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Posts from the ‘holidays’ Category

Hot Days in a Mild Summer

These have been some tough days at the end of a mild summer. Many of us have reached places and times where it feels like the mourning will never see morning, where it may never end, the pain of the absence wholly un-soothable.

I know I have.

And the holidays are coming. How will we celebrate the new year without the mom/sister/daughter/wife that we loved so much? How will we – dear God, how will we – stand straight during Yizkor on Yom Kippur?

I’m spending much time writing sermons right now. And that means reflecting back on last year’s High Holy Days, in order to craft my messages for this one.

I came across my Yom Kippur sermon moments ago. I thought I remembered what I had preached. But I did not.

The words of that speech have left me filled with a mix of tears and solace, memories of love that did exist, that I long to remember this day.

With great appreciation to myself from one year ago, to our ability to continue to learn the same things we once thought we knew, and for the love that I continue to be reminded did once existed in the flesh…

My mom has no apology to offer for getting sick, no repentance to do. She does not need to atone for this devastating reality. That is all a distraction – a painful, futile way of avoiding what actually matters.

She could die – all of us could die – and God forbid, our loved ones should stand by our grave side and mourn not only losing us, but also all the time we wasted feeling bad for the ways that we were human.

All my mom need do this Yom Kippur and every day for the rest of her life is to keep doing the thing that she has done best since her diagnosis, that she has done every day of my life – to keep on loving me, and my sister, and my family, and life itself; filing the earth with more and more hesed with every breath she takes.

She loves me. And I love her back. More than anything in the world.

And that’s nothing to apologize for.

Where the Sidewalk Ends

If you’ve ever taken the time to glance at the streets around Shearith Israel as you leave the building, you’ve noticed just how stunning they are. On these warm late-summer days, I relish the 15 minute walk I have each Shabbat as I head home.

I walk past the magnolias and manicured lawns, pink Roman columns and royal iron gates, and get lost in my thoughts for a few moments of bliss – the only time each week when I truly detach from the world of worry, and tasks, and business.

That tranquility of my day-dreaming is only distracted by a game that I must play as I walk the streets of Douglas and Preston, a game which brings me rushing back from peaceful thoughts into the real world of zooming cars driving right at me.

You see, as I walk opposing the roaring zoom of traffic on my Shabbos stroll, I hug the curb, hoping that each car will see me as it approaches and change lanes, moving over so that I need not.

I stay there, in the gutter of the street, in stubborn stubborn defiance for as long as my nerves can manage as a car quickly approaches before hopping at the last moment into the dirt and planters to my side so as not to be run over. Each car comes, I stay on the street as long as I can muster. Most of the time I win, the car changes lanes and I stay put in my place, but often I end up walking in dirt.

Now, I play this game of chicken, I walk foolishly – I admit – in the street of a busy highway, because there is, literally, nowhere else to be.

When you walk out the doors of Shearith and turn right going down Douglas Avenue, you can follow the guided serenity of the sidewalk only until the end of our property. But once you pass the parking lot outside of Aaron Main Sanctuary, the sidewalk is no more. Our neighborhood is purposefully devoid of sidewalks – it was built that way to give it a more country-like feel!

Only a few yards from where we pray today is, quite literally, where the sidewalk ends.

Each time I walk this path, as I move from the security of concrete to the dark black asphalt beneath my feet, I am reminded of the old Shel Silverstein poem, the namesake of his most famous book of childhood poetry: Where the Sidewalk Ends.

The cover of his book, you may remember, is emblazoned with a drawing that so aptly describes the message of his poetry within – two children, peering cautiously over the edge of a sidewalk, itself hanging perilously over oblivion. Beyond is a chasm of emptiness, the very end of the world. They hang there, these two children, where the sidewalk ends, on the precipice of the unknown.

He writes:

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.

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Jew in a Church

I’m up for a few days in Northern California, visiting my old college romping grounds, catching up with long-missed friends, and enjoying a the passing moments of a cool Pacific winter. Read more