Reflections on Family “Ghettos of Two”

In May, at the Hebrew Union College commencement, the novelist Michael Chabon encouraged the new Reform rabbis on a revolutionary path. They should “knock down the walls” that confine Jewish community in self-built ghettos, “eruvim of intolerance.” Not just ethnic distinctions between Jew and gentile, but the whole system of sacred boundary-drawing must go. No… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Today

You may remember Eats, Shoots & Leaves, the popular 2003 book on the importance of precise punctuation for deciphering texts clearly. Depending on comma placement, that book title could refer to a panda’s diet, or the scene in the Godfather where [SPOILER ALERT] Michael Corleone kills Sollozzo and McCluskey in Louie’s Restaurant in the Bronx. (“Try the veal. Best… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: כל מאדך

The third modifier in the first line of the ואהבת/ve’ahavta is בכל מאדך/bekhol me’odekha, that you should love God with … what exactly? In biblical as in modern Hebrew, מאד/me’od, typically is an adverb meaning very or exceedingly. This Shema passage from Deuteronomy 6 is a very rare case – there is only one other, 2 Kings 23:25 – where it takes a pronomial suffix and refers to a person’s capacity for “muchness.” Hence the King James version, and all… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: בכל נפשך

Contemporary American Jews reject martyrdom. If you asked me to imagine a martyr I would probably think of a shahid, a Hamas suicide bomber, or a tortured Christian saint, whose eager pursuit of suffering seems creepy and masochistic. Judaism is a life-affirming religion and mistrusts any impulse to venerate death. We hold that “these are the mitzvot… Read more »

All Gender Bathroom

My friends, this week we will read Parashat Balak [which just happens to be my bar mitzvah parasha] which focuses on the inspired speeches of the Aramean prophet Bilaam. This exceptional charismatic character intended to curse Israel, but was seized with the divine spirit and blessed them instead. Words that were intended to harm, surprisingly became instruments of love… Read more »