In today's society, it can be extremely hard to change your mind and especially to do so publicly. But changing one's mind is both an American virtue and a Jewish ideal. You don't have to "switch sides" or abandon your former position completely; but as great leaders have shown us, thinking in new ways about an important issue can enrich our own lives and bring healing to the world around us.
This year's Yom Kippur message focuses on antisemitism in the alt-right. The Jewish community feels vulnerable, more so than at other times in recent memory, and this vulnerability gives us empathy with other groups whose standing in society is much more precarious than our own. Interfaith and multi-racial alliance with other targeted communities will be essential to our genuine and effective resistance.
God loves you.
God is close to you.
And it's going to be okay.
We respond to God's love by dedicating ourselves to a life of service. We serve God with our intellect, our passions, and our deeds both public and private. As a new year dawns, we commit ourselves to refining and strengthening the ways we serve God in order to enrich ourselves, those around us, and the world we live in.
Parashat Nitzavim-Vayeilech deals intimately with the themes of the upcoming High Holy Days. For example, we read this week that every one of us counts and that our actions really matter. There are many cases when דָּבָר זֶה תָּלוּי בִּי, "This matter depends upon me," and it is upon us to rise to the occasion.
The heartbreaking tragedy in Charlottesville, VA captivated the nation and bared the soul of the alt-right and its defenders. Jews rightly feel vulnerable following the vitriol and violence of the "Unite the Right" rally, which left three people dead and many others wounded. The fear we feel helps us empathize with other targeted minorities, and our moral obligation following these heinous events is to unify in nonviolent resistance against hate groups and those who give them safe harbor.
The Shabbat before Tisha B'Av calls our attention to the evils of society that God urges us to address. In particular, the prophet Isaiah inveighs against corrupt leadership, which leads the people astray and which the governed have an obligation to correct.
Every Independence Day, I explore the Jewish side of the Founding of America. Previous years have reflected on Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. This year: George Washington.
Truth in Judaism is more than accuracy. Truth implies morality, and though we human beings cannot fully know the truth, we must nevertheless endeavor to seek it out. Sometimes, a truth is particularly difficult to hear - and those can be the most important truths to bring into our lives.
Parashat Naso contains both the priestly blessing--integral to our traditions highest moments, including a wedding--as well as the ritual of the sotah, the unfaithful spouse. This juxtaposition might teach us that individuals and couples facing infidelity must lift up and be lifted up in order to learn to love and trust again.
God's kiss comes to us at two powerful moments: revelation and death. This is the perfect overlap of the celebration of Shavuot and the observance of Yizkor.
“To be effective, the preacher's message must be alive; it must alarm, arouse, challenge; it must be God's present voice to a particular people.”