From Cantor Lee
At a recent congregation gathering some of our members were trying to answer a question posed by a guest, “Tell me, what is Congregation Shirat Shalom all about?” I don’t remember too much of the conversation except for one bit of information that caught my attention. One member explained, “There isn’t any judgment.” “Exactly….” the others confirmed and explained further.
Being nonjudgmental of others which includes myself is a part of my spiritual practice I have been working on for years. I am not saying this is easy, but practice really does help! It has become more of a natural state of being than in the past.
Being non-judgmental goes hand in hand with the Jewish spiritual practice of avoiding, “Lashon Harah” which translates as “Evil Tongue or as we know it, “Gossip.” We are asked to not speak about or criticize others. I like to take it a step further and not even think negative thoughts about others which includes myself. When I do, I try to catch myself and use an imaginary chalkboard eraser to erase the thoughts. Yes, I grew up with chalkboards in school!
One assignment I always give our older Hebrew School students is to spend 24 hours not saying anything negative about anyone else. I also ask them to just observe t how much time people spend talking about others but not to be judgmental about this. Just observe. The results and discussion are always pretty amazing.
I always feel that things are brought to my awareness for a reason and the original conversation about non-judgment within our congregation is no exception. For my New Year’s’ resolution, I am going to pay more attention to being non-judgmental. This is actually a beautiful gift I am giving myself for I have discovered that this practice brings with it a sense of Inner Peace. And I know that the more Peaceful I am, the more Peace I bring to the world. And yes, that includes you!
May we all be blessed with Peace in this new secular year of 2015.
From Rabbi David aka The Reb
Today is the first day of the secular new year, January 1st, 2015. This first day of the year is traditionally a day of resolutions and promises to one’s self and perhaps to others. Resolutions are a good thing as they are a way for us to improve ourselves to live a better, wholesome life.
But today is a special day in the Jewish calendar as well, the 10th day of the Jewish month of Tevet, a day of fasting when we remember the destruction of our Temple. It was 2603 years ago that the mighty army of the enormous Babylon empire led by Nebuchadnezzar arrived in Jerusalem and began laying a siege on its city walls. Despite its massive size the Babylonian army could not break into the city due to the amazing bravery of the Jewish defenders. It took three years to finally break into the city. Once inside it still took the Babylonian army about three weeks to force their way into the Temple and destroy it. It was a blood bath for the Jewish population. The Babylonians were furious because of the huge amount of their soldiers lost during the siege. Some 70 years later the Jews did return from exile in Babylon to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple with the permission of the Persian emperor. Almost 600 years later it was destroyed again by the Romans.
Despite the forced exile which the Babylonians and the Romans imposed on the Jews, Jerusalem remained Jewish. Over the centuries many empires conquered Jerusalem; Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Moslems , Crusaders, Mamluks, Ottomans and British, to name a few. They all came and went disappearing from the earth. They ruled for a while and vanished. On many occasions over the centuries the Jews were exiled from the city and were forbidden to live in it. Amazingly we always returned
The story of our Holy City is the story of its sons and daughter, we the Jewish people, who refused to surrender it to foreign hands despite the great effort of so many empires. We will never cave in to mass killings, forced conversion and exile as in past centuries or in these modern days, terrorist killings, UN threats or European pressure.
One can not have Jerusalem without the Jewish people. It has been proven time and time again over the centuries. For us the city itself, its stones, its walls, are a living soul and as such these stones will not tolerate being without their beloved sons and daughters. Ever.
It is not coincidence, you see, that this year the memorial day of the ancient Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem coincides with the first day of the secular year. Our sages explained that the only reason our ancestors were forced out of our eternal city and country only to return back over and over again is because we did not learn to live in harmony with each other. “Shalom”, as we all know, is about peace in our hearts and among ourselves. Our sages explained that our two Temples were destroyed because of “Sinaat Chinam,” senseless hatred among ourselves through hateful thoughts and hateful words of gossiping, jealousy, intolerance – you get the idea.
Therefore for the sake of my beloved eternal city of Jerusalem and on behalf of our third Holy Temple that is now being built within our hearts, I pledge to use Cantor Lee’s chalkboard eraser to erase all negative and derogatory thoughts about anyone from my mind and watch my words extremely closely in case gossip of any kind finds its way there.
I believe that this practice will bring “Ahavat Chinam” Love for its own sake among us. It will strengthen the ancient spirit of “Am Yisrael” the Jewish people, to overcome all the turmoil and anti-semitism around us here in the US, in Europe and in Israel.
May this civil year be a year of peace, health, prosperity and redemption for all of us.