Posts in spirituality
What Matters Most? (Kol Nidre 5780)

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).

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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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The Crown of Good Name (Yom Kippur Day Sermon 5779)

We are completing the journey from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur. These ten days are a meditation on what we do between birth and death: Rosh Hashanah is yom harat olam, the Day the World Is Born. And Yom Kippur is the day we rehearse our death by abstaining from life-affirming activities, and wearing white to represent a burial shroud. Between these two days, we confront the fragility of our lives – and reexamine how we want to journey across the length of our days.

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You’re Special — Just Because You’re You (Kol Nidre Sermon 5779)

My greatest spiritual teacher taught me that I have a soul, a part of me that is inherently worthwhile. Fifteen years after he died, in a world that too often tells people they are not worthwhile, I’m not surprised this teacher is getting so much attention: a few months ago, a documentary came out about him — and next year, a biopic will be released. Looking back at my weekly television visits with this teacher, I know he is worthy of all this attention. In his Neighborhood of Make-Believe, his puppets, King Friday and Daniel Tiger may not have been much to look at. But that wasn’t the point. These visits — with Mister Rogers — were encounters with my soul.

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Broken Heart, Bigger Heart (Rosh Hashanah Day Sermon 5779)

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.

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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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