Rabbi Leder's Shabbat Message - August 26, 2022

  • Clergy
  • Shabbat

The first time I listened to Steely Dan’s album Pretzel Logic in my buddy Darrel Heald’s Buick on the way to an AZA meeting at the JCC was a religious experience. The year, 1974. I, a fourteen-year—old bundle of swagger, insecurity, angst, zits, big hair and bell bottoms, limitless curiosity about reward with almost zero regard for risk. I was both certain and confused about the world and my place in it. Then, I heard that melody and those words:    

I never seen you looking so bad, my funky one
You tell me that your super fine mind has come undone
 
Any major dude with half a heart surely will tell you, my friend
Any minor world that breaks apart falls together again
When the demon is at your door
In the morning it won't be there no more
Any major dude will tell you
Any major dude will tell you
 
Have you ever seen a squonk's tears? Well, look at mine
The people on the street have all seen better times
 
Any major dude with half a heart surely will tell you, my friend
Any minor world that breaks apart falls together again
When the demon is at your door
In the morning it won't be there no more
Any major dude will tell you
Any major dude will tell you
 
I can tell you all I know, the where to go, the what to do
You can try to run but you can't hide from what's inside of you
 
Any major dude with half a heart surely will tell you, my friend
Any minor world that breaks apart falls together again
When the demon is at your door
In the morning it won't be there no more
Any major dude will tell you
 
That night and that song was the first time I felt someone understood my adolescent longings. In that epiphanic moment I somehow knew that despite my highs and lows, the best and the worst in me and my family, my optimism and looming sense of dread, my boyish man body, and all the other dualities of life I was beginning to feel--somehow things were going to be okay.

The co-songwriter Donald Fagen was a Jew from the Old Country (New Jersey), his mother sang swing in the Catskills, and he had nailed my teenage need for hope. He nailed this week’s Torah portion too.

Parashat Re’eh is mostly about two things, both of which are very real. Those two things are blessings and curses; the sweet and the sour that come to us all as we make our way through life; the conflicted feelings we have about ourselves and others, the duality of our sadness about the world and our love for all the beauty and joy it nevertheless holds.

It is no accident that we read this Torah portion on the first Shabbat of the month of Elul; the month of spiritual preparation that precedes the High Holy Days; the last month before the book is closed on another year. Soon, we and Jews all over the world will turn our hearts and souls toward the task of cheshbone hanefesh—the accounting of our deeds, the assessment of our souls. Soon we will celebrate and bemoan the state of our inner being and the ever-changing world.

All I wish to tell you this Shabbat and this sacred month as you begin to tally your blessings and your curses, is yes can you can do better, because we and life are never all better. But there are miracles all around us every day. The vaccine is a miracle. Your first breath this morning was a miracle. The water flowing from your tap is a miracle. Your heart beating in your chest is a miracle. And you are a miracle. You can be better but you are also enough. You are enough just as you are. You are worthy of appreciation and gratitude and warmth and love. You are enough. And you have enough. And you will always have enough and you will always be enough if you just look at how much you have, how many you love, and how many love you.

As we count our days, and consider the bitter curses within and around us, let’s count our blessings too. Let’s turn to the people we love and tell them as the New Year approaches:

“I have enough and I am enough, because I have you. You are a blessing to me. Despite our faults, despite the world’s traumas, life is a blessed miracle, for which we can be grateful every day. And Dude, that’s major…

Love and Shabbat Shalom,

Steve      

 

"Any Major Dude Will Tell You" music and lyrics by Steely Dan. Geffen Records.