Moses’s Ethical Will: What’s Yours? Devarim 5774

Posted by on Jul 27, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

A few weeks ago, the group of residents who come together to welcome Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath, discussed ethical wills. Are you familiar with them? These are documents that can be described as the legacy of our moral and ethical assets, rather than our financial assets. They can serve as an instructive account of the ideals and character traits closest to our hearts. Over the centuries, ethical will writers have tried to transmit personal reflections on their lives as spiritual/ religious beings and on the motivating values and events in their experience. As I prepared for today, I was reminded once again, that in many ways, the entire book of Deuteronomy, the last of...

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The long arc of the universe tiptoeing toward justice: Matot and Hobby Lobby

Posted by on Jul 18, 2014 in Blog | 5 comments

There has been so much tragedy, violence and pain in the news of late, it takes my breath away. The shooting down of the Malaysian airliner, innocent bystanders in someone else’s fight, leaving more than 300 families devastated; the beginning of the ground war in Gaza; the death of Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, and all that preceded the ground war. Sadness saturates the air, so much so that many of us have hardly been able to register the pain of two of the final US Supreme Court rulings: Hobby Lobby and Wheaton College, both of which said that religiously minded corporations could decide whether or not to cover their (female) employees’ contraception. But those...

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Would That We Were All Prophets

Posted by on Jun 6, 2014 in Blog | 3 comments

This teaching is dedicated to my rabbi, R. Michael Barenbaum, the emeritus rabbi of Rodef Sholom, who died a week ago Thursday. May his memory be a blessing.   When I returned to Jewish life in my 30s, Sam and I joined Rodef Sholom, but not until we interviewed the rabbi and asked him – I kid you not – twenty questions. And he answered them. Rabbi Michael Barenbaum was the first rabbi I ever loved. I have any number of stories I could tell you about him—funny, serious, sad, full of life. But there are a few that are relevant to what I had planned to talk about tonight; here’s one.   You may remember back to 1994, when we voted on Prop. 187, the...

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Tzedek Tzedek Tzedakah – Justice and Generosity

Posted by on May 13, 2014 in Blog | 1 comment

I just made a donation to Camfed, the Campaign for Female Education, after reading Nicholas Kristof’s New York Times column on Mother’s Day. He puts the horror of the school girls kidnapped in Nigeria into a powerful context. There is nothing more frightening in repressive societies, he writes, than to educate the girls, and there is nothing that will lift a country out of poverty and despair than to educate the girls. I felt driven to do something and Camfed was one of his suggestions.   We use social media to express our outrage, we watch our government send drones, we are basically powerless. But we can at least send money to agencies who are doing work on...

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Mother’s Day Musings: Rebekah and her Children

Posted by on May 11, 2014 in Blog | 2 comments

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers, and to all the people who have mothers, and to all the people who have ever had mothers.   I want to tell you a story about a classmate in my chaplaincy class. He’s a young man from Korea. He and his wife have three young daughters—9, 6 and 2. The oldest daughter sounds a lot like I did at her age: she started talking about her birthday, which was last week, back in January, she was so excited. She kept asking when it would be, whether she would get the in-line skates she wanted, would there be special foods…over and over. You know how that can be. And then her younger sister, whose birthday is in a couple of months,...

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Is There Love in Rebuke? Chesed, Gevurah and Kedoshim

Posted by on Apr 24, 2014 in Blog | 2 comments

I have been counting the omer for a few years now, sometimes more successfully than others, some days’ meditations more engaging others. Now that there are two (at least) apps for my iPhone, it becomes easy to remember in the evening to do the actual counting. But whether or not I spend time reflecting on how I can refine my soul to be ready, once again, to receive the torah on Shavuot, I appreciate the opportunities to watch the movement from one season to the next, and to recognize the incredible opportunity to reflect in the ways my ancestors did, whether the ones who worried about the wheat harvest, or the ones who believed that each choice they made had an impact...

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