Passover 5771 may be past, but its lessons return in last week’s parashah (B’ha’alot’kha). Of all our holidays, Passover ranks supreme in that we were delivered from Egypt specifically with Passover in mind. Whatever else we do as Jews follows from this singular event in our past. In Temple days, therefore, the Passover sacrifice was the sole calendrical obligation whose purposeful neglect merited a form of capital punishment called karet – the divine sentence of being “cut off” from family ties after we die.
In an attempt to address the well-documented and growing gulf between the economic fortunes of the rich and poor--and almost in tandem with the onset of the recession and the collapse of the housing market--Rabbi Jill Jacobs published a book on the Jewish imperative to practice tikkun olam, or repairing the world, as seen through both rabbinic and contemporary activist perspectives.
The Jewels of Elul is back with this year's theme, The Art of Beginning...Again. Twenty Nine inspired contributors will share a personal story, about how deal with change. It will include pieces by Noah Alper founder of Noah’s Bagels, African-American Rabbi, actress Noa Tishby, Rabbi’s David Wolpe and Rabbi Naomi Levy, Imam Jihad Turk, Jeremy Ben Ami, Eli Broad, a prisoner in a penitentiary, a Lost Boy of Sudan and medical student Nofrat Frenkel, arrested for wearing a Tallit at the wall. Additionally, Natan Sharansky, Author Alan Lightman, Boxer Yurie Foreman, producer Mia Goldman and Rabbi’s Billy Dreskin, Abraham Twerski and Shlomo Riskin will be writing Jewels this year!
This year, let's move beyond wasteful seder conversation dedicated solely to nostalgia, boredom and pediatrics. Let's go around the table and ask, "What question might keep us up in productive conversation all night long, if necessary?" We'd better have one; we no longer have a tamid to atone for us, if we don't.
Our institutions should follow the example of the Temple. They should be enlivening not deadening, to those who, like the priest, work in them.
That is not what boards of Jewish institutions report. Meetings are often desultory at best, litigious at worst - even downright nasty. They can be life-depleting, not life-enhancing. Committee assignments are like life sentences. Volunteers are hard to find.
But that is not the Jewish way. Jewish organizational life should be like the handwashing that characterized the original Jewish institution, the Temple.
It is somewhat surprising that researchers have paid so little attention to how people experience divorce in congregations. Studies that do address the relationship between religion and divorce are largely quantitative, measuring divorce numbers. Rarely do these reports consider the personal impact and how (or if) communities support those affected by divorce.
According to the March 2009 report, How Spiritual Are America’s Jew?, spirituality is one of the gateways into meaningful Jewish life, a gateway that the Jewish community has neglected.The authors of the report, Steven Cohen and Lawrence Hoffman, find that Jews lack the language to talk about God.Without language to describe spiritual experiences, those experiences are fleeting.