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Showing posts from September, 2007
Yom Kippur 5768: "Truth and Love"
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot ShalomWe begin with questions: What is faith? Can we have absolute faith in any source? Who has the right to judge the past? Given what we know about the transmission of the Torah and of tradition in general, and given the difficulty so many of us have with the question of absolute authority, how can we know what has truly happened and should our behaviors and decisions be based upon any tradition at all?? What is true?All words are human. We recite every Pesach that God’s outstretched arm brought us out of Egypt. Since it is a core Jewish belief that God has neither hands nor arms, such a description is an expression of God's power – a metaphor – and not a conception of God in physical form. Metaphor is rampant in the Torah. God has a heart. God is pleased. God gets angry. The literal Hebrew idiom for God’s anger is that "God's nose flared." But these are metaphors, analogies to …

A Yom Kippur Adaptation of Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten"

© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

We stand unwritten, undefined
Just beginning with pens in hand,
ending unplanned

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the window
Let the sun illuminate the words
that you could not find

Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin

No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips

Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

Not Three Lonely Paths: “Reclaiming HaZedonot VeHaShegagot”

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
based on the original in Rabbi Samuel H. Dresner’s “Prayer, Humility, and Compassion”

A moment of prayer at a time of grief may break a proud heart. An unselfish act of love may take a person so out of herself that prayer will become possible. At what point God’s Love enters a person’s life and the course it may follow cannot be predicted, but of nothing should we be more certain that that it is continuously trying to break in upon us, to heal us, to visit us with comfort and compassion.

Prayer, humility, and compassion are three ways in which God enters the life of a person. They are not three lonely paths, each leading to its own end. They are connected one with the other, interacting constantly. For at the root of them all is God’s Love for all humanity.

The drama of receiving God’s Love and sharing it with others is surely the most profound action of human existence. But for that Love to enter at all, we must first raise the many heavy barriers to our hea…

A Prayer for the Preschool of Netivot Shalom

Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Dear God,

With the world swirling around us, with the High Holidays bringing such intensity to every moment, I offer you my deepest thanks for the children in our shul's school who played, danced, and sang " Lashevet LaKum" (To Sit, To Stand) and "LeShannah Tovah" today, and for allowing me to hear them.

Thank You for the gift of incredibly devoted parents. Thank You for our teachers Lauren, Ofra, and Thea, who have guided grown-ups and children through a transition period. Thank you for David and Joe's tireless work, for Michael's skill and heart.

We pray all our dreams come to fruition, that the souls of our children feel Jewish warmth and personal love, that they touch, smell, taste, hear, and see their shul as a fun, special, sacred space for spiritual exploration and developmental curiosity. We pray that every moment of growth for our Preschool community be accompanied with healthy intentionality, and with the explicit desir…
Rosh HaShannah 5768: “Love Endures
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

[note: this is an adaptation of the remarks shared on the second day of Rosh HaShannah at Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, CA.]
Names mean everything.

We learn from tradition “kishmo kein hu / we are the embodiments of our names” (I Sam. 25:25). When a baby’s name is chosen, parents search their memories and imaginations to imbue their child’s new name with redemptive dreams. While our children were named for members of our families who had died, we struggled to find meanings within their names that would suggest powerful and positive directions for their lives. What a supreme challenge, to venture into the unknown future of another, to shout their destiny every time you whisper their name.

Consider, then, the power of a person choosing to change their name, to claim a personal dream, a path not yet assigned!

In Jewish tradition, a name change can occur for a number of reasons, the most common of which is a tim…
9/11 2007: "My Heart is in the East"
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Today is not like any other day. And yet, on the day before Rosh HaShannah it's hard to find someone whose eyes are pained like mine today, here in Berkeley, CA. I spoke last night to a sweet group of people of my memories of being in Manhattan 6 years ago today, my family's struggle to find each other, the baby beginning to grow within my wife, and people connected, but perhaps more to the person speaking than to the world that had changed for us all.

And every year the experience changes. There isn't liturgy. I've lit candles before, sung songs, felt the power of Tisha Be'Av creep into this universal day, recognize terrifying similarities between today and the binding of Isaac narrative, and today I sit even further away than every before from the place that, as my father has put it, will forever define the generations alive today.

What can we do today to make today different? Should today …
Yamim Nora'im 5768: "Reaching Beyond"
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor
The image of the person is larger than the frame into which they have been compressed.
Adapted from Abraham Joshua Heschel

Each of the upcoming holidays brings us closer. Closer to each other, closer to our spiritual home, closer to those we remember. Rosh HaShannah reminds us that our world is a universal inheritance, Yom Kippur teaches us about inner and individual rebirth, and Sukkot invites us out of our homes into the waiting experiences of nature and consistent interaction.

A central challenge of our modern world, as I’ve experienced it, is leaving our sheltered homes to get into the car (itself a smaller sheltered world), arriving at our destination (shelter of a different kind), and returning via the same isolated route. This is one of the redemptive aspects of taking walks with new friends and sharing small group programs (as opposed to large group davenings) – we are out of our familiar s…