Sunday, January 3, 2010


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Monday, September 28, 2009

One year later...

My previous post was almost a year ago, at the end of Yom Kippur. Here I am in the same spot, just breaking the fast and blogging.

I had a unique experience during these high holidays: I did not need the services very much. I have been on my own path of taking stock of my life, reflecting, and figuring out where I am in life. This seemed to satisfy my soul's need for reflection, as I found no satisfaction sitting in services during these holidays so far.

It's funny how experiences can change from year to year; I wondered if this is what many other Jews experience - the ebb and flow of services feeding some part of them and then not.

In spite of this, the holidays themselves have been meaningful so particular, visiting the mikeveh before RH was fantastic.

Looking forward to Sukkot. Shavua Tov, everyone.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

G'mar Chatimah Tovah

As Yom Kippur draws closer, a week of reflection, soul searching, and evaluation comes to a close for me. The high holidays this year took on a deeper meaning for me, as I grew in my understanding of the period and also reflected on my growth in the last year.

This past year has been filled many high points that I cherish. What I cherish more, however, are the struggles in which I've engaged in the last year. I grew so much this year, in my understand of where my life is going and what Hashem has in store for me.

My sense of gratitude for my life has grown exponentially in the past year, and that includes appreciating on a deeper level all the wonderful people in my life. Thank you to everyone reading this who has supported and loved me.

For anyone reading this whom I hurt or wronged, I do apologize sincerely.

May you all have a meaningful fast.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Jews and power

Over the summer, I took some time off from blogging. After my wonderful Bar Mitzvah experience, I needed a breather to focus on some other things over the summer. It is good to be back.

(The following is a collection of reflections that I had during Shabbat services yesterday).

I recently finished reading the book, Jews and Power. It explores the positions of power Jews have held throughout history, and our often tenuous relationship with power, whether through oppressions, conspiracy theories inflating the power we hold, and how Jews generally view power and its responsibilities.

I was thinking about this book yesterday in shul, when I met Sen. Joe Lieberman. I noticed hum davening in the crowd, apparently in town for a family wedding. When our eyes caught as we passed each other, I extended my hand and wished the Senator a Good Shabbos.

Upon reflecting on this moment, I began to think about my access to people in power ever since I became Jewish. Instantly, an uncomfortable feeling crept in, when I realized I have met more people in power since I joined the Jewish community, than before in my previous communities. With this thought, was I being besieged by the myth of how powerful Jews were, and reinforcing that within my head? What does power mean to me, and what does it meant to have access to it?

The small size of the Jewish community means that, mathematicaly, I will come into contact with various folks who are in powerful positions, just like I will meet average people. What does it mean, though, when our community has a disproportionate amount of people in power, relative to our size? Are "they" correct about the Jews greedy need for power?

Not exactly. Judaism, with all its flaws, incarnations, and diverse expressions, hold the practice of education, study, and debate as strongholds of the culture. It also says community is the pillar through which we all thrive. What occurs in the Jewish community is what happens when you invest energy and time into your family and community. Judaism is a model to other communities to show how they can thrive if they hold similar values, and many communities that do succeed as much as the Jews do.

Sen. Lieberman's presence at shul yesterday was not an example of the Jews having too much power, but instead a representation of the kind of people a strong community that values education and ethical self-realization can produce. While many are (rightfully, IMHO) angry with the Senator right now, no one can say he is not brilliant, a wonderful public servant, and someone who stands on his own two feet. This is exactly the kind of person Judaism strives to produce.

Tina Fey as Sarah Palin

Love it!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

D'Var Torah

It's been so long since my last post; I've failed to mention that my Bar Mitzvah is coming up in two weeks. Woot! Below is a draft of my D'Var Torah; I would love to hear viewpoints from my (few) faithful readers.

Please forgive spelling and grammer; such edits have yet to be made.

This week’s Torah potion tells the story of 12 spies going into Canaan, the Promised Land, and reporting their findings to the Israelite people. 10 spies tell stories of a nation with a strong military and believe that the Jews will be grasshoppers in a land of giants. The other two spies, Joshua and Caleb, believe their people will be victorious in taking over the land.

The typical interpretation of this story is that the 10 spies told false, cowardly tales, in order to dissuade any movement into Canaan. Joshua and Caleb are telling the truth and are eventually seen as the heroes once the Israelites reach the Promised Land. The end result of the story frames these two sets of leaders into two camps: those that were right and those that were wrong.

But, what if these other spies were not wrong? As the story progresses, the community falls into panic, questioning the leadership of Moses, and Hashem banishes them to the desert. What if they were simply testing the Israelites with these fearful tales and the community just was not ready to move on? Perhaps Joshua and Caleb were the youthful, war mongers, so ready for a fight and a challenge, that they were ready to put their community in harms way to reach the Promised Land?
This story makes me wonder, how does history declare a winner and a loser? I was always taught that history is written by the winners. If this is true, then how will current events be viewed in 20 or 30 years?

If Iraq is a burgeoning Democracy, akin to Turkey and Israel, will the 2003 U.S.-led invasion be seen as a victorious first step to freedom and peace? What happens to the dissenting viewpoints expressed by leaders opposed to this invasion? Are they seen in the same lens as the 10 spies, as simply frightened people who make up stories to keep us from victory? Or are they raising real concerns of the moment that are washed away when we finally “win,” whatever winning defined by?

In my role a community leader, I find that I constantly need to be aware of why I come to certain decisions and look internally for how my past experiences shape these viewpoints. I often need to push myself to see beyond my limited thinking and put myself in a new, uncomfortable direction. Perhaps this was happening with the spies who spun these tall tales because their community has been so traumatized by both slavery and liberation; perhaps they themselves were traumatized and could not envision a time that the Israelites would not only have freedom, but complete dominion over the Holy Land.

Instead of viewing the 10 spies as wrong, perhaps they were embracing the complexity of the current situation. Perhaps the youthfulness of Caleb and Joshua kept them from understanding this complexity. I believe there is such value and wisdom to embracing current complexity and questioning a decision; unfortunately, the images drawn in our histories do not involve explaining the real doubts that community leaders struggle with.

In craving a sense of comfort and security, we create black and white labels and finality. It is so easy to define who was right and who was wrong; who won and who lost. For me, the most valuable lesson in this Torah portion is this: our historical interpretations often do not embrace the complexities of situations that community leaders face. Instead, it focuses on the victories and the heroes that helped usher them in, and paints those who hesitate as cowards without merit. Perhaps those that are thoughtful and not quick to act would have offered in a more victorious outcome, much like the quiet child in the classroom who offers wise words when she does choose to speak. Perhaps our history and stories would be richer if the lesson was that both support and dissent for a historical decision are necessary for eventual victory.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Is Israel Finished?

While the cover is unnecessarily provocative, the Atlantic Monthly has a good article exploring the issues facing Israel and she turns 60.

You can read the article here.