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Showing posts from July, 2011

An effete elite? Guilty, sort of.

Disclaimer: I like Lady Gaga, Frank Sinatra and James Taylor. The radio buttons in my car are set to public radio, classical music, the Top 40 and oldies stations. I admit to watching way more Food Network, Bravo and TNT than PBS. My web browser's bookmarks run the gamut from the New York Times to a site about makeup.

But PT Barnum got it partially right. It's not underestimating the intelligence of the American people that makes people rich; it's underestimating the taste factor combined with intelligence. I'm prepared for jeers, flaming and catcalls and to be called elitist, effete and snob. Bring it.

The bottom line: We Americans could use a dose of elitism and snobbery. We could also use a mega-dose of discretion and discrimination. No, not the "no Jews, Catholics or Blacks allowed" or "no Mosques in my neighborhood" kinds of discrimination. The discrimination I want to see more of is the one that's defined in Webster's as"subtle appr…

Re-visioning the Jewish Ritual: Thoughts on Chukat (5771)

Jewish rituals comfort and support us during times of anxiety and joy. They mark time, space, events and experiences. When I light Shabbat candles, I take a deep breath and allow Shabbat peace to enter my hectic life. When I light the Chanukah menorah, I claim my seat at the table of Jewish history.
As Jews, we should be embracing Jewish ritual for many reasons. They provide religious and spiritual nourishment. They acknowledge our dependency on our Jewish community – which means that our practice strengthens the Jewish community and provides communal memory and history.
But for many liberal Jews, performing Jewish rituals – as a concept and a viable, living practice – has become things, “other Jews do.” We look at Jews who perform Jewish rituals throughout their daily lives as suspect, odd or “Orthodox.” A few weeks ago, Rabbi Gellman taught us that we Jews have ceded some of the things that made us unique – such as a loving God providing one law for everyone or the hope of a world to …

6,200 Blessings

This July and August, make 100 blessings a day. Jewish tradition teaches this time-tested formula for getting over our selves and ascending into the realm of God’s great goodness. It’s the spiritual equivalent of drinking the recommended 64 fluid ounces of water each day.
Making 100 blessings a day helps us find God and good in our lives. Our lives are wrapped up in so much negativity. Making 100 blessings a day, from the moment our eyes open until they close at night, let’s us see that God’s little and large blessings are always available to us.

You can make them up as you go along: Baruch Atah Adonai – You are praised, our God … fill in the blank.

Baruch Atah Adonai … I’m awake! Baruch Atah Adonai … my body still works! Baruch Atah Adonai … You provide all sorts of food for the hungry!Baruch Atah Adonai … I am satisfied with what I ate and drank! Baruch Atah Adonai … You have created this world in all its glory! Baruch Atah Adonai … You create the seasons (even the hot and humid ones)!

It Happens: Thoughts on Balak (5771)

“It just happened” is a phrase we hear a lot in a variety of forms. Have you ever noticed that politicians rarely acknowledge that they actually did something wrong? Pronouncements like these usually come in a variation of “something happened.” My personal favorite? “Mistakes were made.” Even we non-politician types, especially but not limited to children, resort to this kind of “non” experience: we didn’t break the cookie jar - the cookie jar broke. This morning’s parashah teaches us that a life well lived is a life in which we both are called by God and we respond.

Towards the middle of parashat Balak (Num. 23:3-5), we read that 3 God appeared to Bilam. 'I have set up seven altars,' said [Bilam] to [God], 'and I have sacrificed a bull and ram as a burnt offering on each altar.' 4 God manifested Himself to Bilam, who said to Him, "I have set up the seven altars and offered up a bull and a ram on each altar." 5 And the Lord put a word in Bilam's mouth and …