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  Kiddush, Kadesh and Naming our Potential Pesach is the quintessential holiday where we celebrate the birth of our nation. Our  collective voices were heard and, as a people, we were liberated from the oppression of Pharaoh. And yet, as we begin this evening of the celebration of liberation, the first command and the first word is given to the individual.  We are not told, kidshu, in the plural, we are told kadesh , you, as an individual must sanctify.   This command hearkens back to the verse in Vayikra,  קְדֹשִׁ֣ים תִּהְי֑וּ כִּ֣י קָד֔וֹשׁ אֲנִ֖י יְ-ה אֱלֹהֵ-יכֶֽם׃, “You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy” (19:2).   Rabbi Eli Sadan shares this idea in his Haggadah as he writes,   “There is no service of God, there is no free will at all and there is no value.. without the recognition that human beings are free, free to go after the will of God. That is the foundation of the holiness of our lives, the holiness of the individual and of the collective as a nation. The ind
Echoes of Purim in Post Pandemic Visions Of the top questions so many of us have been asking ourselves these past months, there is a genre of which we are all too familiar.  I like to call it the “what happens after” questions--What will it be like when this is all over?  What will the world look like? What will our world and our communities take with them? What will we learn?? In March 2020, Alexis Valdes penned a poem “When the Storm Passes-Hope” that took a stab at depicting a vision for a post-pandemic world. While the entire poem (translated from the Spanish) can be found at the end of this blog, below are a few reflections on key elements of this most powerful poem that can teach us much about both Purim and our post pandemic vision.   “When the storm passes…..collective shipwreck” The storm of the pandemic has been a decree on the entire global community.  Yet, “[w]e are in the same storm, but not in the same boat. Your ship can be shipwrecked and mine might not be. Or vice vers
  When Sun and Soil Sync: The Tu B’Svhat and Human Dynamic of Giving and Receiving As we have been preparing for Tu B’Shvat we have been spending lots of time focusing on the famous verse,כִּ֤י הָֽאָדָם֙ עֵ֣ץ הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה, “for humans are like the tree of the field” (Dev. 20:19), and discussing the ways in which we, as are similar to trees in our physical traits— our arms, our bodies, our trunks and our branches. However, after studying R. Kook, I was given a different angle in understanding this powerful comparison between plants and humans.  It can be best explained through three elements: Netina- נתינה- Giving-Part of the critical lifeblood of the tree are the sources that nourish.   Sunlight, CO2, and water are gifts of generosity that sustain help trees grow from their small seeds to their great heights. This dynamic happens with humans as well.   The righteous, the tsadik, gives to others--reaching out and giving physical, emotional or financial support to help others grow and flou
Porcupines, Silos and Light: Three Short Timely and Timeless Thoughts from the Late Great Rabbi Sacks, z’l This past fall, we lost a true giant in the world of Jewish thought and impact. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of the UK and author of dozens of books.Rabbi Sacks had a gift for taking his incredibly vast trove of knowledge and being able to communicate it to all of us with both depth and meaning.  Up until his passing, he was still writing, publishing Morality, this past fall. While one can spend years reading and rereading Rabbi Sacks’ words, I wanted to share three meaningful passages from this book that speaks to our time and our missions to make the world a better place. We, I and the Porcupine Dynamic In his book, he discusses a conversation between him and Robert Putnam, political scientist. Putnam has focused on how our society has moved from a We society to an I society.  R. Sacks undergoes some research online on the subject. He writes, “The use of “We” is relativ
  Quick and Meaningful Post Election Inspiration from Uman Hitting my Spotify feed, I thought I would listen to some patriotic songs to focus on Election Day, but R. Yosef had other ideas. What showed up even before I could even get to "God Bless America" was a song with an incredibly important message from which we can all learn as we, on both sides of the political divide, move forward from this challenging week. The song by Yosef Karduner is about the Derekh Hashem, the path of God and the way that we can imitate God’s ways.  The words are from R. Nachman of Brezlov quoting R. Chaim Moshe Luzatto. In the coming weeks, we are going to be teaching this Ramchal in school and learn -- emotionally, politically, socially and religiously -- how we can all grow with these lenses in mind.  The words are below and they speak for themselves.   ואומר רבי רבי נחמן מברסלב (ליקוטי מוהר"ן ח"ב, תורה יז'): "שדרך ה' יתברך להביט על הטובות שעושין, ואף שנמצא בהם גם מה שאי
 To be as Abraham: Dust, Stars, Woodstock and the Rhythm of Tishrei This Yom Kippur I had the amazing opportunity to learn about Avraham’s blessing with a wonderful group of people as the day hit its midway point.  In that covenantal blessing we learned that we will be like dust and also that we will be like stars.  God tells him... כִּֽי־בָרֵ֣ךְ אֲבָרֶכְךָ֗ וְהַרְבָּ֨ה אַרְבֶּ֤ה אֶֽת־זַרְעֲךָ֙ כְּכוֹכְבֵ֣י הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וְכַח֕וֹל אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־שְׂפַ֣ת הַיָּ֑ם  I will bestow My blessing upon you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sands on the seashore..(Gen 22:17) While this obviously refers to multitudes, there is a deeper lesson in these images.  On the one hand, we are sand and on the other hand, we are stars. In thinking about it more, it occurred to me that these images are also ones that echo the lessons and the rhythm of the fall holidays.  The Yamim Noraim, Yom Kippur and Rosh HaShana, are the holidays of the earth.  It is on those days where we r
 Fueling for Liftoff from the Garden of Eden July and August were not filled with the usual type of adventures this year.  This year’s days of summer were filled with guidelines, memos, Zooms and more Zooms -- all focusing on a most different opening of school, one that we could have never imagined. Orders of plexiglass, sanitizers and new room arrangements populated the to-do list in this summer like no other.  And as I sat on the floor this Tisha B’Av on that hot summer evening, once again, maybe the most famous line from Eichah stood out. חַדֵּשׁ יָמֵינוּ כְּקֶדֶם  “Make our days new, like they were before.” (5:21)    It stood out because the word chadesh, is one that we seem to be using a lot these days.  So many are saying that it is a “new world” or a “new reality.” But in Fall 2020 the word “new” takes on a much more complex meaning than ever before.  Chadesh has the connotation of newness, of hope and of abandoning a past chapter and moving forward to bright new beginnings.   B