Passover 5778–Chag Pesach Sameach!

Posted by on Mar 30, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

One of the great joys of Judaism, embedded in its longevity and ability to change and adapt to circumstances and geography, is the multiple layers of meaning that are attached to anything of moment.   An egg is never just an egg. Bread is never just bread. And a circle is never just 360 degrees of perfect shape.   We can look at the Passover story as a great tale of escape from slavery, with ten plagues, and a sea partying. Or we can look at the story as the struggle between a vulnerable minority against its mighty ruler, a class struggle, the universal story for freedom for all. Or we can look at it as the redemption from our inner struggles with...

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Esther on International Women’s Day in the Midst of the #MeToo Moment

Posted by on Mar 8, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

The book or megillah of Esther a very odd book to be included in sacred scriptures, for a couple of reasons. First, it never mentions God, not once. Second, it is a farce, full of exaggeration and a ridiculous king who would much prefer to party than rule and who depends on his advisors for all decisions. The book displays silly—but dangerous—rules and behavior, and lots—I mean lots—of sexual innuendoes. In the bible.   It is also the story of powerless people—immigrants, outsiders who are victorious over genocide, by using irregular methods, the methods available to powerless people.   But it is also in some ways the most feminist book in the bible....

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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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