Author Archive

Rabbinic Reflections: ‘All You Need is Love’

The Beatles got it right. Love is a crucial component of our ability to be in the world. “Nothing you can do, but you can learn how to be you in time — It’s easy.” When we are loved, we learn to be ourselves. Lately, though, it seems that we need more love than before to be able to get what we need to be able to be. I am not talking about the romantic love celebrated ...

 
 

Rabbinic Reflections: Choosing our stories

Of all the stories Jews could tell about themselves, the Exodus from Egypt is the most central. Why not Creation? The Bible and the Gospel of John start there. Or monotheism? Abraham is pretty compelling a progenitor. Moses the lawgiver? He would be a great tragic hero. Or how about the national drama of King David and his dynasty? That kind of story is what most ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Private light

It is Chanukah. Since Thursday night, Jews have been lighting candles, increasing the number of candles each night. Many are also continuing the tradition of pirsumay neesa (publicizing the miracle) by lighting chanukiyot (Chanukah menorahs) in public spaces or, like me, by decorating our homes with blue and white lights and other decorations. The pandemic has ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Dinner stories

I have been remiss. The calendar says Thanksgiving is coming. I was too focused on what food to cook for only five in my house that I forgot to think about the Pilgrim story. The calendar says that today I should be concluding my study of the Talmud tractate Eruvin (boundaries defining Sabbath space) to then begin tractate Pesachim (Passovers). I fell off the daily ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Black fire on white fire

“Turn it, turn it, for everything is in it,” Ben Bag Bag used to say (Pirke Avot 5:22), in reference to the Torah study. This ancient rabbinic sage, a convert to Judaism, articulates something that I have found metaphorically true year after year. I never seem to be able to complete a portion of learning for even as I present what I think I know, I find something ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Calling the faith-filled

A coronation with no one at court; that will be this year’s Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year. A too-often lesser known or hidden symbol of Rosh HaShanah is the round challah bread as the crown of God as Sovereign of sovereigns, not just round like the year coming full circle and not just sweet for a sweet new year. On Rosh HaShanah, the liturgy is designed to renew ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Is less more?

Seven inning baseball games. Heresy or genius? I doubt two more innings would have changed the outcome in either of the double-header games the Phillies played against the Yankees. That does not answer the question, though. In fact, it seems that for now the only definitive statement one can make about Major League Baseball’s 2020 experiment is that the games are ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Radical listening

Biblical morality is driving us apart. The voice of the prophets calling out to us to protect “the widow, the orphan, and the stranger” is calling us to division. Even the repeated command to love the stranger as yourself because we were once strangers creates a chasm even as it seems to ask us to bridge a gap.  Even if you think I am wrong, I bet you feel I am ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: New habits

I am a creature of habit. Even my adoption of new technology is habitual. At work, every time we plan something, I ask how we can do it better. Then again, I load and unload the dishwasher just so. I am brand-loyal in my consumerism, and I rely on tried-and-true recipes to get through the week’s meal preparation. My comfort with habits is why I have been drawn to ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Spring transformation

Let me begin by wishing those who celebrate it a Happy Easter. I am guessing, though, that just as Jews had to adjust their expectations and experiences of the Passover seder, Christians will be adjusting to an Easter unlike any that have experienced before. Virtual community, video conference celebrations, and private home ceremonies all lack something important to ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: The Jewish Halloween

How does one explain Purim, the Jewish holiday based on the Book of Esther? My son told me that he told his friends at school that it was the Jewish Halloween, but instead of getting candy, you give it. I started to respond with the ways in which his explanation was off, and then I realized that he was onto something. Especially for people who do not know the ...