Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Birthing Worlds of Compassion - Erev Rosh Hashanah 5774


Birthing Worlds of Compassion
Erev Rosh Hashanah ~ 1 Tishrei 5774
Rabbi Jennifer Gubitz
Temple Shir Tikva, Wayland, MA


Wandering the streets, his clothes ragged and tattered, his shoes threadbare and his hair bedraggled and disheveled, full of passion Jeremiah zealously and fervently entered the town square.  It was market day and people gathered around stalls of spices, booths of breads, bushels of produce, wagons of home goods, and tables where scholars and their students hunched over, swaying back and forth learning, almost singing, ancient texts.


Surely, people will hear me this time, he hoped.  They cannot ignore me if I yell loudly enough!  He could feel a passion welling up inside as he reflected: Even if they don’t look at me, because they never look at me, at the very least while they shop, perhaps just this once they might stop and listen - even for a moment.

And then Jeremiah began to shout these words which are read on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, these words from God: Ahavat Olam ahavtich al ken m’shach’tich chased.  He yelled: We are loved with unbounded love and ceaseless compassion. And then he screamed: And so we can love with unbounded love. We can care with ceaseless compassion.

Jeremiah shouted and yelled and screamed, but the market kept bustling as it always does on market days.  No one paid notice.  No one stopped.  No one even looked up.
And they dispassionately went about their day.  For he was just another prophet in the marketplace passionately preaching the pursuit of lovingkindness.  He was just another prophet in the marketplace passionately preaching the practice of compassion.


Would a prophet in our day stand up at a farmer’s market or at the entry to Fenway yelling at us these words from God or any words from God, we, too, might not even look up.  Rather, we might look away or we might look down on him.  We might think him crazy and we might dismiss the depth of his message, lost in his ragged and tattered veneer - disdaining even the depth of his message lost in our assumptions of people who look...like that.

Perhaps we’re not so different from those ancients.
Some years later when the Holy Temple fell, Jeremiah - ragged, tattered and threadbare - continued to shout.  He continued to yell and scream aggrieved at the destruction, which he all but predicted would happen.

The Rabbis teach that the Ancient Temple fell because of Sinat Chinam - senseless, baseless hatred.  And as we look around our world - right this very moment, we know that still today temples fall, countries fall, missiles fall, people fall…and their voices
scream out to us.  They scream out to us in the marketplace, in the workplace, and everywhere that hate has become commonplace.  The past catches up to us converging senselessly with the present.

Perhaps we’re not so different from those ancients.  

When we read the headlines, when we see the breadlines, when we hear about red lines - we might look away (and it’s hard not to.)  We might think: this Sinat Chinam, this senseless hatred is them not us.  But we’re not blind and we know we all belong to humankind and clearly, in many ways this year humanity has missed the mark.

Perhaps we’re not so different from those ancients, but perhaps we can be.

For we have the capacity, we have the power, we have the potential, we have the technology, and we have an obligation to confront sinat chinam - senseless hatred -
with what  the early 20th century Rabbi, Rav Kook, called Ahavat Chinam - senseless love.

We can confront Sinat Chinam with Ahavat Chinam - senseless love, just as Jeremiah called out to us: Ahavat Olam ahavtich al ken m’shach’tich chased. Since we are loved with unbounded love and ceaseless compassion - whether from God or something else divine, whether from family or from friends… Because we know what that feels like
to be beneficiaries of love and compassion - we should have the capacity and we should pursue our obligation to offer it to others.  Compassion is in our very core.
Compassion is in our very DNA.

No, we’re not so different from those ancients.  

Rather, 18th century philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, argues that we and our ancestors, those ancients, share two traits with all species: amour de soi, self love, and pitiĆ©, compassion for the suffering of others.  Rousseau teaches that compassion is a trait or characteristic found deep within humans.  In some cases it might be so deep that one is not able to access it, which is why philosophers, educators, authors, world leaders,and spiritual leaders encourage the nourishment and cultivation of our “compassionate core.”

But a few examples:
“Compassion is the chief law of human existence,” writes Dostoyevsky.  

“Our task must be…to widen[ing] our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty,” hypothesizes Albert Einstein.   

“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring,” preached Martin Luther King, Jr.  

“Compassion is the radicalism of our time,” reflects the Dalai Lama.

Such global truths and yet this ethical ideal - to radically widen our circles of compassion beyond dropping money in a cup to bringing about broader social change - seems so hard to even approach.  It seems so hard to tap into this inner wellspring that Rousseau suggests we have.  It is fatiguing even - and compassion fatigue is a real thing.  It is much easier to look away or to look down or just to shut down and focus only on ourselves and our immediate inner circle.  

Perhaps we don’t want to be so different from those ancestors.  

But should we - should we choose to explore the depths of our compassionate core -
we need not look to other traditions or schools of thought for this imperative of cultivating compassion exists deep within our own.

In the Mussar tradition, Jewish teachings focused on ethical and spiritual discipline,
we learn that compassion is deep within the realms of our soul.  Mussar teaches that from the very beginning, from birth “we are endowed with every one of the full range of
middot - of human traits.”  Mussar scholar Alan Morinis, in his accessible guide
Everyday Holiness:The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar writes, “that what sets one person apart from another is not whether we have certain traits while someone else has different ones, but rather the degree, or measure, or middah, of the traits, [middot,] that live in each of our souls.  The angriest person…[may have] an excess of the anger trait, but Mussar insists that there must be at least some degree of calm within that raging soul…”  Morinis continues, “it’s not whether we have [or don’t have] the traits - all of us have them all...” [nor is any trait] particularly bad, but Mussar leads a student
on a path of discovery and uncovering and balancing.

But yes, compassion is an extremely noble trait.

And there are so many Hebrew words that indicate compassion, loving-kindness,
love, mercy - so many nuances - that I’ve avoided using but one so as not to belabor in translation, but to labor in the potential for transformation.  One word - however - crucial is the Hebrew word rachamim - it is probably the best translation for compassion and is connected in root to rechem - or womb.  Even in the building blocks of our beloved Hebrew, we understand that from the womb, from our very birth, we are endowed with the capacity to cultivate compassion.  It’s already within us.  We just have to tap into it.

So how?

From the 11th century Mussar Text, Chovot Ha’Levavot: Duties of the Heart, Spanish Rabbi Bachya ibn Pakuda lays it out for us.  Quite simply he writes: “Express compassion when you encounter the impoverished, the poor, the diseased; with people who are outside the mainstream of society, who do not know how to improve their lot,  who do not know how to conduct themselves, who are imprisoned by enemies, who have lost great fortunes, who regret having transgressed, and who weep for the consequences of their sins.”

Compassion, then, is not just tzedakah.  It is not just good deeds. It is not just mitzvot.  It is not just about justice.  Rather, in Hebrew, as rachamim it is plural.  There is no singular form because compassion embodies a plurality of depth.  It is all of those things AND compassion is an attitude. It’s a countenance. It is a way of being.
It is what one rabbi Sharon Brous defines as “kindness drenched in love.”  And it is defined by its Latin roots com (with) and pati (suffer), literally meaning “to suffer with.”

Compassion means weeping with those who weep.  And because we can all find ourselves at some point within the definition offered by Rabbenu Bachya, compassion means weeping with everyone because everyone weeps.

“Compassion,” writes Henri Nouwen, a scholar and yes, priest, “compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish.  Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears.  Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless.  Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”

And compassion is the basis upon which the world was built.  For our sages teach that “the world from its inception was created only with compassion.”  And the world - our world - was created on the first day of Tishrei.  

Today.

Today the world was built with compassion. And today and tomorrow and the next day, we can build worlds of compassion.

But should we ever find ourselves lost or looking away or looking down on the Jeremiah’s of the world who preach or the weepers of the world who reach into our hearts because we are unable to breach that which has been within us since our Genesis - we can look to God to teach us because, our tradition reminds, “just as God is called compassionate and gracious, so you too must be compassionate and gracious.”

And we can look to the words we will recite over and over in the coming days: Adonai, Adonai, El Rachum, V’chanun...Adonai! Adonai! You are compassionate, you are gracious.

And if still, days from now already distant from these moments of turning, maybe you can hear the prophet Jeremiah.  If you just listen, ever so closely you can hear him
calling out to us:  Ahavat Olam ahavtich al ken m’shach’tich chased. He’s yelling:  We are loved with unbounded love and ceaseless compassion…

Listen - Do you hear him? He’s screaming now: And we can love with unbounded love and we can care with ceaseless compassion…

And if still you can’t hear Jeremiah, then listen for the shofar.  It, too, calls out, reminding us that with Ahavat Chinam, senseless love, and Chesed, kindness drenched in love, and with Rachamim, deep, abiding, ceaseless compassion we can be the bearers, the holders, the molders, and the menders - such that the Shofar’s sounds of brokenness can once again become whole.   






Friday, September 6, 2013

Shabbat Shuva: No Return Limit (from 5773)


Shabbat Shuva: No Return Limit
September 21, 2012 ~ 6 Tishrei 5773
Rabbi Jen Gubitz

The entire subway ride, I geared up.  I practiced what I might say: my demeanor, my smile, my defense, if necessary.

Would they listen? Would they agree? Would they allow for my return?

And then, I entered the Apple Store in Chelsea, graciously greeted the first clerk I saw, and went for it:

“Hi,” I began. “16 days ago, I purchased a new laptop.  The reason I purchased a new laptop is because mine was stolen from the synagogue where I work. And I’m a rabbi.  Well not really, but I’m going to be one, and it was two days before Rosh Hashanah when it was stolen.  I knew you might come out with a new model, but I needed one right then.  So I bought it - but then we had Sukkot (which is this crazy Jewish holiday where we dwell in booths even though people in New York barely can afford to dwell in apartments) and as you can see, I’m a few days past the return date.  So I know I should’ve brought it earlier in the week to exchange for the new model, but you released the new model on Sukkot.  And like I was saying, I’m a Rabbi - well not yet, but in four years I will be and its not really fair to any of us Jews to have a new apple release date on chag anyways.”

“Hey, we’re happy to take that return for you,” the clerk responded.

“Really?”

“Sure. No problem.  We can be flexible on the return date.  Its all good,” he said casually.

“Really?”

A flexible return date shocked me.  Countless times, we return to a store to make a return only to be reminded, often to be rebuked, that we’ve missed the period of return which was printed in the least readable light ink on the back of the receipt.

In our minds, we know there is probably a 30 or 60 day time period, but when the 31st day hits and we rush to the store - we hope: “Maybe they’ll have mercy on us!  Maybe just this once, they’ll take it back anyways!”  More often than not a store credit is our lot and usually for far less than our purchase was made....

*
Prescribed to us by the month of Elul, these past weeks of Cheshbon Nefesh, of taking account, recalculating, doing some internal math on our souls, forced us to ask hard questions:  Did this year really add up?  How were my joys multiplied?  What was the ratio of joy to grief?  Am I as whole as I’d like to be?

We take account of all the purchases made this year - not the computers, cars, or couches, but major purchases, to be sure - life purchases, life investments really: the time we’ve invested with friends and loved ones, the time we’ve invested in our careers, in leisure activities.  And not only the time, but the heart we’ve invested...

And so we ask: How does it all add up? Is there a return on my investment?

*
After a joyous Rosh Hashanah, the sounds of the shofar articulating all possible emotions, we find ourselves here tonight, on this Shabbat Shuva as we prepare to make our final return.

Is there a time limit lightly printed somewhere on the back of a receipt?

What if our inner work takes longer than the prescribed time?  What if a newer product, a newer version, or self operating system 6.0 becomes available on Monday or even after Yom Kippur?  What if I run out of time? Which is to really say: what if I run out of life?

This ten-day period can provoke such anxiety.

The late Rabbi Alan Lew’s book about the days of awe and these highest of holidays, says it all in the title alone: “This is Real...And You Are Completely unprepared.”

This is real.
But we can be prepared.

Shabbat Shuva and these Days of Awe offer us in the boldest of ink on the longest of receipts a very clear date for return.

Now’s the time.  Return, O Israel, this week’s Haftarah begs of us!  Now is the time, Pesikta Rabati teaches, that our confession will be immediately heard standing itself before the throne of Glory.

Now is the time when returning to our most beloved version of self will reveal, we pray, so many of the investments we’ve made.

*
The store clerk looked up from the cash register...“This return will be complete in one second,” he said casually.  “If you don’t mind we need your signature, so just sign on the line and you’ll be good to go.”

*
Now is the time to do the math, to make your exchange, to make your return and to leave your signature - your chatimah.  And after we’ve done our part, we’re taught that God, too, will leave a signature writing us once more into the Book of Life - such that G’mar Chatimah Tovah - God’s signature will ensure that we will be inscribed for goodness, we will be inscribed for blessing, and that we will be given a receipt, where on the back, in large bold letters, will be printed: Please return as often as possible.  


Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Freedom to Forget We're Free


July 5, 2013 ~ 27 Tamuz 5773
Rabbi Jen Gubitz

In the twilight's last gleaming, there were rockets red glare and it seemed, bombs bursting in air.  All which gave proof thru the night that if you drive on I-90 towards Boston on the 4th of July you will experience a three hour fireworks extravaganza.

Freedom rained over Saratoga Springs; Liberty poured out on Albany; Justice sprinkled brightly upon Sturbridge; the Pursuit of Happiness burst colorfully over Worcester; Equality shone down on Boston... an explosion of long and hard fought rights gave proof thru the night that we have it good here in America.  Even when our personal politics or religious preferences or life choices come into conflict with the broader populace or broader governance, we have it good here in America.  And we Jews have it pretty good here in America, too.

Though our national anthem only emblazons one stanza into our minds, in this four verse poem written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key some 200 years ago, it is remarkable to look at the remaining verses and wonder about all the ways, about all the work, about all the wars that were fought in this land, just so we might enjoy a night of fireworks and savor a host of freedoms.

We can hear the melody in our minds as later stanzas of the poem wonder: “And where is that band who so vauntingly swore/That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion/A home and a country should leave us no more?/Their blood has wash'd out their foul footsteps' pollution./No refuge could save the hireling and slave/From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.”

We can try to grasp understanding of all that went into our American freedom.  As Jews, our understanding is anchored just a bit more in this week’s Torah portion, Matot-Masei, and in so many other parts of Torah as we read, yet again, of all of the ways, all of the work, all of the wars fought on the road to becoming a free and enduring Jewish people.

But as we look to the world around us, where “the havoc of war and battle’s confusion, where the gloom of the grave” hangs down upon so many, we notice, yet again, that we have it pretty good here in America.

Here in good ‘ol amurica: While it took some time, last week equality took a major step forward with the Supreme Court Decision regarding marriage equality.  It was literally life changing equality.  But in our celebration of such a milestone, we cannot forget that still here in our own little Boston, and throughout the US, inequalities of the social, economic, and racial prevail.  And even more so, we cannot forget in our freedom, that around the world, in Egypt, Syria, parts of Africa, Asia, inequalities, lack of freedom and lack of justice is waged in the streets, right now, this very moment, as we pray.

While we waited some time for American freedom and American equality, it will take a lot more time for freedom and justice in those far off places.  And while that freedom and justice, like ours, may be life changing, it will also be life threatening.  Still today, the road to freedom is blocked “by the havoc of war and battle’s confusion,by the gloom of the grave” which hangs down upon so many.

How do we balance our own freedoms with the knowledge that our world is still not a land of the free?  How can we sit in our adirondack chairs, eating hotdogs, drinking beer, watching fireworks as free people in America, as free Jews in America, when fires rage around the world?  Is it enough to read the news and to empathize with the brokenness around the world?

While we all deserve vacation and joy and rest, it is far too easy - when you can enjoy the freedoms that we do - to forget we’re free.

And the Torah reminds over and over that we, too, were enslaved.  It reminds us that we, too, journeyed to freedom and safety.  And so I wonder if we read it over and over and over again, not because it is a beautiful story, and it is, but perhaps we read it over and over as a daily, weekly, yearly reminder, a daily, weekly, yearly agitation from our comfort because we know that when you have freedom like we do, it is so easy to forget that we’re free.  And so we read at length, we study in depth over and over, of the journey to freedom and safety. Because if we don’t, we’ll simply forget just how good we have it in America.

And perhaps, too, there is Torah every time we celebrate July 4th or sing the national anthem at a sporting event, over and over and over again, just as we read Torah.  For this anthem reminds us, agitates us during those many leisurely moments where we are so comfortable in our freedom, that we forget we’re free.

And in the anthem’s poetry, we see the parallel story of the Jewish people, the parallel story of the American people, and the parallel hope of all people around the world who enjoy, who seek, and who pray for freedom, who pray for the opportunity of ‘l’hiyot am chofshi’ - to be a free people in free lands.  This Jewish expression of hope, it turns out, is quite universal.

When the Star Spangled Banner was adopted as our national anthem in 1923, I imagine some measure of comfort was taken in the theological statement of the final stanza.

It writes:
Between their lov'd homes and the war's desolation;/Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land/Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!/Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,/And this be our motto: "In God is our trust”/And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave/O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!


And to that Source in whom we freedom seekers place our trust, we pray:
M’kor chofesh ba-z’man cheruteinu
O Source of Freedom, in this moment of our freedom...
as You have blessed us,
we pray that You might bring your blessings of freedom and justice
over all the world.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Sh’lach Lecha: Wrapped Tightly in Tzit Tzit

Sh'lach Lecha: Wrapped Tightly in Tzit Tzit
May 31, 2013 ~ 23 Sivan 5773
Rabbi Jen Gubitz, Temple Shir Tikva

The fringes
dangled between their fingers
as they grasped on tightly
to their newest baby.  
Over their shoulders
a tallit
worn with memory
swaddled
their now family of four.
But their young son,
unenthused with this ritual
of welcome to his new sister
squeezed away into another room.
“Caleb! Come back!”
His dad called.
“I don’t want to,” he replied.
“But don’t you want to play a game
and hide under this fringy blanket?!”
Enticed quite quickly
back into the four corners
of his family’s tradition,
the rabbi chanted the priestly benediction,
and a new baby girl
entered the covenant of the Jewish people.

Baruch Atah Adonai,
Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam,
Asher Kid’shanu
B’mitz’votav Vitzivanu
L’hit’a’tef Ba’Tzit Tzit.

Blessed are You,
Ruling Spirit of the Universe,
Who has Sanctified Us With your Mitzvot,
and Commanded us
to Swaddle Ourselves in Tzit Tzit.

*
The fringes
dangled between her fingers
as she grasped softly
her grandson’s hand.
He had grown at least a head
since she saw him last
which was only a few weeks ago.
And he was really starting to resemble
his father
and his father’s father...
And it was
his tallit
that she gently draped
over his ever broadening shoulders.
Every time she turned around -
it was as if he was taller,
more mature,
and of course,
more handsome.  
But for one second,
he looked like the little boy
who once sat next to his grandfather in shul,
fingering the fringes of his tallit...
that now belonged to him.
And now on his day
of becoming Bar Mitzvah,
she stood proudly, as he recited:

Baruch Atah Adonai,
Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam,
Asher Kid’shanu
B’mitz’votav Vitzivanu
L’hit’a’tef Ba’Tzit Tzit.

Blessed are You,
Ruling Spirit of the Universe,
Who has Sanctified Us With your Mitzvot,
and Commanded us
to Drape Ourselves in Memories of Tzit Tzit.

*
The fringes
dangled above their heads,
as they grasped hands,
warmly
beloved to beloved.
The chuppah,
a symbol of the Jewish home,
swayed...
it was a tapestry of tallitot -
open on all four sides
to generations
of family and friends
past, present, and future -
who would always support them
and who would always envelop them
It was a tapestry of tallitot -
with which they might one day
bless their own children.
And in this potential of
two families merging
to create anew -
their mothers
placed a fraying tallit
around their shoulders,
and they were consecrated
according to the laws of Moses and Israel.

Baruch Atah Adonai,
Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam,
Asher Kid’shanu
B’mitz’votav Vitzivanu
L’hit’a’tef Ba’Tzit Tzit.

Blessed are You,
Ruling Spirit of the Universe,
Who has Sanctified Us With your Mitzvot,
and Commanded us
to build loving homes amid Tzit Tzit.

*           
The fringes
dangled between fingers
as they
ritually
lovingly
carefully
and respectfully
prepared him for burial.
His long
full
and rich life
would continue on
in joyful memories.
For his long
full and rich life
children would be named,
For his life,
regardless of length,
he would be missed.
For his long
full and rich life,
that he might
lie wrapped in his beloved tallit,
his family was comforted,

Baruch Atah Adonai,
Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam,
Asher Kid’shanu
B’mitz’votav Vitzivanu
L’hit’a’tef Ba’Tzit Tzit.

Blessed are You,
Ruling Spirit of the Universe,
Who has Sanctified Us With your Mitzvot,
and Commanded us
to rest eternally shrouded in Tzit Tzit.

*
Blessed are You,
Ruling Spirit of the Universe
who commanded us
in this week’s Torah portion
that we should make for ourselves
fringes
on the corners of our garments
throughout the ages,
as a reminder of your commandments,
and all that you have done for us.

Midrash Rabbah offers that:
The strings of the tzitzit
are like a rope
a captain stretches out
to the one struggling in the sea.
"Take hold of this rope with your hand,”
he shouts,
“and do not let go;
for if you let go,
you have not life!"

For all the moments
in the arc of our Jewish living
where the fringes of tallitot
dangle,
entice,
swaddle,
drape,
sway,
fray,
envelop,
shroud,
and comfort -
we prayerfully weave
the threads though our fingers,
and while delicate,
we find strength
in these knotted fringes
affixed to our prayer shawl. 
Like the knotted rope
thrown to us at sea,
our tallit
becomes
our holy life preserver.

The Midrash calls out to us:
“Keep it, let it not go,”
Keep the wisdom,
hang on tightly to traditions,
to instructions,
to understanding,
as the proverb invokes,
“for it, the richness of Torah, is your life.”

Blessed are You,
Ruling Spirit of the Universe,
who gives us the enlivening opportunity
to reach so many precious moments
wrapped
tightly
in tzit tzit.

Amen.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Running on Bridges

Running on Bridges
April 19, 2013~10 Iyyar 5773
Rabbi Jen Gubitz

Kol ha'Olam - the whole world is glued to Boston this week.

The beautiful weekend, followed by an amazing race, with perfect running conditions. The only heartbreak, we thought, being the hills of Newton.  Kol ha'Olam - the whole world gathered to cheer on world-class athletes, a world-class race course, with world-class fans.

Kol ha'Olam - we know that in this whole world we are not the only ones who face and fear tragedies like this and yet, Kol ha'Olam - it feels today in our whole world of Boston that we are under siege, and we are scared and we fear for our safety, for the safety of our loved ones, and for the safety of those we don't even know.

Kol ha'Olam - though at times it felt like it might - the whole world did not end this week, but worlds ended.  Lives were snuffed out and fears ignited.  And those narrow straits, tzarim, those narrow straits of living became narrower. And we are a people who know narrowness, tzarut, because mimitzrayim, from narrow straits we have been delivered so many times. But right now, as we stand in the Jewish calendar facing towards Mount Sinai, all of that is supposed to be behind us. Now we stand waiting for the revelation of our sacred Torah.  So while we are a people who know narrowness, we do not look back willingly or eagerly to the straits from which we've just departed...

And Kol ha'Olam the whole world looks forward with us to deliverance.

But just about halfway through the ritual of Sefirat ha'Omer - Counting the Omer - that ancient offering of sheaves of grain for some 49 days, that covers the spiritual distance between our enslavement in Egypt and arrival at Sinai - we can still feel in our limbs, we can still taste on our lips the narrowness of our crushed spirits in bondage.  And all the more so today - for we are neither here nor there, for we are in neither Egypt nor Sinai...

Strikingly then, that this ritual period of the Omer is historically a time of mourning,  reflective of the plagues that struck in Talmudic times.  Though we are neither here nor there, we are not the first nor the last to be where we are in this exact moment...

No.  We are not alone in our 'neither-ness.'  And we are not alone in our 'not yet-ness.'  We are not alone because Kol ha'Olam Kulo - the whole world - Gesher Tzar M'od - is a very narrow bridge.  And whole worlds, centuries, and generations before us and, yes, after us have walked, now walk, and will walk this narrow bridge.  And, dare I say,  run on this narrow bridge?  Because walking a narrow bridge together does not appropriately articulate what really happened this week - which is that while the city of Boston ran an historic race on Monday, when people could have run away, when they could have run to the neither or the nor - they, our own congregants even, ran towards.  They ran towards - arms wide open offering support, solace, strength.  Even in our narrow straits, we find within ourselves the capacity for support and solace.  In this solidarity, we can draw strength knowing that when people have the option to run from us, they will, instead, choose to run toward us.  In this deep knowing of the strength of the human spirit, we might find spiritual sustenance and resilience to keep running ourselves.

But even with all the strength and resilience that runs through our bodies - it is scary to run toward.  It's frightening to keep running at all.  It's much easier to run away from.  It's much safer to resist lacing up our running shoes at all...

Kol ha'Olam Kulo Gesher Tsar M'od - the whole world is a very, very narrow bridge.  But Reb Nachman of Bratzlav compels us: v'ha'Ikar Lo L'Fached Klal.  Ha'ikar - the essence, the most important part, the here AND the there - is Lo L'Fached Klal.  The essence is not to be afraid.  Not because fear is bad.  It's not.  It teaches us. It guides us.  It compels us.  It protects us.  Rather perhaps we should try not to be afraid in times of uncertainty, in liminal moments like this, because fear isolates us.  It prevents us from connections and causes us to shut out the whole world.  

     And life, Jewish living, all living is about forging the path,    
            walking, journeying, counting, being,   
                     running on the bridge together.