Shifting: 90 Days
Lofty Thinking

The natural flights of the human mind are not from pleasure to pleasure but from hope to hope.
Samuel Johnson

Last week I was in the mountainous desert country near Scottsdale, AZ. I like to write early in the morning as the dawn lightens sky. Before me was the waning moon setting over the mountains. And then quite suddenly, in a profound synergetic moment, three hot air balloons rose from the jagged skyline just as I began to write these words. Lift your eyes to the mountains, the psalmist says. The crags and rocky crevasses invite us towards the heights.
My life’s work has been dedicated to elevation. Rabbis teach the clichés with great and unswaying conviction. There is no awkward moment when, either from the bimah or out to dinner with friends, we speak of goodness, beauty, forgiveness, and hope. These are foundational beliefs. They are among the spiritual principles on which we depend, to soften our humanity and enliven our spirits. They enable elevated living.
I have asked you to join me as we aspire to lofty thinking, to a transcendent love affair with the all-pervasive beauty in life. I have asked you to choose hope. To believe in what is possible, despite what seems probable. At times you refute and in exasperation you say, but Rabbi, hope is not a strategy. But I always reply, almost in a whisper, that hope is the most compelling of strategies. Indeed, it is a propelling power. It is through hope that we see our way out of stagnation and constriction. Hope is not about a future plan, it is about expansive thinking in the present. It is the spiritual principle that makes sense out of life when it is chaotic and overwhelming, when there is despair and confusion.
This is a confusing time. We are unsure how to step back into the world. Mask or no mask. Indoor crowds or only outdoor? When someone coughs, we flinch. When we cough, we feel compelled to explain that we are healthy. We are on edge. Be kind to others. Be kind to yourself. Let us return to the public sphere, our communities, and friendships await. We have been traumatized and need time to heal, to settle in, to find our pace in the company of others. To be seen, unmasked. It all feels so tentative.

So, I pray with the psalms –
I cry out to you, oh God, I have felt constricted
and constrained. Help me lift my eyes to the
mountains, to the heights, to the vastness of
possibility and to the vistas of an open heart,
to the awareness of abundant beauty.
Majestic is the presence of God, the
heavens are covered with splendor.
Lessen my fear that I may live
within Your love,
grateful and
With hope.

Rabbi Karyn Kedar

Shifting: 100 Days

February 21, 2022

Yesterday marked 100 days before my retirement as the Senior Rabbi of BJBE. Yes, I am counting down, but not with a cynical tone. I cannot abide cynicism. Cynicism taints, stains, distrusts and scorns the good in life. I will not distrust the beauty that surrounds me. I will not scorn the magnificence that abounds, even as it mingles and clashes with the difficulties of life. This countdown is not cynical, rather it is an exercise in presence, in hope. It is unfettered anticipation that in each moment there is a sparkle of blessing. It is the courageous conviction that meaning will prevail over chaos. 
We all need meaning to prevail over chaos. Each of us is deeply immersed in our own scenario. We have been battered. We have learned to keep our head down as we face one disappointment after another. We are holding so much trauma. And we are afraid to hope. We so desperately want to emerge with the early spring from the constant drone of sadness and frustration, of isolation and foreboding that we have experienced these last two years. We sense a change in the air. Is the pandemic over? I don’t know. I do know that our desire to once again celebrate, gather, plan, fly, dance, dine, and even suffer the common cold without wondering if we are in mortal danger, is becoming stronger than our fears of this ubiquitous virus. There is a shifting taking place.
So, I begin a countdown and I call this countdown shifting. After all, life is a constant shifting. A growing and morphing, a glide and flow from one moment to the next, transforming ourselves as we mark a myriad of stages in life. Let the counting of these days ground us. Let it invite us to take notice of the things that make life alive. It is too easy to live our days unseen. The early morning wind goes unnoticed because we sleep through the dawn. Let us wake up, stretch, squint, gingerly reengage. 
I want to be awake for this moment in my life. Come walk by my side these next 100 days. We should not travel this path alone.
As always, in hope and faith, courage and wisdom,
Rabbi Karyn Kedar