Thankful Thursday 5/30/13

It’s hard to tell if time has slowed down or sped up. Either way, I’m ready for June! Summer is easily my favorite season. I work better when I can spend an hour of every day in the sun. A good friend taught me about taking sunshine breaks and I’ve never looked back. I wait all year until it’s warm enough for a daily sunshine break. I’m well known for my love of warm weather and I now hear several different times a day from different congregants saying, “Congratulations, it’s your weather.” Thank you, Mother Nature.

I’m also thankful for marathons of the Food Network show, Chopped. I am in love with this show. It makes me think more creatively about cooking for my own family. It’s a rare show that can keep me tuning in hour after hour.

I’m thankful for this list. #10. A group of flamingos is called a flamboyance. Delightful

I’m thankful for lovely lunches (in the sunshine) with thoughtful mentors.

I am incredibly thankful for a long weekend spent reading Carry On, Warrior by the lovely Glennon Melton. Glennon’s writing feels like freedom. She talks about getting clean and sober and no longer having the confidence to dance at weddings. It occurs to her, watching her family and friends have fun on the dance floor that, “no one can dance for you.” Wise words, Glennon. I definitely take her writing as an invitation to live life more fully and try to do the hard things.

Lastly, and most importantly, I am thankful for all those who answer the call to serve, especially my handsome husband who leaves next month to start his career in the military.

Tikkun Olam Tuesday: Oklahoma

The pictures coming out of Oklahoma following yesterday afternoon’s tornado are overwhelming. I have lived in the South my entire life, so I have no first-hand experience with tornadoes. The idea of a tornado really strikes fear into my heart like nothing else. I have lived through more hurricanes and nor’easters than I can count and they certainly can leave a lot of substantial devastation in their wake. That being said, tornadoes seem to choose their victims with a humbling randomness and they come with little to no warning; it’s like nothing that I’ve ever known with a hurricane. As I look at this picture, I can’t begin to imagine how it must feel for your house to be full intact while the house next door is leveled (or vice versa). All I can think is, there but for the Grace of G-d go I.

So I’m going to publish the same list of charities that you can find elsewhere on the internet, because beyond donating and praying, I don’t know what else to do. 

Salvation Army
Supporters are encouraged to give online at http://www.SalvationArmyUSA.org or by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY (1-800-725-2769). You can also text the word “STORM” to 80888 to make a $10 donation through your mobile phone; to confirm your gift, respond with the word “Yes.”

Samaritan’s Purse
Samaritan’s Purse has deployed a team to Moore, Oklahoma and will respond to the current needs in any way they can.

Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma
The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, in partnership with Oklahoma Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, is asking that the public support all rescue, recovery and disaster relief efforts with donations of cash to your favorite responding charity. Financial donations will allow disaster relief agencies to purchase whatever items are deemed necessary without resulting in the additional burden of securing warehouse space and volunteers to work donated product.
To make a tax deductible donation to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, go to http://www.regionalfoodbank.org or call 604-7111 or text FOOD to 32333 to give $10 to relief efforts.

Feeding America
Feeding America will deliver truckloads of food, water and supplies to impacted areas through its network of more than 200 food banks and 61,000 agencies. The organization’s food banks will also set up additional dropoff sites.

American Red Cross
People who wish to make a donation can support American Red Cross Disaster Relief, which helps provide food, shelter and emotional support to those affected by disasters like the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma and Texas as well as disasters big and small throughout the United States by visiting redcross.org, dialing 1-800-REDCROSS or texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Do we *have* to fight about the High Holy Days?

It was a long morning.

We have a committee in charge of the High Holy Days and this morning I became aware of the first fight they were having amongst themselves and with members of the Board. It’s hard working for a Jewish organization during the High Holy Days. It should be wonderful, but instead it’s just really, really hard. I thought I would have more of the Spring and Summer free of this fighting, but it’s already begun.

What do we fight about? We fight about: (to name a few) ritual and schedules and timing and announcements and typos and any and every imperfection (real or imagined). We fight about whether we are committed enough, welcoming enough, participating enough, and doing enough. In an effort to recognize and observe the significance of the season, we are unkind or downright mean to one another and we inevitably strip the season of all its joy and awe.

And it’s so unnecessary. There has to be a better way, but – mere cog in the machine that I am – I don’t know how to get us there.

So I turned to my Google Reader for solace (seriously, what am I going to do when my Google Reader disappears in 12 days) and when I got to the end of this article about Jewish Life and Time Management from Kosher on a Budget:

Ask yourselves: What must I do, halachically? What do I want to do, personally? What’s important to my husband? My children? Me?

And – most importantly – What can I let go of?

And I almost shout out loud to my computer, “YES!!!” And in thinking of what can be let go, I am reminded of something I was told a long time ago. To THINK: Is it Thoughtful, Honest, Intelligent, Necessary, and Kind. And if it isn’t, let it go.

My top 10 favorite blog posts from Rachel Held Evans

Just some light reading for you this Sunday. A few weeks ago, I wrote about how much I adore Christian blogger Sarah Bessey. In that post, I briefly mentioned the amazing Rachel Held Evans. A brief introduction to Ms. Evans through my 10 favorite blog posts:

1. When our interpretations differ

I was struck by how much this post resembled our Rabbi’s Dvar Torah about Bereishit.

2. Ask an Orthodox Jew

This was very eye-opening for me as I was only ever familiar with the Jewish meaning of Eshet Chayil and not other contexts for Proverbs 31.

“Joy beckons at every stage, at every high and low, at every juncture, and in every failure.”

Just fantastic.

4. Esther Actually: A Jewish Perspective, by Rabbi Rachel
I have really enjoyed her entire Esther Actually series.

5. Some Words for Christians on both sides of the Chick-fil-A War
I often send RHE’s blog posts to my husband, so when his co-workers started talking about this blog post, Jay rushed home to tell me about how this blog post had blown up on social media. It’s so great to see someone you admire have wide-spread success. It’s inspiring to see her gain traction with her reasonable approach.

6. The Gospel Coalition, sex, and subordination
“Favorite” is the wrong word for this post.

7. When grace is just a doctrine

The ultimate denial of grace, then, is not to misunderstand it theologically, but to withhold it. The minute we withhold grace because of some prejudice or fear on our part, it becomes nothing more than a doctrine.

 

Grace is just a doctrine when we withhold it from ourselves. 

 

Grace is just a doctrine when we withhold it from one another.

 

Grace is just a doctrine when we withhold it from the world.

8. Rachel, the Very Worst Pacifist

Because any conversation about a blog post including both RHE and Shane Claiborne is one that could go on endlessly, which is why I also love: Ask Shane Claiborne…

This one’s a two-fer:

9. 15 Reasons I Left Church

10. 15 Reasons I Returned to The Church

I hope you check out Rachel Held Evan’s blog and enjoy her writing as much as I do! She is an inspiration to all people of faith. One day, I will write a series of blog posts about her book A Year of Biblical Womanhood. Until then, I hope you check out her book as well!

Shabbat in the Modern World

A while ago now, I saw this post on the Velveteen Rabbi’s blog, titled Shabbat in the Modern World. My heart lept into my throat when I saw the blog title pop up on my Google Reader. How to observe Shabbat in the Modern World is a not-uncommon topic amongst my friends.

Velveteen Rabbi was not writing about the challenge of observing Shabbat in a modern world. Instead, she was writing about the gift of being able to celebrate Shabbat with her parents utilizing modern technology, specifically Sykpe. Her words were really touching, but not was I was expecting based on my own baggage with the topic.

So now, here I am, writing about the challenge of observing Shabbat in the modern world. For one, I live in a town that isn’t friendly to cyclists or walkers. In short, I have to drive everywhere. The only synagogue in town is several miles and a semi-major highway away from where I live, so I’m absolutely not walking to shul. Annnnnnnd … I work in a synagogue Sunday-Thursday. So it usually feels like work, not Shabbat to go back to shul on Friday night or Saturday morning for services. I could serve a traditional Shabbos dinner, but I always forget to bake challah until the absolute last minute (and, unfortunately, bread isn’t really something you can make at the last minute).

I do feel like, despite all of my excuses, I still have a desire to observe the Sabbath in some capacity, so I should do something. I should start somewhere. But where?!

For me, I touched on the answer of where I should start when I was reading 30 Ways to Make Yourself Happier This Shabbat on Kveller. I thought it was a good list full of good places to start. But 3 days later, only one of the suggestions comes to mind when I think of the article and the list.

#2 – Light candles on Friday night.

It just clicked in my head this morning. For me, this is the perfect, logical place to start. Just light the candles. Usher in the Sabbath. Jews light the candles at the beginning of Shabbat. In other words, it forces me to STOP. It forces me to stop and acknowledge that it is, in fact, Shabbat! No longer will my head hit the pillow with regret as I acknowledge that I “forgot” to do anything to observe Shabbat. Once I’ve lit the candles, they are lit and I can’t go anywhere. My mother taught me better than to leave the house with a candle burning. And once I’m home with my family, candles lit, then I have the chance to make the most of the Sabbath. I still don’t think that observing Shabbat in the Modern world is intuitive or easy. But now I know where I want to start.

Thankful Thursday: Random Acts of Kindness

It feels like we’ve been living in a season of National tragedies – Hurricane Sandy, the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, and the Boston Marathon bombing, just to name a few. I have been experiencing and contemplating tragedy fatigue.

Then this morning, I read this – let’s face it – completely wonderful story about a cat who found it’s way back home 6 months after it disappeared during Hurricane Sandy. And while the story warms my heart and reminds me of Homeward Bound and all sorts of wonderful things, it was this part of the story that stood out most:

Fortunately Porsche appears to be in good shape, indicating people had likely been kind to him and fed him along the way.

With all the tragedy in the world, somehow little Porsche found strangers to take care of him and feed him on his difficult path home. What a mitzvah! There is untold power in the truly random act of kindness. Mitzvah literally means “commandment” and it is no wonder that G-d commanded us to do these mitzvot. We do not even know how far-reaching an impact we can have. And while there are countless stories about random acts of bravery and kindness in the midst of national tragedies, it’s the thought of Porsche’s nameless caretakers who I will keep in mind as we face future tragedies. It’s hard to face tragedy after tragedy and to still hold tight to goodness, but it what we are called to do.

Today, I’m thankful that Porsche made it home.

Rubbernecking or Tragedy Fatigue

Many years ago as a young college student I was kvetching with a professor about rubberneckers. If you’re not familiar with the concept, rubbernecking is the act of stopping – in the middle of rush hour traffic – to look at a nearby accident. Rubbernecking is responsible for many traffic jams. My point to this professor was that rubbernecking was an example of the worst part of our human nature, the base parts of our nature, a part of our nature that causes draws up toward the most macabre moment of other people’s lives. The professor made the point that, instead, rubbernecking actually proves our humanity. In her mind rubbernecking signified our inability to witness other people’s tragedies and simply look away. How could a decent person look at an accident and not want to know more, not want to look further?

I have been contemplating her words for the better part of a decade. I have had many an opportunity, sitting in a traffic jam caused by rubbernecking, to debate the source and value of our obsession with other people’s tragedies.

It was this idea – that our humanity calls us to witness and invest ourselves in other people’s tragedies – that spring to mind when I read this article honestly about Amanda Berry. I kept thinking about it until my husband turned to me last night and asked, with some sadness and tragedy-fatigue in his face, “Is this story going to be with us forever. Are we going to be talking about these girls forever?”

And by that time, I had my answer: Probably. Elizabeth Smart’s novel won’t be released for months and yet I’m already seeing article after article discussing it. Jaycee Dugard’s story has been referenced again and again in articles about the 3 Cleveland abductees. I would guess that the stories of the Cleveland women will be on our tongues for a long while.

So what is the implication of what Emily Bazelon calls “our morbid fascination”? And in the context of this blog, what does is mean for us as Jews? I have worked in many office environments and I can say with absolute certainty that the synagogue office takes the cake with regards to involvement in each other’s personal lives. News, whether it be good or bad, rides a fast horse around our small Jewish community. I suspect this does not make us unique amongst synagogues or even religious institutions as a whole. But still, it begs the question, what is the implication of this for our Jewish community? 

I see the ugly side with some frequency, when sharing becomes over-sharing and over-sharing becomes gossip. But mostly, I would like to believe my professor, that it’s the best of our nature that calls us to not simply witness each other’s tragedies, but to dwell within these difficult times. I suppose my opinion hinges on what follows. It is perhaps just as easy to see something horrible and to either tap the breaks to get a better look OR to press on the accelerator and speed away. The hard work comes later when we have to really be there for each other. It is, I think, how we help each other pick up the pieces following a tragedy that says the most about our humanity.