Archive for September, 2010

Watching From the Pews

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for me. I made it through the holidays fine, but came down with a nasty case of laryngitis, which progressed into fever, infection, and a week of misery shortly after Yom Kippur. The doctor put me on a Z-pack and a heavy dose of prednisone and promised me that I would have a voice for the B’not Mitzvah the following Saturday. Ahh…. the best plans…

Friday night came around and the voice was not there. I went to synagogue and sat in the pews while two wonderful congregants, Libby Tulin and Hilary Schwartz, lead the congregation in song. These two wonderful members of my choir often substitute for me when I am on vacation, but I had never had the opportunity to watch them do it. It was extraordinary.

As I sat, voiceless, in the pews, Hilary and Libby sang, harmonized, smiled, and prayed. The community joined with them and I felt like I was seeing my shul from a wonderful new perspective. How blessed I am to have such a capable, talented community by my side!

Saturday morning came and I remained silent. The Rabbi’s wife, Naomi Adler, CEO of United Way of Westchester and Putnam, came to the bima with me and she and the two Bat Mitzvah girls lead the service along with Rabbi Beal. I was there purely for moral support. It was a beautiful service. Naomi’s voice is as lovely as her soul. I prayed silently, but rejoiced in the beauty of the day.

My speaking voice came back in time to teach Hebrew school on Tuesday night, and it will be there, although quite weak, for Simchat Torah. As difficult as it was for me to step aside and let others do the singing, it was a blessing too. I am surrounded by love and talent.

Leaders often think that the world will fall apart if they cannot step up to the plate. I am glad to say that the world kept turning, services continued, two young women became Bat Mitzvah. I look forward to joining my voice once again with this fabulous community in joyous and heartfelt prayer.

Two Things to Get You in That Rosh Hashanah Mood

Hi all! I wanted to share two things with you to put you in a Rosh Hashanah mood for tonight. The first is in the catagory, “Wisdom of My Students.” I assign my students thirteen mitzvot to do in preparation for their Bar or Bat Mitzvah. One of these is to read something Jewish (a book, an article, a website) and write a few paragraphs about what they learned.

My student, Levy Singleton, read the article “Wilderness Awakening” in the Fall 2010 issue of Reform Judaism Magazine. I need to read this article! Here is what she wrote:

Wilderness Awakening

Guest Post by Levy Singleton

“There is a Chasidic story about a boy who left the synagogue each morning during his daily prayers to go into the woods. One day his grandfather followed him and watched his grandson pray amid animals and trees. ‘Why do you go outside to pray,’ he asked. ‘When I am in nature, I feel closer to G-d,’ the boy replied. ‘Don’t you know that G-d is the same everywhere?’ ‘I know,’ said the boy, ‘but I’m not.’ In nature people often realize they’re part of something larger than themselves, the whole web of life.” – Rabbi Kevin Kleinman.

I believe, after reading this article, that when you’re in nature you are in a peaceful atmosphere in which you’re surrounded by G-d’s creations. When you are praying in the wild, you get the opportunity of using all of your senses, you can smell, hear, feel, and see what G-d created and how much power the beauty has on you is enlightening. It allows you time to clear your mind.

“In the city, with the noise of the marketplace, dust from the caravans, and friends saying hello, it’s possible that Moses didn’t notice G-d’s call.” – Rabbi Jamie Korngold. Our belief today is that G-d is everywhere, though for hundreds of years before we had the Torah our ancestors communicated with G-d on top of mountains. Why? Because they believed G-d lived in heaven, so mountain-tops would bring them closer to the realm of G-d. In a way they were right. Being outdoors does bring you closer to G-d, but not physically, spiritually. When you’re outdoors, you have a better relationship with G-d’s creations, making your bond with G-d stronger.

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Can you believe that a 12 year old wrote that??

The other thing that I wanted to share with you was a bit of fun. While I was driving to the synagogue this morning, I was listening to The Brian Lehrer Show. One of the guest speakers was talking about website called Wordle, which allows you to analyze writing by looking at the frequency of word use visually. The more often you use a word, the bigger it appears in the graphic that the site generates. Curiosity won me over, I had to see what my blog would look like. I think the result is a nice pre-Rosh Hashanah meditation:

Soon, Soon…


Hi folks. I want to apologize for not posting in a few weeks. I have been quite busy with preparations for the High Holy Days and the start of the year. Back to School is also Back to Shul and we are getting ready (not that we ever really left…)

I am hard at work on my annual selichot sermon-in-song. This year’s sermon will be co-presented with Cantor Sergei Schwartz of Temple Beth Sholom. The topic is, “Lifting the Sparks: Redeeming the Profane, Recognizing the Holy.” I will be speaking about the ways in which secular or gentile melodies have been incorporated into the Jewish musical canon and why that is considered by some an act of redemption. What does all that have to do with the High Holy Days? You’ll just have to come to find out. Or wait… I’m sure that sermon will end up here in some form or other!

One other thing… A little crowd sourcing? I am working on creating a “Friends of the ACC (American Conference of Cantors) page.” What kinds of things would you enjoy reading on a page like that?