Author Archive

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 ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Arise & encounter

What if Moses wore a Fitbit or an Apple Watch when he went up Mount Sinai? Would all that data from 40 days (and a few backup batteries) help us understand his experience better? Would knowing how many steps up and down he took change our perspective? Would knowing his heart rate at the moment the 10 Commandments were given tell us how to feel? If he sent live tweets ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Joy in the face of hate

Sit up. Sit quietly. Sit still. Are these phrases you heard as a child growing up in church or another house of worship? I certainly did when my parents took me to synagogue. For the last quarter of the 20th century, American religion was mostly a religion of decorum. It mattered little what faith was expressed from the pulpit, the pews were a place to sit, to ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: City upon a hill

My grandfather told the story of his escape. The Czar’s army on one side and the Bolshevik revolutionaries on the other, he left his town in Russia in an uncovered wagon. He had to lay flat as bullets whizzed overhead and often lodged in the side of the wagon. Behind him, his neighbors jeered, angry to lose their last remaining tailor. Somehow, he made it to America, ...