Monthly Archives: April 2015

A prayer for peace in Baltimore

We all pray for the family of Freddie Gray.  We mourn his tragic death and share the desire to see justice done for him.

We pray that peace return to the people and city of Baltimore.  The frustration is understandable.  But the violence and the destruction only serves itself.  Nothing is gained by these acts, and in fact, these very acts undermine the pursuit of justice.  We pray that cooler heads prevail and the desires of Mr. Gray’s family to respect his memory and stop the unrest immediately and calm is restored to the people of Baltimore.

Justice for Mr. Gray and his family must be the priority.  The crisis of confidence that exists between the people of Baltimore and its police must be resolved and the larger societal issues must be acknowledged and remedied.  Let us join together to make that happen.

Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu

Aid to Nepal- What we can do

The devastation in Nepal is overwhelming. The death and destruction however pales in comparison to the human suffering of the survivors. There is still hope rescuers will find people in the rubble.  Those who lived through this need shelter, food and medical treatment.

 As we count our blessings, we think of those who are suffering and offer our prayers. Let us offer to help in whatever ways we can. For many of us, that is in the form of supporting front line assistance.

 Please donate funds to the International Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders   or whatever group you know that provides critical support services.

 Anything we give supports life saving work.

 Please be counted.

Shiva at the Diner

 One of the most difficult things we experience is the loss of a loved one. Death takes them away from us. We struggle with our new reality, whether the loss was sudden or even if it was expected, the moment of truth is not as expected.

 Death is a complicated emotional process in which we experience loss, then grief and then we try to move forward. Jewish tradition gives us some wonderful coping mechanisms that acknowledge and honor the departed, our relationship to that person and a means of working through the loss.

 When we attempt to circumvent or short-circuit the process we lose out. In our fast paced world, we want to “get it over with,” and move on. I frequently hear the need to return to work, which is more a desperate attempt to escape the discomfort of the current situation and not deal with it. Some of us suppress or even ignore our feelings attempting to deny the pain, leaving things unresolved. Our feelings will however come back to haunt us. A perfunctory approach does not serve us well. Our hearts just do not work that way. Judaism has a better way to deal.

 Shiva, the traditional Jewish mourning period, is seven days (the word Shiva is Hebrew for seven). It is tempting to shorten this period to a three-day Shiva, or even a one-day observance. I did once hear of a family that decided they would sit Shiva Saturday night at the Italian restaurant/diner. These recastings of Shiva are reflections of everything but the acknowledgement of a profound loss and the grieving process that accompanies such a loss. Sadly, the people who survive are the ones who suffer as a result.

 Our Jewish tradition wisely helps guide the survivors through the process. You quite literally sit with your grief, fully acknowledging this place and the loss. Your family, friends and the community gathers to support you in your time of aloneness to share that indeed you are not alone. You experience what we all will experience and we are both connected and strengthened by this knowledge. By being together we say you will get through this with our support and love. The community continues to show its support and love through the institution of the synagogue as a place where you can find not only solace but a caring community that can help you reintegrate as the immediacy of the pain begins to find a place in your heart rather than on your sleeve.

 There is joy in life and pain in its loss. How we navigate these is what family, friends and community is all about. The traditional Hebrew phrase we share with someone who experiences a loss might be translated as: “May you find comfort in this place among family and friends.” This is among the values that makes embracing Judaism something sacred and profound.

Pirkei Avot- A new teaching for the Baby Boomers

I am pleased to share our video teaching of Pirkei Avot

We aimed this teaching at the Baby Boomers to help unlock the wisdom of Pirkei Avot as they navigate this very interesting stage of life.  The link is below, or you can find this and other insightful things at www.JewishSacredAging.com.

RabbiDavidLevinPirkeiAvot1-940x400

http://www.jewishsacredaging.com/pirkei-avot-a-short-video-study-series-with-rabbi-david-levin/

A New Chapter

 Naomi and I have entered a new chapter in our lives. A new phase in the journey that has brought us to an interesting, sobering and new place.

 I do not have a formal name for it, but people approximately my age/generation are becoming aware of it and those of you in the generation that has preceded us remember this time as well. I guess we are officially “middle age.” With all the talk of 40 being the new 30 and similar reframing, the fact is that in our 50’s we are in the place where mortality is showing itself as a real part of life. We have those krenks and pains, and some body parts are not performing as they once did. But even more sobering, some of our friends are not faring so well. They have real issues, confronting things such as cancer and heart disease, and some have died. Our parents are aging; many slipping, and many of them too are dying. We have entered that phase where these things are becoming the common and expected part of daily life, no more the stories of others from another generation, or the extraordinary event of someone we know. I am not sure precisely what this phase may be called, except for possibly “our new reality,” this next phase of our lives.

 It is strange and as a new experience it creates separation and aloneness. Yet it is a phase that we all experience. This is a time when our older generation can truly reach out to us younger people and help us make sense of this new place; for they have been here and have lived through it. Their experience gives them an understanding that we could use. If we could talk about it, the wisdom of the older would help us make some sense of it. We both would benefit from the conversation and the bonds that this sharing could foster. When we open up about our fears and how we navigate through them, we deepen the relationships between us figuratively and literally holding each other’s hand.

The Elusive Good Deal with Iran

 We have a framework of understanding with Iran in the negotiations on their nuclear program. This is a long way away from a deal, let alone a good deal. But we have arrived at an important place. Now the debate begins. That debate needs to be both vigorous and rigorous.

 I hope Congress is a vocal part of the debate and crafting of the final deal. The devil is in the details, they say, and certainly that is true here. Each side has a distinctly different interpretation of expectations, obligations and responsibilities of the framework, even within the P5+1. We need to understand what we want from this deal and how to achieve it before we can imagine how we move forward.

 Let us hope the debate is vigorous. The Congress will seek to clarify and demand accountability in ways that it deems appropriate and necessary. The President likewise, will work towards sharing what he envisions as the Deal and why. Like any collaborative work, the process is arduous and the end product likely will be different from the initial draft. But rarely have the stakes been higher. Let us remain vocal, sharing concerns and fears, hopes and aspirations.

 For those with a relationship to Israel there is another layer to the debate; for there is an existential threat that exists. Iran remains the sworn enemy of Israel and is committed to Israel’s destruction. When Israel’s agenda differs from the negotiated deal, how we reconcile them and work to secure Israel preemptively is critically important. We do not have the luxury of supporting Israel in the aftermath of an attack. In a nuclear attack, there would not be much left to support. So we must carefully consider what we are negotiating towards.

 What is the Iran we hope to see and how might the Deal move us towards that vision? History is replete with bad deals that have created situations far worse than the problems these deals were meant to resolve. Can we craft a deal with full forethought? An Iran that remains committed to destruction and not coexistence, intolerance instead of tolerance, an Iran that seeks to impose its values, or an Iran that becomes like a wild animal boxed into a corner will surely result in a less stable region and world.

 May the final deal result in a world that is safer and more secure. Let’s get to work.