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28 October 2011

This Is My Prayer

This is my prayer...
to look with wonder at the ocean filling the horizon
to see the waves crashing on the rocks
to watch the foam scrub the sand.

This is my prayer...
to hear the song of the sea
to see the windblown palms
to smell the rain on the wind
to feel the wind and sun on my skin.

This is my prayer...
watching the scented smoke curl up to heaven
breathing in the ancient sacred fragrances, frankincense and myrrh
blowing on the coals
watching the sparks fly
feeling the heat from the glowing coals.

This is my prayer...
tasting the sea
touching the sand
smelling the flowers
savoring the fruit.

This is my prayer...
speaking the ancient words of scripture
praying the words
hearing the words
sharing the words
wrestling and being wrestled by the words
and the Word in the words.

This is my prayer...


26 October 2011

Free to Feel

I am so grateful 
for the freedom 
to feel
what I feel
I am not alone.

22 October 2011

The Other side of Anxiety

The word of the Lord through the poet-prophet Rumi to me:

You've been fearful
of being absorbed in the ground,
or drawn up by the air.
Now, your waterbead lets go
and drops into the ocean,
where it came from.
It no longer has the form it had,
but it's still water
The essence is the same.
This giving up is not a repenting.
It's a deep honoring of yourself.
When the ocean comes to you as a lover,
marry at once, quickly,
for God's sake!

20 October 2011

Only Breath


Only Breath

Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu
Buddhist, sufi, or zen. Not any religion

or cultural system. I am not from the East
or the West, not out of the ocean or up

from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not
composed of elements at all. I do not exist,

am not an entity in this world or in the next,
did not descend from Adam and Eve or any

origin story. My place is placeless, a trace
of the traceless. Neither body or soul.

I belong to the beloved, have seen the two
worlds as one and that one call to and know,

first, last, outer, inner, only that
breath breathing human being.

I am only breath
breath in skin
yet when the storm comes
my skin breaks open
and my heart-breath blows
finds my skin
and breathes again

18 October 2011


Hydra-headed cartoon monster
with more tentacles than an octopus
dwarfing Leviathan
whisper thin and sharp
passing through walls and windows
heart, mind and soul
on tendrils of smoke.

Grasping, seizing, choking, strangling
with manacles of iron
resisting resistance
overwhelming courage and determination
overshadowing and overpowering.

Beaten down but not back. 
Beaten back but not down.
Ever present.

Dissipating waves of peace and light.
Dissipated by waves of peace and light?
Not today.

Where are my guardian angels
advocates and surrogates?
Who does battle for me?

13 October 2011

Why We Can't Just Do It Like the Bible Says

I have been swimming in a sea of words, words in the bible, words about the bible, my words, words I wish I'd written, spoken or thought of. I have been so overwhelmed with all of the words that I haven't been blogging, although I've been writing, preaching, teaching, thinking and talking.

In the ocean of words that is the internet, I found some words that say what I've been trying to find the words to say - words which I'm sure others have spoken - explaining to the fervent faithful that biblical literalism is not a faithful response to God or the scriptures; the issue is broader than slavery and stoning people or abducting girls in war and killing baby boys and yes, same gender-sexual contact.

The words I found were a blog post from God explaining to some orthodox Jews why they couldn't observe the festival of Sukkot exactly as the bible or the tradition says. Along the way God explains how every noun, word and concept, in the biblical and exegetical tradition has changed so much that they all mean completely different things (sometimes along with some of the old things) that they are for all intents and purposes new and different words. [Christian readers may think of old wine in new wineskins here.]

Everyone wants to imagine that Moses himself could amble into their Shteeble or sit down and their Shabbos table, and blend in without missing a beat. There’s something romantic about that, I guess.

But what you fail to appreciate is just how much the Halachic ground shifts irrespective of your efforts to preserve it. The bottom line is that the experience of observing Shabbos 3,000 years ago is dramatically different than that of observing Shabbos 300 years ago, or even 30. This is not due to changes in any Halacha per se, but rather due to revolutions in technology, society, and culture. Someone adhering to a particular set of rules a long, long time ago is simply not doing the same thing as someone adhering to the same set of rules today. Trying to latch onto a particular ancient interpretation of a particular rule is like holding your coffee mug in place on your desk during a major earthquake (which are not the gays’ fault, by the way), and trying to pretend that your office looks just like it used to. 

For example, while I leave it to you to sort this particular issue out, I hope you understand that forbidding a woman from serving on a Shul board in 2011 is not the same thing as doing so in the year 1011. Sure, the prohibition is technically the same, but so much has changed with respect to women (and Shul boards) that every relevant noun in the prohibition no longer means what it used to, and the sense that you are clinging to the past is illusory.

This is also what bothers me about all of those "year of living biblically" projects. It's simply not possible without rickets and malnutrition and blood infections and unacceptably high infant and maternal mortality and illiteracy and...and...and...

We have also relinquished the God-given responsibility and authority to wrestle with the scriptures and tradition. We have settled on and for one set of interpretations, whether New Testament or Halacha, and instead of learning from how and why our ancestors interpreted the text in the ways they did we have settled for trying to mimic them out of context. Both Christian and Jewish traditions have amazingly complex systems of biblical interpretation that their adherents are forcefully ossifying, burying alive.

Yet God's word is alive, calling us to the torah-tussling, word-wrestling, God-grappling dance.

01 October 2011

(Jewish) New Year's Resolutions

I've been living into 5772 for a couple of days. Before RoshHaShanah, I was feeling rather pessimistic about the state of the world.

But in the past couple days, perhaps beginning with services, I have found myself becoming more hopeful.

This is the gift of prayer. The old adages: Prayer changes things. Prayer changes people. Prayer changes me.

This year, I resolve to believe the best about the world, no matter what I see, hear or read.
This year, I resolve to breathe more. And if that is not physiologically possible, I resolve to breathe more consciously and purposefully.
This year, I resolve to love, especially when it's hard and when I don't want to.
This year, I resolve to live in the love of God for me and for the world.