Dominion Over the Earth and Ourselves: Rosh Hashanah 5778 morning

Posted by on Sep 21, 2017 in Blog | 1 comment

I confess, I decided to read the second day RH torah reading, meaning I had to learn a lot of torah, because I could not bear to chant and translate and discuss this year, the binding of Isaac, the story that just felt too upsetting in this year of upset… The second day reading in the Reform tradition is the creation of the world, because, well, this holiday also celebrates the creation of the world and the creation of humanity. As we discussed last night, it also compels us to look at our place in the universe, in light of the sovereignty of God. What we are about to read in the seven days of creation, moving from the chaos of the unformed universe with God’s spirit...

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Accepting God’s Will or Accepting Reality–You Choose: Erev Rosh Hashanah 5778

Posted by on Sep 20, 2017 in Blog | 4 comments

A while ago in the ICU at Kaiser we cared for a patient whose stroke had rendered him brain dead. He had a large loving family, lots of friends, and had been a pillar of his fundamentalist Christian community. The staff was struggling because the family kept telling them that they were praying, praying for a miracle, and they knew God would grant it. One early morning, I sat with one of his sons and asked him, “What if this IS what God is giving you? What if this IS the answer to your prayers? Just not the answer you were hoping for?”   The son replied that they were not stupid, and they were feeling like the medical staff were treating them this way. If the...

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Facing the Patterns that are no Longer Useful: Devarim and Tisha B’Av 5777

Posted by on Jul 23, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

While I was in seminary—about 10 years ago, I had a professor who alienated all the women in my rabbinic class. In the very first class with him, Introduction to Mysticism, he told us that first year students in mysticism were supposed to listen and not speak. (He meant students studying to become mystics, rather than students studying the history of mysticism, but still…) Jewish mysticism is very male. Very male. The metaphors don’t work for me. And so I didn’t get it at all. I’m not used to “not getting it.” And I was not alone in being challenged in that class and by that professor. Even he, three years later, acknowledged to a group of us that he “had...

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What are Your Retirement Plans? Pinchas 5777

Posted by on Jul 14, 2017 in Blog | 1 comment

Part of me wants to go around the room and ask you all what kind of ritual you engaged in when you retired. Who got a watch? Who had a special lunch or dinner? Who hired and oriented their replacement? Who left quietly and took a nice, longer than usual vacation? Who just left? Who got sick soon after the retirement? Who was forced to retire because of age or health? Maybe we’ll tell these stories later. And, if you’re like me and are still working, or hope to be working, maybe we’ll learn something from our experienced retirees.   In this week’s parasha, Pinchas, towards the end of Bemidbar, In the Wilderness, the fourth of the five books of Moses, so much...

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This Little Light – Beha’alotecha 5777

Posted by on Jun 9, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine… This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine… This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine… Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine…   There’s a story about a small village somewhere in Eastern Europe… the lord of the local manor decided to do something good for the community. He built them a new synagogue, with everything you’d imagine—a lovely sanctuary, a spacious social hall, a full kitchen, rooms for classrooms, offices, meditation rooms… On the bright sunny day of the opening, as he showed the kehilla, the community, around, everyone ooh’d and ah’d, Then, noticing a...

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Circumcising Our Hearts – Shabbat HaGadol 5777

Posted by on Apr 6, 2017 in Blog | 4 comments

Yesterday was Shabbat Hagadol, the Great Sabbath, the shabbat before Pesach—Passover. Passover is my favorite holiday—Jewish or otherwise, for so many reasons—the ritual, the food, the gatherings, the music, and not least the messages. I want to talk about spiritual aspects of the upcoming holiday—starting a week from tomorrow night. On one hand, the holiday, coming straight out of the book of Exodus, is the Jewish redemption story. Even more than that, it is the founding story of the Jewish people. We went down to Egypt a family, with 70 people, and 400 years later, we were a people, with 600,000 men, plus the women and children. Our founding story is that we...

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