Suicide Still Isn’t Painless – Saying Good-bye to Robin Williams

Posted by on Aug 20, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

I cried, really cried, when I heard about Robin Williams’ death by his own hand. For myself and everyone else who benefited from his genius, losing the light of laughter from his brilliance. For his family, especially his children, having to live without him, with the sudden death, with all the issues around becoming survivors of suicide. For him, facing enormous pain.   I don’t normally mourn the death of performers (although Philip Seymour Hoffman’s sparked similar feelings, at least in part because of sadness about the peformances we will never have from him). So I had to sit with why Robin Williams? The facts of the gift of laughter, and the inspired...

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Heartbreak and Hope – Ekev 5774

Posted by on Aug 14, 2014 in Blog | 2 comments

I am deep in the heart of wedding season, and some of the lessons that come from wedding ceremonies seem to seep into the rest of our lives. When I discuss the symbolism of the breaking of the glass, I often speak about the connection with the destruction of the temple—asking people to hold in the hearts the sadness of loss in moments of utter joy, so that when they face moments of utter loss, they can access those moments of joy.   I am heartbroken often these days, mixed with moments of happiness and an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I experience blessings and curses, and try to find a way to balance both, to be able to hold in my mind both joy and...

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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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