July 30, 2009

Free Love?

The Talmudic tradition cites “Sinat Chinam”, “senseless hate”, as the cause of the destruction of the Temple. Every year when this season rolls around I hear people pushing for the corrective movement of Ahavat Chinam, which literally translates believe it or not as “free love”.

“Free Love” comes cheap, and is worth little in my book.  I prefer “Ahavat Emet” – True Love – as the corrective stance. The world will be built on our ability to assign value and connect our Love to things that stand true, and people who stand true. The challenge is to find truth even in those who you would not naturally love, this is a supreme effort, it is anything but free. It is the most valuable thing to be found.

July 28, 2009

“Women in Shul” from the Tzohar Conference

For those of you who don’t know what Tzohar is – it is closest the “Dati Leumi” Rabbis in Israel come to a professional organization of there own. Every year I come to the annual conference, which is torture to my ADD side, but provides me with an important window in to the world of my peers. (I also wonder why they always call it for the nine days, who wants to be packed into a room with rabbis who have not showered in days?).

The first session which I joined was a discussion on the role of women in the synagogue. Immediately a few of us pointed out was that while the conference is open to women who comprise at least half the participants, this particular session was a closed session for Rabbi’s, in other words no Women were present. The other thing which was very apparent to me was the fact that the Rabbi’s who were present were speaking under the illusion that they have control over the social reality out there, and they were not in touch with the shift which our younger chevre have taken away from rabbinic authority.

Both of these issues are obviously connected to one another and they both come from being stuck in a patriarchal mind set which revolves around a hierarchical authority based model, a masculine model. What I see evolving in the field is very different. There is an autonomous voice emerging in the world, the voice of individuals who do not depend on the agency of a rabbi to access the sources, and who are engaged in a direct dialogue with the traditional definitions of Halacha. The challenge to rabbi’s is to recast themselves in the role of process facilitators, not dictators of law. We will be sought out for our ability to guide this process, and bring a measure of depth and maturity to the independent seeker and thinker. This is a shift to a more feminine model of leadership, and will meet much resistance in the Men’s club.

So while I was surprised to hear a relatively broad range of opinions that were given voice and legitimacy, I could not help but feel that this meeting of minds was a bit out of sync with reality.

March 7, 2008

How can we be happy this Rosh Chodesh?

Mordechai makes it very clear – the safety of the jewish people is not up to you Esther, if you are silent, salvation will come from somewhere else, and you will be lost. Why then is Mordechai wearing sackcloth, why all the mourning? Is this a lack of faith?
Enter the rest of Mordechai’s statement – “who knows if it is for a moment “עת” like this you have achieved royalty”.
Mordechai is telling Esther that there are two levels in every moment. One level connects that moment to the story, but that is only part of the picture. As a matter of fact the same moment can be part of a number of different stories, perhaps hundreds, branching off into a myriad of plots, twists and turns. The other level is the moment itself, a microcosm of meaning which stands alone. Your choice in this moment reflects who you are, that then unfolds into who you become.
To not mourn in the face of tragedy is to be cold, removed, separate. The faith that truth will prevail does not change the fact that right now it is in eclipse.
As we enter into the month of Purim with the blood of our brothers in our mind, we should listen to Mordechai. Let us cry and mourn, not from a place of despair, rather from an understanding that it is from moments of true connectedness that the story of redemption is woven. These tears are so real, that they fill us up rather than empty us. Here lies a deeper happiness, not fun, rather fulfillment.

March 6, 2008

How to invite everyday miracles into your life, now!

What an incredible change overcomes queen Esther before she goes into the king.
The woman known by the rabbi’s for her humble passivity, refusing any makeup or perfume when she first meets the king, refusing to reveal anything about herself, she is called Hadassah, after the myrtle branch, leaves folded, covering wood, she hides herself. And yet at the end of the story “and it was on the third day Esther wore Malchut”, she dons royalty as if it was nothing but a thing.
This is the conduct of someone with absolute faith in herself which comes from absolute trust in God. She need not assert herself at any point, she draws her self worth from within, needing nothing from the outside. Her reservation is not of the meek and withdrawn. When she chooses to act, there is nothing holding her back, and she shines in all of her glory.
This ability to respond in an instant, to engage reality without a need to control or manipulate, that is the secret of true connectivity. With this the world begins to respond to you on a different level. You have entered into the moment, trusting the process, allowing yourself to work on the world as the world works on you. Do not be surprised when amazing things begin to happen.

February 13, 2008

GOD and the WWW.

If you had told someone as little as a hundred years ago that a day will come when the entire world will share a common vision of reality, he would have laughed. The Utopian vision of a time when the entire earth reflects the unity of God could be understood only in terms of the miraculous. How astounding to watch as the infrastructure for that day is built before our very eyes. As the world wide web is woven, the links connecting everything become more myriad and complex, with brain like nodes and synapses connecting us all. All this in preparation for a day when God will be one and his name one.

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February 10, 2008

Running for Sdeirot

Take a look, and climb on board either as a sponsor or a runner.

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February 5, 2008

What do the Conservative Yeshiva, Bratzlav, and Ponovitch have in common?

The YU Museum offers a mashup of video windows that will get you asking interesting an important questions about the unity of our people. Recommended!


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February 5, 2008


You say it everyday –  see here

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January 25, 2008

In Law

The torah has set a universal western standard regarding relationship by affinity i.e. my wifes parents are related to me. This relationship – in law – is so real that according to halacha it prohibits sexual relations, and penalizes testimony. Entering into a relationship redefines my boundaries beyond the particular individual. It expands my environment, imposing prohibitions, revealing opportunities. Perhaps that is why this is the introduction to the covenant at Sinai. How are our boundaries redefined when we are betrothed by God?

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January 23, 2008

Me? A Rabbi?

Yesterday was a big day for me and nine rabbinical students from Sulam Yaakov, our beit midrash. Eighteen months of work came to fruition as one by one they were called up by Rav Don Chanon to receive their smicha – ordination.
When I addressed them at the following banquet I expressed my suspicion that they may feel a bit like fakes. Each of them know how much they really know… and how much they do not. I assured them that I feel this way on almost a daily basis. Those of us who have been privileged to know Torah giants, and who have encountered the greatness of generations past through the writings of the masters, are blessed with an existential sense of inadequacy. I say blessed because it enables us to keep ourselves and our abilities in perspective, but it can also be a curse. We can be deceived into belittling ourselves and our potential.
I reminded the new Rabbis that relative to most Jews in the world they themselves are giants, and that they bring a unique voice to Torah that those Jews need to hear.
The posuk in tehilim says Kol hashem bakoach, Gods voice is in power, and the midrash explains this means that Gods voice comes down according the power of each person, his capacity to hear “bakoach shel kol echad ve’echad”. Each one of them will have to find his voice in Torah , and the place that his voice can serve as a conduit for Gods voice in the world for those people who are listening.

Mazal Tov.

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