Juicy Delicious Judaism – A Rosh Hashanah Drash

I was honored to be asked to speak at the Rosh Hashanah services of Olney Kehila this year.  Below is the text of the “drash” I gave.

L’Shanah Tova

I am really honored to be here with you all today.  My family seems to have a growing and wonderful connection with Olney Kehila.  Not only is Holly, a friend, teacher, and mentor, but my husband crafted the wonderful ark that houses your community’s Torah.  I’ve enjoyed services here in the past and just love what a friendly and welcoming congregation this is.  One thing, in particular, that’s struck me in the past is the amazing kids you have here. I watch them get so engaged with the songs and chants,and I remember meeting one Bat Mitzvah student a couple of years ago who was working on some project that I can’t even fathom having the maturity to have done when I was twelve.

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The Shofar: Symbol of Tishrei, Symbol of Judaism

Tishrei 5772 begins at Sundown on Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The shofar is not only a symbol we all associate with Tishrei, but it’s also a symbol of Judaism.  Many of us only think about the shofar at the High Holy days, but in ancient times it was used regularly in religious rites.

Blow the shofar at the new moon, at the full moon for our feast-day.
(Psalm 81:3)
In Psalms, we see the order to blow the shofar at both the new moon, Rosh Chodesh, and the full moon feast days. Historically the shofar would have been used to call us to prayer and attention for a myriad of reasons and events.  The shofar was also the sound of G-d/dess’ voice we hear at Sinai.  Is it any wonder that this ancient relic is one we still treasure today?  When considering the shofar, also remember that it is a sign of our history as a nation of shepherds.  I’m exploring purchasing my first shofar, and finding that I not only want one that is beautiful and playable — but also that I know comes from an animal that is not just kosher, but was also raised with respect and given a good life.  I also want it to be local.  Why should I import a shofar from a foreign country, when there are so many sheep right here? I would like to learn to play the shofar, but I also want to incorporate it into my fall altar, or spiritual focal point if you prefer. If you are unfamiliar with the idea of having a Jewish personal altar, here’s a post  about the practice.

Rosh Hashanah Drosh 5769

This is the drosh, more or less, that I’ll be giving at Rosh Hashanah on Tuesday night.  I’ve invited several people to speak on the topic of being Called to Sacred Service.  Usually I just speak from my heart, with only a little preparation, but then I never really know what I said.  I thought this year I would try writing it out in advance, so I can share it.

L’shana Tova.  May you find abundance in the new year.

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Rosh Hashanah 5769

A lot of people talk to G!(d)dess, but very few actually hear the response.  People pray and pray, and only if what they asked for is given in the way they expected it do they say their prayers were answered.  But what happens if you are one of those who are in conversation with G!(d)dess?  What if you are someone who hears the response, even when it’s not the one you wanted?   That’s a major part of how I’ve experienced being “called.”  I think that anyone who is in conversation with G!(d)dess finds that they have no choice but to share what they learn, even if it is indirect ways.

The problem is that there isn’t usually a map provided when you are called; you act based on the best information you have.  There are so many stories of prophets and holy men who just seemed to be jerks.  Look at Abraham, twice he basically whores out his wife to Kings despite her objections.  Not really a nice thing to do.  Plus he kicks out his concubine and first son, and, of course is willing to sacrifice his second son. It seems like callings drive you nuts or drives everyone around you nuts.

So what I wonder is how do I answer the call I’ve received without alienating everyone around me?  Is that even possible?  Can I answer the call without sacrificing material comfort?  That’s a lot less to ask than sacrificing my son, but I’m still not okay with it.  How can I spread the message I’ve received in a way that people will be wiling to hear, but that is not so soft and fluffy they don’t feel compelled to act?  How many people do I feel the need to reach at once?  Is it okay if I just reach a few people in my lifetime, and maybe count on the ripple effect?  Is that enough?  Should I be out protesting and railing against things?

R’Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “A religious man is a person who holds God and man in one thought at one time, at all times, who suffers harm done to others, whose greatest passion is compassion, whose greatest strength is love and defiance of despair.

I think this is the new model of someone called to sacred service.  It’s a model that I can try to follow.  I can do my best to lead with compassion and love, not anger.   Too many of those called to service seem to act out of anger and frustration.  But if I deeply feel this calling, then I have no choice but to act from love, compassion, and joy.  I will lead with deep, heart-felt joy.

So with joy, let me share the kernel of my calling.  Quite simply – care about what you eat.  Respect yourself enough to reject food as a commodity.  Know that a meal is more than “fuel.”  Know that your body is a temple and that food is a Divine offering.  You are worth taking the time to cook and have a satisfying meal.

When you eat, and you are satisfied, you are to bless YHVH your G!(d)dess for the good land that s/he has given you. (Deuteronomy 8:10)

How can we bless if you don’t eat a satisfying meal?  How can we remember how good this land is, if we don’t eat the fruit grown in its soil?  What happens when we eat but are no longer are satisfied enough to bless?

You shalt eat, but not be satisfied; and your sickness shall be in your inward parts; and you will conceive, but not bring forth; and whomsoever you bring forth will I give up to the sword. (Michah 6:14)

Do not fight hunger.  Join me in striving for abundance.

And you shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and you shall praise the name of YHVH your G!(d)dess,  who has dealt wondrously with you; and My people shall never be ashamed. (Joel 2:26)

Let the lowly eat and be satisfied; let all who seek G!(d)dess praise him.  Always be of good cheer! (Psalm 22:27)

Eat.  Be Satisfied.  Bless.

[tags]eat, satisfied, rosh hashanah, drosh, sermon, 5759, food[/tags]

Yartzeit Rachel Imeinu & Veteran’s Day

Good Shabbos. May the blessings of Rachel Imeinu be with you all, and especially those who have served their country with honor.

Guardians of the Fire

Poem copyright Carly Lesser (Chava Chai)

Photograph: http://www.flickr.com/photos/38074672@N00/42483591/