Religious Re-runs

Beliefnet is running one of my Rosh Hashannah reflections -- from 5763 -- on its High Holiday special....check out: http://www.beliefnet.com/features/jewishholidays/index.html Nice to see that these things stay fresh.

5766 Poetry Special

This Unit Has Been Refurbished

Teshuvah does not work.

Beat your heart, confess your sins, reflect on your life for ten days straight if you want - but the statistics are convincing -
people do not make significant changes to their personality after the age of thirty.
Your four-valve sack of nature/nurture hardened long ago.
You got what you got.
Deal, cope, manage.
And the distance between you and everyone else grows two kilometers each year.

Self reflection?
Stare deeply into an empty Pringles can.
Personal transformation?
Change your socks.

Rabbis teach:
Teshuvah means returning to God

But what about those of us who never were with God in the first place? Or only visited for a rare weekend?

The King sits in the field, the midrash says – God meets us halfway like visiting a friend at the airport during a layover.

Close your eyes and try for a second to walk in God’s direction – a step closer to the one who is Dayan HaEmet – the judge of all truth.

It ain’t easy.

(It might be easy if you could close your eyes and imagine Santa Claus or that nice old lady from the library – but, fohgettaboutit, that ain’t God.)

God is the truth – with a big T –
what Is.
that which Is.
which includes the truth about you and who you are
– what you are now and what you could be.

Teshuvah might not work. But to God it is the one time of year that the Gates of Righteousness are left opened, the security alarm turned off. Perfect time for a break-in.

This is the New Liturgy

This is the new liturgy
The one that greets the world with that
new hardcover urgency
next year’s model
fresh-baked-out-the-oven nooks and crannies liturgy.

It speaks not of general woes – but of what is broken at this hour
Not a list of historical injustices – but the wrong being committed at this very moment.
It is What Hurts Now.

The early adapters, hipsters, the fashionable, the urban set – they’re all lining up to hear the new liturgy.
And even though you’ve never heard it before it does sound like something you once read.
Traces of ancient love songs,
Hints of a familiar cry,
Was that symbolism pillaged from a medieval homily?
That silence lifted from the meditation of a lost tribe?

Yes! This is the new liturgy!
Freshly scrambled,
Yesterday’s prayerbooks put through the shredder,
This morning’s headlines mixed in,
Strips recycled together and reglued to appear before you as a
new creature,
new creation,
new revelation.

Please turn now to the handout and sing a new song unto God.

Neilah/Closing Time

Attention K-Mart worshippers!
The Gates of Repentance will be closing in fifteen minutes.
Please bring any items you wish to regret to the check-out line at this time.
The Gates of Repentance will be closing in fifteen minutes.
Thank you.

If God were clever,
There would be automatic sliding glass doors that lead into each house of worship.
And you’d put your feet on that black plastic mat
And stand there waiting
but nothing would happen.

And then you’d realize
That it isn’t busted
That your body’s weight has nothing to do with it
All that is being measured is your merit.
Each good deed four measly ounces.

And you’d go back into the parking lot
You’d drive to a dangerous part of town,
and you’d roam the sidewalks, bent on righteousness.

Imams and Rabbis for Peace in Print

I got word today that the book from the Brussels conference I participated in is now available. I contributed a little piece. I'm sending off for my copy today.



Peace is Possible

I had a wonderful meeting today with Geshele Sopa, the Tibet Monk who has been charged to carry out the Dalai Lama's work in the United States. He was a professor at my Alma Mater the Univ. of Wisconsin. This afternoon I'll be with the Dalai Lama and the other Peace Councilors at Riverside Church.

For more, see:



Alpine E-mail

Few times in my life has an e-mail forced me to stop in my tracks and rejoice over the crazy/beautiful wired world we live in. This one did just that:

Dear Rabbi Daniel S. Brenner

With a double reason I get in contact to you: Firstly, we share almost the same name. Secondly, we share some interest in spirituality and health.

Your work as director of the Multifaith Educational Center is very impressing. I wish you God’s blessings to all your undertakings.

My name is Daniel E. Brenner, MD, MPH (School of Public Health, UC Berkeley) and I am deputy Public Health Officer of the Swiss State of Aargau (with 570’000 inhabitants… of course nothing compared for instance with NYC…). So far, my speciality has layed on health promotion and disease / accident prevention. Since September 1, I am also the head of the Public Health Service including out-patient nursing care which deals frequently with frail and elderly people.

On the spiritual site: I serve as a Priest of the New Apostolic Church, at the congregeation of Thune, Switzerland. *) So, I will buy your very interesting book “Embracing Life and Facing Death.” By the way, because of different reasons I am very interested in Jewish matters. Deeply touched by the Holocaust, I “discovered” in the Jewish Museum in Berline the german translation of Kosher Sex by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. This book I appreciate very much.

I am very happy if you let me know in case you will visit Switzerland some day. I promise you that I will contact you if I travel to NYC some day.

With kind regards,

Daniel E. Brenner