Friday, September 11, 2009

דבר אחר - Another Thought on the Parashah.

For those of you who do not read Amichai Lau-Lavi's blog, it is one that you should add to your list of weekly Torah thoughts. Amichai is thoughtful, provocative, knowledgeable and creative. This week, he writes about the same wedding I was at. You can read his thoughts on witnessing at:


I am doing a lot of standing these day: at bus stops, on buses, in the office, at home. I am not sure if I am really more aware of things and more focused when I am standing up as opposed to sitting down but I certainly feel that I am. Here is just a short list of places I found myself standing this week:

I stood at a bimah to lead Shabbat Mincha in Deerfield where we spent Shabbat celebrating the bar mitzvah of a current Ramah in Wisconsin camper, the son of a former camper of mine, now a personal friend, and her husband, also an incredible guy, with whom I used to play basketball in the Stone Gym at Union Theological Seminary in New York.

The next day, I stood on a bimah in Brooklyn New York to co-officiate at the wedding of Naomi Less and her husband, Glenn Grossman. I found myself standing in modern day New York experiencing a back to the future moment, dropping back into the '70s for at least a few hours.

Standing on the bus, I enjoyed a beautiful view of Lake Michigan in the afternoon as we rode Lake Shore Drive back to our new home in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago. I was engrossed in a book when another passenger exclaimed, "Wow! Look at how blue the lake is today." Until that moment, I was totally oblivious and would have missed the lake entirely were it not for this other stranger.

Walking on Michigan Avenue on Tuesday afternoon, I found myself in a throng of people willing to stand for hours and hours in order to join in the celebration of the opening of Oprah's 24th season (When I was in High School, our marching band drove all the way down to perform at what I believe was her first show - then again, my memory could be as accurate as all those who were "there" when Willie Mays made that amazing catch in center field.)

On Wednesday evening, I was standing in the hallway at the Chicagoland Jewish High School for Parent's Night trying to figure out how it could be possible that Elan is a freshmen in high school when he was just a little baby curling up like a bug on my shoulder.

Today, I remember standing in a hotel lobby with other Ramah Directors, employees of New York Life and countless others, in Westchester County, New York, watching the Twin Towers burning and collapsing, taking with them thousands of innocent lives, at the hands of terrorist-piloted planes.

Where will I be standing tomorrow?

Standing is an essential theme of this week's combined parshiot, Nitzavim-Vayelekh, literally "Standing" and "He Went" or more figuratively "Standing and Going." The Torah tells us that WE are "...standing today, all of you before the Lord YOUR God..." Actually, the Torah says "You" are doing the standing, but it is clearly talking to each of us individually and to the collective You that is the Jewish People. This understanding is reinforced by the statement later in the parashah that the statements are directed at the entirety of our people, those who were standing at that place at the moment in time and those who were not there, the future. Standing requires a greater attentiveness, an alertness. It can force us to be in the moment in a way that I find sitting doesn't always do.

Have you been attentive to where you are standing with? With whom you have been standing? Are you noticing what is going on around you? Are you aware and in the moment? Maybe. Maybe not.

We are standing on the brink of the New Year. Rosh HaShanah is around the corner. Tomorrow night, many of us will go to synagogue to join in the tradition of reciting Selihot - penitential prayers - for the period immediately preceeding Rosh HaShanah. And much of that time will be spent standing up. What will you be thinking about? Will you try to be more aware of yourself? More aware of and sensitive to others?

I know that as I continue to adjust to new surroundings, new people, new places, new roles and some new goals, I will spend much of my time during the Yamim Noraim trying to figure out where I stand with myself, with my family, with others and with God. I pray to be more aware of it all and more intentional in my standing with all of them. I wish the same for all of you.

Shabbat Shalom.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

This is an incredible video of Sam Cordell's Bar Mitzvah at Camp Yofi. The Cordell's are a wonderful and special family. As of now, children who reach the age of 13 age out of Camp Yofi. It is my next dream, mission, to create the post-Yofi graduate program. Anyone interested in helping make this dream come true - financially, with work, or with time - should please let me know. Even as a child with autism reaches 13, the need for community, for respite, for support, for Jewish connection, does not disappear either for the family or for the child. Help us do more! Thanks.