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Showing posts from May, 2016

Why Cycling? Why Faith!

Why cycling? There is nothing quite like riding on a perfect summer morning, along a beautiful stretch of road, most especially along the Long Island Sound’s shoreline. The temperature is a comfortable 70 degrees. The morning breeze offers a cooling balm. On some mornings, the wind can be felt at your back, pushing you along the road (although that inevitably means that there is a headwind on the return journey). The legs feel strong and the cadence of the pedal stroke does not waver. There is nothing left to do but breathe in the air and sense the rhythm of God’s creation. Why faith? There is nothing quite like the perspective it offers, the balance it provides.... This post continues on Patheos.

The Comforting Beauty of Asking Questions

Why me? Why now? Beset by questions we pine after certainties. Well-meaning friends offer answers. Theologians expound. Politicians offer sound bites and tweets. The questions remain. The search continues. I retreat to my books. The Talmud begins with a question. The Talmud is much more than the multi-volume collection of rabbinic opinions completed in fifth century Babylonia. It is no ordinary sacred text. Its premise is that wisdom begins with a question mark. Open any page and discover a question. A discussion ensues. Arguments emerge. I marvel at the editorial mastery.... This post continues on The Wisdom Daily.

Lag B'Omer and History's Lessons

We find ourselves in the midst of the Omer, the period when we count seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot. The custom originated in biblical times when we counted from Passover’s wheat harvest until Shavuot’s barley harvest. An omer is a sheaf of grain. During this time semi-mourning practices are observed, namely no weddings are celebrated. The explanations for this are various and somewhat mysterious. I have often thought that it was most likely because there was worry about the upcoming harvest. Others suggest that during rabbinic times a plague afflicted the disciples of Rabbi Akiva. According to some accounts 24,000 students died. Miraculously on the 33rd day of the Omer the plague lifted. Today is in fact the 33rd day called Lag B’Omer. On this day the mourning practices are lifted. People celebrate and gather around bonfires. We are no longer downcast. Our worry disappears. The Omer serves to connect the freedom celebrated on Passover with the giving of T

Emor and Expert Intentions

Noted sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild argues in her recent book The Outsourced Self that we seek professionals for more and more of our personal decisions. She writes:  As we outsource more of our private lives, we find it increasingly possible to outsource emotional attachment…. Focusing attention on the destination, we detach ourselves from the small — potentially meaningful — aspects of experience. Confining our sense of achievement to results, to the moment of purchase, so to speak, we unwittingly lose the pleasure of accomplishment, the joy of connecting to others and possibly, in the process, our faith in ourselves. Years ago when I went to my first bar mitzvah there was no such thing as party enhancers. My friends and I made the party. Sometimes we did a good job. Others times we did not. (And by the way sometimes we got ourselves into trouble and other times not.) It did not matter if we danced expertly or not, as long as we danced. Back in the day (it’s safe t

Yom Haatzmaut Prayers

Israel’s Declaration of Independence, read by David ben Gurion on May 14, 1948, concludes with the words: “Placing our trust in the Rock of Israel, we affix our signatures to this proclamation…” It is an interesting choice of words for God: “Tzur Yisrael—Rock of Israel.” The early Zionists, most notably ben Gurion, were not especially given to statements of faith. And yet here we see how they bowed to Jewish tradition, selecting the name of God found in our prayerbooks following the Mi Chamocha. This prayer speaks about our redemption. On Shabbat morning we sing: “Tzur Yisrael, rise in support of Israel and redeem Judah and Israel as You promised…” It would appear that our ancient dreams of redemption are realized in the creation of the State of Israel.... This post continues on The Times of Israel.

Yom HaShoah and One Survivor

Two years ago David Stoliar died at the age of 91. Many people only learned of his story this past January when The New York Times reported his death . He spent most of his years in Bend, Oregon and the local paper there offered a brief obituary when he died in May 2014. Following World War II it was in Bend where he settled and raised a family. And who was David Stoliar? He was the sole survivor of the sinking of the Struma. In 1942, the Struma set sail from Romania’s port city of Constantza, packed with nearly 800 Jewish refugees. These refugees had made their way from Romania, Czechoslovakia, Austria and Hungary. Adrift in the Black Sea, the Struma was torpedoed by a Soviet submarine. The Struma set sail from its port with meager provisions. Each of its passengers paid smugglers up to $1000 for passage to Palestine. The British authorities refused entry to the Jewish refugees. Palestine’s gates were closed. The Struma then set sail for Turkey where it was quara