Yom Kippur is designed to deepen our capacity for self-reflection: some of us fast, abstain from physical relationships, or dress in white like a burial shroud. As we do, we rehearse the death of the old year, the old self. According to our tradition, in order to begin a new time, we need to release everything from the old time. If we want to enter a new chapter in our lives then we must first let go of what we have been, or thought we would be. Before we can return to God, we must first relinquish everything we have said (or been) and everything we expect to say (or be).Read More
I recently spoke with a friend of mine about our college days. I told him I e-mailed someone we were friendly with as undergraduates. I felt like I’d been a bad friend for not staying in touch, but chose to reach out anyway. Even after 15 years, our friend was delighted to hear from me, and told me to call her anytime. My friend Keith, now an Episcopal monk, said our relationship with old friends is like our relationship with God: many of us come to believe God doesn’t want to hear from us, that we’re, say, “bad Jews”. We often wait until we’re in a desperate situation to reach out. But the Psalmist counsels us: "Seek out the Source and you will find It / Call to the Divine Presence, and It will be close." When we decide to return, God, like an old friend, eagerly waits at the door to welcome us back home.Read More
In Torah Study, we learned that the Sages link mitzvah, the word we usually translate as “commandment” with a similar sounding Aramaic word that means “to connect.” We discussed the many mitzvot designed to “connect” us with other people: comforting a mourner during shiva, welcoming newcomers, or visiting folks on the Skilled Nursing Floor; joining the morning minyan to support folks reciting Kaddish, coming to Torah study, or donating to the Scholarship Fund.
When we do these mitzvot, we connect – we reach beyond ourselves and become part of a “we”, a collective body of care and support.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
One hineini, Abraham packs for a journey, gets ready to fulfil the terrible mission he has unwittingly accepted. Another hineini, Abraham’s journey ends, he is relieved of his awful burden. One hineini: Abraham accepts the painful fate he has been given. Another hineini: he responds, with joy, to a totally different truth. One hineini, Abraham’s life path seems set. Another hineini, he opens up to a totally different destiny.Read More
Rosh Hashanah celebrates the birthday of the world, yom harat olam. The moment the universe shimmered with possibility. That is why we say, “On Rosh Hashanah it is written”: the ink is still fresh. We imagine what words might fill the pages of the year ahead. But it’s so hard to stay focused on the white space of this new chapter when our vision is cluttered with headlines.Read More
Recently, there’s been a lot of writing about how to mindfully cope with our addiction to technology. We’re beginning to develop a whole new lexicon, that includes words like “text claw” and “wexting” (texting while walking) to speak about this strange new world. I’ve written before about how technology is supposed to help us feel connected, but, in fact, amplifies an experience counter to this, fueling a sense we are missing out on connecting with our friends, community and the natural world around us.Read More
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?Read More