This weekend is Rosh Chodesh Elul. For rabbis serving communities across the world, this means one important thing – it is time to buckle down and decide what we want to say in our High Holy Day sermons. Somehow, the High Holy Day sermon has become the World Series for rabbis. It doesn’t seem to matter what you say during the rest of the year – all is forgiven and forgotten except the High Holy Day sermon.
My favorite pastime in the summer is going to my local town pool. There I can sit in the sun, swim laps, and chat with friends and acquaintances from many different social circles. The diversity of my town is apparent in the bathing suits the women choose to wear. You can see everything from a woman in a string bikini, to a “mom” bathing suit with shorts, to a fully covered woman in suit that looks like a wetsuit with a skirt. Some may refer to this last suit as a “burkini;” however, in my town this modest swimsuit is worn by Orthodox Jewish women, so while the look may be the same, the name does not fit.
Celebrating a bar or bat mitzvah is a unique and special time in the life of a child, family and community. Having experienced it personally (30 years ago!), as a father and as a congregational rabbi, I can attest to the transformative power of the ritual. The ability to recognize and celebrate a child as they enter into their teenage years, the ability for parents to see their child growing and maturing, and the ability of a community to see one whom they have nurtured come into their own, is very powerful.
Six weeks from now when the world and the Jewish People experience another Rosh Hashanah, we will stand before God and celebrate the creation and continued existence of the world. Again and again we will address the Creator as Avinu Malkeinu – Our Father Our King. But why do we need to reference God in this repetitive fashion? What is the difference between God as father and God as king? – For one, a king maintains a static relationship to his subjects, whereas a father’s children are always growing and maturing, thus the nature of the relationship develops dynamically over time. The import of that dynamic is strikingly set forth in this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Ekev.
“Are you an angry feminist?”
Last night marked the beginning of the holiday of Tu B’Av. If you’ve never heard of it, you’re not alone. I only learned about Tu B’Av when I lived in Israel in 2003-2004, but it turns out that the holiday has been around for hundreds of years. Today it is often referred to as “the Jewish Valentine’s Day” because it celebrates love. In the times of the Talmud, the rabbis tell us it was when Jewish women went dancing in the vineyards, and unmarried men went to the fields to find a wife (and we think online dating is interesting!).
Each time my wife and I think we have moved past one parenting issue, a new one arises. Our son starts sleeping a little better? Then meals become a challenge. Our daughter starts listening better? Welcome to potty training!
It feels almost cliché to say that I have loved watching Women’s Gymnastics during these 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. I can raddle off the names of the “Final Five” like they are my best friends, (Aly, Gabby, Madison, Simone, and Laurie) and have eagerly looked forward to seeing them flip and twist and fly through the air each night. I am especially proud to see a racially representative group of women competing on behalf of a country that is so deeply divided. I have cheered and yelled and cried and kvelled for these incredible athletes as they have achieved super-hero status and celebrity.
Reasonable risk seems like an oxymoron. I checked a list of examples to see if it appeared, beside “open secret” or “small crowd.” I couldn’t find it, so I decided to coin the phrase yesterday, on the first day of school.