Author Archive

Rabbinic Reflections: God’s body and soul

Friday the 13th had a full moon. What a great reminder that we are not in control; two eerie signs, especially for the superstitious, that the natural world itself has a dark side. This particular full moon marks the middle of the Hebrew month of Elul, the month of preparation for the Jewish High Holy Days. In two more weeks, as the moon wanes to nothing, Rosh ...

 
 

Rabbinic Reflections: Catastrophe, again

Darkness, sadness, and a seemingly unending journey through painful events recounting death, destruction, and doom. Watching the evening news or browsing your phone’s news feed too often feel just like that. Catastrophe is fast becoming the daily grind. It goes without saying that we cannot let ourselves become desensitized, let alone immune or complacent. Today’s ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Visiting God

It is Visiting Day at camp. In keeping with a decades old tradition in the American Jewish community, my older children are at a Jewish sleepaway camp nestled in the mountains. In the idyllic environments built by different organizations and owners, nature is just an excuse for where God really shows up, in community. To be clear, I failed as a Jewish summer camper. ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: You are unprepared

You are not ready. You will not be ready. You cannot get ready. The many rituals and traditions that are meant to help us prepare for the Jewish pilgrimage festival of Shavuot, the holiday celebrating both the first fruits of the summer harvest and the receiving of Torah at Mt. Sinai, convey an important message. We are never really prepared to receive the Torah. ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Ramadan rebound

It is NBA playoff season. Apart from the thrills and chills of the Sixers’ series with the Raptors, I am also highly aware that it is now Ramadan, the Muslim holy month known for daylight fasting. The combination takes me back to the mid-1990s when I first understood anything about Ramadan, and I learned from basketball. I grew up in Houston, Texas. Back then, Hakeem ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Welcoming affliction

My cousin cried at the table. I did not understand why until my mother explained why she herself cried, too. The Passover seder invites learning, traditions, symbolic foods, and all the things that family gatherings might entail. The seder also invites, though, a recognition of darkness that we tend to undervalue. Early in the seder, we hold up the dry, flat cracker ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Book People

Do you love to read? I do. Can you imagine being a book, not just a bookworm? You read that correctly, can you imagine being a book? For all that Jews are called “people of the book,” referring to our roots in the Bible’s Hebrew Scriptures, once upon a time, there were rabbis whose job was to be a book. I remember clearly the class in rabbinical school where my ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Ready and not

Be afraid; be a light. Never again; choose life. Be proud; expect security checkpoints. Jews today live in a strange place. We have achieved high degrees of success, and we have felt increasingly vulnerable. We have tried to make the world a better place, and we have been blamed for almost all of its ills. The experience of these polarities is enough to drive just ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Getting grounded

Whiplash seems to be the reality these days. Liberal or conservative, politics have taken abrupt turns this past month. Here in the Brandywine Valley and certainly in the Florida panhandle, weather has shifted dramatically, hot and cold, category 2 to 4. Jewishly (and for schools closing for Jewish High Holy Days) life was filled with stops and starts as the holidays ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: It’s your call

Let’s reschedule Rosh HaShanah. I know the calendars all say that it begins tonight and will stretch through Tuesday; after all, it is also known as yoma arichta (the long day). Rosh HaShanah is too early this year; it is too hot still, and school has barely started. We should reschedule it. To be clear, the ancient rabbis said we can. In fact, in one infamous case, ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Mirror of return

Today, the alarm starts ringing. It is time again to awaken, not for a particular day but for a life. The alarm clamors, sounding not just in our ears but in our souls. Today, we must begin to return not just to the Creator but to our best selves, our purpose as unique creations. The Hebrew month of Elul begins today. With it come the 30 days of preparation for the ...