Altar Ego Postings 2012
Index of Writings

2012
 
 
 
 

August 21, 2012

Dear Friends,

I'm writing you after a deep and delicious rain last night that I imagine as washing away the sadness of Av and bringing us into a sparkling Elul. Elul is the month of love: it is an acronym for Ani L'dodi V'dodi Li. It's a great month for a wedding, Beverly and Rabbi Jack! God is closest to us in this month of introspection and preparation for the Days of Awe that culminate with Yom Kippur on the tenth of Tishri. To know why this month at summer's end became the time for our personal inventory of the soul we have to return to spring and Shavuot.

On Shavuot we celebrate when we first met God at Sinai. We were so terrified we asked Moses to get the words and bring them to us. He goes up the mountain for the first time and forty days later comes down radiant and shining, until he hears the noise and sees the golden calf. The day is the 17th of Tammuz and his response is to break the tablets bearing the words. The date, observed as a fast day begins three weeks of pain and caution that ends on Tisha B'Av, the Ninth of Av, the saddest day in Jewish history. Moses goes back up the mountain for forty days to pray, make another set of tablets, and ask forgiveness for the people. During this time, we begin Seven Weeks of Consolation, beginning with the Shabbat after Tisha B'Av. At the end of Elul, our weary leader returns with the second set of the Ten Commandments but no forgiveness — yet. On the first day of Elul, Moses goes up the mountain for a third time, and forty days later, on Yom Kippur, he returns with the money. He convinces God that if there is no forgiveness, there is no hope, and we need that to live. On Yom Kippur, as we remember the collective forgiveness, something lightens in us that we recognize as a forgiveness that allows us to begin again, a new year with hope.

To prepare for the High Holidays together, Hazzan Cindy Freedman and I invite you to daven with us during Elul. On 28 and 29 August (Tuesday and Wednesday), and on 7 September (Friday), we will lead Shacharit (morning services) at 7:30 am that will begin with meditation, davenen, and a teaching that will align us with the power of Elul. We also follow the custom of blowing the shofar from the beginning of Elul until Yom Kippur — maybe it's to let Moses know that we're not up to mischief — so if you have a shofar, please bring it.

The services will be at my house, 3 General Sage Road. Call 660-1000 for directions.

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

August 1, 2012
A Dear Friend In Israel

Dear Friends,

Another thing about Israel. Like a melody heard in the open heart that continues to hear its song long after the physical sound has left, images of my visit to Jerusalem remain. I invite you to join me in Alice Shalvi's lovely garden oasis in Jerusalem. It is here that my octogenarian wise friend meditates and entertains in the warm months; earthly paradise comes to mind. Big sweet grapes and cherries on the table add to the unique richness of the place. Those of us who have been to Israel with me have met this remarkable pioneer that emigrated from England in 1950 and received the coveted Israel Prize a few years ago. She is modern Orthodox, a peace activist, and an honorary member of HaMakom.

Although she has never been to Santa Fe, let alone to our services, she reads our messages faithfully and enthusiastically. She supports our laboratory that believes and behaves that it is possible to create a village of rational G!d lovers that experience Judaism as a path to wonder.

Because she is Alice, many prominent Jewish leaders visit her when they are in Jerusalem, and sadly, she doesn't hear about communities of love and joy from many of them. They see that what they have been doing is no longer as effective it once was in helping people draw nearer to the Beloved. The study I did at Hartman Insitute around faith and belief has been stirring in me since I've returned.

HaMakom is less for believers than for seekers. There is wisdom in a humility that freely admits that we don't always have connectivity with the One, and our faith comes in experimenting with new ways to reach heaven. As we begin to dream and plan the coming year, measuring what we are ready for, what we can do, and what we must do, what guides us is the collective Wisdom that dwells between us in community. As my words above describe, "between" is vast enough to include Israel and wherever else we have friends who know about us from our messages.

We take our leave from our friend slowly, reluctant to leave the enlivened loving peace that is Alice. Knowing that she cares about us makes it both easier and more difficult. If you're left hungry for deeper experience, go to Israel. I'll give you her address and the experience will be yours forever.

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

July 24, 2012
Tisha B'Av

Dear Ones,

How I wish I could bind each breaking heart in this broken world. The news is a spiritual challenge for all of us. The misheberach list is long and it doesn't include those who are sick with fear about their dwindling finances. So often I feel helpless in the face of terrible things. HaMakom has been called "Our Lady of Many Simchas" because of its emphasis on joy and I make no apology for it. Tisha B'Av, however, offers another essential human expression, the grief of unimaginable loss. We learn to bear it when we can share it, when we can comfort one another through the narrow places.

The tradition gives us a day, a vessel in which we sit on the ground and acknowledge how little control we have, after all. Together we remember the destruction of the Temple and our private destructions. For one day a year we don't have to put on the brave face and say all is well when it isn't. Those who would like to empty themselves of sorrow on Tisha B'Av in consoling community will gather at my house, 3 General Sage, at 8:30 p.m., Saturday night, 28 July, to read Eicha (Lamentations) and poems of despair.

Please bring the songs, the words, that allow your heart to admit its ache, and together we will heal.

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

July 20, 2012
Today is Rosh Hodesh

Dear Ones,

Today is Rosh Hodesh, the new moon of Av, a month that begins with destruction and moves towards the light of the new year that brings sweet beginnings. The nine days that lead up to Tisha B'Av (the ninth of Av) are contained within three weeks of collective caution: we know what once happened must never happen again and it is a time of unease, the metaphor being that there is an arrow in the air and we do not know where it will fall. The Talmud forbids hitting children during these weeks and warns against arguments. It is not the time to start a new project.

In 586 b.c.e. the arrow led to the destruction of the First Temple. Three weeks before the destruction the outer wall of the Temple was broken by the Babylonians, and then it was just a matter of time. We got a second chance with the Second Temple that was rebuilt around 444 b.c.e. It only lasted until 70 c.e., when it was destroyed by the Romans on the Ninth of Av.

From now until Tisha B'Av, practicing Jews do not eat meat nor drink wine. On the day itself, we fast. It is the black fast in contrast to the white fast of Yom Kippur that will end in celebration. There is no rejoicing on this holy day; we sit on the ground and read Eicha, Lamentations, and ponder the often pain-filled story of the Jewish people. We also contemplate the private Tisha B'Av's we've experienced. The grief we share is what connects us as human beings and births empathy. The day empties us of the grief of the past year and makes room for the intimate moral inventory we will begin next month. What a brilliant technology that gives us tools to grow!

Shabbat Shalom!

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

July 12, 2012
Study in Jerusalem

Dear Friends,

Ever since I lived in Jerusalem for several months in 1985, the city has claimed me. It is always a homecoming when I am under the lapis sky sheltering the ancient and contemporary city of limestone. When I am mindful of the valley-deep history beneath my feet, the Muslim family sitting across from me and my frum niece in a kosher restaurant overlooking Jaffa gate, and the gradual slowing of traffic Friday afternoon in Jerusalem that brings the subtle relief of quiet, I connect to the frank magic of the ironically named city of peace.

B'emet, in truth, it is not an easy path to the beauty and it's not the whole story. I visited Bethlehem and spoke to a Palestinian journalist about life under occupation and saw miles of the concrete forbidding fence. Here is what Yehuda Amichai, one of Israel's most beloved poets, wrote:

From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.

The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.

But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.

And, last Shabbat I began at Ruth Gan Kagen's heart-opening Kabbalat Shabbat in a garden, journeyed on to Shira Hadashah, a modern Orthodox minyan led by joyful women and men, and finally walked to dinner with alumni from my seminary. People strolling, no rushing, through the narrow streets, lots of children, and a sense of wonder. Where else in the world is there such a Shabbat? Where else is it as comfortable for me to be a practicing Jew? Where else do I feel special alignment and authenticity in my Jewish identity? Where else does Torah become a real historical geography?

I am at the Hartman Institute, a conference of 120 rabbis, mostly American, studying the subject of faith through many lenses, e.g. the Holocaust, the rational, and the political. That's the description of my physical reality. I am also in paradise. This what we imagine of the world to come: a makom where we get to study and draw near to the Beloved forever. What we discuss, if we're being honest, are the places that cause us discomfort, where we don't have the answers. How do we teach from a text that commands ethnic cleansing and the slaying of family members? How do we feel Presence in our deeds and admit it is mystery that calls for humble action, that we cannot be sure and yet we must act to repair the world? In the world to come, I'm going to get to do this wrestling sharing intimacy of learning together forever. In the meantime, every minute of this is the cosmic orchard we call paradise.

In the miles I walk here, you are with me, as are my grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren, and all who have ever lived in this place. Maybe this is what echad means. Israel invites expanded consciousness: all at once we remember what and Who has made us and that memory keeps us full of wonder. Despite, despite, with all its struggles and imperfections, Israel transcends time, space, and the ordinary. Is it magic? No, it's memory and daily miracle that we are still here. I can't wait to return next year to refill my personal well and to give heart to those who live here.

L'hitraot! Can't wait to see you!

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

June 20, 2012
Garden Party August 5

Dear Friends,

The gala still goes on in our continued enjoyment together. Last Friday we visited Ted and Barbara Flicker to preview yet another gloriously pleasurable event to celebrate our ten years. On Sunday 5 August, HaMakom will have its first wine tasting garden party at one of the most beautiful gardens I've ever seen. It has Barbara's plate-sized dahlias and Ted's majestic bronze sculptures that reflect his intense Jewish scholarship and love of women. Most of all, they are two splendid people and I hope you have the privilege of meeting them. HaMakom member and oenophile Laurie Gottlieb is generously supplying the wine.

Little by little bits of the gala evening return to me, and I realized just a few hours after I'd written my last message that I'd forgotten to mention one of the biggest surprises, Shalva Ziskind's video that is a skillful and sensitive weaving of interviews from people in the community sharing what HaMakom has meant to them. Shalva has caught our diversity and connection to one another in her nine minute testament to the power of ten.

I'm getting ready for a two week trip to Israel next week for a rabbinic study at the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and to see family and friends. Difficult as it is to leave even one day of Santa Fe summer, I can't wait for the unique pleasure that Israel gives, of being exotic yet at home.

In the far off future, I have another trip planned, next February 9th, to Tecate, Mexico, at Rancho LaPuerta, to teach a Sageing workshop. If you'd like to join me, I'd love it. The Ranch is a special place and if you are thinking about a week-long renewal with healthy living, consider it.

A morsel of Torah for this week: the parshah is Korach, a dark story of envy, betrayal, and rage. Why should Moses be above the rest of us, Korach asks reasonably. What does he have that we don't? Social reform on Korach's part hides his jealousy. The lesson is: be careful of your self-righteousness and make sure it's not hiding self-interest. Come this Shabbat to argue, love, and enjoy.

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

June 13, 2012

Dear Ones,

Yesterday Ellie Edelstein suggested that we go up to Ojo Caliente to soak and kvell, so about ten of us had the most delightful post mortem of the gala. What a glorious party! I know I'm writing to most of you who were not there but were so generous in contributing to HaMakom. All I can say is, "Don't miss the next simcha!"

From the beginning of its planning, we were all committed to three goals: we should grandly celebrate our existence, we should make money, and the event had to be fun. We'd all been to too many boring fundraisers. We succeeded on the first two for sure, and I hope everyone had as good a time as I did.

That a Jewish community honored Father Richard Murphy, Joan Halifax Roshi, and Bibiji Kaur is part of HaMakom's mission to acknowledge that we are all on the same team and that we can and must work together. They are also friends of mine, who like you, keep me honest and encouraged in the work. The videos that brought blessings from my teachers, Rabbi Harold Schulweis and Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, made me grateful not only for their abiding presence in my life but for the miracles of technology that made it possible for the almost ninety who were at the gala to see and hear these great sages.

It's taken me a long time to know how to be a rabbi and I'm still learning. This much I get: while we never know specifically enough what we are here to do on earth, we are here to bring forth godliness in ourselves and others. Working together to build a community by bringing forth the most generous, creative, and caring parts of ourselves is as good as it gets. How many know that our past president Atma Wiseman, who moved to Palm Desert this year, designed invitations and other printed matter for the gala? You couldn't have missed her in her beautiful gown Sunday night. Cindy Freedman's original and inspired music, Suzanne Lederer Freilich's hilarious retelling of Jonah as Malka, and Ron Romanofsky's band, provided more than entertainment: they reminded us that the highest wisdom is joy. The food and service at Bishops Lodge was wonderful, too.

When I stood before the community Sunday night, I remembered all who spent countless hours for the gala, for High Holidays, for the web site, for paying attention to the ones in need who don't ask, and for all who are no longer with us. I saw not only loyal members for all our years but also new members and young members. This is our future, and without that generation, our evening would have been less joyous. The gala gave us that split second beautiful moment where we could feel past, present, and future. I also knew that HaMakom and everyone in it has a lot of friends.

This is the week to bask and enjoy. Next week Deborah Avren, our magnificent president, Hazzan Cindy Freedman, and I will begin to plan and dream the coming year. Thank every one of you for helping us in our experiment to create a Jewish community that proudly leads from the heart, loves to learn, and believes we can change the world and have fun doing it. Looking forward!

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

June 4, 2012

Dear Beloved Community,

With the Gala just one week away, I've been reliving HaMakom's nomadic and miraculous history. When I reflect upon who we were when we first gathered out in Tesuque, then at Peter's real estate agency and senior housing before St. Bede's became home, Halleluyah! Yay God! is what comes to mind.

We want to acknowledge those within our community who have given beyond imagination to this community in both time and parnassah. Besides the obvious practical necessity for this to sustain HaMakom, their commitment reveals the glory of the human spirit in their generosity. To them we give the Kol HaKavod Award with love and gratitude.

When first asked to compose a list, I confess that my list had over seventy-five people on it. Every rabbi should have such a dilemma! We narrowed it to twenty, double the minyan number, to those whom we never say thank you enough. It is my great pleasure to thank the following angels whose message of love is in what they do with who they are:

Chana AbrahamDoris Francis
Gay BlockVicki Erhart
Pat CarltonSuzanne and Joshua Freilich
Marcelle CadyLen Goodman
Ellie EdelsteinPeter Hess
Marge LazarSharon Woods and Rob Elliot
Claire LichtensteinAva and David Salman
Alia MichaelsRabbi Jack Shlachter
Karen MilsteinAtma Wiseman
Lia RosenDeborah Avren


Besides these names, there are others who are no longer with us on the planet or in the community who gave with whole hearts. We are equally grateful to them and ask for God's blessings upon them.

If there is name on the list that rings happily for you, why not do a trifecta mitzvah by coming to the Gala? First, you'll make your friend happy, second, you'll help our community, and third, you'll have a wonderful time, and what's wrong with that?

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

April 24, 2012

Dear Ones,

We're having so much fun planning our fancy party June 10 at Bishops Lodge that if you're looking for an upbeat experience, I strongly invite you to join the gala committee that is a little like a party in itself. The latest good news is that Roshi Joan, one of the honorees, wasn't sure she'd be back from China in time to join us. She just wrote and said she's leaving two days early to be sure she can be with us! The raffle prizes are quite wonderful, too...

So, all of this connects to a phone call I had with Rabbi Schulweis a few days ago. He will be offering us a blessing via video and we were making the plans for the filming. When I told him of what a richly diverse and loving community we are, he said that friendship is a blessing from community that is often overlooked yet so important in one's spiritual life. Years ago this rabbi, my teacher, also taught that while we are each in the Image, it is between us that God dwells. One of my great pleasures is to watch the friendships, romances, and alliances that have emerged from HaMakom, and I know that it is all about connecting. How we connect, and what we experience in connection, reveals who we are. When we reach for God, we find God. That's why we're having so much fun planning the party.

We are counting the 49 steps to heaven in these seven weeks between Pesah and Shavuot. Day by day we freshly discover the wisdom of inviting us to count our days as treasures that invite new experience into what we already know. We are preparing ourselves to receive wisdom, and for that we need this practice of counting each day as opportunity to draw nearer to God by looking more closely at what keeps us, day by day, from the pleasure of being with the Beloved.

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

April 13, 2012

Dear Beloved Community,

It has taken me a while to absorb and reflect upon the Seder last Saturday night. From the beginning, our intention has been to offer a community Seder that felt like family. Instead of long banquet tables, we sit at tables for eight with a Seder plate for each table. It's a great pleasure to see how each year the tables organize themselves, and to see new friendships being created.

In truth, when we are at a meal with several courses that include wonderful treats like charoses eaten with horseradish, the explanations sometime get buried, and going deeply into what enslaves us isn't always received so readily either. I can live with that as long as everyone is feeling connected to the past, to one another, and to the taste of freedom that the holiday demands.

When the rabbi forgets to thank the angels behind the scenes, most notably Deborah Avren, who probably didn't sit for more than ten minutes the whole evening, that's another story. Thank you, Deborah! Atma Wiseman, our immediate past president, returned for the Seder, provided flowers for the tables and baked matzah brittle for us. Marclle Cady kept the count and helped many make their plans. The board collectively shepherded the Seder. On Sunday we had a gala committee meeting and a debriefing of the Seder. We took lots of notes and can't wait until next year to make it even better. Finally, thanks to everyone who joined us for a what I hope was as redemptive an evening for you as it was for Hazzan Cindy Freedman and me.

One more teaching as we move towards the climax on Saturday, when we celebrate Shabbat and the conclusion of Passover. When we stepped into the Sea of Reeds, our feet touched where no one had ever walked and would ever walk. The sky above reflected our new place of connection, and the walls of water on each side completed the makom. The crossing filled us with knowledge that has sustained us to this day, a glimpse of the world to come. The awesome vision came because we not only witnessed the miracle of the sea splitting: we were in its midst! As we walked the new earth, we entered the miracle and became part of the future. Perhaps as Shabbat approaches, you'll feel a nudge in your feet that will remind you of the most amazing event that made us into a people.

Shabbat Shalom! Hag Sameah!

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

March 20, 2012
Pesach Is Coming

Dear Ones,

Rabbi Schulweis taught me that a rabbi cannot sit behind her desk and wait for customers. You can't have a better product than God, so get there and sell! I've learned that incentives work. Purim and my birthday brought robust attendance for the last two Wednesday evening's Hour of Power minyan. What can I offer you this week to assure a minyan? A radically amazing haggadah unlike any book you've ever seen before. One of only 500, David Moss' creation includes illuminations, paper cuts, and brilliant visual commentary. Each year I learn a little more from it. I will bring it this and next Wednesday to whet your appetite for Passover.

Speaking of which, I can't wait for our Second Night Community Seder, Saturday April 7, and I hope you will be with us. Each year brings back memory of my grandfather's Seders. The year he asked me to recite the Four Questions finally answered my big question of why I was born. At last I had purpose in my short life: I was needed and no one else would do. That's how I feel about your presence at the HaMakom Second Night Seder. Without you, it won't be the same.

I resisted the community Seder in the beginning years of HaMakom because frankly I'd never been to one. I couldn't imagine sitting at a long table with strangers trying to follow along and eating lukewarm mediocre food. When the HaMakom Seder began, we kept experimenting to create a Seder that we'd be delighted to attend. We cooked the turkey and brisket the first year. Excellent quality control and cost efficient but the holiday of freedom was way too much work for us. We couldn't find the right makom, until last year when we knew we had come home. Bishops Lodge has given us a beautiful room, I get to kosher a part of the kitchen for our meal, and the food is wonderful. Thank you, Deborah Avren, for making it all happen. Cindy Freedman's music will be uplifting and participatory and I guarantee that I'm going to learn something new this year to teach you. Remember last year when I introduced Charoses as an aphrodisiac?

So, please send in your reservations right away so that we can march out of all our enslavements together.

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

March 6, 2012
Purim

Dear Ones,

Of all the Jewish holidays, maybe any holiday, none is stranger than Purim. It may, however, be just the holiday that everybody needs right now. The Sages tell us that on the world to come, we won't need any holidays except for Purim because it requires laughter to observe it. Who doesn't need a good laugh right now?

The story of how the Jews were nearly annihilated 2400 years ago in Persia by Haman the evil viceroy would be grim if it were true. It is not history but a melodrama that is comically performed as part of the celebration. The evening Purim ritual is not only a vaudeville act; we're supposed to drink so much that you can't tell the difference between Haman the villain and Queen Esther, the hero of the story. This is not what Jews are best known for. We're generally serious and not into drinking. To top it off, this is our Halloween. We come to the house of worship in costume. I always dread some child coming for the first time to the synagogue and seeing the rabbi dressed as a pirate. (This year I'm wearing red wings.)

So what's going on? Persecution, prejudice, and exile is a lot of the history, and sometimes you just have to let go a little. For one day a year you say, "Fugeddaboudit." On Purim you let the world be a mystery that you don't have to solve or fix. Life admittedly is absurd, religion is limited, and peace is a but a dream. Such acknowledgment is made bearable by remembering to have fun, you can't control everything, and we live in a world of moral compromise. The dark night ends, yes, but even in the morning's light, we face the imperfection of the world. God is in hiding. Nowhere in the Book of Esther do we find God's name. In such a world, we look for God between us and within ouselves.

So, join us Wednesday night, and escape from the heartbreak of the world for a little while. Wear a mask and remember how much fun it was to fool grownups and experiment with playfulness as a path to wisdom. Reflect upon how randomly things happen and how much humility we need to grow wise.

HaMakom Purim Celebration
Wednesday, March 7 at 7:00 PM
At Joalie's home
Costumes, Hamentashen, Megillah read, Purim Shpiel...
Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

January 31, 2012
Spiritual Direction

Dear Ones,

Ohalah, the annual rabbinic conference held each year in Boulder, was especially potent with memory this time. Last year many of us came to celebrate our cherished Yafa Chase's Semichah after maybe twelve years of devoted study. It was also the time of Debbie Friedman's (z"l) swift fatal illness. Yafa's mother, Betsy Chase (z"l), was part of the large entourage, and perhaps one of the most joyous. She too is no longer with us. I have profound gratitude for Reb Zalman and his enlightened community in creating a vessel where such reflections become sacred tools to teach us who we really are. Shared grief as well as joy became a bridge to blessing at Ohalah, the tent that consoled Isaac for his mother. Our Hazzan, Cindy Freedman, by the way, was a major pillar in keeping the tent strong with an inspired Torah service on Shabbat morning.

I received my Semichah in Hashpa'ah (Spiritual Direction) that week, and it was a beautiful ceremony that concluded with Reb Zalman's blessing to us to continue the Hashpa'h work he began envisioning in 1942. Talk about just having to live long enough! We were given red feather wings along with our certificates, a good reminder that spirit often comes when we soften into playfulness. If you're interested in joining the monthly Spiritual Direction group that I'll be starting at the end of February, please be in touch with me: 988-1860. The group is limited to five people. It will cost $60 per each two-and-a-half hour monthly session. I also see people individually.

Here is what I said at graduation: The path to the heart begins by listening. We call Hashpa'ah holy listening because in the silence of the mashpiah (the Director), the mushpah (the directee) speaks differently from any other encounter. It is as if we are speaking to God and God is listening carefully. We listen, we wait, and then Presence emerges perhaps in a long forgotten memory or in a difficult encounter that now has new spaciousness. Our stories have new meaning when they are listened to by one who is seeking God in one's life. One comes empty and hungry for something without words. In the silence of love and acceptance that the Mashpiah offers, the Mushpah receives what he or she cannot give himself or herself. If you'd like to read more about Hashpa'ah, please see my Kol Nidre sermon for 5771 on the HaMakom website.

I look forward to seeing you many times in a year that promises to be rich with opportunities for growing. HaMakom stands at the ready with the watering can to support and nurture growth.

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker