Oh Freedom

Shana Tovah
I came home from Rosh Hashanah services and felt inspired to play. I feel blessed that I belong to a Jewish community that is willing to work through the difficult conversations of race and at the same I’m very frustrated because I often feel like it’s lip service and wonder when will things change.

Racism is ugly and nasty and does not look like it did during the time of slavery, it does not look like it did when my grandparents or when my parents were growing up. Racism is a different animal today but just as ugly and nasty.

I opened up the book to Rise Up Singing and O Freedom jump out at me. I started thinking about the birthday of the world and the violence this past year and the more things change the more they stay the same, all of that swirling around my brain make this the perfect song for me at this moment.

New Beginnings

This is for my rabbinical school cohort

May it be Your will, O Lord my God to lead me in peace,
to guide my steps in peace,
to uphold me in peace
to save me from any enemy or entrapment along the way
to bless the works of my hands
and permit me to find grace, favor and mercy in Your eyes
and in the eyes of all who behold me
Blessed are You, O Lord, who hears prayer ~ Reuven Hammer, Entering Jewish Prayer

Rosh Hashanah is a time of remembrance. The anniversary of the creation of the world and since the world is quite old there is much to be thankful for and to celebrate. Rosh Hashanah is also a time when we remember our own personal histories, our journeys that have brought us to this day. We reflect on those times when we might not have lived up to our best selves and remember the times when we did.

Like many of you here, this summer I embarked on a journey and that journey for me started about six years ago when I knew I wanted to be a Rabbi. Actually, when I really think about it my journey started about forty-years ago. Which in someways makes me feel like the Israelites. Let me explain. In this weeks Torah portion Nitzavim-Vayeilech, we come to the last day of Mose’s life. The Israelites have been wandering in the dessert for forty-years and the land promised to them is within reach; they can see it, they can smell it and in someways maybe even touch it, but they cannot enter into the land. Can you imagine what it must feel like? I know I can. Imagine what it must feel like to search for something for forty years; you are not sure what it looks like, you may even start to doubt that it truly exist, but you keep holding onto a dream, and believe; and then when you find it, and you know it really exist, and you can see it, smell it, and maybe even touch it but you cannot enter.

Mose’s tells the Israelites “I am 120 years old today, I can no more go out and come in; and G-D has said to me: that I will not go over this Jordan” The Israelites in the dessert can see the promised land but there leader will not be able to go with them. This is exactly what Dr. Martin Luther King was referencing in his famous speech The Promised Land. In his speech on April 3, 1968, King says, “I’ve been to the mountaintop. He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.” And like Moses, King was allowed to see the promised land but he knew that he was not going to be allowed to enter. The next day King was dead.

Like the Israelites, I to have been wandering in the dessert for 40 years. I have done many things in my life with great success, and every challenge has led me that much closer to where I needed to be. And now, when I am about to enter the promised land, which in this case we are talking about rabbinical school, the people that have helped me and coached me can’t be here with me on this part of my journey, but I can take them with me where ever I go. A dear friend once told me, “some people have linear paths, and for others it’s never a straight line.” So, I say to you, Never give up on your dreams. Even when you think it’s impossible. Sometimes we we’re meant to wander in the dessert for 40 years.