Sign In Forgot Password

Shabbat Jan. 8, 2021 -  After the   assault on the Capitol

Reb Nachman taught,

The whole world is a very narrow bridge….

The point, of our crossing, he teaches, is NOT to be afraid.

So, what does it mean to be crossing a dangerous, narrow bridge?

Do you believe in something else? Do you believe that life is just a mass of circumstance, atoms and cells clashing, evolutions roll of the meaningless dice? Luck and privilege, power and status? Winner takes all?

The bridge is an alternate view to this. The bridge is the spiritual path that we are all on, whether we know it or not.

So, let me go out on a limb and say what this Rabbi tries never to say, but times like this demand it. If you believe there is nothing more to life than this random spin out on a planet in the far reaches of the Milky Way Galaxy, well, in a word, you are wrong.

In our time of run-away materialism, which means, people believing ONLY in the material reality that they can see, we are then rendered, necessarily, blind to what exists beyond our limiting vision.

When we look at the world through this lens, we become the gods of our own lives. We access, judge, define ultimate definitions to life, to people and to experiences all from the limited box of what you alone can see through your little eyes. Narcissism becomes the only path left to take.

So, if you tend to one political party, you can actually believe in the sheer stupidity of the opposing political party. Because what YOU see, becomes the only seeing. This is merely YOUR personal limited vision.

So yes, I have deterred a bit from my TBS “No politics” stance. Well, our Capitol is under siege and there are more important things than keeping quiet.

Yet, I am not talking about what we watched unfold in our great heart of Democracy this week, because that is not politics, that is thuggery. One of our Capitol police is dead. One of our devoted protectors of our freedoms as Americans is DEAD, and it was at the hands of violent terrorists who viciously attacked the heart of our democracy with American flags waving in their wake of destruction.

And anyone who would defend these heinous acts will not be met by me, at least, in silence. But that is not what I wanted to talk about tonight.

Our synagogue like most others in this country, have had to shut down any talk of politics in the last four years. The differences between the parties have been amplified out of any normative proportion. Who cannot see this? Who cannot imagine some ulterior motive that this kind of chasm has created? Which frankly, that alone should be our unifying understanding. But it’s not!

We rabbis take jobs with the understanding that we will have brought into our sanctuaries, the realities of the world so that we could run these secular ideas through the sieve of wisdom and tweeze out what guidelines could be found from our great tradition of Judaism to navigate such challenges. Not anymore! We are all afraid to talk to each other and so we don’t.

Well, I for one, have to be the teacher that God called me to be and friends we have to talk.

I don’t care who you voted for. I don’t care how you understand the challenges of the economy, race relations, responsibility of the House and the Senate, the suffering of mother earth, the plight of the ever-growing population of the poor, the prison system, capital punishment, the unemployed, the deficit, the plight of the mentally ill. You each have a right to stand where your mind and life experience has brought you. As long as, and this is not me speaking, it is me speaking through 4000 years of Jewish wisdom, hard fought, ethically sound wisdom, passed down by generations of committed, devoted, loyal TO GOD and to our People, Jewish brothers and sisters who have stood on the front lines of evil’s mayhem throughout humanities long history. And who have taken the blow for such gentle God centered beliefs. They have much to teach us.

You may believe in anything you wish, as long as, your beliefs do not come at the expense of another human soul.

You may believe in anything you wish, as long as, you do not trade your discontent in the realm of hatred.

You may believe in anything you wish as long as violence and vitriolic behavior plays no part in its expression.

I’m not speaking this Shabbat about those who ground our high and moral ideals that this beloved country was built upon, into the ground, no, I’m speaking to us, the good guys who have lost their ability to love each other more than they disagree with each other.

Whatever side you stand on, be sure that you have honored your mind, the mind that God gave you, and that you have put all your beliefs through the process of refinement and critical analysis, that can only come from listening to the other side. It does not mean that one must pretend to respect the opposing ideas, no ideology can demand an impossible reverence for something one cannot revere. But we can respect the humanity of that person without respecting their ideas. AND VICE VERSA, as long as their beliefs are delivered in decency, integrity and love.

Our problem is that no one is talking. And frankly, right now, I am not going to advise it. It requires a skill that few have in these bifurcated and vitriolic times.

Is there nothing that we can agree on? Well after this week, I have been unable to sleep just knowing, that a rabbi who is silent when the burning begins, will be silenced forever in the burning.

So, I turn to my Jewish roots, the Judaism that I love so passionately that I have dedicated my entire existence to its perpetuation. There is a road to peace. This road assumes that all life, all existence, all material is merely the stage of the spiritual.

God will not ask you what political party you were affiliated with, God will ask you, were you able to detect the mummering’s of a higher love? Of a higher destiny? Of a more nuanced and magnificently meaningful way to understand your life? OR were you seduced into thinking this is all a bunch of material spinning out in utter chaos, a strange and violent destiny of destruction on this planet, in this galaxy, in this unimaginably vast and undiscovered universe?

We have to walk on two paths at the same time as humans and as Jews. One path speaks to your soul’s personal call. WHO ARE YOU, it reverberates through time, who are you? The second path speaks to your communal call. WHO ARE WE?

And these two paths will challenge your journey, but that is the point. The material view tells you to get as much stuff, material as you can before you die and the one with the most stuff wins. The spiritual view, says, cultivate your soul. Be present for all that is put before you, chip off the harshness that surrounds your heart. Love each person as you love yourself. Be holy in all that you do, because I, your God, am holy. Search for the meaning of your existence every second of every day. Be grateful for what you have, stop begging for what you do not. Find out who you truly are underneath all that you have been programmed to pretend to be.

And then do something magnificent with your life. For some it will be to be Ghandi, or Golda Meir, for others it will be to reach out a hand to those in darkness. To live a life built on decency, ad service to humanity. And then spend each day cultivating your highest good with endless creations of beauty that will reverberate throughout the Quantum blanket of science and faith. That is exactly what is meant by

Shemah Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad.

Listen Israel, God is everywhere and everything,
use your life to express the breath of God within you.

We are all on that bridge, that very narrow bridge. And I believe wholeheartedly that we hide behind these labels so that we may continue to NOT THINK FOR OURSELVES.

In time I pray that we will find our way back to the beautiful decency of talking to each other and then regardless of our differences, still care for the soul of the one who sees through other eyes. You do NOT have to pretend to respect the idea, but we must learn to respect the soul.

Not one of us have been called into life to be the all-knowing, all understanding, omnipotent and all seeing, GOD. That my friends, is God’s job.

Let’s agree that there are decencies that we all can agree on. Let’s agree that there are some places we will not step. Let’s put our Jewish tradition and wisdom front and center and see what it has to teach us. We stand on the shoulders of these great men and women and their lessons to us come to inform us of who we are and who we must strive to become.

Believe what you believe, force no one to be silent if they disagree with you. Learn to critically stand by the ideas that drive you, but never shut out opposition to your ideas, your assumptions need the opposition to reflect upon, to actualize in the truth of your being.

The thing I love most about my job as a Rabbi, is that I can challenge all of the matrix’s that we live in. Humans now get different news, different images coming at them, different commentary bombarding them, and everyone just holds on so tight to their own little corner of safety. Yet when you work for God, as unpopular as it may be in this time and place, the greatest message for humanity is that all the matrixes are unreal, they are all man made.

I’m going to continue to follow the path of God, that rises above all of these little boxes that brew hatred and arrogance and instead calls us to rise up ourselves and see this mess from a new perspective, because once you can do that, well, there’s no end to what you can do to bring down to false walls and build a truthful bond to all of God’s creations.

The whole world is a very narrow bridge…. The point, of our crossing, is NOT to be afraid.

Before I end my teaching tonight, I’d like to share with you another teaching by Reb Nachman of Bratslov. These are his words,

Source of blessing O God, May it be Your will that all war and bloodshed cease
and that a great wonderous peace come to the world.

May nation not lift up sword against nation and may we teach war no more.

May all inhabitants of the world recognize that we were not created for conflict, rivalry, jealousy, killing, but rather, that we were created in order to know You and to live our lives in service to Your will of goodness.

Have compassion upon us and fulfill the promises of our great books of wisdom,

I will bring peace to the land and you will lie down, none shall make you afraid. And I will remove every evil beast from the land and no sword shall terrorize you.

Justice shall flow like a mighty river and righteousness like a mighty stream.

For the earth shall be filled with grace and the reverence of God, as the waters cover the sea.

FYI, Reb Nachman of Bratzlov was born on April 4, 1772. He was just sharing Jewish wisdom as he learned it, as I today, am sharing with you.

Let’s try to make this world a better, more loving, more fair, a more gentle place to raise our children. Please!

Shabbat shalom and may true peace breath between us.

Rabbi Julie Kozlow




Tue, October 19 2021 13 Cheshvan 5782