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The end of an era

When I first came to Friday Night Live
I didn’t know if I’d ever been in a Jewish room so big.

It was like they took the entire outside, put up walls on the very edges,
added comfortable seating and painted the sky to look like a ceiling.

I remember the sign I saw before I entered.
“No Cell Phones.”

I wasn’t sure if it was a statement against their existence,
as if cell phones somehow represented hatred of Jews,

or if I just wasn’t allowed to bring one into the room.
In either case it was nineteen something or other and back then

I couldn’t afford to make a local toll call let alone own a cell phone.
So I confidently walked into the room knowing it wouldn’t be a problem.

I remember the rabbi. I’d known his wisdom from years before
when he stood in front of a room full of eager undergraduates and

wrote the entire first paragraph of the book “Lolita” on the board from memory
just to make a point about how people remember things.

I’ll be lucky if I remember how to get home tonight … but I remember that.
This was a rabbi I wanted to learn more from.

I remember the singer. A man with such incredible spontaneity
his band told him you never do the same thing once.

A man whose simple melodies you fell in love with the first time you heard them.
A man who, if you happen to be in the room, might, with no forewarning,

pull you up out of the congregation and demand you tell your life story.
Be careful when you walk into this room,

because when you do you become a part of its story.
Your voices, not acceptable when too quiet, become the choir.

We are the holy cabal. And this too must pass.
The baton at least. On to the next.

The old will become new and everything remains holy
if you’re willing to look close enough.

The impact has been made.
What happens in this room has been scientifically duplicated

in rooms of all sizes all over the world.
This has been the litmus test and we have passed.

The rabbi, the singer, will be missed
but their voices and words not forgotten.

And in a hundred thousand years, when the archaeologists of the future
are dusting off the remains of West Los Angeles,

a small crack in the rubble will open up
and a trapped melody will force its way into their ears.

ah na na na na na na …

They’ll smile, and nod to each other because
this has always been one of their favorites.

That is the endurance of this.
We are but borrowing this dust from the earth.

We will inevitably exchange it for our wristband
to the next big after-party in the sky.

(And you don’t even have to be ages 21 to 39 to get in.)
But how we filled this space remains.

The music never silenced.
The wisdom perpetual.

Friday Night Live.
The story goes on.

Los Angeles poet Rick Lupert read this poem on June 13, 2014 at Sinai Temple at the final Friday Night Live service led by Rabbi David Wolpe and Craig Taubman. Lupert's work can be found online at poetrysuperhighway.com/.

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