Last week, I rode a record-breaking roller coaster. Kingda Ka, as it is known, is the tallest and second-fastest in the world. It climbs as high as 45 stories into the sky: closer to the heavens than any other ride. There was peacefulness, and a sense of closeness to God (though I know that those who are afraid of roller coasters will scoff at my sense of divinity).
As some of my readers may remember, I am getting married later this month. I feel so lucky to have met my soulmate, and our relationship gets stronger and stronger as the months pass. And, though I’ve officiated at dozens and dozens of weddings, I find myself feeling as though we are creating the whole thing from scratch. I guess I expected myself to be an expert on all things wedding, but I’ve learned the lesson that you are probably all anticipating: it’s always different when it is your own event!
Ani Maamin – I believe with perfect faith in the coming of a messianic era. In Reform ideology, we don’t necessarily wait for an individual Messiah, but we do encourage people to do all they can to create a better world, and to work towards a time when all will be peaceful, loving, and safe. Among Jews of various denominations, we have differing opinions about what will bring the Messiah. Some believe that, once every eligible Jew has observed certain mitzvot (like laying tefillin or lighting Shabbat candles), the Messiah will finally arrive. Others believe that, once things get particularly bad, the Messiah will surely come. I have a bit of a different idea.
“Let’s go!” I said, excitedly waving my hands in encouragement. “Let’s go dance with them!” We stood up, grasped the hand of the person nearest to us, and joined in the celebratory dance around the sanctuary. As the melodies of Lecha Dodi surrounded us, I watched a new feeling of joy develop on the faces of my students. They had never before had the chance to express themselves through dance in a Shabbat worship experience, and it was just the first of many eye-opening experiences of the weekend.
President Obama is now set to visit Israel in March. I’m sure he has a busy itinerary filled with many important meetings with many important people. Yet, in my dreams, I like to imagine that he would have an opportunity to sit down with a particularly important person: Anat Hoffman, of the Israel Religious Action Center, and chairwoman of Women of the Wall.
As the world struggles to understand the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., and the 27 lives lost (including 20 beautiful, little, precious children), it is impossible to resist asking a series of questions: How did this happen? Where was God?
“Well, it looks like the voluntary evacuations just became mandatory,” I said to the room of Adult Ed students. I was trying, unsuccessfully, to show a film, but it seemed that the lack of success was meant to be – it enabled us to get a head start on the preparations for the approaching hurricane. As a congregation on the South Shore of Long Island, we were quite concerned about the storm. Many of our congregants lived within the evacuated area south of Merrick Road, and the dire warnings had us all frightened.