Writing our Reopening Story – Rabbi Ronit Tsadok
When we look back on this time of re-opening coming back together, what is the story we will tell? The journey of the Israelites from Egypt to Mount Sinai (a.k.a. the Omer Period) offers some guidance.
This Long, Winding Road – Rabbi Keilah Lebell
The path from Egypt to the Promised Land might have been quite short, but God diverts the newly freed Israelites to follow a longer, more meandering course. So it is for us today as we make our way out of pandemic – the path is slow and uncertain. As we take steps forward, we must stay connected to each other, allowing ourselves to celebrate and to hold the loss and anguish of the darkness we have lived through.
Not Because We Have Everything. Because We Have Something. – Rabbi Sharon Brous
Without sacred dissatisfaction, we’d have no fuel to fight for personal or social change. And yet, without gratitude, we’re depleted and empty. As we enter Passover this year, here’s what Dayenu has to teach us about living from abundance, even when we don’t have everything we want, or even need.
Awakening the Scream – Rabbi Sharon Brous
White supremacy and racist violence, gender-based violence, gun violence—these crises have long plagued our nation. On the cusp of Passover, the celebration of our liberation, there is yet another mass shooting—this time an attack on Asian American women. The scream has been awakened in us. But this is no cry of despair. It is a cry of wakefulness. It is rooted in the awareness that silence in the face of evil renders us complicit to that evil, and in the belief that we can and must do better. May this cry be the beginning of our collective redemption.
The Ethics of Tzimtzum – Rabbi David Kasher
Embedded deep among all the very technical and repetitive instructions for building the Mishkan is the original source for an image used by Jewish mystics to explain how the world was created: The Tzimtzum, God’s great “contraction.” But the Tzimtzum is more than just a theological concept; it also forms an important model for ethical behavior, as we seek to imitate God in “contracting” to create space for someone else. And as we look closer at that original description of the Tzimtzum, we find that those ethics get complicated quickly.
When We Emerge – Rabbi Sharon Brous
When we plunged into pandemic, I prayed that after the loss and dislocation, the brokenness and grief, when we emerged we would build a world rooted in love. We’re on our way, now. We’ve not yet made it to the Promised Land, but this could be a moment of re-covenanting with one another. Living like our fate is tied to one another, and committing to a narrative shift from alienation to partnership, love and shared purpose.
The Stirring Possibilities of Generative Constraint – Rabbi Sharon Brous
What if all this pain, all this isolation, death, illness, constriction, could awaken in us our own most audacious imagination, about our lives, this country, the world?
The story of a young artist, the monarch butterfly rescue mission, and our own quest to make this period of confinement a generative and creative time.
Every One, An Image of the Holy One – Rabbi Sharon Brous
After a year of unthinkable loss and profound sorrow, imagine if we walked through the world like the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest, our most audacious imagination activated, trained to see every person as an image of the Holy One. We can achieve that dream, not only for those select few deemed worthy because of their power or money or access, but all of us. Every one of us.
Keeping the Lamp Lit – Rabbi Keilah Lebell
It’s been a year since we were forced into a kind of exile from each other. Parshat Tetzaveh teaches us we are obligated to keep an ever-burning lamp lit in the Temple and, after the destruction and exile, the rabbis taught we must continue to light this lamp in our synagogues. This must mean that we, who are living exiled from each other, must also somehow keep a lamp lit within our own homes – the lamp of hope and meaning, and the commitment to keep going.
Get Purim-Ready – Rabbi Ronit Tsadok
How to prepare for Purim, a holiday we really need right now.
You Call Yourself Religious? – Rabbi Sharon Brous
For years, violent religious extremism has been growing in American and around the world. But you cannot be religious and mock the most sacred principles of faith: honoring the image of the Holy One in all people, walking with compassion and love, building the infrastructure for a just and equitable society. I Imagine the Holy One weeping over the mess we’ve made: the degradation, humiliation and violence we’ve perpetrated against one another. But God weeps not only for the suffering we’ve caused, but for the fact that so much of it was perpetrated in God’s own name. People of faith must lift up a different understanding of what it means to be religious today.
Let’s Talk About Truth – Rabbi Keilah Lebell
We’re living in an age when the value of truth has been degraded. We have become used to accusations of “fake news” and claims of “alternative facts”, to cyber manipulation, the stubborn denial of demonstrable evidence, and to calculated obfuscation. While we stand at the precipice of possibility, when a pandemic has awoken our country to the urgent need for rebuilding, we have a moral obligation to reclaim Truth as an absolute value. This is the beginning of a conversation about what it means for us and our leaders to be Anshe Emet – People of Truth.
The Hour Has Come for Serious Thought – Rabbi Sharon Brous
From the Book of Exodus to Camus’ The Plague to COVID19: sometimes the suffering is a wakeup call—an unveiling of root causes and a chance to reverse course. The hour has come for serious thought regarding the system failures that have exacerbated this pandemic, including the connection between the climate crisis and the proliferation of new infectious diseases. May we come to see that our physical health depends on the health of our planet and all those creatures with whom we share the earth.
To Uproot Injustice – Rabbi Sharon Brous
Like Pharaoh, we must learn that there is no compromise with injustice. Oppressive, supremacist ideologies cannot be accommodated, they must be eradicated. This is the prophetic imperative: to uproot injustice. Until the malignancies of racism, misogyny and greed are uprooted—from our hearts and from our institutions—the work is not yet done.
Dreaming Big – Rabbi Ronit Tsadok
On the precipice of great change, let us transcend the narrow thinking that entrapped the Israelites and imagine the world as it could be,
The Path to Healing – Rabbi Sharon Brous
There is no healing without telling the truth. There is no unity without dismantling of systems of greed, cruelty and supremacy. The call of our time is not to subdue the fierce yearning for justice. God didn’t tell the Israelites to quiet their hunger for liberation so as not to stir up disunity in Egypt. Our responsibility is not to reduce tension to the heart of our collective body. Sometimes, healthy tension is needed in order to create a just and loving collective body.
The Inflection Point – Rabbi Sharon Brous
There’s an ancient Jewish idea that through the dark night of suffering, redemption will come: yeridah l’tzorekh aliyah. In the shadow of violent insurrection, we stand at the inflection point between the death spiral and the promised redemption. There’s a lot of responsibility to go around—but through honesty and accountability, we can turn this weepy night into a joyous morning.
Summoning Strength – Rabbi David Kasher
As we close out a supremely difficult year, we are also finishing the first book of the Torah. It’s time to move forward, to start a new chapter. But before we do, there are three words we need to practice saying – to each other, and to ourselves.
What’s in a Name? Everything. – Rabbi Keilah Lebell
Names and the act of naming (and renaming) play a central role in the Torah. In a midrash on Parshat Miketz, the rabbis imagined a poignant exchange between Joseph and his younger brother Benjamin, who named each of his children after his lost beloved older brother. This powerful exchange and the emphasis on names teach us how to conjure the presence of loved ones and to affirm the infinite value and dignity of every human being.
To Soften the Darkness – Rabbi Sharon Brous
Our Jewish tradition calls us to be extremists in one way and one way only: in the fight to mitigate the darkness and bring more light into the world. A look at Hanukkah in dark times, America’s fatal attraction to the death penalty, and our stubborn insistence that we can and must do better.