Rabbi Shapiro is not only the spiritual leader at Temple Akiba, but has been a source of guidance, support, reflection and a good hug since 2006. A native of Boston, Rabbi Shapiro has lived in Los Angeles since his Ordination from HUC-JIR, Cincinnati in 1997. He met Ron Galperin that same year, and they were married in a religious ceremony in 2002, followed by a legal ceremony in 2008.
Will this year define our era as a new Dark Age, or will we press into the dawn of a new Enlightenment?
Whether we are running away or contemplating life’s end or hitting rock bottom ... We need to remember that we can write a new chapter.
As I was preparing for the Holy Days, an image of Lovey Howell from Gilligan’s Island came to mind asking: “Thurston, what does one wear to a rescue?”
During the Holy Days we usually wear something a little different, a little nicer than usual. There are two reasons. One is external. We are going out, seeing people, being social. There’s a motivation to put on a nicer tie, a stylish hat, etc. And there‘s always a balance - because we want to look nice, but we don‘t want to be showy.
The second reason to dress up is internal. We want to do something for ourselves - do something a little extra special to mark renewal.
This year, dressing up is tough. The external reason is diminished. There’s just less emphasis on looking nice when we are staying home (even if we are being seen via zoom or a similar platform).
But the internal reason still exists -perhaps even more this year than ever before. It’s important to make time to renew ourselves. And sometimes, when we deeply consider what we wear, it extends to think more deeply about who we are.
And yes, there are always people who dress beautifully who are vapid or just not nice.
Look, I’m the first to admit.... From the waist down, I am often in jeans or shorts during a zoom session when I would normally be in more formal slacks or chinos. But that will change for the Holy Days. And it’s not just because I am leading the services.
It will change because the Holy Days are a time of change. And I ask you all to think deeply about the same.
What will you wear, from head to toe, on the outside that will help usher in the New Year?
How will the setting you are in be conducive to spiritual space? (Will you be praying next to a pile of unwashed dishes?)
And ... What will you consider, on the inside, that will open your souls?
Wishing you all a year of health, goodness, and Shalom!
Rabbi Zach Shapiro
Friends, we will not be Isaac that is put up for slaughter. Our people has felt more vulnerable now than we have in many, many, decades in this country. And while I don’t have a plan to end anti-Semitism or to broker Middle East peace, I do have a path forward for all of us. I call it “The Isaac Initiative.” It’s not enough for our people to survive. We have something to offer to world. It’s got to be more than a pride of what Jews have historically accomplished. The Isaac Initiative compels us to look to the future, beyond the current situation, so we can plant a seed for another generation that carries the torch.
Teach them to pray to God. Find God in the synagogue and in the playground. Experience God at Yosemite or at the Opera or at Disneyland. Partner with God every time they do a mitzvah or participate in Tzeddakah. Be God’s eyes when they look at the earth from above and marvel at just how incredible it is. Be God’s feet when they march for Social Justice. Be God’s voice when they speak out against inequality. Be God’ hands when they feed the hungry. Be God’s soul when they give another person a hug.
Copyright © 2020 Rabbi Zach Shapiro - All Rights Reserved.