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Let there be love.

09/12/2018 12:55:01 PM

Sep12

Let there be love.
© Rabbi Noah Farkas
Rosh Hashanah 5779/2018

It was once said that Judaism is a tradition of minimum text and maximal interpretation. Take these three words from the book of Leviticus “V'ahavtah l'rechah kamocha” Love your neighbor as yourself. (Lev. 19:18).  How clear can that be? How straight forward? How simple, how universal?  “V'ahavtah l'rechah kamocha”...Read more...

God is a Poem

08/28/2018 11:05:18 AM

Aug28

God is a Poem
Rabbi Noah Farkas

How literal is faith? The other night I was at a shiva minyan and I was asked by one of the family members how could one pray for miracles that don't not exist? I took a deep breath, knowing that others wanted to speak to me and said that I don't believe in the supernatural like turning water into blood or splitting the sea, and I'm not sure that God...Read more...

Invocation for Assembly Member Jesse Gabriel

06/13/2018 10:49:48 AM

Jun13

Invocation for Assembly Member Jesse Gabriel
June 11, 2018

Rabbi Noah Farkas

farkas_01.jpgGood morning. I am Rabbi Noah Farkas, I am one of the rabbis at Valley Beth Shalom, a Conservative Jewish Synagogue in Encino.

In a letter to James Lloyd on the 1st of October 1822, our 6th President John Quincy Adams wrote, "Individual liberty is individual power, and… the nation which enjoys the most freedom must… be in proportion to its numbers the most powerful nation." The novelty President Adams's letter is not in the idea that liberty is an individual right inalienable to all of humanity. The right to liberty was recognized long before President Adams by the framers of the constitution, and the writers of the Declaration of Independence. No, the novel idea of President Adams, is that our true power as a nation is found in our collective liberty; that each of us shares a covenant of destiny with our fellow Americans to pursue a flourishing life together.  

It is a recognition that my my happiness cannot ride on the back of your misery.  

I can never be free because you are still fettered.

I cannot pull myself up with my bootstrap while simultaneously putting my heel on your neck.    

The true power of America, wrote Adams, is our ability to stand together in all of our sacred individuality while gazing together at a common horizon and standing together for our collective liberation.

We are at a critical moment in American history. After years of divisive politics we have corroded our sense of mutual destiny. Where my fate and yours are foolishly separated. Where the tectonic forces of inequality, racism, bigotry and hatred have shook the earth so violently that there remains no greater chasm in the world than between one human being and her fellow neighbor.  

But it is into this breach of human trust, into this chasm, into this crack in the mantle of the moral universe that we must wander. We must strive, we must rise and stand and be counted. It into this “no-man's land we must go nd our shared humanity.”

As it says in my tradition, 'מקום שאין איש תש"ל לי"נות איש״"

“In a place where there are no human beings, stand up and be a human being.”  

Or in the words of my grandmother, "be a mensch.” Meaning, “be a human being.” It means really to be more than you are. Do the right thing when no one else is looking on. Have integrity of spirit, and most of all reach beyond your own experience of life and commune with others to heal, to strengthen and to repair our world. It is the highest compliment you can give someone, in my culture. To call them a mensch is a great honor.

In this moment in history we need menaches. That is why I am happy to here to say to offer blessings over this body and over my friend and mensch Jesse Gabriel.

farkas_02.jpgThere is no other word I'd use to describe my friend Jesse Gabriel. From the moment we met you Jesse have embodied the right slurry of kindness and strength, and grace that makes you more than merely a man, but true mensch.  

This then is my prayer for us today and for you Jesse. Please pray with me.

O'God who has set the foundations of the earth and blessed us with the bounty of the Pacific and the Sierra, the Redwood and the Palm, the city and the plain, give blessings unto us and our leaders. Who live between the Golden dreams of and the Iron realities of governance. Help them to overcome the natural inclination to avarice and hubris and to close the breach that keeps us all apart. May You give them eyes to see the goodness in each other. May they have ears to hear the cries of the meek, the homeless, the refugee the widow and the orphan. May they have hands that open to the needy. And may they have hearts of courage to stand for justice.

And watch over your son, my friend, Jesse, who has spent his young life living up to the promise of being a “mensch.” Protect him and guide him. May your light always shine down upon him and give him the grace of Your spirit. And may you show him what is good and what is needed from him as a leader - as you did your prophet. Namely, “to act with justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Praises is the One who gives us life and sustains us and brought us to this glorious day.

And let us say

Amen

Fringe Judaism

06/07/2018 12:13:10 PM

Jun7

Fringe Judaism
Rabbi Noah Farkas

At the end of this week's Torah portion, Shlach, we find one of the most famous paragraphs of liturgy:

“God spoke to Moses, telling him to speak to the Israelites and instruct them to make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments for all generations. Let them attach a cord of blue to the fringe at each corner. That...Read more...

Holiness of Person, Time and Place

05/10/2018 01:09:20 PM

May10

Holiness of Person, Time and Place
Rabbi Noah Farkas

As we close out the book of Leviticus, the third book of the Torah, we can take a moment to reflect on its central theme - holiness. No other book in the Torah focuses as much on the idea of becoming holy as this priestley book. The reason d'etre of being an Israelite is found in the pasuk, “You shall be holy...Read more...

Invocation at the National Day of Prayer: May 3, 2018

05/03/2018 05:50:13 PM

May3

Invocation at the National Day of Prayer
May 3, 2018
Rabbi Noah Farkas

Today is Lag B'Omer the thirty-third day of the great ingathering of the barley harvest.  Today we stand between Exodus and Sinai we mark our pathway between the splitting of sea and the holy mountain.  We celebrate by lighting bonfires, but I asked the mayor if I could light one here in this tent. He...Read more...

Invocation at the National Day of Prayer, May 3, 2018

05/03/2018 04:14:20 PM

May3

Invocation at the National Day of Prayer
May 3, 2018

Today is Lag B'Omer the thirty-third day of the great ingathering of the barley harvest. Today we stand between Exodus and Sinai we mark...Read more...

Guatemala

02/08/2018 05:34:25 PM

Feb8

“What is that?” I asked Karen our tour guide,  “That person is called a Brocha!” she said. “That's a crazy job!”

Staring out my...Read more...

Vayechi

12/28/2017 12:24:40 PM

Dec28

What will be our legacy? Every generation asks itself these questions. It's part of aging through life where we look to bridge past and future. Legacy gives us a sense that our life is worthwhile. It gives us the basis to believe that all our struggles and decisions in life, can be framed in a way that can live on after us. It gives us a chance at immortality. The book of Genesis ends with a meditation on legacy. We find the...Read more...

Responding to Suffering Toldot 5778

11/16/2017 12:33:07 PM

Nov16

Responding to Suffering Toldot 5778

When I go to a house of mourning and sit with the bereaved I often think to myself, “What is the right thing to say?”How can I take their pain away?”  I'm sure many of us ask ourselves these same questions. Often, however, when we try to explain our way out of suffering we cause more pain even if we never intend to do so. In fact, many of the theological reasons that...Read more...

Sat, June 19 2021 9 Tammuz 5781