Altar Ego Postings 2007
Index of Writings
October 1, 2007
Our sukkah, made of 100 year-old wooden poles and bamboo walls, decorated with pungent apples, flashing grape lights, a joyful HaMakom sign painted by Judy Herzl and her son, Telo, pomegranates, dates, figs, apples, clouds of glory, and portraits of our matriarchs and patriarchs, was especially blessed with two gatherings. Despite the wind and rain, we enjoyed a gathering of our little ones for a Saturday night pizza party preceded with havdalah and waving the lulav (like Jedi masters) in the sukkah. Our Sunday service was graced with the mildest Sukkot weather that I can remember. After we all waved with what was left of the lulav and etrog after Saturday’s vigorous workout, we feasted on the potluck of superbly cooked and baked offerings from our community.
Please come by to sit in the sukkah’s fragrance and beauty until Wednesday at sundown. Bring a sandwich and book, wave the lulav and etrog, fulfill a mitzvah, and slow the beating of your heart. Jay Zeiger and Billy Lazar have constructed our tent of peace, and Laura Shubert and Jurgen Reinzuch have beautifully decorated it. So many thanks to them and to all of you who have entered the sukkah and have allowed it to enter you.
Nothing pleases me more than seeing generations davening together. Sharon Woods, Bill and Donna Fishbein, and Dyana Todd were among the happy parents sitting with their children for High Holidays. What were your eternal moments during the Holidays? How do you plan to take those inspiring moments into the new year and turn them into action?
My suggestion is that your first step would be to join us Thursday night, October 4, at seven p.m. for Simhat Torah (Rejoicing with the Torah), the grand finale to the High Holidays and the most joyful day of the year. All you Book lovers, please come to St. Bede’s to unfurl the entire Torah, read the end and the beginning, complete the circularity we began with the labyrinth on Selichot, wave flags, eat apples, and dance, dance, dance, with the Torah. Rebbe Sholom Ber tells us, “Joy has the power to transcend barriers. When you dance with joy you break down walls and all forms of limits and constraints.’ I canât think of a better way to mark the new year than by putting on your dancing shoes and let them soar towards heaven.
Everyone holds a portion of the Torah in its unfurling. Rima Miller has suggested that the text that we hold to make the Torah’s circle is no coincidence; it holds a message for each of us in the coming year. If you’d like to find your direction for the coming year, join us in making the circle.
Some of us will imbibe a little liquid spirit and all of us will get high with the joy of beginning the annual cycle of reading the Torah. Bring anything you might like to drink or eat to keep the energy high.
Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker
September 24, 2007
The High Holidays may be only memory now, but what a memory! I still hear Cindy’s song, the inspired words of our liturgy and our community, and I hear all our grandparents and loved ones roaring a cheer and a prayer of blessing for our efforts. Thanks to everyone who showed up. You helped to make the Holidays high and deep, awesome and joyful, and full of lovingkindness.
As we move from the Days of Awe to the Days of Joy, we are ready to celebrate our lives with deeper gratitude than ever before. And do we have a place for the party! Bill Lazar and Jay Zeiger have once again outdone themselves in building us a sukkah fit not only for HaMakom, but for everyone in the world who wants peace.
Laura Shubert and Jurgen Reinzuch have adorned the building with purple asters and chamisas, a rare occasion that only happens when Sukkot is early. The sukkah, however, is incomplete until you bring your offering. It can be perishable, something you’d like returned, or something that will become part of the eternal decoration of the HaMakom sukkah. Fruits of the earth or photos of loved ones are always welcome decorations.
Sukkot begins this Wednesday night, September 26, and the sukkah will be ready for your decorations Wednesday afternoon onward. The Holiday continues until the following Wednesday, and we invite you all this week to come decorate the Sukkah, and if you like, have a meal in the sukkah, which is at the rabbi’s house (992-1905 for directions).
This Saturday night, September 29, at five p.m. we’re having a little pizza and ice cream party for our children and for the young at heart. We’ll do a havdalah, wave the lulav and etrog, and have fun. The following night, September 30, we’ll celebrate Sunday in the Sukkah at five p.m. We will sing joyfully and have a brief service at the sukkah and then we’ll enjoy all the yummy food that everyone will bring for our dairy vegetarian potluck meal.
Join us for the sheer joy of the harvest season, learn about why an etrog never costs less than $35 and can fetch hundreds of dollars, and what we all can learn from living in a temporary tabernacle.
And, please mark your calendars now for our Simchat Torah celebration which will take place on Thursday, October 4 at 7:00pm at St. Bede’s. There will be dancing, singing and a joyous time as we unfurl and celebrate the Torah.
Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker
First Weekly Reader 5768
September 18, 2007
How happy you made all three of your parents last week by attending the great birthday celebration for the world! May the new year drip sweetness upon everything that breathes, and may we remember to say thank You.
During the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we make sure that we have completed our check list of people to whom we need to ask forgiveness. These are the Days of Awe that turn us away from pride and ego and return us to who we were born to be.
Some of us wept during Rosh Hashanah services. The great sage Ari teaches us that “One who doesn’t cry during the Ten Days of Teshuvah is one without a complete soul. When one cries, it is a sign that we are being judged above at that moment.” Don’t be afraid to reach the depths of your heart with a few tears.
If Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of the world, how can Yom Kippur top that? Why is it the holiest day of the year? Because it is the birthday of hope. Without hope, you might as well forget about a world, because it is the one ingredient that we need to go on. Healing happens, light follows darkness, and we can rebuild after destruction. Psalm 27 tells us how we can do this and be stronger than ever: “Hope in God. Be strong and have courage. Hope in God.” Hold hope that you can become a better person in the coming year, because that is God’s hope, too. Despair is the only irredeemable sin. Make supreme effort to overcome it.
During these days each of us has the power of ten. With this power, we connect with the holiest within ourselves. The energy culminates in the last moments of Yom Kippur, when we give in to frank ecstasy that we have done the work of forgiving and making amends. This is why we wear white garments on Yom Kippur, to reflect what we are feeling inside.
Kol Nidre begins at 7 p.m. Friday night. Our service will begin with David Schepps playing Kol Nidre on the cello. It is the only night of the year when we wear a tallit, so bring yours if you have one. We have extras if you don’t have one and would like the experience of being wrapped in God’s light. One size fits all shapes, genders, and beliefs. Our custom is not to wear leather shoes, so wear espadrilles, flip flops, or you can leave your shoes at the door. This is an invitation; we welcome you in whatever clothes move you closer to the Beloved. We also welcome anyone who wishes to pray with us, whether or not you can make a donation.
In addition, please bring non-perishable food items for us to bring to Food Depot after the holiday. If you’re lucky enough to have a shofar, bring it for the final blast at the end of the Ne’ilah service Saturday night.
On Saturday morning our service will begin at 9:45 a.m. This year we will have both child care during the day and a children’s service that will begin at 10 a.m. We will have baby sitters for the morning service and from 4:40 to the end of the service.
Ava Salman, Michael Margolis, and Ariel Freilich will share why they are grateful to be part of the HaMakom family. I will be speaking about Sacred Community.
We will celebrate break fast together at roughly 6:30 on Saturday evening, September 22, to break the fast in the common room at St Bede’s. This is a “dairy vegetarian potluck.” This means no shellfish, pork, red meat, or fowl. This includes smoked salmon, cream cheese, chocolate, and caviar. We are asking congregants to bring their famous dishes for this special meal. Note below the dish designation based on last name:
A-E Salads and Appetizers
F- S Entree Type Dishes
T- Z Desserts and Fruit.
If you wish to have your loved ones’ names read during the Yizkor service at 4:45 p.m., please send the names to Marcelle Cady: email@example.com.
It is customary to light a yahrzeit (memorial candle) for departed loved ones before leaving home for Kol Nidre. Here is a meditation (there is no set prayer) for the ritual:
“There are stars whose light reaches the earth only after they themselves have disintegrated. and there are individuals whose memory lights the world after they have passed from it. These lights shine in the darkest night and illumine for us the path.” Hannah Senesch.
I light this candle and remember the souls of _____________________
who have journeyed from this world into the love and eternity of God. I remember with gratitude all I learned from their life, their love for me and their goodness. May these memories live in me and grow in me to make me kinder and more understanding. May God who remembers them in faithfulness, bind them in the gathering of life. We light the candles to begin the holiday after the yahrzeit candles. (We eat before we light any candles.)
Our heartfelt sympathies go out to all our friends, teachers, and colleagues who have lost loved ones during this past year. May their memories live on in the acts of goodness they performed. We send our condolences to Bill Fishbein for the loss of his mother, Rose, two weeks ago.
It is customary to bless our children before Yom Kippur. Halley and Ruth Faust bless their children virtually when they aren’t present, and I will do the same this year.
We thank Ellie Edelstein, Rachel Rosen, and her mother, Esther, for becoming Bonim (Builders) in our community.
If study is exercise for the mind, prayer is exercise for the heart. We look forward to working out with you this Friday night and Saturday.
Gemar Hatimah Tovah!
Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker
September 5, 2007
My Dear Friends,
THIS SATURDAY NIGHT AT 8:30 P.M. at our house, (992-1905 for directions), will provide the answer to one of the most burning questions of the High Holiday season: do e-mails of apology count?
Every year since we have lived with the blessing and curse of e-mail more and more people either are uncertain or have strong opinions about this form of communication as way to ask or accept forgiveness. Then there is the question of mass e-mails to your whole list. If you live in a traditional community where receiving a message that goes something like, “If I have hurt or harmed you, intentionally or unintentionally, in the last year, I ask your forgiveness”, would be understood as part of a spiritual practice, OK. On the other hand, if an ex is on your list and gets such a message, it could be confusing at best.
God and I know that my decision to move from head honcha rabbi to grandmother rabbi has caused sadness and occasional anger in our community. Will you forgive me? It’s a real, not formulaic, question, and I invite you to call on me to have a conversation and receive my apology more intimately than this e-mail.
We understand that we need to make amends and apologies face to face, to look in the eyes of the one we have wronged. God will not do this for us, and will not forgive us until we have made direct repair. It is one thing to say, “I’m sorry” and another to say, “Will you forgive me?”
That’s why we don’t have virtual services and why we need a minyan. Despite all the ways we have to avoid one another today, nothing substitutes for you and me to be with each other in the way that God cannot resist. That is when we feel the makom dwelling with us.
So, if you’re taking the glorious High Holiday ride with us, join us for Selichot, the Evening of Forgiveness. During the High Holidays, God is looking at our relationship to forgiveness÷where we need to ask for it, where we need to accept it, and where we need to forget even more than forgive. We who sit together and share our stories and offer our listening hearts find the ritual good medicine for lifting the burden of anger, lightening ourselves of guilt, and regenerating the hope of childhood. And then we are ready to be reborn kinder, lighter, and wiser.
August 15, 2007
In this season I enjoy writing sermons to the music of afternoon rain that inspires ideas. The thunder is like the shofar that tells me to work a little harder at my inner inventory and in High Holiday preparations.
This morning Cindy and I davened the first morning service of the new month of Elul, and sent our shofar blasts “Wake up! Wake up! ” into the summer air. Our tradition encourages blowing the shofar every day of Elul and up to Yom Kippur. It’s the alarm clock for the soul. Now that we have left the saddest month of the year, Av, we go full speed ahead towards the joy that comes from teshuvah, the turning within to remember who we are and who we can be. Just as a car alarm protects from theft, so the shofar protects the spirit from unconsciousness.
Elul is the month of love, when we feel the presence of God more closely than any time of the year. The metaphor is the Sovereign who leaves the palace to walk through the fragrant late summer garden. The Beloved One is looking for us in the garden to have a chat, to see how we are doing. We have an intimacy in Elul that is an acronym for Ani l’dodi v’dodi li’I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine. Return, God tells us, return to the one you were born to be, in the image of the loving God.
If you’ve ever been in love, you know that there is nothing like courtship to move us to our highest selves. We fall in love this month with the potentiality of our lives and with God who never gives up on us and keeps us from giving up. This is a love that gives us the courage to face ourselves, swallow the disappointment, and to forgive ourselves. It is love that girds us to judge ourselves and no one else.
From the first day of Elul we woo God with our honest self-appraisal and our making amends in this season. Forty days later, on Yom Kippur, the cosmic huppah goes up, and on Sukkot we dance at the wedding. Consummation takes place in the great joy of Simhat Torah.
But I get ahead of myself. Our first gathering as a community in preparation for High Holidays is Selichot, an evening of forgiveness and it falls on 8 September, Saturday evening at 8:30(Call 992-1905 for directions and location). We’ll begin with dessert and havdalah, the ritual that separates Shabbat from the ordinary days. The braided torch also moves us into the consciousness that we are laboring to birth new selves. Looking deeply at the last year and admitting where we have fallen short “did I ask forgiveness or did I just do a drive-by apology?” is a great place to start. We’ll discuss the limitations as well as the possibilities of forgiveness. Please bring anything you have found useful in your own teshuvah “poetry, music, art, or a story” that may help others. This year the focus will be about family relationships.
The discussion concludes with each of us walking the labyrinth, just as our ancestors walked the labyrinth of wilderness, always asking for a sign of God’s presence. The evening will conclude with the Selichot service that traditionally is intended to open the gates of heaven by cracking open the heart and mind.
I look forward to seeing you.
July 16, 2007
Save for Jay King’s funeral, it has been great pleasure to return home to Santa Fe after a year that has given me new perspectives and renewed vigor to follow whatever path God has given me, as best I understand it.
I’d like to share these views of how I see our beloved community, HaMakom, with you next Monday, 23 July, at five p.m. at Atma Wiseman’s and Joy Silver’s home (email firstname.lastname@example.org if you need directions). We will have light refreshments. Feel free to bring any dairy vegetarian foods.
I have immodestly looked at Moses’ last words to his fellow travelers in the desert for inspiration for my words. Moses told them that he’d been talking to them for forty years and they’d never listened. This was the LAST time that he’d be giving them what they needed to enter a new land.
I am not Moses and you are not the Israelites. You’re far better and I’m not that old. I will, however, speak from long perspective about our community. I will also describe how I understand my changed role from mother to grandmother in the community, and a brief picture of what the sabbatical looked and felt like.
My remarks will be immediately followed by an important board meeting to which you are all invited. HaMakom is in a glorious moment of metamorphosis-each of our previous ones has led us to wonderful new places-and this is an opportunity to witness how we make decisions and to offer your gift to the building of our makom kodesh, our sacred place. At 8 p.m. we will begin to observe Tisha B’Av, the saddest day of the year that calls for what is known as the black fast. Yom Kippur is the white fast. We will sit on the floor with candlelight and read Eicha, Lamentations. I remember well reading it with Gay and Sylvia Boorstein one year at Spirit Rock, just the three of us in her office. We winced and shook our heads at its grim violence and wondered how the mystics understood this frankly brutal narrative. It is the night to bring unshed tears and unspoken griefs and to participate in the collective sorrow of our world. Like rituals for mourning, we are given just one day for the orgy of grief, and then the light, like dawn, cannot be stopped. I look forward to seeing you.
Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker
July 12, 2007
When you meet a man like Jay King, you hope that they will live a long time. We can never know for sure, but if he wasn’t a lamed-vavnik, I don’t know what it would take. The letters lamed and vav equal 36, and the tradition teaches that each generation needs 36 righteous people for the world to survive.
Jay’s righteousness manifested in his unconditional acceptance of all human beings, and in his unwavering faith that we are all in the Image of God. Those of us with children know the challenge of allowing them to live their lives not only without our interference but with our blessing. Jay did that.
And Jay loved his all too brief life. Always a supremely grateful man, when he was diagnosed over a year ago, he asked Anna to transliterate the Shehechiyan, our prayer for gratitude. He said it again and again, for a good conversation, a sunny day, a day with little pain. He even wanted it put on his gravestone. What he decided ultimately for his last word on the stone was “Dayenu.” It is enough. Yet Jay knew and we know that it wouldn’t have hurt anything for him to have been given long life. We’ll have to settle for the memory of his love-filled life as our blessing and our beacon.
Imagine his love and faith in everyone, imagine his insistence upon justice, and then imagine all the lives that he touched and changed that will touch and change others. Imagine just 36 doing their magic through the world, and you can see why the world depends upon them to keep us going.
For those who were not at the funeral, below is his eulogy.
Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker
Jay Adler King
This morning we received booklets that Sandy King made in memory of Jay, her beloved husband of 42 years. It contains insightful expressions of appreciation for a unique man who lived lovingkindness. What greater tribute than these words that reveal how so many cherished his gentle, rare spirit. It sets forth a goal that all of us might aim for, to be remembered as Jay Adler King will be.
Jay was born in Phoenix and lived there until he went to Claremont Men’s College, where he met Sandy in a Shakespeare class. He adored her from the beginning and never stopped adoring her. He told his daughters in an e-mail, “Your mother was not built to be with a dying man, but forever I’ve loved her.” “I’ve always been crazy about her,” he added.
He loved his daughters with the same fierce and steady passion, but his was a freeing love. He allowed them to live their lives. Naomi said, “If I did something wrong, he didn’t allow it, but he was so kind about it.” When Anna told him that she was leaving the academic career track that had made him so proud, he accepted it. “He was just as proud of me when I stopped working to be home with the girls.”
Jay saw the world as we hope God sees the world, full of belief in everyone and outraged by injustice. As a member of the Boise synagogue, he challenged the community to raise money to send a poor but loyal and faithful congregant to a Jewish conference. That man is a rabbi today.
Jay and his family lived in Boise for thirty years, where Jay was an English professor at Boise State University. Unlike most in academia who teach beginning courses only as long as they must and go on to more glamorous and prestigious work, Jay performed a heart mission, as Sandy says. He taught the most needy, the ones who didn’t have writing skills and who would suffer most in the job market.
His students worshipped him. Former students would stop him in the street and tell him how his class taught them to succeed in school and in life.
Jay was more a professor, he was a teacher. He was a man who didn’t care about appearances, a man of great humility, loyalty, and gentleness. Naomi says of him, “He said that he had the best kids, the best wife, the best sons in law, and the best grandchildren. When I brought Shay to meet him, he was driving a pickup truck with a gun for hunting. My father wouldn’t harm a fly, yet he embraced Shay because he knew that he was right for me.”
Anna remembers cat fishing with him at night and talking and talking and talking. Jay always had something good to think about and discuss. Naomi remembers that she came home late many nights and found her father at the computer. As soon as she’d come in, he’d get up and they’d go out for a walk. “He always had time for us.” His daughters both will miss the father who called them “Baby.”
He got the children ready for school, including putting their hair in pigtails with very imperfect parts, the evidence being in every school picture.
His Judaism was important to him, and when he and Sandy moved to Santa Fe, he checked out all the Jewish communities here. HaMakom was the last place he visited, and it was there that he told Anna that he had found his home. “Anna, I discovered Simhat Torah!” With each holiday he celebrated, he shared his enthusiasm with her.
When he became ill, he faced it straight on with no illusion. After he and Sandy bought burial plots a month ago, he went to the plot and sat there for ten minutes. He told Naomi that he had sat where he would be planted.
His roots reach deep, within his family and the many that he quietly helped and supported to be all that they could be. Anna remembered that last Yom Kippur, when he had a few months of feeling well, it was a beautiful fall day. They were sitting outside and a big breeze came up and showered him with yellow leaves. He opened his arms and laughed, saying, “I’ve got my daughter, son in law, grandchildren with me, the brilliant blue sky, and yellow leaves.” And he rejoiced in the blessing of his grandchildren, Shealene, Mackyle, Cole, Brodie, Miriam, and Aliya.
May all of us remember his joy, his love, and his gratitude, and may we live our lives with his example. And then there will be no death as we carry his message to all that we meet.