You gotta walk the walk
You can’t just talk the talk
I’ll show you how it’s done
We can all make a difference
When we stand together as one.
From a single spark
To a roaring fire
Our spirits light the way
And with our feet and hands
We will stand strong.
You gotta walk the walk
You can’t just talk the talk
It’s easy to lose hope
But together we will change
The flow of the river
From a single voice
To a thunderous noise
We can lead the way
March to freedom
Break the chains of hate.
Today we stand on the threshhold of a new secular year. Changes are coming and we feel powerless to stop the current wave of negativity, anxiety and restlessness which has swept us up and along like a fast flowing river. Do we ‘go with the flow’ and hope that things turn out okay? Should we fight like mad to change the direction of the tide? I’m kind of feeling like both are necessary. While I know that flexibility is crucial in order to cope with what is happening in our country and our lives today, I also know that doing nothing does not empower us for change. Like the Yin and Yang, we must balance both.
This January 21st I’ll be marching in Washington D.C. as part of the Million Women March. This once in a lifetime protest gives me and others like me, the opportunity to show our solidarity with like minded lovers of justice and dissastisfaction of what’s going on in Washington in a way which empowers and inspires change. I will be part of something much bigger than myself, and yet I’m giving my all as an individual so that we will, collectively, be stronger. When it’s all over, perhaps nothing in Washington will change. Perhaps what will change is our response to what is going on. When we continue to walk the walk for justice and equality, then we change the flow of the river. We WILL Walk the Walk. And afterward we will continue to ‘talk the talk’ and strive to bring peace and justice to the world.
In the words of the late, great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”
May our love and our light bring us closer to the day when ALL people will live in equality and peace. Let’s get walking!
After the excitement and intensity of Aleph S'micha Week and Aleph Kallah in Ft. Collins, CO, It had been a fairly easy transition to the Redwoods of Del Norte County, CA with cool weather, and a well deserved week's 'off-line' vacation! When Shabbat approached the reality of celebrating it absolutely alone suddenly hit me. In stark contrast with just the week before, when the exultant echoes of the Nava Tehila Levitical ensemble drew us together as a Kehilah Kedosha, a holy community I was feeling a bit freaked out about being the only Jew within a 30 mile radius. So I did what any Cantor would do, I wrote a new song!
The heat of August awaits me back in Maryland as I enjoy a few more days of cool Redwood repose. And as the new week begins I'm still reflecting on all that I experienced and learned with my Aleph Community. From my classes on Gadlut (Large Mind) to Lovingkindness, from Aging to Saging and Womb to Tomb, my teachers could not have been more generous with their knowledge or their spirits.
The word that has stayed with me from that week is the verb "Godding." It is the way we walk through the world and spread the mitzvot (commandments) , middot (eithical values) g'milut chasadim (acts of lovingkindness) via word and deed.
My prayer for all of us this month is that we find our own path for "Godding" in the world in whatever way brings us joy, with our communities, alone in nature or just making each and every day a day of tikkun, repair for our world and for those we love.
Enjoy the last of summer with joy and laughter!
The horrific events of terror in Orlando and Istanbul this month have only strengthened my resolve to send the message of non-violence and peace into the world. The only way I can face the realities of the world is to sing about them, to feel the resonance of peace in my soul and to radiate that wholeness outward. Empowering ourselves is our only option for coping with the continued violence we are faced with every day.
I've been busy this past month sharing Bridge To Peace, singing, teaching and reconnecting with my colleagues and friends at the American Conference of Cantor's Convention. It was inspiring to learn from great teachers and colleagues who truly refilled my tank with new music and profound ideas that will color my ministry. This month I am attending Aleph S'micha Week and Aleph Kallah to continue studying and learning from my brilliant teachers and fellow students. It promises to be a rich and enhancing immersion in everything Jewish!
May July be blessed with good books, long walks and reconnecting with friends and family. And may our healing radiate to a planet in desperate need of hope.
Namaste and Blessings,
We are moving into final days of counting the Omer, a measure of grain which, in ancient times, reflected our quality offerings to the Eternal. Today, our offerings come from our hearts and our measures come from the work we do to improve our selves and make tikkun, repair in the world. I'm literally trembling with awe, some fear and excitement as I share my own offerings with you!
Today I am announcing the launch of a new project, "Bridge To Peace." It is collection of prayers and songs which have been realized through my work in chaplaincy, my studies in the Aleph Rabbinic Pastoral program and my reaction to what's going on in the world today. It is my Omer offering from a place deep inside of me which helps to bring Divine energy, healing and hope to a broken world.
We all act as a Bridge to Peace every day, each in our own ways. It is my hope and prayer that these melodies and prayers will be accepted with love and with a deep sense of partnership in creating a better life for ourselves and our children.
I want to invite you to join me on my mission of spreading the word of peace and non-violence. Click here learn more about the project. Please share word about it on your social media pages. Write to me and tell me what you think! I can't wait to share my offerings of the heart with you!
We've just experienced the holiday of Passover, the symbolic 'going out' from the places deep inside of us which keep us enslaved. These feelings have been amplified for me over this year by my CPE, Clinical Pastoral Education. Exploration of my early learned family narratives and the myths that I have carried through my life effect everything I do and how I walk through the world. Sometimes, these narratives can bring negative behaviors to our lives which do not serve us well. Becoming self aware of these triggers and reactive buttons that sometimes get pushed when we least expect it, can help us be better listeners, friends, parents, partners and leaders. It is painful when we have to look deeply at those things about us which might not be pleasant. Others are aware of them but we continue to be blinded by our biases and our 'scripts' which keep us in the dark about how other experience us. For me it has been a two year journey of doing just that and it has been painful, but it has also been joyous, enlightening and freeing. I feel free from anger and resentment, I feel free from needing to be perfect. I feel free from needing to be right. Letting go of the need to control the outcomes of things has given me the freedom to just enjoy the ride and the journey.
My hope and prayer for us as we journey toward Mt. Sinai in the days leading to Shavuot, is that we all take time each day to study our own spirits and deep intentions. Who or what is pushing our buttons? How can we learn to see those behaviors as others experience them? Through prayer, through yoga, through Mussar practice, through embodiment in exercise and healthy living we possess the tools to maintain our freedom from the behaviors which hold us back from reaching our fullest potential.
These practices ultimately lead us to inner peace and peace with those whom we love.
I was recently on call at Georgetown Hospital on Easter Sunday, and as a Jewish Chaplain, I can connect with my Christian patients through the life of Jesus and his gifts for healing and comforting those in need. I embrace the idea that this man of God was born a Jew, lived as a Jew and died a Jew. His life is celebrated throughout the world and although he is not my Messiah, his healing message still resonates with me as I attempt to pray and bring a sense of comfort to those who are facing life threatening challenges. Moses, on the other hand, quite possibly an inspiration for Jesus, is a completely different sort of healing prophet. He overcame his childhood obstacles, lack of self confidence and disabilities of speech to lead the Hebrew people to freedom! Through his belief and faith in One God and the vision for a better life for his flock, he embodied the Revelation at Mt. Sinai. While very different, both Jesus and Moses were each healers in their own right. Their lives inspired the words that are written both in the Old and the New testaments which inform and teach, guide and light the way for humanity.
Moses, Miriam and all of the Hebrews who left Egypt faced an uncertain life and future filled with challenges they could not even imagine. With courage, patience and perseverance they reached the Promise Land. Our own freedom lies in freeing ourselves from the burdens, fears and stresses which bog us down and keep us from reaching our own Promised Land. If we could write the Seder, or order of the sacred story of our own lives, what would it say? How would we change? What would we free ourselves from and what would we celebrate? My prayer this Passover Season is that our mindfulness brings us closer to our authentic selves in search of personal freedom.
This year is one of seven in the 19-year Jewish calendar cycle that has 13 months instead of 12 -- with two months of Adar instead of one. Since Hebrew months are based on a lunar cycle, an extra month is added every third year to keep the holidays in their appropriate seasons. Without the extra Adar, Rosh Hashanah would circle around to summer and Pesach (Passover) would arrive in the heart of winter. The extra Adar comes to call us into alignment - to get us back on track.
Two years ago I began a journey through Davvenen Leadership Training Institute DLTI, which served to reinvent the way I experience worship and the way I lead in my own congregation. For three weeks over the two years I learned from the best teachers in the world: Reb Marcia Prager and Hazzan Jack Kessler, Reb Shawn Zevit and Shir Yaakov. My bags were packed and I was all ready to finish my fourth week, when after an overnight chaplaincy at the hospital, I contracted a serious lower respiratory virus which left me weak and unable to travel. It was a reminder to me that we are not always in control, we plan and G-d laughs!
So I'm using this 'extra month' of Adar to get back on track, to regroup, get healthy and resume my super busy schedule. Sometimes we just have to slow it down and listen to our bodies, or else! This month I have a LOT on my plate: check out where I'll be appearing to the left of this column. I'll also be continuing my Chaplaincy work at MGUH, teaching 6th grade B'nai Mitzvah class and putting together "Temple's Got Talent" our very own Temple Shalom talent show! In the garden things will ramp up starting seeds, planting onions and preparing the beds for the coming of spring. I guess you could say the extra month will really come in handy!
My prayer for all of us is that we all get our bodies, minds and spirits back on track in whatever way we can! That might mean breathing a little deeper, taking a longer walk, reading a good book or cooking an extraordinary meal. Whatever things bring peace to you, make that a priority!
When a worship service or yoga prayer embodiment causes us to feel different about ourselves and the world around us, then we know that the Holy is present. That happened recently when I led Yoga Shalom at the URJ Biennial where about 75 of us gathered in a small ballroom to Davven morning prayers through Yoga Embodiment. Most of the practitioners had never experienced how yoga flowed with prayers deepens their impact and brings awareness to their meaning. It was overwhelming to feel the energy and power in that space with that Holy congregation. Surely, The Eternal was there and I believe everyone present that morning knew it! Many thanks to those of you who attended and I hope that our paths will cross again soon.
Since the Biennial (see highlights in pics below) I've been busy teaching, writing, working as a chaplain at MGUH (Medstar Georgetown University Hospital) and engaging with worship in my congregation Temple Shalom. All of these things continue to bring me inspiration and holiness like I felt that morning during the Biennial. Getting back to reality is like coming home from a URJ summer camp and trying to duplicate the experience. It's difficult, but not impossible.
May we be inspired by what brings us joy during the upcoming season of Lights and may the sparks of the Eternal continue to shine and illumine the darkness in ourselves and in the world.
How often do you take time to check something off your bucket list? In October I carved some time and accompanied my friend Dr. Diane Harris Cline on a once in a lifetime trip to the Greek Islands and Istanbul. Diane is an expert of Greek history and guided me through the region with expertise. Greece and Turkey are filled with ancient wonders beyond imagining including Jewish sites and highlights. It certainly did make bucket list status for me!
One of the many highlights was visiting the synagogue in Rhodes. Upon entering late Shabbat morning we found it empty. We toured the museum and I then stepped up on the raised center bimah and began to sing Oseh Shalom. The enormity of the moment overtook me and I just broke down. The sense of overwhelming loss of the Jews of Greece to the Holocaust was too much to bear. A very aged gentleman who had been sitting quietly watching me suddenly got up from his seat and asked if he could hug me! He then drew back the sleeve of his shirt to reveal a number tattooed there and emotionally exclaimed "they didn't kill us all! I'm still here!'
Needless to say we cried again and then celebrated the fact that indeed, our people and the synagogue in Rhodes had survived. It stands as a testimony to the community that lived and thrived there for so many years. Moments like that truly only come around once in a lifetime and I felt so grateful to have been there to experience it!
My prayer for this month as we head into winter, is that moments of light illuminate the darkness and give us hope for our lives and for the world. May we all carve out a few moments to count our blessings!
I loved this metaphor because it illustrates how important kindness is in our everyday interactions with those around us. It's amazing how good we feel when we smile and do small acts of kindness for those around us. There are opportunities to help, to heal and to bring joy to others in small and significant ways, if we will but notice!
My prayer for us all is that we stop to take the time to notice those who need us most, and to give them our love and attention. In this way our buckets will be filled to overflowing!
Every year for as long as I can remember my parents have been bringing me to a very special place, Klamath, CA. Dad was a fisherman and the Klamath River Salmon runs brought him here to catch the biggest and best steelhead, salmon and sturgeon in the world. That was 50 years ago. Today, the Klamath River is in danger because of damming on the Trinity River, disease, drought, overfishing and bacteria which have kept the fish from thriving as they once did. The fish may be gone, but the friendships and relationships my parents forged were strong and were passed down to the next generation. My brother Marc and I and our families still make a yearly pilgrimage to Klamath to hike in the Redwoods and visit ‘Big Tree’ where my mom Shirley lectured as a Docent for almost 20 years. Our family funded a restoration deck that would protect Big Trees roots and dedicated it to our parents. Every time I visit that place I am reminded of the love and legacy my parents offered me through their lives and the memories I cherish which are always so vivid when I return to this place. There is no cell reception, internet or Wifi here. Only trees, gardens, card games, canning and potlucks with friends.
This year I attended the 59th Annual Yurok Tribe Salmon Festival which featured a Veterans Breakfast at which I volunteered, a parade through the small town, car show, vendors, music, brush dancing, native american costumes and salmon feast. It was truly special to pay homage to the Yurok Tribe and the people, families and friends who have made this area so special to me and my family. The Tribe has made strides in water and fish conservation, social and family services, education and development of a unique cultural legacy which unites the entire community. That’s what I love most about Klamath, the feeling of closeness and responsibility everyone feels for one another. Neighbors care about each other and draw together to work for a better village.
As our preparation for the High Holy Days continues, the haunting sound of the Indian flute and the bracing wind across the river and through the trees have opened a window for me. The window of forgiveness and redemption begins inside our hearts. My prayer for all of us this Holy Day season is that we feel loved and cherished in our work, our relationships and in our communities. It’s that feeling of giving and receiving that will nourish us through the year to come.
Wishing you and your families a health, happy, sweet and joyous New Year 5776.
Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav teaches us that all of life is a very narrow bridge, and the most important thing is not to be afraid. After the horrific events of the past month in Charleston and the senseless hate crime that occurred there, it strikes me that this statement has never been more true. There is so much to fear, and yet we all must hold fast to our faith and our belief in the power of good and G-d which will see us through safely through to the other side. Speaking of the other side.
Last week we witnessed the historic Supreme Court Ruling on Marriage Equality which served to restore our faith in our country. Mazel tov to ALL of my loved ones who are now counted in EVERY state as legally married under the law of the land. It was truly an occasion to celebrate! I am preparing for my first ever S'micha Week and Ruach HaAretz Rabbinic School classes. I have to admit, I'm a little afraid. There is so much to read and prepare, it is daunting to be a student again. But the words of Reb Nachman run through my head, as does the courage and fortitude of ALL of those courageous enough to work for a just and compassionate society.
My prayer for all of us this summer is that we have the strength and courage to try something new, to go somewhere different, to make a new friend, to read a new book and to reach out into the world, even if, ESPECIALLY if, we are afraid.
The bridge just got a little wider!
Namaste, Cantor Lisa