Author Archive

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 ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Violence and holiness

"‘Should,' ‘have to,' and ‘must' are among the most violent words in the English language because they are extrinsic." Think about that quotation for a minute. If I say to you, "you should…," or "you have to…," or "you must," you are likely to feel a tightening in your body, maybe even to become defensive. The response is natural as someone, other than you is ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: God’s Eagles

"I am a rabbi and a person of faith. But God has nothing to do with this," wrote a friend of mine in response to many Eagles' players attributing the Super Bowl LII victory to God. I have had this conversation about God and sports before but let us face it, the Eagles winning the Lombardi trophy is different. No, God does not have a favorite NFL team; no, God does ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Gardening freedom in winter

“Stay warm.” With each bitter cold snap this winter, we tell each other to “stay warm.” We mean it, it is cold outside, dangerously so. We would be remiss, though, if we stopped at thinking about the temperature, wind chills, and whether the heat is working. There is also a biting chill in today’s civil discourse. Today, we need to say and hear “stay warm” as a ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Making rituals work

Do I use it? Do I merely display it? Or do I return it? Just ahead of this year's Chanukah celebration — the holiday begins on Tuesday night, Dec. 12 — my father sent my family an imposing chanukiyah (the menorah used for Chanukah candle lighting). We already have a sizeable love-themed chanukiyah given to my wife and me as a wedding gift. We also have one we often ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: The importance of learning

It seemed normal until it was remarkable. I knew Jews in the South often went to Episcopal private schools, much the way Jews attend Friends schools in this area. I knew because I was one of them, a proud graduate of St. John’s School. I was just another example of some narrative connection between Jews and education. Five years ago, though, my story was no longer a ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Elephant hugs

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. In this particular room, the elephant is the wall of the room. Yes, the rabbis of the Talmud permit the use of an elephant as a wall of a sukkah, the “booth” in which Jews dwell during the harvest festival of Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles. Imagine that for a minute, an elephant literally defining a boundary ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Unprepared

I lost the book in a house fire. I remember being moved deeply when I read it the first time. I remember years later being inspired by it ahead of the Jewish High Holy Days. Smoke from the fire damaged my copy with its underlines, commentary, and sticky notes. I wish I still had it. The book was “This is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared” by Alan Lew. Life these ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Comfort

What happens when rituals meant to give us structure become pressing demands on our limited time? Do we determine that we are too busy to keep doing a ritual that, in weeks or years past, we felt added meaning to our lives? Do we do the ritual but resent the effort required to prepare and carry it out? A religious sensibility includes an understanding that routines ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: ‘One nation under God’

Does religion free us or bind us? I am not talking about rules or rituals, I am talking whether religion allows humanity to flourish or does it turn us into seekers of stability and nostalgia. Both are likely true, and yet I ask because I believe that religious calls for change and for stability need to be in balance. I believe America thrives when they are in ...