Erev Rosh Hashanah: Welcome (Rabbi Lizzi)

Barukhim ha’baim b’shem Adonai.
Welcome to all of you, welcome to this moment, this opportunity for new beginning.

It’s been quite a year since we gathered here last year. Thinking back to last year’s high holidays I kind of shake my head in disbelief at how different the world is from what so many of us envisioned it would be… So many of us were so sure that we had entered a new phase of America.

And we have entered a new phase… just not the phase we thought we were entering. We can’t enter this new year without considering how we as Jews will respond to the many and significant challenges that our country and our world are facing, and addressing them uniquely as Jews because we have skin in this game whether we like it or not, as the events in Charlottesville recently reminded us, as the desecration of Jewish cemeteries earlier this year reminded us.  

But what’s happening out there is so loud, so dominant in our minds… often infuriating to the point of being absurd, tragic to the point of almost being unbearable… and yet, as we begin tonight, I want to bring us into our bodies, and acknowledge the experience in this room. Not because all of that isn’t very real– we know it is– but because the work we are here to do begins within us, and that’s where we will begin tonight.

Close your eyes if you feel comfortable and feel yourself here, a year since last Rosh Hashannah, on the cusp of a new year. Take a few breaths, breathing out everything stale, old, last year.

I have a friend who said “I do the beach for the New Year… it’s better for me.” Which made me think I’m sorry she’s not going to be here- think she’d dig it, but also good for her for thinking about her intention going into the new year.  For so many of us it just sneaks up… let’s take a moment to do that now.

What are you walking in here with tonight as you reflect back on this year of your life?

Anger or sadness about something that remains unresolved, a wound that’s still fresh? Or about what’ happening in our country and world?

Apprehension… nervousness… excitement…

Set the intention for yourself here at services you want to to aspire toward tonight, and over these coming 10 days. Who we are anywhere is who we are everywhere, so who do you want to be here in this space?

See yourself in your mind’s eye… Smiling? Relaxed? At ease? Open your eyes…

My friend Dan Liebenson makes a podcast called Judaism Unbound and they explored the phenomenon of Burning Man in a 3-part series– he called the series Burning Mensch. The podcast generally explores the kind of conversations you might think are irrelevant or inappropriate, challenging the status quos and sacred cows of the Jewish community, and in this series he asked the question– how can Judaism be more like Burning Man? Here is this phenomenon that in 20 years has grown from a small gathering of friends to a city in the Blackrock desert in Nevada with 70,000 people and devotees, many among them Jewish, and far more devoted to the pilgrimage of BM than they are for the Jewish pilgrimage festivals like Sukkot or Shavuot.

Among many responses, one was, Burning Man has principles that when you show up to the festival, you commit to in order to make the most of the experience. And since everyone wants to make the most of the experience, you get 70,000 who buy into the principles, makes for an incredible instant community. So I want to highlight three of those principles, hoping we might take Dan’s advice and learn a little something from Burning Man:

  1. Gifting. Please, tonight, tomorrow, over the coming days, on Yom Kippur- operate from a generous spirit. Give people around he benefit of the doubt. Give people your attention, your smiles, your kindness. If it looks like the person next to you doesn’t know what page we’re on, share with them, show them. Put a hand out and say hello to the people around you. Don’t withhold yourself from this space in the austere and polite way that many people think we need to be in services- share yourself.
  2. Radical inclusion. We are across the spectrum of people here tonight, on so many spectrums. We are intersecting lines of Jewish background, gender identity and sexuality, race, wealth, privileges of all different sorts, political affiliations, abilities. Don’t assume anything about anyone around you, but rather, take the opportunity to get to know people, ask questions, discover the amazing and wonderful differences that help create this incredible community.
  3. radical self-reliance. This is not a performance. I want to thank Rabbi Lauren Henderson and the Davening Team in advance for all the hard work they will do up here– especially since I had a kid 14 weeks ago I have been indebted to your strength and spirit. Want to thank all the shofar blowers and Torah readers and speakers and spoken word poets you may encounter over this HH experience. But none of their offerings are performances– they’re just modeling what all of us have the opportunity to do here tonight and during this season: put your whole self into it. Sing your heart out. Experiment with singing songs you don’t know super well and see what happens, how that exertion makes you feel. If you feel like dancing, grab the hand of the person next to you, scooch out of your seat and dance up the aisle.

Really trying to address different parts of the way we engage and learn and connect with spirituality, as well as different abilities– toward that end, want to thank our ASL interpreter Jessica, and if anyone wants printed copies of remarks made from the bima, you can get those at the fixins table.

Radical self-reliance also means you can’t walk out of here and say you were bored, because there are so many ways for you to engage your mind, hands, spirit. There is a prayer wall up front here to stand before and contemplate, to put a note into if you want… there are installations all over the building to check out, there is the far right-hand column of the prayer book to look at for deeper insights into the liturgy. Take responsibility for the quality of your experience and I guarantee you a more satisfying High Holiday experience. Resident artist Rachel Ellison of Bat Sara press will have artist journal booklets that you can deepen your experience of the holidiays.  In any case, You will have far more to talk about than the usual question “What was the rabbi’s sermon about”.

Thank you for bringing all of yourselves tonight, and for the next 10 days to Mishkan, for what I know will be a Yamim Noraim of challenge, transformation and potential.

Erev Rosh Hashanah Kavanah: Intro to Hashkiveinu (Rabbi Lauren)

There’s something called “the overview effect,”, something that happens to astronauts once they’ve gone to space – when you get up there, you see the earth just as a tiny blue ball, and it completely changes how you see the world when you get home. You think, “Everyone I know and love is down there – and everyone I struggle with, along with billions of other strangers, all in the same little blue ball.” From space, national boundaries vanish, the conflicts that divide people become less important, and it’s suddenly tremendously important to create a planetary society that is bound up in protecting our shared home, together.

What would it take for us to shift into this consciousness without going into space? To feel responsible for the well-being of the world, for its core, for the healing of those we love and those who we’ll never meet?

Hashkiveinu, this next tefillah, says: Ufros aleinu sukat shelomecha” – spread a sukkah of peace, a canopy of wholeness over us. It’s a reminder that we’re all in the same house, for better or for worse, covered by the same canopy of atmosphere and sky. And during this prayer, which is also a prayer for healing, you might be praying for someone in particular who really needs it. You may want to whisper their name aloud, sending prayers of wholeness off to them, whether they’re close or far away. But if there’s not someone in particular that you’re thinking of, now could be the time to pray for a total stranger. The parent of the person a few seats down from you who’s sick. The brother or sister of someone here tonight who is hurting. The folks down the street who don’t have a bed or a home to sleep in tonight who could use some help. This is what we can all do, right in this moment, to knit the fabric of our community a little closer together.

Erev Rosh Hashanah Sermon: On Sanctuary (Rabbi Lauren)

Three things happened at the beginning of my freshman year of college that started to shift me toward the path that I’m on now.

First, there were hurricanes. It was 2005, and Katrina had just hit New Orleans, and thousands of evacuees fled to Houston, where I had just moved to start college.

Three weeks later, my mom calls me in a panic to say that another hurricane, Hurricane Rita, is on its way to Houston, and she’s already made my evacuation plan for me. She had called everybody she knew in Texas and found a former coworker who moved to Dallas, who had a son, who had an ex-girlfriend, who happened to be driving from Houston to Dallas and can take me with her as long as I was ready to go at 3am the following morning. This was how I ended up in a car with a total stranger evacuating the city the same time that most of Houston decided to flee, too.

I was just starting to get settled on campus and feel like I had a home there, so I didn’t really want to leave, and the campus felt safe, but I didn’t want to say no to my mom, because I knew how worried, so I just acquiesced. We left Houston the next morning, and I remember seeing cars stranded on the highway, having run out of gas, and that we turned off the A/C in 100 degree heat and humidity because we thought it would help us conserve gas. It took us 26 hours to drive from Houston to Dallas, which normally takes 5. And I just remember thinking the entire trip, “Where the hell am I?” When I got back to Rice after a few days – and I don’t really remember how I got back home – this deep and profound homesickness had started to sink in. I just wanted to feel like I was home again, and that I knew where that home was.

About a week later was Rosh Hashanah. I showed up at the synagogue that happened to be right next to campus, by myself, in a room full of strangers. I would have just sat at the back, but the back rows filled up first (of course) and the only space was in the very front row, right behind the closed captioning reel. Nothing was familiar. I wanted someone to talk to me, some familiar tune that I could sing along to, something to make me feel less alone – and there was nothing. Just this emptiness. I refused to go back the next day. I think I just sat around in my dorm room, longing for something that I don’t know if I had ever experienced, even at home.

And then finally, a few weeks after that, a new friend of mine invited me to come with him to the Campus Crusade for Christ meeting on a random Wednesday evening. I don’t really know what made me say yes – I didn’t have anything better to do, and that’s what I do, I say yes to things, because I’m easygoing, and why not? This time, I sat in the back, and the professor started giving a talk, the gist of which was that Christians needed to be actively going out and working to convert their friends who weren’t yet Christians, and I finally woke up out of this passive go-with the flow spiritual slumber that I was in. I realized: This is not my spiritual home. I’m not sure what it is that I’m looking for, but I’m longing for something, a sanctuary, a safe place, a real home, and it’s not going to come find me. I have to go find it, or work to create it, for myself.

The word sanctuary, from the Latin, means a container for holiness. The Hebrew word, too, is similar – Mikdash, a place that’s a vessel for holiness of all kinds- God’s presence, offerings, holy work. It’s often most associated with big rooms like this one, that can fill a thousand worshippers directed toward what’s happening up on the stage, but a sanctuary can be any size, any container. It’s more than just a building – sanctuary is a mentality that we enter into. A place of protection and safety. Where courageous risk-taking is possible. A place where we’re more able to hold onto emotions and feelings that were too overwhelming before, and can create the space to contain them.

And most of all, our vision of sanctuary on the high holidays is a vessel through which radical and profound personal and collective transformation can occur. We call this teshuva – radical transformation – and it’s the movement from passively accepting what life offers us to taking active responsibility over our lives, into the places where we have control right now.

Sanctuary’s like a fractal – it’s a pattern that you can see repeating in similar ways on multiple levels and scales, from the global to the local to the interpersonal to the inner-personal. So tonight, I want to share a few examples of what sanctuary can look like in our world, and how we might take an active role in creating it for ourselves.

One, is sanctuary as safety and refuge: This past Friday night, Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis became a sanctuary to people who were protesting after the St. Louis circuit court announced the acquittal of another white officer who had shot and killed a black suspect, Anthony Lamar Smith, in 2011. Riot police pushed and used tear gas against protesters, and Rabbi Susan Talve offered them refuge in their shul while police surrounded the building. Afterwards, there was even a hashtag that trended on Twitter to #gasthesynagogue. A community that’s feeling threatened could easily choose to protect itself first, to shut its doors to all of the trouble going on outside and continue to sing Kabbalat Shabbat prayers. What does it say about a Jewish community in the midst of a city in protest that it responds to threats by opening its doors to people in distress? What does it say about how we truly ensure safety?

One of the reasons why we’re excited to meet here at Preston Bradley and support their work is because it houses the Uptown Men’s Transitional Housing, a shelter and social service provider here in Uptown. And yet, tonight my mind and heart are with the former residents of the tent cities at Lawrence and Wilson, who were evicted on Monday while the city does construction on the aqueducts, many of them who still don’t have a place to call home.

Another take is sanctuary as place of connection, empowerment, and agency. There’s a story in the Talmud, in Masechet Sukkah, about the synagogue in ancient Alexandria and how it was constructed as a sanctuary for its community. It begins by describing the grandeur of the building – the size, the gold, the colonnades… But then it talks about how the synagogue functioned as a communal gathering space:

“People wouldn’t come in and sit haphazardly, wherever they wanted. Rather, goldsmiths sat together, silversmiths sat together, blacksmiths together, master weavers together, and apprentice weavers together, so that when a stranger or a poor person entered the synagogue, they could locate the members of their craft, and would join them in their section. This is how a person would secure a livelihood for themselves and the members of their family.”

For this community, the synagogue building wasn’t just about prayer and spiritual connection – although it was serving that purpose too. It was a community meeting place designed with newcomers in mind. You might come into this place and think “oh, it’s just all of these people who already know each other and are friends sitting together and schmoozing,” but it was designed precisely so that newcomers could find their fellow artisans and craftsmen and have an instant community. Not only that – it was a place where people without a livelihood could find the human connections they needed to get employed and support their families out in the world. The space was designed not only by thinking about what functions it served to support the community within its walls, but also about how it could actually empower people OUTSIDE of the sanctuary walls too. One of the reasons why in every service we ask you to talk to the people nearby you is so that we can create the same kinds of friendships and connections that allow us to be empowered and strong.

Here’s a contemporary example of sanctuary acting as a place of personal empowerment, in addition to being a safe refuge. A woman named Jeanette Vizgera, an undocumented immigrant living in Denver, Colorado, was about to check in with her immigration agent, but was afraid that if she did she’d be deported. So back in February she decided to take refuge in a church in Denver. In an interview about a month after she declared sanctuary, Jeanette was asked about her decision to seek sanctuary and what it meant for her to be placing herself under the care of a predominantly white church community for months or even years. Specifically, was she giving up agency over her life by making this choice?

She said, “Yes, they’re doing us a favor by giving us a safe place to stay, but we still get to make our own decisions…For the most part, the people who are granting us refuge are… people who aren’t affected, people with privilege. And often we notice that they see us as poor victims, when that’s not what we are. When we make the decision to seek sanctuary, it’s because we have the courage to face our situations. To fight our cases. To resist. I tell the church leaders: I control my own life. My future. And you, are my allies. You are part of my fight. But I make the decisions, because it’s my life, and my future.”

For Jeanette, taking sanctuary was the beginning of reclaiming control of her life – not only from the whims of immigration authorities, but also from those around her who meant well and wanted the best for her, but thought that they could help by taking away her agency. She’s made a point of being clear with her allies in the sanctuary movement: Fight with me, but not for me. I control my future.

Because for Jeanette, and for us – the point of sanctuary isn’t to stay there forever. The point is to take refuge, to get what you need, to connect to others, and then to emerge back out into the world more whole, more empowered, more ready to act.

And for us, the success of our spiritual work here in this sanctuary during the high holidays is not only measured by the moments of insight we experience or the tears that we shed or the songs that we sing, all of which are made possible by this space, and are activities we probably wouldn’t feel safe enough out in public to be engaged in, but do feel a sense of safety here to do. And we should. But the real success of these days is how those tears and moments of insight transform who we are outside these walls, to sensitize us even more deeply to the world around us. It is measured by the transformation that we are able to effect on the parts of the world that our lives touch. That is how we will know if this sanctuary is truly a mikdash, a space for divinity and holiness and God to dwell here, on the earth.

One of Mishkan’s early classics is a song called Sanctuary, that actually has its roots in Christian traditions – originally a Shaker hymn, and then was adopted by the gospel music tradition, and then made its way to the Jewish community. But it had its roots in Jewish tradition all along. The original Hebrew words that the melody was based on and were later added back in are “V’asu li mikdash, v’shachanti b’tocham,” from the book of Exodus. God tells the Israelites, “Make for me a sanctuary, so that I can dwell among them.” The point of the sanctuary is not so much that God lives in the building – rather, the purpose of the sanctuary is for God to dwell within the people, among them, in each and every one of them.

Our task, during the high holidays, is to create sanctuaries within ourselves and within this space of possibility. We might do that by welcoming into ourselves what feels threatening and dangerous, and creating space for those emotions. We might do that by reaching out to make connections to strangers. Or by practicing patience, whether you’re waiting in line at the fixings table or sitting behind a slow car in the parking lot as you’re trying to leave here today. And above all, by being courageous, by stretching toward our potential for transformation.

Kein yehi ratzon
May it be God’s will.

Rosh Hashanah Morning: Intro to HaMelekh (Rabbi Lizzi)

Something happened at Mishkan Friday Night, November 11th, 2016, the shabbat after the election. On a Friday night at 2nd Unitarian where we hold services 2x a month, where usually we get a good 180 or so people on an average night and everyone can sit in a chair… we were bursting at the seams, well over 200 people, people sitting on the floor, and in laps and standing… everyone looking dazed, still sad, still in disbelief, shocked, incredulous… that a person who ran on a platform of racism, hatred and suspicion toward immigrants, minorities, and women… that this person won the hearts of enough people in this country to become president sent a lot of people running… as it turned out… toward religion.

After services 30-40 people gathered in a circle in the sanctuary over dinner to process all the complex feelings swirling in the room. Some were angry and ready to hit the streets in protest, and we did. Some were just so devastated all we could do was cry, and we did. And for a few of us, a theological response suddenly felt appropriate. A theological response, which is to say, suddenly and surprisingly, God felt relevant, God took us by surprise and said “Hey there, feeling devastated? Maybe I can help.”

There is an idea, well-anchored in Judaism, just that we didn’t know until that very moment that we needed: the idea of God as king.

Probably all of us at some point  have said here’s what I DON’T believe in: the God who’s a king in the sky on a throne picking off sinners and rewarding saints. Smiting me for eating traif. I don’t believe in that God because you’ve tempted that God’s wrath with the traifiest traif and nothing happened!

But now that I have to wake up to news about the Trump White House… the idea of a king of kings of kings, above and beyond our earthly rulers, is strangely comforting.

You may know that the first of Tishre became Rosh HaShannah not because this is the actual beginning of the Hebrew calendar but because this was the day on which kings were coronated in Babylonia and around the ancient near east. The king of a society represented God on earth for them, was the physical incarnation of God on earth. So for Judaism to proclaim that we would be coronating not an eartly king of flesh and blood but the Creator of the Universe, was a radical subversion of that ancient practice. Actually it mocked the whole system of kings and coronations. It would be like putting our most major religious holiday of the year– judgement day and the day we honor the creation of the planet- on inauguration day. Just to demonstrate to that our actual loyalties lie not with the earthly king but with HaMelekh, the melekh malakhay ha’melachim, the king of king of kings, the ultimate in power and authority.

Suddenly I take comfort in the idea of God as someone who holds us accountable, that there is nothing we do, nothing, that escapes God’s vision. that at the end of the day we will all be called to account for the kindnesses we withheld, for the insults we lobbed so casually… for the times we were bystanders, not upstanders… Knowing that this God reigns over all of us, including the most, the most powerful, the people who hold earthly positions of authority… is comforting because they, too, will be called to account.

Whereas earthly kings and rulers rule harshly, lacking compassion and even common decency– our image of God as the melekh malchey ha’mlkachim is of a compassionate forgiving presence who loves goodness, who loves love.

And so as we enter the next section of services, beginning with these words- haMeleh haYosev al Kiseh ram v’nisah: the king, who sits on a throne, lofty and high… open yourself to two possibilities: 1. That people you find abhorrent, annoying, awful, and mystifyingly in positions of power and authority– will be called to account and judged according to their deeds;  2. That you, too, will be called to account.


Rosh Hashanah Torah Service Introduction (Rachel Dorit Goldberg)

In this very moment, whether you are aware of it or not, we are each standing at the gateway of an epic journey of transformation. This thing we do between Rosh HaShanah & Yom Kippur called T’shuva is not only an opportunity for emotional alchemy and deep personal healing, but also the greatest contribution we as individuals can make to humanity at large… should we choose to accept the challenge. In a year where the collective suffering and fear in our tribe, our nation, and the world are obvious and brutal, many struggle to understand the importance of inner-work when there is clearly so much external work to be done. Yet, here we are, once again entering into this interpersonal cleansing cycle with a profound example of why we do this inner and inter-personal work right in the Torah portion.

We are about to experience the joyous moment when Sarah, wife of Abraham, learns that she is pregnant with their son Isaac at 90 years old after many many years of trying to conceive. Years prior to this moment, she felt so ashamed of not being able to birth a child for her and her husband that she invited her maid Hagar to sleep with her husband in order to bare him a son, which she did – Ishmael. After the joy of her miraculous conception waned, as Isaac weaned and began to walk on his own, Sarah looks around and is pierced once again with jealously and feelings of inadequacy when she sees Ishmael playing, realizing that her biological son is destined to share the physical and spiritual inheritance of her husband Abraham’s legacy. This discomfort drives  Sarah to essentially demand her husband banish Hagar and Ishmael into the desert with little means to survive. Reluctantly, but with assurance from g-d, Abraham does this. Ishmael and Hagar eventually resettle in Paran, a desert region now known as Mecca, but not without immense struggle and testing of their faith.

I find a lot fascinating about this story – like the fact that Hagar’s name in Hebrew literally means “the stranger,” pitting this Egyptian servant against her Jewish employers. The section’s lessons about power, privilege and identity politics are both potent and plenty, which I’d encourage you to talk more about over lunch. But what I am most fascinated by in this moment in biblical history is everything we know about what follows, and the ways this story is still unfolding today. This is not just a tale about the birth of two boys; these ancient words we are about to read contain the DNA  that formed two distinct nations that are not only still alive today, but remain locked in perpetual, gut-wrenching, tragic conflict. And this whole thing started because our moms couldn’t get along.

In this reading we also see vividly how interpersonal relations are a result of one’s inner-personal relationship with self. Sarah’s resentment toward Hagar didn’t actually have anything to do with Hagar. Instead it had everything to do with Sarah’s own insecurity and fear. In other words, hurt people hurt people.  One way that we can trace this hurt is to start with Sarah’s resentment and ask – what is the resentment about? Hagar had a baby with Abraham and the boy was growing to be strong with leadership potential. Next we ask – how does this impact Sarah? It impacts Sarah’s self-esteem, and sense of security. Finally, we ask – what fears are at the root of this impact? I imagine Sarah’s feelings were rooted in a deep seeded fear of lack, or not-enough-ness. This fear made it impossible for Sarah to imagine a situation where both boys, and both women, were provided for and nurtured and nourished, where both boys could inherit Abraham’s legacy– and so she acted on this fear and felt justified doing so. Fear lays at the root of this conflict, and this violence, and I’ll go as far as saying –  it pretty much always does.

As we read this story today, and as we simultaneously enter a period of deep self reflection and immediate action to repair all relations where we have acted out of fear and caused harm as a result, we are reminded that when interpersonal resentments and fears go unchecked they not only persist, but have the potential to snowball overtime, then avalanche. And if you think that your petty conflicts don’t rise to this level of drama, remember that Sarah and Hagar were just two women, way back when. I’m sure they could not have imagined what the long term outcome of their story would be, that thousands of years later we’d still be playing out their conflict.  

Should we each be courageous enough to examine our own resentments in this way, tracing them to how we ourselves are affected and our underlying fears – we just might gain the insight necessary to objectively see our own role in our interpersonal conflicts.

May we each find the clarity needed to approach ha – ger (the other) in our lives (whoever they may be) compassionately and in a manner that heals. May we each also find the strength to examine those deepest spaces within ourselves that are most in need of healing with compassion. This process is not silly, nor self-indulgent. It is the work of spiritual warriors, and it is the most significant service any individual can make toward healing the collective.


Rosh Hashanah Day: Intro to Unetaneh Tokef (Rabbi Lauren)

Unetaneh Tokef, the next part of the Musaf Amidah, is a window into a truth that is always present, but easily avoided or forgotten until we’re directly confronted with it: that life is short and fleeting. The images on the next page try to describe this: they compare our lives to things like broken shards of pottery, passing shadows, scattered dust. All of these are images of how vulnerable and temporary we are as human beings.

I think it’s important to say here that there’s a distinction between vulnerability and fragility. People often will call life fragile, especially when there’s a tragedy, but when we say something’s fragile, it means “Don’t drop it! Don’t break it! Handle with care!.”  It induces this kind of paralysis where we can’t do anything at all for fear that things might break. Life is actually quite resilient, and incredibly strong, but also vulnerable. We’re capable of far more than we give ourselves credit for while we’re here, and we have no idea how long that will be. So how do we live our lives in the awareness of our vulnerability? When do we lean in and live harder, and when do we pull back?

This year, in this prayer, I’m thinking of a little boy who was my camper at Camp Ramah in the Rockies two summers ago, named Koby Gruenwald, who’s now 12 years old. This time two years ago, his mom Melanie was diagnosed with breast cancer, underwent treatment in the fall, and then, thank God, went into remission in January. And then at Purim, in late March 2016, Koby was having headaches, and Melanie and Solomon took him to the ER, where they found a glioblastoma, hemorrhaging. There were treatment options, which Koby’s gone through, but this is, in all likelihood, a terminal diagnosis.

Melanie’s been blogging the entire journey, from her illness straight into her son’s, with an impossible candor, vulnerability, and perseverance, and I want to share a few of her words from her post two days ago, about this prayer – she writes each post as a letter to Koby:

When you were born, we went through so many firsts with you- and now we are entering the phase we fear each are your ‘lasts.’ From annual, to monthly, and weekly cycles- will you be here for the next? That question is not just for you. We just live keenly aware of it. No one knows their time here, their series of lasts, even the ones who aren’t wrapped up in diagnoses and prognoses.

We can’t worry about “if” you are going to die, we worry about “how” you are going to live. Not just you, but all of us. We have learned to fight for how we want to live. Every decision has been framed with your quality of life in mind. From medical decisions, to ‘experiences’– all about improving quality of life.

If everybody could learn one thing from the hell we’ve been through these past 18 months– it’s that we have choices in life, and we have to choose how we are going to live. We have to live with purpose and meaning, not just for the Days of Awe. We have to infuse our entire year with that. Living with meaning. Being a light. Letting the people around us know we love them. Because… you never know.

This question is for us: What would it mean to choose life? What would that mean to you this year?