Altar Ego Postings 2004
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November 12, 2004
Dear Friends,

This week’s Torah portjon, Toldot (Genesis 25:19-28:9), which means “generations” gives us a lesson in unconditional love and the seeds of dysfunction in our primal family.”Isaac loved Esau because he enjoyed eating his game, but Rebecca loves Jacob. “Notice the different verbal tenses..Isaac loved Esau for his hunting prowess. but when the food was gone, what about the love? Maybe that’s why it’s in the past tense, the love is conditional. On the other hand, Rebecca loves Jacob, she always loves her son unconditionally, no matter what he does. She loves him for who he is.

This is the toughest kind of love; we all know how easy it is to love the giver, the smiling baby, and the beautiful face. But to love one other just as we are is to love the way God loves. By loving unconditionally, as Rebecca loves Jacob, is the way we bring God’s presence between us. After the acrimonious election we’ve all experienced, we are challenged to remember that we don’t have to like one another but we do have to love one another as members of a generation that has an awesome responsibility to the future. Please join us on Shabbat to continue the conversation.

We do this as Jews, by leaning on our tradition for wisdom and for working in our own time to build bridges. This is what we as a community are doing to fulfill this:

This Sunday, 14 November, Michael Margolis, will begin his class on Kabbalah at two p.m. at St. BedeÕs. For those of us who struggle to make rational sense of the time in which we live, here is a great opportunity to get the big picture. I’ll be present and listening for the white fire of Torah. The class is free to members of HaMakom and the rest of the world may offer a small contribution.

Monday night, 15 November will launch our Mitzvah program. Here is what Kim Zacks, our lead teacher, says about it:

The upcoming Women’s Bnot MItzvah class will be an 18 month journey of learning to read, chant, and study the seminal Torah Reading from Exodus, read on Shabbat during the week of Passover, that describes the mystical experience of Moses ascending the Mountain a second time to directly witness the profundity of God and to receive God’s essence through covenantal stipulations.

Our study of the Divine Encounter at Sinai will be a gateway for how we as individuals and as Jews create Divine Encounters in Holy Places in our own lives, be it as a family, a community of learners, a congregation of worshippers, or as mystics.

The objective will be for students to have a deeper understanding of their lives,
more intimate knowledge of the tradition, and a more meaningful practice of Judaism. Students will also gain a proficiency in reading Hebrew and understanding and conducting the synagogue prayer service. The culminating event will be the 15 April 2006 Bat Mitzvah service when students will lead the Shabbat Prayer Service and read and chant from the Torah itself!

Cost: $500 members, $600 non-members, plus cost of materials.

Weekly classes meet at St. Bede’s Library on Mondays from 6:00 pm to 8:00pm. Introductory Class is Monday November 15. Course begins Monday December 6.

Course Instructors: Rabbi Malka Drucker, Kim Zacks, Anita Redner, and others.

Registration: Call Kim, 984-1920, Anita 992-0439

(Kim Zacks has a BA from Yale University and an MA in Jewish Education from The Jewish Theological Seminary. She has lived in Israel for 5 years where she studied in various Yeshivot, including Hebrew University and The Hartman Institute.)

(Anita Redner has been a Nurse at a Solomon Schechter Day School in Boston for thirteen years and is currently a Masters student in Jewish Education at Boston Hebrew College. She has extensive knowledge in Prayer and Torah Chanting.)

All that I will add to Kim’s words is that I’ve had the privilege of teaching three b’nai mitzvah classes, and with each group I witnessed mature students delight in their effort and accomplishment, express gratitude for what they learned about themselves, and enjoy the blessing of the friendship from the group. Each year I feel God’s pleasure through these hard–working people. The class is still open, and maybe God has put your name on the list for this group.

On Sunday, November 21, I have been asked to speak at St. Bede’s about the risk of two faith communities coming together to create a new interfaith community. Everyone is invited to attend.

Finally, HaMakom and St. Bede’s will be hosting an interfaith Thanksgiving service on Friday, 25 November at seven p.m. at St. Bede’s. A potluck dessert will follow our brief service that has as one of its intentions to be an opportunity for the two communities to get to know one another. We hope to see you at we hope will be the first of many such joint gatherings.

Shabbat Shalom!

Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

October 15, 2004
Dear Friends,

Last Thursday night over thirty of us danced with the Torah, some for the first time, and you can see a few of Gay’s photographs on the web site. YouÕll also find the High Holiday sermons posted too:

You’ll also see members of the community holding the opened Torah. Rima Miller declared that it is nothing is an accident, and there was a message for each holder in the text of the claf (section of Torah) they were holding. As I went around and searched for words of guidance and direction for everyone in the circle, I came to our one child at the service, Eva Silverman. She was standing squarely in front of this week’s portion, Noah (Genesis 6:9-11:32). What better portion for a young person! Eva is a special young person, and as I looked into her steady eyes, I told her, “Your message comes from the great hero, Noah, In the coming year, let your heart be a gigantic ark of love for all who need shelter” She nodded solemnly, as if she already knew this.

As we begin the Torah cycle again, itÕs good to remember Rambam’s (Maimonides) vision that knew our wisdom book not as factual but nevertheless true. Like little ones who learn of life’s imperfections through fairy tales, so Torah offers us metaphor and stories reveal and conceal the unimaginable radiance of God. The House of Israel is God’s house, and together we make the skin that contains the One. When we read of an ark, a flood, and a community of all living things, we glimpse the possibility of our own being.

Last week we read about the beginning of the world and the beginning of humanity. This week we read about the first person to be called tzadik, wholeheartedly righteous. It will be Noah who will be told of the dark time coming, when the world will drown in a great mikveh of destruction and purification.

Perhaps only Noah was close enough to God to understand why. The rabbis tell us that the violence that filled the earth was subtle, not dramatic. People stole from one another in small amounts that were not prosecutable. They stole trust, confidence, and security from one another, and once a society loses these things it is doomed.

Like Eva, I remind myself that I too have the capacity to build an ark within myself that does not leak my defects of character that very recently I had the discomfort of confronting. WhatÕs the pitch that makes the ark a trustworthy vessel? Remembering our third parent, the One whom we resemble: We are in the image of God. When God asks Noah to build an ark to preserve a
remant of life, God asks all of us to build an ark of love for one another.

We understand that Noah was only relatively good, “in his generations.’ His was a corrupt time and he was the best of a very imperfect world. We don’t have to be perfect, we only have to keep faith that one good heart can change the world.

Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

October 4, 2004
Dear Friends,

What is made of 100 year-old wooden poles and bamboo walls, has chile ristras, 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? Our sukkah! Please come by to sit in its 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 and Jurgen Reinzuch have beautifully decorated it. So many thanks to them and the more than fifty of you who joined us Friday night to celebrate Shabbat in the sukkah’s shelter.

On Thursday night, 7 October, at seven p.m., we will celebrate Simhat Torah, the Rejoicing of the Torah, at St. BedeÕs. This is the day when we 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 with the Torah. 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. Like any good book we are sad to read its end, but with the Torah we get to read it again each year, and every time we find that it is a new book.

The Gerer rebbe related this parable of the Midrash: A man fell from a boat into the sea: the captain of the vessel threw him a rope and shouted, “Take hold of this rope and do not let go; if you do, you will lose your life.” The rebbe then remarked: This story explains the verse (Proverbs 3:18): “It is a tree of life to all who grasp it.” The Torah is a tree of life to them that grasp it. If you let go of her, you will lose your life.

And this poem by Charles Reznikoff:
I know this is the season of our joy:
We have completed the readings of the Law
And we begin again;
But I remember how slowly I have learnt, how little,
How fast the year went by, the years–how few.

Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

September 23, 2004
Dear Friends,

Kol Nidre services for the holiest night of the year will begin at seven p.m. Friday night. It is the only evening service at which we wear a tallit. If you have one, please bring it; we have only a few to lend. I’ll tell you why at the service.

It is customary to light a yahrzeit (memorial candle) before leaving home for services. Although we don’t have a prayer for this ritual, here is a suggested one:

Eternal god, with feelings of reverence and love I recall the memory of my dear______on this sacred eve of Yom Kippur.
I am grateful for the years we shared, for the abiding influence of those years, and for the memories that live on in my heart.
I am grateful, too, O God, for the healing which time brings and for the hope which faith and trust inspire.
May the remembrance of my________encourage me to live with integrity and with compassion. May my deeds reflect honor on my family; and may they add to the”merits of the ancestors” which have sustained the house of Israel throughout the generations.
I now light this Memorial Light in memory of my departed________whose English name was________and whose Hebrew name was____________.
May the memory of my_________strengthen my resolve to be a source of blessing for all whose lives touch mine.

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

We light the candles to begin the holiday after the yahrzeit candles. We eat before we light any candles. It is also customary to bless our children before Yom Kippur.

“I’m sorry” may be the two most difficult words to say. There is still time to offer forgiveness to individuals, the congregation, and and the world. Here is a starting statement:

I am sorry if I have hurt you, by what I have done or have failed to do, by what I have said or have not said to you, since last Yom Kippur.
I will strive to improve my ways; and I ask your forgiveness.

I look forward to seeing you at Yom Kippur services. Gemar Hatimah Tovah. May you be sealed in the Book of Life, the book of second chances.

Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

September 29,
Dear Friends,

Yom Kippur, the solemn albeit joyous fast for our lives, is now memory. We move quickly from suppressing our senses into an awakening to the glory of life itself. Ascetism has gotten our full attention to prepare us for the sensuous feast of Sukkot.

Tonight, Wednesday at 6:23 we bless and light candles to enter the sukkah of the holiday known as He Chag, The Holiday. The highest wisdom is joy and this is the festival of pure joy. From an entirely inward journey we turn to the abundance of physical beauty. If you have time this afternoon, please join us in the decorating of the most beautiful sukkah I’ve ever seen, thanks to Jay Zeiger and Bill Lazar. Laura Shubert and Jurgen Reinzuch are overseeing the radically amazing decorations.

Join us Friday, 1 October, at six p.m for our joyous Shabbat Sukkot service in the HaMakom sukkah at our home, which will be followed by a dairy potluck dinner in the warmth of our permanent dwelling, where we will continue singing and praising God for the beginning of a cleansed vision of a new world. This is the holiday that awakens our dream that one day every nation will sit together in the Sukkat Shalom, the dwelling place of peace.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!

Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

September 14, 2004
Dear Friends,

Over forty of us gathered last Saturday night where we fed on home-baked pastries, Consuelo Luz’s inspiring and consoling songs of Selichot and Kabbalah, and the healing power of the labyrinth. May all of these blessings set us on the path of forgiveness, faith in God to make us new beings, and the power to hope in God’s strength to bring us into interconnection.

I will be speaking to Father Murphy’s congregation on October 31 and he will be speaking at HaMakom November 21. We will also share a service at a Thanksgiving potluck dinner the Friday after Thanksgiving. Maybe it is in these small ways in small places that we learn and live peace.

A few weeks ago the altar guild at St. Bede’s installed new planters at the entrance to the church. I told the woman who was in charge of the installation that it was the custom of synagogues to freshen up their spaces in preparation for the High Holidays, and I was grateful that St. Bede’s was on our calendar! She said to me, “Thank you, Rabbi, It means so much your congregation is here. And having the Torah in the library gives it a root and anchor.” It is in these words that I hear God’s presence. Below is a piece I’ve written about the Torah portion, Ha-azinu, which means “Give ear,” which we read this Shabbat. Let’s listen to each other with our hearts.

See you Wednesday evening Erev Rosh Hashanah!

Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

PS-In listening to our community I learn that the new Trader Joes’s not only is carrying fresh kosher chicken, but that the price is terrific. Let’s support them in their effort to make it possible for those of us to follow the mitzvah of you are what you eat.
R. Malka


We wander through life searching for bridges to move us closer to each other and nearer to God. Parashat Ha’Azinu shows us how to build bridges between heaven and earth while being, as the last portion of the year, a bridge itself between the end and the beginning. It’s very form, a song, opens the heart to receive it’s urgent message of hope and direction; as we reach the inevitable end of the book, it’s passion inspires and propels us to begin the study again.

The portion opens with Moses declaring, “Listen heaven! I will speak! Earth! Hear the words of my mouth!”(Deut. 32:1). Like a dying father who warns his children that he no longer will guide, scold, or defend them, Moses calls upon heaven and earth to be witnesses: Human beings are inclined to do better when we know theyÕre being watched. If Israel does right, earth will open with fecundity, and likewise, if we sin, earth will close itself to us. Like parents, heaven and earth will watch and keep us on the path by their example. Heaven and earth not only listen to God, they do what they are supposed to do, e.g. the sun rises and sets, seed that is sown sprouts, donkeys carry burdens. Heaven and earth do this without reward, without regard to what will happen to their children, without concern for reward and punishment. They do not change from God’s intention for them and neither should we.

At first God created the world with the upper realms for upper things, and the lower realms for the lower. But then Moses became a bridge: “And Moses went up to God (Ex. 19:3) And God came down up Mount Sinai(ibid. 20). God will redeem Israel only through bringing heaven to earth and earth to heaven: “Out of heaven God made you to hear the Voice, that God might teach you, and on earth God showed you the great fire (Deut.4:36)(Mid.R.v,2).”

Like Moses, we, who contain both heaven and earth, are a link between them. It is with the physical, with our ears, eyes, and heart that we apprehend that which is spiritual. We cannot imagine God without emblems of earth: God is a rock and God’s words are rain. And without God, we cannot understand earth.

Torah is a bridge, too. It comes from heaven yet is made of skin, ink, and human skill. “My lesson shall drop like rain, my saying shall flow down like the dew–like a downpour on the herb, like a shower on the grass.”(Deut.32:2). Just as one rain falling on many trees gives to each a special savor in keeping with its species, so these words are one, yet within them are TaNakh, Mishnah, Halakhot, and Aggadot (sifr.Deut.). Once again we find a bridge, this time in the word.

Moses begins the exodus out of Egypt with a word song, or musical poem (Ex.15:1-18) and ends the journey with the song in Ha’Azinu. The exodus song expresses gratitude for Israel’s physical salvation, i.e. not drowning in the Red Sea, while the second poem sings of that which cannot be seen, the future. The last song reveals a leader less worried about his people’s material well-being than with their spiritual journey, and he hopes for an Israel that will prevail in spirit as well as body. The people need their home, but without God, it means nothing.

If, as Marshall McLuhan suggests, the medium is the message, why does Moses sing the lesson? Maybe the words near the end of the parashah offer a clue. “And Moses came and spoke all the words of this song in the ears of the people, he, and Hosea the son of Nun.” When Moses made an end of speaking all these words to all Israel, he said unto them:”Set your heart unto all the words I bear witness with you today, so that you may charge your children to observe to do all the words of this law.” (Deut 32: 44-46). Like a poem, all the words, concentrated, associative, and mysterious, count.

Rashi describes the words of Torah as “mountains suspended upon a hair”, because each word is so packed with meaning, connection, and direction.. Heaven is in each word, and no one word is more important than another. All of Torah is a song and not always plainly spoken. It is not merely allegory but invites, indeed requires, deeper inquiry and explanation. Moses warns that this is ‘no vain teaching for you. “If we don’t get it, it’s not because the teaching is empty, but that we are”

In Chukkat, God tells Moses to use words to bring forth water from a rock, but Moses loses patience and instead of speaking to the rock, he strikes it twice with a stick, and water gushes out (Num.20:7-11). The thirsty Israelites were happy but God was not, because the gesture was merely physical, while the word was the spirit. If the Israelites had seen that a rock, without eyes and ears, responded not to a blow but to the word, then they would have learned to know God’s power made manifest through the word.

In HaAzinu, why did Moses, who has been talking directly with the Israelites, gather them not to speak to them but to listen to him speak to heaven and earth? God created heaven and earth to praise God, but for this one moment Moses silences them, commanding them to listen. For this one moment, all listen. Sometimes listening is the hardest thing. We live in a time where we are afraid to listen, afraid of what we may or may not hear. Will we hear love and justice or will we hear envy and hatred? How can we hear God? Like the sh’ma, H’Azinu suggests that sometimes we need to sit quietly and listen; only then and there can we sense GodÕs presence.

While words are a bridge between heaven and earth, it seems that we have yet to find the right combination of letters and words. Perhaps when we can do that, we will be able to read both the white and black fires, or languages, of Torah. The parashah begins with the word, “Listen,” or “Give ear.” May we remember to use whatever earthly gifts we may possess–our ears,eyes, hearts, and minds– to find, reach for, and plant heaven here.

September 10, 2004

Dear Friends,

I’m still on the fence about whether electronic teshuvah counts, but I’ll begin my asking forgiveness of any of you whom I’ve hurt or harmed by apologizing for the lateness of this Weekly Reader. As for the times I’ve been late, didn’t return a phone call promptly or at all, was abrupt or impatient, please forgive me. If you’ve got something else that I owe as an apology, please talk to me about it before the fast begins.

I’ve just returned from seeing our HaMakom sign put beside St. Bede’s sign and it’s fabulous! For those of you won’t be with us for the dedication on Thursday, you can see the photograph and article in this Sunday’s New Mexican or on our web site.

Besides those whom I thanked earlier for their generous contributions, I want to include Dianne Stromberg for designing our logo two years ago. I hope that Dianne doesn’t mind my telling you how she became part of HaMakom.Like many of us, Dianne didn’t begin life as a student of Torah. She became one when she designed my web site and read so much about Judaism that she fell in love, and it’s reflected in her faithful creation and maintenance of our web site. Geoff Laurence, who designed the sign and all our recent mailings, also is one who was born Jewish and has recently claimed his birthright.

While I wish that I could see everyone of you for High Holidays, I’m grateful that I’ll see most of you. To all of you, I wish a safe, healthy, and sweet year full of creativity and goodness. If you find yourself wondering where God can be found, where we allow God. Just open the door and let the rushing spirit embrace you.

I’ve been worrying about why I’m not more stressed right now and I finally understand: Marcelle Cady, Leslie Davis, Ellie Edelstein, Geraldine Fiskus, Linda Kastner, Batya Kramer, Margie O’Reilly, and Salleigh Peterson. This is our hard-working, excellent and efficient High Holiday committee that is taking care of everything. A thousand thanks!

Reminders: tomorrow night at 8:30, September 11 (!) at Una Vida we are holding Selichot, an evening of forgiveness for everyone who is attending services. Wednesday. 15 September, at 7 p.m. at St. BedeÕs Church begin the High Holidays. Check the web site for details. Gay and I are inviting members for a lunch/open house following services Thursday. If you haven’t requested membership or tickets please call us: 992-1905. The more the committee doesn’t have to do the day of the service, the more likely it is that they will be able to daven during the service. And they will also graciously receive you if you decide at the last minute to show up.

Meanwhile, Shabbat Shalom!

Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

September 7, 2004
Dear Friends,

It’s Labor Day, fall is in the air, apples are getting ready for Rosh Hashanah, and I’m polishing sermons. Cindy, Bill, and Hal are working hard on the music and the High Holiday committee under Margie O’Reilly is diligently weaving all the many pieces that will make the holidays a joy for all of us. We thank all of you mentioned below for building and sustaining our community. What HaMakom has become and is becoming has put a smile on GodÕs faceÉmetaphorically and mystically speaking, of course.

Last Shabbat we celebrated Atma Wiseman’s 50th birthday with her lovely family, including her life partner, Joy Silver, who broke ground over the weekend for Rainbow Visions Retirement Community. They hosted a sumptuous Kiddush, and we were grateful that HaMakom could offer blessing on members of our community. We invite you to include us and God in your personal life
cycle events. It’s a wonderful way for us to become part of one another’s lives and to be a sustaining fellowship for one another. Birthdays,anniversaries, graduations, new children and grandchildren, whateversweetens your life is what we want to celebrate with you. And of course, we are here for one another for whatever life requires us to bear. Just e-mail or call us with your ideas.

Welcome to the latest new members: Halley and Ruth Anne Faust, Cindy Freedman, Margie Kamine, Ellen Lampert, Geoff Laurence and Lyndall Bass, More and Shirley Mock, Lia Rosen, and Erica Zvaifler. Blessings to the following people for their contributions: Frieda Arth, Brenda and Stuart Brand, Judy and Tom Spaulding, and Sharon and Joe Veltman.

When Father Murphy invited us to make St. Bede’s our home for all our services he also asked us if we would like to erect a wooden sign next to the church’s sign. We will dedicate our beautiful new sign designed by Dianne Stromberg and Geoff Laurence immediately following first day Rosh Hashanah services. For this sign we thank the following contributors: Al and Arlene Becker, Leslie Davis and Bill Lazar, Ellie Edelstein, Ted and Barbara Flicker, Lyn and Ellen Fox, and Margie and Michael O’Reilly. And more thanks to to Lyn and Ellen, and David and Ava Salman for providing memberships in addition to their own. Finally, we thank Dianne Stromberg, Samoa Wallach, Marlene Meyerson, Margaret Moore, and Wendy Young for their in-kind contributions.

This coming Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. we will celebrate Selichot, the evening that gives us a path of forgiveness. It will take place at Gay’s and my home. We will begin with dessert, hold havdalah under the stars, and walk the labyrinth. Consuelo Luz, singer of Jewish/Latin soul music, will continue our heart’s journey and prepare us for the Selichot service. If you plan to attend our High Holiday services, please join us. Call to let us know youÕre coming: 992-1905.

To celebrate our growing membership and to thank all of you who have joined HaMakom: The Place for Passionate and Progressive Judaism, Gay and I are hosting an open house/lunch at our home following services the first day of Rosh Hashanah, Thursday, 16 September. All HaMakom members are cordially invited. Tashlich, the casting of sins disguised as bread crumbs, will follow the meal at 3 p.m. Please join us for this brief service.

Back to the Kabbalah of sermons. If you want to know what Jewish mysticism is, consider this: how else can we explain that for nearly 4000 years, in good times and mostly bad times, despite Crusades and pogroms, despite vacuous and boring Hebrew school and sometimes disappointing spiritual leaders and communities, and despite enticing and easier faith paths, there still is a Jewish people who will gather throughout the world in the coming weeks carrying the hope and promise that each of us has the power to repair ourselves and redeem the world? You tell me.

May we each find the courage, faith, and love to show up forever, and may God meet us on the way.

L’shanah Tovah Tikatevu!

Rabbi Malka Drucker

August 27, 2004
Dear Friends,

From the beginning of the new moon of Elul until after Yom Kippur, we “learn” from a remarkable book of the Kabbalah, Tomer Devorah, or The Palm Tree of Deborah. While it is an ethical treatise on how to behave, it gives us a vision of God’s greatness and kindness simultaneously. The One is a holy aggregate of ten potencies that begins with keter, the arousal of desire for life, and includes wisdom, understanding, kindness, judgment, beauty, endurance, splendor, foundation, and sovereignty.

What matters to us, more than anything, is to know who we are, and to that end God created ten vessels, called sefirot, to contain these potencies to fit our beings. We are like God, just smaller: To know ourselves is to glimpse God and to know God is to glimpse ourselves. How can we be in the Divine Image? “Just as the Holy One clothes the naked, so should you; just as the Holy One, visits the sick, so should you; just as the Holy One consoles the bereaved, so should you.” (Micah 7 18-20).

God contains thirteen attributes of mercy, and in Tomer Devorah, we learn that our essence contains these qualities of kindness, too. We use all the potencies to bring God’s kindness to earth through our own behavior. This is all we need to know about who we are: we are God’s agents of kindness in a world that all too often rewards our darker desires to be better than others; to dominate the weak; and to ignore our defects.

I invite you to offer God’s goodness and reveal God’s greatness by remembering to forgive yourselves and others. May we sprinkle the purifying waters of forgiveness upon one another by remembering that we are interconnected: that which we dislike most in another can be found in ourselves. God doesn’t bear grudges, and neither should we. God loves kindness and looks for the good even in the worst of us, as long as we are willing to look at ourselves honestly.

We too can forget the meanness of adversaries, tamp our anger, and remember that they too have good qualities. We can draw close to the downcast and those who are punished and work to save them from harm. Each of us, at every moment, is doing the best she can. Just as we say when asked how we are, “I couldn’t be better,” so each of us ‘couldn’t be better.’

Watch anger, sadness, self-righteousness, confusion, and suspicion melt as you release these mercies within yourself. Never forget your royal descent. You can do it! May you find yourself smiling at the world, feel the bubbling joy of being alive, and eager to please your third Parent.

Shabbat Shalom!

Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

August 13, 2004
Dear Friends,

This coming Monday evening brings the new moon of Elul, the month that prepares us for the High Holidays. Known as Yemei Ratzon, Days of Grace, every moment of the precious month gives us special opportunity to draw near. Just as the Sabbath gives us an extra soul in which to absorb and delight in the Holy, so this month makes us especially open and powerful to receive cosmic kindness. A friend of mine is married to a man who canÕt stand camping, but when they were courting he joined her in the great outdoors with an electric coffee maker.

This is the month for us to fall in love with God so keenly that weÕre willing to go camping in the wilds of our inner selves and to see ourselves as a new land. We blow the shofar each morning to awaken the sleeping higher self and to scare away our fears. We also let the consoling words of the 27th psalm rest upon and shield our frightened hearts.

Since introspection and glimpsing the Holy has been known to drive people into madness or torpor, the Jewish solution for this is to enter the sacred realm together. This year HaMakom will begin the serious, joyful communal journey on September 11, Saturday night, at 8:30.

We invite all participants in our High Holiday services to join us for Selichot, the Evening of Forgiveness. We will begin with sweet dessert, walk the labyrinth to empty our hearts of resentments, grudges, and anger. We are blessed to have Consuelo Luz sing us into the passion, mysticism, and wisdom of Kabbalah in preparation for the High Holidays. Cantorial soloist Cindy Freedman will chant the Selichot service. YouÕll receive details for the spiritual journey with your High Holiday tickets.

If youÕre expecting to receive the tickets wrapped in a red thread, youÕre going to be disappointed. This is Malka, not Madonna, who is leading the High Holiday services. IÕm not a student of the Kabbalah, only a fellow traveler who respects the esoteric tradition. The four teachings I offer this year are: The Kabbalah of Prayer, The Kabbalah of Righteous Generosity, The Kabbalah of Belief, and The Kabbalah of Community.

If you would like to receive our new brochure beautifully designed by Geoff Laurence and a form for tickets, please call us at 992-1905. If youÕd like to earn your way into heaven and help with the earthly preparations of set up and clean up, call the same number. If you have questions, one of us will call you promptly.

In the meantime, enjoy these delicious days of Elul which are an acronym: Ani lÕdodi vÕdodi li. From Song of Songs, they mean ÒI am my belovedÕs and my beloved is mine; they are often part of the wedding service. Capitalize ÔbelovedÕ and youÕll catch the powerful eroticism the mystics felt in their relationship to the One.

Shabbat Shalom!

Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

June 2004
Dear Friends,

I’m going to be sitting as the Jewish representative on a panel of women at the Parliament of World Religions. The paragraphs below that I wrote for the press release offer an intention for me of what the panel may help create. Hope that you’re finding summer deliciously leisurely.

Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

“Embracing the Feminine
in Spirituality: Transcending Chaos and Awakening Peace in the World”:

\The Kabbalists tell us that the only irredeemable sin is despair; perhaps thatÕs because despair is death by disguise. Desperation dehumanizes and devalues: it becomes an excuse to give up hope and ideals. It is no feat to list the woes of the world these days; the trick is to find authentic hope, and blow on it until it is white hot and ready to ignite other fires.

If evil is the will to dominate, the place to look for hope is where we find power without domination, and we need look no further than the newest community in religious life, women spiritual leaders. For the first time in history, women have the sacred privilege and responsibility to represent the feminine divine on earth. While the mythic feminine has been the stuff of historic imagination and women, when allowed, have always outnumbered men as religious devotees, here is a spark that shatters the darkness: the nexus of earthly and divine authority has finally come to women. With the triple connections of gender, calling, and authority, women spiritual leaders offer hope that their collective presence can bring the power of the feminine into a world that is so dangerously unbalanced that we’ve forgotten the holy tasks of creation and nurturance.

No one knows whether women can be the balm that restores balance to a world careening towards the chaos of unbridled power. Whether we understand the unprecedented presence of a community of women spiritual leaders as a gift of the women’s movement, the decline of religious institutions that has weakened the ban of women clergy, the age of Aquarius, or God’s hand, one thing is clear: We’re here. And as a community of rabbis, witches, priests, ministers, teachers, theologians, nuns, and faith healers, we carry potentiality that need not be limited or even imagined.

Never before have we gathered as a community, and perhaps if we do stand together and support each other in our work of bringing more tenderness into the world, we’ll find ourselves on trial again. Maybe we should be feared, because our motives are subversive. We don’t this work for the money or prestige, no one ever said to us when we were girls that we should think about becoming a spiritual leader, and no matter how successful we may become, we can never forget that we are vulnerable as women. Our wound is our salvation, and with it we may save the world.

May 28, 2004
Dear Friends,

A few days ago we celebrated Shavuot, the day we celebrate to remember the moment when God gave us Torah, but what does this mean? Two fragile tablets? The Five Books of Moses? All our sacred text? All of the above and even more.

Maybe what we received was the blessing of the ‘Aha!, as we once said in the women’s movement. It’s the moment when we know something as true as our name that we never knew before: when we know that we’re in love, or when we taste the grace of passing through anger, envy, or despair. It’s the surprise God’s presence when we’re facing in another direction. And even more.

I wasn’t standing there alone at Sinai. You were with me, and you still are. That radically amazing day keeps me remembering that I can do things in community that I cannot do alone. What we experienced together is what keeps our lives primed with hope, faith, and love.

Last Shabbat we filled the room at La Fonda with all three energies as we witnessed five B’nai Mitzvah called to the Torah, not only formally but also by the heart. Bill, Leslie, Samoa, Suzanne, and Erika chose to study not as individuals but as a community, and they invited well over a hundred friends and family from many communities to join them in prayer, song, and study. From them we glimpsed the dream of Sinai, the simultaneous and intimate moment when each of us experienced God privately and uniquely. Kol HaKavod to you five, to your excellent teacher, Yafa Chase, and to all those whose presence increased the joy. will feature the five papers of the B’nai Mitzvah: Erika Meyer’s meditation on kashrut; Suzanne’s on conversion; Samoa’s on tehillim [psalms]; Leslie’s on Bamidbar [the eponymous wilderness; and Bill’s on being counted as a Jew. All are well researched and informative, yet what makes them precious is the willingness of the writer to reveal him/herself.

The next day brought death to a loved one, Sabina Block, who was once Gay’s mother-in-law and someone I was privileged to count as a friend. Neither her generation nor her roots in Mississippi hampered her adventurous spirit, open mind, and open heart. When we gathered to reminisce about her on Monday night in Houston, we learned about how to live. She was friend, mother, and grandmother not only to those to whom she was connected by blood, but to her son’s friends, her grandchildren’s friends, and to many more, including my own children. My son Max and his family still stay warm with one of her beautiful afghans that she made for Max when he was in college. Rabbi Harold Schulweis has suggested that we live our lives according to what we’d like said at our funeral. God bless Sabina for her lesson in loving and living, and may we all have as many weep when it’s our time to leave the planet.

This Shabbat we will read the provocative portion of Naso [Numbers 4:21-7:89], where we will wrestle with jealous husbands, cutting one’s hair, and the priestly blessing. This will be our first Sabbath at St. Bede’s Epicopal Church at San Mateo and St. Francis, and to celebrate, we’ll enjoy a potluck luncheon following services. Bring whatever your heart and hands can manage.

This will be the final weekly reader until mid-August. The rabbi is writing a book for children about Jewish-American heroes over the summer and would appreciate the reader’s suggestions.

Shabbat Shalom!

Peace and Blesssings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

May 14, 2004
Dear Friends,

For two years five adults, powerful in knowledge and competence, have allowed themselves to step into the abyss of not knowing. They have trusted that their mature minds will learn challenging new tricks, e.g. mastering complicated liturgy in a foreign language and investigating the deep meaning of primoridial mysterious narrative.

Judaism is in love with study. Pirke Avot tells us never to tell ourselves that when we have time, we will study. Every day, along with prayer and kindness, weÕre reminded to set aside time to learn. ItÕs not an exercise in getting smart as much as a practice that keeps us close to the mind and spirit of being children: new ideas and knowledge sensitize us to radical amazement and wonder. Confronting what we donÕt know takes away the illusion of power we grasp by knowing more than someone else. Learning Hebrew as an adult has the potentiality to make us wise not as Hebraic scholars but as people who have faced the fear of not having the comfort of all the answers, who are unafraid of what they donÕt know.;

Next Shabbat, 22 May, we are calling five members of HaMakom to the Torah as BÕnai Mitzvah. At first I resisted calling them Bar and Bat Mitzvah; the usual context for the title is given to a thirteen year-old. I thought a different name, say Bar and Bat Torah or Bar and Bat Hochmah [wisdom] would be more appropriate. But everyone in the group resisted this because this was a rite of passage for which they had waited a long time. Now I think that they were right. We all may be two years older from when the journey began, but the hope and idealism of its intention has brought us back to the joy of new beginnings.

Their parshah, i.e. their portion, is Bamidbar, the wilderness. It has been their metaphysical portion in its taking them into uncertainty and all the emotions stirred by ignorance, and it has been their redemption in giving them a makom, a place, that they knew belonged to no one except themselves. It is now theirs and those of you who are fortunate to be able to join us for Shabbat services may be inspired one day to take the same journey yourself, or at least begin the study you have been promising—and postponing—for a long time. If not now, when?

The following Shabbat, 29 May, will inaugurate our first Shabbat morning service at St. BedeÕs Episcopal Church. It will be followed by a potluck picnic. Some of you have asked about our plans for Shavuot, which is celebrated on Tuesday night, 25 May and Wednesday. If youÕre interested in organizing as well as observing the holiday, please let us know and weÕll be there to eat blintzes, read the Ten Commandments, and the Book of Ruth.

Finally, if you have ANY interest in going to Israel October 13-22, we encourage you to come to our meeting on June 6 at four p.m to ask questions about the itinerary. The cost will be around $3000 including air fare from Los Angeles. It will be at my home. Call 992-1905 for more information. As for the safety factor, I canÕt keep you from the jaws of fear, but I can suggest that you do the math. How many tourists have been killed in the last three years? And how many Israelis get up every morning, send their children to school, go to work, and have faith that they will see each other at dinner? If you can overcome the fear, youÕll have a great time. Read the letter below from my teacher, Regina Stein; it may help you decide what to do.

We welcome Lia Rosen as a new member. Congratulations to Joshua and Suzanne Freilich for their company, Western Optical Supply, for their being awarded the 2004 New Mexico Exporter of the Year.

Shabbat Shalom!

Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker


My younger brother’s kibbutz is on top of Mt. Gilboa in the lower Galilee.. From there you can look down on lush green fields in the valley just below and on a clear winter day you can see as far north as the snow-covered Mt.Hermon

In late winter and early spring the hills of Gilboa are covered with a variety of flowers, and the bright flood of colors-especially in years when the winter rains have been plentiful-can’t help but make you smile.

Among all this beauty there is one flower that brings thousands of Israelis to Mt. Gilboa from all over the country and that is the Gilboa Iris, a beautiful purple iris which grows nowhere else in the world and blooms only for about two weeks each year.

Not so long ago there were only a handful of irises left on top of Mt. Gilboa and within a short time they would have become extinct. But one horticulturist decided he was not going to let that happen. He nurtured the few remaining flowers and hand-pollinated them so that over time, this once endangered species took root and now blooms in abundance every year in the weeks just before Pesach all over the Gilboa mountains.

The day after my family finished sitting shiva was filled with sunshine and blue skies so we went out to the Gilboa nature path to see the irises.. It was so good to see the parking lot filling up, to watch the amateur photographers trying to capture the splendor of nature, and to listen to the excitement of the children when they spotted groups of irises among the many varieties of flowers in bloom. Life was once again thriving all around me.

On Shabbat of Pesach we will read Shir Ha’Shirim (Song of Songs) in the synagogue. “For now the winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The blossoms have appeared in the land, and the time of the singing of birds is come.” (Song of Songs 2:11-12). It is sometimes so hard in the middle of the cold, dark winter to believe that spring will ever come. But it always does. Death and winter are inescapable but life always begins again. The Gilboa Iris will alwaysremind me of that.

And just as important, the Gilboa Iris will always remind me that one person has the power to make a difference. It only took one person who saw something so beautiful that he refused to let it die. We need more leaders in the Jewish community like him, women and men who can look at the Jewish People and Israel the way he looked at a few flowers and, instead of crying at the beauty that was lost, be inspired to use every ounce of caring and love to nurture those that remain, someone who can imagine in her mind’s eye what a hill top covered with irises might loo like, and who can then make it happen.

May the coming Pesach be a time of renewal for you and your families. May freedom take root and flourish everywhere on earth. May the Jewish People in Israel and around the world know peace. And may we be so blessed that even when we look at an arid desert, we will have enough faith to keep planting and tending the seedlings, until as the prophet Isaiah said, “The arid desert shall be glad, the wilderness shall rejoice and shall blossom like a rose. It shall blossom abundantly, it shall also exult and shout.”

(Isaiah 35:1-2)
Chag Sameach!

April 30, 2004
Dear Friends,

This week we read two great and mysterious portions of Torah, Aharei Mot and Kedoshim. The first is named “After the deaths…” These are the deaths of Aaron’s righteous sons, killed for bringing ‘strange fire’ to the altar. Why they died and why the Torah responds to their deaths with details about the Yom Kippur service is a deep enough mystery to warrant volumes of ideas….I’d prefer to look at another mystery, which is what the Torah means when it says, “You shall be holy because I Adonai your God am holy.”

It doesn’t say we should be law-abiding, loving, thoughtful, or anything else we might understand as righteous behavior. Holy. What can it mean? It takes us right to: what is God? It’s what we do that goes beyond the law. Reb Shneur Zalman says it all: “What is forbidden is not permissible, and much that is permissible is not essential.”

We live in a time that challenges us not with surfeit but with excess. Gleaning what is essence is key, because freedom is both blessing and curse.. Last week I had the blessing of two gatherings that brought forth holiness. Last Friday night members of our community offered each other something precious: the truth of their lives in the stories they told about family. No law compelled them. We are made in God’s image, and God’s name is truth. This is how we become holy because our God is holy.

The second holy happening was in Washington on Sunday, when a million–that’s right, a million–women, men, and children, on feet and in wheelchairs, straight and gay, old and young, spent the time, money, and effort, to show their support for the law of this land and for the reproductive rights of women. That so many want to do more than stay within the bounds of law, that so many care enough to make the sacrifice and risk all the things we worry about today when large groups assemble against current government policy, may be the 21st century’s clue to what Kedoshim, the ways of holiness, mean. Join us Saturday morning to deepen the discussion and perhaps the mystery of these two portions.

A few announcements that are followed by reflections about Israel. I received from my friend Regina Stein. Come to our June 6 meeting at four p.m. at my house to hear in detail what we have planned for our trip to Israel October 13-22.

HaMakom is one of the hosts for Rabbi Arik Ascherman’s visit to Santa Fe. He is the leader of Rabbis For Human Rights, and there will be a reception for him Saturday night, May 15. Suggested donation is $100 and for more information called 984-2229. The web site is <> . This is an excellent organization committed to peace in the Middle East.

Lyn and Ellen Fox have recently opened a beautiful gallery on Canyon Road called Strong Fox. Margie and Michael O’Reilly are the owners of the O’Keeffe Cafe, the restaurant connected to the O’Keeffe museum. David and Ava Salman keep Santa Fe responsibly green with Santa Fe Greenhouses. Joy Silver and Atma Wiseman have created a unique retirement community that is both gay and straight friendly, Rainbow Visions. Let’s support them as members of the
HaMakom family.

Peace and blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker
April 21, 2004
Dear Friends,

While we have a weekly Saturday morning service, we know that many of you have difficulty joining us, and weÕve also heard that your tradition is for a Friday night religious experience. WeÕve responded with a service this Friday night at St. BedeÕs Episcopal Church at seven p.m.

The theme of our service is family. JudaismÕs secret weapon of survival traditionally depended more upon the home than the synagogue. My parents didnÕt teach me much written Torah, but their oral Torah was pride and love for a tradition passionate about justice and mercy.

Most of us live in Santa Fe without physical extended family, yet we carry memory of our families,. Elie Wiesel says that memory is our weapon against the despair of not belonging. We invite you to bring anything object to the service that reminds you of family and who you are. It could be a photograph, a letter, even a recipe or food. It neednÕt be associated to your Jewish connection, but if the object links you to the Big Family, thatÕs great. If you travel light, without object from the past, then bring a story. Or just come to listen and offer your presence. We hope to see you this Friday night, and donÕt forget our Saturday morning service at Ponce de Leon at 9:30.

Connected to this idea is a film called Divan. ItÕs the adventure of a young woman, the filmmaker Pearl Gluck, from the insulated and isolated Borough Park Hasidic world, in search of a rebbeÕs couch, but more than that, itÕs about her relationship to her father and the tradition that she loves but can no longer claim. ItÕs a beautiful piece of filmmaking, a glimpse of exotic Judaism, and proof that what keeps us a living people is the transmission of stories as true as we can tell them. Each story, sweet or bitter, helps me to know what it means to be a Jew. Divan is at the College of Santa Fe only until Thursday and worthy of your precious time.

Israel. Are we still going? Yes, without a question. WeÕll have a meeting to answer any and all questions about the trip planned for October 13 on Sunday evening, June 7. In the meantime, you might go to my web <> and google ÒIsraelÓ to see what IÕve written about it.

We thank the following people for their generous contributions:

Ava Salman in memory of her mother, Ruth
Mary Dolores Colangelo
Robert and Sybil Stewart in honor of Samoa WallachÕs Bat Mitvah
Lyn and Ellen Fox in celebration of the birthdays of Rabbi Malka Drucker and
Gay Block
Leslie Davis and Bill Lazar in honor of the birth of Lesley Lilah, RabbiÕs
Cindy Brott
Grace Gilbert, in memory of her father

We welcome Ellen Lampert as the newest member of Ha Makom.

We have our healthy kosher cookbooks from Una Vida for sale at 9 dollars.Let us know if you want one.

Shabbat Shalom!

Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

April 9, 2004
Dear Friends,

This Shabbat we read a special part of the Torah, Exodus 33:12-34:26. Moses implores, ÒOh, let me see your Glory!Ó But heÕs asking too much. God replies, ÒI will make all My goodness pass before you, I will call out the name of Adonai before you, and the grace that I give and the compassion that I show. But You cannot see my face, for no human can see me and live.Ó

WouldnÕt you like a little more connection, too? This is the season that celebrates freedom and birth: we need the first to choose intimacy, and the second is what comes from creative partnership. We also read Song of Songs on this Shabbat, the love poem that brings eros into the divine connection and the transcendence of earthly connection.

But there are limits, Torah teaches us. As with God, we cannot know each other as well as we may desire. Even in romantic unions, we learn to know only what our beloved wants us to know; no matter what kind of marriage license we have, it never gives us license to be invasive. Embrace the mystery, God seems to say to Moses, and that may be the best we have in all intimate relationships.

WeÕve been asked for the recipe for the chicken stew served at the March 28th celebration of the feminine seder. MagdalenaÕs secret formula is in a cookbook called Una Vida that is chock full of her tasty recipes that have been made healthy by Gay and kosher by me. WeÕre selling them as a HaMakom fundraiser for $9.00. All that plus three autographs. Let us know how many copies you want.

Moadim b’simcha ( joy in the season)! Shabbat Shalom!

Peace and blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

April 2, 2004
Dear Friends,

“For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing is come….” These are the words of love from Song of Songs, and it is the scroll we read at Passover, the season of our liberation and birth.

It is not yet Passover and the late winter rain pattering on the tin roof is as welcome as my little granddaughter named last week as Chaya Leah in Hebrew and Lilah means night in Hebrew, and her mother is looking for poems about the night. If you have a favorite, please send it on.

The birth of the baby girl has propelled me into seeing white fire everywhere. Last Sunday night, we held our seder to celebrate bring forth the feminine in all of us. Men and women offered blessings and toasts to the women who had touched and enriched their lives, and together we remembered our sisters, Shifrah and Puah, the non-Jewish midwives who refused the Pharaoh’s orders to kill Israelite baby boys. We filled the cup of Miriam with water and remembered that when she traveled with us in the wilderness, we always had water. May we feel, see, hear, and taste each drop of rain as God’s blessing, and may we know wonder.

While the exuberance and joy of the seder delighted us, it wasn’t as much a surprise as the Torah discussion Shabbat morning that once again revealed the hotter yet often unseen white fire. The portion was Vayikra or Leviticus, the beginning of the third book that gives us an abundance laws about animal sacrifices; every year we struggle to understand what this practice has to teach us. What is the transcendence in taking an animal’s life?

This year we found a new way to look at it by stopping at the first word, vayikra. Rabbi Shoshana Gelfand suggests that the book is not so much a book of sacrifices, but a book of relationships, women’s forte. The first word of the eponymous portion means, “And he called…”; God is calling Moses. God usually “speaks”, implying a tone more distant and transcendent. But here we witness the writer describing an intimate scene between father and son. Father squats down to be with his two year-old son. It’s the love and concern that Moses receives in this encounter that he must tell the Israelites about. It points the way that we could be with each other; it’s the intention and direction of our lives.

More typically we see this intimacy between the mother and child, not the father and child, but in Torah, which always creates emphasis by hyperbole, we witness something of profound importance: We all know about archetypal maternal love; it’s a beautiful and expected thing. Here we learn that that tender love is so important that it must be found in everyone.

Not only is Abba [Dad] making eye contact, Abba is whispering. We know that God is whispering to Moses’, the loyal servant, whispering in his ear a set of instructions that human beings will need to do if they are to know God’s message. We know this because of a clue in the actual writing of the Torah, even in a sefer Torah as Etz Chaim. The last letter of the first word, aleph, is half the size of the other letters in the entire Torah! The tiny letter reminds us to feel affectionately to each other as we do with little children; after all, they may grow up to be a messiah. It also suggests God shrinks to be with Moses; a good teacher always becomes the right size for the student to get the message. God shrinks like the letter. Finally, Moses is dictating a book that will tell the world how much God loves Moses. HeÕs embarrassed by the revealing word, so he writes one letter a little smaller.

Speaking of messiahs, some of you may remember that I suggested that when my grandson was born, we could relax. Now that lovely little Lesley Lilah is with us, I learn something new: there is room for many messiahs. Fill the world with them! May God grant us a generation of enlightened beings that will heal the world with loving kindness. One way to imagine what this looks like is to watch the reunion of a grandmother with grandchildren she hasn’t seen for a while. Not all old women know how to love, but the ones who do have something to teach alll of us.

May the holiday inspire and encourage all of us to face our personal slaveries: it’s the first step to freedom. Fear, anger, envy, doubt, unconsciousness, and despair are possibilities. The story of Passover helps us to find the controlling Pharaoh within; the life-giving, nurturing Miriam; the humble and faithful Moses, and the highest within, to glimpse in Whose image we are created.

A ziesen Pesah! May your joy be as strong as the horseradish on your Passover plates!

Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

March 19, 2004
Dear Friends,

I’m delighted to announce the birth of Solomon Ace’s sister, currently named Lucky Deuce. Her parents have assured me that on Thursday, 25 March, at 11 a.m., she will have a different handle. Our tradition is not to announce the name of the newborn until the eighth day, when the baby is welcomed into the eternal community of the Jewish people.
When you’re my size, it’s impossible not to be proud of a granddaughter born almost two weeks early who weighs almost eight pounds and is 19 1/2 inches high. She’s robust, calm, and alert. After Solomon smiled so sweetly at the baby and gently patted her allover, Betsy asked him if she should bring the baby home. Without a beat, he shook his head and softly replied, ÒNo.Ó

We have a terrific trip to Israel planned for October 13-24. It will cost roughly $3000 including hotels, lots of meals, and airfare from Los Angeles. The itinerary will give us a Shabbat in Jerusalem, visits to Safed, Tiberias, Tel Aviv, and an overnight on Kibbutz Nof Ginosar. Of course, we’ll have the best guide in Israel (everybody who goes to Israel has the best guide). Besides seeing the best of the old and new, we’ll meet with our precious friends who are more than Israelis: they are Israel. Though them, we glimpse the dream and witness how to keep the heart alive.

The maximum number for this trip is twelve, including Gay and me. Please let us know asap if you’d like to join us.

Shabbat Shalom! Can’t wait to see you all at the seder on March 28.

Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

February 27, 2004
Dear Friends,

Thanks for your responses to last week’s Weekly Reader. You’ll find the comments by selecting the COMMENTARY button above. I read a piece that talked about the danger of looking at the world from a purely moral perspective: there is good and there is evil. We end up calling each other names and feeling very right in our positions.

Last night I spoke to the Santa Fe Tikkun community; they meet weekly to discuss what’s happening between Israel and the Palestinians and they invite speakers to offer different perspectives. Many feel that the rabbinic community, or at least I, is not doing enough to speak out against Israeli policies.

Ever since Sharon walked on the Temple Mount three and half years ago and set off the current battle, I’ve been unequivocal in my fear that Israel is following a policy that is suicidal. Whether the policy is responsible for rising anti-Semitism I don’t know. It doesn’t help, and the world has never needed much reason to choose us as villain.

Why haven’t I spoken about it more? One, I’m often preaching to the choir.Two, I don’t expect to change Israeli policy, no matter what I do. Three,much of the conversation last night revealed well-meaning, caring people who are frustrated, disappointed, and feeling hopeless about the “matzav”,situation.

What did I say to Tikkun? I don’t know what Israel should do, and therefore I’m reluctant to say more than pray for the peace of Jerusalem. While I’m grateful for rabbis like Michael Lerner and Lynne Gottlieb who are public peace activists and are unafraid to be critical of Israel, it is not who Iam.

In the portion this week, Terumah, God says, “They shall make for Me a sanctuary and I will dwell within them.” Not “within it” but “within them”.How do we merit God dwelling within us? By setting one’s own self aside to listen to God’s will and teachings. Entering the political fray is risky because I’m not sure whose voice I hear, mine or God’s.

All traditions speak of peace and love, mercy and justice, and yet we find demonization of the enemy in the name of God over and over again. We become the judges of human behavior instead of leaving that to God and doing what God asks of us, which is to love thy neighbor as thyself. That includes Palestinians and it includes Jews.

The only mistake we can make is to grow uncaring and apathetic. Maybe all we can do is to care, but it’s enough. What more do we want of God than One who carries the deepest, unconditional empathy for all who live? May God guide us in these times of growing divisions, opinions, and anger, to become agents not only of change but also of peace.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

February 19,2003
Dear Friends,

Ever since the New York Times published its disquieting profile on Mel Gibson a year ago, I’ve been curious–and anxious–to see how much attention his film will create. The answer is clear: we have more than a movie premiere, we have a phenomenon. Thousands of churches going as congregations to “The Passion”, theaters have been selling advanced tickets for weeks, and the voices grow louder in debate. I’ve seen the film’s trailer. Music with the design to soften your heart as you witness the most beautiful person that ever lived destroyed by his own people. Jews. I squirmed in my seat, praying for it to end.

Marshall McLuhan and Andy Warhol are the prophets of our time because they understood the power of the new communication technologies. For those of us who worry about the danger of the pervasiveness of film and especially television, not to mention the Internet, now we feel like prophets too, but there is little satisfaction in being right. “The Passion” is upon us and we don’t know whether or where to run for cover.

When Holocaust rescuer Marian Pritchard was a university student in Holland in 1940, She and her friends were required to watch anti-Semitic propaganda films that showed Jews as repulsive and menacing. Despite the intellectual sophistication and humane sensibilities of these young people, they couldn’t help but see Jews differently after the film.

Jews have been the target of anti-Semitism since Christianity’s birth, i.e. Christianity is inherently anti-Semitic. The Hebrew Bible became its ‘Old Testament’, a foil for the ‘New Testament’s opinion that the chosen people had failed God and the followers of Jesus would supplant them.

What matters ultimately, however, is not how we begin but what we become. Except among fundamentalists, Christianity 2004 carries a different message from its early history that identified the Jews as Satan’s Children. The Pope has offered apology for the Holocaust, we are no longer described as “perfidious”, and books such as Elaine Pagels’ brave and brilliant “The Origin of Satan” offer new ways to understand good and evil.

Yet anti-Semitism still exists and we’re about to see what happens when it makes its case bigger and louder than any other time in history. A history that includes the late Wold Trade Center. From the left I have heard mutterings about Israel’s occupation as a trigger for the attack, and on the right there is Hutton Gibson, Mel’s father, who asserts that Israel destroyed the buildings by remote.

I’m with the New York Times columnist Frank Rich who made public that Gibson denied his requests to seethe film and that the film maker regarded critics of the film as misinformed enemies. He is not simply a fundamentalist Catholic; he’s an anti-Semite. (Definition of anti-Semitism: hating Jews more than is necessary.) Gibson has spent $25 million and a year or more of his life to make a movie at a time where anti-Semitism is frighteningly on the rise. Why now? When asked about the Holocaust by Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan, Gibson replied that war is horrible. Millions died in World War II and some were Jews who were in concentration camps. This is scary.

The Pope says that the film tells it like it was, yet pograms frequently occurred after the annual passion plays on Easter that showed the same story out. Do we think that we’re different from the Middle Ages? If not, then why is this film getting so much play? Advanced ticket sales for a movie about Jesus?

When people watch violent films, physiologic responses of increased heart rate and blood pressure have been recorded. How will audiences react to seeing the best person who ever lived, according to Christian belief, being brutalized by Jews? While no one knows what actually happened to Jesus, the Crusades, the Inquisition, ghettos, pogroms, and the Holocaust are the dramatic responses Jews have suffered at the hands of angry Christians.

Almost forty years ago the Second Vatican Council courageously denounced calling Jews Christ-killers. Is darkness descending again in a message of presumed love that requires an enemy that lives and breathes?

Jews have been accused of owning the film industry. I hope so. It’s time to show that Jews know God as loving and forgiving, and that their theological dream is of a world where no one will fear another. The last thing the world needs is more fear and hatred. I wish Mr. Gibson understood that he best serves by lightening the heart. A man who reads women’s minds may do the world more good than fomenting hatred.

Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

February 13, 2004
Dear Friends,

We’re pleased to announce that Leslie Davis is the new president of HaMakom’s Board of Directors. Please read her letter below and know that it is just the tip of the mighty iceberg that she is organizing and directing. You’ll be hearing more in the coming months about HaMakom’s future activities.

In the meantime, put March 28 on your calendar for our seder that celebrates the feminine. Our tambourines fit all sizes and genders, members and non-members. Everyone is welcome, there will be a nominal charge for a ceremonial repast, and it will be at St. Bede’s at seven p.m.

More immediately, this Shabbat brings us the singing of the Ten Commandments, God’s love song to us on this Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m at 640 Alta Vista. Join us and spend probably the most unusual Valentine’s day of your life.

More upcoming events: This Monday I’ll be offering a benediction laced with white fire for the House of Representatives. If you’ve never attended a legislative session, here is an opportunity to at least peer down upon your elected officials and pray.

Saturday night, Feb. 21 at seven p.m. at Ponce de Leon’s meeting room downstairs. I’ll be speaking to the Jewish Singles of Santa Fe about Song of Songs: The Erotic Within the Divine. If you don’t know about the group and are interested, this is a good time to visit and meet them.

Thursday night, Feb. 26th at seven p.m. I’ll be speaking to the Tikkun community at Temple Beth Shalom. I’d be happy to see you there and have you join the conversation about Israel.

Next week the Weekly Reader will talk about the passion surrounding Mel Gibson’s film. How much does film matter, whether you should you see it, and how might you respond to the subject at dinner parties are some of my thoughts. If you want to offer your opinion on this, we’d like to hear from you.

Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Malka Drucker

Febraury 13, 2004
Dear Members and Friends of HaMakom:

I have recently been elected chair of our board of directors. I am excited about the prospect of helping HaMakom through this next phase of its growth as an organization. We have a solid group of members, fabulous rabbinical leadership and a small, but dedicated board of directors. I look forward to meeting and getting to know all of you in the near future.

First I would like to extend a huge thank you to Lyn Fox for his over two years of leadership to HaMakom. Lyn brought our chavurah through the birth waters and held the organization together during those early years. Lyn has assured me that he will continue to be available to me and the board of directors for counsel and advice. I will value that relationship highly. And we must also thank Ellen Fox for her tireless work and dedication to the board and HaMakom. Ellen will continue to serve on committees and has agreed to help with our Pesach ceremonial seder and teaching to be held on March 28. I want to thank Joshua Freilich who has worked tirelessly on the board and is now stepping down. All of these HaMakom members who have been board members have brought enthusiasm, fresh ideas, integrity and hard work which has enriched all of us.

HaMakom is as strong and capable as its members. We will need your help with the Pesach seder and events in the future. I will be calling on those of you who signed up last June to help with events and hope that others of you will volunteer to make this teaching another memorable HaMakom event. If you would like to help organize, plan, and/or put on the Pesach Seder please email me at

One of my goals as chair of the organization is to hear from the membership. What are your religious needs? Is HaMakom meeting those spiritual needs? Is HaMakom meeting your social needs? How can we do a better job? Please feel free to call or email me with your ideas, concerns or questions and I will do my best to listen, answer, or get answers for you. Please email me at

Please join me, the board, Rabbi Malka Drucker and Student Rabbi Yafa Chase, as we move forward as a chavurah and celebrate our growth as a spiritual community.

Leslie Davis

January 29, 2004
Dear Friends,
I’m grateful to hear from many of you that you visit my web site when you’re doing research. You keep me learning, humble, and careful. Our web site designer, Dianne Stromberg, has made it even easier to access my writings by installing a search engine on the home page. Let us know if thisproves helpful.

In this week’s portion, Bo, God announces that Pharaoh’s heart will grow hard and incapable of change: he will continue to oppress the Israelites with dehumanizing work and will not let them go free. God may be mystery but Judaism demands meaning, too. What kind of God hardens hearts? The One who determines everything except our relationship with the One. God’s way is justice and compassion and we choose whether it will be our will or God’s will.

Behavior begats behavior: our deeds and responses make us who we are. Refusing to hear a needy cry is difficult the first time, and then it gets easier. Pharaoh’s heart was the opposite of the midwives who didn’t have the heart to kill the Israelites’ newborn babies.

The prophets of Israel bore the miserable task of pointing out to the most powerful that they weren’t the most powerful. They grieved for God and for all who suffer. At the risk of embarrassing a member of our community, I’m writing about one of reasons that makes HaMakom my second home. Peter Hess is too sweet-tempered to be thought of as a prophet, yet his generosity of spirit reveals the prophet’s love of the world, its inhabitants, and the Creator of all.

Peter has led Torah study in Santa Fe for at least fifteen years, and I’ve learned with him for eleven of them. It’s not only history and ethics he’s given me. It was he who invited me to lead part of the service and encouraged me to teach. His presence at my ordination joined him to other angels in my life who helped my dream to come true.

I watch him every week empower each of us to risk a new idea and to grow more at home with the tradition. You can learn a lot from Peter. His life demonstrates loyalty, integrity, patience, and gratitude. From him I witness ahavat yisrael, love of the people and the tradition. He has remained my steadfast friend and every day teaches me how rare and lucky it is to meet such a mensch.

Peter has begun a new method of learning. He goes arouund the table at the Shabbat morning Torah study asking each of us what we want to talk about in the week’s portion. A couple of weeks ago we delved into the question of whether the midwives who delivered Moses were Jews or Egyptians, and why it matters.

Join us some Shabbos when you need a vacation from narrow concerns, are hungry for communion of mind and heart, and want to meet a hero. By the way, should you take me up on the invitation and enjoy our kiddush that includes the freshest bagels, thank Peter. He steadfastly has brought the bagels for years. May God bless him for all the blessings he gives.

Shabbat Shalom!

Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

January 16, 2004
Dear Friends,

For those of you who haven’t joined our workshop in discovering the inner prophet, here are few ideas to absorb over Shabbat and to put into action in the coming week. Should you get arrested, HaMakom will try to raise the bail.

From Heschel’s The Prophets:

This book is about some of the most disturbing people who have ever lived: the ones whose inspiration brought the Bible into being–those whose image is our refuge in distress, and whose voice and vision sustain our faith.

It is not a world devoid of meaning that evokes the prophet’s consternation, but a world deaf to meaning.

Our eyes are witness to the callousness and cruelty of humanity, but our heart tries to obliterate the memories, to calm the nerves, and to silence our conscience.

To us the moral state of society, for all its stains and spots, seems fair and trim; to the prophet it is dreadful. To the prophet satiety of the conscience is prudery and flight from responsibility. To us life is often serene, in the prophet’s eye the world reels in confusion.

The prophet was an individual who said No to society, condemning its habits and assumptions, its complacency, and waywardness.

Those who are hurt, and God Who inhabits eternity, neither slumber nor sleep. The prophet is sleepless and grave. The frankincense of charity fails to sweeten cruelties.

Perhaps the prophet knew more about the secret obscenity of sheer unfairness, about the unnoticed malignancy of established patterns of indifference, than those whose knowledge depends solely on intelligence and observation.

The prophets endure and can only be ignored at the risk of our own despair. It is for us to decide whether freedom is self-assertion or response to a demand; whether the ultimate situation is conflict or concern.

Instead of dealing with the timeless issues of being and becoming, of matter and form, of definitions and demonstrations, the prophet is thrown into orations about widows and orphans, about the corruption of judges and affairs of the market place. The things that horrified the prophets are even now daily occurrences all over the world.

God is raging in the prophet’s words. Prophetic utterance is rarely cryptic, suspended between God and us; it is urging, alarming, forcing onward, as if the words gushed forth from the heart of God, seeking entrance to our hearts and minds.

Our coexistence with God determines the course of history. The prophet disdains those for whom God’s presence is comfort and security; to him [and her] its is a challenge, an incessant demand. God is compassion, not compromise.

History is first of all what we do with power.

The prophets were the first ones in history to regard a nations’ reliance upon force as evil and idolatrous. “Not by might but by Spirit alone,” Zechariah wrote. History is where God is defied, where justice suffers defeats.

My friends, imagine what Isaiah would say when he learns that the king wants to encourage marriage among the poor instead of encouraging fairer distribution of wealth. Don’t get arrested but don’t fall asleep. The work is not ours to finish nor ours to leave. And remember, “If God lived in the Bronx, they’d break His/Her windows.”

We have two more sessions with the prophet AJ Heschel: Feb. 17 and 24 at six p.m. Come to be disturbed and expanded.

Shabbat Shalom!

Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

January 9, 2004
Dear Friends,

This week the Torah portion brings us the end of the book of Genesis and the deaths of Jacob and his son, Joseph. Yet it is called Va-y’chi, “And Jacob lived…” Jacob lived to become Israel and claim his complete identity; he lived to lose his beloved son because of his children’s deceit; and he lived to see that son not only alive but the viceroy of a mighty nation and a father himself. Despite everything, the gift is life, and Jacob embodies one who lived.

In these closing chapters, Jacob, on his deathbed, requests to see Joseph, and Joseph comes to him with his two young sons, Manassah and Ephraim. With his remaining strength, Jacob sits up for the visit and notices the children. “Who are these?” he asks his son. The rabbis wonder why he doesn’t recognize his grandsons. Is he too blind, too weak of mind, or is it that the boys look like who they are, wealthy Egyptian kids wearing the latest fashion?

When Joseph tells him that these are his sons, Jacob asks to have the boys brought near to him so that he can bless them. Joseph is careful to place Manassah, the first born, near his father’s strong right hand. But old patriarchs don’t forget their tricks. With a boy on each knee, Jacob crosses his hands so that Ephraim gets the blessing of the powerful hand. If you want to know why, come join us tomorrow morning at Ponce de Leon, 640 Alta Vista, at 9:30 upstairs in the arts and crafts room. You’ll get bagels and cream cheese along with enlightenment plus the gratitude of all present.

The tradition of blessing our children remains with us. This Friday evening lucky Jewish children will receive the same physically affectionate communication from their parents, who will say to their sons, “May God make you like Ephraim and Manassah.” Why not Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? With girls, we ask that God make them like Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel. Ephraim and Manassah were the first Jews to teach us how to live in two worlds, how to be both Egyptian and Jewish. They knew how to “dress British and think Yiddish.”

I invite you to think of your children, grandchildren, and all little ones whom you hope will embrace our tradition. Imagine placing your hands on their heads and blessing them with the expansiveness and balance to embrace the best of this world while holding fast to our tree of life, the history and wisdom of the Jewish people. By blessing we are blessed.

Shabbat Shalom!

Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker
January 2, 2004
Dear Friends,

It’s wonderful to be back home invigorated by a break in routine and the delight of discovery. This is the segue to Vayigash, which continues the saga of Joseph, who has more chapters devoted to him than any other character in Torah. This week we read about the amazing discovery of Joseph’s brothers and the poignant reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers.

Dayenu, this would be enough, especially for those of us who yearn to put an end to family estrangements in our own lives. But this is more than the beauty of forgiveness and reclaimed love. What we glimpse is nothing less than vision of two who come to realize their interconnection, two who show us what Ehad, One, means.

The text reads, “Then Judah went up to him [Joseph] and said, “Please, my lord, let your servant appeal to my lord, and do not be impatient with your servant.” “Please” in Hebrew is “Bi”, and it can also read “within me.” “My lord” is “Adonai” in Hebrew. Judah’s words also say, “God is within me.” He is a different man from the one who was so jealous of his brother that he sold him and broke his father’s heart.

Now Joseph, who has been playing games with his brothers by hiding his true identity, hears the new heart of his brother and he changes too. “Joseph was no longer able to hold back”, we read, and his sobs were heard all over the palace. They are no longer separate because God is in each of them. In that moment of revelation, we confront the most mystical of ideas, that nothing but God exists. When we allow our egos to get out of the way, we see the truth. God is within us and the God within everyone near us meets us in the One place. (Namaste and Shalom, sisters and brothers.)

This is an idea off the charts and probably impossible to imagine. On Shabbat we get a little closer to understanding, because it lets us inside ourselves, and then we see that “God is within me.” “The light of a person’s face on the Sabbath is unlike that on weekdays,” the Sfat Emet wrote. I hope to see your shining face this Shabbat morning at Ponce de Leon at 9:30 where we will go more deeply within the portion and ourselves.

Also, this Tuesday night I begin the first of four teaching on Heschel’s Prophets. These are the ones who live in the same world as everyone else, but what distinguishes them is that they cannot stand the cruelty, indifference, and injustice that the rest of us sigh and accept. “A prophet claims to be far more than a messenger,” Heschel writes. “He is a person who stands in the presence of God.” Please join us at my house from six to seven p.m. to stand in the prophet’s presence. Maybe, like Judah and Joseph, we will glimpse Oneness. Call 992-1905 for address and directions.

Shabbat Shalom!

Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

PS–Thanks to Stephen Landau for his perceptive teaching on the Shema and its last word for inspiring the above teaching.