05 December, 2020

Look for Kindness

This has been an excruciating week.

As we move through these final Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, may we embrace Quiet and pause often. Inside the loud and raging modern world, may we hold that rage but balance it with the noticing of simple joys, embracing natural beauty and the micro generosities gifted to us. May we look for opportunities for kindness and connection.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
And, where there is pain; where there is death and anguish and injustice and rage—let us be courageous in humbling ourselves. Be brave in asking for forgiveness, and gracious and expansive in our willingness *to* forgive. Forgiveness sets the forgivER, free.

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

— from ‘Perhaps the World Ends Here’ by Joy Harjo

28 November, 2020


Heck YES!
Some of you know this has been a challenging time for me. (Not losing sight of the fact that it has been a trial for everyone on earth during this life-altering COVID pandemic).

I’ll explain less cryptically when I am ready, but for now, know this:
It makes the timing of my beloved Alec's’s proposal this weekend extraordinarily perfect.

Insane bonus points for the bluest of blue gemstones, and refashioning this ring
from My mother's gems and the melted down gold from my Dad’s wedding band. [*weeps*] 

I had no idea, was utterly shocked, and quite truly believed love like this would not happen for me.

It goes to show that working on ourselves, remaining open (even when it’s terrifying) and allowing life to surprise you brings about the truest definition of magic I can muster. Plus, Alec and I already reeeeallly know the meaning of the phrase “in sickness and in health...”

Alec, this was the easiest YES of my life. Thank you for your access to joy, for the way you cherish, for your unconditional support, discerning mind, compassionate soul, and for being your singular, irreplaceable self. 

Yes, I will marry you.

melting down in the BEST way!

27 September, 2020


It’s here. Yom Kippur 2020 and whoa boy do we all have a lot to atone for, personally and as a society at large.
The first communal prayer service of Yom Kippur actually takes place immediately prior to sunset on the evening of Yom Kippur. This service is called Kol Nidre (“All Vows”). These are the first words of a special legal document that is recited at the beginning of this service and is traditionally chanted, recited or sung, three times. (The singing of a legal vow-based legal document? Sounds kinda like a medieval “One Hand One Heart.”)
There are several melodies and versions used, but here is my humble attempt at the “Fromm” version (which is my favorite), up a step from the original key because, soprano. Also, because it is traditional to wear a white garment for the whole of the holiday I’m giving you several all-white garment *lewks* Just call me The Woman in White. LOL.
The Kol Nidre legal ritual is believed to have developed in early medieval times because at various times in history Jews were forced to convert to upon pain of death, and make vows to another faith. Vows in those days were very different than they are now— they were lifelong and permanent.
However, after the danger had passed, many forced converts wanted to return to their Jewish communities, but because of the seriousness with which the Jewish tradition views verbal promises (remember the *draaaama* of “They gave each other a ‘pledge’ from 'Fiddler On The Roof!'), the Kol Nidrei legal formula was developed precisely in order to enable those forced converts to return to the Jewish community, absolving them of the vows that they made under mortal duress.
Thus “All Vows” was created and remains a crucial part of the ceremony to this day.
It’s an interesting time to think on vows we have made under duress. On broken promises and an affirmation to do and be better.

Wishing you all every possible grasped-at joy during these dark days, and May we all *vow* to be better in the days to come.  

Many special thanks are due that made this video possible —
- Rabbi Matthew Green of Brooklyn Jews for inviting me to participate in HIGH RESOLUTION
- Rabbi Samantha Frank for teaching me alllll about Kol Nidre.
- Alec for allowing me to drag him to the east river to film this
- And last but not least Cantor extraordinaire and very dear old friend Marla Aviva Beider for the sheet music and supportive guidance.

20 September, 2020

:: The Days of Awe ::

The 10 days beginning with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur are known as the Days of Awe (Yamim Noraim) or sometimes translated as “the Days of Repentance.” 

 This is a time for deep, not-screwing-around introspection. A time to consider the sins of the past and own, acknowledge, and ask forgiveness from others for those wrongs, before Yom Kippur. (The, hopefully righting the wrongs you committed against them, if possible, and making a sincere commitment not to do that wrong again.)

Thus the Ten Days of Awe are an opportunity for change. 

Sign me UP.
In 2020 our society has awakened to the fact that we as individuals and as a society have much to #atone for. From a deadly virus, to systemic racism and its violence, to environmental abuse of our one and only planet, political polarity, and so much more. We MUST be and do better.

The actions that can change our existence AND our fate are considered to be “teshuvah, tefilah and tzedakah," repentance, prayer, good deeds.

But in order to truly atone, we have to be willing to acknowledge and embrace our imperfections.
The ancient alchemist and philosopher Hermes Trismegistus spoke of examining a “perfectly-imperfect” existence here:

“Rise above all time and become eternal, then you will apprehend God. Think that for you too nothing is impossible, deem that you too are immortal, and that you are able to grasp all things in your thought, to know every craft and science. Find your home in the haunts of every living creature, make yourself higher than all heights and lower than all depths. Bring together in yourself all opposites of quality, heat and cold, dryness and fluidity. Think that you are everywhere at once, on land, at sea, in heaven, think that you are not yet begotten, that you are in the womb, that you are young, that you are old, that you have died, that you are in the world beyond the grave. Grasp in your thought all of this at once, all times and places, all substances and qualities and magnitudes together. Then you can apprehend God. But if you shut up your soul in your body, and abase yourself, and say ‘I know nothing, I can do nothing, I am afraid of earth and sea, I cannot mount to heaven, I know not what I was, nor what I shall be,’ then what have you to do with God?”

Basically? The Days of Awe are a time for healing.
But in order for us to heal, we must be willing to be wrong. Sometimes really wrong. (And I know I know: for some of you/us, being wrong can feel equivalent to emergency heart surgery, or swallowing a jarful of bees.) But no human in perfect— it is in the endeavoring that we experience enlightened growth as a constant, evolving practice.

May your next few days be filled with both repentance AND awe...
They are both there if we seek them.

18 September, 2020

:: Rosh Hashanah 5781 ::

It goes without saying at this point that Rosh Hashanah 5781 is not going to feel like Rosh Hashanah 5780. 
Never has the ancient meaning of “who shall live and who shall die” felt like it has had such specific meaning as it has this year— 
:: It reminds us that each of us is here for a brief time. :: 
I always welcome chances to “start again—“ be it Jan 1, a birthday, or a new school year. 
Personally, I don’t love “New Year Resolutions” I prefer affirmations or intentions... 
SO: I am setting the intention to cultivate health, nourishment and wholeness. 
For my individual body, the health of the world in the wake of COVID19, political progress, peace, health of the planet, ...and all our souls. 
 The #Hebrew word for SHALOM, is related to the word for *WHOLENESS,* SHALEM
In that I see that health is comprehensive— we must treat the “whole organism—“ of our bodies, society, and planet. 
We have a lot to heal right now, and healing is an essential part of wholeness—we are being called to get VERY uncomfortable and face our mortality, our biases and to engage in productive conflict. But the fruit of those efforts? Is hard-won growth. 
A Way In says: 
In these final hours of 5780, the Torah calls:
You stand here today in this moment
With all those you love,
With all those with whom you joyfully share this passage through life.
And you stand here today with all those you have been taught to call other,
And those you have learned to demonize and hate.
You stand here today with all those who came before you,
The generations upon whose shoulders you stand.
And you stand here today with all who will come after you,
Your children’s, children’s, children
Who will some day call you ancestor.
 Rosh Hashanah is another chance for a new beginning. 
So let us. Begin. 
Or begin again. ‎ 
๐Ÿ’œ ืฉื ื” ื˜ื•ื‘ื”


'The Late Year' by Marge Piercy (a poem for Rosh Hashana, 5781)

The Late Year
by Marge Piercy

I like Rosh Hashanah late,
when the leaves are half burnt
umber and scarlet, when sunset
marks the horizon with slow fire
and the black silhouettes
of migrating birds perch
on the wires davening.

I like Rosh Hashanah late
when all living are counting
their days toward death
or sleep or the putting by
of what will sustain them—
when the cold whose tendrils
translucent as a jellyfish

and with a hidden sting
just brush our faces
at twilight. The threat
of frost, a premonition
a warning, a whisper
whose words we cannot
yet decipher but will.

I repent better in the waning
season when the blood
runs swiftly and all creatures
look keenly about them
for quickening danger.
Then I study the rockface
of my life, its granite pitted

and pocked and pickaxed
eroded, discolored by sun
and wind and rain—
my rock emerging
from the veil of greenery
to be mapped, to be
examined, to be judged.


© https://rebekahlowin.com


17 September, 2020

Jewish 9/11 and Shabbat

There are many things in Judaism relating to #remembering: both positive and negative experiences motivate us to work towards being better versions of ourselves, and as a society. The act of remembering recurs throughout #Judaism: our calendar is full of #remembrances from our past.
 On Shabbat we are urged to not only REST, but to REMEMBER.
 And on this Shabbat, America is also landing on a remembrance of another kind altogether. This particularly fraught and confusing #September11th, 2020 we are remembering the 2,799 lost lives from that senseless act of terrorism and hatred, but what also feels vitally significant is to remember the 194,000+ (and counting) American human lives that have, as of today, been taken by the Coronavirus.

 On this Shabbat, I wish you rest and remembrance.
 Our memories shape us and guide our mission to build a better, more equitable world.
 Our memories of oppression should remind us to wipe out slavery of all kinds, and to treat all people with dignity.
 Our memories of hatred, violence and terrorism should remind us to stand up against hatred and prejudice with love and light.
 Ours is an active existence.

     “There is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord.  Life goes wrong when the control of space, the acquisition of things of space, becomes our sole concern.  The Sabbath is the day on which we learn the art of surpassing civilization— Abraham Joshua Heschel
Good Sabbath, my friends. May we Never  Forget.



16 September, 2020

As you were...




Just Start

One day you just have to start.

Beginning is one of the hardest parts of anything. 

Because you have to commit. 

And committing means you have to make a decision for reals saying you are doing X rather than something else. Which requires risk, and sacrifice.
You don’t have to know how to finish what you start.
But you must.
Starting requires faith, it requires an openness, and some small level of intention but no defined end goal. (Note I said *intention* and not *direction.*)

To make art is to commit to starting something. The “something” will then grow and change with time.
Don’t judge the idea or the result, celebrate the fact that you are having creative output at all—no matter the quality.

Ending and beginning something are very different things. Do not deny the joy of creation, the singular, other-worldly process of creating something that has never existed before YOU brought it to this world.
Don’t wait fir the perfect moment. Don’t wait until you lose the weight, or have all your ducks perfectly in a row, or have heaps of cash secured.

Sit at the desk.
Grab your pencil.
Go to the piano.
Open your voice.
Strap on the dance shoes.
Pick up the paintbrush.

There’s no perfect moment to wait for.
Except? For now.
NOW is the perfect moment.

I believe in you. 

©Michael Kushner

15 September, 2020

Great Big Medication Day

 Hello from the very wonderful Mount Sinai! I got a new Great Big Medication today to help support me in my auto-immune journey.

I’m 100 emotions: relieved, excited, hopeful...and anxious that this medication also ...will not work.
It’s a process. It’s a journey. And it’s incredibly complicated.

I won’t lie: while I AM rocking a positive attitude (and I have a LOT of perspective about the “size” of this personal issue in comparison to others/the world), I don’t want you to think that I have
not had moments of crushing weariness, despair, or the devastating  frustration of being “SO SICK OF BEING SICK” inside a political trash-fire and a global pandemic.
I have.
And if you have too? It’s okay.
That’s allowed.
It doesn’t make you an ungrateful jerk or a big weenie.
Humans are resilient beings with a massive capacity to endure, and I know I am strong AF. But sometimes I think 

     “People know and expect Al Silber to be strong AF, and I don’t want to betray that image in people’s minds, or to MYSELF.
But “things being hard” doesn’t change that.
Our spirits can be resilient when we are cheerful,
     and our spirits are strong when we are distressed and in need.
We may be fragmented, we maybe wounded.
But we are no less *whole.*

There is no “cure” for autoimmune diseases—only long-term remission and maintenance. There will be setbacks (for all of us), but I love life so darn much (yes, even in 2020) and look forward to many more healthy, fully-lived, days to come!

Onwards, with courage and integrity.

. . .

PS. I won’t tell you what my new prescription is called because I don’t want you to think this is any kind of advertisement, and also because (and this is FULL, unapologetic shade) this Rx has THE actual *WEIRDEST* commercial I’ve ever seen—and for a Rx advert that is really saying something...


09 September, 2020

Flare-ups ≠ Failure!

Dear Ones, I am currently having one of the worst #autoimmune flare-ups I’ve experienced yet. This is not to invite pity, but to connect and maybe even validate your experience!
COVID19 is no joke: the state of the world, the Unknowns, of the Arts, the unemployment, the stress, the insanity of our political climate— it’s stressful! And stress is one of the leading cause of flares.
Many things (and I mean: oh my goodness SO. MANY. CURRENT. THINGS) are not in our control. We cannot choose what happens to us, but we can control our response.
Sometimes you get #flareups when you’re doing everything “right.” You are doing the diet, you are following all the protocols. In our society we prioritize success stories, and and lift up people that appear to do life “perfectly.” We believe that there is a *linear path* to wellness (often we are even SOLD this idea because, capitalism). Sometimes you can do everything "right" and still experience a flare. You’re NOT a failure, you’re learning to care for your unique body in a way that works for you. It’s all data.
#Health and wellness are complex, nuanced and take a lifetime to embody. Nobody has it all figured out. Wellness is not linear. It is holistic.
Setbacks are just that: a setback. A chance to regroup, pivot, get grateful and grow.  Setbacks do not mean that you’re not doing, or trying, hard enough. ⁠

My current health doesn’t make me a FLAREure! It makes me a human being, doing my best in a set of tough circumstances, on a journey, riding the roller coaster of life. 

With a chronic illness. 

In 20FREAKING20. ⁠
I would love you offer you what *I myself* need to hear today:
     ๐Ÿ’ซ Offer yourself grace.
     ๐Ÿ’ซ There is no perfect path. To health or to anything.

Let’s continue to support each other in this comprehensive health journey. 

Heck, on every—journey. 

We could all use some grace. 


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