Categories
High Holy Days Poetry

Hin’ni: Here I Am, The Confession of a Broken Heart

I am here.
I am here.
I stand before the open Ark and
the eternal scrolls of our people
dressed in white light.
I stand ready to enter into the Holy Days,
to offer prayers that urge me
to live better, kinder,
ever present to the pain of others,
to become a compassionate vessel, trustworthy
holding hope in the midst of despair.

Hin’ni
I am here, I am here.
I stand on the edge between earth and heaven,
between what I know and what I can never understand,
between life and life everlasting.
Mortality hovers, a rippling presence,
always there, lingering, waiting, holding.
I am here.

Hin’ni
I am here
I stand resilient, determined,
though I have been taken down,
forced to live a different way.
The rhythm of life has been altered.
Time unfolds and morphs, expands and stands still.
I have been called to be present, to pay attention.
What have I learned?
What have I done with the time I have been given,
glorious time of never-ending possibility?
Have I squandered the beauty, the radiance of life,
an offering to my inner being?

Who am I?
Where have I gone astray?
Am I worthy to pray with my people?
May I be worthy to pray with my people.

Hear my plea,
grant me the faith, courage and wisdom
to enter into cheshbon hanefesh:
the fragility and humility of self-examination.

Hin’ni,
I am here, I am here.
May this fractured heart, softened
and hold love and compassion,
in a way it never has before.

Hin’ni, I am here.


Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar is the senior rabbi at Congregation BJBE in the Chicago area and is renown for her creative liturgy. Her work explores the need for meaning and purpose in our busy lives, creating an intentional life, spiritual awakening, forgiveness, as well as inspirational leadership and creating the synagogue for the twenty-first century. Her latest work includes Amen: Seeking Presence with Prayer, Poetry and Mindfulness Practice, available for purchase through the CCAR Press.

Categories
Poetry Prayer

A Prayer of Courage and Consolation

Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar is a poet, spiritual counselor, inspirational speaker, and author of CCAR Press publications Omer: A Counting, published in 2014, and Amen: Seeking Presence with Prayer, Poetry, and Mindfulness Practice, published in 2019. In this unprecendented time of senseless racist killing, violence, and unrest, she shares a prayer for courage, originally published in Amen.


Holy One of Blessing,
grant us the courage and resolve
to speak when there is hatred,
to act when there is confusion,
to join with others in building a world of safety,
understanding, and acceptance.

Because there is hate, dear God,
help us heal our fractured and broken world.

Because there is fear, dear God,
grant courage and faith to those in need.

Because there is pain, dear God,
bring healing to the shattered and wounded.

Because there is hope, dear God,
teach us to be a force for justice and kindness.

Because there is love, dear God,
help us to be a beacon of light and compassion.

As it is written:
Be strong and let your heart have courage. (Joshua 1:6)
Depart from evil, do good, seek peace and pursue it. (Psalm 34:15)


Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar is the senior rabbi at Congregation B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim in Deerfield, Illinois.

Categories
Poetry spirituality

Rabbi Karyn Kedar on Faith, Courage, and Wisdom

Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar is a poet, spiritual counselor, inspirational speaker, and author of CCAR Press publications Omer: A Counting, published in 2014, and Amen: Seeking Presence with Prayer, Poetry, and Mindfulness Practice, published in 2019. In this challenging time, she shares her poetic reflections on faith, courage, wisdom, and resiliency.


“Leave the door open a bit,” I said. 

He looked at me as if he heard only soft sounds, vowels and breath. The sun seemed stuck on its way down beyond the horizon. There was an early evening afterglow. “Don’t close the door,” I said, “I like the sound of the rain, and the color of the trees and the thickness in the air. Just leave it ajar.” 

The rain was falling fast and constant, straight down. It made the sound of the nighttime pitter patter that comforts the restless soul which is unwilling to settle down. The trees were bright green, defiant, and proud to line the lane in beauty.

It had been raining all day. I followed the loud alerts from my phone and television warning of flooding. The Des Plaines River was already swollen, each day certain trails were impassable. This was going to make things worse. For sure. 

Why does every word sound like a metaphor, every thought symbolic for a greater truth?
The river escapes beyond the banks, 
the path impassable. 
The sound of rain, 
the bloom of trees. 
The beauty. 
The out of control nature of things. 

This morning I got dressed. White leggings and flats with a bow that no one will see. I put on a moss green tunic I bought several years ago in Jerusalem from a young woman. She was skinny and artsy with a tattoo and a nose ring and curls that had a mind of their own falling this way and that way. Her tattoo said “Jerusalem” in Hebrew. She told me how much she loved the city and though all her twenty-something friends were all moving to Tel Aviv, she would never would leave this beautiful city and how amazing this tunic looks on me and I could wear it this way or that. But I never do. I barely wear it at all. 

This morning the rain has stopped but I am still speaking in vowels which must be why Ezra keeps saying, huh or what? The fog settles and the morning abounds with dampness and all paths are flooded. 

The one thing I know for sure. Living takes faith, courage, and wisdom. 

I know this with every fiber and sinew of my body. I know this with my broken heart and with my unbreakable spirit and with every vowel-ladened breath. FCW is the great truth of the resilient soul, it always has been, and it always will be. 

We are living a ricochet of emotions: a wild bouncing between fear and hope and denial and confusion and peace and blessing and guilt and anger and secret joy and despair and existential astonishment. And mortality. And impermanence. And the perpetual question of the soul that asks why, and how, and huh?!

So,

FCW. 
Living takes Faith. Courage. Wisdom.
Because that is the one thing I know for sure.


Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar is the senior rabbi at Congregation B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim in Deerfield, Illinois.

Categories
Books Healing Poetry Prayer spirituality

Book Excerpt: “Amen: Seeking Presence with Prayer, Poetry and Mindfulness Practice,” By Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar

CCAR Press is honored to release Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar’s latest book, Amen: Seeking Presence with Prayer, Poetry and Mindfulness Practice. This collection includes prayers for personal use, prayers for use at communal gatherings, prayers and readings for moments of grief and moments of joy, a collection of daily Psalms, and focus phrases and questions for meditation. Rabbi Kedar’s new book is available for purchase now.

Below, we are share one of the many inspiring passages found in Amen.

Amen: Seeking Presence with Prayer, Poetry and Mindfulness Practice, and other publications by Rabbi Kedar, are available for purchase here.

“The Archaeologist of the Soul”

I suppose that the archaeologist
delights in brokenness.
Shards are proof of life.
Though a vessel, whole, but dusty
and rare, is also good.

I suppose that the archaeologist
does not agonize over the charred
lines of destruction signifying
a war, a conquest, a loss, a fire,
or a complete collapse.
The blackened layer
seared upon the balk
is discovery.

So why do I mourn,
and shiver,
and resist?
Why do I weep
as I dig deeper
and deeper still?
Dust, dirt,
buckets of rubble,
brokenness,
a fire or two,
shattered layers
of a life that
rebuilds upon
the discarded,
the destroyed,
and then
the reconstructed,
only to break again,
and deeper still,
shards upon shards,
layers upon layers.

If you look carefully,
the earth reveals its secrets.
So does the soul,
and the cell,
and the sinew,
and the thought,
and the wisp of memory,
and the laugh,
and the cry,
and the heart,
that seeks its deepest truth,
digging down,
down to bedrock.

Rock bottom they call it,
and in Hebrew,
the Mother Rock.

God of grace,
teach me
that the layers
of brokenness
create a whole.


Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar is the senior rabbi at Congregation BJBE in the Chicago area. Her previously published books include God Whispers, The Dance of the Dolphin (Our Dance with God), The Bridge to Forgiveness, and Omer: A Counting. She is published in numerous anthologies and is renowned for her creative liturgy. Rabbi Kedar teaches courses and leads retreats that explore the need for meaning and purpose in our busy lives, creating an intentional life, spiritual awakening, forgiveness, as well as inspirational leadership and creating the synagogue for the twenty-first century. Her latest work has culminated in the newly released Amen: Seeking Presence with Prayer, Poetry and Mindfulness Practice, now available for purchase through CCAR Press.

Categories
Books Gun Control Healing Prayer spirituality

Esa Einai: I Lift My Eyes

We must carry the pain of this world, feel its weight, its sadness, and its burden.

We live as one humanity, in one world, one community, and our neighbors are kind and beautiful and they are callous and indifferent and they are hateful and evil. 

So, choose, what kind of neighbor do you want to be? And we choose to wake up the apathetic soul. And we choose not to look away from the glare of cruelty. 

Who are we, for God’s sake? Who have we become? 

Today, August 6, is my brother’s birthday. After his sudden and tragic death, I wrote this prayer. I offer it to all who are suffering: 

Esa Einai: I Lift My Eyes
For Neil Dion Schwartz 1958-2002

I am searching for words
For the words that describe,
Make sense, or at least comfort.
Words that summon me from the depths
Of my solitude. 

In the night, there is darkness.
Restless attempts to sleep,
Twisting, turning into the shadows.
As I seek a comfortable pose
I bring my knees to my chest
Folding my dreams in half;
Will the crease ever come out? 

And in the day there are
Silent attempts to find hope.
Twisting, turning toward the light
As I look for direction, a path, a way. 

It is not easy to find the way.
And so,
I lift my eyes to the mountains
Heaven lays her head upon the mountaintop
And I begin to climb. 

What is the source of my help?
I climb and gaze upon the vistas.
More mountains, more horizons
Never-ending moments where heaven meets earth,
Never-ending possibilities to meet the Divine. 

Lift me, carry me, offer me courage.
Help me understand life’s sharpest paradox:
That to live is tragic and wonderful,
Painful and awesome, dark and filled with light. 

I lift my eyes to the summit
And as I climb I find my help
In the turning and twisting it takes toAscend.
I have found a path and it is worn and charted
By all those who are summoned from solitude.
I take their lead.
And I know that in the most essential way
I am being carried up the mountain.
And even now,
Dear God, even now
I am not alone. 

From The Bridge to Forgiveness: Stories and Prayers for Finding God and Restoring Wholeness. Republished in Amen: Seeking Presence with Prayer, Poetry, and Mindfulness Practice, CCAR Press, Coming in December 2019.


Rabbi Karyn Kedar, Senior Rabbi of Congregation B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim in Deerfield, IL, is widely recognized as an inspiring leader who guides people in their spiritual and personal growth. She is the author of many books, including Omer: A Counting from CCAR Press, and Amen: Seeking Presence with Prayer, Poetry, and Mindfulness Practice, coming in December 2019.

Categories
News

A Prayer: Standing with The Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh

In light of yesterday’s horrific violence at Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, we share this prayer that Rabbi Kedar wrote for her congregation.

Be strong and let your heart have courage

Psalm 31:25

God, hear our prayer.

With horror we bear witness to

the evil within our midst.

We prayer that our broken hearts

do not become embittered.

Let us not give in to cynicism and despair.

May we find comfort in our faith and in our community,

strengthen our resolve

to be messengers of peace and healing

and bring comfort to the broken hearted.

We pray for the soul of our country.

May violence be no more.

May the way of our land be for good and not for evil.

May the words we speak, inspire.

May our outstretched arms, embrace.

May our minds learn tolerance and understanding.

Strike the inclination to do evil from

the hearts of the wicked.

Empower us for good, for life, for love.

God, we pray for the children.

The children, our greatest gift,

the hope in our hearts, the delight of lives,

our future and legacy.

The children, dear God.

Innocent and true.

Our children, pure in their beauty,

proof of goodness and miracle.

Our children

The children, dear God.

May we be strong and may our hearts have courage.

October 27, 2018

18 Heshvan 5778

Rabbi Karyn Kedar, Senior Rabbi of Congregation B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim in Deerfield, IL, is widely recognized as an inspiring leader who guides people in their spiritual and personal growth. She is the author of many books, including Omer: A Counting.

Categories
spirituality

How is Your Jewish Self?

Out of nowhere, in a Facebook message, she asked her father, who is more Jewish– you or Rabbi Kedar?

And so, in a Facebook message to me, he relayed the message, my daughter wants to know who is more Jewish, me or you.

I answered; we are not in a contest, no winner or loser. Just a journey toward expansiveness. I walk with you, I said to him. Let us consider together a few more questions. My guess is, I said, we are equally engaged in four of the five categories? He agreed.

And so now I ask you, how is your Jewish self?

Judaism is belonging: Do I claim Judaism as my past, my tradition, my heritage and my people? Do I cast my destiny with the Jewish people? Do Jewish rituals, customs matter to me? Am I part of a Jewish community? Do I participate in that community? Do I care? Do I belong?

Judaism is choice and consciousness: Am I a Jew by default or by intention? Is my Judaism white noise in the background until some event turns up the volume? Like High Holidays. Or my child’s Bar Mitzvah. Or when someone I love dies. Or an attack on Israel. When I am uncomfortable do I hide my Jewishness? Even at work? Am I satisfied with a seventh grade Jewish education? Or do I choose more?

Judaism is a perspective: Do I see the world through the lens of my Jewish sense of ethics? Is the Jewish story my story? Am I aware of being Jewish everyday? Is Judaism an integrated part of my life? When I see, watch the world and when I try to understand my life, do I have a Jewish filter? Sometimes? Ever?

Judaism is what I do: Do I pray? Bless? Study? Read? Give away my time and volunteer? Give away my money and help others? Do I give away my kindness, and heal? Do I have a sense of obligation to behave in a Jewish way? Do I feel the rhythm of the Jewish calendar? Does Jewish time enter into my time? Shabbat? Holidays?

Judaism is tending to the spirit: Am I aware of my spiritual life? Do I talk to God? Do I allow myself to struggle with my faith? Does my life have meaning? Do I have purpose? Do I sit quietly, settle down. Ever? Do I practice love?

I pose the questions, to me, to you. Everyday is an answer.

Rabbi Karyn Kedar is the senior rabbi at Congregation BJBE, in Deerfield, IL.

Categories
News Passover Pesach Reform Judaism

Making Each Day Count: Getting Ready for Omer

How does this happen? That busyness reigns supreme, that ambition drives the day, that exhaustion connects moment with moment, that, well, we simply forget to pay attention to what is noble and grand and really important. That we ignore what is truly beautiful and possible.

How does this happen? Days pass by and we are mostly oblivious. We simply pay little or no attention to our potential power, to the passage of time, to wonder, to the incredible beauty that emerges when shadow dances with light. We tend to be deeply uninvolved and forget how we have emerged from the days that we were afraid to be ourselves, the days when we were hesitant beings.

product_image-1.aspRemember those days when we blinked and twitched as we tried to find our place in society, to discover our way through family craziness? Do you remember when we desperately searched for a strong sense of self that would withstand the push and pull of life? I remember. And if I were to be completely honest, I don’t have to reach back into memory. I still blink and twitch and I am still discovering my way. Maybe that’s why we choose to be so busy, so distracted by nothing much, because to be aware is, can be, complicated.

But we are invited every so often by the rhythms of the Jewish calendar to transcend our very human tendency towards oblivion. We are invited to gain a sense of footing, to lift our eyes beyond the mundane and think and learn, consider and see, really see what is possible and interesting and fantastic in our lives. Now, with the ever-slow emergence of spring and sun and warmth and the undeniable regrowth of color we have our chance.

Seven weeks, forty-nine days, separate Passover and Shavuot. And for those forty-nine days our tradition gives us a simple command – to count. Count each day, for forty-nine days, one at a time, and pay attention. Take time back from oblivion and to notice.

Though the counting of the omer is an ancient tradition connected with the harvest in the Israel, today it has become a spiritual practice. Like all spiritual practices there are tools, which help us stay focused on the journey. For years, during the counting of the Omer, I have sent daily emails, short passages, some from Jewish tradition, some from the wisdom of great thinkers, some original writing. Every passage ends with the short blessing, which counts the sequence of days from the first to the forty-ninth. These passages are like a bit of sweetness delivered to your mind and heart; a daily invitation to breathe, to pause, to reflect.

Reflection. It is the nectar of a considered life. And our lives are worthy of our consideration. Each day. One day at a time. Making our days count for something grand.

Rabbi Karyn Kedar is the senior rabbi of Congregation BJBE in Deerfield Illinois. She is the author of several books including Omer: A Counting, published by CCAR Press in both paper and as an ebook. This book includes passages for counting the Omer as well as seven spiritual principles to consider each week. You can also sign up for her blog at karynkedar.com.

Categories
Immigration News Rabbis Reform Judaism Social Justice

We Stand With Ruth: An Omer Series from Rabbis Organizing Rabbis

Slavery. The story of the Exodus from Egypt is universal and it is epic and it is an archetype that spans across the centuries. It is a deeply personal story. The Children of Israel stand at the edge of the wilderness and beckon us to become a part of a mixed multitude marching toward freedom. Their march, their courage and their doubt, touch our well-protected self, which tugs and pokes around our soul.

Excerpt from Omer: A Counting by Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar

Over and over again we are commanded to love the stranger in our midst. Because of our collective consciousness we know the plight of the stranger and we empathize with the fear and longing for roots and the tragedy of simply not belonging. As we enter into this seven-week counting of the Omer, let those who are invisible among us become visible to our hearts. Let us find a way to make our country compassionate, tolerant and a place where loving-kindness, chesed, is the law of the land. We stand with Ruth. 

Rabbi Karyn Kedar is the Senior Rabbi at B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim in Deerfield, IL.  She is the author of Omer: A Counting, as well as many other publications. 

Each week of the Omer, Rabbis Organizing Rabbis will post a piece in the series, We Stand With Ruth.