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You know that feeling you get sometimes when you hear a piece of music and it makes your heart want to leap right out of your chest? Maybe it's because of what the words mean, or because of how the melody lifts you, or because of what the song represents in your memory. It makes you want to laugh, and to weep, and to do both at the same time, because it doesn't seem possible to feel so much.

Or maybe there's a person in your life who brings out that feeling in you. You see them across a crowded room and your heart does a somersault. You just want to be near them, to say something that will make them happy, to have the right to reach over and touch their shoulder. Your very being is singing because you are together, and part of you can't help already mourning that you will part.

Maybe there's a place that awakens this in you. You see it in your dreams and when you wake you ache with the fact that you're not there. Maybe it's a real place, and maybe it's somewhere you've never seen, and maybe it's someplace that doesn't even exist yet. All you know is, something is calling you there, and you want to be there; you want to go back; you want to be there and to never have to leave.

All of that is what Shabbat can feel like, sometimes, when I'm experiencing it with other people for whom it means as much as it can mean to me. On retreat it can feel like a visit to Brigadoon, to someplace magical, out of time. A place suffused with the music that makes my heart overflow. A place where I get to be with beloveds whose presence makes my heart sing. 25 hours is never long enough.

Shabbat can feel like reuniting with someone I love. And reuniting with someone I love can feel like Shabbat, no matter on what day of the week our reunion may fall. Can you imagine counting the days until Shabbat all week as though Friday sundown were going to bring the opportunity to embrace someone you adore? Can you feel the anticipation, the way that togetherness feels like being home?

Sometimes the yearning is almost painful. The yearning to be with the beloved (with the Beloved.) The yearning to be swept away by that music. The yearning to feel that bone-deep connection. And I know that I'm fortunate to feel this kind of heartache. Because I know that even though I can't live there forever, I will be visited by the miracle of the yearning -- even if it's only temporarily -- being fulfilled.

Jew in the Lotus - on film

In preparation for Getting It... Together, the coming weekend's gathering celebrating the 25th anniversary of that historic trip taken by a group of rabbis and a poet to Dharamsala to meet with the Dalai Lama, I finally watched Laurel Chiten's film The Jew in the Lotus, which arose, of course, from Rodger Kamenetz's best-selling book of the same title. (Here's Patrick Sullivan's review of the film: Spiritual power blossoms in 'The Jew and the Lotus'.) Here's the first minute or so of the film:

The film and the book overlap in obvious ways. The filmmaker became interested in the story after reading the book, and there are moments from the book which appear in the film -- much to my delight. But in many ways the film's project is the telling of a different story, a story about personal loss and how the trip to Dharamsala marked a turning point for healing. I hadn't known that story, nor that it would be so central. It moved me deeply, though it wasn't what I was expecting to see.

For me the greatest joy was in glimpsing the footage of the dialogue in Dharamsala. Because I just reread the book, its images and scenes are alive in my memory. In rereading, I was particularly struck by a description of joyful morning prayer -- which the film offers me the chance to briefly witness. And of course there's the amazing scene where Reb Zalman z"l is talking about the angel of the Jews and the angel of Tibet, about which I wrote a few weeks ago; to my delight, that scene is in the film, too.

I wasn't blessed to meet Reb Zalman in person until he was 80, so I only knew him during the last decade of his life. But on the trip to Dharamsala he was a hale and hearty 65, and when the film was made he wasn't much older. I loved having the chance to witness him as he was then. His voice and his demeanor and the sparkle in his eye are all familiar, but this is a younger Zalman than I ever knew. It's a little bit like seeing old movies of one's parents or grandparents -- the past, once again made life.

I know that next time I reread the book I'll have some of these visuals in mind alongside Rodger's descriptions. And now I'm even more excited about the Sunday session which will serve as the culmination of the weekend -- "Tracing Reb Zalman’s Vision, from Dharamsala to the Future" -- where we'll hear from several of the trip's participants. I'm looking forward to hearing how they reflect back on that journey now, and their hopes for how its values can be carried forward in years to come.


If you won't be able to join us in West Chester but are interested in the Sunday program, go to and click on the "Live-streaming and yahrzeit tributes" link. If you make a donation there, you'll receive a link to the livestream of Sunday's program.

Lean On Me: Moshe and Joshua, striking the rock, and change

1In the verses we just read, Miriam has just died and the people have no water. God tells Moshe to speak to a rock so that it will yield water for the children of Israel. Moshe, instead, responds with snark: "Listen, you rebels -- shall I get water for you out of this rock?" He hits the rock. The rock gives water, but God is not pleased. God says: Because you failed to make Me holy in the eyes of the Israelites, you will not enter the promised land.

Those of you who were here last Shabbat afternoon heard our bat mitzvah's perspectives on this story. She opened up some classical teachings about the text, but ultimately concluded that from her point of view, this is profoundly unfair.

I can understand that. Moshe may have thought this was pretty unfair, too. First of all, when God spoke to him from the bush which burned but was not consumed and told him to go to Pharaoh, he said "who am I to do such a thing? I stammer. Send someone else." He didn't want the leadership position in the first place, but God deployed him anyway.

Then he gave his entire life to leading the people of Israel through the wilderness. The people kvetched and they quarreled and they pushed him to his breaking point. He lost his temper this one time, and for that, he's denied entry into the place they've been yearning to reach?

I have a lot of empathy for this vision of Moshe. How frustrated he must have been. How tired of feeling under-appreciated and undervalued, of deferring whatever his own dreams might have been in order to lead this difficult people. But what happens if we read today's verses not as a punishment but as a natural shift in generations?

Moshe snaps at the people and hits the rock and God thinks: ahh -- I see that you're approaching the end of your rope. So God gives notice to Moshe: you've done amazing things, and I can see that you're getting weary, and it's okay -- you've led the people so very far -- you don't have to lead them all the way. You can place your hands on Joshua and give him some of your spirit. Lean on him (that's what smicha means), transmit your Torah to him, and then let go. Trust the next chapters of your people's story to his hands and his heart.

Before the end of his story, Moshe will have the opportunity to stand before the people and remind them of everything they've experienced thus far. That's the book of D'varim / Deuteronomy -- the Hebrew name means "Words," and the Greek name means "Second telling." Moshe gets to give over his wisdom one final time before he dies, and when he dies, Torah tells us, God buries him.

When I imagine myself in Moshe's shoes at the end of his life, I imagine gratitude at the opportunity to pause before the end and retell my own story. Moshe stands before the Israelites and speaks the poem of his life, the poem of their lives, giving meaning to everything they have experienced. He has the opportunity to meet death gently, at an advanced age, after having told his story and done the inner work of letting go. We should all be so lucky.

And when I imagine myself in the shoes of Joshua, Moshe's successor, I imagine gratitude at the opportunity to spend a lifetime learning from the greatest prophet the Jewish people would ever know. I imagine Joshua feeling humbled by the awesome task of trying to take over for Moshe -- Moshe, who spoke face-to-face with God, who brought Torah down from Sinai, who presided over the Exodus from an old world to a new one. Never again will there arise a prophet like Moshe. Talk about a hard act to follow.

I hope that Joshua said thank you often enough. I hope he communicated to Moshe how honored he was to be ordained in his lineage, and how much love he felt for the people they were both called to serve, and how deeply he knew that he wouldn't be leading the people forward from there if Moshe hadn't gotten them as far as he did.

And I hope that before he died Moshe was able to reflect back on the scene we just read, and maybe to chuckle with a little bit of chagrin, and to feel gratitude that he had such a student to whom he could pass on his gifts. A student who became a colleague, in the end; a successor; maybe even a friend.


Here's the d'var Torah I offered yesterday at my shul for parashat Chukat. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.)


Tears and celebration

Why do we break a glass at the end of every Jewish wedding? There are many answers, but one of the interpretations which resonates for me is this: we break a glass to remind ourselves that even in our moments of greatest joy, the world contains brokenness. That's how I feel today - mourning the Charleston shooting and today's news of horrific terror attacks in Tunisia, Kuwait and France; celebrating today's news about the SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality across the USA.


This image made me cry. [Source]

Back in 2012 I wrote:

I hope that by the time [our son] is old enough to understand, the notion of a state passing a law against gay marriage will seem as misguided, plainly hurtful, and outdated as the notion of a state passing a law against someone of one race marrying someone of another. (I'm far from the first to note the painful similarities there.) I don't know who he will love; right now I'm pretty sure he loves his family and his friends and Thomas the Tank Engine, and that's as it should be. But I hope and pray that by the time he's ready to marry, if and when that day comes, he (and his generation) will have the right to marry, period. And not just in a handful of states, but anywhere in this country.

I hoped then that by the time our son was grown, our nation might have risen to the new ethical heights of granting the right to marry to all of its citizens, regardless of their gender or gender expression, and regardless of the gender or gender expression of their beloved. I never in a million years could have imagined that it would happen before he even started kindergarten. I'm grateful to everyone who devoted heart and soul to the work of making this possible now, in our days.

It's hard to wrap my head and heart around the disjunction between the sheer joy which I feel at the prospect of the right to marry being granted to every American, and the grief which arises at the news of today's terror attacks around the world. Though I think that kind of disjunction is part and parcel of ordinary life. It's a little bit like having a parent in the hospital while one's child is celebrating a joyful milestone -- love and sorrow, joy and grief, intertwined. Most of our lives contain these juxtapositions.

One of the pieces of framed art on my synagogue office wall contains a famous quote from the collection of rabbinic wisdom known as Pirkei Avot: "It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either." Our nation is still marred by many inequalities, and there is much work yet to be done. Our world is still marred by endless brokenness. But I believe it's also important to stop and celebrate what we can, when we can. Our hearts need that.

Today we celebrate the SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality. Tonight we celebrate Shabbat, and may imagine that the Shabbat bride looks a bit more radiant than usual in reflection of this joyful news. And when the new week comes, it will be time to put our shoulders to the wheel and keep working toward the dream of a world free of hatred, free of violence, free of bigotry, where everyone on this earth truly knows and feels that we are all made in the image of God and all deserve safety and joy.

May those who are grieving lost loved ones in Tunisia, Kuwait, and France -- and for that matter Charleston SC, and everywhere else tarnished with acts of hatred -- be comforted along with all who mourn. May we gather up the shards of their broken hearts and cradle them lovingly as we celebrate today's victories for human rights. And for those who celebrate, may tonight's Shabbat be sweet.


Edited to add: ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal's official statement.

All the Words

3306168_origI've been trying to figure out how to write about Magda Kapa's All the Words (Phoenicia Publishing, 2015).

This is not an ordinary volume of poems. These are brief aphorisms, glancing definitions, collected in groupings by month. They are periodically in conversation with ghostly categories written in greyed-out headings which almost escape the margins and fall off the page. 

These lines, Magda writes, "are not my conclusions but my unfinished thoughts. They are my little flags to be followed or burned in time. They are crumbs I leave behind as I walk my way reading, thinking, and, of course, living."

Each of these verses was written on Twitter, so none is longer than 140 characters, and all were originally released into the world via that ephemeral medium.

Here are four glimpses, each taken from a different part of the book -- these are not parts of the same poem (except to the extent that the whole book could be read as one long poem) but in juxtaposing them I find them to be in conversation with each other even so.

Love: no matter what.

Mute: not not to speak, but not to be heard.

Grief: it comes in waves and leaves with parts of the rocks.

Line: unites and separates. And its two ends, they way the disappear in the distance, but still feel each other trembling.

There's something about "Love: no matter what" which feels, as I read it, like the promise I make to those most dearly beloved to me every time we part.

"Mute: not not to speak" -- the double negative startles me and then touches me somewhere deep. Because yes, the most painful silence is not mere silence, but what happens when one tries to speak and the person to whom one wants to be speaking can't hear.

"Grief: it comes in waves" -- like the sea; that much is a familiar image, unsurprising, but then she twists deftly to "and leaves with parts of the rocks." Yes: that is how grief is like the sea. Bit by bit it wears one away and transports one to someplace new.

"Line: unites and separates" -- that one makes me think of a line in a poem, of a line on the page...and also of an attenuated connection between two beloveds which may be thin, and may demarcate their separateness, but also holds them together so that when they tremble, they don't tremble alone.

You can support independent publishing by buying All the Words, or any of Phoenicia's many beautiful titles (including two of mine), at the Phoenicia website.

Shabbat shalom to all who celebrate!

Watching the river run

19145421875_5c90bc5c48_zIn the summer of 1989, I spent five weeks traveling the American West with a group called Man and His Land. The trip offered opportunities to taste a variety of different wilderness experiences: backpacking and canoeing in Yellowstone, a river-rafting trip in Utah, horseback riding and llama trekking and mountain biking in Wyoming, culminating in learning how to do some technical climbing in the Grand Tetons. We caravaned in a pair of big vans when we had to move from state to state.

In retrospect, I cannot imagine what moved me to do this. I had never been an athletic kid. I always chose books or art or theatre over outdoor activities or sports. What on earth made me think that Man and His Land was a good idea? (Actually, I think I know part of the answer to that -- it was my friend Milly, who went with me. I think it was probably her idea. But I agreed to it all the same.) Of course, it was a great idea. Even bookish kids can fall in love with the great outdoors, and the trip was designed to be a supportive environment for kids to stretch themselves and find their wings. But it was hard.

I grew up in south Texas, and had been to New Mexico, so the vistas of the American West weren't as mindblowing to me as they were for some of the kids who came from more eastern or more urban locales. But I'd never experienced backcountry camping -- the kind of camping where you hike for miles into the wilderness, and carry everything in and out. I was not in good shape (although at least I wasn't struggling to shake a cigarette habit like some of the other teens) and I huffed and puffed my way up every mountain. MHL asked me to do things I didn't think I could do. Somehow, I did them.

1989 was smack in the middle of the era of the mix-tape. And our trip leader -- a woman named Barb, whom I idolized; she seemed to me impossibly wise, at the advanced age of twenty-eight -- made use of a mix tape in a powerful way. Before each segment of the trip, she would gather us around the campfire and play a little bit of the tape. The trip began with a Cat Stevens anthem: "On the Road to Find Out." Before our warm-up hike in the Great Sand Dunes National Park at the edge of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, she played us Carole King's "I Feel The Earth Move Under My Feet."

Before we went backpacking in Yellowstone, we heard Jimmy Cliff's "You Can Get It If You Really Want." Before our river rafting expedition, Loggins and Messina's "Watching the River Run." The songs pervaded and permeated our time in the wilderness in a way that wouldn't be possible now in the era of phones which double as mp3 players. It's probably unimaginable to today's teenagers to be away from their music; music lives on their phones, music lives in the cloud! But none of that was true the summer that I was fourteen. That mix tape was the complete soundtrack of that summer.

I don't consciously think about Man and His Land much. But the songs from that mixtape are still with me. Often I find the melodies and lyrics in my head, and only then do I realize what current emotional or spiritual situation has called them forth. Most of these are songs I haven't heard in decades, but they're inscribed deep in my memory. Probably the one which most frequently arises for me is "Watching the River Run." I'm not especially a fan of Loggins & Messina per se, but that one song still holds meaning. Maybe because I first encountered it at a time when I was doing a lot of emotional growing.

There's something about the metaphor of the running river which speaks to me. Like time, a river flows only in one direction. Like a life, a river may flow past great wonders and also at times great monotony. And when there are sharp rocks along a river bed, the best thing to do may be to let go and trust that the current will carry you safely to your destination. If you try to hold on too tightly to any place along the river's course, the fact of its current can hurt you. Sometimes you have to leave something beautiful behind, trusting that wherever the river is going, new beauty will be there too, waiting to be found.


Barb, my trip leader all those years ago, is still leading wilderness expeditions -- now in Alaska.

New poems for the Shofar service

On the eve of this year's first meeting with Randall, the student hazzan who will co-lead our high holiday services with me, I found myself humming the weekday evening the nusach, the melodic mode, of the Days of Awe. This is one of the ways in which my years in the ALEPH rabbinic ordination program rewired my brain! As soon as the high holidays are even a glimmer of future on the far horizon, their melodic waves lift me up.

I've been continuing to revise Days of Awe, the machzor which I released last year in pilot form. (More about that in another post.) One of my changes has been swapping out the poems which had previously appeared at the beginning of each section of the shofar service. I wrote those poems years ago, and one of my congregants suggested to me that we could use something new in that place.

I am indebted to my friend and teacher Rabbi Daniel Siegel for his writings on the three themes of the shofar service: sovereignty, remembrance, and the shofar itself. I commend to you his posts Malchuyot, Zichronot & Shofarot and especially Malchuyot, Zichronot, & Shofarot Take Two. Rereading those posts and marinating in those teachings (and also marinating in Reb Zalman z"l's teachings about the shofar and its spiritual meanings, as collected and cited in a variety of places, including the Jewish Renewal Hasidus blog) informed these poems greatly.

These poems will appear in the second edition of Days of Awe, though if they speak to you, you're welcome to use them even if you're not using the rest of the machzor.




What does it mean
to proclaim Your sovereignty
when we don't understand kings?
Before the Big Bang, there was You.

In the old year
we allowed habits to rule us.
Help us throw off that yoke
so our best selves may serve You.

Help us surrender. The cosmos
is not under our control.
Help us fall to our knees
and find home in Your embrace.

Let Your power increase in the world.
Help us be unashamed of yearning.
Strengthen our awe and our love
so our prayers will soar.

Continue reading "New poems for the Shofar service" »

Prayer, love, and text messages

I remember, many years ago at the first retreat I ever attended with Reb Zalman z"l, hearing him talk about prayer* -- specifically about the sense one might have, at a certain point, that the words have all already been said. If one is taking on a daily (or even weekly) prayer practice, there will likely come a time when one has the feeling: I've said all of this already. Does God really need to hear this again?

But prayer isn't that kind of communication. It's like saying "I love you." Imagine that one were to say to one's beloved "I love you" -- would one's beloved respond with "eh, who cares, you said that already"? Of course not. The point of saying "I love you" is not merely conveying intellectual data. The point of saying "I love you" is creating, or rekindling, a connection on the level of the heart.

When we pray, when we engage in any kind of devotional practice, in a sense we're saying I love You to God. Ultimately it's not about the words we use or the information we're communicating. What matters is what's happening in our hearts. (And, the mystical tradition teaches, also therefore in the heart of the Holy One of Blessing. When we offer love to God, we stimulate the flow of love in return.)

TextsIf there's a way in which prayer is like saying "I love You," I think there's also a way in which saying "I love you" (lower-case "y") is like prayer.

Anytime I say "I love you," if I'm saying the words with intention, I'm speaking to the spark of divinity which enlivens that person -- the nitzotz elohut, the spark of godliness in that soul.

When I say "I love you" to a beloved, I'm also saying it to God. That's true whether the words emerge out of deep conversation, or whether I'm texting a shorthand ILU from my phone to theirs.

Here too the analogy between connecting with my human beloveds and my Divine Beloved holds true. Holiness is in the place of connection between I and Thou, even if that connection is brief.

There are times when I manage only snatches or snippets of regular prayer, which might as well be text messages from me to the Divine. What makes those short texts to God work is the fact that they're part of an ongoing conversation.

Any time I open my siddur, or sing lines of liturgy while driving the car, or open my heart to ask for a change I wish I could see in the world, I can feel the connection open. Every time I talk to God is "to be continued," because the conversation is never really over.

And I know that what matters is not whether I'm using "the right" words or whether I'm saying something I've never said before. What matters is that I'm saying it from the heart. When I speak from my heart, when I really mean my words, something in me opens. And if I have the feeling that you received (or You received) the words the way I meant them, then the connection between us can bloom.



*I had been absolutely convinced that I remembered Reb Zalman saying this about prayer. And then I went to look back in my retreat notes from the retreat where I was pretty sure he said it... and it turns out he said it about Torah, instead! I still offer this teaching in his honor.

Getting It... Together - Friday and Sunday options

ALEPH's Getting It... Together weekend is coming up soon. The Shabbaton (Shabbat retreat) is now sold out, but it's still possible to join us just for Friday night or just for Sunday's event:

F7a26edf-5a05-4015-aee6-bcdeec15c813Living the Legacy

Tracing Reb Zalman's vision, from Dharamsala to the Future

Sunday, July 5th, 10am – 1pm

Adler Theatre, 817 S. High Street, West Chester, PA
Tickets: $36-54; Students $18; Register here.
Gather for a summit of faith leaders and artists promoting the vision of Deep Ecumenism through various expressions of music, chant, dance, film & poetry. Special guest presenters include Rabbi Irving “Yitz” and Blu Greenberg, Rodger Kamenetz (author of The Jew in the Lotus, which chronicles the 1990 journey), Maggid Amitai Gross, Alaa Murad, Rabbi Leah Novick, Rabbi Moshe Waldoks, and Dr. Rachael Wooten. Featuring a 25 year retrospective of the trip to Dharamsala and moving through a vision of the future inspired by Reb Zalman's Torah and practice of Deep Ecumenism, the Sunday Celebration will be an experience of 'getting it together' not to be missed!

If you can't join us in person, you can still make a donation in Reb Zalman's memory and sign your name to the digital memory wall -- in return for which you will receive a link to watch the livestreaming of Sunday's event. Read all about it, and sign up and/or donate here: Getting It... Together.

Summer gratitudes


Summer twilight, Williamstown, close to 9pm.

I love breathing the air here during the summer. The fresh green scent of cut grass, whether newly-mown lawns or newly-shorn hayfields. From lilac blooms in late May to wisteria blooms in August. Right now the scent of blossoms I can't name, caught in the currents of the breeze.

I love listening to the world here during the summer. Birdsong starts early, and on a good day I get to lie in bed drifting in and out of sleep for a long time after the early dawn, listening. Behind the synagogue, redwinged blackbirds. Come evening the calls of the veery thrush spiral through the air.

I love the sky here during the summer. Some days it's a dome of infinite eggshell blue. Some days streaked with cloud. (And some days it's overcast, oh well.) At twilight there can be blue at one horizon and pink at the other; it is so beautiful that I have to stop what I'm doing and gape at the sky.

I love the tactile experiences of summer. My feet are happiest in sandals, toes free to wiggle; my arms are happiest in the sunshine and the open air. I love walking barefoot on the patches of our lawn which are shot through with curly patches of wild thyme so that every step releases spice.

I love the tastes of summer. Little local strawberries, just picked, still warm from the sun and the earth. Peaches, romaine hearts, slabs of pineapple streaked with marks from the grill and sweetened by fire. The soft-serve ice cream I enjoy with our son after a game of minigolf, licking every last drop.

It's easy for me to offer praise at this season. I see the sun disappearing behind the hills and the words of ma'ariv, the evening liturgy, flow through me. I wake to a day which has already dawned and words of gratitude are already in my heart. I'm thankful for the summer solstice, and for so much light.

More gun violence; more racism; more grief

Once again, horrific violence. A white gunman named Dylann Roof entered a Black church in Charleston, SC, and killed nine, including a pastor who was also a state senator. (New York Times: Charleston Church Shooting Leaves 9 DeadNew Yorker, Murders in Charleston by Jelani Cobb.)

According to witnesses who survived, the gunman asked for the pastor, sat next to him during Bible study, and then shot him, saying "I have to do it; you rape our women and you're taking over our country." The church in question is one of the oldest Black churches in the United States.

When I think about the racism and the hatred which underpinned this act of terrorism, I am beyond words.  I react like a child: this shouldn't be possible. But it is all too possible for people to be steeped in hatred and fear of those who look different from them, and for that hatred to lead to murder.

Tomorrow is Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. There is a horrible confluence in that remembrance and this latest act of hatred against Black people. And that the shooting took place in a church, a house of worship and peace, just makes it more awful still.

The victims and their loved ones are in my prayers. You can send your support and prayers with the members of Mother Emmanuel church here, and if you would like to send a donation to the church and/or the families of the victims, here's the church's website.

A a white woman witnessing this horror from afar, I feel called to teshuvah, to soul-searching. What can I do to change the reality in which this kind of hate crime is possible?  I want my nation to be better than this. I want humanity to be better than this.

May the Source of Comfort bring peace to all who mourn, and comfort to all who are bereaved.


Worth reading:

  • "Where did this man, who killed parishioners in their church during Bible study, learn to hate black people so much?" -- Anthea Butler, in the Washington Post
  • "There is something particularly heartbreaking about a death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace, in a place of worship." -- President Barack Obama, remarks
  • "A hated people need safe spaces, but often find they are scarce. Racism aims to crowd out those sanctuaries; even children changing into church choir robes in Alabama have been blown out of this world by dynamite. That is racism’s purpose, its raison d’etre, and it has done its job well." -- Jamil Smith, in the New Republic
  • And here are words from one of my rabbinic colleagues: "What we need is a passionate and healing response to our national pain and fragility, one that unabashedly calls out the racist undertones of media reporting, which, it seems, differentiates by label between white, black and brown criminals and victims." -- Rabbi Menachem Creditor, in the Huffington Post


Reprint from 2004: Blog is my co-pilot

Cover-issue-26In 2004 I wrote an article for Bitch Magazine about women in what some of us were then calling the godblogosphere. It ran in their fall 2004 issue. I titled it "Women Who Blog Faithfully." They titled it "Blog is my co-pilot: the rise of religion online."

Here's my original post exhorting readers to buy the issue, which links to all of the bloggers I interviewed for the piece.  Amy Wellborn is now on Twitter, and The Revealer still exists. All of the other blogs I cited are now defunct, except for this one.

Anyway, I think the article is an interesting snapshot of what at least one corner of the religious internet used to look like. (Also, wow, I used to like long paragraphs!) Enjoy.


Blog is my co-pilot: the rise of religion online

In the beginning (or “in a beginning,” or “when God was beginning,” depending on which translation you favor) God created the heavens and the earth. Some millennia later, the earth’s stewards created blogs.

In early 1999, there were about 23 webblogs; today, there are thousands, many of them eschewing the characteristic links-and-commentary format in favor of straight-up personal pontificating. The blogosphere has turned out to be a great place to discuss the kinds of things we’re discouraged from airing in polite company: among them, politics, sex, scurrilous gossip, and religion. It’s this last subject that had always interested me—after all, God tops the list of polarizing topics one isn’t supposed to bring up at the dinner table. But since I’m the kind of person who itches for a good theology throwdown, godbloggers are, well, my people.

Continue reading "Reprint from 2004: Blog is my co-pilot" »

Revisiting Jew in the Lotus after 20+ years

25 years is a long time. Some of the things I loved 25 years ago -- the books, the ideas, the certainties -- don't necessarily speak to me now. Then again, some of the things which were formative for me two-plus decades ago are every bit as central in my life now as they were then -- maybe more so. Rodger Kamenetz's book The Jew in the Lotus is in that latter category. It was my doorway to Jewish Renewal. It's how I first "met" Reb Zalman, and Reb Zalman is the reason I became a rabbi.

I read the book when it was new, in March of 1994, when my dear friend David handed it to me saying "You really have to read this." (He was right.) This book was the door which led me to Jewish Renewal and ultimately to both my adult spiritual life and my rabbinate. (I wrote about that a while back: How I Found Jewish Renewal, And Why I Stayed.) I've dipped into the book countless times in the last twenty-plus years. But it's a long time since I've sat down to read the whole thing, cover to cover.

In a few weeks I will spend a weekend in West Chester, PA, at ALEPH's Getting It...Together, a Shabbaton (Shabbat retreat) and Sunday event which will celebrate the historic journey taken by those diverse rabbis to Dharamsala to meet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama 25 years ago. (If you're free the weekend of July 4, join us -- you can register for the full weekend, for Friday night only, or for Sunday only, and the retreat schedule and registration information are on ALEPH's website.)

What better time to reread the book which set me on my life's spiritual journey?

1148312Part of what's remarkable for me, rereading the book now, is how some of the things which seemed radical and almost unimaginable to me 20 years ago are simply parts of my life now -- not taken for granted, exactly, but no longer surprising. "Reb Zalman...told me he saw himself as 'doing Jewish renewal, not Jewish restoration,'" Rodger writes. I suspect that reading those words was the first time I ever encountered the phrase "Jewish renewal."

"Reb Zalman, the Matisse of religion, rearranged Jewish thought with decorative freedom...At sixty-seven, he was our loosest, freest spirit -- heir to the joy and zest of the legendary Hasidic masters." That's Rodger's prelude to the story I love so much, about how one evening-time Reb Zalman asked their driver to pull over so that he could daven ma'ariv (pray the Jewish evening service) alongside Sikhs saying their evening prayers. When I first read that story, I marveled at his openness. When I read it now, my heart beams with knowing fondness alongside the admiration.

One of the things which moves me most now, rereading this book after so many years, is recognizing that this book sparked in me yearnings for a kind of prayer I had never experienced... which is now a regular part of my life, especially any time I am together with my Jewish Renewal hevre (friends.)

Each morning before breakfast, the Jewish group assembled outside Kashmir College for shakharit davening -- morning prayers. The men strapped leather tefillin on the left arm and just above the third eye. In our brightly colored tallises and our headgear, which ranged from knit kippahs to sateen yarmulkes to Blu Greenberg's gray silk scarf to my own neo-Hasidic Indiana Jones fedora, we were quite a sight to the Tibetan kitchen workers, who always managed to break away for a glimpse. The davening was delightful: vigorous, lusty, witty and raucous, quiet and joyful.

This was all new to me.

I remember when this was all new to me, too. I remember when I couldn't quite imagine the kind of davening Rodger describes. I remember what it felt like the first week I experienced this kind of davening, and how my heart opened like a flower coming into full bloom. And I remember how it felt, when I did DLTI (the Davenen Leadership Training Institute), to discover that I too could participate in co-creating this kind of enlivening prayer. Holy wow, what an amazing journey this has been.

Continue reading "Revisiting Jew in the Lotus after 20+ years" »

Prayers for the morning, part 3: Body

CoverThis is the third post in a series of short meditations on morning prayers. (See Part 1: Gratitude and Part 2: Soul.)


I always say that my favorite prayer is modah ani, the blessing for gratitude. And it is. But the asher yatzar, the blessing for the body, is a close second:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר יָצַר אֶת הָאָדָם בְּחָכְמָה, וּבָרָא בוֹ נְקָבִים נְקָבִים, חֲלוּלִים חֲלוּלִים, גָלוּי וְיָדוּעַ לִפְנֵי כִסֵּא כְבוֹדֶךָ שֶאִם יִפָּתֵחַ אֶחָד מֵהֶם, אוֹ יִסָּתֵם אֶחָד מֵהֶם, אִי אֶפְשַׁר לְהִתְקַיֵים וְלַעֲמוֹד לְפָנֶיךָ: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, רוֹפֵא כָל בָּשָׂר, וּמַפְלִיא לַעֲשׂוֹת:


Blessed are You, Adonai our God
Who forms the human body with wisdom
And creates within it a miraculous combination
Of organs and arteries, tissues and sinews.
It is known before Your throne of glory
That if one of these were to be open where it should be closed
Or closed where it should be open
We would not be able to stand before you and offer praises.
Blessed are You, Adonai, creator of embodied miracles!

"Organs and arteries, tissues and sinews" is a creative translation which I think I first encountered in Reb Jeff's homegrown siddur; the Hebrew literally says "ducts and tubes," hinting at flutes, meaning something like "openings and closings" -- e.g. the organs and veins and ducts in our bodies.

Some people call this "the bathroom blessing," because these are the words traditionally recited after (washing the hands after the act of) elimination. I love the fact that we have a blessing which reminds us not to take the regular functioning of our bodies for granted. (It also appears in daily liturgy.)

When I had my strokes back in 2006, my relationship with this blessing shifted radically. It's one thing to say, in the abstract, that in order for me to be present before God and pray I need a body which will keep me alive in order to do so. But the strokes brought that reality home in a new way.

"It is known...that if one of these were to be...closed where it should be open" -- if, for instance, a blood clot found its way again to my brain -- I might not be able to be here in relationship with God. I might not "be here" anymore at all. I try to remember that my body is a miracle, every single day.

Rabba Emily Aviva Kapor has written a beautiful variation on Asher Yatzar which takes into account how the classical prayer can be problematic, in its unconscious ableism and in how it can erase the experience of trans* folks who struggle with the assertion that God made their bodies "with wisdom."

Whether I daven the traditional text or Rabba Emily Aviva's variation, this prayer feels incredibly important to me. Maybe because it's easy for me as a woman to knock my body, and this prayer reminds me instead to thank God for the miracle of this body which allows me to exist in the world.

And my mashpi'ah reminds me that this prayer teaches also that we need to be aware of openings and closings on other levels. In emotional life there can be blocks which need clearing. In intellectual life. In spiritual life. Channels need to be open in all four worlds of body, heart, mind, and spirit.

What in your life is closed which you yearn to open, or opened which you wish you could safely close? Does this blessing speak to you and to your sense of your lived experience in your body? What are the sine quibus non, the things or conditions without which you could not be present and offer praise?



Sanctifying the body, 2005

Morning blessings for body and soul, 2007

On bathrooms, blessings, and a learning experience, 2012

Daily love song to my body, 2013

Every body is a reflection of God, 2013

Gratitude for my body, 2015


Image: the cover of this children's book.


Prayers for the morning, part 2: Soul

PrayConnectionsThis is the second post in a series of short meditations on morning prayers.(See Part 1: Gratitude.)


When I asked colleagues for their suggestions of morning prayers which start the day on the right foot, several of them mentioned Elohai Neshama -- "My God, the soul that You have placed within me is pure."

Sometimes I daven the full prayer, and other times I sing Rabbi Shefa Gold's one-sentence chant, but here's the whole thing (the chant is just the first six words):

אלהי נשמה שנתת בי טהורה היא. אתה בראתה אתה יצרתה נפחתה בי, ואתה משמרה בקרבי ואתה עתיד ליטלה ממני ולהחזירה בי לעתיד לבא. כל זמן שהנשמה בקרבי מודה אני לפניך, יי אלהי ולהי אבותי ואמותי, רבון כל המעשים, אדון כל הנשמות. ברוך אתה יי, המחזיר נשמות לפגרים מתים


My God, the soul You have placed within me is pure. You created it, You formed it, and You breathed it into me. You guard it while it is within me; some day it will return to You, and You will restore it to me in a time beyond time. As long as my soul is within me, I will thank You, my God and God of my ancestors, Source of all creation, Sovereign of all souls. Blessed are You, Adonai, Who restores the soul to the body.

(The version of this prayer which appears in Mishkan Tfilah, the Reform movement's siddur, leaves out the line about the soul returning to God and being restored to me in a time beyond time. You can see their version on a beautiful two-page spread here: Elohai Neshama in Mishkan Tfilah [pdf].)

I like Elohai Neshama. It reminds me that no matter what mistakes I made yesterday, I wake today to a soul which is pure. It reminds me that my soul is created anew each day by God and breathed into me for the duration of this lifetime, and that someday my soul will return to its ineffable Source.

But it's not a prayer that's become integral to my daily practice, unlike the blessing for gratitude and the blessing for my body. Maybe that's because I've never needed it in the same way that I need the other two. I've never struggled to believe that my soul is pure, whole, and holy -- at least, not yet.

That said, I gladly sing this prayer when I reach its place in the morning service. I think there is something radical about asserting that the soul is pure every day: no matter what our mistakes, no matter what burdens we are carrying, something within us is always pure and clean and clear.

Several years ago I spent some time working on a cycle of poems arising out of our daily morning prayer, some of which -- including the one I'm about to share here -- will appear in my next book of poetry, Open My Lips, due later this year from Ben Yehuda Press. Let me know if it speaks to you.




My God, my
own: my soul
that You have given me
is pure, clear
like mikveh waters

the spark
which makes me more
than automated clay,
than cells sprouting cells
is holy

neshama: feminine
no matter whose,
women and men
and those blessed

what's gendered
female is what
creates: this
drop of divine
breath that breathes in us

let what I create
in the world, my God,
be as pure
as Your breath
in me



Morning blessing poem cycle, 2012 (a reprint from 2004)

Morning blessings for body and soul, 2007


Image source:

Prayers for the morning, part 1: Gratitude

Modeh AniAfter I posted about afternoon prayer recently, my mom wrote back to tell me that she liked the post and the prayer, and to ask whether I could share a brief morning prayer, too. It seemed likely to me that if she were interested, someone else might be too. My very favorite prayer is a morning prayer:


מודה אני לפניך
מלך חי וקים
שהחזרת בי נשמתי בחמלה,
רבה אמונתך.

Modah ani l'fanecha,
melech chai v'kayam,
shehchezarta bi nishmati b'chemla,
rabbah emunatecha!

I am grateful before You,
Living and enduring God --
With mercy You have restored my soul to me.
Great is Your faithfulness!


It's only one sentence, but it holds so much. "I am grateful" -- I begin the day with gratitude. "Before You" -- the reminder that even if I am feeling isolated, I am not alone. "Living and enduring God" -- I assert that I am speaking to the force which enlivens all things, and which endures forever.

"You have mercifully restored my soul to me" -- that phrase depends on the assumption that while we sleep, our souls are in God's keeping. While we sleep, our souls are sheltered and cared-for by God. When we wake, our souls return to our bodies. This prayer reminds me to notice that I am alive!

"Great is Your faithfulness"-- sometimes the last clause is my favorite part. One might imagine that emunah, faith, is something we are meant to have in God. But this prayer asserts exactly the opposite. God has faith in us. I begin my day by reminding myself that someone -- some One -- believes in me.

I put out this question to a handful of rabbi friends on Twitter, curious to know what short morning prayer they would highlight. They suggested elohai neshama, which reminds us that we wake each day with pure souls, and asher yatzar, which reminds us that our bodies are miracles.

Stay tuned for a little bit more about each of those. Meanwhile, I'd love to know (via comments on this post, or via Twitter conversation -- I'm @velveteenrabbi) your favorite morning prayer(s) and/or gratitude practice(s). What have you found to work for you, as the best way to begin your day?



Melodies for gratitude , 2011;

On gratitude and thanks, 2013;

Privilege, prayer, parenthood, 2014.


Image source: Esther Zibell.


LogoHas anyone told you today that you are beautiful?

Not because of what you're wearing. Not because they like your jewelry or your tie, though maybe they do. But your clothes aren't the point. Not now.

Not because they want something from you and are trying to butter you up. Not because you did something for them and they're trying to thank you. Just because it's true.


I'll tell you, then. You are beautiful.

There is beauty in your eyes. When you let your neshama, your soul, shine through -- it takes my breath away. There's beauty in your hands -- in everything they do, have done, will do in the world.

There is such beauty in what makes you you. I know that the world we live in doesn't always feel like a safe place to let your light shine. I know that you don't always feel beautiful. But believe me: you are.

I wish I could make your life endlessly sweet. I wish I could smooth the rough edges, gentle away the sorrow, remove suffering from your path. I can't, because those things aren't given to me to do.

But I can tell you that you are beautiful, and that you are precious, and that I cannot fathom that a loving God put you on this earth to suffer, and that I want every good thing for you. Every single one.

I can tell you these things because I have been blessed to hear them myself. And I know that if they are true for me, then they are true not only for me. And if I needed to hear them, maybe you do, too.

I know that we are all reflections of God's beauty. I don't always see that beauty in myself, but when I look at the people I love most in the world, their beauty is more than I can describe in words.

I look at the people I love, and I want their lives to be paved with kindness, with gentle encounters and generous conversations, with an endless outpouring of love, because they deserve every good thing.

I believe that God sees each of us that way. The heart-overflowing limitless endless love that I feel for the people I love most in the world -- God feels that way toward every one of us. Can you imagine?

Think of the person you love most. How beautiful they are to you, because you see them through the eyes of love. Now imagine yourself, seen through the eyes of someone who loves you that intensely.

Because some One does. Even if you feel completely alone in the world. Even if life right now is hard. You are beautiful in those eyes. And you are beautiful in mine. You are beautiful because you are you.


The image illustrating this post comes from the folks at It's one of the two bumper stickers on my car.


Afternoon offering

I've trained myself to begin and end each day with what my ALEPH teachers would call prayerful consciousness. I begin the day with modah ani, sung silently in my head if not aloud; I end the day with the shema and blessing those who are dear to me. Even though I often don't manage to make the time to daven (pray) the whole morning and evening liturgy, I feel good that I have inculcated these practices deeply enough that they persist without me having to remind myself to do them.

What I don't have is any kind of consistent practice for afternoon's mincha time. (This is not new.) Lately I've been spending time with a one-paragraph meditation written by Rabbi Edward Feld, which I long ago copied from Kol HaNeshamah, the Reconstructionist siddur. It's an abridged version of the middle of the weekday amidah, the standing prayer which is central to every service. The amidah is our time to stand before God, whatever we understand that to mean -- God far above or deep within.

On Shabbat we offer seven amidah blessings; the weekday version contains 19 blessings. (Why longer on weekdays? Because traditionally one doesn't ask for anything on Shabbat, which is meant to be a special time out of time. On weekdays, we can make requests.) The weekday amidah has some heft to it, but the tradition makes allowances for those who are traveling and can't manage the whole thing. This abridging, replacing the middle 13 blessings with one, is one of our traditional "workarounds."

Anyway, here's the abbreviation of those middle 13 requests with which I've been spending time lately:


פקח עיני לראות בטוב יצרך
והפך דעתי לדעתך ורצוני לרצונך.
יהיו כל מעשי כקרבן רצוי לפניך
ותסלח לכל פשעי.
תנ לי לראות אורך בכל פגישותי
ורפא נא מכאובות לבי.
כי אתה שומע תפלת כל פה.
ברוך אתה יה שומע תפלה.

Open my eye, that it may look upon the goodness of Your plan,
 and turn my knowledge into knowledge of your ways, my will into Your will.
May all that I do be like an offering received into Your presence,
and may You forgive me all I have done wrong.
Enable me to see Your light in all whom I encounter,
and please heal the pain within my heart.
For You are one Who listens to the prayer of all who speak.
Blessed are You, Eternal One, Who hears all prayer.


I know that Rabbi Feld did not intend for this blessing to replace the weekday amidah altogether, but on days when my time is tight, sometimes this is my whole afternoon amidah. (I keep it printed out beside my desk so I can grab it as needed in the pause between meetings.) Even when it's all I manage to do, it does shift the tenor of my heart a little bit. I think it helps me to bring more awareness and spaciousness to whatever meetings or obligations or teaching might be coming next.

I love how this blessing presumes that if my eyes are open, they will see God's goodness. There is goodness in the world; I need only to open myself to it, and I will recognize that it is there. I love the line about wanting my actions to be an an offering -- to me, that hints at the name of the afternoon service, mincha, which means offering, as in the afternoon offering once made at the Temple in Jerusalem. I love the intention of seeing God's light in all whom I meet as I go about my day.

And I love that there is a request for healing. Sometimes there is an ache sitting heavy on my heart.  Sometimes I am sad about something, or worried about someone, or wishing I could make life sweeter for someone I love. And sometimes it feels as though my sorrow, or my worry, or my yearning is a block to my ability to daven. But this prayer reminds me otherwise. My yearnings themselves can feed my prayer; can become my prayer. They are the holiest thing I can offer up on the altar of my heart.

Eldad, Medad, and Reb Zalman's tisch

Furniture-dining-room-chairs-sale-awe-dark-brown-wooden-lacquer-green-dining-chairs-framing-with-armrest-and-floral-patterned-upholstered-theme-cross-legs-buffer-teak-dining-chairs-restaurant-furniturIn the verses we just read from Beha’alot’kha, God takes the spirit which was upon Moses and places it on seventy elders, and all of them begin to prophesy. Then two other men, Eldad and Medad, also begin to prophesy. Joshua, who will be Moses' successor, urges Moses to stop them. And Moses says, "Are you upset on my account? Would that all of God's people were prophets!"

When we think of the English term "prophecy," we think of foretelling the future. But that's not what a Biblical prophet did. In the Biblical understanding, a prophet is someone who speaks for God. The great rabbi and scholar Abraham Joshua Heschel teaches that it was the prophet's job to offer a God's-eye view on the world.

The Biblical prophets spoke on God's behalf: sometimes words of love, sometimes words of caution and judgement. The prophets bequeathed to us a treasury of writings which call us toward a world redeemed.

In the Jewish understanding, prophecy isn't about predicting the future. Prophecy seems to mean something like opening ourselves to that Voice from beyond which exhorts us to be better than we think we know how to be.

In this morning's verses, I hear Joshua's anxiety. His boss Moses was the only one who had a direct line to God, and now suddenly all of these people are speaking on God's behalf -- even people who weren't invited. The familiar structure of authority is at risk of breaking down!

I can empathize with Joshua's fear. And I love Moses' response: oh, dear one, are you jealous on my account? You think I mind having other people connecting with God? On the contrary -- I wish everyone had a clear channel through which divine spirit and wisdom could flow.

Tradition teaches that never again will there arise a prophet as great as Moshe. Today's verses offer a glimpse of his greatness because they show us someone who was not threatened by others being uplifted too. Moses knew that connection with God is not zero-sum, and that other people opening their hearts to divine wisdom didn't diminish his ability to do the same.

One of my favorite stories about my teacher Reb Zalman z"l is about how he used to teach at his Shabbos tisch. "Tisch" is Yiddish for "table;" it means a celebratory gathering where students gather to imbibe wisdom from their teacher, usually accompanied by singing niggunim and toasting l'chaim! Following in the footsteps of his Hasidic forebears, Reb Zalman would gather his hasidim around the table, and offer his unique and beautiful Torah, and his students would be nourished by his wisdom.

And then he would do something which his forebears didn't do. He would invite everyone to rise, and to move one chair to the left. Now someone else was sitting in the "rebbe chair" -- the big cushy seat with the armrests at the head of the table from which the rebbe was supposed to offer his teachings. And he would say, "Look inside for the Rebbe-Spark within you -- and teach from there."

And then they would do it again, and again, until everyone at the table had had the opportunity to be the teacher, the giver of wisdom, an open channel for divine grace. Everyone got to sit in the rebbe chair, both literally and metaphorically.

It was important to him that all of us learn that "rebbe" is a function, a role, into which we too can step. That we too have wisdom to give over. That we too can open our hearts to something beyond ourselves and learn to trust that the wisdom which will flow through us will be the right wisdom for this moment. That all of the power shouldn't reside in one person, because that isn't good for the rest of us -- and it's not good for the one person in power, either.

"Would that all of God's people were prophets." Would that we all felt safe enough to open our hearts and minds to divine inspiration. Would that we all trusted our intuition enough to discern when the voice urging us on is a holy one. Kein yehi ratzon -- may it be so.


This is the d'var Torah which I offered yesterday morning at my shul. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.)

I've heard the story of Reb Zalman's tisch many times. If you'd like to hear about it from someone who was there, I commend to you Reb Arthur's post Reb Zalman: His Light is Buried Like A Seed -- To Sprout.


You make the seasons change...

New-elm-leavesAt this time of year, one of the things I most love about where we live is watching the shifting shades of green. This year the trees leafed out while we were in Texas visiting family. When we left the branches were still bare. When we returned, everything was that extraordinary chartreuse of brand-new chlorophyll, so bright it's almost fluorescent. Baby green with a hint of neon behind it.

Only a few weeks have passed since that trip, but already the landscape has shifted. Most of the trees are wreathed in mature green now, a green that feels more substantial. Often the leaves are larger, too; they've reached what I think of as their summer size. I forget, every winter, what it looks like when trees explode with leaves. They go from sticks to puffballs, from stark lines to rustling softness.

I catch my thoughts snagging on thorns: these leaves are so beautiful, I'm going to miss them when they're gone. Or I notice the long low light of early-summer evening, and even as I'm reveling in this moment the whisper comes: someday the light will wane and the days will be short. Where did that come from? Why can't I be in this moment, instead of worrying about losses I might someday feel?

The leaves have only just grown; the summer's barely begun; the light is still increasing. Why am I already thinking about what it will be like to lose them? But this is what the mind does: it tells stories about things which haven't yet come to pass. Sometimes they are sweet stories, as when I anticipate seeing a loved one. Sometimes they are stories marinated in old fear: what you have will go away.

When I notice my mind spiraling down those old fearful pathways, I try to pause and take a deep breath, and on the exhale, to let those thoughts go. The thoughts happen. It's okay; there's nothing wrong with having them; and I don't need to become attached to them. I can notice them, name them, and then let them slip away like goldfish darting beneath the surface of a pond.

One of my favorite evening prayers is the ma'ariv aravim, the prayer which blesses God Who "evens out the evenings." The word comes from a root which means to mix; in this context it seems to hint at mixing afternoon with night. "You roll back light before dark, and dark before light," the prayer says (in translation). Light and dark take turns, and our task is to notice and sanctify the changes.

"You make the seasons change and order the stars in their appointed paths across heaven's dome," that prayer reminds us. The changes in season are part of the divine design; they are built into the world as we know it. In order for the season to hold still the earth would have to stop spinning -- catastrophe. God is the One Who cycles us through change, and change doesn't have to mean loss.

The Hebrew word for year, shanah, relates to the word for change, shinui. The year is made up of change, and God is the very process of change -- God Who describes God's-self, at the burning bush, as Ehyeh asher Ehyeh, "I Am Becoming Who I Am Becoming." The trick is to trust the hand of God at work. Change is how the world is renewed. Our task is to embrace that, and not to be afraid.