Elizabeth and Devorah rejoice in finishing the High Holy Days. As they prepare for Sukkot, Elizabeth reflects on the strange intersection between the happiness of the season and the bitter and divisive tone in our country. Hope, Hope, Hope and be grateful for the gifts of the season!
Yom Kippur Discussion Jewish Sources on Moral Injury Part 1 with Rabbi Elizabeth Goldstein [Link to Sefaria Sources]
Jonah 1:3 - But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of Adonai. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of Adonai. Jonah 2:3 - You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. Jonah 3:4 - Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” Jonah 3:6 - When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. Jonah 3:10 - When Adonai saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, Adonai relented and did not bring on them the destruction Adonai had threatened.
The. Vidui-Ashamnu: When We Have to Wait for Teshuva
Elizabeth and Devorah are back this week during the 10 Days of Teshuva between RH and YK bringing you new harmonies for the well-known “alphabet of woes.” Elizabeth debunks the age-old myth that we are in control of our own journeys toward reconciliation. In waiting for the cosmos to align, for people to choose to atone, and thus for true reconciliation to occur, we must be patient and remain steadfast-we must choose hope and find peace in our ourselves.
Ki Anu Amecha v’ata Elohaynu
We are your people and you are our God
Devorah explores the intersection of identity and naming in this central prayer of the Yom Kippur liturgy. Relationship is at the core of who God is for us and who we are to God. Further, how can we understand “king” and “lord” in this beautiful piyyut (liturgical poem)? Taking us back to the history of the intent of these roles, Devorah sets a challenge for herself and offers one to us. In the end, however we name the relationship, we are all in it together.
Shema Koleynu is one of the most powerful prayers on Yom Kippur.
“Hear us o God and do not leave us alone. Respond to us and do not forsake us!”
The High Holy Days are filled with prayers that invoke our need for God in our lives. But what about people who don’t relate to any form or concept of God? What does it mean for a Jew who doesn’t believe to stand up on Yom Kippur and say, “Hear our pleas, O God”?
Elizabeth explores this question through the lens of the High Holy Day “Shema Koleynu.”
In the age of doubt and true skepticism, the answer might be found in the strength of individuals who make up the diverse tapestry of a Jewish community.
Weekday Service September 13, 2020 with Rabbi Elizabeth Goldstein and Hazzan Devorah Tucker-Fick with a special teaching by Karen November. [Click Here to Listen]
The 13 attributes of God, in Hebrew called the middot, can be found in Exodus 34:6. Two biblical chapters after the Israelites commit the grave sin of building a golden calf and worshipping in its midst.
The Talmud explains that God gave Moses a way to appease divine anger by reciting these attributes and since then, Jewish people have had access to a special way appeal to God to forgive our sins. We recite these holy words at auspicious times when we hope to find God ready to accept us with love.
However, we are not always in the right place to be loving. Devorah explores righteous anger that may be holding us back from forgiveness and a clean slate.
The 13 middot demonstrate that is not anger that we should be afraid of, but rather its excesses. As God models turning back from excessive anger, so too can we follow this example. The 13 middot show us the way.
Exodus 34:6 וַיַּעֲבֹ֨ר יְהוָ֥ה ׀ עַל־פָּנָיו֮ וַיִּקְרָא֒ יְהוָ֣ה ׀ יְהוָ֔ה אֵ֥ל רַח֖וּם וְחַנּ֑וּן אֶ֥רֶךְ אַפַּ֖יִם וְרַב־חֶ֥סֶד וֶאֱמֶֽת ׀
The LORD passed before him and proclaimed: “The LORD! the LORD! a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, [Sefaria]
Hashivenu....Return to us, and we will return to you. The Selichot / the Sorries begin Saturday night. There is so much on our plates this year but we need to take the time to hit the “restart” button in our souls. Return again to the land of our Souls.
Elizabeth reflects on a hard day at the intersection of Elul and the preparation for the Holy Days. We can’t control anyone’s actions but our own. Have compassion on us, our God, and help us to be better as we approach the High Holy Days.
Adult education presentation with Rabbi Elizabeth Goldstein on Psalm 27:14
https://gonzaga.zoom.us/rec/share/sk77P3eCQ6hNBPK1i4K9FKlQTHTtR4yyZNHNcv8HSuz-BmpUJnMz_SwQ0_zzEd-a.8ruCM8nRTQVWHB3l (Access Password: 6d&Wb69E)
קַוֵּ֗ה אֶל־יְה֫וָ֥ה חֲ֭זַק וְיַאֲמֵ֣ץ לִבֶּ֑ךָ וְ֝קַוֵּ֗ה אֶל־יְהוָֽה׃
Look to the LORD; be strong and of good courage! O look to the LORD! Psalm 27:14 [Sefaria]
Devorah tells the story of her first husband’s tragic death and remembers the feelings of being alone with two young children. When is the right time to move forward and when is it right to stand still? Only God can tell us.
We thank Rabbi Hanna Tiferet Siegel again for the use of her beautiful rendition of Kaveh El Yah. We so enjoyed having it as our background niggun these two and half weeks and today we have added the lyrics and done a cover of her original music. For information on her full album, please scroll down to Day 1 of our Psalm 27 offerings.
This week’s portion Netzavin warns against treating people differently from each other, giving some people privileges and depriving others of those same privilges.
A family who sends a moving van and flies over Canada to Alaska looks like they come from an established, wealthy, privileged community. A family who chooses to drive from Spokane to Alaska over the course of a week with a truck and an RV is perceived differently and often treated differently. Netzavim tells us that tribal leaders and wood choppers are the same.
In our most recent Elul audio I talked about our friends who are native Alaskans. The woman works for a network of native tribes and the man can do everything under the sun including home schooling their kids during a travel year. They have lived here in Spokane since our youngest son, Yair, was 5. Oscar, one of their children, is Yair’s best friend so when they needed a home base for this past year, we invited them to park their RV on our land and come and go as they pleased. It was a win/win for an extrovert like me to have fun, cool, and generous neighbors so close by and it was a huge win for Yair who had his best friend living just at the edge of the property. The fall of 2019 was fun-filled as we went on with our lives and they with theirs—sometimes coming together for family dinners ----- the kids learned what it was like to experience a kibbutz like atmosphere.
They traveled south for the winter of 2019-2020 to warmer weather to be with relatives and arrived back for what was supposed to be a month or two last March. But Covid was here and no one was going anywhere—we quarantined together and survived the emotional rollercoaster of the shutdown.
It’s now September and thanks, in part, to the Unites State’s declining relationship with Canada, the simple trip from Spokane to Alaska has been itself shut down.
They are back for the second time in a month, now forced to sell almost everything, figuring out how they can fit what is left into a horse trailer which will be loaded onto a barge across Washington state off the coast of Seattle.
I hear the dad whistling while I am writing this. He was just accused of nefarious schemes at the Canadian border and turned away—his wife and kids in tears and now, with a new plan, he is whistling. He is unloading the rented U-haul for the second time.
I have difficulty understanding how people find a way to persevere through such circumstances.
I have difficulty understanding how they don’t pick up the phone, and try to find someone who knows an insider who can just tell the Canadians they are fine, upstanding, good people. The injustice of it makes me and all of their friends feel crazy inside.
You stand this day, all of you, before the LORD your God—your tribal heads, your elders and your officials, all the men of Israel,
טַפְּכֶ֣ם נְשֵׁיכֶ֔ם וְגֵ֣רְךָ֔ אֲשֶׁ֖ר בְּקֶ֣רֶב מַחֲנֶ֑יךָ מֵחֹטֵ֣ב עֵצֶ֔יךָ עַ֖ד שֹׁאֵ֥ב מֵימֶֽיךָ׃
your children, your wives, even the stranger within your camp, from woodchopper to water drawer--
לְעָבְרְךָ֗ בִּבְרִ֛ית יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ וּבְאָלָת֑וֹ אֲשֶׁר֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ כֹּרֵ֥ת עִמְּךָ֖ הַיּֽוֹם׃
to enter into the covenant of the LORD your God, which the Adonai your God is concluding with you this day, with its sanctions;
לְמַ֣עַן הָקִֽים־אֹתְךָ֩ הַיּ֨וֹם ׀ ל֜וֹ לְעָ֗ם וְה֤וּא יִֽהְיֶה־לְּךָ֙ לֵֽאלֹהִ֔ים כַּאֲשֶׁ֖ר דִּבֶּר־לָ֑ךְ וְכַאֲשֶׁ֤ר נִשְׁבַּע֙ לַאֲבֹתֶ֔יךָ לְאַבְרָהָ֥ם לְיִצְחָ֖ק וּֽלְיַעֲקֹֽב׃
to the end that God may establish you this day as God’s people and be your Eternal One, as was promised to you and as was sworn to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
וְלֹ֥א אִתְּכֶ֖ם לְבַדְּכֶ֑ם אָנֹכִ֗י כֹּרֵת֙ אֶת־הַבְּרִ֣ית הַזֹּ֔את וְאֶת־הָאָלָ֖ה הַזֹּֽאת׃
I make this covenant, with its sanctions, not with you alone,
כִּי֩ אֶת־אֲשֶׁ֨ר יֶשְׁנ֜וֹ פֹּ֗ה עִמָּ֙נוּ֙ עֹמֵ֣ד הַיּ֔וֹם לִפְנֵ֖י יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵ֑ינוּ וְאֵ֨ת אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֵינֶ֛נּוּ פֹּ֖ה עִמָּ֥נוּ הַיּֽוֹם׃
but both with those who are standing here with us this day before the ADONAI our God and with those who are not with us here this day.
The Torah knew that as human beings, we would privilege the elders and officials over the water drawers and the woodchoppers and we are warned against doing that. Everyone who accepts the covenant is welcome into the community of Adonai.
The Israelite people are poised to enter the promised land. Moses continues to recite before them a list of warnings –commonly known as blessings and curses----all good things to keep in mind as they set up their community—the curses are scary and they sound ominous, but the Torah says:
הַעִידֹ֨תִי בָכֶ֣ם הַיּוֹם֮ אֶת־הַשָּׁמַ֣יִם וְאֶת־הָאָרֶץ֒ הַחַיִּ֤ים וְהַמָּ֙וֶת֙ נָתַ֣תִּי לְפָנֶ֔יךָ הַבְּרָכָ֖ה וְהַקְּלָלָ֑ה וּבָֽחַרְתָּ֙ בַּֽחַיִּ֔ים לְמַ֥עַן תִּחְיֶ֖ה אַתָּ֥ה וְזַרְעֶֽךָ׃
I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life—that you and your offspring would live--
The rabbis teach that U’vacharta B’chayyim, choose life, should be interpreted that we should live by the Torah and not die by it. So, if you need to break the sabbath to get to the hospital, you should surely do this.
This longheld interpretation focuses on life vs. death but this morning I want to focus on the choice aspect of the phrase—U’vachrta B’hayyim. Our Alaskan neighbors are choosing to sell their things, they are choosing to not wait another year, even though they know they can stay here as long as they want, that we love having them and the community we have built.
But the stuff was less important to them. Living for them is to return to their land—to choose life is to choose to get to Alaska sooner, to begin building their life anew.
We are all thinking about how to choose life in the days of the pandemic, in the days of online school, in the days of online teaching, in the days of recurring Covid symptoms, and families far far apart---even as I am preparing for the HHD I am wondering how I can choose the most life sustaining avenue to celebrate them.
The second to the last verse of Ps 27, vs. 13 says:
לׅׄוּלֵׅׄ֗אׅׄ הֶ֭אֱמַנְתִּי לִרְא֥וֹת בְּֽטוּב־יְהוָ֗ה בְּאֶ֣רֶץ חַיִּֽים׃
Had I not the assurance that I would enjoy the goodness of God in the land of the living…
Where is your eretz hayyim? Your land of the living? U’vacharta Hayyim—"Choose life” How will you choose the precious life you find in the land of the living?
I think that the way we personally answer these questions will lead us to our own solutions for many of the tough choices we are presented with today.
Listening to what makes us feel alive in the land of the living is to make the choice to choose life. Amen
Rabbi Elizabeth W. Goldstein
Psalm 27:13. Alaskan Residents Stranded in Spokane, Clairvoyance, and a Bridge to High Holy Day Liturgy
לׅׄוּלֵׅׄ֗אׅׄ הֶ֭אֱמַנְתִּי לִרְא֥וֹת בְּֽטוּב־יְהוָ֗ה בְּאֶ֣רֶץ חַיִּֽים׃
Had I not the assurance that I would enjoy the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living… Psalm 27:13 [Sefaria]
Elizabeth ponders what it means to see God’s goodness in the land of the living—The most powerful of holy day prayers—U’netaneh Tokef asks us to face the reality that some of us won’t make it to the next Rosh Hashana. It is a terrifying prayer and also somewhat cathartic. Isn’t better to just have it out there that we might not make it? That we don’t have unlimited time on this earth and that putting things off might leave some seriously unfinished cosmic business.
אַֽל־תִּ֭תְּנֵנִי בְּנֶ֣פֶשׁ צָרָ֑י כִּ֥י קָֽמוּ־בִ֥י עֵֽדֵי־שֶׁ֝֗קֶר וִיפֵ֥חַ חָמָֽס׃
Do not subject me to the will of my foes, for false witnesses and unjust accusers have appeared against me. Psalm 27:12 [Sefaria]
Ki Kamu Vi
Though they rise up against me to slander me
Devorah reflects on what it means to be accused of something you didn’t do, and the subsequent moral, spiritual, and psychological consequences of being abused by and abusing with words. Though painful to remember, the greater pain is to discount the effect of our speech on the fragile souls in our wake.
ה֤וֹרֵ֥נִי יְהוָ֗ה דַּ֫רְכֶּ֥ךָ וּ֭נְחֵנִי בְּאֹ֣רַח מִישׁ֑וֹר לְ֝מַ֗עַן שׁוֹרְרָֽי׃
Show me Your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my watchful foes. Psalm 27:11 [Sefaria]
How is it that we can stay on the right path? The forces of chaos and anxiety, our watchful foes, push us to our limits. Join Devorah on her regular evening walk around her local lake in Michigan and be with her as she confronts that which threatens to destabilize our communal path to equilibrium.
כִּי־אָבִ֣י וְאִמִּ֣י עֲזָב֑וּנִי וַֽיהוָ֣ה יַֽאַסְפֵֽנִי׃
Though my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will take me in. Psalm 27:10 [Sefaria]
Devorah explores her childhood as the daughter of a minister, and her path home to Judaism. Feelings of longing for Jewish family result in a surprising realization that she may be blessed with more family than she imagined. Elizabeth's chant of Psalm 27:10 weaves in and out of the reflection, pulling Devorah along and into the song as she reaches her conclusion. The music is a redo of a popular song from her youth.
Hineni.Space posts brief daily offerings (Elul meditations, reflections, poetry, and melodies). There is a tradition to hear the shofar every day of the month of Elul and to recite the verses of Psalm 27.