For the last several years, I've taken the time at the end of the (secular / Gregorian calendar) year to reread what I've written here, and chosen ten favorite posts as a retrospective of where the year took me. Here are my prose picks from 2013; in a couple of days I'll share links to my ten favorite poems of the year, too. Enjoy!
In which Drew blesses me with peace (after a fashion). "First we play peekaboo with the candles. I cover my eyes, Drew covers his, and we peek at each other and grin. I sing the blessing over the Shabbat candles, sometimes rushing a little bit when Drew imperiously tells me to stop singing now..."
Rabbis Without Borders: Who is your Torah for? "My Torah is for anyone who is thirsty. Anyone who's thirsty for connection, for community, for God. Anyone who wants to make their lives holy or to become more conscious of the holiness in the everyday. Anyone who wants access to the rich toolbox of Jewish wisdom and traditions and ideas which I am blessed to have as my yerusha, my inheritance..."
Dear you, who are feeling sad and afraid --. "A wise friend told me, earlier this week, that her grandmother used to say that the painful things will always pass. I like that way of seeing the world. Yes: the hurt will pass, and things will get better. Though sometimes it's hard to trust that that's true..."
We find God in the helpers. "When something awful happens, I think of the passage from Reverend Kate Braestrup which I shared last fall in a sermon for Shabbat Nachamu. God, she says, is not in the disaster; God is not in the car accident; God is not in the bombing. We find God in the love expressed by those who rush to respond: the helping hands, the caring hearts, the first responders who risk their lives to assist those in need."
God is in the tragedy too. "Human life is marked with sorrow. One natural response to sorrow and tragedy is to demand: where is God in this? As a rabbi, I have been blessed (and painfully challenged) with that question. I remember ministering many years ago to a woman who had suffered a grievous trauma, who turned to me and spat, "Where the F*&! is God in that, huh?" And all I could say, in that moment, was: I hear you. And I honor your pain..."
A delicious mikveh before Shabbat...and a few surprises. "We break into groups of two and three so that each woman can be witnessed by one or two holy spirit sisters as she dunks. We begin sharing quietly with our sisters what we wish to release on our immersions, what we want to wash away (spiritually speaking) in order to greet the Shabbat Bride with a whole and joyful heart. // And then two police cars pull up, lights flashing."
#BlogElul 13: Forgive. "I have a memory from my chaplaincy training at Albany Medical Center. I was sitting with my colleagues, a mixed group of ten clergy and laypeople from a wide variety of traditions, and we were exploring together the question of how to extend pastoral care to someone who had done something terrible. Is it our job, as clergy, to extend forgiveness? What if the patient is near death; does that change anything for us? What if the person to whom we are ministering has done something we feel is unforgivable?"
Susan Katz Miller's Being Both. "An increasing number of Americans are tinkering with religious identity in ways which aren't one-size-fits-all. This might mean bridging or changing within the big tent of a single tradition (e.g. a Jewish family which changes affiliation from one stream of Judaism to another) or across different traditions (as in any interfaith marriage.) Countless Jews and Christians maintain meditation or mindfulness practices, even if they don't self-identify as Buddhists. Religious categories have become more permeable than they used to be. And, as Rabbi Kula notes, this shift brings with it both some loss, and the potential for a 'richer and better world.'..."
On the silencing of Dinah, and rape culture today. "Throughout this narrative, Dinah never speaks once. Her voice is entirely absent from the black fire of our text."
Carving new grooves on heart and mind. "It's always surprising to me -- though it probably shouldn't be -- how easily the mind becomes accustomed to a thought pattern, and gets stuck there. Our repeated thoughts carve grooves on the soft clay of our consciousness, and soon a thought process goes from occasional to regular to habitual..."
Image source: a wordle word cloud made from the text in this post, which highlights the most frequently-repeated words.