Monday, September 12, 2011

Find me....

Now you can find my blog and everything else I do here....

Happy Browsing,Reading and Learning.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Elul 5772 posting 2

"the horn blows to usher in Elul and it is blown every morning of the month of Elul as well, lest we forget and slip back, lest we surrender to the entropic pull of mindlessness. The Torah also stands ready to help keep us awarke."

The shofar calls to us, 'wake up, wake up'!

In what parts of your life since last Rosh Hashanah have you been sleeping through? In your personal life? Professionally? Spiritually? Religiously?

What can you use as an alarm clock in the next 30 days to ready yourself to stand amongst your community and God on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?

How can you make your spiritual awakening a process - establishing steps on a path to help to make the holiness you want and need in your life a reality?

What type of Torah awakens you? Is it through prayer? Through study? What traditions can help wake you up to Rosh Hashanah's quick approach?

If you don't atttend services this month try purchasing a shofar and blowing it at home or print a picture of one and leave it next to your literal alarm clock for the month of Elul.

Awake, awake....Chodesh tov (A good month.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Elul 5771 Day #1

"This time (of year Rosh Hashanah) comes from the language of change, from the language of renewal and this time is capable of making change to essential qualities of human beings" (Pri Ha'eretz as quoted by Netivot Shalom).

As you begin to consider the "newness" and change approaching in the New Year what essential parts of yourself are you most proud of? What essential qualities do you want to change or adjust in some way?

Take a moment to think about 30 days. 30 days to the approaching shift in our season, 30 days toward moving towards newness, a literal chance at renewal and change. How will you prepare for the shifting season? How will you allow the power of the season help you to renew and change?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 2 - Listening

Day 2: Listening

"The first duty of love is to listen" - Paul Tillich (20th century Germany)

"Torah is greater than the priesthood or sovereignty, for sovereignty is acquired with thirty virtues, the priesthood with twenty-four, and Torah is acquired with forty-eight qualities. These are: studying, listening...

This one seems simple enough, right? Except questions of clarification abound. To what and whom should we be listening? What does it mean to really listen? What kind of listening helps us to acquire Torah? How does listening give us more Torah?

In all of our relationships - spouses, parents and children, siblings, friends, human and Divine - it probably could go unsaid: listening is critical. The listening we do is two-fold. First we have to listen to our voice, our conscious, our divine spark - who are you? What do we need? What is your tafkid, our purpose? Second, we have to listen to the other - what does he/she need from us? Have I really heard what the other person said? In a moment of tension was able to hear their voice calling to me and respond with kindness, compassion and respect?

In a famous tale from the book of Genesis Abraham's concubine Hagar and their son Ishmael are cast out to the wilderness in a fit of rage and jealousy, by Abraham's wife Sarah. A searing scene follows. Hagar, out in the wilderness with her young son on the brink of death is frightened, alone and hopeless. She cries out to God and the Torah says, "God heard the cry of the boy." The problem here is obvious the boy doesn't cry out, it is his mother's cry which rises from the depths so what is God hearing? What is the Torah trying to tell us?

Perhaps, it is those voices, inside of ourselves and others which are a whisper, barely audible to the human ear are those voices for which we should be listening. God exemplifies here in this story the ability to, in a moment of difficulty and fear, pain and suffering come to the ultimate listening. God hears the crying out behind the voice, the real need, the true suffering. It is a listening which goes beyond our ears and our voices, a listening which is about hearing the other - their emotions and their point of view. Perhaps then the rabbis' are saying To truly understand Torah to internalize it we must listen to the quietest voice- in our own hearts and souls and in others. We must listen to the most difficult and challenging words that we might disagree with or that are whispered to use as critiques. The Torah is acquired through listening because it is in the white spaces between the black letters where we come to understand, to hear the Torah's voice. By listening to the in between we hear the cries and the wisdom buried inside the message.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Wednesday, May 04, 2011

My Teacher and Rabbi's Most Recent Written Work

Monday, May 02, 2011

Celebrating Death

With a Big Thank You to my colleague and friend Andrew Belinfante for some suggested edits and adjustments I am re-posting....incorporating some changes.

Celebrating Death
Judaism is certainly not a religion for the faint of heart. The faith has its fair share of vengeance and retribution - the tradition is not all peace and non-violence. On Purim, one of the most important and least celebrated Jewish holidays, we publically read the story of Esther to commemorate the ancient narrative. When we do, those listening cheer at the mention of the name Haman (the antagonist who set out to kill the Jews in the story). On Passover we ask God to Pour Out the Divine Wrath upon those who seek destruction and specifically seek out to destroy Jews and Judaism. Truth be told, to say that Judaism is all peace would be to ignore some parts of the tradition and some elements of our narrative and law.

There is some nuance in all of this though - the tradition's commands and world-view is all about the eradication of evil not the death of human beings. We cheer at Haman's name not because we want his death, but rather because we want the death of his ideas, the world-view which makes acts of violence, terrorism and destruction acceptable. We cheer Haman's name because we recognize in doing so the true power to bring down evil acts. To diminish Anti-Semtisim, racism and hatred of any kind in the world sits in our hands, in our feet (literally in our cheers) as human beings. This is a Jewish imperative. We "boo" Haman's name not because we wish death upon others but because as Jews our mission in the world is to help shape the universe into one where hatred, violence and bigotry are not only not lauded, but simply not tolerated.

Our singular purpose on earth is to be a light onto the nations- a light which shines life, peace, acceptance, intelligent debate and disagreement which ends conversations and does not end lives. Each time Judaism cheers for the downfall of something it is not doing so for the individual human life - no matter how evil he/she is - it is doing so in order to teach us of our obligation to erase evil, hatred and bigotry from the world. This might not be obvious from the outside – it may look like we are cheering for the death of Haman or asking God to punish our enemies – in both cases though it is our responsibility to ensure the world knows our faith lies in the striving toward goodness and the diminishing of evil. We must ensure the outside world adapts this intention too in cheering for the death of anyone.

When I saw the cheering crowds outside the White House after the announcement that Osama Bin Laden had been killed, I found myself uncomfortable and even worried—worried about whether we were not following a pattern of behavior we so despise. Don't we chide Islamic extremists celebrating at the downfall of Israel or Israeli's—of America or Americans? We have all looked on disgustingly at these rallies and asked ourselves, “Where is the value on human life?”

Do not misunderstand; I am comforted too there is a little less evil in the world today. Bin Laden was a perpetrator of violence beyond my own conception. Too many innocent people are lost because of his hands and his words—this is a man who had so much blood on his soul. I am proud of our military and covert agents from the government who risked their lives for our protection. I am comforted in knowing that for the families of the victims of 9-11 there is some sense of justice in response to their tremendous losses. I find myself wanting to shout out the call of the prophet Isaiah “Comfort, comfort my people” – offering them what I think we all need most which is comfort and hope in such a broken and destructive universe.

As a Jew, I am not celebrating the death of another human being, no matter how evil he was. I am living in the hope that Bin Laden's death only represents the beginning of the downfall of evil. I am reminding myself of my responsibility to seek ways to diminish evil in the world and I am praying for those victims of terror whom he perpetrated unspeakable violence against that today is a day of comfort and hope. I choose not to celebrate—instead I choose comfort, hope and the continued prayers for our redemption, to a world more peaceful.

I am offering my gratitude to those who risked so much to bring us a little more peace and security in the world—who brought us a little closer to the just world we seek to build. I am spending my time not in a celebration rally but in performing acts of chesed (loving-kindness) so with my limited human capacity and time I am able to try and fulfill the words of the prophet Amos "let justice flow like a river and righteousness like an unfailing stream".

Perhaps I am naïve or maybe you disagree with my read of Judaism - but I prefer to hope, pray, and act through justice and seek redemption rather than celebrate. "Comfort, Comfort my People" - may those who work for our military and government feel our gratitude today and everyday and may those who lost loved ones in 9-11 find comfort and closure.