Friday, December 28, 2012

"I, Too, Have Lost Children"

“I, too, have lost children. Two. My twin girls drowned together in a boating accident in Zimbabwe. They were 13 years old. With one phone call, both gone. Yes, God gave me twin daughters. With difficulty I birthed them. With despair I buried them. No one promised me that they or I would grow to old age.”

My new housekeeper, Kudzai, came to America four years ago with her family. When we first met, I was drawn to her compassionate and peaceful interior. She didn’t rush around like the last housekeeper who was feverishly engaged in relay racing through my apartment.

Kudzai is different. She gently washes each dish and joyfully waxes the floors with her African chants. The countertops have never been brighter, and the winter bedspread contains no creases. I welcomed her soul energy into my home.

A week after the Connecticut massacre claimed 26 lives, we stood together in front of my hanukiah while she calmly and courageously spoke her sad story. Kudzai, a new African immigrant, understood more than I could comprehend about the dark journeys of these grief-stricken parents in Newtown.

“I am someone who knows about loss, grief, surrender, and love. I know the pain of those mothers, and I want them to know that they are not alone and that they too will survive.
From the beginning, before I faced Natalie and Natasha’s funerals, I kneeled at my bed, and I talked with God. I asked God to give me strength to survive. Perhaps I would get sick. Or lose my mind. Or fall under the weight of these losses. I only asked for God to stay alive in me. And then one day I surrendered and God saw me through.”  

“For ten years, no children were born to me. My only son, now 33, was my life. At the age of 35 I became pregnant with a girl. And then two years later, another girl was born. I felt that God had lifted me up like Job. Two girls returned to play in my home. A sense of gratitude pervaded my brokenness. My heart was busy in love again.”

“I have been faithful all my life. I believe in a God who can hold my burdens. I have a faith and a relationship with God that nurtured me during my pain. I have a faith that the people in Newtown need more than ever."

What do we know about the people who come through our doors? Do we care enough to ask? Kudzai is no longer my new housekeeper. She is becoming my spiritual mentor and friend. “Rabbi," she concluded, "you must know God."

At that moment, all I knew was what she taught me. In her presence, the Divine shines. I am a mere reflection of her faithfulness.

Friday, December 21, 2012

First Comes Love

First comes love. Love matters. Through the good times and the bad times, love is the bridge and the bricks that build trust.

First comes love. Love heals through human contact. Love speaks when you can’t utter a word. ”I am here: Do not be afraid.”

First comes love. When you think that the world is too much with you, love says, "I am with you more." When you weep, love sits and waits for your story to unfold and the tears to subside.

First comes love.

This is my response to the Newtown shootings. Reach out to those around you and bring love into the life of another.

The Beatles were so right. All we really need is love. More love. And more love still.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Spirit Is in the Oil

The rabbis in the Talmud tell us that the Maccabees were unable to obtain a solid gold menorah for the Temple after the desecration. They lacked the means to acquire such an expensive menorah, so, instead, they constructed a simple one out of iron rods plated with tin.

Why was there a miracle for the oil but none for the menorah itself?

If the Maccabees were able to find the cruse of oil, why didn’t they also find the gold menorah inside the Temple’s spaciousness?

The menorah corresponds to the material state of the Jewish people. It is a vessel for holding the oil. The olive oil, on the other hand, is a metaphor for the nation's inner spirit.

It is preferable that the external vessel be aesthetically beautiful, but there are times when the physical reality is harsh and displeasing. During such times, we make do with what we have, even if it means lighting with a menorah improvised out of iron rods.

The spirit is the oil that nourishes a rich inner flame.

The miracle occurred, not with the menorah, but with the oil.

We may suffer physical hardships and even deprivations, but our spiritual life should always pursue the clear pure path of our everyday inner light.

Chag urim sameach (Enjoy the lights and be joyous!),

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Eulogy for the Survivors

I knew him only in death. His son spoke about his father at the burial. A man of courage.

A survivor of the Nazi camps. A veteran of the United States Marines. A voice for tolerance and humanity. A father and grandfather. A man of convictions. A person who took risks for the sake of others. He feared and he feared not.

I knew him only in death. But I knew him and so many like him.

They lived and struggled to make their lives matter. Today and tomorrow, one by one they are being buried in our cemeteries across the world. They bore witness and we bear their legacy. They spoke the awful truth, and we continue to defend their honor.

I knew him only in death. And I will know him in life eternal.

May their memories be a blessing.

Rosh Chodesh Tevet and the Sixth Day of Chanukah: In solidarity with the Women of the Wall, we will pray during the morning service at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C. (2850 Quebec St NW), on Friday, December 14, at 7:30 a.m. Please come and bring a friend to chant the shema with us in support of religious freedom. I look forward to seeing you there.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Emergence and Convergence

Emerging from a deep meditation is like awakening from a sweet dream where love and compassion and lovingkindness meet to form a blanket of bliss. I breathe in contentment, and it becomes my aromatherapy for a few hours. The toxins and negativity in my life are pushed down into a invisible place where one has to struggle with the key to open the downstairs door. I would rather not investigate the depth of that dreariness.

Instead, all I want to do when I emerge from a deep meditation is to converge with all my best emotions and intentions. I have been rewired, and all the sparks and lights are on fire with passion and purpose.

Chanukah begins the night of December 8. Let's bring on the light!