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Showing posts from August, 2022

A Song Is All We Need

The High Holidays begin in one month. During the preceding Hebrew month of Elul which starts this weekend, we focus on the task of repentance. We seek to better our lives. We turn inward. We make promises about our Jewish commitments. A Hasidic story. A student came to see the Karliner Rebbe because he was depressed. “I don’t know what to do,” he said. “I’m not a good Jew. I don’t study enough, I don’t know enough; all I do is work, work, work. But I want to study more. Rabbi, I have a question. What do our great and holy rabbis study on Friday night?” “Well,” said the Karliner, “some study Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism.” “Oh,” said the student, “that is not for me.” “No,” said the Karliner, “that is not for everybody. But I am sure you study Talmud regularly. How is that going?” “Rebbe, I am ashamed to admit it, but I do not study Talmud regularly. You see, I grew up poor. I had to work from an early age to help my family out. I did not get much of an education. I find the Talmu

Taste the Wonderment

This past year, Susie and I joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). The requirement is that we pay the farm for the upcoming season’s vegetables in April. And then beginning in June and lasting through November, we pick up an assortment of vegetables every Tuesday at our Huntington drop off location. We don’t know for sure what will be in our bag until Monday evening when the farm emails us what to expect. This week it was corn, tomatoes (large and grape), baby bok choy, potatoes, and cantaloupe (there is the occasional melon). A few weeks ago, we picked up onions, romaine lettuce, beets, new potatoes, kohlrabi, corn and ong choy (Chinese water spinach). In addition to the extraordinary freshness of the vegetables (the lettuce lasts two weeks!), we have to adjust our cooking based on what the farm provides. While I can eat corn on the cob every week, after several weeks corn salad felt like a necessary and welcome change. And again, after weeks of potatoes it was time to mak

Live the Question!

Rainer Marie Rilke, the early twentieth century mystical poet, writes: Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day. (Letters to a Young Poet) When Moses pleaded before God that he be allowed to step foot in the land of Israel, I imagine questions to plague his soul despite his many years of experience. “Why cannot I cross over and see the good land on the other side of the Jordan?” Questions defined him throughout his years. When God first called to Moses, he wondered aloud about his worthiness and protested God’s choice to send him to Pharoah. And yet God’s demands guided him. For forty years he led the people through the wilderness. He

Getting the Future Back on Track

Representative Jamie Raskin, who recently appeared at our synagogue in conversation with Representative Steve Israel, writes: “If we cannot get the past right, we will get the future all wrong.” (Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth, and the Trials of American Democracy) Ours is an oftentimes sad and tortured history. We sometimes struggle to get it right. This is because holidays are not the same as history. Holidays are about creating memory. They are about inculcating identity. History is about uncovering truth. It is about drawing lessons. On Sunday, Jews will commemorate Tisha B’Av, the day our tradition sets aside to mark past tragedies, in particular the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. and the Second by the Romans in 70 C.E. We look at these through the lenses of tradition. Judaism suggests that not only were the temples destroyed on this day, but nearly every tragedy that ever happened to the Jewish people occurred on the ninth of Av. The spies retur