Why Is This Rosh Hashana Different? (Nitzavim/Vayelekh, Deut. 29:9-31:30)

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September 19, 2014

The new Jewish year, 5775, which starts next Wednesday night, is not like most other Jewish years. This new year calls us to a radically new way of being, a new way of living, for it inaugurates the “shmita,” the sabbatical year — the seventh year in a recurring cycle of sacred sevens that traces […]

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On the Just Use of Force by Our Police

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Shoftim, Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9
President, Hebrew College
August 29, 2014

The tragic death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., has focused the nation’s attention once again on issues of justice related to the use of fatal force by police, especially against unarmed African-American men. The death of four black men at the hands of police in Ferguson, New York City, Los Angeles and Ohio this […]

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Where Hope Takes Root

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Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17 / Isaiah 54:11-55:5
August 22, 2014

“Unhappy. Storm-crossed. Uncomforted.” Are you talking to me? Perhaps the prophet Isaiah was speaking to all of us, foreshadowing the awful summer of 2014: Michael Brown gunned down in Ferguson, Missouri… ISIS and the butchering of the Yazidis… Ebola in West Africa… Syria—120,000 innocent civilians dead… Parents and children languishing in the blazing summer heat […]

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Divine-Human Partnership

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Ekev, Deuteronomy 7:12 - 11:25
August 15, 2014

It’s hard to know which should make us more afraid: the notion that the human being or God is the absolute master of history. It is difficult to decide in the name of which of these attitudes more blood has been spilled, or which is more likely to destroy the world first. As I write, […]

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Beyond Tragedy and Despair: Emerging from Tisha b’Av

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Isaiah 40:1-26
August 6, 2014

Death. Destruction. Suffering. Pain. Hate speech. Loss of moral footing. These words just as easily describe the events of the past few weeks, as they do the Book of Eicha (Lamentations), read on Tisha b’Av. Both the tragic war in Israel and Gaza, and the liturgy of Tisha B’av invite us to wallow in despair. […]

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Don’t Weaponize Your Words

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Devarim, Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22
July 30, 2014

Far from the fighting in Israel and Gaza, Syria and Ukraine, the peanut gallery reigns supreme. Many of us have anointed ourselves armchair pundits, battling each other in wars of words disturbingly disconnected from the suffering of those in the conflict regions themselves. Rhetoric tears away at rhetoric — or more deafeningly still, is amplified […]

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Hope and Despair

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Masei, Numbers 33:1-36:13
Director of Admissions and Student Life, Rabbinical School
July 23, 2014

The West Wing feels like a long time ago. The critically-acclaimed TV show of the late 1990s and early 2000s portrayed a president and his staff who were both passionate idealists and realistic politicians. Though the show was on the air through much of the turmoil of the previous decade, its spirit was informed by […]

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Promises on a Bumpy Road

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Mattot, Numbers 30:2-32:42
July 16, 2014

Soon we will enter the land. There will be bumps in the road. Things we swore we would do may go undone. Things we promised we would refrain from may become commonplace. Here in parashat Mattot, the Israelites are already encamped on the Plains of Moab, having finished their forty years of wandering in the […]

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Religious Zealotry, Then and Now

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Pinhas, Numbers 25:10-30:1
July 9, 2014

Hot-blooded anger. Self-righteousness. Unflinching certainty. Extreme measures. These are some of the hallmarks of violent religious zealotry. We see its vicious resurgence all over the world today: the headlines from Iraq, Syria, and much of the Middle East are filled with Islamist jihad, as Sunnis slaughter Shiites and vice versa; Boko Haram, a radical Islamic […]

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Models of Prophecy

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Balak, Numbers 22:2-25:9
July 2, 2014

When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?’ Balaam answered the donkey, ‘You […]

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