Friday, August 31, 2012

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

#BlogElul 10: Memory

In my mind, Rabbi Sylvan Kamens’ heartfelt poem, We Remember Them, is as much a part of Yom Kippur as is our break-the-fast a few hours later:
At the rising of the sun and at its going down,
We remember them.
At the blowing of the wind and the chill of the winter,
We remember them.
At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring,
We remember them.
At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of Autumn,
We remember them.
At the beginning of the year and when it ends,
We remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live,
For they are now part of us as we remember them.

When we are weary and in need of strength,
we remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart,
We remember them.
When we have joy we crave to share,
We remember them.
When we have decisions that are difficult to make,
We remember them.
When we have achievements that are based on theirs,
We remember them.
As long as we live they too will live,
For they are now a part of us as we remember them.
Now, though, there is a different rhythm by which I remember:

At the coming of the seder, I remember her.
On what will always be her birthday, I remember her.
On the anniversary of her death, I remember her.
In the company of amazing Jewish women, I remember her.
On September 11th, I remember her.
On Fourth of July, I remember her.
But mostly “just because” I remember her.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

#BlogElul 8: Prayer

Terry, my college roommate—who has been a like-a-sister friend for more than three decades—came to New York on Friday for a long overdue weekend visit.  In the days before, we’d ticked through a number of possible activities for our time together and, at her suggestion, we added worship to our list of “definites.”  On her last visit to New York, we’d attended Mass at St. Patrick’s so this time around it would be Kabbalat Shabbat at Shaaray Tefila.  We opted for this particular service both because it’s shorter than the minyan and because it would leave all day Saturday free for whatever else we decided to do. 

In his drash, Rabbi Stein spoke about the randomness of that morning’s shooting at the Empire StateBuilding and the role of fate and mazel in our lives.  Later in the service, Terry was especially struck by this particular passage in the siddur:  There is evil enough to break the heart, and there is good enough to exult the soul."  During our “debrief” over dinner, she also told me how much she enjoyed the service, the music, and all the congregational participation.  

Fast forward to Saturday at about 6:40 p.m. as we made our way around the beautiful fountain footprints of first the South Tower and then the North Tower of the 9/11 Memorial—our fingers gently touching the letters comprising the names of so very many souls lost on that day.  One in particular—Michael S. Costello—the boyfriend of one of her husband’s cousins, gave us special pause.  Terry told me he was "loud, fun-loving and a good guy."  We also talked about Neil David Levin, who, although we neither saw his name nor knew him personally, was a fellow alum of our beloved Lafayette College and, at the time of his death on 9/11, the executive director of the Port Authority. 

As dusk fell and the names became illuminated by the soft lights below, we talked more about fate, mazel, chance, and fortune, and also about the words from Mishkan T’fila that had caught Terry’s eye.  

May Stitch Costello, Neil Levin and the other 2995 completely innocent souls killed on that awful day rest in peace, and may 5773 usher in a time in which the good that exults our souls far outweighs the evil that breaks our hearts.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

#BlogElul 7: Shofar

When I lived in Los Angeles – in the densely populated neighborhood known by locals as the “Brentwood Ghetto” – someone in my building, or perhaps next door or across the street, blew a shofar early every morning during Elul.

On most days, it was a cannot-be-ignored reminder of the upcoming High Holy Days.  On Sundays, though, it was a true (and most unwelcome) wake-up call.

But that was back before social media…  Today, there are countless ways to sound a shofar without disturbing the neighbors.

Last Tuesday, for instance, on Elul 3, Ima on the Bima’s High Holy Day theme of “Intentions” prompted me to change my Facebook cover photo to this:

I then offered this comment:  Changing my FB cover to this photo will, I hope, remind me each day of this month to be intentional in thought and preparation for the upcoming holy days. #BlogElul

So far, it seems to be working…and I’m not disturbing the neighbors.

What about you?  What reminds you that it's Elul and that the High Holy Days are on the way?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

#BlogElul 1: Letter to Wisconsin

Dear Wisconsin,

A few years ago I wrote about your almost-neighbor Indiana, and now it’s your turn.  You’ve been popping up all over the place in recent weeks and I’ve taken notice.

Sadly, the first time was when Wade Michael Page killed six Sikhs and wounded four others in Oak Creek at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin just before morning worship two weeks ago.   I pray that that those who lost loved ones and those who were injured are RETURNING to wholeness and strength.  It is not an easy road…may their faith and their families sustain them.

Then, just last week, you brought us Janesville’s native son Paul Ryan.  May he enjoy his run for VP, and then RETURN swiftly to his Congressional seat representing the people in the Badger State’s First District.

The folks I’ve been watching most closely, though, have been coming to Milwaukee on a regular basis for month-long stays at your Children’s Hospital since June.  Yesterday they RETURNED home to Chicago, but they’ll be back in a few weeks.  Please take good care of all of them, especially Superman Sam, so he can RETURN to his normal life with his sibs and his ‘rents in Chicago and stay there…except for treks across the border to camp or to visit his Bubbe and Zayde.

As for me, I’m not sure that there’s any reason in the foreseeable future that I’d take a trip to see you.  However, if that should come to pass, I think I’d probably don one of those silly hats your people all seem to wear out there…before RETURNING to New York City, of course!

Take care, Wisconsin.  Perhaps we’ll meet someday.

~ JanetheWriter.

P.S.  If you’re wondering about #BlogElul, it’s the brainchild of one of your daughterscheck it out.