Setting & Achieving Goals, Erev Rosha’sh

Rabbi/Cantor Meeka Simerly

Rabbi/Cantor Meeka Simerly

Erev Tov and Shanah Tovah!

Exactly a year ago, I was standing right here, on this bimah, nervous and excited, worried and ecstatic with joy, and yes, shvitzing as usual. I remember asking myself, “What is this New Year, 5777, going to look like? What are the goals that I would like to accomplish personally, as well as professionally with my new congregation, in both my spiritual and material homes? I also wished that my Ima and Abba were here with me to witness and be a part of this new spiritual journey we have all embarked on, together. And tonight, I am glad to report that my Ima and Abbah, Rivka and Itzik are indeed with us to share the beginning of this Jewish New Year 5778.

According to our ancient tradition, starting this evening, on Erev Rosh Ha’Shana, the end of the Hebrew month of Elul and the start of Tishrei, we begin a self-examination process called aseret yemei teshuva, the ten days of inwardly turning and returning as we spiritually transition from the passing year, to create a clean slate, in preparation for this Jewish New Year.

            Tichleh shanah u’klaloteha, tachel shanah u’vir’choteha says the Talmud in Mishna Brachot, “There ends a year and its blights and a new one begins with its blessings.”

In Aramaic, “Elul” is the name of the last Hebrew month. It means “to search.” “Tishrei” is the name of the first Hebrew month, and it means “to begin.”  How befitting, while we search within our hearts and souls contemplating the past year, we also prepare ourselves to begin the coming year, it’s like and annual reboot! Hatchalot Chadashot (new beginnings).

For me, it’s been an amazing year of growth through introspection, and self-evaluation. Like everyone else, I have slipped here and there, but I have tried to the best of my ability to follow up with a Tikkun, an amending, of any errors. It’s been a year of hopes, disappointments, triumphs, and everything else that‘s part of the life of your crazy, hot-blooded-Israeli-momma of a rabbi.

Wow. It’s been a year already.

We’ve said a fond farewell to our beloved Ellen Goldin, who passed the Educator’s torch with a warm welcome to Marian Gorewitz Kleinman. We thanked our outgoing president Janice Paul for outstanding service for the past three years, and welcomed Joan Gottlieb who we wish a wonderfully rewarding next two years. And through it all, our one and only amazing Cantor Emeritus Charles Romalis is still here with us, as he has been here for the past nearly 52 years. How incredible is that?!

In looking back over the past year, my major Cheshbon Ha’nefesh (taking inventory while soul-searching), has been about whether I have served you properly, my beloved congregants: Have I done right by you, Temple Beth Tikvah’s community of awesome individuals? Have I disappointed or hurt anyone unknowingly? Have I been patient enough and been available to really listen enough? Have I made decisions that brought us closer toward healing and wholesome growth?

As I have considered these questions, as your new rabbi, I have looked back on the personal and professional goals that I set for myself, and for us as a congregation in transition.

Gratefully, I have achieved some of my personal goals. Dave and I are so very happy in our new home in Pines Lake, with our new friends, and our healthy dogs. “Tfu tfu tfu,” as my Ima always says. I’ve also gone back to exercising and to eating a much healthier diet. And life in general is really, really – tfu tfu tfu – good!   As for my congregational and professional life, I chose three sets of goals to work on, which I want to review with you now.

My first set of goals had to do with the Ritual Committee:

We made many changes thanks to a highly functional, vibrant, fun, and committed group of individuals chaired by Bruce Skolnick with the help of his wife Kerry. Meeting at least than once a month, the Ritual Committee discusses ways to enrich the spiritual lives of all our congregants, of all ages.

As a result, tomorrow morning, for the first time in Temple Beth Tikvah’s history, our children are going to have a full High Holy Day experience, joined by their families and friends —  a whole-family experience of Rosh Ha’Shanah and Yom Kippur services. Moreover, our Committee also worked hard on replacing Temple Beth Tikvah’s former prayer books. Although the new siddur, Mishkan Tefila, has taken some getting used to, the idea of joining the rest of the Reform Movement’s usage of this magnificently creative book, seems now to have settled nicely into the hearts and spiritual lives of most of our members.

My second set of goals had to do with technology:

Coming from Silicon Valley, I was quite astonished to realize that our office was still using a pen and paper calendaring system, as well as a website sorely in need of modernization. I am happy to report that our Temple’s staff now mostly stays in synch via web-based calendaring, and you can find all the Temple’s news and information on a dynamic re-designed website. The website came about from the efforts of many people. Thanks go out to the hubbitzen Dave Simerly, Lee Weisberger, Ken Lang, Joan Gottlieb, Harvey The Torah Hendler, Jay Stack, and everyone else who has done such good work on this.

            My third set of goals and perhaps THE most challenging was to create a new Bar and Bat Mitzvah Program, including weaning our students from their dependence on using transliterated Hebrew text. Thanks to Ellen Goldin and Cantor Romalis, together, we created a highly comprehensive Bar/Bat Mitzvah Handbook, which details the specific process of this important life cycle event, a highlight of our thirteen year olds’ Jewish experience. We are so excited that our Bar/Bat Mitzvah Program, together with our new Siddur Mishkan Tefila, will be initiated in November with the Bat Mitzvah of Riley Hiller, our first seventh grader to become a Bat Mitzvah this year.

While looking back at what we accomplished together this past year, I want us to also note that sometimes not achieving the goals we set out to achieve is okay. As we each look back on this past year, we have to remember to be compassionate towards ourselves when we perceive that we have not met all the goals we set out for ourselves — because sometimes that leads us to grow in unexpected new directions.

To illustrate this let me tell you a short well-known Chassidic story:

Shloymeh Vasserman lived in the old Polish town of Mojzits. Shloymeh and his wife Feigie owned a small but flourishing business of water-drawing and delivering, from the brook of fresh water just outside their town. Four days a week, the couple would deliver water to all the other Mojzits families.

For his business Shloymeh used two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole, which he carried across his neck. Every morning Shloymeh would pray Shacharit, thank God for the blessings in his life, then embark on his way down to the brook, to fill up the pots.  One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the brook to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

This went on daily, with Shloymeh delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his clients. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. 

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, the cracked pot spoke to Shloymeh one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.”   Shloymeh said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you’ve watered them. For two years, I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to bring to my wife Faigaleh, who would welcome me with arms wide open and a big smile on her face. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be any flowers to brighten my wife’s day, and bring beauty to our home.”

This story teaches us about the concepts of “perfection” on the one hand and “failure” on the other, and all the possibilities that lie in between those two polarities. While we must set goals so we can continue to live a meaningful life, we must also remember that sometimes success is measured by unforeseen consequences.

Many of us have examples of setting goals that resulted in a different outcome than expected. Our Sages said: “We have no understanding of the energy that God planted within our souls. Therefore, God has to test us to bring forth those treasures that are buried deep within ourselves and make us unique.” In other words, God sees the greatness and gifts within us. Our job in this lifetime is to uncover those gifts and use them, in order to manifest that greatness.

Now.

Our congregation has gone through a shift and needs to focus itself on revival.  We have to continue to let go of the stale in order to bring about renewal. Thus, we need to explore how we relate to these topics now— What do we still want to hold onto? What do we need to let go of? How do we re-focus on what is still relevant and how do we let go of what no longer serves us or our community?

For me, one of the greatest challenges has been the idea of “disappointing.” I can’t stand that I may have hurt people by not calling them, or wishing them well on time. It hurts me to know that someone may have felt left out, uncared for, unnoticed or ignored.

One of my goals for this year is to try to reach out to everyone.

Some wonderful people at Temple Beth Tikvah have been my God-sent angels. The word angel means not only a higher being, but also a messenger. My angels, my messengers, have been whispering in my ear of those in need of extra TLC, a hug, a phone call, or a visit from their rabbi. So beloved congregants of mine, be my angels and help me achieve this year’s goal. Tell me about yourself, or someone you’ve heard about, and what it is I can do to help.

So while I have all of you here with me this evening, and before you fall asleep, because it’s getting to be bedtime – I will ask you to consider why have you chosen to be with us here, at TBT to celebrate a new year of goal-setting and opportunities, a new year of spiritual engagements? Could it be that because, although we are not perfect, we do have the highest of intentions, willingness and guts to grow, and that we strive to be better than we have ever been?

Like the broken pot in the story, you may be frustrated sometimes, because our actions do not appear to produce a desirable outcome, immediately. But please remember that every action may result in unexpected new growth that we can all enjoy together.

Because you chose to be here with us this evening, I will say this to each and all of you: Temple Beth Tikvah has been around for the past sixty years and we will continue to grow together. Some of us will never be fully satisfied, or fully understand why our leadership chose to do this, or that, or the other thing. However, through your participation and your continued support, financially and spiritually, you will help us to set our goals and achieve them. Your support will be the water that will make fresh flowers, our next generation of Jews, grow and thrive.

            I will end here with a prayer for this new year: “God, we thank You for today. Thank You for the inspiration You give us to dream, and to set goals for ourselves. We pray for all of us: women, men, and children to have goals and dreams that we desire to see happen. We realize we are not guaranteed a “certain tomorrow,” but setting goals gives us the motivation to live out each day purposefully and with direction.

Help us to accomplish our needs in order to move on, and accomplish even more in this lifetime. We have so much to offer to our family, friends, community as well as people in general. Help us to spiritually grow however we need to find our purpose.

Open Your Gates for us, Adonai, we ask that you open them wide. Help us set our goals, personally and communally, and then equip us with Your wisdom to fulfill them. Fill our hearts and minds with your awesome purpose, and inspire our lives with your many blessings.

            Shanah Tovah to everyone: here is to a year filled with the blessing of doing what is right and what is good. Ken yehi ratzon, may this be our, and God’s will, as we work towards achieving our goals, together.

Our Choir now will join together in singing Pitchu Li, Open the Gates for Us, on p. 267 in the Machzor.

Hannukah Celebration!

9661cb1a-1960-47e8-957b-0b9875a89b70

a2b467ef-d616-421f-843b-13e773997df8

Interfaith Thanksgiving Service

Come join Rabbi Meeka, Razie Alexander (Harmony Singers) & Herb Schuman (WIN) from TBT celebrate the joy of Thanksgiving.

RSVPs are appreciated, as well as non-perishable donations for WIN

Interfaith Thanksgiving Service flyer

🗓 Events

 

Women of Chai Lecture Slideshow

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

WIN Thanksgiving Food Drive

onion flyer 2017

Why learn Hebrew?

Marian K CroppedWhy Learn Hebrew?

Can it be fun and easy to study Hebrew? In Rabbi Mike Comins’ book,  Making Prayer Real: Leading Jewish Spiritual Voices on Why Prayer is Difficult and What to do About It, there’s a chapter called “Overcoming the Hebrew Barrier,” by Rabbi Lawrence Kushner. Kushner feels that Hebrew, or the lack of Hebrew language skills, need not be a barrier to prayer. Rabbi Kushner goes on to say:

“on a scale of linguistic difficulty from one to ten, of which Finnish or Turkish is a ten, and pig Latin is a one, English is a seven and Hebrew is a three. There are five times more words in the English dictionary than the Hebrew dictionary. Once you get over the hump of the funny letters going in the other direction, you’ve got an easy language on your hands.” (p. 171)

In other words, Hebrew is easier than English! Wow!

I remember when I was in third grade, how excited I was to start learning the alef-bet (Hebrew alphabet). I see this in our children here at TBT, too! Let’s get back to the question, why study Hebrew? Some say that it’s the language of learning Torah, that translations are “diluted.” Others suggest it’s a holy language because the Torah was given to us written in Hebrew.

It might not matter why we teach and study Hebrew; what’s most important, in many ways, is how we, as parents, discuss this topic. It’s helpful to explore today’s “typical” Jewish family as compared with Jewish families in history. In 1960, Nahum Glazer created a profile of benchmarks in Jewish families.

The five qualities Glazer felt were characteristic in Jewish homes are: distinct roles for parents and children; non goal-oriented perennial learning; separation between the generations; importance of the Jewish calendar shaping family life; nachas (joy/pride) from kinder (children); and shalom baayit (peace in the home). Many of these are still present, in varying degrees, and I ask you to consider how these benchmarks apply to you and your family.

At Beth Tikvah, I see nachas from kinder at every bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah. I also see many adults and children who are interested in perennial Jewish learning. And I’d love to discuss Jewish learning with you and assist you in your personal Jewish journey and your family’s.

I look forward to seeing you here at TBT.

Hugs and blessings!

Marian

 

 

November/December Bulletin

 

Tot Shabbat!

79e3552c-47da-4913-a4b0-0cff18c067cd

Yom Kippur Day – Tikkun Olam begins with Tikkun Ha’nefesh

Rabbi/Cantor Meeka Simerly

Rabbi/Cantor Meeka Simerly

This is NOT a sermon about politics.

Last year on November 9th, I woke up early from a restless night’s sleep and immediately ran to my computer to check the results of the previous night’s presidential elections. My email reaction sent to the congregation brought comfort to many, but it also enraged and caused sour feelings among others.

Through this experience, I actually learned a great lesson from those who kindly called my attention to an important issue. While rabbinic schools cover “Politics in the Synagogue” —  any new Rabbi learns best from hands-on experience. Over time we work and engage with the congregation; learning its needs and tendencies.

The good lesson that I learned from that experience is that our synagogue must be a safe haven for everyone. As clergy, we must be available to serve, support, and comfort all of our congregants regardless of political views. Therefore, while we can discuss issues that affect the lives of our community, congregational clergy cannot publicly endorse, or reject, any specific political party or candidate.

Of course I apologized to those I offended after November 9th. And I thanked those who came to see me in-person to explain to me over a cup of tea about their feelings, fears, and yes, their sense of betrayal as well. I was so grateful to learn what the boundaries are in expressing political statements, which allowed me to better understand current, local events, and political sensitivities.

I have learned that our synagogue cannot be a place for bias. People of all political opinions and affiliations should always feel welcome within the sacred walls of our Sanctuary.

While I have not spoken in public about our administration since, and I have not used our temple to express my own personal political preferences, that experience also taught me something even greater about myself.

 

 

The lesson I learned has to do with choosing to not hide, or apologize for the fact that I am pro-choice, pro-equality for women, pro- equal rights for Lesbians-Gays-Bisexuals-Transgenders-Questioning (in short LGBTQ), I am pro-mixed marriages, I am pro-animal rights, and most definitely pro-Israel. I am anti-alt-right, anti-capital punishment, and yes, on top of everything else – I am also a strict vegetarian for humane reasons. Some of you may refer to me as “that hippie Californian hot-blooded Israeli Female Rabbi.” And that’s ok. I’ve heard worse. As they say on the campaign trail: “I approve this message.”

[The Hubitzen told me to say this. I don’t actually know what it means J]

Speaking on behalf of those who require advocacy is the most compelling reason that drew me to the rabbinate in general, and to Temple Beth Tikvah in particular. Speaking up for the innocent, harmless minorities, the less able, and the weaker and less fortunate in our country is part of my rabbinate.

Knowing that I can make a difference, help make change by actually doing the work rather than just talking about it is part of my mission as a pulpit rabbi. To speak up, teach about the rights of the less-privileged, and march in protest against acts of violence, and human rights violations is also the mission and moral obligation of many pulpit rabbis, in fact it is advocated by the Reform movement.

I cannot, and will not stand idly by when others are suffering because of their color, country of origin, religion, who they love, or the way they look. In fact, I became very determined to make a great distinction between a particular politician and his or her point of view and fighting for human rights as a political issue.

That experience taught me that, while my lips must never utter in public another word about my who is my preferred president or political party affiliation, I will never ever be silent when “the other” is not treated like I am in my own country. I simply cannot go about my happy life when the stranger, the immigrant, is not welcomed here in the same way that I was welcomed 22 years ago, when I also was a stranger and an immigrant.

 

Over time I have become determined to strengthen my commitment to engage in that enormously overwhelming project called Tikkun Olam, Repairing the World. I want to restore peace in our world, while cultivating my own partnership with God to channel healing and comfort to those who seek it.

Do you know why?

Because this commandment from our Torah, was carved into my soul in early childhood:  Veahavta et Adonai Elohecha be’chol levavcha uvechol nafshecha uvechol me’odecha, You shall love Adonai your God with all your heart and mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

But how can I love Adonai my God, if I don’t love, respect, and honor all of            God’s creation?

Yes, I will remain silent when elections are taking place, whether locally or nationally. But no, I will never remain silent or impartial regarding any form of abuse, prejudice, and acts of violence in the Name of God or in the expression of anti-Semitism. I will never stand idly by when others are suffering.

And again, do you know why?

Because our Torah also teaches us this significant lesson, which as Rabbi Akivah taught, is the Whole Torah in One Sentence: Ve’ahavta le’reacha kamocha. You shall love the other as you would love yourself or yours. I have been keeping that teaching as frontlets between my eyes, let’otafot bein enecha (I showed Tefilin)

In addition, in Mishna Shabbat 31a, Hillel teaches us that “What is hateful to you do not do unto your neighbor. This is the entire Torah, all the rest is commentary.”

Moreover, the Torah commands us in Leviticus 19:18: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” and because humanity was created b’tzelem Elohim (in the image of God), we show disrespect to God when we show disrespect to our fellow human beings. Hence, we are obligated to treat everyone with respect.

Judaism teaches us to celebrate each individual’s uniqueness, while affirming his or her divine worth. In fact it demands that we think about people in a particular way. To love our neighbor as ourselves means we behave towards others the same way we would want them to treat us. Therefore, the value of v’ahavta l’reacha kamocha offers the foundation for understanding and implementing moral behavior.

According to the Jerusalem Talmud, in Mishna Nedarim, the great Sage Rabbi Akiva taught that we are a religion that cherishes, above all else, treating people well, and that compassion for “the other” is at the heart of Judaism. And in Leviticus 19:14, we learn “…do not place a stumbling block before the blind… do not seek vengeance on your neighbor, or hold a grudge against your neighbor,“ and again, the same verse, “Love your neighbor as yourself, I am Adonai.“

Although one can certainly love Torah and follow different political paths, one cannot claim to be a “lover of Torah” and our ancient scripture, and not care about how our society treats those in need, the weak, the vulnerable, the stranger, and the oppressed.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of our Reform Judaism movement wrote: “We should be moral goads, always free to speak truth to power  and lift our voices to affirm our 3,000-year-old mandate to ‘Speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy,’ as mentioned in Proverbs 31:9, as an expression of our care and concern for the world around us.”

I wholeheartedly believe that sermons that “speak up” on the great moral issues of our world and our lives—are not about politics. On the contrary, they are about our moral Jewish values; the values we teach and the values we pass on to our children; the values that have been written on the doorposts of our own homes; the values that kept us together as a people for centuries.

My role as a rabbi is not to avoid issues of human rights, but rather to shed a light on these debates, and model civil discussion in a manner that shows respect for different views. My role is not to use any type of divisive language or attack those who disagree.

The Judaism of which I feel proud to be a member and take part in does not limit Torah study to the parchment of our Torah scrolls, the commentaries we use, nor the new prayer books that we bought. My Judaism compels me to use those lessons to understand the most urgent challenges we face today, based on education and research. My role is to point in the direction of social justice, and freedom of choice, and equality for all.

Let me give you one personal example of my own transformation, from being prejudiced and unkind, to practicing compassion, and kindness to “the other.”

While commuting weekly to school from San Jose to Los Angeles, I used to fly with Rabbi Debbie Israel, my best friend and personal rabbi. Many of you met her when she came to install me as your rabbi.

We used to consult with one another on different topics, which we still do very often. We would pick each other’s brains on a variety of sugiyot, practical, personal and theoretical dilemmas that we have been encountering along our professional as well as personal paths.

One day, I felt that I couldn’t hold something in any longer, and I asked Debbie for advice on how to get over my own resistance and frankly, feelings of revolt against homeless men and women. I told her that whenever I see a homeless person, I cross to the other side of the road. Looking at their icky clothes and smelling their un-cleanness and lack of bathing really disgusted me. Their begging for money sickened me, and in my heart, I would say, “Get a job, you blood and money sucker!”

I shared with Debbie how I thought they should go to the local food bank rather than sit on the street and ask me for money. “Who knows what they’re doing with that money,” I asked, “I am sure they’ll go out and drink it away!”

With her usual loving calmness and amazing patience, Debbie responded, “Meeka, you simply have to remember that anyone who sits and begs for money or food on the street, was driven to do so. Even if they end up drinking or smoking your money, remember that alcoholism is a disease; it doesn’t matter about the stories of their lives. I am sure that if they had a choice they would choose to be as fortunate and blessed as you are; not to drink or smoke or sit on the street to beg. Remember that they are human beings, and that the circumstances of their lives have pushed them to live the life that they are living. We cannot be their judges and we will never know their full story. So when you feel disgusted, try to see the suffering humanity in them rather than those drunk hobos that are after your money.”

I was silent for a few moments, until I suddenly felt so ashamed that I could not see those people the way Debbie was able to. I shared with her my feelings, and she said, smiling, “Oh Meeka, don’t worry. I was exactly the same, if not worse, before our beloved old teacher Rabbi Eli Shochet sat down and shared with me these exact same words.”

“But how do I even begin to see those people in the same compassionate way that you and Rabbi Shochet do, when I clearly don’t?” At that point I was so upset, feeling so unworthy of the title “clergy.”

Debbie continued with her loving smile and said, “Start with small steps. Next time you see a homeless person, don’t cross the street. Then, when you are ready, just hand them a little bag with some protein like a tuna can and crackers, and perhaps some juice.”

“What do I say to them?” I asked. “Just look them in the eye and say something like, ‘Enjoy and have a beautiful day.’ Or ‘Be well.’”

Right there and then I decided to give it a try. I couldn’t stand myself for being so unkind, so I bought some canned tuna and some nuts and juice and divided them into small bags. The first time I saw a homeless man I did not cross the street. Instead I tried to imagine him as a young boy, riding his bike in the streets of Santa Cruz, happy and carefree.

The second time, I just handed a homeless woman one of the bags that I had prepared. I must admit, to do that was sooooooo hard and I was so embarrassed that I couldn’t look her in the eye. I just uttered something like “here you go” and nearly ran away. The third time was a bit easier: I managed to make eye contact, but I couldn’t say much more than “here you go.” The man looked at me and said, “Thank you for making my day.” I nodded and again, nearly ran away.

 

 

 

And I continued to practice giving out food for many months that followed, and slowly became so much more comfortable giving out goody bags, sometimes at a stoplight. Sometimes, I would ask Dave to hand out those bags if the homeless person was on the passenger side. And I began to prepare even bigger bags with more goodies in them, and at times I asked my B’nei Mitzvah students to help me portion out the goodies in the bags.

One day, during a particularly stormy winter night in San Jose, while everyone was out Christmas shopping, the rain was so strong. I noticed from afar a homeless man sitting under an umbrella in a wheelchair out in the parking lot, half of one of his legs was missing. Next to him I saw a smudged sign that read “Veteran of the US Navy.” So I got closer and I asked him, “Would you like to have my scarf?” He said, “Oh, yes please.” So I took off my pashmina scarf, and carefully wrapped it around his shoulders and neck. “This feels warm. Thank you for your care.” I smiled and told him, “Be well and thank you for serving our country.”

I walked away and started to sob. I knew then that my own barrier, my own resistance and rigid view of the homeless was forever gone. And then I started to knit scarves during board and other meetings. I began to add the scarves in my little goody bags as well, and give those out during winter months.

This past August, when Debbie and I met in Chicago for our little reunion, we each made sure to have many single dollar bills. We walked the streets of Chicago and we took turns in giving out $1 to each homeless person that we met. Yes, even to those who looked like “fake homeless.”

And one pleasant night in Chicago the Beautiful,  when I walked by myself to the grocery store, I saw a homeless woman who asked me for help. I felt that $1 would not do, so I asked her, “Can I buy you some food?” She said, “Yes please, sure!” She asked for a bag of chips. So I went in and got her a big bag of chips and some cheese spread for dipping. When I handed her the bag she said “Thank you child, you are so kind. My name is Yvonne.” I looked right back into her eyes and I said, “Be well Yvonne, my name is Meeka, and I am wishing you happiness and health.” And I walked away. This time, I was smiling.

So I would like to challenge you, to challenge yourself this year and choose to face an issue that you are resisting. I would like to ask that if you are anti-LGTBQ please try to get to know someone who IS LGTBQ. Get to know the person, ask them about their life. Or if you are afraid, dislike, or even hate Muslims, then please make it your new year resolution to get to know a Muslim. One good place to start with this issue is Abraham’s Table, an interfaith event for which I am the Jewish clergy representative for a panel discussion on October 21st at the Packanack Community Church, at 120 Lake Drive.

Now.

Tikkun Olam is a big, and frankly, quite intimidating word. Very few people get to make a difference on a global level and bring change or repair to the world. But everyone can start in small steps, which include small acts of smiling and kindness from the heart. We can try to overcome our resistance when something like feeding the homeless is hard for us to do. Because Tikkun Olam begins with the mending of the olam she’bifnim; the world inside each of our hearts.

Perhaps fasting on Yom Kippur is a great reminder for what many homeless people in our community, environment, world DON’T have: the knowing of where their next meal will come from.

 

Tzom kal. May you have an easy fast.