Posts in Torah
Dancing Between Constraints and Spaciousness: The Message of Tisha B’Av

Min hameitzar karati Yah, anani b’merkhav Yah.

The very depth of brokenness can become a gateway to newfound wholeness. This line speaks of the resilience we access when we embrace life’s messiness. It suggests that, as we accept the “both and” nature of life, we gain a larger perspective. When we turn towards the challenging experiences we face, rather than try to avoid them, we may find that they open us up to something larger than ourselves.

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Interview with "Jewish Rhode Island"

Favorite part of being Jewish and being a rabbi?

For me, it’s connecting with a really old way of inhabiting time. Judaism really grounds me in the seasons and the way time unfolds. I love becoming a Jewish spiritual and religious leader. Right now, I work with rabbinical students as part of a team of spiritual directors. I listen for the way that a secret emerges in people’s lives, the way God may be calling people to become what they’re becoming.

I help them hear themselves into life. I call it ‘therapy with God.’ Judaism has such wisdom about how to build community and bring people together, as well as how to witness and support each other as we evolve, grow and go through different stages in life.

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Realizing the Power of Light in a Time of Darkness

The Jewish day starts with night, based on the verse in Genesis that reads, “There was evening, and there was morning.” Before light can emerge from it, darkness must first be created. This is true of our societal darkness. We can all think of examples of the altruism, resourcefulness and generosity that arise from the very midst of disaster’s grief and disruption. When I went to synagogue a week after the Tree of Life synagogue shooting, the rabbi told us he had seen a group of Muslims walking to area synagogues to keep an eye out for trouble. Many of my rabbinic colleagues shared similar stories of neighboring faith communities offering care and support.

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Closed Wells, Closed Hearts

The Targum, a 1st century translation renders “closed up” into the Aramaic tmunim. Being driven by self-interest, “chokes up (matametem) the heart.” As we sort ourselves into ideological camps, “us” and “them”, we close our hearts to each other. We lose access to our collective purpose and vision. As we fall for this “us” versus “them” narrative, we shut down spaces essential to a vibrant democracy, beginning with our hearts.

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Hope in the Margins

Our certainty that things cannot change offers us psychological protection by forcing us to abandon our expectations. But it also obscures the reality that change is a property intrinsic to everything that exists—our bodies, our relationships, even our social and political institutions. Opposed to our surety, hope locates itself in the premises that we do not know what will happen, and that in the spaciousness of that uncertainty is room to act. Torah invites us to imagine all that is still unknown sitting in the twilight, waiting to be thrust into history in order to embrace an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists—which excuses both groups from acting.

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Joyful “Seeing”

A few weeks ago, the largest glacier everbroke off the Antarctic ice shelf. As global temperatures soar and shorelines shrink at an accelerated rate, we become more aware of ways in which our resources are limited. This is compounded by our reactions to these realities. We fear the instability we are witnessing around the world and feel compelled to hold onto whatever resources might help us maintain our sense of safety, however illusory, for a little bit longer.

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Two-Line Torah: Emor 5777--Choosing time

This week’s parasha enumerates the dates and observances of the main Jewish festivals and Shabbat. Reading these instructions, the rabbis notice something peculiar: while the Torah refers to Shabbat as mo’adai, “my chosen times”, it refers to the rest of the festivals as mo’adam, “their chosen time” (Lev 23:2, 4). The rabbis conclude this is because our ancestors needed to choose when to observe the holidays based on their own calculations. By contrast, God sanctified Shabbat at the beginning of time for all time.

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Watching, Waiting, Reflecting: Dreaming in Times of Darkness (Parshat Bo, Exodus 10:1-13:16)

The world seems like a dark place right now. I don’t know if there is any way to effectively battle institutional racism, or the rampant capitalism that is all but destroying the middle class — or how to respond to a global climate crisis that has, by the estimations of most of the scientific community, passed its tipping point. I am afraid of what might happen next. When did my sense of trust that the world is always progressing toward some greater good all but vanish?

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Telling Stories of Trauma for Healing and Compassion (Parshat Ki Tetzei, Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19)

On the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, a group in Japan launched a project in which storytellers are training to retell the experiences of survivors. My grandfather participated in a similar project 20 years ago, the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, which sought to collect testimony from survivors before the experience of the Holocaust was lost to the world. My family’s participation in this project instilled in me the belief that these stories, though painful, should be actively remembered and repeated.

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