17 May 2011

Tribal

In the pouring rain this morning I headed up to the Mikveh on the Upper West Side, welcoming into the Tribe a young mother and her 18 month old daughter.  The Mikveh is a kind of aquatic sanctuary from the city, a holy place of reflection.  It's spectacularly beautiful, luxurious even, and each time I'm there I'm reminded of the importance of investing mindfully and generously in spaces that are meant to be sacred. 

From there a stop at the AIPAC office in Midtown--a place I had never visited before.  I walked from 74th Street, past Lincoln Center, along Central Park South, and then headed down Madison in the damp fog and mist, into a fun conversation about engaging synagogue members in Israel advocacy.  Ordinarily at CBE these past several years, we've convened public forums, learning and lectures--all around our own edification or deepening relationships with Israel.  But this conversation at AIPAC was about straight-up advocacy--a voice that deserves its own investment of time and effort.  It will be interesting to engage our neighborhood along these lines.  Surely our community and neighborhood must be more than the usual left-of-center programming we create.  Stay tuned.

I walked further south, to Grand Central, for a quick cup of coffee before taking the train down to Wall Street for a meeting at the Met Council on Jewish Poverty, an organization I've long admired for its incredibly inspired and tireless work on behalf of the Jewish value of loving kindness.  The Met Council's leader, Willie Rapfogel, remains an inspiration to me for the sheer effort, scope and generosity of his organization's mission.  And I always learn from him when we sit down to talk.  Today, we shared lunch; and then, in the middle of an ongoing conversation about local food bank and feeding programs in Brooklyn, his assistant came into the office to explain that it was time for Minchah--the Afternoon Prayers.  So a few of us grabbed siddurs and headed into a room where we joined a dozen other men and, well, praised God and said blessings.

The prayers were quickly rendered and from the heart.  On the wall opposite me was a poster reminding us of our obligation to care for others.  Around the room were men who work at the Met Council and whose job each day is to do their part to alleviate poverty among their brothers and sisters.

As I left to head back to Brooklyn, the May air, even in the darkened alleys of the Financial District, had that uncommon freshness of a forest floor.  The grey light seemed to draw into focus life's contrasts; seemed to vivify its plain, simple truths.

The tribal tug of language and tropes of prayer.  The tribal draw into the valued narrative of caring for another.  Rain fell outside the window on Maiden Lane, down below.  Lower still, I was reminded of the tribal waters of redemption, that time at the Mikveh at the beginning of the day.

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