Lincoln, Lee, and Those Statues

In the summer of 1869, General Robert E. Lee was invited to a meeting officers who had fought in the Battle of Gettysburg. The purpose of the meeting, as Lee described it, was “marking upon the ground by enduring memorials of granite the positions and movements of the armies on the field.” Lee declined to… Continue reading Lincoln, Lee, and Those Statues

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Elul: Month of Return and Renewal

The month of Elul, which begins August 22 this year, inaugurates a 40-day period of spiritual renewal and return (Teshuvah) culminating with Yom Kippur, September 29–30. Kiddush Levana, the Blessing of the New Moon, is customarily recited on the Shabbat after the New Moon has appeared. “If possible, it should be said at the end… Continue reading Elul: Month of Return and Renewal

Stretch Out Your Tent

Third Haftarah of Comfort: Isaiah 54:11–55:5 Rachel said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die.” Gen. 30:1 The Lord comforts Zion in her affliction with a transcendent vision of restoration: “I will lay your foundations with sapphires, and make . . . all your walls of precious stones” (Is. 54:11–12). And then the… Continue reading Stretch Out Your Tent

Comfort for a Traumatized Age

Second Haftarah of Comfort: Isaiah 49:14-51:3 The seven weeks of comfort or consolation following Tisha b’Av are especially relevant to the traumatized age in which we live. Like the Jewish generations that witnessed or lived shortly after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple on Tisha b’Av, we live in the shadow of unspeakable loss in… Continue reading Comfort for a Traumatized Age

Seedbed of Hope

The Jewish religious year is unflinchingly hope-filled. I almost wrote “unflinchingly optimistic,” but that doesn’t quite get it. Optimism believes everything is going to turn out all right, but the prophets often give us a picture of things that don’t turn out all right, at least in the short term. Hope looks at the disappointments… Continue reading Seedbed of Hope

Back to the Essentials

Parashat Matot-Mas’ei, Numbers 30:1-36:13; Haftarah, Jeremiah 2:4-28, 3:4 Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline. Therefore, be zealous and repent. Revelation 3:19, TLV Words of reproof are difficult to hear, and often unwelcome, but they’re essential to a life of knowing and serving the God of Israel. And so the cycle of the Jewish… Continue reading Back to the Essentials

UNESCO, Hebron, and Netanyahu’s Kippah

At his Sunday morning cabinet meeting this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu donned a kippah to read from the Torah. Two days earlier the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, “acting on a request from the Palestinians, declared Hebron’s Old City to be a heritage site in danger” (https://www.jta.org/2017/07/09/news-opinion/israel-middle-east/netanyahu-reads-ftom-genesis-to-illustrate-jewish-peoples-israels-claim-to-cave-of-patriarchs). In response to the resolution, Netanyahu read… Continue reading UNESCO, Hebron, and Netanyahu’s Kippah