Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Rabbi's Prayer for the High Holy Days

As a congregational rabbi, there is this pressure to make the High Holy Days perfect. As someone I work with says, "The company is coming!" Our entire staff, from those in charge of the physical plant to those responsible for administration to our educators to our clergy, is busily preparing for the High Holy Days (HHD). It is an overwhelming task to prepare for these sacred days and we want to make sure it is the best experience for our community.

For me, it is important to enter these sacred days intentionally and recognize their significance--both how big they are and how quickly they pass. So, as I enter this final week of preparation, this is my prayer:

O God, I pray that I will enter this season of repentance feeling the fullness of blessings and the awareness of my growing edges.

I pray I will have the internal strength to admit my failings to those I love and respect.

I pray I will have the confidence in myself to step back from my preparation to be home with my family as much as possible, because the work is never done and my family depends upon me too.

I pray I will be able to be mindful and present in the liturgy of these holy days, remembering that to be a rabbi is not to be a performer and I seek to be with the congregation, not above it.

I pray I will remember that the sum total of our Judaism, my rabbinate, or any one congregation is not this one season, but the entire year.

As I pray that this year will be one of blessing and peace, may I be ever mindful that I must act and live in a way to make that a reality.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Awakening: Everything in its Time

To be the parent of a ten month-old is to be in "watching and waiting" mode. We're watching for tooth #3, we're watching for allergies as he tries new foods, we're watching for signs that he'll pull up, and we're watching for a more even pattern of crawling. Each of these things is, in their own way, an awakening. To watch a (thank God) healthy child's brain wake up in a different way each day, showing another step on the journey of development, is to experience a depth of gratitude and awe unlike anything I have ever experienced.

Yet, waiting for each thing to awaken in its time requires patience and faith. I received a video of my son crawling at day care yesterday. I was delighted to see that he crawled almost across the entire classroom to reach his favorite toy because his crawling is progressing slowly. But I watched as he crawled awkwardly, slithering along using one arm more than the other. I found myself internally whispering, "Wake up...come on, just move your other arm."

Am I worried about him? No, he is a delightfully healthy and sweet baby. I have come to realize that I am just a little impatient sometimes and then lose the faith that everything will unfold in its time (and if it doesn't, we'll cross that bridge when it comes). Every baby website preys upon this part of parents: "just read this and you'll know if everything is normal." Upon reflection, though, I realize that I don't need him to be "normal." What is that concept anyway? What I want is for him to be healthy and to grow in his unique way--not his older sister's way, not the internet's way, but his way. And, I pray that I can find the patience to watch it unfold, to see each piece of his brain, his body, and his soul awaken and connect with us and the world. If I can sit with that patience, and the gratitude and awe which comes with celebrating this awakening, then I will truly love my son as he is, and I will be closer to being the mother I aspire to be.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Listening and Balancing

The Hebrew word for balance is izun, related to the word ozen  (ear), which makes sense since physical balance is linked to our ears. 

Internal balance, I believe, is also related to our ears. When we are in balance, we are hearing the competing voices and making sense of them. When we are out of balance, something isn't being heard or given its space. When I find myself out of balance, I know that something is crying out but I cannot listen to it. Sometimes that "something" is my children, asking for my attention. Sometimes it is my work, crammed into less time than it deserves because there are other things happening. Sometimes it is me, with needs for health or space that are not being honored. 

Each of us has these voices. The question is how well we listen and how we assign them priority and space. It is not realistic to expect that everything gets heard and fulfilled as we each have limited resources (time being the most precious). Yet, balance is not static. Each day we can listen differently and find a new sense of balance. The more we envision balance as fluid, the more forgiving and flexible we can become.

As I approach the new year, I am praying for the ability to listen. To hear myself, those around me, the voices that are often easily missed in the chaos of life...and in that listening, to find balance.