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Shabbat Jan. 1, 2021 - Looking Back on the Year of Covid

Everywhere I look I see people setting the year 2020 up as the year from the twilight zone and everyone’s goal is to be able to move beyond it and never look back, yet your Rabbi has a different perspective and I want to share that with you.

What I have found this last year is that my sermonizing, my teachings, my heartfelt and hard fought acquired wisdom that I so passionately want to share with my congregation has changed little in the face of Covid, perhaps the only difference is that I can speak it a little louder without having to endure whispers of idealism heard from the sidelines.

Our society has led us astray, we live in a world that judges our insides by others’ outsides. We think wearing masks to shield our humanity is the norm and the expected, and yet, it is truly an assault on the tenderness of the soul and a denial of our destiny as a loving human race. We compete ruthlessly, we judge as if we were each ourselves the God of all and empathy has sunk beneath mounds of neglect. All that makes the measure, so often in our world, is what matters for me.

So here comes Covid and we all are forced to STOP. Covid has set upon us the opportunity to look ever so closely at the assumptions of our lives, at the expectations that drive us and the still quiet voice of the soul that is always speaking yet, rarely heard.

Life is simple, it is an invitation to create. It is a gift that comes with high expectations from the giver. Its goal is not uniformity and self-indulgence, its goal is to mold your being into its highest potential, its most beautiful expression, and this will be measured by how your soul impacts, for good, the world around you. And what do we need to discover our highest good? We need community that allows our differences to be, we need sacred community that understands that each of us are on a path, and no one’s path is to be judged by another’s path. We need to understand that when one shows aggression and anger, they are working through their own difficult destiny and this should never be put on others.

Do your work on your own time, but do it. We need a gentle place to land our souls, we need spiritual nourishment and to hear words of enlightened wisdom. We need each other and we need to touch and hug and feel the lifeline of human emotion. We need to stop dividing ourselves and instead celebrate our deep commonality among our uniqueness’s. All men and all women, of all colors, of all religions, want first and foremost TO BE LOVED. TO BE SEEN, and TO MATTER.

Everywhere in our world where you find strife, is a person who does not feel loved, seen or as if their life matters to anyone. No matter how you cut it, it all boils down to this. And that is why, for the entirety of my Rabbinic career and calling, I am sermonizing on this simple message.  The synagogue of the past is NOT the synagogue of the future. It is not about money, it is not about uniformity, it is not about the little shul your grandfather established, it is not about power, prestige or status. It is simply about love.

And so, it begins, right here. In the simple moments, in creating an environment where our souls are welcome to show up as they are, all be it, different, changing and dynamic. Where our real-life needs are of the greatest concern to the leadership, where, the way things were before is Not the litmus test for what can be tomorrow. We are building a place of comfort, inspiration and safety. Where honest learning, challenging and passionate, is the order of the day. Where no one has to be right, but everyone has to be able to express what is real for them.

A house of God is a place where the deepest questions of life are welcomed to be expressed, searched for and wrestled with. It is not a place that should tell you what to feel or what to think, instead it should inspire feeling and thinking……

We all need a spiritual home, a connection to the mystery of our lives as one family both as Jews as well as individual human beings. And this is it…. building this kind of, House of God, IS the passion of my life.

And so Covid rolls on in and rattles us to the core, we have been aggravated, frustrated, lonely and locked in, and yet, the gift is TIME TO PONDER. Are our expectations of life fair? Do we really deserve all of the things we want just because we want them? Is anything deserved or is all just life being life, moving us forward uninterested in what we want, yet acutely interested in what we need.

Is mobility and freedom, hugging our friends and seeing our children a given or are those things great blessings never to be taken for granite?

Are there other ways that we have been inspired to reach out that we never contemplated before, like Zoom and letters and Facetime and phone calls? Yes, there are and Covid has forced us to see, that the way things were, were not enough for the true human connection that we crave, Covid yells to us, GO DEEPER, SHOW YOUR SPIRIT, MAKE A DIFFERENCE, COUNT YOUR DAYS, COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS. And in doing so one finds, in the simple gestures of kindness, growth of the spirit. We have grown.

So yes, we pray, may 2021, allow us to emerge from our homes in safety once again, yet may the beautiful lessons that this tragedy has taught us not fall by the wayside when we are invited back into the water of life, don’t stay in the shallow end, dive into the deep, for that is where your true spirit lives. And our spirits are needed to rise up and shine, so that we can reject materialism as a way of life, so that we can build beautiful edifices made of the higher ideals, the elevated truths. buildings made of soul. No more just scratching the surface of our existence, no, diving into the mystery and waking up our souls. Now that’s the good work, that’s the point of life.

May you each be blessed to receive what comes in this new year of 2021, with grace and with strength. May the challenges not frighten you, but, instead, entice you to face your true self in the mirror. And to resolve to fight for the chance to wake up and really live this life that you have been gifted.

 Find a way to leave a legacy of love behind you, no matter the obstacles, no matter the challenges, a better life is waiting for us all, if only we would wake up to the simple truths born of the soul of the human race. Let’s do it together,

Shabbat shalom.

Sun, May 9 2021 27 Iyar 5781