Many of us struggle with an instinct to take the world's problems onto our shoulders. We're not the first, of course - Moses also faced the same challenge. How do we see ourselves as meaningful change agents without drowning in the sea of work that remains to be done?
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the ordination of Sally Priesand as the first woman to be ordained at a Jewish seminary. We pause to consider the role of women in the rabbinate for the past half-century as well as trailblazers in other areas and fields.
Often, arguments about environmental stewardship focus on the importance of preserving human life. What would it mean to center the land itself as an object of our concern regardless of its effect on human flourishing? This week's parashah challenges us to do just that, to see the land from God's point of view and to take a giant, humble step backward in estimating our own importance to its continued life.
The Torah has contradictory accounts of whether or not God can be seen. We deny ourselves the richness of interpretive possibility if we limit ourselves only to one way of thinking about this question, and a close reading of a single verse in this week's parashah helps remind us that there's always another way to look at an idea we assumed we understood completely.
An "angel" is a being with a divine task. Our tradition teaches us that ordinary human beings--yes, including you and me--are able to bring God into the world, and when we do, we, too, act as angels. Parashat Terumah was my bar mitzvah Torah portion, so this week's lesson holds a special place in my heart.
In the Torah, the "mixed multitude" is considered both dangerous and praiseworthy - but in either case, they are "other." How should we think of a single individual that comes from this group, and how might that apply to the way we think of people today? It can be easy to conflate a person with the group they're a part of, but often that's the easy (and wrong) way to judge others.
Reflections on the way grandparents affect our lives, including some surprising grandparent Torah facts.
Three years ago, Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Congregation was observing Refugee Shabbat. It was their commitment to refugees that attracted the hatred of a violent criminal, who broke into the congregation and murdered eleven of its members. We continue to reel in the aftershock of this terrible crime, and we also continue to stand for the values that came under attack that day. Our congregation was also observing Refugee Shabbat at that time, and our resolve has only strengthened in the years since. Even when our community is under attack for what we believe--especially when our community is under attack for what we believe--we stand up for our values and push for them in the public square. So on this anniversary of Refugee Shabbat, our congregation announces our ongoing and burgeoning efforts to support and mentor a refugee family that will be resettled in Chicago in the new year.
The mysteries of Creation are just that: mysteries. For centuries, seekers of truth have turned to Genesis in search of answers. But I believe a more genuinely Jewish approach to these texts is to approach them with questions. The questions inspired by the Creation story open our minds to new possibilities and enrich our individual and communal quests for truth.
Do you believe in aliens? Do you believe in God? And how do you decide? More importantly: Do you decide about God the same way you decide about aliens?
In this year's Kol Nidre sermon, I suggest that the wonders of the natural world can inspire us to awe. The fantastic search for extraterrestrial life misses the point of "unidentified aerial phenomena," which are reminders of the marvelous mysteries our world offers to us as waystations to faith.
“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.”