Author Archive

Rabbinic Reflections: Setting it right

“We are loved. We are loving. We are loved. We are loving.” Say it again with me, “We are loved. We are loving.” This mantra is at the heart of righting a major wrong. You might think that the Jews committed to God and goodness at Mt. Sinai, and the rest was history. The commitment was rash, it failed, and the trauma of the Golden Calf and more ensued. To recover, ...

 
 

Rabbinic Reflections: Refresh, refresh, refresh

I am that parent. When my children are at camp, especially sleepaway camp, I jump at the chance to see photos of them posted by the camp, clicking the refresh button on my browser to see what new files I might access. I analyze who they are with or not with; I make hay out poses and perceived popularity; and I also find those pictures where my child is way off in the ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Israeli solidarity

Minutes before midnight Wednesday night, Israel marked a most mundane miracle. It was mundane for me because it was years in the making, because more has been happening on the ground than meets the usual eye, and because Israelis are good at holding multiple truths at the same time. The miracle was the formation of a coalition government made up of parties across the ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Remaking choice

“They made me do it.” Ah, the old refrain! Too often, we hear this phrase in the context of someone doing something wrong when they really did have a choice. To avoid accountability, we blame someone else; we claim coercion. What if, though, we claimed coercion in order to create future accountability? Before applying this idea to our contemporary lives, let me share ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Remembering life

To be counter-cultural one must be in conversation with the surrounding culture. Jewish wisdom has often walked a fine line between cultural engagement and rejection, the golden mean being dialogue. The contemporary Jewish holidays that occupy the days and weeks between Passover and Shavuot convey more of rebuttal than a dialogue. The wisdom they express is ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: What never ceases

What does God think of us a year later? Setting aside discussions of God’s omniscience for the moment, I truly wonder what the divine perspective is on the experience of humanity this past year. A year ago yesterday, I announced that my school building would close indefinitely with learning pivoting to online. That makes today the start of a year at home, a year of ...

 

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 ...