A rabbi (who is also one of my dearest friends) once taught me that “everyone only has one sermon…”
I’ve thought deeply about her lesson. While all humans are inherently complex creatures, each of us seems to have a core message, a distilled ideology that shows up (consciously or unconsciously) in our thoughts, our conversations, and our actions.
Over time, I’ve tried to isolate and define exactly what my “one sermon” might be. Unsurprisingly, it only became clear when I expressed it through a piece of music.
All things considered, I feel like my personal “one sermon” has more relevance today than ever before. And as Shavuot illuminates our ongoing relationship with Torah, I feel compelled to share it…
At the core of my work, there has always been a simple message that transcends my creative/artistic output, my spiritual journey, and my daily intentionality. It is a personal distillation of Torah that defines my spirit. I have found that it angers a small subset of the Jewish community, those that consider the concept of universal spiritual equality as a heretical idea that challenges their narrow interpretation of the “chosen people” construct.
Reading back some of my previous writing, I found this passage:
“Monochromatic faith is like tossing a baseball in the air and catching it yourself. Sure, you are technically throwing and catching, but it’s ultimately a poor substitute for tossing the ball around with another person. You learn, you adjust, you see more clearly when another person plays catch with you. You appreciate how the ball approaches you in different ways, and you enjoy throwing it back and forth. It builds camaraderie. It creates relationships. It puts us all on the same field. I want to live in a world where everyone gets to play catch.”
Right now, when we are forced to be apart, it’s more important than ever to remember our shared humanity, to transcend the issues that divide us, and to embrace the fact that despite our temporary physical separation, we are all moving through this life together.
This is my Torah: We are all made of the same stuff. Each of us is created in the divine image, born into a universal family of human beings, and blessed with equal access to God in all of God’s forms. There is nothing more powerful than this unbreakable, holy connection we share.
When weighed against our similarities, our differences are strikingly minimal. Though each of us is beautifully unique in our own way, we are still kindred beings. And when we focus on what connects us rather than what separates us, we cannot help but grow closer to God and to each other.
“If your God is my God, and my God is everything,
aren’t we all, aren’t we all, part of one God?
So, let your God be my God and our God be everything.
Oh, we’ll all know we’re all part of one God.
So open up your heart, to all the lost and lonely.
Let no one be alone tonight, before our One and Only.”
These lyrics have become the chorus of a new song/video called “One and Only.” If you’d like to check out how this “one sermon” was expressed as art, it is available here: tr.im/OneandOnlyJN
Wishing you a deep and meaningful Shavuot.
Be strong and stay safe.