Farewell to Sacred Paper

Our long-awaited construction project at Ansche Chesed is about to begin. Off in the distance we can glimpse our expanded lobby with improved safety and disability access, our renewed social hall, and our comfortable and professional offices. Before we can build, we must demolish. For a century-old building with poor storage space, that means clearing… Read more »

Do You Anticipate Salvation?

Rabbinic lore says that when you pass into the next world, before you can enter paradise, you’re interrogated over a series of questions about your life on earth [Shabbat 31b]. Among them are: Were you honest in business? Did you fix regular times for Torah study? Also on the list is Did you anticipate salvation?… Read more »

“Pregnant Souls”

Jewish prayer is simultaneously intensely private and richly public. Wonderful davvening can happen by yourself. One of the major Hebrew words for meditation is hitbodedut, or “cultivating aloneness.” Even when standing in a crowded shul, you need some sense of solitude to filter out distractions, master your stream of consciousness (not easy) and reach deep… Read more »

The God of David

The Talmud refers to the Amidah as the Shemonah Esreh, or “Eighteen” Blessings. That name works because the prayer has, of course, 19 blessings. What?! My post two weeks ago related the Talmud’s account of Samuel the Humble’s reluctant composition of a curse against heretics. People commonly interpret that story to mean Birkat HaMinim was… Read more »

The Remnant of Our Teachers

After cursing the wicked in the 12th blessing, the Amidah proceeds to praise the saintly in the 13th [cf Megillah 17b]. Do you like that order? Perhaps it would better to set up a vision of the ideal first, and then curse our failures. But in truth, I think this order has its own logic.… Read more »