Thursday, September 30, 2010

Think visual

This is one of the coolest pictures I've ever taken. It's from our visit to Saguaro National Park in Tucson this past summer. I love the vibrant colors, the clarity of the butterfly, and the way the photo captures just an instant of nature's beauty. I'm reminded that artistic inspiration (especially for those of us who aren't necessarily artists) comes from every direction.
Feel encouraged to post your favorite photos - so we can share inspiration. I look forward to seeing what you've got!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Turn, turn, turn - turn it up a notch

The festival of Sukkot will begin in a couple of days. The holiday is called "the time of our rejoicing" - z'man simchateynu. There is perhaps no greater joy in life than the satisfaction we get from good, healthy, strong relationships with loved ones - family and friends (for me, this capacity for deep friendship is what makes life meaningful).
Now that we're through the holy days of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, Sukkot gives us the continued chance to reflect on what's most important in our lives - and especially to consider which relatioships need attention or repair.
I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to reach out and make improvements in you relationships with other. I'd love to hear about what steps you're taking in this direction.

Friday, September 10, 2010

L'shana tova...Eid Mubarak

Yesterday, on Rosh HaShanah afternoon, a group of us from Temple made a visit to the local mosque. This year our holiday coincides with the last day of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month centered on fasting, prayer, repentance, and purification. A few weeks ago in a planning meeting, about five of us came up with the idea that we’d like to make outreach to the Muslim community. When I discovered the overlap between our two Holy Days, I also looked up if there are any special customs for the end of Ramadan. As I shared what I found about Iftar (the evening meal that breaks the daily fast during Ramadan) we immediately saw the similarity of eating sweets as a symbol of our hope for goodness in the year ahead. We brainstormed the idea of asking about the idea of Temple members bringing a basket of such goodies to the mosque – we hoped to demonstrate our desire to cultivate a relationship between our congregations.

With the encouragement of the others around the table, I sent a note to the Islamic Society of Michiana, posing our question about a possible visit. I concluded my message: As we look to enter the New Year on the Jewish calendar, with hopes for sweetness and peace, we wish you a season of goodness and blessing. Please accept our best wishes. May this holy season be meaningful. I didn’t really have any idea about what kind of response I’d receive. I got a warm and enthusiastic reply, which included the following: Thank you so much for reaching out to us with your kind wishes. We are very excited and looking forward to the visit of your Temple members. We also want to extend our warm wishes for your Rosh HaShanah. May the New Year be filled with health, happiness, sweet moments, and peace. Needless to say, I was delighted.

Perhaps more than our little discussion group would like to attend? We decided to announce our plans during our Holy Day worship services, opening up the invitation to anyone from Temple who’d like to join us. We arranged to meet at 5:30 in the afternoon to “assemble” our gift baskets, and then caravan to the mosque. I thought it would be great if ten of us came together. Nearly thirty J of us made the outing – a source of genuine pride and satisfaction.

We were welcomed with gracious hospitality – as should always be the case in our human interactions. It was amazing to mix, mingle and share with our Muslim neighbors. And it came as no surprise as we live in a smaller, tight-knit city – that several of us, Jews and Muslims, already knew somebody else: from the neighborhood in which we live, or the local supermarket, seeing one another at the gym, or having sent our children to the same schools. This was a truly uplifting culmination to our celebration of the New Year. What began as a modest outreach effort became something much more. As we continue to strengthen the connection between our Jewish and Muslim communities, I think we have a real chance to create meaningful relationships among the members of both. I look forward to this ongoing opportunity, as we might just make a difference in the world.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Here's wishing you the bluest sky

The New Year, 5771, begins with the arrival of Rosh HaShanah, next Wednesday evening, September 8. It is a time of reflection and renewal – filled with the possibility of new beginnings. As we look back on the year gone by and ahead to the one just beginning, we have the chance to evaluate what we’ve done, where we’ve been, and who we yet hope to be. It is our chance to establish new goals, to articulate bigger dreams and visions, and make resolutions for what we hope to accomplish.

With a week remaining before the Holy Days begin, I encourage you to make time for intentional, chesbon ha-nefesh (thoughtful self-examination) – to guide your preparation to enter the New Year. After you’ve had a chance to consider and imagine – let me know about your New Year’s resolution(s) for 5771.

Wishing you a shanah tovah u’metukah – a happy and sweet New Year!