Don’t Wait for the Angels to Send you a Message

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Last September, one of the kindest and loveliest of my friends and colleagues was diagnosed with an aggressive form of sinus cancer. Marcus and his husband shared their story with hundreds and hundreds of colleagues, friends and family through caringbridge.org, a wonderful website that is specifically meant for such circumstances. They occasionally posted the progress of his treatment, his health, their needs and more.

Posted on September 27, 2016

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The National Anthem Is Not a Loyalty Pledge. It’s Liturgy.

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When I was a kid, I would always leave the service on Yom Kippur day when it came time for Yizkor, the special memorial service to remember all those loved ones lost to congregation members. I would leave because I had not lost someone in the primary circle of mourning for whom tradition dictates one recites Yizkor — parent, child, sibling, spouse — and so partly out of respect and partly out of superstition, I would leave the sanctuary.

Posted on September 21, 2016

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To Repair the World – And Not Just the Jewish People!

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One of the things I most love about the High Holidays is their focus on universality. During the rest of the year, Jewish consciousness and Jewish prayer concentrate primarily on the concerns of the Jewish People, while the season of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur turns our attention to the entirety of the human race and to the world as a whole. Although it is certainly understandable that throughout most of the calendar our emphasis is on our Jewish family and our Jewish needs, for me it is a bit myopic and constricting. The High Holidays come like a breath of fresh air that helps me to expand my consciousness and reconnect my Judaism to the larger tapestry of God’s creation.

Posted on September 20, 2016

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Who is this Shmelf the Hanukkah Elf?

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It’s not even Rosh Hashanah, and some people are already talking about Hanukkah! There’s a new children’s book: Shmelf the Hanukkah Elf by Greg Wolfe. A Hanukkah Elf may sound familiar if you know of Elf on the Shelf and Mensch on the Bench, but this is a different concept. This is not a creepy elf in your home watching your every move – but rather an attempt to explain to Jewish kids why Santa isn’t coming to visit them.

Posted on September 16, 2016

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Truth, ‘Truthiness,’ and Tradition

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I have enjoyed a number of rousing conversations with more traditional colleagues about evidence (or lack thereof) of Divine revelation at Mount Sinai. Some hold as irrefutable proof of this sacred moment that hundreds of thousands of Israelites assembled at the mountain’s foot. I ask what sources – apart from the Torah – can establish that anyone was there at all. We pound the table in intense but friendly debate over core truths within our systems of belief.

Posted on September 14, 2016

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Gender Politics of the Prayer Shawl

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I went shopping for a new tallit (prayer shawl) at two competing Boston Judaica shops last week. In both stores I found the tallitot, the plural for tallis, separated by gender. And obviously so. The experience reminded me of when I was first pregnant with my daughter and first learned she would be a she. As I perused the baby clothing aisle at Target, I realized half the items on display were definitively not for my kid. The gender messaging wasn’t subtle. Pale innocuous, quiet, unassuming pink/purple for baby girls and bold, statement making, attention getting red, blue and green for boys.

Posted on September 9, 2016

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