Shalom, BAI!

I just saw the film, “Lady Bird” last night and loved it. “Lady Bird” refers to the name of its lead character, a name this teenage girl has chosen for herself over her given name, Christine. It is a beautiful coming of age story and takes us inside this teenager’s journey towards self-identity be it by her choice of name, her actions, her struggle with her place of origin, or her relationship with her friends and family. Her heroic journey is both specific,  universal and timeless.

This week’s Torah portion marks the end of the Book of Bereshit, and the death of Jacob. The name of this portion is called “Va’yehi” meaning, “And he lived.”  Jacob (Heel),  who is given a new name of “Israel” (God wrestler)  many years prior continues to be referred to as Jacob AND Israel throughout his life right up until his death where is referred to finally as Jacob. 

Rabbi Shefa Gold writes about the need for us to honor the Jacob and Israel that reside within each of us. She calls on us to take up the spiritual challenge of finding the powers and gifts of our ancestors, and to, “…become healers, and to use those powers with awareness and dedicate it to holiness.” No small task. And this year more than any in recent memory was a true test of our dedication to holiness: to humanity, resiliency, and our individual and collective ability to see past the hashtags, the tweets, and the mind-numbing avalanche of information. To see something that is not fake but real, something that is true and meaningful. 

Vayehi, “And he lived”. How about “And We Lived?”  We lived through this year and at least on a collective level, it was far from easy. Never mind if your candidate won or lost, if your favorite basketball team is still “trusting the process,” or if the savior of a certain football team is now on crutches, or if half of your favorite rock stars are now playing the great gig in the sky. 

And never mind the chill of a reawakened anti-semitism, or rising nationalism all over the globe, of a new normal for climate change and it’s ability to wreak havoc and sow death and destruction just as mother nature pleases. Never mind all of that. “We Lived.” 

Here are some questions I am asking myself as 2017 becomes 2018: 

Will I bury my head in my screen or look up,  step outside and engage? 

Will I unplug or binge? 

Will I slow down and notice more?

Will I pay attention to what is right in front of me? 

Will I spend more money or more time?

Will color- red or blue, black or white or yellow or brown- matter less or matter even more? 

Will we see more war or more peace? 

And finally,  will  #metoo lead to #meteshuva?

As the great and rock and soul duo Delaney and  Bonnie sing, “There’s a long road ahead, and a lot to leave behind and finally to quote John Lennon, “Let’s hope [this year is] a good one, without any fear.”

Goodnight, 2017. Good morning, 2018. 

Shabbat Shalom! Looking forward to seeing everyone tonight, tomorrow and into the new year!

-Hazzan Harold