Bringing Forth the Light

December 20, 2022

One Hebrew expression for the publication of a book is l’hotzee l’or, literally, “to bring it to light,” although most speakers of modern Hebrew would use the word l’farsem. This Hebrew word also means to publicize, and it may have come into modern Hebrew by way of the Aramaic expression pirsuma neisa, to publicize the miracle, which is how the ancient sages refer to one of the essential observances of Hanukkah. (See … Read more

Love your student as yourself

December 12, 2022

You’ve probably heard the adage that elementary school teachers love children, high school teachers love their subject, and university professors love themselves. I suppose there’s a kernel of truth to this, but I’m going to push back a bit and suggest that it’s even more important for high school and university teachers to love our students. Even before the pandemic, many teenagers and young adults in the United States were struggling with … Read more

Kaddish of the Rabbis

December 8, 2022

Yesterday at 1:15 PM, students, teachers and alumni from the Jewish Theological Seminary gathered in New York City and on Zoom to observe the 5th yahrzeit (anniversary of the death) of Rabbi Neil Gillman, may his memory be a blessing. I was teaching at The Weber School in Atlanta, and when class ended at 1:30 PM, I ducked into the faculty lounge and logged on from my phone. Sitting on the couch … Read more

Prayers Unanswered

November 23, 2022

בָּ֭עֶרֶב יָלִ֥ין בֶּ֗כִי וְלַבֹּ֥קֶר רִנָּֽה Tears may linger when night falls, but joy arrives with the dawn. (Psalms 30:6) My list of those in need of healing grows longer as the days get shorter. I wake up in the dark, sometime between 5:15 and 5:30 AM, and wonder at the Psalmist’s conviction. Each day I arrive at the same conclusion: these are the words of a morning person. Since I’m not a morning … Read more

This week on Bayit’s Builders Blog

November 17, 2022

Bayit’s Builders Blog includes a weekly series that explores Torah through a lens of building and civic responsibility. I’m delighted to have contributed this week’s teaching about Jewish burial customs and how they both overlap with and diverge from the customs of Green burial. The illustration was created by Steve Silbert, who is a member of the Bayit Board, the lead builder for Visual Torah and Bayit Games, and has been sketch … Read more

The Waiting Place

November 14, 2022

It seems I’ve been stuck in the waiting place where, according to Dr. Seuss, people wait for all kinds of different things, like “the phone to ring, or the snow to snow, or waiting around for a Yes or No, or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.” Despite knowing I’m not alone there, it’s an uncomfortable place to be. I’ve been thinking about the different expressions we use … Read more

Losing Gracefully

November 4, 2022

My spouse and I have a longstanding Shabbat afternoon tradition: a friendly game of Scrabble. Okay, I admit, it’s not entirely friendly, which he claims is because I’m too competitive and not a graceful loser, or winner.  I’m sure he’d agree our games used to be more friendly when we first began playing, in the months when we started dating. You could even say they were romantic games of Scrabble back then. … Read more

Season of Our Birthdays

October 25, 2022

“MAY YOU LIVE IN INTERESTING TIMES.” —[erroneously attributed to an] ancient Chinese curse It’s been quite an interesting season leading up to my birthday. And I mean that in the way people use this word as a euphemism for unpleasant. But it hasn’t been entirely unpleasant. Maybe it’s because I’m a Libra that I strive to find balance in all areas of life, to judge all experiences as having good and bad … Read more

Season of Our Joy

October 14, 2022

Atlanta Pride Parade 2022 (from top left): MACoM at Pride, Rabbis at Pride, Teachers at Pride, Pride Manicure, SOJOURN float leads the way, Dancing Unicorn poses with Rabbi.   Early Sunday morning: I take the challah dough out of the fridge where it has been rising slowly overnight. I have just enough time to shape it, apply egg wash, let it come to room temperature, bake it, and remove it from the … Read more

The Cycle of Return

October 6, 2022

Last week I posted a teaching about teshuvah, quoting from Yaacov David Shulman’s translation of HaRav Kook’s Lights of Teshuvah. I’d like to add a few more thoughts here, beginning with HaRav Kook’s idea that teshuvah itself existed before the world was created:  התשובה קדמה לעולם “Teshuvah preceded the world.” I’ve been pondering the meaning of this phrase since first reading it two weeks ago. I believe it is related to Shulman’s … Read more