Author Archive

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 ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Religious freedom

With the recent announcement that Justice Kennedy is resigning from the Supreme Court, much of the media has rightly focused on Roe v Wade. What strikes me in the coverage is the place given to religion. If religion is mentioned at all, it is thrown in as a monolithic characteristic of either President Trump’s base or the Republican base. In my experience, religions, ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: A quiet gift

I am supposed to know better. I should know from experience, and I should know from faith. And when it came to my daughter’s bat mitzvah, I should not have forgotten the Jewish wisdom of Shabbat when trying to make Shabbat fit into the party instead of the other way around. My daughter celebrated that Jewish rite of passage known as becoming bat mitzvah (literally, ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: The Passover table

The people who disagree most are sitting together. The stakes are really high. The recent past was fraught with machinations and secret deals. It is not just politics, not just leadership, not even worldviews; it comes down to their sense of purpose in the world. And we have a record of it. The Passover Haggadah, the guidebook for the seder meal, gives order (the ...