Author Archive

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 ...

 
 

Rabbinic Reflections: Mystery and majesty

“It is like spring, but I could do without the rain,” he said. I responded, “April showers bring May flowers.” He quickly retorted, “Yeah, but it is February!” Indeed, the weather has been unseasonably warm, and for all the wet, it has left us bereft of snow. Birds and plants seem to be returning despite the calendar. It is supposed to be winter here, how can nature ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: #JewishandProud

More than 90,000 Jews on New Year’s Day gathered in MetLife Stadium and 20,000-plus last Sunday in a Solidarity March against Anti-Semitism crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. What do these gatherings have in common? They both exemplify deeply Jewish attitudes about Jewish life in a world where hatred of the Jews is all too real. One the one hand, the first gathering ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Light in our hands

I count myself lucky that I was not further north for my Thanksgiving road trip; 1,500 miles was quite enough with three kids and no snow. While they were watching the Star Wars movies in order in anticipation of episode IX later this month, I was attuned to how little daylight we had for them to even see something out the window. Add a rainy day and there was even ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Breaking for God

As we watch the leaves descend, we do not tell them to stop on their way down. We do not cushion their fall. We may try to catch a few. If enough leaves have fallen we may wish the rest would hurry down in order to make raking a one-time event. In other words, we speak very differently about leaves falling than we do about people falling. When people fall, we want to ...

 

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 ...