Jewish Gems

Not so fast, Korach

We’re in the camp, now, right in the middle of it. The Tabernacle is in the middle of the camp, the camp is in the middle of the wilderness, and we’re in the middle of Bamidbar, the middle book of Torah.

6/24/2016 2:50:40 PM

Finding balance in the Haggadah

How about Passoverand those crazy characters in theHaggadah, huh?

3/28/2016 1:57:39 PM

The Bazalel theory of learning

We are in the last chapters of Shemot—Exodus. We have been slogging through the “DIY” section of the Torah—building the Mishkan to very specific instructions.

3/3/2016 4:16:19 PM

So is everybody really made in the image…?

“These are the rules that you shall set before them:’ (Ex 21:1). 

2/4/2016 2:24:48 PM

Attention must be paid

God finds someone on this plane to carry forth the work needed to be done. 

12/23/2015 12:25:59 PM

Joseph and the Maccabees

The man was just trying to make his way in a strange, new land. He didn’t have any family with him; he was alone.

11/24/2015 1:56:41 PM

Re-reading a favorite

...There is one book I read over and over and over again--the Torah.

10/29/2015 9:53:56 AM

The chaos before creation

None of us starts anything new in a vacuum. We begin something new only when we see what could be, see what’s laying around, and see what’s needed to be done to get there. 

9/30/2015 10:46:50 AM

Not too high for us

As with any birthday, whether for the world or for us, we take stock, look at the year past, and make promises.  

9/2/2015 2:43:47 PM

On the ‘heels’ of a righteous society

In a just society, even if individual people mess up, there are processes in place that will deliver both justice and mercy...

7/29/2015 3:15:00 PM

God, family, and community

Who is your family?  Who are you connected to?  These are the questions that bubble up through Bamidbar. 

7/6/2015 4:16:52 PM

Graduating from Sinai

People walking in solemn procession, wearing different, special clothes, taking steps on a new journey, marking a new stage in their lives. Graduation?

5/28/2015 4:36:29 PM

Who owns your calendar?

The special days will happen as the year goes by, but it is our choice to take note of them, to be a part of them.

4/28/2015 3:20:55 PM

No leftovers

So how do we reconcile our settled-ness today with telling the story of leaving?

3/25/2015 10:39:23 AM

A guide to packing

You like to have something that reminds you of who you are while on your journeys.

3/13/2015 9:28:02 AM

Moses and marriage

It wasn't very romantic, but the Israelite nation and God got married during Yitro, at Sinai, around the base of a mountain. 

2/6/2015 12:59:00 PM

Dancing between home and away

You can’t come home if you’ve never been away.

12/23/2014 10:59:59 AM

To struggle and prevail

We are storytellers. We spend a great deal of time engaging with a particular set of stories, focusing on it with laser vision, once a week, for a whole week. 

12/1/2014 9:54:19 AM

Finding our way from a pillar of salt

Salt turns plain water into tears. Idit weeps so much, her entire being turns to solid tears. 

11/3/2014 1:59:51 PM

The Sukkah is a reed, not a cedar

There is nothing more open and vulnerable than a sukkah.

10/7/2014 1:46:12 PM

People first, God second on Yom Kippur

Once a year I have to apologize. Once a year, God makes me. On Yom Kippur I will stand with our community and ask forgiveness from God. 

8/28/2014 2:58:57 PM

And you shall teach them...what?

Those glorious texts are there for us to wrestle with and even dismiss, but we have to learn them first, we and all our children.

7/28/2014 4:37:46 PM

Standing on Crossover Mountain

About ten years ago, I was asked to come into a seventh grade Bible class at Solomon Schechter Day School in Northbrook to lead a Bibliodrama session.

7/8/2014 2:38:20 PM

Small but mighty

My grandmother was about 5 feet tall.

5/29/2014 3:06:07 PM

Jews in Blues

If I were starting a brand new country and could create new national holiday calendar, I could learn a lot from Israel in one specific way.

4/4/2014 2:03:48 PM

The masked Jews of Purim

What's being hidden behind those masks in the ancient story of Esther?

2/28/2014 11:48:19 AM

Staying in the circle

In the Jewish community, it takes real effort to stay in the circle.

2/6/2014 9:36:15 AM

Portable Judaism

I'm writing this column before getting on a plane.  

1/2/2014 1:49:25 PM

The ultimate family dinner

There's probably no family dinner scene quite so tension-laden as the one described in Genesis 43.

12/2/2013 11:06:30 AM

Handling hungry Israelites

Famine was a very real threat in the Biblical story, and it was the impetus for many dramatic, life-changing moments.

10/29/2013 3:37:03 PM

Be the rainbow

I think I'm right when I say that a rainbow comes from refracted light, not reflected light. 

9/30/2013 3:27:55 PM

Delicate structure, sturdy memories

Jewish life gives us an opportunity to create this kind of fixed-yet-movable home every year.

8/29/2013 10:42:34 AM

ReNewing at Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah is...the anniversary of creation, the birthday of the world. 

7/30/2013 4:12:30 PM

Safe havens for all

You can tell a lot about a community by how it provides for the safety and well-being of its citizens. 

6/26/2013 2:21:02 PM

Turning our firepans into our future

This is a season of transitions.

5/29/2013 10:40:25 AM

From solo to harmony at Sinai

What happened at Sinai is supposed to be both a personal and communal memory.

5/1/2013 3:45:11 PM

From silence to taking sides

Memories can paralyze us or prod us into movement. Memories can bring silence or song.

3/28/2013 10:42:37 AM

The marriage contract—Sinai style

There is an arc to everything. Rising, falling, rising again. 

3/6/2013 9:57:28 AM

The blueprints to the Arc of our relationships

There is an arc to everything. Rising, falling, rising again. 

2/11/2013 2:20:13 PM

Planning the future ensures memories of the past

It's gratifying when your children remember something you planned for them to remember. 

11/27/2012 3:59:13 PM

Every book’s a Jewish book

Jewish Book Month always sends me right back to THE Jewish Book, the one we read every month. 

11/2/2012 10:26:12 AM

Keeping focus

This is the time of year of turning, and sometimes the rapidity of the turning still makes me dizzy.

10/4/2012 3:15:20 PM

Hineni: Here I Am

Hineni is usually sung on Rosh Hashanah, during the Musaf (additional afternoon) service.

8/31/2012 9:59:38 AM

What are memories for?

Moses is talking...to the Israelites, reminding them of all they've been through together. What gets through?  What gets retained?  What gets heard?

8/3/2012 9:32:41 AM

Balaam's healthcare solution

Balaam finally got the message that beating the donkey won't help.

7/11/2012 10:12:49 AM

Taking the next steps into the wilderness

Transitions are hard, which is a cliché but nevertheless, it's true.

6/4/2012 2:54:21 PM

Forging relationships around shared moments

I admit it. I’ve become a techno-connector.

1/31/2012 10:55:54 AM

Experiencing the land

So many of the stories we tell revolve around place. "Remember when we went to…?"  "That's when we were living in….."  It's the same for Jews; the stories told in the Bible revolve around either being promised the Place, living in the Place, leaving the Place, or returning to the Place.

12/29/2011 2:28:10 PM

Food, family, and drama

Food, family, and drama - a common trio. There's nothing like it.  It can bring a family together, or tear it apart.

11/29/2011 3:18:33 PM

One writer’s love for ‘Marjorie Morningstar’

I have a lot of very full bookshelves.

11/10/2011 4:36:01 PM

Learning how to be Jewish adults

A dream in the future.

8/3/2011 1:05:56 PM

‘One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor’

Was Menachem Begin a terrorist or a freedom fighter? 

7/7/2011 4:04:11 PM

‘The forty-nine year old Levite’

“When your best days are yester, the rest’r twice as dear” (Stephen Schwartz, Pippin)

6/3/2011 2:11:42 PM

Love is in the Details

I remember the planning our wedding. 

4/12/2011 1:29:01 PM

‘What do you take with you when you travel?’

Do you leave your most valuable, meaningful possessions behind so they’re safe, or do you keep them with you?

4/12/2011 1:20:05 PM

Let’s be on the lookout for spiritual chametz

And you thought cleaning for Passover was a big deal.

4/12/2011 1:10:30 PM