.  We’re only starting to sense those transformations, and they won’t look quite like what we see.  But anavah balances with chutzpah: we must build our Digital Mishkan.  After kiddush, we’ll explore more about how, including some ideas around bending time if we’re not in the same time zone, and technical points like digital infrastructure, skillful means and a sacred ZoomCorps so nobody’s left behind.

Beyond the technical, Zalman urged “backward compatibility” when possible.  Dig deep, because our ancestors probably laid some foundation stone to anchor us.  And they did: 1,700 years ago, Midrash Tehillim 4:11 ascribed these words to God:

אמר הקב”ה: אני אמרתי כשאתה מתפלל, התפלל בבית הכנסת שבעירך. ואם אתה אינך יכול לילך בבית הכנסת שבעירך, התפלל בתוך ביתך. ואם אין אתה יכול לילך להתפלל, תתפלל על מטתך. ואם אין את יכול לדבר, הרהר בלבך.

God said, “I told you that when you pray, pray in a Beit Knesset in your community.  And if you can’t go to a Beit Knesset in your community, pray in your house.  And if you can’t go to pray, pray in your bed.  And if you can’t speak, meditate in your heart.”

How wise!  A synagogue always was called a Beit Knesset, a place of entering. It’s about entering another state and doing so together – not physically going.  Yet we’re still to “go” somewhere, even if we stay in our “house.”  So it’s about entering, by making an intentional shift where we physically are.

That shift depends on each soul, as it must now because we’re each in our own homes.  Inzile means that we can’t totally outsource to the rabbi, cantor, teacher, guru, yoga instructor or anyone outside.  We never could: only we can experience our space as sacred, but circumstances brings that truth close to home, at home.

Suddenly the only table in the Mishkan that can be sacred is our table, in our home.  If the Mishkan is to have a table sacred for you, only you can make it so.  It’s a radical, profound empowerment: it always was so, but now it hits home, at home.

If a Zoom connection is to be sacred for you, only you can make it so.  Skillful means will help – it’s still a shared medium – but it’s on you to “go” to sacred space by making intentional shifts in the sacred space that is our home.  We’ll harness the senses of embodiment.  We’ll take on ourselves to set our spaces in ways that aren’t routine; to dress for spiritual experience; to silence distracting devices like TVs and phones except for emergencies; to wash ritually before spiritual experience online.

That’s Assiyah, physicality.  In Yetzirah, we’ll accustom emotionally to open by new cues, new tenderizers.  We’re still carbon-based creatures: we evolved to feel, we learned to feel, by feeling other people first.  Our mirror neurons sympathetically resonate with others.  It’s why the physicality of collective gathering opens us emotionally, and it still can.  Our neuroplasticity, evolutionary capacity to rewire, will learn to take in others and cue us to feel deeply together online – but it’ll take time and focus.  It’s why we checked in with faces and bodies during the service.

And over time, we’ll learn how to meet new people digitally.  It can feel easier to go deep online if we already know someone, if digital connection activates the felt sense of pre-existing physical relationships.  That’s good, but can’t be the only way.  As we adapt, digital will feel less like a poor substitute for “real life.”  Digital is real, with real emotions, real spirituality, real prayer, real community, real tzedakah, real voting, real political campaigns.  We’ll get there.

Until then, this time of adjustment asks us to be gentle with each other and ourselves.  Until digital feels fully real, people may feel lonely.  If digital doesn’t hit the spot, we may feel even more isolated for all our so-called digital connectivity.  We may mourn “normal”: that too is our inzile, our turning inward.  These emotions will teach us if we let them, lest we become calcified and brittle.  If we let them, our inner defenses to the tumult of this time will ease and new inner landscapes will open.  Until then, let’s be gentle, take extra time with each other, and take it slow.

In Briyah, in thought, Zalman was right: we see the future in the rearview mirror.  However sure our vision, it won’t “look like that.  We are on the verge of breakthroughs that are so immense that we can hardly imagine them.  But it pays to imagine them, and it pays to … figure [them] out.”  That’s part of what we’re doing here – sandboxing, trying, testing, adjusting and trying again.

Wise spiritual building isn’t like how I cook pasta – throw it at the wall and see if it sticks.  Serendipity, yes, but not avant garde to be different for its own sake.  It’s not doing what we want just because we want it, without the healthy gevurah of standards, ethics and external accountability for them.  The collectivity and stakes of this moment, for the Jewish future and the whole world, ask better than that.

Digital is good for that.  Digital allows collaboration across most every divide in ways that can hasten the necessary re-ordering of systems.  It allows fast feedback, democratized, from everyone.  It generates more data and helps us ask for it and use it.  It will reward people, groups and systems that do.  And that is good: insist on it.

In Atzilut, in essence, divine cosmology is as it’s always been: מלא כל הארץ כבודו / “the whole Earth is full of God’s glory.”  Finally, finally, our inzile might teach us that every place is sacred space.  “With the Mishkan hidden [within us], God’s presence can be found everywhere.”  The Mishkan is where you are.  It always was. The menorah is within you.  It always was.  Light it up, and follow the cloud.  It will lead you if you let it.  It will lead us if we let it.  It always has.  It always will.

מה נורא המקום הזה

How awesome is this body!

How awesome is this place!

How awesome is this journey

Through time and space.

 

Offered as a keynote teaching at “An Emerging Judaism: A Global Digital Convening,” the Digital Reb Zalman Memorial Shabbaton organized by Havurah Shir Hadash in Ashland, Oregon. Designed to dovetail with R’ Rachel’s keynote, Being Real: Digital Edition.

 

 

By Rabbi David Markus.

 

Palabras del Torá / a “vort” of Torah from R’ David Markus

Each month Bayit offers regular video “vorts” (words of Torah / teachings from Jewish tradition) offered in or translated into Spanish, designed for Cuban Jewish communities and available to Spanish-speaking Jews everywhere. This month’s video offering features a teaching from Rabbi David Markus. The text follows the video, in Spanish and then in English.

 

Palabras del Torá / a “vort” of Torah – R’ David Markus from Bayit: Building Jewish on Vimeo.


Shalom a mis hermanos y hermanas cubanos de Klal Yisrael, nuestra familia global judía que, cada dia, se siente más como una familia – a pesar de la distancia.

Espero y rezo que este mensaje los encuentre sintiéndose saludables, fuertes, resistentes y seguros.

La vista desde mi casa en Nueva York es muy diferente a la de hace un año.   Hace un año, me deje llevar y pensé que el mundo era un lugar más seguro y saludable de lo que verdaderamente es.   El coronavirus ha cambiado, para siempre, como yo veo el mundo, mi comunidad y toda comunidad.

Yo puedo imaginar algunas de las imágenes que el coronavirus — y también, las protestas, han traído a sus televisores y a sus dispositivos digitales.   Puedo sentir algunas de las experiencias que estos cambios globales han traído a sus tiendas, a sus familias y a sus barrios: más escásez, más racionamiento, mas penuria.

En la penuria,y tambien en las protestas, tornamos los unos a los otros.   Esta es la manera cubana de hacer esas cosas.   Es como los judios de Cuba han sobrevivido el “periodo especial” y toda adversidad – natural o humana – tanto antes como después.

Honrar nuestra humanidad esencial – y tornar a los demás de una causa colectiva – es una lugar común cubano que muchos norteamericanos olvidan a menudo.   Si bien hemos caído en la tentación de vernos como entes separados — los unos de los otros – el coronavirus nos está enseñando, una vez más, que  estamos interconectados.

El mundo necesita aprender esta lección en lo más profundo de nuestras almas, y, en el alma de nuestras sociedades.   Es una importante lección — y una lección, por demás, muy judía.

El judaísmo nos enseña que, a veces, sólo un cambio radical de perspectiva puede hacernos ver esta verdad y otras verdades fundamentales.   Hay tiempos en la vida, tan fuertes, que lo cambian todo.   En cada vida – en sus vidas y en la mía propia – hay momentos personales que nos transforman hasta el tuétano.   Estos momentos de transformación también son aquellos en los que sentimos más empatía, y esto no es una coincidencia.   Es una verdad espiritual fundamental.

La época del coronavirus no es solamente un época personal: es un momento global, es un momento para toda la humanidad.   Estos momentos cambian civilizaciones enteras, y suceden más infrecuentemente que nuestros momentos personales de cambio – pero igual suceden, ciertos como el flujo de la historia misma.

Justamente la semana pasada, el pueblo judio celebró uno de estos momentos colectivos.   Shavuot, la fiesta de la entrega de la Torá, es el aniversario en la tradición judía del momento en que Moisés y el pueblo de Israel estuvieron juntos en el Monte Sinaí.   La Torá describe que Moisés, y el pueblo, estaban juntos k’ish ejad – como una sola persona – pues solo así podrían recibir los Diez Mandamientos.   Unidos, como si fueran una misma persona, vieron el humo del Monte Sinaí.   Unidos como si fueran una persona, sus sentidos tan confundidos que literalmente vieron el trueno: contemplaron con sus propios ojos las palabras de Dios.

Este momento fue tan confuso que cambio la historia para siempre.   El judaismo, el cristianismo, el islam, el flujo del espíritu, el flujo de la historia misma — todo se remonta ultimamente al Monte Sinaí.

Ésta es una de las grandes contribuciones al mundo — no sólo la Torá, no sólo los Diez Mandamientos, no sólo las reglas del ético vivir – sino también la idea radical de que un momento de cambio de visión: cuando es compartida por todos, puede cambiarlo todo.

En el calendario judío, esto sucedió la semana pasada.   Hecho y cumplido.   La próxima gran fiesta es Rosh Hashaná en unos cuantos meses. – Y entonces, ¿ahora qué?

Tal vez, la lección más grande del judaísmo no es que los Diez Mandamientos hayan sido dados en una explosion de luz y amor en el Monte Sinaí, sino que la Torá no terminó – ahí en ese momento.   Después del Monte Sinaí hubo una gran travesía hacia adelante: ¡Hay más libros de la Torá de Moisés que ocurren después del Monte Sinaí que antes de este!

Esto nos enseña que nuestra Torá, y nuestro judaísmo, no son sólo colecciones de grandes momentos.   La Torá fue puesta en nuestras manos, por toda la posteridad, para cargarla y cumplirla dia tras dia, dondequiera que nos lleve la vida.

Esta es la lección profunda del ese mes que sigue a Shavuot. Es nuestra responsabilidad vivir estos valores, orgullosos de nuestra herencia, pero sin conformarnos con el heroísmo y las luchas de nuestros ancestros.   No se trata del pasado sino del ahora: la humanidad necesita de todo nuestro ejemplo de amor, de empatía y de conexión – no sólo en las fiestas, sino cada dia.

Ustedes fueron ejemplos claros de estos principios – para mí y mi comunidad de Nueva York cuando visitamos Cuba el otoño pasado.   Fue tangible, y muy especial para nosotros. Los judios de Cuba cambiaron para siempre nuestra manera de ver el mundo.   Sospecho que la experiencia no fue tan especial para ustedes, ya que está es su naturaleza día a día.

Ustedes son la prueba del principio judio de que la vida judía es más que fiestas.   Es el amor, la benevolencia, la compasión, y la empatía que nos mostramos los unos a los otros todos los días.   Estas son las grandes joyas de la Torá: amar al prójimo como a nosotros mismos, particularmente cuando esto es difícil.   Es está empatía, nuestra identidad y destino compartidos, que nos ayudarán a cumplir la Torá en nuestros días, durante este momento en que el coronavirus está transformando el mundo.

De mi corazón al de ustedes, les envio bendiciones de resiliencia y salud – y – de todo aquello que necesitamos para vivir estos valores eternos en un mundo que los necesita y nos necesita a todos.

Shalom Javerim.   


Shalom to my Cuban sisters and brothers among Klal Yisrael, our global Jewish family that feels ever more like a family even across the span of distance.  I hope and pray that this message finds you feeling healthy, strong, resilient and safe.

The view from my home in New York feels so different from this time last year.  This time last year, I let myself believe that somehow my world was safer and healthier than it actually was.  The coronavirus changed forever how I see the world, my community and every community.

I imagine some images that the coronavirus – and now the protests – have brought to your televisions and digital news feeds. I can sense some experiences that global shifts are bringing to your stores, families and neighborhoods – more shortages, more regulations, more hardship.

In hardship, we turn to each other.  It’s the Cuban way.  It’s how the Jews of Cuba survived the “special period” and every adversity – natural and human – both before and since.

Honoring our essential humanity – and turning to each other in common cause – is a Cuban truism that we Americans too often forget. If ever we are tempted to regard ourselves as separate from each other, the coronavirus is teaching us yet again how interconnected we are.

The world needs to learn that lesson deeply in our own souls, and in the souls of our societies.  It’s an important lesson — and a very Jewish lesson at that.

Judaism teaches that the more people empathize with each other — the more our lives feel connected on the inside — the more we and our world can heal its rifts and injustices. Empathy is the felt sense that what happens to you happens to me. Empathy grows in shared experience and in knowing deeply that our fate is intertwined.

Judaism also teaches that sometimes only a radical change of perspective can help us see these and other fundamental truths.  Times in life come that are so big that suddenly they change everything.  Into each life, into your lives and my own, come those personal moments that transform us to our core.  Those transformation moments happen also to be the moments that we most feel our empathy – and it’s no coincidence.  It’s core spiritual truth.

This coronavirus moment isn’t only a personal moment: it’s a global moment, a moment for all humanity.  Moments that shift whole civilizations come more rarely than our own individual moments, but they come as sure as the flow of history itself.

Just last week, Judaism celebrated one of those collective moments.  It was Shavuot, the festival of receiving Torah, Jewish tradition’s anniversary of the moment when Moses and the Children of Israel stood together at Mount Sinai.  Torah recounts that they stood together k’ish echad — like one person – for only together could they receive the Ten Commandments.  Together as one, they saw Sinai smoke.  Together as one, their senses were so scrambled that they actually saw thunder: they saw the words of God.

That moment was so scrambling that it changed history forever.  Judaism, Christianity, Islam, the flow of spirit, the flow of history itself — they all trace back through Sinai.

It’s one of Judaism’s great contributions to the world — not just Torah, not just the Ten Commandments, not just rules for ethical living – but also the radical idea that a single moment of changed vision, shared together as one, can change everything.

On the Jewish calendar, that was last week — over and done.  The next major holiday is Rosh Hashanah months ahead.   So what now?

Maybe Judaism’s greatest teaching isn’t that the Ten Commandments were given in a burst of light and love on Mount Sinai, but rather that Torah didn’t end right then and there.  After Sinai there was a great journey ahead: far more of Torah’s Five Books of Moses come after Sinai than before!

We learn that our Torah, and our Judaism, aren’t about big moments only.  Torah was given into our hands for all of time to come – to carry and fulfill day after day, wherever life take us.

That is the deep meaning of this month following Shavuot.  It is on us to live those values, proud of our heritage but not resting on the heroism and struggles of our ancestors.  It’s not about then but about now: humanity needs every example of love, empathy and interconnection that we can offer — not just on holidays but every day.

You exemplified those principles to me and my community in New York, when we visited Cuba last autumn.  It was palpable and very special to us.  The Jews of Cuba changed forever how we see the world.  I suspect it all felt far less special to you, because it’s how you are.

You prove the Jewish principle that Jewish life is more than festival days.  It’s about the love, kindness, compassion and empathy we show each other every day.  These are the great jewels of Torah — to love another as we love ourselves, even when it’s difficult.  It is empathy, our shared identity and shared fate, that will help fulfill Torah in our own day, in this coronavirus moment now transforming the world.

From my heart to yours, I send blessings for resilience and health, and for all that we need to live these timeless values in a world that needs them — and needs us all.  Shalom chaverim.

By Rabbi David Markus. Translation by Rabbi Juan Mejia.

Febrero 2020: Palabras del Torá / February 2020 Torah video

Palabras del Torá / a “vort” of Torah – R’ David Markus from Bayit: Building Jewish on Vimeo.

Each month Bayit offers regular video “vorts” (words of Torah / teachings from Jewish tradition) offered in or translated into Spanish, designed for Cuban Jewish communities and available to Spanish-speaking Jews everywhere. This month’s video offering features a teaching from Rabbi David Markus, translated into Spanish by Rabbi Juan Mejia. The text follows, in Spanish and then in English.

 

Shalom javerim – Hola amigos!

Desde mi viaje a Cuba en el otoño pasado, la profunda calidez y orgullo que tantos judíos cubanos compartieron conmigo y con mi congregación neoyorquina se ha quedado en mí y en mi corazón.  Sigo inspirado por su orgullo, tenacidad y auténtica dedicación. Ustedes me enseñaron, a mí y a muchos miembros de mi congregación, una parte importante de lo que verdaderamente significa vivir como judíos.

La palabra hebrea javer (amigo) conlleva un significado más profundo, que también conlleva un importante mensaje sobre este periodo del calendario judío. Es algo que tenemos en común a pesar de las diferencia de cómo vivimos y también, precisamente, a causa de las diferencias de cómo vivimos.

La palabra hebrea javer extrae su significado profundo de la raíz trilítera ח.ב.ר. (jet, bet, reish) que significa “conectar” o “amarrar”.  Los verdaderos amigos no son simples conocidos pasajeros, sino que están profundamente conectados, amarrados el uno al otro, tanto interna como externamente.  De esta misma raíz verbal vienen las palabras hebreas para “unir”, “asociar”, y “pareja de estudio”. Estas son la esencia de toda comunidad.

En palabras que no puedo expresar completamente, me siento mejaber. Me siento conectado con los judíos de Cuba, parcialmente por cómo ustedes compartieron tan generosamente conmigo las conexiones entre ustedes.  Inmediatamente me hicieron sentir parte de su comunidad. Ustedes saben, intuitivamente, que construir comunidad es el secreto para la supervivencia y el florecimiento judío a través de los siglos.

Esto también tiene un profundo significado en esta época del año y en las tres fiestas judías que se aproximan, una por mes, en la luna llena del mes de Febrero (Shevat), Marzo (Adar) y Abril  (Nisán). Estas tres fiestas, en su esencia, también tratan de aquello que nos conecta más profundamente.

Primero viene Tu Bishvat.  En el 2020 comenzará en la noche del 9 de Febrero.  Coloquialmente esta fiesta es conocida como el “año nuevo de los árboles”, pero místicamente es un profundo recordatorio de que toda la naturaleza, incluídos nosotros, está unida.  Lo que pasa a cualquier parte de la naturaleza, también le pasa a la totalidad. Lo que le pasa a uno de nosotros, nos pasa a todos. En la luna llena de Febrero, tomémonos el tiempo para observar cómo toda la naturaleza está conectada.  Este año, al mirar a la luna llena, sabré que es la misma luna que ustedes ven y me alegraré en nuestra mutua conexión.

Después viene Purim. En el 2020 comenzará la noche del 9 de Marzo. Los niños judíos conocen a Purim como el “halloween judío”, celebrando la antigua historia de Ester y Mordejai, es un tiempo en el que nos disfrazamos para esconder nuestra verdadera identidad.  Los otros dos significados profundos de Purim que más me llaman la atención tienen que ver con este aspecto de la conexión. El primero es que el destino judío sube y baja colectivamente; estamos juntos en esto, del mismo modo que los judíos persas cuya angustia y victoria la fiesta de Purim rememora.  El otro es que, sin importar qué máscaras usemos en nuestras vidas, qué usemos para ocultarnos, qué hagamos para protegernos de nuestro ser más real y vulnerable, todos compartimos exactamente este impulso de auto protección. Nuestras máscaras, nuestras apariencias, no son lo que somos verdaderamente. Estamos conectados más por lo que somos internamente.

Luego viene Pesaj. En el 2020 comenzará en la noche del 8 de Abril.  Conocemos a Pésaj como la historia eterna de nuestra liberación de la esclavitud- la piedra angular de nuestra identidad judía.  Pésaj simboliza nuestra conexión con nuestros ancestros, por la promesa divina de nuestra liberación y por la celebración del Séder que es increíblemente similar en todo el mundo judío.  También conocemos a Pésaj como un llamado moderno a la justicia. Nuestra propia liberación no será completa hasta que liberemos a todos los amarrados injustamente. Estamos conectados por este llamado judío fundamental a la justicia social, a ayudar a curar un mundo con aún demasiados faraones, aún demasiada esclavitud y demasiada vulneración de la dignidad humana.

Tu Bishvat, Purim y Pésaj.  Son tres lunas llenas consecutivas de conexión.  Son tres oportunidades de celebrar las conexiones entre nosotros, nuestra herencia y nuestra comunidad.  Son tres oportunidades para construir comunidad- el secreto de la vida judía que ustedes bien conocen ya.  Son tres oportunidades para oir el continuo llamado judío a fortalecernos y juntos vivir más enteramente- por nosotros, por la naturaleza y por toda la humanidad.

Les envio bendiciones de alegría en esta temporada con estas tres lunas llenas que nos invitan a conectarnos con la naturaleza, con la comunidad y con la libertad humana.  De mi corazón para el vuestro: Jag sameaj.

 


Shalom javerim – Greetings, friends!

Since my trip to Cuba last fall, the deep warmth and pride that so many Cuban Jews shared with me and my New York Jewish community have stayed with me in my heart.  I continue to feel inspired by your pride, tenacity and genuine caring. You have taught me, and many in the community I serve in New York, part of what it really means to live as Jews.

The Hebrew word javer (friend) encodes a deeper meaning, that also encodes something important about this season in the Jewish calendar.  It’s something we have in common both despite differences in how we live, and precisely in differences in how we live.

The Hebrew word javer draws its deep meaning from the three-letter root ח.ב.ר. (jet, bet, reish), which means to connect or bind.  Real friends aren’t just passive acquaintances: they are deeply connected, bound together both inside and between.  From this same root word come the Hebrew words for “join,” “association,” and learning partnership. These are the essence of community.

In ways that words can’t fully express, I feel m’jaber / connected with the Jews of Cuba, partly because you so generously shared with me your connections with each other.  Instantly you helped me to feel like part of your community. You know intuitively that community-building is a secret of Jewish surviving and thriving over the centuries.

This, too, is a deep meaning of this time of year and its three Jewish holidays that will follow, once per month, at the full moon of each month of February (Shevat), March (Adar) and April (Nissan).  All three holidays, in their essence, also are about what most connects us.

First comes Tu B’shevat (in 2020, the night of February 9-10).  Colloquially it’s the “New Year of the Trees,” but mystically it’s a deep reminder that all of nature is joined together, including all of us.  What happens to any part of nature happens to the whole. What happens to any of us touches all of us. At February’s full moon, take time to notice how all of nature connects. This year, I will look up at the full moon, knowing it’s the same full moon for you, and I will revel in our connection together.

Next comes Purim (in 2020, the night of March 9-10).  Jewish children might know Purim as a kind of “Jewish Halloween” celebrating the ancient story of Esther and Mordechai, a time when we dress in costume as if to conceal who we really are.  Two other deep meanings of Purim that most speak to me are about connection. One is that Jewish fate rises and falls together: we’re in it together, no less than Persian Jews whose collective plight and triumph Purim honors.  Another is that whatever masks we might wear in our lives, whatever conceals us, whatever we do to protect against being most vulnerable and real, we all share exactly that self-protective impulse. Our masks, our outward appearances, are not who we really are.  We are most connected by what’s inside.

Then comes Passover (in 2020, starting the night of April 8).  We know Passover as the timeless story of liberation from bondage – our cornerstone of Jewish identity.  Passover stands for our connection by ancestry, by the divine promise of liberation, and by the seder celebration that is astonishingly similar for Jews everywhere.  We also can know Passover as a modern clarion call to justice. Our own liberation will not be complete until we free all who are wrongly bound. We connect by that essential Jewish calling of social justice, to help heal a world that still has far too many Pharaohs, too much bondage, too much affront to human dignity.

Tu B’shevat, Purim and Passover.  They’re three consecutive full moons of connection.  They’re three opportunities to celebrate our connections to each other, heritage and community.  They’re three opportunities to build community – the secret of Jewish life that you already know.  They’re three opportunities to heed the continuing Jewish call to become stronger and more whole together – for ourselves, for the natural world, and for all humanity. 

I send blessings of joy for this season, these three full moons that call us into our connections with nature, community and human freedom.  From my heart to yours, Jag sameaj! 

 

By Rabbi David Markus. Translated by Rabbi Juan Mejia.