Eighth Stop

shemini-s
After the party
when the guests have gone
when the moon is smaller,
when the sun is scarcer, the days shorter
when my body won’t stop shivering
even after I’ve buttoned my coat,
it’s just us here.

Darkness is coming quickly and I need to go.
There’s work to be done.

But first let’s stay a moment
reflecting on the glory of all that has been
and all that is.

That way when I’m walking into darkness
I can notice the light in the eyes of strangers
recognize my brothers and sisters
and find you there.

And if someone needs a coat
and I have the courage to offer mine
please give us both a hug.

Home Again

hb-1s
It happened while I was away
traveling alone,
the Jewish teenagers and Palestinian teenager killed by hatred
together with the latest hopes for peace in the Holy Land,
the thousands more around the world slaughtered by enraged extremists
and by extreme weather on a wounded planet.

It happened while I was away
on retreat with community,
our teacher Reb Zalman leaving this world.
We cried with broken hearts for all we’ve lost and all the world has lost.
We laughed in gratitude for all we’ve received.
We witnessed the arrival of this moment
where it’s now our turn to carry on his work
with renewed urgency,
the work of healing a broken world.

Home again today I sit in my garden
while you send your messenger the hummingbird
who sits near me on his little branch,
singing his greeting to the dawn,
filling my heart with tears and laughter.

Yitgadal v’yitkadash shmei rabah.
Being beyond understanding.
The cycles of time will not cease,
and no matter how dark the night,
mornings will return until the end of days.

Omer Day 2: G’vurah b’Hesed

Discipline within Lovingkindness:
Love’s Hidden Architecture

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If [the world is destroyed] due to senseless hatred, then we shall rebuild ourselves, and the world with us, with senseless love.

Rav Kook, Orot HaKodesh vol. III, p. 324

To rebuild the world we can:

First rebuild ourselves through practicing senseless love.

Grow loving community where we support each other.

Grow, embrace and support loving communities everywhere,
unleashing an unstopable global wave of love-based redemption.

To do this we must become masters of discipline within lovingkindness,
embodying love’s hidden architecture,
hidden ourselves,
leading from behind,
holding the space for others to choose love,
so that, in the worlds of Lao Tzu,

The people will say, “We did it ourselves!”

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 17

Omer Day 1: Hesed b’Hesed

Lovingkindness within Lovingkindness
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First day of the journey. Lovingkindness. Love and kindness.

Reb Shlomo said, when you get a present, some people ask, what?
What is it?
Other people ask, who?
Who gave it to me?

I say some people, like Reb Shlomo himself, ask what? And who? And who-and-who-and-who?
What really am I receiving?
Who gave it to me?
And who gave it to them, and to them, and to them?

Through the merit of those who’ve given gifts to us,
I want to begin the journey here. Will I see you on the way?
If we keep going, where will this lead?

Rain

Rain-s
“Will it rain today?” I ask in our second year of drought.

“30%,” says the online weather forecast.

“Ask the clouds and wind,” says the sky.

“Listen!” says the ancient text:

Listen to my voice – the voice of all being, the voice of all life.
Love me and serve me with all your heart and all your soul.
Then the rains will come in due season to water your land,
and you will eat and be satisfied.

Guard yourself from twisting your heart to serve other gods,
the ones who will make you deaf and blind to me,
the ones who will shut down heaven and shut down the rain.

Then the earth will no longer yield produce,
and you will perish quickly.

Connect these words with your eyes (what you see).
Connect these words with you hands (what you do).
So you and your children can live abundant days on the land I gave you
like days of heaven on earth.

(Words based on Deutoronomy 11:13-21)

“Will it rain today?” I ask my friends and neighbors.

“Will it rain today?” I ask my children.

“Will it rain today?” I ask my brothers and sisters everywhere.

I wait to find out.

Blessings

“Say 100 blessings every day.”
     Rabbi Meir, Babylonian Talmud
nasturshum-4m all blessings to you, being who gods us, presence of the world
for everyday wonders and miracles
for restoring sight to the blind
for clothing the naked
for freeing the bound
for straightening the bent
for loving us with eternal love
for bringing the dead back to life
     from the daily Hebrew prayers

Moon Tree

moon-tree-2s

The sun is coming.
No amount of desire to keep you in my vision
will prevent you from slipping away into the morning sky.
Maybe the moon tree will snag you so you won’t leave.

“There are two kinds of people,”
said the rebbe.
“Sun people only know what their eyes can see.
Moon people also know, and see, what their eyes cannot see.”

I know, in spite of what my eyes tell me,
that there aren’t enough branches
in the moon tree to snag you.
I also know, in spite of what my eyes tell me,
that you’re not going anywhere.

Hovering

וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם
“God’s spirit was hovering on the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:2
hoveringA moment before dawn it’s all possibilities,
like before the birth of the world.
Spirit is hovering, pure, innocent, complete, capable of all things.
The day’s headlines haven’t yet been written.
A bird high up on a wire, facing east, is doing a bird dance,
excited, pacing, head bobbing up and down,
song echoing in the street.
A world of wisdom, love, abundance and peace is still possible.
Now it’s my turn.

Noah

dawn-2This is the time to study Noah, when the waters are rising. “Aseh l’cha tevah,” God said. Make yourself an ark.

On the front end of dawn, there are no distinctions between water and land and sky. Only mist and darkness. Distinctions emerge later, riding on a flood of sunlight. Distinctions and information require choices.

The sea is calm this morning. The waves are gentle.

The data are in, said our local county supervisor this week. The sea is rising. Erosion is threatening the coast highway. We need to act to preserve our community. If I listen hard, I can hear echoes of other voices in communities around the planet, saying the same thing.

“Make yourself a tevah,” God said. An ark.

Translate “tevah” as “word,” said our teacher the Holy Baal Shem Tov.

Build yourself an ark of prayer and knowledge and kindness and faith — and the floods in your own day will not overwhelm you. You will live to witness the fulfillment of God’s covenant: the world will not be destroyed again. It will not. Hold on to this faith, even when all you can see is mist and darkness. But build yourself a tevah.

Now it’s our turn. We need a tevah big enough to include every person and all life. We can only build it together. We need action infused with love.

The lesson of Noah: get ready. Emerging from mist and darkness: the rainbow.
Rainbow-2s

In a Time of Darkness

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANo, it is not your imagination:
a time of darkness is approaching.

Were it not for three or four thousand years of memory and wisdom
we might not know about cycles.
We might think the world was flat.

As it is written:
golel or mipnei hoshekh v’hoshekh mipnei or.
The wholeness beyond our vision
can only appear to us as the cyclical unfolding of opposites:
light rolling from the face of darkness;
darkness from the face of light.

In a time of darkness it is helpful to stick together
for finding sustenance
for keeping each other warm
for finding our way
for remembering the whole
as we train our night vision
on the inevitable approach of Spring.

Impermanence

sukkah-2It is a gift from God, built into creation which is always changing. Nothing is what it was; nothing will be what it is.

At this time of year Jews celebrate impermanence with joy. We remember our 40 years in the desert by living for a week in temporary outdoor dwellings. We celebrate the unchanging unity within impermanence by waving the Four Species of plants, which embody the diversity of nature and and the four dimensions of existence, in all directions.

I walked into the Chabad Center to pick up my Four Species. They came from Egypt, Israel, the US East Coast and the US West Coast. In the thick swarm of staff, volunteers and customers, I’m surprised to see the rabbi, a guy about my age with a bushy white beard and a face wrinkled by years of kindness and service to others, rushing around bringing people their palm branches, etrogs, willow leaves and myrtle leaves.

He stops in front of me. “So who are you?” he says. We’ve both spent 30 years in Silicon Valley and know many people in common, but have never met. I tell him a little about me, the good things I’ve heard about him, and whom we both know. We look at each other and smile. He seems a little startled when I give him a hug. We wish each other a happy holiday. He invites me and Wendy to come have dinner with his family on Shabbos, and then rushes off to serve the next person.

As the sun was rising this morning while I sat outside with my cup of tea, a bird was singing, bobbing it’s head and dancing on the highest branch in front of me. That’s my blog post for this morning, I thought. I went inside to get my camera.

When I returned, the bird was gone.

Yizkor for Ronald

Ron-5The Day of Atonement is also the Day of Memory, and the Day of Forgiveness.

A few weeks ago cousin Mitch came out to California for a visit and shared a memory. That afternoon you and he were nine-year-olds in the woods near our house, while I was busy with sports and band and clubs a mile away at high school.

“I’m gonna die before I’m 60,” you told him.

“How do you know?” he said.

“I know,” you said.

50 years later brother Paul and I stood by helplessly, as you lay unconscious on a hospital bed in Florida, watching the moving lines on the monitors drop as lung cancer squeezed the last life out of you.

When I was able to get on a plane and visit you at Merriment Manor, I tried to persuade you to stop smoking.

“It won’t work,” the therapist said.

“Why not?” I said.

“That’s what schizophrenics do,” he said. “It’s one of their few reprieves from the crushing anxiety.”

Every week when I phoned, you always ended the call by saying, “You know I love you.”

“He told me the same thing,” Paul said in the hospital room as we watched your last sputtering breaths. So we started singing:

I just called to say I love you
I just called to say how much I care ….

And we kept going, over and over and over as you left this world.

It’s taking me a long time to forgive myself. What if I had paid more attention, and stayed closer?

Have you forgiven yourself?

“You’re the older brother,” Mom used to tell me. “You have to set the example.”

What if we can both forgive ourselves and each other, now and forever?

“We are God’s teachers,” Rabbi Nachman said. “We set the example. If we forgive, God will forgive too.”

May it be so.

When Will the Messiah Come?

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The Talmud relates the following story:

Rabbi Joshua ben Levi met Elijah the Prophet standing by the entrance of Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai’s tomb…. He then asked him, “When will the Messiah come?”

“Go and ask him himself,” was his reply.

“Where is he sitting?”

“At the entrance.”

“And by what sign may I recognize him?”

“He is sitting among the poor lepers….”

So he went to him and greeted him, saying, “Peace upon you, Master and Teacher.”

“Peace upon you, O son of Levi,” he replied.

‘When will you come Master?” he asked.

“Today”, was his answer.

When he returned to Elijah, the latter enquired, “What did he say to you?”…

“He spoke falsely to me,” he said, “stating that he would come today, but he has not.”

Elijah answered him, “This is what he said to you: Today, if you will hear his voice.”

Babyonian Talmud: Sanhedrin 98a
(Based on the translation at Come and Hear.)