Rabbinic Reflections: Ordered together

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The four sons. (Image from https://akivaschool.com/parshat-tzav-preparation-for-passover-the-four-sons/)

One of the oldest book clubs is about to reconvene for its annual meeting. This year, careful consideration is being given to the question of how best to maintain order, after all the meeting is called seder, meaning “order.” For some, order will come from the right guest list, gathering family and friends who know each other well enough to stay together, even if they…

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Rabbinic Reflections: Quiet voices

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Image from https://truthsnitch.com/the-holy-bible-tiffsnotes/esther/esther-6/

I love a good story. Indeed, the more challenging my life, my work, or the world around me seems, the more I seek out stories. In quiet moments, I will read a book–fantasy, thriller, sci-fi, even romance–to explore an alternate world and perspective. In my career, I go out of my way to hear people’s personal stories, letting their experiences expand my perspectives. So here…

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Rabbinic Reflections: Two rights make a loop

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“Two wrongs do not make a right.” This bit of moral advice often goes unheeded, especially when tensions are high. Where the advice becomes a challenge or even falls flat is when one wrong does not seem so wrong, maybe even is a right. Recently, I learned about an even trickier two-some; polarities thinking recognizes that more often we have two rights, or really two…

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Rabbinic Reflections: Season for optimism

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Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marching with other civil rights leaders from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, on March 21, 1965. From far left: John Lewis, an unidentified nun, Ralph Abernathy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Bunche, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth. (Image from https://jwa.org/media/abraham-joshua-heschel-on-selma-march-1965)

Optimism is hard to come by these days. From the weather to Philly sports to politics and global affairs, there is so much to lament. I count myself lucky that winter is not usually a downer for me. As I looked for inspiration to hold onto the light of the holiday season or to the growing light of each day, I found myself thinking about…

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Rabbinic Reflections: The light of complexity

There is much more to Hanukkah than we normally talk about. From the origin story to the early celebrations and from there to the historical challenges of celebrating and to the themes that emanate today, Hanukkah was never just one thing. In typical Jewish fashion, Hanukkah has always been about at least two truths. That these truths have coexisted in Jewish consciousness and practice is…

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Rabbinic Reflections: Feeling It

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From Jewish Women's Archive, "Simchat Torah." https://jwa.org/media/simchat-torah

What if I were more of a mystic? Would my religious experience be something I physically feel as some sort of spiritual shift from the everyday world? I know I am too much in my head and too much in the details of life to be a mystic, but I do wonder what it might be like to have more of the mystical in my…

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Preserving Hope: Ordinary v. Extraordinary

Christians often discuss the concept of Providence. “The Westminster Shorter Catechism,” a concise summary of Christian doctrine, states, "God’s works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing of all his creatures, and all their actions." In simpler terms, Providence is what distinguishes Christianity from Deism. Deism suggests that God is like a clockmaker who initially set the universe in motion…

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Rabbinic Reflections: Holy shrines and standing ovations

It is not easy to make room for God in today’s world. Distractions, divisions, and drudgery are in opposition to awe and wonder. With mixed messages about the possibilities of the future, the present fills with work and stress, pushing aside recovery and gratitude. There are moments when it may be easy to feel blessed or to offer thanks, but too often those moments do…

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Rabbinic Reflection: Distilling the story

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Retelling the stories.

Summers are full of stories. From vacation travels to family gatherings, we often leave home and visit other places and people. Sometimes these trips become their own traditions like time at the beach or the ballpark, and sometimes it’s more simply time at the pool or the ice cream parlor. The result of our summer experiences is that we have stories, rich in depth and…

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Preserving Hope: God isn’t an object

There’s a fascinating story in 1 Samuel 4 about the defeat of Israel at the hands of the Philistines nearly 3,000 years ago. Israel met in battle with the Philistines in a location called Aphek, which is considered to be eight miles east of the modern-day city of Tel Aviv. Tragically, Israel was defeated and lost nearly four thousand people. For perspective, that’s more than…

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