Thursday, December 27, 2007

And thus begins Exodus...

And so we begin
Exodus starts with the names
That's what Shemot* means!

A new king arose
in Egypt where the Jews lived
This guy forgot Joe.

"There are too many!"
Pharaoh thought they might rise up
or join enemies.

So they made them slaves,
they had to work really hard
constructing cities.

Life was bad for Jews,
being slaves was really hard.
But they still "increased."

A new decree came:
When babies are born to Jews
keep girls, kill the boys.

Shifra and Puah,**
the midwives who were so brave,
did not do as told.

One lady gave birth
to a boy she kept hidden
for all of 3 months.

Then she waterproofed
a basket and put him in...
Placed it in the Nile.

His sister watched o'er
as Pharaoh's daughter came out
and rescued the babe.

To keep the baby
the sister offered a nurse -
the baby's own mom!

When he was ready
Mom brought him back to Princess
who named him Moses.

Mo grew up a prince
One day he saw a bad thing
a Hebrew beaten.

Mo looked all around,
saw no one was watching him,
and killed the beater.

Pharaoh heard of it
and was ready to kill Mo
So he fled from town!

He went to Midyan
and met seven girls, daughters
of Jethro the priest.

He defended them
from bad shepherds at the well
They took him to Dad.

He liked this guy, Mo,
gave him Zipporah as wife
made him son-in-law.

One day Mo was out
he saw a bush burning bright
but not burning up!

God called: "Moses! Yo!"
Moses took heed: "Hineni!"***
"You'll free my people."

"Who am I?" said Mo.
God said, "I'll be with you there."
"What's your name?" said Mo.

"I'm the God of their fathers,
Abraham, Isaac and Jake -
I am what I am."

God gave him some signs
that what was said was all true -
a rod, scales and blood.

Mo protested more,
"I am slow of speech and tongue!"
Help comes from Aaron.

They went to Pharaoh
"let my people go, God says!"
But Pharaoh said no.

Things got worse just then
Pharaoh took the straw for bricks
It made the job rough.

The Hebrews got mad
they blamed Mo for their trouble.
But God said, "Don't fret..."

Stay tuned for more of the saga next week!

Shabbat Shalom!

*Shemot is both the name of this week's Torah portion as well as the Hebrew name for the book of Exodus. For more thoughts on what's in a name, check out the Torah commentary for this week from the URJ.
**My favorite biblical name
***Hineni means "here I am."

Friday, December 21, 2007

Friday Parsha Wrap-up in Haiku

Genesis ends now
This week's parsha is the last,
the story, wrapped up.

Jake is gonna die.
He calls Joseph to his bed,
makes him swear a vow:

"Don't bury me here
take me home to lay me down
to rest with my dad."

Joe brings his sons forth
to get blessed by their zeyde*
a whole list of good.

Then the sons are blessed
(Jake's other eleven bros)
Each one hears from Dad.

He reiterates
his yen to rest in Israel's
Cave of Machpelah

Then he dies. Joe cries.
Joe orders his embalming
It takes 40 days.

They took Jake up north
To bury him as he wished
the whole family went.

The brothers got scared
that Joe would retaliate
now that Dad was dead.

Joe told them "Don't fear!"
He committed to protect
all the family clan.

Time flew - Joe got old.
He made his fam swear a vow:
"Take my bones with you."

And thus ends the book
The family saga complete
What's next for the Jews?

(Stay tuned for Exodus...)

*Yiddish word for Grandfather (pronounced zay-dee)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Deep Breath...I'm home!

Come see the Biennial Blog!

I write this in my cab home from OHare airport at 1am Chicago time. The weather sure is different here! But so is the feeling of being back in the real world. It's a little like leaving camp - going from being surrounded by Jews and wearing a nametag to being a little (okay a lot) more anonymous. I was sad to have to leave early but glad I was able to hear Eric Yoffie's sermon this morning. What a remarkable man he is. I feel so blessed and safe with him as our fearless leader. I look forward to rereading his sermon when it is posted online and sharing it with my congregation. The biennial was great - buzzing with energy and life and friends who are like family. May blessings follow each and every one of us as we travel in safety back to our homes. Signing off for now but please continue to visit me at my regular blogs here and at Shavua tov and see you in Toronto!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Michael J. Fox is in the room with me!

I admit it. When I was 9 years old, I had a serious crush on Michael J. Fox. The TV show Family Ties was "must-see-tv" for me and all my friends.

And today, I was in the same room with him!

And not only that, but he was articulate and delightful. He accepted the Eisendrath Bearer of Light award with a lovely speech.

As my crush has moved on (although I never miss a chance to watch him...), I clearly missed the detail that he is raising Jewish children. Wow.

He even used the term "b'not mitzvah" to refer to his daughters' upcoming celebration. Wow.

This is a guy who's been on Oprah and the Today show and Jay Leno. And he was on the stage at our Biennial. Wow.

He spoke about the power of Bar Mitzvah in the life of his son who is applying to college. Wow.

Come see the Biennial Blog!

I am Joseph!

Judah comes to Joe
"Please, you can't take away Ben!
It would kill our dad."

"I'm responsible."
He takes Ben's life as his charge.
Clearly he has learned.

Joe is overcome.
He knows his brothers have changed.
he cries and cries - loud!

"I'm Joseph, your bro,
the one you tried to sell off.
And I forgive you."

They couldn't believe!
It was like back from the dead.
They were really shocked.

Joe invited them
to come move down to Egypt
and they said "okay."

Jake came to Egypt
to see his long-lost son, Joe.
Everybody cried.

The children of Jake
prospered in the land, Goshen,
and they multiplied.

See more Haiku Friday here!

What's your torah?

The conversation with Rick Warren, Laura Geller, and David Wolpe (moderated by Ron Wolfson) highlighted the importance of telling our stories. Rabbi Geller called this the "Torah of our lives." I once heard it called Torah with a small "t" -- tell me your torah. That is one of the parts of the Biennial that I really enjoy -- hearing all the stories of the presenters. The good presenters tell stories. The best presenters tell the best stories! This is a lesson that I take to heart. When I tell stories, people listen. When I stop telling the story, I think they tune out. (Okay, I know *I* tune out!)

What's your torah?

Come see the Biennial Blog!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My Lost Book

The Biennial, like many conventions, has a great deal to offer. Lots of programs, lots of stuff to see and do. There is a program book, with 188 pages of information.

Like any good convention-goer, I marked mine up, tucked stuff inside, and made a general mess of the thing. But it's mine and I loved it. But like any bad convention-goer, I didn't put my name on it....

and it's MISSING! I lost it.

Have you seen my book? It has my pen tucked in (black) and it has many papers inside as well as notes about the sessions, etc.

If found, please contact me! My phone # is posted on the bulletin board outside the shuk.

I will be so happy to have it back.

Come see the Biennial Blog!

Rockin' out at Biennial

Come see the Biennial Blog!

Yesterday was quite an overwhelming one at the Biennial!

It seems as though I can't walk 2 feet without seeing a different old friend that I've not seen in years...each moment I turn around and see a familiar face. I haven't completed a single conversation because I keep finding someone new to whom I have to say hello!

I have gone to two different prayer experiences, both last night for Maariv, and this morning for Shacharit. Both were completely overflowing, with far more davenners than chairs. I am pleased and impressed with the desire for creative worship experiences. Last night, the Maariv service was musical and, similar to the way in which we do our Friday Night Live at Am Shalom, used a screen for the words, instead of a prayerbook. I find this to be a fascinating way to pray. Usually, I'm on the other end, the one running the presentation and not using the screen. I was able to "space out" on the music and the images on the screen unencumbered by a book, but I did find that I missed holding a siddur in my hands. The music was delightful and I felt a buzz of energy in the room. This morning's service was similar, musical but with a siddur in hand. Although I arrived late... the perils of running into people... this week's Torah portion never fails to delight. Ani Yosef!

Jay Geller told us that Biennial is a "bargain" -- and even at the prices we pay, I do believe that he's right. It's quite a joyful experience to see all these musical guests, hear all these wonderful scholars, listen to incredible speakers and celebrate Judaism. I love to walk into a tefillah and see more tallit and kippah than not. Rabbi Dan Freelander said that here we are "standing at the top of the mountain of Jewish life" and he is right. This is indeed the top of the mountain and we are blessed to be together, blessed to look out on the state of Jewish life.

More today!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

San Diego Dispatch...#1

Come see the Biennial Blog!

I giggled when I got to the airport this morning and found approximately half of the Jewish community of Chicago on my flight. Okay, just kidding...there were only about 10 people going to the Biennial. But it felt like a lot!

There is something wonderful and powerful about being in the airport (O'Hare) in a huge city (Chicago) and feeling like you know everyone.

In a sense, that is also what the Biennial is like for me. There are literally thousands of people here and yet I feel like I can't walk two feet without giving someone a hug! It's so wonderful to see so many Jews all in one place, to know that we all speak the same language (both literally and figuratively) and that we are all here together to celebrate our Jewish lives and our Jewish community.

As I write this, I'm sitting in a session on Web 2.0. I think this is one of the most interesting and powerful ideas out there right now, one of the most exciting ways to communicate and connect with people, with our congregants. Rabbi Paul Kipnes, of has a congregation, too, but I know him by his blog!) is giving a hands-on lesson in being cheeky on the web. He's right. Even this blog that you're now reading -- no one is (I hope) checking what we say or monitoring it...we are definitely being cheeky by allowing many people to communicate what they're feeling and seeing at the Biennial.

Check out the Biennial blog to read other people's opinion of what's going on in San Diego and to see what the Biennial is all about!

Friday, December 07, 2007

More of the Joseph Saga...

We meet back with Joe
Remember he's in prison
stuck there in Egypt.

Pharoah had a dream:
seven fat cows by the Nile
seven thin ones too.

The thin ate the fat
but they didn't get fatter.
what could all this mean?

Then he dreamed again:
Seven good ears of corn grew,
seven bad ones too.

The bad ate the good
but they didn't get better.
What could this all mean?

Pharaoh was disturbed.
When the pharaoh ain't happy,
then no one's happy.

What did the dreams mean?
His wisest men couldn't say.
The butler spoke up.

"I was once in jail
and I had a dream while there;
a guy helped me out."

Aha! It was Joe!
They cleane dhim up, brought him in.
Pharaoh told the dreams.

Joe credited God.
"God helps me figure it out,
I know what they mean."

Seven rockin' years
full of food and great success
are coming our way.

Then come seven bad:
no food, a famine, it's rough!
Things will go downhill.

Joe gave his advice:
"Get someone to make a plan,
set up a system,

put away extra,
save it for the rainy days
so we can eat then!"

Pharoah said: "It's great!
You're the right guy for the job,
you have God's wisdom."

So Joe was the guy.
They saved all the leftovers
to pass out later.

(This is a super long Torah portion! I'll finish it next year... ha ha.. Or see the "other version" of the story!)

And for more Haiku Friday, click here.