Autumn Winds and our Essential Selves--The Sparks of Elul We dog sat this past month.  Yes after going back and forth about getting a pandemic puppy, we went with dog sitting-- a much easier path.   And as I walked the dog the other night, I felt that first Autum wind.  Yes, as Simon and Garfunkel said about August, “the autumn winds grow chilly and cold.” And this year, Elul, the month of reflection before the Chagim comes early.  So as the hints of fall are emerging, the hints of Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur are in the air. I came across an amazing book called Rimzei Elul, the Hints of Elul, by R. Eyal Vered.  This sweet book has become my companion on this year’s journey. Each day, R. Vered gives a 2-3 page reflection on the journey of Elul to share.     A few of his lessons… Celebrate Alone-ness, While Avoiding Loneliness   Every day in Elul we recite Tehilim 27.  At its end, we say, “כִּֽי־אָבִ֣י וְאִמִּ֣י עֲזָב֑וּנִי ׃ Though my father and mother abandon me...”   While some sadly
 Don't Forget Your Keys--Graduation Remarks-Class of 2021 Class of 2021,You are a unique class.  You are inquisitive, energetic, funny, passionate and you are also unique as you finished your home stretch at KDS in a pandemic, you have experienced a year we could never have imagined.  Whether it was onsite, online, onZoom--you were a group that persevered in so many ways. This year, I want to give you a gift and a blessing. But before I do, I must share that this is my 11th time having the privilege to share a blessing with graduates in my career.  Each year, I give a gift that is tied into a blessing.  This idea came from my Aunt, Dr. Shulamith Elster, a giant in Jewish Education.  Each year, I would share my speech with her after graduation.   This year, she passed away in February and while I will not be able to share my speech with her this year, her memory will always live on through these annual “graduation gifts” This year, class of 2021, I bless you with the blessing of two
Shabbat, Shmita and the Wintering We All Endure As I grow older, I have become more and more understanding of why people want to move to Florida.   I used to love the winter, but as the chill penetrates my bones and my head gets colder each year from November through April, I ask myself how it was that I made it through Ann Arbor winters in my college years. But reading Katherine May’s new book, Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat has made my feeling about winter begin to change.  “Wintering,” according to May, is not about cold, snow and mittens, it is rather  "a fallow period in life.”  It is a time when we are set apart, either by our own choice or by circumstances placed upon us.  It is “when you're cut off from the world, feeling rejected, sidelined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of an outsider." Wintering is not a state of the climate, it is a state of our being.  The Parsha of Bahar is bookended by the concept of Shabbat, of fallow.  It begins w
  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