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It’s The Journey: Shabbat Message from Cantorial Soloist Michelle Auslander Cohen

Tonight, we celebrate the women of Temple Beth El with our annual Sisterhood Shabbat service.

What I have come to not only love, but to cherish about women is the enormous variety of emotions they feel, as well the incredible level of productivity they can achieve in any given day. Life is busy! With spouses, parents, work, kids, friends; managing the personal AND family’s calendar and the ever-evolving attempt at self-care. No wonder we cannot find the glasses that are sitting on our head!

At the core of this marvelous “chaos,” however, lives the most beautiful spark of holiness. It is the spark that inspires us to try to do everything, to be everything, to take care of everything. We can drive ourselves into the ground with this kind of desire to do immense good in the world.

One of the privileges I feel so humbled to experience as clergy, especially during our Rosh Chodesh sessions, is to watch that intense desire of unattainable perfection turn into an intense desire to better ourselves. As Brene Brown says, “Imperfections are gifts.” They are wonderful unique quirks that each of us have which arise in the midst of the chaos – like looking for your glasses while they’re on your head! It is in those most beautiful moments where we truly experience our humanity.

I would like to share this beautiful abridged form of a poem which I feel so accurately describes the full spectrum of what it means to be a woman;

When God created women, God was working late on the 6th day.

An angel came by and asked, “Why spend so much time on her?”

God answered, “Have you seen all the specifications I have to meet to shape her? She must be able to embrace several kids at the same time, have a hug that can heal anything from a bruised knee to a broken heart. She must do all this with only two hands….”

“God, it seems this creation is leaking! You have put too many

burdens on her!”

“She is not leaking…it is a tear,” God corrected the angel.

“Tears are her way of expressing her grief, her doubts, her love, her loneliness, her suffering and her pride.”….

“She can handle trouble and carry heavy burdens.

She holds happiness, love and opinions.

She smiles when she feels like screaming.

She sings when she feels like crying.

Cries when happy and laughs when afraid.

She fights for what she believes in.

Her love is unconditional.”

The angel asked: “So she is a perfect being?”

God replied, “No. She has just one drawback…she often forgets what she is worth.”

 

Rav Nachman of Breslov explains that “The day you were born is the day God decided that the world could not exist without you.”

If we choose to believe in this, then we must elevate the importance of the journey to self-discovery and recognize it as a true gift from God – we are responsible for the realization and development of our unique gifts- the journey itself to self-realization IS the purpose of our lives.

One of the ways in which I explore my purpose is by studying with my dear friend and mentor in Jerusalem, Elana Mizrahi. I was particularly moved while learning with her last week, that this week’s Torah portion is Parashat Tzav. I needn’t look past the title of the portion to feel that it was bashert – meant to be – that this is the portion we read on Sisterhood Shabbat. The word “Tzav” means, “to command”. It may sound more familiar to you in its other form; Mitzvah, as they come from the same Hebrew root. We have also come to know this word to mean “good deed”. Elana taught me another way to explain a Mitzvah. She calls it a “Commitment to Connection”. This incredible wisdom teaches us; the pathway to a meaningful and purposeful life is achieved when we commit to connecting to the world around us, and within us. Doing mitzvot/good deeds IS the key which opens the door to connection to ourselves, to our friends, to our family and to our community. When we are truly “plugged in” we create a committed community which supports each other through the roller coaster of life’s experiences.

As we usher the Shabbat Bride into our sanctuary this evening, let us be humbled and inspired by the serenity that she brings. And through the beautiful chaos of our lives, may we, in her image, learn to model her behavior of creating space for joy, for calm, for reflection and self-discovery.

This is the kind of Shabbat we are commanded to observe. One where we designate time and space to create holy connections and to recharge our souls for the week to come.

May we be blessed with insight to understand how to nurture and value each of our beautiful, quirky, one-of-a-kind souls, so that we may find our purpose. Let us commit to connecting with others and to ourselves, and follow the path that leads us to self-realization.

Shabbat Shalom,

Michelle Auslander Cohen
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