Holy History or Sacred Seeds? Shabbat Sukkot

The Three Festivals we celebrate are powerful connectors of the Jewish people across time and space. Sukkot, Pesach and Shavuot each provide essential connections for us in the world of land and food. But each carries a powerful connection with God through our history as well. Most of us get the historical connection more easily…. Read More

Repression of the Sublime Parshat Ha’azinu

It was advertised as one symposium at a major psychology conference. It was to be a discussion about memory and forgetfulness. But it turned out to be one of the most intense and instructive days that I have ever witnessed. The first speaker began by insisting that the fact that we remember things is obvious…. Read More

Expanding the Covenant Parshat Vayelech

At the edge of the Promised Land, Moses convenes his people one last time, to draw them into the covenant between them and their God. This great gathering of the masses evokes the last great gathering, forty years earlier, when the people of Israel were encamped at the foot of Mount Sinai. Then, in the… Read More

Twice Born Parshat Nitzavim

We have lately become accustomed to reading accounts of clergymen, teachers and rabbis who take advantage, in very ugly ways, of the young people who are in their charge. Whenever I read these accounts, I think back to when I was a young boy and to some of the rabbis and teachers that I experienced…. Read More

Our Guide and Our Light

This week’s Haftarah is a poem from the Book of Isaiah. It is the sixth of seven “Haftarot of Consolation,” meaning that six weeks ago was Tisha B’Av, which commemorates the destruction of the Second Temple. What sets this Haftarah apart from the other readings preceding it is that it goes beyond just being comforting…. Read More

Everything Old Can Be New Again Parshat Ki Tavo

A few weeks ago, in studying Parshat Re’eh, I noted that the Torah gives us a great gift of joy — a command to celebrate with one’s entire household — tucked into a long passage replete with warnings of failures and curses literally shouted from the mountaintops. This week, in Parshat Ki Tavo, our tradition… Read More

Kohanim and Kings Parshat Shoftim

Did you ever argue politics with an anarchist? How about theology with an atheistic communist? Well, I’ve done both and have learned a lot in the process. It all goes back to a bench in Hester Street Park, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, near the Rabbi Jacob Joseph Yeshiva, where I attended high… Read More

The Covenant of Life Parshat Re’eh

EFRAT, ISRAEL — “Behold I give before you this day a blessing and a curse. The blessing, when you will hearken to the commandments of the Lord your God … and the curse, if you will not hearken to the commandments of the Lord your God and you swerve from the path …” (Deut. 11:26-27)… Read More

All You Need Is Love? Parshat Ekev

“All the world needs is love.” We hear that refrain in our music, in our theologies, in conversations prosaic and profound. While there is no denying the power of love as the essential and irreplaceable core of our lives, there are also other things we need: a home, sustenance (food), and meaningful work — among… Read More

Answering Unanswered Prayers Parshat Va’etchanan

Did you ever really pray for something you wanted? I mean, really fervently, desperately pray hard for something that was vitally important to you? If you did, and I think we all pray this way at moments of urgency, you violated an anonymous piece of wisdom: “Be careful what you pray for, because you just… Read More