My husband and I took a weekend getaway to Toronto. Crossing the Peace Bridge into Canada, it struck me how only one lane was allowing entry into the United States, while several lanes were entering Canada. I wondered, “How welcoming does it feel to those who wish to enter the United States?” I realize there are practical and security issues that went into the design of the border crossing, but I saw it as a metaphor. How often do people enter our synagogues or temples and feel truly welcomed?
When we open our eyes in the morning, when we are confronted with challenges, when we seek to create beauty, when we seek understanding and insight, encouragement and wholeness and some reasonable assurance that we need to accomplish our goals – we also seek inspiration.
As High Holy Day tides approach and soon over-wash with their poignant waters of joy, awe, solemnity and introspection, it’s tempting to imagine that this season is only for emotional and spiritual internals.
Last September, one of the kindest and loveliest of my friends and colleagues was diagnosed with an aggressive form of sinus cancer. Marcus and his husband shared their story with hundreds and hundreds of colleagues, friends and family through caringbridge.org, a wonderful website that is specifically meant for such circumstances. They occasionally posted the progress of his treatment, his health, their needs and more.
1. Am I living the life I want? Yup, that’s a big one to contemplate. Even a bit scary. But now is the time to pay attention to it.
When I was a kid, I would always leave the service on Yom Kippur day when it came time for Yizkor, the special memorial service to remember all those loved ones lost to congregation members. I would leave because I had not lost someone in the primary circle of mourning for whom tradition dictates one recites Yizkor — parent, child, sibling, spouse — and so partly out of respect and partly out of superstition, I would leave the sanctuary.
One of the things I most love about the High Holidays is their focus on universality. During the rest of the year, Jewish consciousness and Jewish prayer concentrate primarily on the concerns of the Jewish People, while the season of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur turns our attention to the entirety of the human race and to the world as a whole. Although it is certainly understandable that throughout most of the calendar our emphasis is on our Jewish family and our Jewish needs, for me it is a bit myopic and constricting. The High Holidays come like a breath of fresh air that helps me to expand my consciousness and reconnect my Judaism to the larger tapestry of God’s creation.
I’ve learned my lesson. I’m just saying no to The Container Store.
It’s not even Rosh Hashanah, and some people are already talking about Hanukkah! There’s a new children’s book: Shmelf the Hanukkah Elf by Greg Wolfe. A Hanukkah Elf may sound familiar if you know of Elf on the Shelf and Mensch on the Bench, but this is a different concept. This is not a creepy elf in your home watching your every move – but rather an attempt to explain to Jewish kids why Santa isn’t coming to visit them.
If you had walked into Washington D.C.’s L’Enfant Plaza on the morning of January 12, 2007, you would have been in for quite a treat – and you probably never would have even realized it.