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Invocation for Bethel Democratic Town Committee Annual Dinner - April 2017

Holy One of Blessing, Creator of all humanity, we come together tonight to praise a woman of valor, Mary Gert McCollam. You know, friends, Mary Gert is mentioned in our holy scriptures. We read in the Book of Proverbs:
Who can find a woman of valor? The price of a woman of integrity is far above rubies. She wears strength and beauty and she laughs at the future.
She opens her mouth with wisdom and the learning of kindness is on her tongue.
Give her of the fruit of her hands. She will rejoice in the time to come, Let her works be praised on this earth.
May Mary Gert and her lovely family be blessed now and always.
Holy One of Blessing, Creator of all humanity, we ask your blessing on the Bethel Democratic Town Committee. It is fitting that Mary Gert is receiving the Shannon Award for Public Service; may we always remember that our mission – Mary Gert’s and the Shannons’ mission – is to serve Bethel with compassion, integrity, dignity, uprightness, and honesty.May we always remember to protec…
Recent posts

Elul 3: Do I judge? Heck, yeah.

People say it like it's a bad thing: "Don't judge."
"You're so judgmental."

Someone posted a concern on a Facebook page today: she felt bad for judging someone for both not vaccinating a child and for needing to tell that anti-vaxxer that she and her unvaccinated children weren't welcome to visit her and her newborn child.

I heard her loud and clear. And I wrote this:

Hi, (name redacted) ...

I'm a mom of a 32 year-old daughter and 29 year-old twin sons, so I think I'm qualified to say this: You are going to be an awesome mom (I bet you already are), and you are absolutely permitted to judge other peoples' choices. It doesn't matter how judging others' choices makes you feel; what matters is that - God willing for many, many years - you are going to be making life/death decisions for your child. You MUST judge other peoples' decisions because your discernment (a nicer, maybe more PC, word) may one day save you or your child…

Erev Rosh Hashanah 5777: WAIT

I got the best advice from my son: "Mom, why are you even engaging with these people? Please stop."

I've got people on Facebook who - while holding similar philosophies in some areas - are 180 degrees from me politically. I long ago determined that arguing with these people is counterproductive, only useful if I believe - science notwithstanding - that heartrate-raising arguments is equal to a good cardio workout.

And so my goal for today is to WAIT (by the way, not an original concept - I learned it from Rabbi Andy Sklarz): Why Am I Talking?

Provocateurs and bullies want to be engaged. They poke, someone responds, and the game is afoot. Like fire, they need constant air renewal. So if don't engage, don't respond, they will run out of air.

So for today, I grit my teeth ... and wait.


Elul 29: Dear God ... (Return)

Dear God,

As I enter the new year 5777, I offer this "wish list."

Give me the willingness to examine my past year. I know I made a lot of mistakes and held onto attitudes and beliefs that didn't serve me or You or anyone else. Looking back isn't easy; I'd rather take the easy way out and pretend that I was A-OK. Yeah - that's not going to work.Give me the willingness to make a list of the people I hurt so that I can make amends to them. And yes, this year, let me put myself on that list, too.Sometimes I try to force a round peg into a square hole. This coming year, help me pick the right shape for the right puzzle. Instead of living a day or 2 or 365 in the future, may I experience every day as it comes. It's trite but true: yesterday is past, tomorrow is yet to come, today is a gift - and that's why it's called the present.Remind me to wait, to ask myself, "Why am I talking?"Remind me to say thank you to my body and my soul every morning…

Elul 28: Singing and praying on the crater crust (Give)

"To live, for me, Jane, is to stand on a crater crust that may crack and spew fire any day."

This bit of literary hyperbole, courtesy of Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, is  on my mind this time of year.

On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur my cantor colleagues and I draw on every ounce of strength that we can muster. We may find ourselves teetering on the edge of a massive emotional cliff, so wrapped up in the power of the words and the beauty of the music that we feel like we're about to head into a dark territory and maybe not be able to hold ourselves back. We stand on that crater crust, praying that it holds.

My teacher, Cantor Faith Steinsnyder, warned us about these moments. Give the prayers, music, and words our all, yes; but hold something in reserve. And when we do feel so emotionally involved that we think we're headed over that cliff's edge, we force ourselves to dial everything back. If we go over that edge, we do ourselves and our congre…

Elul 27: God Bless Us, Everyone (Bless)

"Tiny" Tim Cratchit got it right.

Charles Dickens' sweet innocent may be considered a minor character in A Christmas Carol, but I think he's the star of the show. The foreshadow of Tim's death - foretold in the great Alastair Sim movie version by the Ghost of Christmas Future by a glimpse at Tim's empty chair accompanied by his crutch - is what finally brings Ebenezer Scrooge to his knees, leading him to the finest act of teshuvah imagined in a Christmas story.

Tim has an absolute belief that God's blessings are bountiful and full of hope and joy. His unwavering optimism - even in the face of his own fragility and mortality - cuts through the misery, pain, and sorrow that the bitter Ebenezer has nourished and nurtured his whole miserable life.

When Tim pronounces, "God bless us, everyone" at the Christmas dinner in Scrooge's vision, it's a sign that God's goodness is available to us all, from the most innocent person to the most dep…

Elul 25: Planning to intend

Think about it: does Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, have the same "let's change" impact of, say, December 31? If you're like me, the answer is no ... it's got a more powerful impact (didn't think I was going there, did you?).

I stopped making New Year's resolutions years ago, refusing to join the lists of people who sign up for gym memberships (only to stop going mid-February), diet clubs (ditto), classes of all stripes (double and triple ditto).

But every Rosh Hashanah, I look at that list of sins*, and it hits me in my soul: instead of spending the year thinking about doing the right thing so I could be the best person my Creator wants me to be, here I am again, frustrated that I'm right back where I was the year before. My only saving grace is knowing that pretty much everyone around me is in the same spiritual boat. I mean, clearly there's a reason that that list in the machzor, the High Holy Day prayerbook, hasn't changed in hundred…