Pulling Out an Old Friend Before the New Year...

Sep 30, 2016 by

With the New Year set to begin shortly, I know most of my rabbinical friends are working very hard to craft their sermons and iyunim.  I know I spend time thinking about each and every word and story to shape a meaningful message to my community. But each year before I begin to write, I engage in my own process of preparation.  I turn to the original Shaarei Teshuvah—Gates of Repentance.  Not our previous machzor-but Rabbi Jonah of Gerona’s book. I use my now well- worn text as my way into preparing myself for the High Holy Day Season. My copy is written in and has dog –eared and paper clipped pages. It still has some of the original book cover. This is a text that I have studied alone in some years and...

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Growing Deep

Sep 30, 2016 by

How to find and offer wisdom in a polarized world? We live in an uncompromising age, a time of hard edges and bristling polemic.  Our current culture too often confuses strength with bombast, conviction with absolutism, passion with intolerance.   Deliberation and compromise are portrayed as weakness, and unyielding rigidity as power.  Beit Hillel is AWOL.  Rage is all the rage. The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Louise Gluck wrote:  “And the mind/wants to shine, plainly, as/machines shine, and not/grow deep, as for example, roots.”  In Gluck’s terms, we live in a machine age:  too readily and too lazily, our minds prefer shine to roots. And then along come the High Holidays, and urge us to be the klei kodesh of a completely counter-cultural message to our people and to ourselves:  slow down and stop shining.  Look...

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What is Your Concept of Soul and Afterlife?...

Sep 29, 2016 by

As we ask big questions during the High Holy Days, Lights in the Forest: Rabbis Respond to Twelve Essential Jewish Questions, presents a range of Jewish responses to both theological and philosophical questions pertaining to God, humanity, and the Jewish people. In the spirit of the High Holy Days, we would like to share some of the inspirational responses included in the book, for a thoughtful and meaningful New Year. In yoga class we do an exercise where we imagine holding a basketball in our hands. With minds focused on the present, feet planted, and hearts lifted, with our hands we trace the shape, push against the edges, even toss it into the air and catch it. We can feel the ball even though we can’t see it; we interact with it even though it is not there....

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Blank Pages

Sep 29, 2016 by

At this moment of writing I sit in my study at Temple Emanu-El, the early morning quiet contoured by impending rain clouds that promise a wet Atlanta morning. The clock on the wall, set above my ordination degree bearing signatures of my teachers before me, softly ticks and tocks with each second.  The sound both soothes and beckons me with potential and with challenge. And in front of me, a blank page stares back, demanding words to share that are ripe with inspiration, aspiration, and meaning. Perhaps in the space between the ticking seconds, and through the glaring white page, the metaphor calls out to us, “Yes, it is right here. Open your eyes and be awake!” The High Holy Days are around the corner.  Each year the weeks leading up to them are...

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High Holy Day Self-Care: A Rabbinic Primer...

Sep 28, 2016 by

My ex-boyfriend used to joke: I love you every week of the year, except for the week between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Oh, and the day before Rosh HaShanah. I find it challenging to love you then too. I get it, and I bet you (and your significant other, or kids, or cantor, or assistant, or all of the above) do too. As a Rabbi’s kid, who’s herself worked for some very anxious senior Rabbis, I can attest: the high holy days often make us crazy. And not just crazy but angry, unpleasant, overtired and sometimes even nasty. My mom (who, strictly speaking, as a pediatric surgeon had a far more stressful job than my father) used to say, “I just try to stay out of your dad’s way during the month before...

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How Netflix’s Stranger Things Helped Me Understand the Un’Taneh Tokef...

Sep 27, 2016 by

The Un’taneh Tokef calls to mind the profound uncertainties with which we live each day, and the reality that life often unfolds in ways beyond our control.   The words reflect the blinding fears we speak of only in the darkest hours of night and the questions we harbor deep inside: What is our fate and how does it all end?  Who among us will survive?  How do we proceed, knowing that the balance between life and death is far more delicate than we might ever have imagined? The language of the prayer is blunt and unembellished: “Who by fire and who by water? /Who by sword and who by beast?/ Who by hunger and who by thirst?/ Who by earthquake and who by drowning? /Who by strangling and who by stoning?....”  With its harrowing imagery and chilling...

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What is God’s Relationship to Suffering and Evil?...

Sep 22, 2016 by

As we ask big questions during the High Holy Days, Lights in the Forest: Rabbis Respond to Twelve Essential Jewish Questions, presents a range of Jewish responses to both theological and philosophical questions pertaining to God, humanity, and the Jewish people. In the spirit of the High Holy Days, we would like to share some of the inspirational responses included in the book, for a thoughtful and meaningful New Year. I imagine that God weeps at the sufferings of the whole disharmonious natural world. If God does weep with us, it is with a heart that we wrote into the story. We invented God’s heart, our greatest contribution to God’s tale. I cannot know why suffering and evil exist. No work of fiction is free of it. It is the stuff of timeless story. However, our greatest spiritual resistance to suffering...

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