One of my visions for Minyan Oneg Shabbat, the nascent Jewish Renewal community that I started last November here in Washington, DC, is for our Shabbat service to provide an opportunity for members of the kahal to share their Torah, their story, and to see their story as imbedded in our story - the Torah.
A week prior to each Shabbat that we meet I set a kavvanah, an intention for the service based on the parsha , and then invite members of the kahal to bring in a poem, a song, a chant, or a story as an offering. I then weave their offerings into the body of the service, and together with music and song, silence and discussion, t'fillah and Torah, we make magic. There is something very important about being seen and being heard.
This past Shabbat we read a double parsha, Acharei Mot/Kedoshim. Amitai Gross, who I will miss dearly when his journey continues in graduate school at Brandeis this fall, offered this piece of his heart. With his permission, I am proud to share it with you.
by Amitai Gross
I believe in an ever-present-yet-ever-distant, all-encompassing, life-force, beyond our comprehension and completely personal at the same time, existing and non-existing at the same time, inhabiting, encompassing, and completely outside of the constantly-expanding Universe, which is, was, and will be forever creating, shifting, molding, and recreating, setting in motion, and supporting all life, matter, and energy, real and imaginative, breathing and not, always over-simplified, humanized, characterized, attributed, and limited with names, titles, and descriptions, culminating in a nasty three-letter word:
This nothing that is everything that is thing and not-thing encompasses the entirety of the Universe, within, and without. All of creation that was not created but always was a part of something vast and infinitesimal, six-day, big bang, and circular timeline, is part of the Great Holiness that is all
This Great Holiness, this Sacred Beyond Reality, embraces all that we know and all that we don’t. In all of everything, we must be naïve to believe that of every galaxy of stars, ours is the Holiest. In all of everything, me must be fools to believe that of every sun in the galaxy, our is the Holiest. In all of everything, we must be children to believe that of every planet, full of life, be it bacterial, plant, or animal, our planet and our humans are the Holiest.
Our humanity is only one part of the great cosmic unknown that we exist within. Our tribes are simply specs within the great expanse of life.
Our holy cities, be they Jerusalem, Mecca, Medina, Rome, Bethlehem, The Saptapuri, or Salt Lake City, are only Holy because we’ve dubbed them so.
Our holy books called Bible, Torah, Quran, Gita, Tao, Mormon, Kitab-I-Aqdas, or otherwise were created by our own hands.
Our leaders and teachers, Jesus, Muhammad, Smith, Moses, Buddha, and countless Babas, are simply humans. They are no more part of the Great Holiness than you or I. They are no less part of the Great Holiness than you or I.
Mark Novak is a "free-range" rabbi who lives in Washington DC and works, well, just about everywhere. In 2012 he founded Minyan Oneg Shabbat, home to MOSH (Minyan Oneg Shabbat), MindfulMOSH (Jewish mindfulness gathering), and