Ten Years Gone: what was found and then discarded

Posted: September 12th, 2011 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Ten years have gone and even with the passing of time, September 11 remains the one day each year that I actively dread. The slaughter of thousands by the hearts and hands of those who purport to serve the Source of all creation is in itself traumatic and obscene on many levels. But what we as a nation gained and then seemingly squandered may in fact be the greater and more enduring tragedy; for that one brief moment our inherent nobility was realized as we willingly cast all our differences and individual needs aside and our primary concern became the well being of all Americans, rich or poor, friend or stranger, pink skinned through every shade of brown. That spontaneous eruption of humanity elevated all humans and endowed profound meaning to the day’s senseless deaths.

In retrospect, the bigger loss may be the one that we have perpetrated on ourselves; as a nation, evidenced by what passes for political discourse, we are meaner spirited, smaller minded and far more selfish than I have ever seen. Our memorial to the loss of life on that crystal clear blue skied morning is unquestionably both majestic and beautiful but if that is the sole legacy of 9-11 then we are just a generation away from turning 9-11 into an empty slogan.

We must never forget the bravery and dignity of the first responders, their ultimate sacrifice as well as the lives of our family and friends. But more importantly, we must never forget how we responded. How we all elevated ourselves through caring and compassion. How without hesitation, we collectively embraced cooperation, empathy and selflessness. And when we reclaim that spirit, those qualities that define the best of humanity, September 11 will come to symbolize the day that we changed ourselves.


Hiding behind the curtain.

Posted: March 4th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

This started out as a comment to a post from my friend, Rabbi Amy Small, but as I was composing it, I realized that it’s context was better suited to its own post.

In my minds eye, the ability to laugh at oneself is a both an indication of how one enjoys life as well as a marker of one’s confidence in living. At a Purim play and carnival, Rabbi Amy Joy Small took on some rather unconventional roles that evidently caused some to pause. Why? Perhaps because she was acting outside of how a Rabbi is stereotypically perceived. To varying degrees, I think the title “Rabbi” generally evokes images of a more dour, serious and older male in most people. Further, I think synagogue evokes the image of a sacred, serious and somewhat solemn place controlled by a rigid hierarchy of wise and near perfect learned men.

With no disrespect intended, its all a bit like the Wizard of Oz as presented in the film; an awe inspiring individual whose perceived power lies in his mastery of arcane information. He resides in the most sacred section of the great Emerald City, protected by guards and limiting his contact with the citizenry who look to him for leadership and guidance. As such, his legend and mystique are based more upon managed perception then the actuality of deeds and character. It is only when this “wizard” is inadvertently unveiled by an animal, which is immune to the crafted personae, is revealed to be a mere man hiding behind a curtain, that the “wizard” acknowledges his humanity, faults and all. By understanding and accepting his own shortcomings rather than focusing on living up to the image he created, he is now free to see the strengths of others and he is able to open their eyes to these qualities.

In actuality a Rabbi puts on her pants one leg at a time (just like everyone else) and a synagogue is just a structure where the congregation (i.e. community) can gather together. What makes our congregation both distinct and appealing to many is that our shared humanity, quirks and strengths are honestly embraced and accepted. A culture of seeing everyone as a person who has value and must be respected is continually emphasized and fostered. And this does not just apply to congregants or even just Jews, but to all individuals.  I saw this immediately when as a family we joined many years ago (it was at my wife’s behest as I had no desire to join anything). I have continually told my kids that our synagogue, our congregation is a place where you can see how regular people, including clergy, lay leadership and members all bring in divergent perspectives and idiosyncrasies but they are united by the goal of trying act unselfishly, responsibly and with true concern for others. And by others, I mean all others. That is the ultimate take away and that is why we belong here.