Let Me Know it Fully

 

 

Let me know it fully.

A colleague said this to me today.

During a webinar that he was facilitating.

Let me know it fully.

Not just any breath. But this breath.

Not just any feeling of my fingers on the keyboard. But this feeling of my fingers on the keyboard.

Not just any leftover chicken brought for lunch. But this leftover chicken brought for lunch.

Not just any voices chatting in the hall. But these voices chatting in the hall.

Let me know it fully.

Not just any memory of Caleb resting his head on my stomach. But this memory.

Not just any sound of my kids singing “Circle of Life” while driving down Peachtree. But this sound.

Not just any cool November Monday morning. But this one.

Not just any little piece of unexpected good news. But this little piece.

Not just any surreal moment of receiving bad news. But this surreal moment.

Not just any feeling of bowing to the rhythm of the universe. But this feeling of bowing.

Let me know it fully.

Not just any deep knowing of what the psalmist meant when he wrote, “my cup overflows.” But this deep knowing.

 

Guns and Grills

Tonight I had a vendor out to the house to do some measuring for some new kitchen appliances. It turns out that ovens don’t last forever. When he called to say that he was a few minutes away he sounded like a really nice guy. I explained that our house is a bit of a disaster due to our just getting our plumbing fixed. I get it, he said.

The door bell rang and I invited him in. I quickly noticed two paragraphs of words tattooed on the outside of both his arms. Figuring it was Scripture, the rabbi in me wanted to know what it was that moved this gentleman. Turns out it was the 2nd Amendment. And on top of that, on the inside of his left arm there was another tattoo, this one of an intimidating looking automatic weapon.

You must be pretty committed to the 2nd Amendment, I said. As he measured the opening where my new microwave will go. Sure am, he said. Nonchalantly. And what kind of gun is that, I asked. An M-16, the kind I carried in the military. Thank you for your service, I said. And a belated Happy Veterans Day, I said (wondering if that’s the right greeting). And knowing that I meant it.

Hey, someone’s cooking something delicious in your neighborhood, he said. I could smell it the minute I got out of my truck. That’s probably me, I said. I’ve got my Kamado Joe fired up out back, but it’s just charcoal so far. That’s all it takes, he said. You do much outdoor cooking, I asked. I’m building out my outdoor cooking space as we speak, he said. Followed by a detailed description.

15 minutes later I walked him to the door. Hope you have some good music for the long ride home, I said. I just got a new truck so I’ll be blasting Sirius XM the whole way, he said. With a smile. See you when it’s time for the install.

Water Main Break

Woke up this morning to gushing water in our front yard. Happy Sunday! The short version: our main water line needs to be replaced. Just had a plumber out here to take a look. A really nice young man. He talked me through the job in a soft spoken and friendly way. I had a good feeling and was relieved that it won’t cost an arm and a leg.  When entering my details on his iPad, he asked about my last name. I told him most people thought it was Greek but that it’s actually Hebrew. He said he would’ve guessed Hebrew. I was surprised. From last names to first names. He thought Micah was connected to Malachi, which it isn’t. Malachi means “my angel” doesn’t it? Yes, it does. But Micah means something different. He was pretty surprised by my knowledge of Hebrew Bible and excited when I explained that I came by it honestly. When I told him I was a rabbi he wanted to shake my hand again. Of course we started talking about Jerusalem. A pilgrimage! He said he’s saving his money so he can do that too. In fact, he hopes to become a priest one day. Not like one of those preachers you see on TV, but someone who feels called to help others. Live a good life, love people regardless of race, gender, or differences. Stuff like that. Anyway, I’ve taken up too much of your time so I’ll be on my way, he says. He’ll be coming back tomorrow to do the job. After all, the bid was reasonable and the company gets good reviews online.

The Divine Image

Yesterday afternoon I’d just sat down to write an email when a co-worker of mine knocked on my door with a question that had come up during a recent bible study with her church community. We found ourselves in a conversation about what it means to be created in the Divine Image. We lingered on the topic for a little while, thinking about what it meant to each of us, introducing ideas from our different, yet similar, faith traditions. All the while the email sat unwritten. One idea we both liked was that being created in the Divine Image attunes us to the creative power within us as well as our inclination toward goodness, compassion, and truth. Another idea we both liked is that any facet of our personality or experience might be a reflection of the Divine Image within. Our laughter, our tears, our resilience, our talent, our fear, our poetry, our music, our nurturing, our doubt, our wisdom, our wonder. We agreed that life would be quite interesting if we paused to consider how, in encountering others, we are inevitably encountering the Divine Image within them and therefore within ourselves. And eventually, since I know it’s a cliffhanger, the email was written and sent. But I’m still waiting for a reply.

I set out

My appointment was running late so I set out for 5 minutes of mindful walking. It’s a crisp and grey day. First I noticed the trees. Some are completely barren. Others still have leaves. Then I noticed the sound of different birds. They were singing from the woods. Then I noticed a tiny bird, must’ve been a sparrow. So I stopped for a moment to notice the sparrow. Actually, I only noticed the sparrow when I stopped to notice the singing. In noticing the sparrow, another bird caught my attention. Then another. Suddenly there were sparrows and other birds of all shapes and sizes. And a squirrel digging a hole or collecting pine needles. As I turned my attention to the birds, the squirrel sneaked away. Then, as if on cue, a chipmunk came and took its place. For a moment I wondered if the chipmunk was going to try and sneak up on the sparrow that was bathing in a little puddle left over from the morning rain. Then I got a text message letting me know that my appointment was running late. And then another text message letting me know that the appointment would have to be rescheduled. “Sorry for making you wait” said the text message. I explained that it was really my pleasure because I’d ended up meditating in the woods. Walking back, there was so much to notice.

Pause

Open the Eyes, Tel Aviv, 2017

 

Between breathing in

and breathing out.

Between this sentence

and the next.

Between thought

and expression.

Between hearing

and listening.

Between doing

and doing.

Between being

and being.

Between now

and now.

Between is

and was.

Between is

and is now.

A pause.

Between experience

and meaning.

Between meaning

and memory.

Between memory

and history.

Between history

and eternity.

Between eternity

and now.

A pause.

The space between what will never be

and what is

and what will always be

and what is

and what could be

and what is.

A pause.

Walk in Delight

Jerusalem, 2016

 

Beyond measure, I am blessed.

In ways disguised and manifest.

In ways I can appreciate and ways I cannot.

In ways deserved but in more ways graced.

In ways that touch my daily existence and ways that don’t.

Beyond measure, I am blessed.

In ways that delight and ways that overwhelm.

Among these many blessings is the blessing of working at a school that has two campuses.

Among the many blessings of these two campuses is that they are a short distance apart.

And this distance is easily covered on foot via a beautiful sidewalk that blessed me with its existence only a few years ago.

And the blessing of traffic.

Of a pesky left turn signal in particular.

Which means that it’s often quicker, or at least more predictable, and certainly more pleasant

to walk from campus to campus.

Than it is to drive.

And so I walk in blessing.

And delight.

At least once a day.

Sometimes I see cars full of my students waiting for morning drop off.

Sometimes I see the lady who wears gigantic headphones who always smiles when we pass.

Sometimes I walk with a colleague.

Sometimes I walk alone.

Once, I got soaked in a thunderstorm.

But I survived.

In the spring I walk beneath cherry blossoms.

And survive them too.

Sometimes I think.

Sometimes I plan.

Sometimes I read email.

Sometimes I wonder about the litter on the side of the road.

Sometimes I wonder at the denseness of the trees between the sidewalk and the houses on the other side.

Sometimes I see (and hear) a fire engine pulling out of the fire station on the corner.

Sometimes the fire engine inspires me.

Sometimes it terrifies me.

Sometimes I close my eyes for a few seconds to see how far I can go without opening them.

Sometimes I have to step into the street and dodge cars to avoid the sprinkler at the corner.

Sometimes I carry inter office mail.

Sometimes I spill my coffee.

Sometimes I dream up new ways of doing things.

Sometimes I try to feel the ground underneath my feet.

Sometimes I remember.

And sometimes I forget.

Sometimes, when I’m really doing it right.

I just walk.

In blessing and delight.

Be a Blessing

“Be a blessing.” That’s God’s instruction to Abram in Genesis 12. Whenever I read these words or think of this teaching, I think of Rabbi Alvin Sugarman. Many years ago he and I were part of a rabbinic panel at The Temple. Rabbi David Baylinson joined us as well. Each of us was asked to pick a favorite biblical passage to share. Rabbi Sugarman chose, “Be a blessing.” Over the years, I’ve heard him reference this passage on different occasions. When I read these words, I hear his voice and think of the example he has set for so many.

“Be a blessing” has come to be one of the most meaningful and omnipresent mantras of my life. There’s a simplicity and a directness to these words. At the end of any given day, it’s relatively simple to look back and ask: Was I a blessing today? When I think about it, the phrase, “be a blessing,” is the heart of every meaningful faith tradition and ethical humanist practice that I know of. It is simple, direct, unambiguous, and eternally relevant.

I recently listened to a lecture where the teacher suggested that the world hangs on a balance. On either side of the balance there are various weights and measures. Human beings are one of these weights. It’s up to us to tip the scale toward the good. It’s up to us to be a blessing.

A few years ago I had the fortune of recording an album of original Jewish music. I chose to call it, perhaps unsurprisingly, Be a Blessing. Here’s the title track, Vheyeh Bracha, that’s the Hebrew for, “Be a Blessing.”

 

 

A Picture, a prayer, and a song

Israel, 2017

 

May we turn towards one another, and not away

May our offerings be offerings of peace

May we give them freely and from great abundance

May the places where we meet be transformed into havens of shalom

If only by virtue of our meeting there


This song of mine is based on one of the psalms of the Kabbalat Shabbat liturgy. Shabbat Shalom if you’re reading this as Shabbat approaches.