Intention: teach, heal hearts, have fun and build community
Put Talit on, being wrapped in the arms of Universal Love
Blow the Shofar, like in the play: Wake up!!! Stay awake
Power of word: Tikkun Olam, TZedakah, wake up
I so appreciate Bonnie inviting me to be a part of this series, it has offered me an opportunity to share what I know and to learn more, to speak from my heart and to know all is good.
As you listen to my words tonight, I want you to hold them gently, they may appear as they are paradoxes and I mean to stretch your hearts and minds, as Rabbi Jesus did to his Jewish followers with the parables encouraging many conversation, never reducing anything to one thought or idea..
I walk with the many who are god hungry, god wrestlers, Yeshar-El – Israelites, who search for the holy, the divine meaning in life and
Whose mind is trained to think hierarchically, meaning one is better than the other, as this is better than that idea, or linearly, moving forward on a straight line, never to look back, thinking new is better than old.
And that is the thinking used after Jesus’s death, disciplines leaving their Jewish roots, creating a new way, Good News!
what I am asking of myself and you is to embrace
different ideas, what you know and what you hear
and hold both seeing how big your heart and mind can be when you hold what appears to be opposites and see them more as overlapping ideas.
Jesus challenged his Jewish followers, and they were not always able to grasp the metaphors of his teachings, theater as art challenges us, religion dares us to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
We are told we are made in the image of god and in the likeness of god, Jesus knew this and I believe John MIchael Tebelek wrote from that place.
In the Hebrew bible there are four letters that are referred to as god’s name that Jews to do not say. For saying it would make god static and we are to remember that god is dynamic, always changing. Instead we substitute various names when we read that in the Hebrew bible. You might know those four letters as yaweh. Tonight we are going to bless each other by putting the four letters on each other. And then looking at each other as a likeness and consider how you would interact knowing you see each other in that light.
PUTTING G!D’S NAME ON EACH OTHER
My intention is to build community, to help us put more emphasis on our interconnectedness-the places we match up and not as much on our uniqueness. When Jesus comes to the group he comes to build community to tell them what they already know and to push them beyond that. I too come with that intention. I am a Vavnik, one who says yes and to life and then in pure Kabbalistic-mystical Judaism style waits to receive the wisdom of the next moment.
I will talk a little about Judaism and the law and the meaning. One thing to keep in mind, most people know only about orthodox Judaism, a more traditional way of following the monotheistic teachings of Judaism and there are several other denomination, such as Conservative, Reform, Reconstruction-ism, Renewal, Humanistic. We are as varied as Christians. And you can call your self an agnostic or an atheist and a Jew.
Bonnie has asked me to talk about the Law: I think that is what the Old Testament, Judaism means to people, and they often do not see the purpose of the law as the Holy One of Being’s subversive way of loving us and having us love back…it is to bring people into devekute, a clinging with the divine, like the song Day by day
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly
For that allows us to function at our highest good, to be our righteous holy self and to help tikkun olam, healing and mending the illusion of separateness
And when we stray we have the right of return, Tshuvah, for the Divine knew we would be distracted. In fact one of the mitzvoth or laws that appears in Numbers and Deuteronomy is placing TZitzit or fringes on the four corners of your garments as a reminder of the 613 ways you have to come back when you are led astray by your heart or eyes.
Let me talk for a minute about the difference between the written and the Oral Torah
Halakha, a Hebrew word is often translated as “Jewish Law”, and a more literal translation might be the way to walk, is the collective body of Jewish religious laws based on the written Torah-Five Books of Moses-Hebrew Bible and then expanded on by the oral Torah, in the books of the Talmud and Gemara The written Torah includes the 613 mitzvot or commandments, The word mitzvah has the root TZAV, which means to connect. So doing each mitzah is a way of connecting with your G!D.
Halakha guides religious practices and beliefs, and numerous aspects of day-to-day life.
Jesus knew all this, as a first century rabbi. And his parables used these teachings to keep his Jewish followers and us awake and aware, not falling asleep into comfort
Another example of written and oral teachings is the fourth commandment of the ten sayings, or ten commandments:
The written Torah is: Remember the Sabbath day and make it holy. six days you toiled and on the seventh you will rest.
In the oral Torah the rabbis offer teachings to expand ‘remember the Sabbath’, teaching us how to be, shomer shabbat, to guard the Sabbath…such as saying blessings over lighting the Sabbath candles and drinking the wine and eating challah, braided bread.
And Rabbi Jesus was steeped in these teachings and was taught to interpret the scriptures from where he stood, and came to teach his oral Torah. And that is what people know as his parables.
36 times in the Hebrew bible it says: love the stranger as thy self for once you were strangers in a strange land. This teaches us compassion, interconnectedness and awake ness us to self awareness
The mind has been conditioned to think linearly and hierarchically, we are prone to thinking competititon and one is better than the other.
In this way of thinking in a linear or hieracrchical way the ‘Hebrew bible, the first five book of Moses was considered the Old Testament, the one that needed to be moved on from, not quite good enuff any more, that is how Judaism became the other, and anti-Judaism evolved.
And if we are awake, as the character Jesus encourages us in Godspell, several times, we can think in paradoxes, we do not either or thinking
We can accept each for its own sake
Jesus as savior and redeemer AND Jesus as rabbi great teacher.
One doubter asked a rabbi: Tell me the Torah standing on one leg
“Do not do to others what you do not want done to your self” was the reply. We might know that as the golden rule.
In the 60s when Godspell was first presented on stage and then on film, I was not interested. I did not want to be in a Jesus focused environment, I did not feel grounded enough in my faith to be around Christians who blamed me for Jesus’s death and wanted to convert me.
That was a while ago
Then in 1997, as a guest in a Seikh ashram outside New Delhi, India, I met Jesus, a beautiful statue smiling with open arms, in a different way where he called me sister and I called him brother. In 2008 I became ordained as a rabbi.
And 18 years later, 2015, I returned to that ashram, where I learned more about how deeply I love my Jewish faith and with the blessings of my host I blessed and then wrapped that same statue of Jesus in a Tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl and the world was complete in that moment.
Here in Beaufort, as a member of the Unified Interfaith Community Coalition and at the second interfaith service we had at Grace AME church, I have had an awareness of the blessings of Jesus and I am grateful I lived this long to celebrate the healing that has come to many.
I do not think Jesus came to separate us, yet that is what happened, nor do I think Jesus came to teach us that one is better than another, and yet that is what has created much physical and emotional and spiritual pain in the world and I think Jesus came to teach another path, his oral Torah is what was needed to be heard, obviously.
And to see him as a Jewish rabbi who shared Judaism with the world in a way that created a Christian culture open to love. “One does not need to worship Jesus as Lord or Savior for the parables to have meaning. The people who first heard him did not, at first, worship him. Yet they paid attention, because for those with ears to hear and some patience to ponder, the parables spoke to their hearts. And when I study the parables, I learn more about the core of my Jewish faith.”
Stay awake, the character Jesus says
“Parables challenge, they provoke, they convict and at the same time amuse. I have learned to never stop at one answer, like when I read the Torah each year, I am a different person and so my eyes and heart read something different. They are pearls of Jewish wisdom. If we hear them in their original context and if we avoid the anti-Jewish interpretation they shine with wisdom and depth.”
I am thrilled USCB is presenting Godspell to awaken in us and stimulate in us the opportunities to learn more, to not accept as is and to wonder what was Jesus teaching us that we need to learn so we can strengthen and develop a community that values similarities more than otherness
I have for the cast and crew a single TZitzit to help them remember when they distracted to wake up, come home to their true holy self.
I follow in the footsteps of many teachers who come before me one Professor Amy-Jill Levine who when very young her best friend told her she could not be friends with her anymore because she killed Jesus, this sent her on a quest to learn and now is the university professor if new Testament studies and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School
And Rabbi David Zaslow and Joseph Lieberman for their incites and wisdom and knowing so much more than i