Saturday, December 22, 2012

Tears May Stay for the Night; Joy Comes in The Morning

Parashat Vayigash
Temple Shir Tikva
December 21, 2012 ~ 9 Tevet 5773

A little girl arrived home late one day.
“Where have you been?” Her mother asked.
“I saw my friend on my way home. Her doll was broken,” she replied.
“Did you help her fix it?” her mother asked.
“No,” she replied, “I don’t know how to fix it. I stopped to help her cry.”*

This little girl teaches us so much.  It turns out there is much that is broken in our world that we do not know how to fix.  But what we do know is how to cry.

It’s not an easy experience, crying.  It can be embarrassing.  Loud. Snotty.  Our faces redden as it rises from our chest into our throat - and out of our mouth cries of sadness, cries of joy, cries of frustration escape into the wind.  Sometimes we hope no one has seen  the tears falling from the corners of our eyes.  Sometimes we hope everyone has seen the tears falling from the corners of our eyes.  But its not an easy experience, crying.

It’s easier to be angry, to shout, yell, scream.  A full body experience, but somehow less vulnerable than crying - our brokenness hidden behind the maddened face of anger.

For we judge tears: as weakness, as inferior, less than.  “Don’t cry over spilt milk...” or “There’s no crying in Baseball,” Tom Hanks yells in the movie A League of Their Own.  “Big Girls don’t cry,” the Four Seasons intone...and Fergie reiterates decades later.  Our popular culture guides us against a tidal wave of tears.

Yes, resiliency is important, but crying is a gift. For in each teardrop, so much emotion, so much history, so much energy - so much can be released.  Around the world, there are people who for various medical reasons cannot cry.  There are people who cry, but have no one to comfort them.  There are people who cry and are punished.  There are people who cry and are laughed at, scorned.  We, who would prefer to do anything but cry, might allow some tears to fall, if only for those who physically cannot, for those for whom there is no one to wipe their tears, for those who are scorned and laughed at...

We might help them cry, we might cry for them, even if we cannot fix them.

In this week and past week’s Torah portions, we follow the story of Joseph and his dreams.  One of the most powerful in the land - Joseph is a symbol of strength and fortitude. And oh, his dreams!  But for as much as Joseph dreams, he often cries.  So much so, that of the 14 times crying is mentioned in the Book of Genesis, 50% of it is attributed to Joseph.  But Joseph’s tears are not often the focus of his story.  He is never referred to as Joseph, the Crier.  The musical is not called “Joseph, the Crier, and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

But Joseph cries...and often.

There is much in our world this week and in every week that cries out for fixing...but we can never fix it all.  For we are vulnerable to all the brokenness, we are vulnerable to all the emotion, that bearing witness to the world around us brings up.

Oh, to give ourselves permission to cry:
Cry over the spilt milk!  Cry in baseball, at work, cry at temple, at hallmark commercials!   Big girls do cry.  So do big boys.  Like Joseph the Crier, like our President the saddened leader, like Hagar, like Hannah...

Tears may fall at night, Psalm 30 cries out.  But if we let ourselves be vulnerable and present to the brokenness of the world around us, and if we help to fix it, and if we realize we can’t fix it all...  When those tears of relief, frustration, empathy, pain fall... when we cry or when, like that little girl, we help others cry, the Psalmist promises us: 

Joy comes in the morning.

*Story attributed to Franz Kafka

Monday, August 20, 2012

Driving Inward

Parashat Re'eh
August 17, 2012~29 Av 5772
Rabbi Jen Gubitz

Inching forward
the car came to a halting stop
30 plus feet before the yellow light,
leaving a gaping two car length space
at the intersection
of Boston Post Road and Cochituate.

I was annoyed. 
We both could’ve made that light.
With less than 30 minutes to
run out between meetings,
at one of the slowest intersections in Wayland,
every minute counts.

At the same time,
I felt incredibly empathetic
for the drivers of this car,
for atop of it,
on the side,
and in the rear,
emblazoned in large, bold text,
were the words:

My own drivers ed experience
occurred in a 1988 blue
Oldsmobile Cutlass Sierra,
my first car,
shared with my older brother,
and with a drivers ed instructor
who taught all 3 Gubitz kids to drive...
Don would take us on I-69,
drive about 20 miles south
towards Indianapolis,
stop for a snack,
and then drive back.
That initial fear of stopping, starting,
and certainly merging
onto the highway stays with me today.
Looking over my shoulder so many times,
that he had to remind me -
don’t forget to look in front, too, Jennifer.
Gently saying -
I’ve got your blind spot, sweetheart,
don’t you worry.

Don’t forget to look in front, too...
he would say...
but I was keenly aware,
that in a car hurtling forward
65 miles an hour...
I would have to learn
to look backward and forward at the same time...

As one becomes a better driver, however,
she learn to check over her shoulder
much more quickly...
a short turn of the neck,
he learns to rely on peripheral vision
and other mirrors which provide a fuller picture of the landscape,
or perhaps there is a passenger next to you...
who can get your blindspot...

We are at the moment
in our Jewish calendar
where our driving skills
have much to teach us.
Eleven months passed,
but one month ahead until Rosh Hashanah,
it is a moment where
more of this year is
visible in the rearview mirror,
than through the dash.
A moment
where we may strain our necks,
as we look over our shoulders,
at those images which become smaller and smaller...

We see
all of the miles covered...
all of the far off places we have traversed...
all of the people with whom we have traveled... 
and we notice the various strips of highway..
that need roadwork..
the people, experiences, and ideas
that did not fill our tanks...
but rather drained our batteries...

And as we find ourselves looking backward...
our Torah gives us a gift
this week.
It shouts out to us.
Pay attention! 

It offers us a yellow traffic light...
slow down...
 רְאֵה, אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם--הַיּוֹם:  בְּרָכָה, וּקְלָלָה
“Re'eh anochi noten lifneychem hayom berachah uklalah.”
I am placing before you today blessings and curses...

but the Torah,
and the Hebrew month of Elul
beginning Sunday
are not pushing us
to look only backward or forward...
rather inward...
slow down...the torah tells us...
cheshbon hanefesh...elul gently pushes us...
audit your soul...
take an account of all the blessings, gifts, gratitude
take an account of all the curses, challenges, pain...

Be it prayer, meditation, vacation,
exercise, counseling, singing...
dancing, breathing, being...
make time this month to reflect...
make time this month to renew...
make time this month to return...
to your most highest form of self...

Driver’s ed cars have a special feature...
on the passenger side...
to prevent collision...
an extra break...
an extra pair of eyes...
let this month of Elul be for you...
that extra break...
that extra pair of eyes.

This month is a gift of blessing and curses...
if used wisely, it will reveal to us all the good in our lives...
and if used wisely,
it will reveal all that is less than good...
But by noticing both,
and adjusting the speed,
modifying the fuel,
tightening a safety belt...
by looking inward,
we might each find the capacity
to glance backward with gratitude for all of our journeys...
in order to envision a forward
in ways we never thought possible...

O source of journeys,
may the tiniest of refinements
allow the road to take us places we’ve not yet traveled...