Prayer Revisited

Aug 26, 2016 by

For years, I led people in prayer. It was always clear to me that prayer operates on three levels—personal, communal, and universal. On the personal level, I have always found prayer (mostly silent prayer, or meditation, while all alone) to be a form of spiritual therapy. In moments of extreme mental pain or extreme joy, it connected me with something much more powerful than myself, and anchored me in a safe harbor. While alone, it reassured me I was never alone. On the communal level, it connected me with my people – amcha yisrael. Not only those with whom I prayed, but also with the entire Jewish people worldwide. It was always clear to me that personal prayer by itself is not enough. Prayer is much more powerful when it becomes a group experience,...

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Sinat Chinam

Aug 25, 2016 by

We have just observed Tisha B’Av- the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. One of the least understood of the Jewish holy days, Tisha B’Av commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, the release of the edict of the expulsion from Spain in 1492, and other terrible events in Jewish history. Jewish tradition asks: Why was the second temple destroyed? The rabbinic answer? Sinat chinam— baseless hatred. The rabbis believed that hateful speech can destroy a temple, can destroy a community, can destroy a nation. I remember when I first was studying the amendments to the United States constitution in 7th grade. Our teacher, Mr. Buncis, taught us a profound lesson one day: that even our most dearly held rights have limits. When we challenged him on that...

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Reflections on 50 years in the Rabbinate...

Aug 23, 2016 by

I was born in Bombay, India (now called Mumbai). I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from St. Xavier’s College which is affiliated with the University of Bombay. Rabbi Hugo Gyrn, the first full time Rabbi in Mumbai, encouraged me to study at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. As an undergraduate student I took an active leadership role in the Social Service League. We spent Saturday afternoons mixing milk powder with water and distributing this milk to children who lived with their families in ramshackle huts on the outskirts of a large cotton factory. In the summer we spent a week in a small village building a dirt road that would eventually connect the village to the nearest town. It was at this Jesuit College I was able to translate the values and...

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Teaching Chumash Skills using The Torah: A Modern Commentary...

Aug 22, 2016 by

The Chumash, which I used when I first began to learn Torah in-depth, has a special place on my shelf.  The notes on its pages are invaluable, not just for their information, but also as a connection to a time in my past and to the teachers with whom I learned, among them Rabbi Judith Abrams, z”l, whose lesson about the words and letters of the Priestly Benediction remain an important part of my kavannah whenever I bless someone with them. When I arrived at my congregation, there was a religious school book list which asked our 7th-graders to purchase a Chumash. Though, I would soon learn that they never used it or learned how to use it. If we want the Chumash to be a meaningful tome with which our students connect, and...

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The Making of a Young Fundraiser...

Aug 19, 2016 by

It was the summer of headlines.  “6 Year Old Boy Raises Thousands for Cancer Charity Run,” “Young Fundraiser,” “Long Island 6 Year Old Raises Money for Cancer Research.”  But, the story goes so much deeper than those simple words.  It is rooted in a history of kindness, of caring, of friendship and family and loss and love. It might have begun three years ago at that first race when this boy, my son, saw his father run along with our closest of friends, really not friends at all, more like family.  He sat in the stands, watching the participants run on the field of Yankee Stadium.  Understanding only a little, as much as a three year old can, that this day, this race, was something that mattered. It may have been the following year,...

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Tu B’Av: Making Love Last

Aug 19, 2016 by

This Thursday night marks the arrival of a Jewish holiday so minor that most Jews don’t even know it exists! This holiday, Tu B’Av (the fifteenth day of the Jewish month of Av) is considered to be the Jewish equivalent to Valentine’s Day. Even though it’s observance has grown exponentially in recent years, most Jews still don’t observe it in anyway. In reality, how many of us wouldn’t want to celebrate a Jewish Day of Love?!   Tu B’Av’s beginnings go back thousands of years. We learn about this holiday from the Talmud. Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel shares: There were no happier days for Israel than Tu B’Av and Yom Kippur, for on them the daughters of Jerusalem would go out in white clothes, that were borrowed, so that none should be embarrassed if...

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Selling Judaism

Aug 18, 2016 by

For a long time, the perception has been that marketing and Judaism are like oil and water — they just don’t mix.  Active outreach was seen as seedy at best and, at worst, as a violation of our value not to proselytize. Now, necessity has forced us to leap over that intellectual hurdle. If people aren’t coming to us, we must go to them. The question for our day is not if to market, it’s how to market. In seminary I read an article that stayed with me. It was a list of all of the things rabbis should not be. Don’t be a therapist. Don’t be a maintenance professional. Don’t be a CEO. Don’t be a marketer. Well, I’ve acted in all of these roles at times and I think the reality is...

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