A Word to Readers in France

I am sick to hear of the terrible violence in Paris. As Shabbat falls here in California, know that you and all France are in my prayers tonight. You will be in our thoughts as we sit at the Shabbos table.

May all who suffer be comforted, and may peace soon be restored in your beautiful country.

A Note to Readers

I am down with one of my periodic bouts of sciatica. Sometimes it gets out of control. During those times, the worst thing I can do is sit at my computer.

I have a number of things I want to do and cannot right now. The first is to get back to you about the class I proposed. Another is to answer some questions too involved for me to address via my phone from an exercise mat on the floor. The last is new posts.

I am catching up on my reading, and if I find goodies to share I will do so.

I hope to be back after Shabbat. Don’t worry about me; this is a nuisance, not a tragedy.

I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!

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Why We Love “Once-a-Year” Jews

This conversation is so wonderful, I can’t wait to share it via my own blog.

downtowndvar

In this blog dialogue, Rabbis Elyse Goldstein of City Shul and Ed Elkin of the First Narayever Congregation, friends and colleagues in downtown Toronto, converse on matters of contemporary Jewish import. We publish everytime the spirit moves us, or when you send us a hot-button question. Readers are welcome to submit suggestions for future topics in the comments below.

Elyse Goldstein holding Torah mantle

Hi Ed,

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services. I imagine how it feels to shul regulars: a fashion-show of strangers, preening, talking, walking in and out, coming late, leaving early. It’s a bad theatre scene— with people exiting before or even during the final act. It’s a concert gone wrong— with fans singing their hearts out while the others don’t know the songs, weren’t there when the band first formed, and don’t understand the lyrics. 

And I also imagine how it feels to those who come only for those days: they’ve…

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Prayers for the Survivors of Suicide

Prayers from the heart of someone who knows.

Reflecting Out Loud

The following prayers are written in memory of my father, Lowell Jay Herman. He took his life on April 20, 2015. They are a reflection of the pain that my family & I have grappled with.

A Prayer for My Father

Adonai, darkness descended upon him;
cloaking and immersing him in a shroud of shame and sadness.
Mental illness took hold and metastasized into his soul
until he could bear the pain no more.

Adonai, we who loved him are left to navigate the murky waters, the tsunami of grief and the inexplicable pain of his suicide.
Help us not to lose ourselves in the unanswerable question of why, though it is a question we must ask; over and over and over again.
Strengthen us in the face of despair, guilt, shock, anger and overwhelming sadness.
Adonai, help us find the courage to speak the truth, his truth, our truth.

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“A Wasted Yom Kippur”

Yasher koach, Adam!

Wrestling With God

The High Holy Days are just over a month away. The time of the New Year and, ten days later, the time of repentance at Yom Kippur are almost upon us.

As a Jew by choice who will be officially a member of the Tribe only sixteen days before Rosh Hashanah (if I’ve counted correctly), and who had a powerful, meaningful experience at last year’s Yom Kippur, the High Holy Days will probably hit me hard every single year.  Last year, part of what hit me so hard was that we aren’t getting singled out for our sin. We are all confessing, communally, as a community, to grave sins.

This is on my mind today partly because of an article in this morning’s New York Times.  This article is talking about the recent murders of Shira Banki and Ali Saad Dawabsheh by Jewish extremist fanatics. I could quote from…

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The High Holidays are Two Months Away. Thanks, Pinchas.

Rabbi 360 and Parashat Pinchas offer us a preview of coming attractions.

Rabbi360

It’s summertime, and my senses are alive. Feeling the heat on my skin, seeing the lush growth all around, tasting the fresh fruits and vegetables from farm and garden, hearing birds and other animals and smelling fresh flowers.

Yet while I enjoy the summer and the change in routines and the increased time outdoors, I open up this week’s Torah portion, Pinchas, and read this:

In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a sacred occasion: you shall not work at your occupations. You shall observe it as a day when the horn is sounded. You shall present a burnt offering of pleasing odor to God: one bull of the herd, one ram, and seven yearling lambs, without blemish. The meal offering with them—choice flour with oil mixed in—shall be: three-tenths of a measure for a bull, two-tenths for a ram, and one-tenth for…

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Before You Sing Mah Tovu Again, Please Read This! // Parashat Balak (Numbers 22:2-25:9)

This is a wonderful post on a famous and much misunderstood Torah portion.

Finding Ourselves In Biblical Narratives

Torah from Around the World

Published by The World Union for Progressive Judaism

July 2, 2015 / 15 Tammuz 5775

By: Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs, Former World Union president, author of What’s in It for Me? Finding Ourselves in Biblical Narratives, and Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Beth Israel, West Hartford, CT, USA. He can be reached at sl.fuchs@comcast.net, and his website.

So many times, I have heard rabbis or Cantors announce, “We begin our service with Mah Tovu!” And then the rabbi, Cantor, choir and congregation or some combination of those resources begin to sing: “How lovely are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!“ (Numbers 24:5)

As thinking Jews, and especially as Progressive Jews, we should not be content to simply intone our prayers mindlessly.

We will enrich ourselves and our worship if we make the effort to understand what they mean, what their literary-historical context is…

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