November pivots into the heart of autumn and all of its many symbols and feelings of transitions. It's a time of "catching up to ourselves" at Shir Ami, navigating so much that's unfolding in the world around us, and seeking ways to truly count our blessings in gratitude for what is and what yet may be.
Around this time just one month ago, on a picture-perfect Indian Summer afternoon in early October, many of us were celebrating Sukkot together at my home. Having come through the High Holy Days gauntlet, there was an easy spirit of celebration and delight just being together.
Little did we know that, less than a week later, our lives would feel turned upside down, that a day more fatal to Jews than any since the Holocaust would shatter Israel and rock the world, that a war would begin, that seemingly daily tragedy and heartache would follow.
Little did we know that Israel would begin the largest military call-up in her 75-year history, that so many around the world would stand with Israel and the liberation of hundreds of innocent hostages.
Little did we know that we might feel torn between deep care for Jews and Israel, and deep pain and conflict about innocent Muslim suffering. Little did we know that the hurt of unfolding events would be inflamed by the silence of others.
Little did we know that we'd need to seek – and increasingly find – comfort, resilience and resolve in each other, and in the goodwill of many who understand and support us amidst all.
And now it's November.
I'm carefully monitoring Mideast developments, and constantly looking for ways to support stronger coalitions and all of us through this time. I made a formal request to my Judiciary ethics body to reconsider some of its restrictions on what I can say and do as regards Mideast affairs. I hope to have a response shortly.
Meanwhile, a 19th century poem by Thomas Hood offers that November is aptly named for its eponymous "No" – evoking most everything November seemingly is not:
Wresting "Yes" From "No"
Jewish wisdom teaches that quiet times are potent precisely because they cue us to lean in rather than expect holidays or other big events to do it for us. It's like the power of someone who speaks softly, calling us to listen louder. It's like Shabbat's power to stop routine so essence can expand. November's "No" calls us to lean in and supply the missing "Yes."
For me, the "Yes" is about expanding learning opportunities, reveling in our ways to be together, starting to give back, and planning for the future. It's also about conjuring more ways to deeply know more of you. It's time for coffees and conversations and all the ways a rabbi can serve an intimate community.
In that spirit, here's some of what I'll be up to this month – and I hope you'll join me.
Mitzvah and Mysticism. November begins Shir Ami's "Mitzvah & Mysticism" series, which I hope will speak to many of us regardless of whether we naturally incline as rationalists or mystics. Join online 7:30pm on first and third Wednesdays through January. Registration required. Free to members, $120 for guests.
SoulSpa: The Torah Cycle. November continues the SoulSpa journey we began in October, moving week by week through the Torah portions. Each of them is speaking poignantly to how we are in light of Mideast events, so do please come (especially as the weather turns). No experience necessary: recordings of past sessions are on the Shir Ami website.
Plain Ol' Wonderful Shabbat Services on November 3 and November 17. Finally, I get to make "regular" Shabbat services with Shir Ami! Come for music, stillness, celebration and especially each other.
Interfaith Blood Drive at FPC on Saturday, November 4. Ordinarily I wouldn't venture out on Shabbat for routine matters, but I make liberal exceptions for blood drives and other ways to help save life and staunch suffering. Please consider joining me right after SoulSpa on November 4 to give blood at FPC. Blood drive sponsored by American Red Cross.
Planning a Southern "Justice Journeys" Trip. With all votes tabulated, a "Justice Journeys" trip to the southern U.S. wins this year's first annual Shir Ami travel election. I'll begin working to offer a trip during early spring 2024, maybe with a Christian community partner.
Behind the Scenes: What's Next for Shir Ami? Deep thanks to the nearly 50% of Shir Ami that responded to my first congregational survey, and to so many members who participated in October's Town Hall about it. Now in this ritually quieter time, I'll be listening carefully to the community, and working with the Board to vision wise evolution in light of the data. (The slide presentation was sent to all Shir Ami members: if you want another copy, and/or want to share impressions with me privately, please reach out!)
Thanksgiving. I'll be looking for opportunities to serve a Thanksgiving meal to unhoused and other food insecure folks. For Shir Ami members wishing to join me, stay tuned.
From my heart to yours, thank you for the privilege of serving Shir Ami, and joining together to bring more "Yes" into a world of "No." May this month bring the blessings of true peace at last, and a happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones.