Why did I become a rabbi? The rabbinate encompasses many of the things I love best: learning, meeting people and hearing their stories, observing and reflecting on the world around me, writing, and making meaning out of that which may seem meaningless. This is a record of my encounters with the people, places, and ideas in my milieu so far.
Sunday, September 13, 2015
Erev Rosh Hashanah 5776 - Ma Tovu: I Am My Prayer
Erev Rosh Hashanah 5776 / Sunday, September 13, 2015 Rabbi Julie Pelc Adler, Congregation Am Echod in Lindenhurst Ma Tovu: I Am My Prayer
are.On the cusp of a new year.New congregation.New rabbi.In the Talmud, Rabbi Ishmael teaches, “Kol Hat’khalot Kashot”: All
beginnings are difficult.
should know; we all encounter new beginnings every day.New school.New job.New relationship.New pets at home.New route to drive.New place to get coffee.New stage of life.New transition to get used to.
still, I think Rabbi Ishmael is only partially right.Yes, all beginnings are difficult because
they signal an end of the era that came before.
loss.A letting go.A saying goodbye.Sometimes the endings are sad even when we
know they’re the right thing.In order
to start something new, we need to acknowledge the loss of what was.
new beginnings are also exciting.We go
shopping for new clothes or supplies for that new job; we get new school
supplies: crisp new notebooks, perfectly sharpened pencils, shoes without
scuffs.We meet new people and can start
anew, leaving behind the traces of mistakes, embarrassing incidents with former
co-workers, forgotten birthdays or deadlines or promises.
in our case, on Erev Rosh Hashanah we start the journey wherein we have the
opportunity to start anew with God, with one another, and with ourselves.We are given the gift of the opportunity to
clean our slates: the year 5775 is now over.The triumphs, the disappointments, the joys, the sorrows, the gains and
the losses are now all in the past.
stand poised to open to the first page of the book titled 5776.What will be written on these pages?Who will be the main characters this year?Where will the action take place?When you stand here one year from now, what
will be in your heart and on your mind?What will be the things you’ll cherish?What will you regret?
The good news is, you’re the one with the pen in
you’ve gone shopping for new supplies for the endeavor called The Year 5776.
would you want in your briefcase or backpack so as to prepare for the year
were to write a Supplies Needed list, what would you be certain to get?
the supplies for your new year need not be things.They need not be items you’d buy at Target or
example, here is my shopping list, the list of things I want to be sure I put
into my virtual shopping cart:
I’d want to be sure to get HOPE.
is what enables us to even look forward into a new year and imagine that it can
and will be a good one.I’ll need hope this year to help me to think
positively, to believe that some of the most problematic challenges our world
is facing might actually improve.Hope
is what protects me from despair.Because it’s easy to look at the state of the environment, global
climate change, governmental corruption, wars and violence, school children
being shot and killed, natural disasters, and feel despair.To believe that there’s nothing that can be
done to improve the state of the world.And that’s where HOPE comes in.So I’ll be shopping for hope in abundance for this new year.It’s the first thing I’ll need because I
believe it’s the precursor for everything else.Before I can start to make changes or rededicate myself to the things I
most value, I’ll need HOPE to remind me that it’s all possible.Things canget better.
I’m going to need PATIENCEin this new year.Because once I can see that change is possible and I look around me to
find all of the many big and small things that need loving attention, it’d be
easy to get overwhelmed and lose patience with the process.After I have enough hope to believe in the
potential for change, I’ll need PATIENCE because the work will be hard and the
I’ll be seeking CALM.Calm is something
that’s hard for me to find, especially when faced with the grand task of
improving myself, my life, and the world around me.But CALM is necessary, even more so, when the
challenges are real and difficult.Calm
is what provides perspective.Calm lets
me slow down, rest, regain energy, and refuel for the work still to be done.And without calm, I know I’ll burn out, I’ll
give up, and then I’ll find myself right back where I started.
I’ll be sure to try to find some TIME FOR PLAY.Play is where most big problems actually need
to go.I find that if I’m not playing, I
come to take myself and everything around me too seriously and I run the risk
of getting completely overwhelmed.Play
is where the problems can become abstracted, tossed about, set aside for a
moment, only to come back home where they might actually find resolution.PLAY might appear on the outside like it’s a
break away from problem solving - but - the truth is - it’s where the best
problem solving takes place.PLAY gives
the brain and the heart permission to get a little perspective and to re-enter
the situation in a new way: perhaps allowing us to see everything differently.
past year and a half, I’ve learned how essential GRATITUDE is and how lost
I’d be without it.The rabbis teach that
we’re to say 100 blessings every day - in an effort to pause throughout our
daily routines and offer thanks for the many gifts - big and small - in our
lives. In January of last year (2014), I started a daily gratitude practice
called “365Grateful”.Every day, I take
a photo with the camera on my phone of something that makes me grateful, then I
post it online with the # of 365Grateful.It’s been transformative.Sometimes I find I’m grateful for the blessing of Wireless
Internet.Sometimes (like last week),
I’m grateful that my neighbor found our dog wandering in someone else;s yard
and brought her home safely.Other days
I’m grateful for the changing leaves on the trees, summer rain storms, my family,
my friends, a good Hot Chocolate with marshmallows.My life is still the daily grind of work to
complete by externally imposed deadlines, laundry to fold and put away, emails
to return… but I find that GRATITUDE has made me different.And so I know
how much I’ll need gratitude in this new year.
when I go “school supply shopping” for my new year, I’m going to need FORGIVENESS.Forgiveness is what I’ll need when I
inevitably can’t - or don’t - (or other people can’t or don’t) measure up to my
expectations.I’ll need to forgive
myself, my partner, my kids, my students, my teachers.I’ll need to forgive God.Because life is rarely what we want or expect
all the time.
about you?What will you need for the
a line in the liturgy that I’ve always loved - but I think is especially
poignant in light of the idea of starting anew on the High Holidays.It’s a line that’s otherwise buried in the
fifth line of a prayer known as “Ma Tovu”.
Tovu is a prayer acknowledging how good
it is to be right here.Right now.In this sanctuary.In this moment in history.In this moment of our lives.Today.Here and Now.
then in the fifth line of the prayer is this gem: “V’Ani T’filati”.And I am
my Prayer.Wait.I AM MY PRAYER?What does that mean?
means that I - We - Each of us - All of us - have the power to become a
prayer.To make our lives into a
prayer.We don’t have to wait around
passively.In fact, we can’t wait around passively.We have to make the changes in our lives, in
our expectations, in the way we speak, in the way we act… so that at the end of
the day - at the end of the week - and at the end of the year, we can look back
and see that our lives have become the prayer we were seeking.
changes do you want to see in your life right now?
do you most wish would be true in the world around you?
EMBODY them.Dedicate your time-- your life -- to those
causes, those people, those relationships, those goals you most desire.
You Are Your Prayer.
radical thought.And a very Jewish
one.We believe that it’s our job to
make this world better, to actively seek peace, to repair brokenness, to offer
gratitude for the blessings all around us.
we are on the cusp of that reality.We
stand here at the beginning.Let go of
what was. On Erev Rosh Hashanah, there is the potential to start anew but we don't actually get a clean slate
until after we've done the work of the High Holiday season. The essence of
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is that the clean slate is something you earn from
your efforts of introspection, improving relationships with other people, self
betterment, committing to trying to be a better member of society.
proudly and boldly into this new opportunity.
the year 5776 the year you become
the answers you most seek.
Tova. May there be much goodness for
each of us in this new year.