Tag Archives: God


Dying a Good Death, and Getting ‘There’

Dedicated to Rami Wernik z”l, cherished Jewish educator. How do you want to die, and what are you doing to get there? In the world of real estate, the message is: “Location, location, location.” Somehow, it also seems an appropriate message when reading so many biblical stories, including (in Parshat Hukkat) that of Miriam’s death. The children of Israel, the whole congregation of Israel, arrive in the Zin desert, “and… Read Article →


A Priesthood of the Imperfect

Parshat Emor begins with a discussion of taboos around priestly purity, forbidding members of the priestly tribe to have contact with the dead or to engage in certain mourning practices. The rabbis read the verses to exclude the situation of a “met mitzvah,” an abandoned corpse, one for whom there is no one else to engage in the rites of burial — in such a case, the priest is permitted… Read Article →


Walking Through Cloud

The beginning of this week’s double Torah portion opens with a warning to Aaron that, in addition to not approaching the altar in a state of intoxication, he should be on his guard in the presence of God in the actual sanctuary, lest he expose himself to holiness with too much intensity. The verse resonates with images of Icarus coming too close to the sun, his wings melting from the… Read Article →


Getting Unstuck

For the second Shabbat of Passover. There have been many times in my life when I just felt stuck. Stuck in a job, stuck in my family’s circumstances, stuck in a particular emotional state. It just didn’t seem like anything was ever going to change. We all feel that way at some point or other in our lives. As larger groups or national entities, we can feel stuck in political… Read Article →


More Than One Thing: Purim and Reflections of the Image of God

Megillat Esther, which we read on the holiday of Purim this week, is a flamboyant, even farcical tale of good and evil. Its characters on the face of it are caricatures of human virtue and vice: Achashueras, the foolish king who sits on the throne but exercises no true leadership or authority; Haman, the sinister power behind the throne who cleverly executes his genocidal plan until he himself is executed upon… Read Article →

heart stone

Power, Oppression and the Hardened Heart

This week’s Torah portion begins with God instructing Moses: “Come to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart” (Exodus 10:1). The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is one of the most confusing aspects of the Exodus story, but has perhaps the most to teach us about freedom and oppression in our world today. Before Moses ever approaches Pharaoh to plead for the Israelites’ release from slavery, it seems that God has… Read Article →


In the Name of God: The Possibility of Passion and Tolerance

And God spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, as God Almighty (El Shaddai), but by My name LORD (YHVH) I was not known to them. — Exodus 6:2-3 . . . “My name is Alice, but — ” “It’s a stupid name enough!” Humpty Dumpty interrupted impatiently. “What does it mean?” “Must a name mean something?” Alice asked… Read Article →


A Hanukkah “Raga”: An Ecological Reflection

One of the first teachings that drew me to Hindustani (North Indian) classical music was that of the raga. Each raga – literally color or melody – is associated with a unique time of day. On the tree of Indian classical music, each raga is a different branch; in the cycle of a day or a year, each raga embodies a different quality or emotion that is expressed through improvisational… Read Article →


I and I

Jacob’s struggle in this week’s Torah portion is framed by revelations about the meanings embedded in places and names. Nothing surprising there — who gives a name, what that name means and how a place becomes known for the transformative moments occurring upon it, all define much of the biblical story. Vayishlach begins with our hero on the run. Recall that Jacob emerges from his mother Rebekah just moments after… Read Article →


Gates of Tears

In this week’s parsha, we are deep in a difficult family story. Yitzhak and Rivka struggle to conceive and after she conceives, the struggle continues in her womb. It gets no simpler once their sons are born. Esav emerges first, hairy and red, followed closely by Yaakov, clinging tightly to Esav’s heel. The boys are quickly caught up in a multigenerational cycle of favoritism and deception. When Yitzhak has grown… Read Article →