Sunday, March 29, 2020

Virtual Open Shabbat: Offerings of Comfort

A gathering for healing, song, and return focused on the mincha sacrifice. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Intention, Perfection, and Making Room for Joy

Monday, March 16, 2020

Jonah for this Moment

What if we overreact? When exercising leadership in moments of crisis, we always risk being accused of doing too much. Here are some lessons from the Book of Jonah in choosing how we act at this moment.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

The Golden Calf, a stiff necked people, and this American moment

What do the golden calf and stiff necks have to teach us at this very American moment? Lessons on leadership, faith, and what it means to be a Jew and an American at this moment.


How Goodie Bags (Mishloach Manot) Can Help Save the World

My teaching on the four mitzvot of Purim!

Spiritual Connection During Solitude: Spotify Playlist

Enjoy this ever growing playlist of Jewish and otherwise spiritual/awesome music to deal with the anxiety and solitude of this moment.  Complied with love in Waterville, Maine.

Click on this link to access. 
A Spotify account is required.

Friday, February 28, 2020

The stuff we are made of: Parashat Terumah

        Why wasn't the mishkan (tabernacle) built out of gold? Beside the negative associations with the golden calf, wouldn't you expect a dwelling case for God to be made out of the most precious metal? Alas, the Torah defies expectations. The Torah never ceases to amaze us with its instructions for the mishkan; from the mysterious dolphin skins to the humble acacia wood, the Torah's instructions challenge us to think about which materials are truly precious, strong, and holy.
                 In my first year of rabbinical school at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, I had a wonderful classmate, Luke.  He worked with wood before he came to rabbinical school and gave the most beautiful dvar Torah about acacia wood that has stuck with me for the past 15 years.  As we were driving through the Arava in southern Israel, there were acacia trees all around us growing in the arid desert.  They were short and stout trees with twisted trunks and small, unimpressive leaves.  I remember he commented on how difficult it would be to build with acacia wood. There are no large planks to be used.  The carpenters would need to cut down many different trees and put them together just so in order to make a functional tabernacle.  In order to make a dwelling place with acacia wood, you need to be resourceful, thoughtful, scrappy, and economical. The acacia tree is not a tree that is easy, convenient, or strong like the oak or the cedar, so common in the Galilee. By choosing acacia, God is telling us that God's dwelling place should not be built with ease. 
             The acacia tree teaches us a lesson much like the metal of the menorah.  In Exodus 25:31, we learn that the menorah was made from beaten (mikshahמקשהgold. The gold of the menorah is not pure or smooth.  It must be weathered and textured in order to truly glorify God. We learn from the menorah and the mishkan that the most sacred vessels are neither typically strong, convenient, or readymade whole. A place for a God is built through hard and messy work. It is made from many small planks that are artfully nailed together for a coherent whole. It is inherently collaborative and difficult, incoherent and strangely stunning.  
             We learn in Exodus 25:8, that God wants us to build a tabernacle so that the Divine may dwell among US.  Yes, we have to build a house for God, but our collective souls are God's true home. The house that God asks us to build is not smooth or easy. We should not expect that God's home will be either.  We are made holy through the parts of us that are textured and multifaceted. God wants to live among the parts of us that are woven together from the rigid and the pliable, from the beautiful and the ugly, from the young and the old, and from the resilient and the vulnerable.
             We should remember these lessons when we despair in the moments that are difficult and unexpected, both individually and collectively.  God does not want to live among us if we are too smooth and easy, which of course is to say, not really human. Our wounds -- the parts of us that are difficult and bruised, and the scars we allow ourselves to grow in order to heal our wounds -- make us truly beautiful to God.  Our diverse, small, incongruent and fragmented parts are not always bad. While we should not pursue pain or oppression for vanity, we should also remember that God wants to live among us in our full diversity and brokenness. We believe in a God that desires acacia arks and beaten menorahs. This is the God that loves Their children and sticks with us through the pain and the imperfection.  What a true blessing indeed. And an example we all need at this moment.

Shabbat Shalom!