In Genesis, when God creates humankind, it reads:
הִ֖ים בָּרָ֣א אֹת֑וֹ זָכָ֥ר וּנְקֵבָ֖ה בָּרָ֥א אֹתָֽם׃ הִ֤ים ׀ אֶת־הָֽאָדָם֙ בְּצַלְמ֔וֹ בְּצֶ֥לֶם אֱ וַיִּבְרָ֨א אֱ
And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. It is a curious line, that God creates man, and then it says, “male and female He created them.” Is it him or them? Is it one or more?
This week’s Torah portion might be the one with the most well‐known stories packed into it. It includes the two stories we read at Rosh HaShanah each year, Sarah kicking out Hagar and Ishmael, and Abraham almost sacrificing Isaac, “the Akedah.” But it also has Sarah laughing when her angelic visitors tell her she is going to be pregnant at age 90, and it has Abraham arguing with God about destroying Sodom if he can find just ten good people. It has Lot’s wife turning to salt. It has Lot’s daughters…
“WE ARE FORBIDDEN TO BE OLD” – HAPPY 90TH TO BEV BETTEMANN
Psalm 90 tells us: Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures;
So Bev, and all you others that are near or over 90, what is your secret? I think you are the superheroes that Marvel hasn’t made a movie about… yet.
But don’t get too full of your age-power. Remember that Sarah was 90 when she found out she was pregnant with Isaac…
“It is not in the heavens” This is a revolutionary statement!
Ancient religions of that time tended to see law as very much being in the heavens, and only a demigod, a mythic hero with superhuman strength or superhuman allies and power could possibly retrieve it. But here we have a radically different view of the source of the knowledge of justice.
Ya Ana Emtzaacha – WHERE WILL I FIND YOU?
This may shock you, but Jews tend to be very open in sharing our opinions. We talk about all sorts of subjects that others might shy away from, from politics to Israel to very personal relationship issues. But there is one subject that I find liberal Jews are very shy about and avoid talking about if at all possible; the love that dare not speak its name: Love of God.
But it is Yom Kippur, and after all, I’m a rabbi, so tonight, I want to touch on that third rail of liberal Judaism, God and the longing for connection with the Divine.
What a year it has been!
…let’s just take a moment and recognize just how much we have lived through this year, how fast things have come at us, and how exhausting it is to keep engaged and not just bury our heads in the sand in the name of self-care.
It feels good to be together after the year we’ve had.
As I said last night, we seem to live in a time of disconnection, disconnection from everything but the internet and our screens….
On the High Holy Days, we take time to remember that we aren’t as self-reliant as we like to think; our lives actually depend on so much that is out of our control. We are fragile beings that depend totally on God’s world and the creation around us to survive.
We are part of what William Logan Bryant calls, “The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth.” The thin crust of this planet does just support life, it is alive, and we are part of that life. We do not thrive outside of that narrow life-generating “ecstatic skin.”
I’ve been speaking often in the past months about the importance of not reducing complex issues to two opposing sides, a ‘good’ and a ‘bad’ side, a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’ side, but rather to challenge ourselves in these polarized times to think and speak in more complex ways. Judaism has always seen complexity in difficult issues, refusing to oversimplify, and insisting on honoring the value of debate and of opinions we don’t share.
Elu v’Elu Devarim
Words matter profoundly in Judaism. In many ways, the entire Talmud is one long argument over centuries about the meaning and power of words. We are called the “People of the Book” but it would perhaps be more accurate to call us a tradition that holds words and language sacred.
In Hebrew, the word for “words” is devarim. This week, in our Torah reading, we start the Book of Devarim, also known as Deuteronomy. It is the “Book of Words”.
From the time our people left Egypt until they crossed into the promised land, they wandered in the wilderness, a place neither here nor there, a place in-between, a liminal space. In Hebrew, there is a midrash that equate Egypt Mitzrayim, with the phrase min ha-meitzar, or from the narrow-places, from the abyss. In other words, to leave any form of bondage or oppression, we have to pass through a narrow place, through a wilderness, or what in simplest terms might mean “between a rock and a hard place.”