Softening Hardened Hearts–Bo 5778

Posted by on Jan 19, 2018 in Blog | 1 comment

This week has been a challenging week. I really don’t like hearing or reading ad nauseum—really never has a Latin phrase seemed so appropriate—the vile words coming out of the president’s mouth in regard to people who are not white, not wealthy, not living in stable living conditions. I have been grateful to hear people speak up for people from Africa, Haiti, El Salvador, and remind us that Jews, as well as Irish, Italians, Poles—really almost any group of immigrants at some point or another, were not really welcome here. We were called all sorts of names…We have to accept the fact that the Electoral College, with 46% of voters, allowed a known racist to run...

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Standing with Shifra and Puah: Shemot 5778

Posted by on Jan 5, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

  Of late, I’ve begun to wonder if all Jewish texts—Torah, Talmud, Mussar, laws—have been written knowing we would need them for this time in which we live. Every week, when my Mussar chevruta partner and I sit down to study together, we find that each middah or character trait, is reflected in the behavior emanating from Washington—how NOT to act for the good: honesty, humility, generosity, kindness, awe. And each of our holy days: just last month, Chanukah reminded us that we need to stand up and be a light in the darkness of tyranny, and what tyrants look like. Tomorrow, all over the world, Jews will read the opening of the book of Exodus (or Shemot),...

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Happy Thanksgiving

Posted by on Nov 22, 2017 in Blog | 3 comments

We Jews are big on gratitude—it’s built into our name: when our matriarch Leah, one of Jacob’s wives, had her fourth son, she named him Judah, which she said means, “I give thanks.”  From his name came the tribe of Judah—or Yehudah; from which came the land Judea and the term Yehudim—from which comes Jew: our very name means gratitude. Judah or Yehudah comes from the same root for saying thank you in Hebrew—todah! And it has many meanings–both thanks and acknowledgement: acknowledging the good that has been given us, acknowledging whoever has given us the gift. It is the same word that appears in the first prayer we say in the morning: Modah ani, with...

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Reflections on the Fires

Posted by on Oct 15, 2017 in Blog | 3 comments

A week ago Friday, I participated as a spiritual care provider in a “critical incident stress debriefing” because one of our Kaiser Santa Rosa staff had been at the concert in Las Vegas that turned into the largest mass shooting in our history. The staff member, her family, and her unit colleagues clearly needed the debriefing. It felt like a huge honor to be involved in helping their healing process.   Now it feels like months ago. Time itself has changed.   Monday morning arrived with news of the fires, and news that Kaiser Santa Rosa, where I serve as chaplain, had evacuated 170 patients, many of whom I had visited the two days before. Spring Lake...

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Toward Resilience and Acceptance: Choosing Life 5778

Posted by on Sep 30, 2017 in Blog | 1 comment

Recently a friend and dearly respected colleague posted on FB that he had been the victim of a small but upsetting FB attack, comprised of a single word: queer. He’s been a gay activist most of his life, he’s a mensch among mensches, he’s experienced homophobia before, but he marveled how it was possible that he could still be “instantly destroyed” by it.   It’s a core wound of his.   Recently, in the space of a few days, I was attacked online by two people I would never have expected…One, a Buddhist chaplain, had misread my email that 20 other people read correctly and took offense where none was present; another, a rabbi who teaches mindfulness,...

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Welcoming the Stranger: Kol Nidre 5778

Posted by on Sep 29, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

‘Hath not a Jew eyes?’ By the time Shylock utters these words in The Merchant of Venice, I am always relieved that he stands up to antisemitism. I’m a bit of a Shakespeare groupie—in the days pre-Olya, Sam and I would go to England every year to see the Royal Shakespeare Company perform. I could never bring myself to go somewhere else because nothing could beat the joy I experienced at excellent theater. Now we make an annual trek to Ashland to be rejuvenated. I think—and of course I’m not alone or original in this—that Shakespeare is one of, if not the most brilliant playwrights in the English language. And I had little trouble in using “the time...

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