A Time to Heal? Not So Fast. – Rabbi Sharon Brous
Thousands of years ago, two estranged brothers stood together at the graveside and buried their father. Reconciliation is possible. But peace, unity, healing—these are the last steps in a long, transformative process. There are no shortcuts. Anything short of a real, honest reckoning does violence to the truth, fuels injustice, and endangers us and our future.
Deciding Who We’ll Be – Rabbi Sharon Brous
Abraham stood at the crossroads between two ancient societies, Sodom and Shalem, challenged by God to determine how he—and his descendants—would live in the world. This week, we too stood at the crossroads, facing the choice between a politics of scarcity and one of abundance. Sodom lacked even ten righteous. America has many millions, dedicated to justice and equity, compassion and care, committed to manifesting our most audacious dreams in a beautiful, shared reality.
One Step at a Time – Rabbi Keilah Lebell
We have all been living with heightened anxiety, especially as we anticipate the results of this historic election season. Our ancestors Abraham and Sarah also faced the unknown when they set out for a totally new land and life. They had no choice but to journey forward in stages, pausing regularly to rest and recover. To preserve our strength and courage for the days ahead, let us also journey in stages, taking regular breaks to live in the present, name the what we know, and express thanks for the good.
America is Becoming – Rabbi Sharon Brous
Our ancestors’ first journey teaches us that it’s in the displacement, in the place of uncertainty, that we find the promise of self-realization. This year we hear this ancient truth not only amidst the fevered pitch of election season, but also having held many years of collective anxiety and spiritual whiplash. When everything else is stripped away, when we’ve been laid bare—we’ve shown what’s worth fighting for. And we will continue to do so, in power and with love.
Things Fall Apart – Rabbi Sharon Brous
It is the normalization of callousness and corruption that destroys the fabric of a society. In the midst of election season, facing the specter of nation-wide upheaval and even political violence, we are called to ask: who are we in times of true moral crisis? What will we do to protect each other and our democracy? Lessons from dor hamabul, the generation of the flood.
The Lesson of the Lines – Rabbi Sharon Brous
This week, voters in Georgia, Texas and Ohio waited 5, 8, 12 hours to cast their vote! From the Story of Creation to the first free election in post-Apartheid South Africa, we learn what is possible when we feed love, faith and a fierce will into the soil of our democracy. May we be blessed to watch as seeds planted even generations ago finally flower into a rich, healthy, just and loving multi-racial democracy.
Butterflies, Judean Dates, and Waiting to Emerge: Using the Holy Days to Transform for the Good – Rabbi Dr. Bradley Shavit Artson
Using stories of a 2,000 year old fruit brought back to life and the new pandemic hobby of raising monarch butterflies from little caterpillars, Rabbi Artson explores how we can use this time sheltering at home to do the inner work and the justice work to be ready to soar when we are safe to emerge and engage.
Judaism in the Time of Cholera – Rabbi Keilah Lebell
The ancient philosophy of divine reward and punishment exemplified in parshat Ki Tavo and throughout the book of Deuteronomy suggests that human suffering results from disobeying God’s commandments. This largely accounts for the ubiquitous and problematic belief that good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people. But thanks to thinkers and leaders in the last century who have challenged this axiom, we have evolved our understanding of God and human suffering. This ideological shift offers us a more compassionate conception of God and a more compassionate Judaism. When the cholera pandemic was ravaging the world in the 19th century, Rabbi Israel Salanter demonstrated radical compassion when he encouraged his community to care for the sick, even if they had to break commandments to do so. In a time when a pandemic is once again wreaking so much havoc, when so many are suffering and dying, we must remind ourselves that we are not being punished. Rabbi Salanter teaches us that what’s called for now is not blame or religious zealotry, but radical compassion and care.
Returning What Is Lost – Rabbi Ronit Tsadok
What the mitzvah of hashavat aveidah tells us about ourselves and our society.
Roof Torah – Rabbi David Kasher
Our Torah Reading this week has more laws in it than any other in the Torah, 74 in total. One of those is the commandment to build a protective fence around ones roof, so that no one can fall off. Okay, safety first, I guess… but is there a deeper meaning embedded in this seemingly random law?
Just a Regular Kid – Rabbi Sharon Brous
A 13-year-old boy stands before the world and reveals his greatest vulnerability. It’s a powerful model of brave self-reflection as we enter this period of introspection, and a testament to our tradition’s claim that from within our greatest struggle will be revealed our greatest strength.
What Changes? – Rabbi Sharon Brous
It is the terror of uncertainty that has us gravitate toward an oppressive known rather than risk a future unknown. Again and again, our Israelite ancestors, fleeing enslavement in Egypt, yearned to return to bondage rather than chart a new course toward freedom. Then and now, we view the past through a distorted lens, mythologizing what was, rather than dreaming of what could be. This moment cries out with a moral insistence: smash the idols of past– so that we are not tempted as we rebuild. From this desert of anguish and heartache, we must create a new and better narrative for our future.
A Struggle for the Soul of Judaism – Rabbi Sharon Brous
In the wake of the deadly explosions in Beirut, some in our Jewish community have failed to see the humanity even in those suffering profoundly. We’d like to say their lack of compassion is un-Jewish, but in reality it finds deep roots in our tradition. It’s our work to repudiate these voices, and instead lift up the threads of our Torah and tradition that call us to love the stranger, for we know what it means to be strangers.
Two Kinds of Fear – Rabbi David Kasher
We are afraid of fear. Our culture recoils from the word as if it were a poison. But it wasn’t always that way. It seems almost strange now, but fear was once considered a virtue, to be striven for and carefully cultivated. To describe someone as “God-fearing” was to compliment them. What was it that once made the idea of fear so appealing, and how has it fallen from its place of esteem in our contemporary religious conversation?
The Miracles Within – Rabbi Keilah Lebell
An ancient miracle story invites us to consider the sources of abundant blessing that may be hiding in plain sight – within our homes and within ourselves.
Your [COVID] Story Matters – Rabbi Keilah Lebell
It is true: we may all be in the same storm, but we are not all in the same boat. Each of us is experiencing the pandemic differently, with greater and lesser severity. But no matter what your COVID story is, whether it’s been a time of suffering or a time of flourishing — or both, it matters, and we want to hear it.
From Blame to Accountability – Rabbi Sharon Brous
The mindset of blame and vengeance may feel righteous, but inevitably leads to more suffering. Our Rabbinic tradition calls us instead to a path of reflection and accountability. We must be clearheaded not only about where others have failed, but where we, ourselves, are complicit in the patterns and systems degrading all of us.
MARKING TIME – Rabbi David Kasher
This sense of the unending blur of timelessness is part of what is so hard about this experience we’re in. What are we doing? How long have we been doing it? When will it end? And this feeling of being adrift can cause depression, can cause us to lose hope. One of the things we need to figure out how to do is mark time.
Tears of Hope – Rabbi Ronit Tsadok
This year, it is not hard to connect with this period on the Jewish calendar, a time of mourning, of lament and of tears. But what tools can our tradition offer us to respond to the brokenness around us?