My Dear Friends
On Erev Rosh HaShanah I began a trilogy of sermons that I called “The path less travelled.” On that night I spoke of the origins of our people, our tribal path. On Rosh HaShanah day I continued with the tests and lessons of movement. As a people we have moved through time and space carrying our faith in our hearts and our heads and our hands. Movements were built as boxes to protect us and our sacred cargo. Movements were and are trail markers along the path less travelled. And movements were mechanisms for change.
But movements have drawbacks. No matter what the grand ideal, no matter how well the box of movements carried the changes we needed, no matter how well the box protected tradition, no matter how open the box was to change and modernity, eventually the lid on the box closed and change solidified and we forgot what we wanted to keep out and what we wanted to keep in. The usefulness of a box is in the opening and closing, the emptiness and the fullness.
The box which each movement created for us to carry along our path less travelled, became sacred in and of itself. The movements began to take themselves too seriously. Ego is the rust on the hinges of our box. “Our way is the only right way to Jew our lives,” squeaks the movement as the lid on the box becomes harder and harder to open. “If you don’t do it our way you are somehow missing the mark, not handling it correctly, less spiritual or less modern or just less.” And the lid of the movement refuses to move.
The Orthodox tell the story of a husband and wife in a car. The husband is driving and the wife, leaning against her side of the car complains: “We used to sit together in the car your arm around me, me leaning into you, it was romantic. But we seem to have drifted apart.” The husband replies: “What do you want from me. I am driving the car, I can’t move. You are the one who has moved away!” This is how the Orthodox box sees Conservative and Reform and all liberal movements in Judaism. The Conservative box see the Orthodox as needlessly neglecting modernity, while Reform has forgotten and forsaken its roots.
I have shared with some of you that I come from a long line of Rabbis. My father, (זצ”ל) was very proud when I was ordained. I was visiting him that summer in Narraganset Pier in Rhode Island. On Shabbos we sought out the only synagogue in that small town. When we entered, my father proudly announced that he and I were Rabbis. The people there thought that it was fortuitous because their Rabbi was on vacation. They asked us to lead the service. As we walked to the Bimah I noticed a מחיצה separating the men’s and women’s section. The reader’s table faced the ark not the congregation. We had entered an Orthodox synagogue and they were asking us to lead. My father had never led an Orthodox service and so it was left to me to lead most of the service. But at one point he whispered to me: “Let’s just turn around and do this right!” Right for him was the Reform way.
Movements, each and every one of them have become like a box with a rusty hinge. Boxes are important tools on the path less travelled and we each need to have our boxes, they carry significant ideas and keep safe important ideals. The box gives shape and form and direction to our thoughts. But we should be wary of climbing into the box and we should never do all our thinking inside the box. The problem is that movements tend to box us in and box others out. And that is because we don’t open our box enough, we don’t examine enough or play enough with what’s in the box. Carrying our movement box can make us comfortable but it also can make us, has made us complacent.
There is a tale told of a bejeweled box that was a treasure of an elderly couple. They kept it in a glass case for all to see. They would take it out and show it to special friends, on special occasions, but they never opened the box. When they passed on they left it to their children, who kept it on the mantel and told all their friends how it had been so special to their parents. When they passed on and left it to their children, the box got stuffed in a drawer somewhere. And when they passed on, the box somehow was lost. The box is the movements and the hidden treasure within is our Judaism, our Jewing life to the fullest.
I love boxes, they proclaim neatness and orderliness, a place for everything and everything in its place. My favorite box is a replica of a tinderbox, carried by the mountain men about 150 years ago. I enjoy the firm pop as the hinged lid opens wide or closes down. My box is small in all its brassy glory. My box is the protector of small fragile objects. It has carried all that is miscellaneous, all that has nowhere else to go, all that is important, irreplaceable yet unplaceable.
So tonight I wish to offer a solution to the rusted box of movements, the box that is neglected and which contains the sacred and hidden light that we might call Moshiah consciousness. Tonight I wish to share with you a new box, clean, bright and brassy. It is a thoroughly modern box, a box that will carry us comfortably into modernity and yet the box is hinged with tradition carrying our sacred treasures along the path less travelled.
This box that I offer contains a non-movement, that is always moving. This box is a paradigm shift for movements and for individuals. I even have a catchy name for our new non-movement, a catchy name for our new box. I call this moving non-movement ‘Reframing’.
When we reframe we see things anew. We see them in a light that we have not utilized before. Reframing how we move on our path less travelled will enlighten our path with the Ohr Zarua, the original hidden light of creation and creativity.
But as with all things of worth, it takes some work. And for our box to be useful to us we must use it, constantly adjusting, adding and subtracting from our box, rearranging and handling the contents.
Our reframing box requires each of us to fill and empty and refill it with questions to be asked, and actions to be quested. What studies will you put in our reframers’ box. What traditions would you keep alive in our box as we wind our way down the path less travelled
Who is interested by history. Did you know that the Menorah is Judaism’s oldest symbol and that it stems from a sage plant found in Israel. The name of that plant is Moriah, which means G’s guidance and is related to the word for our Sacred Guide, Torah. How about the fact that two thousand years ago when we were forced from our land, the Romans, to add insult to injury, named our holy homeland after our worst enemies.
The people who invaded our coastlands of Ashkalon and Ashdod and Gaza were people who we would not even call by name, we simply called them the invaders. Today we mis-transliterate it as Philistine.
In Hebrew the word for invader is Paleshet. The plural is Palashtim. The Romans renamed Israel using that very word, the word celebrating their invasion of our sacred homeland. In Latin the term is Palastina what people now call Palestine.
History enlightens our path, the path less travelled.
Who would be willing to keep our sacred tongue alive, who would be willing to learn a little more about Hebrew putting it in our sacred reframer’s box. Just the Alef Bet, or a few more words of worth. For Hebrew holds the secrets of history and poetry and philosophy and mystery.
What is the fourth letter of the Hebrew Alef Bet. It was Dag, which meant fish and the original pictograph was that of a fish. But we changed it when those same invaders conquered that spit of land on the southern part of Israel on the Mediterranean. They worshiped a god of fishing and its name was Dagon. We changed a letter of our Alef Bet from Dag, fish, to ד, door because it was too close to idolatry.
The א, the first letter of our Alef Bet is silent and yet contains within it the secret of the sacred name of G, the name we are prohibited from pronouncing.
What traditions would you carry in your box for a year to guarantee their survival and increase your spiritual awareness. Every tradition in Judaism has a history that will hold your heart and a mystery that will bring heaven to earth. Would you take 10 minutes a day, 6 days a week for a year and lay תפילין? It would change your life and add a little light on the our sacred path, the path less travelled. Within the leather box that is תפילין is the six word mystical phrase of oneness that we repeat throughout the day. We call it the שמע and the translation that we read is every week is weak. Sometime we will sit together and you will create your own translation that far surpasses what we read in our prayer books.
What of שבת, is that something to carry in our Reframers’ box. What people call the 10 commandments are written twice in Torah and each refers to Shabbat a little differently. In one case Shabbat we are told, should be Shamored, guarded. In the other case we are reminded to זכור, remember Shabbat.
What is the difference. We guard Shabbat by living it, by doing it, by being it. How we do that in our Reframers’ box will be different for each of us. But one element is the same. We will not allow the weekday, workday, mundane day into our sacred bubble of time. For some, no electricity or driving. For others, we travel for sacred activities not for shopping. But for all, Shamoring Shabbos is family time, prayer time study time, a time of holy rest. That is how we שמור. But if we cannot שמור, guard by living it fully, we can זכור, keep Shabbos in our hearts and heads and hands.
When our son, Ronin was in high school he took part in school plays. Needless to say, he was the best actor there. But it required him to perform on Friday nights. His answer to this challenge was to take a couple of candle stubs some Hallah and grape juice with him. At the appropriate time he would slip away and make the blessings. Since some of the other actors were Jewish they began to go with him. Eventually even the non-Jews came to see what was happening. On one such occasion Ronin was in the Sound of Music. What he told me painted a picture in my mind that still warms my heart. Members of the cast, in costume took part in the short celebration of Shabbat. In costume!!! I picture a group of costumed nuns, and Nazis standing around helping usher in Shabbat with blessing. If we cannot שמור we can choose to זכור and that will raise the sacred sparks.
Every תורה is hand written, copied from the one before. It has been so for over 2000 years. Hidden within Torah are shards of that original light that can brighten our world and our world view. One Shabbos our grandson Gage, looked up from the dining room table and asked me to tell him a story about that week’s Torah POTION. Torah is a sacred Potion that we should keep in our reframer’s box. Would you be willing to study a little Torah every week. Would you consider to look at a small part of the Torah potion under a new light? Would you carry that sacred light in your tinder box of reframing.
I am not asking that we do everything, that we study everything. I am asking that each one of us opens our box and decides what Jewing to put into our personal Reframer’s box. We can try things out to see what fits and what comforts and compels us. But we must try or the box becomes just another bit of clutter in our lives.
The Reframer’s box must have oiled hinges from constant use, opening and closing, putting in and pulling out. The contents must be shiny with wear. In this way our path less travelled remains a path worth travelling.
My friends our moving non-movement box of light, our reframer’s box calls out to us with the shofar’s blast and the whispered warning. “Open and examine and play with what is in this box but never climb into this box.” The box is for carrying our sacred tools, tinder and char, flint and steel, creating holy sparks. It is not for show and it is not a place to hide from modernity nor from Mashiah consciousness. We should think outside the box, live and love outside the box. But we should never abandon our reframer’s box. A box is not a home it is our sandbox, our tool box, our toy box, our X box. We need to live with it and play with it, examining the contents adding new sacred tools and putting others aside. And we do this to enlighten our path with holy consciousness, our path, the path less travelled.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.