The Biblioblog Reference Library

[«] Posts by the Author "rbarenblat@gmail.com (Velveteen Rabbi)"(#134)

October 17 2017, 4AM

The good folks at the the Forward have started up a new series they're calling Rabbi Roundtable. They chose 17 rabbis from across the denominational spectrum, and they're posing questions to us and sharing our answers.  The first one of these has just g...

October 16, 8AM

...This is our time to rest, like bulbs cradled in the embrace of the earth. It’s time to slow our breathing, like the shavasana pose that ends many yoga classes. We’ve been pouring out our hearts: now it’s time to wait and see what flows in to repl... [Cheshvan] [the daily round]

October 15, 11AM

One of the great joys of being an unofficial ambassador for Jewish Renewal is getting invited to share spiritual technologies that have deeply shaped my life and my rabbinate with new communities that may not yet have experienced them. Over the weekend o... [Jewish Renewal]

October 12, 8AM

Today we shift from praying for dew to praying for rain, and as we made that shift, something occurred to me. We say a special prayer for rain today on Shemini Atzeret, launching our season of asking God for rain in the daily amidah. (At Pesach, we say... [Prayer] [Shemini Atzeret]

October 11, 8AM

הושע הא / Hosha na, please save! For the sake of Acting in good faith For the sake of Boundaries and their maintenance For the sake of Choosing to see clearly For the sake of Directly naming what is broken For the sake of Ending unconscious pattern... [Hoshanah Rabbah] [Prayer]

October 8, 4AM

If I could, I would invite you into my mirpesset sukkah when morning light paints the valley golden, or when twilight pinks the horizon, or when the moon is visible over the mountains to the east.     It's hard for photographs to capture the feelin... [Sukkot]

October 5, 6AM

I don't entirely know how to write about Tova Mirvis' The Book of Separation. It is beautiful, of course. It is painful. It is rich. It is hopeful. It is the intertwined story of her divorce and her leaving Orthodoxy. And it's especially poignant for me t... [Books] [divorce]

October 4, 8AM

We live in a world of trauma and tragedy and outrage and constant micro-aggressions. In recent weeks we've seen hurricanes bring unthinkable devastation. The massacre in Las Vegas is heartbreaking. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports a rise in misogyn... [pastoral care]

October 3, 6AM

I loved and grieved from the day you claimed your free will, Knowing that you too would open into infinite love and grief, Knowing how your hearts would bloom with gratitude and hope With every child’s every first, and lament every child’s every las... [poetry] [Prayer] [Tikkun olam] [tragedy]

September 30, 9AM

  A couple of weeks ago, on a Shabbat morning before services, a congregant said to me, "Rabbi, Houston is flooded. There's a hurricane heading for Florida, and more are already forming. The Pacific Northwest is literally on fire. There are earthquakes ... [Days of Awe] [Sermons] [teshuvah] [theology] [Tikkun olam]

September 15, 4AM

For food dipped     in honey, say         "your love leaves my fingers fragrant."     Don't rush to wash.         Let sweetness linger. For savory dishes     with stone fruits         say "may the year balance ... [Days of Awe] [poetry] [Prayer]

September 14, 6AM

Every year, as the Jewish holidays approach, someone seeks me out because they’re struggling with forgiveness. Maybe this person is the adult child of a narcissist who was a cruel and self-centered parent. Maybe this person feels betrayed by an authorit... [Days of Awe] [teshuvah]

September 9, 8AM

At the beginning of this week's Torah portion, Ki Tavo, we read instructions for when we have entered the land of promise. When we enter that land, we are to recount where we came from, remember our hardships in life's narrow places, and then enjoy the bo... [Tikkun olam] [Torah]

September 7, 10AM

Before he died, Reb Zalman -- the teacher of my teachers -- made an unusual request. He knew that once he died, the chevra kadisha would perform the rituals of taharah: they would wash his body, and bless his body, and dress his body in white linen shroud... [Days of Awe] [death and mourning] [Sermons]
One Saturday last month I was sitting by the pool after services, watching my son and his friends swim, when my cellphone started to buzz with messages from friends. I picked it up, and I watched in horror as white supremacists marched in Charlottesville.... [Days of Awe] [racism] [Sermons] [Tikkun olam]

September 6, 3PM

When should I light a mourner's candle in remembrance of my marriage: the date he proposed, or the date we were wed, or the date we agreed we were through? I choose the date when we sat before witnesses and poured wine from the silver goblet into separ... [divorce] [poetry]

September 1, 6AM

A field, near where I live.   If you've looked up at the night sky recently, perhaps you've noticed that the moon is waxing. We're moving deeper into the month of Elul: the month that leads us to the Days of Awe, the last month of the old year. There ... [contemplative practice] [Elul]

August 22, 6PM

I just wrote my first piece for Scribe at the Forward. It's about the work of midlife -- and the work of this time in the Jewish year. Here's a taste: ...Every life involves course corrections, and the midlife years are a ripe time for change. For ... [divorce] [Elul]

6AM

I'm a longtime admirer of Ben Yehuda Press. They published Rabbi Jay Michaelson's The Gate of Tears, and Sue Swartz's we who desire, and Rabbi Shefa Gold's Torah Journeys, and they've recently brought out Jews Vs. Zombies. (No, really.) They also publi... [Books]

August 13, 7AM

I spent Shabbat in an increasing state of horror about the white supremacist march in Charlottesville. Chants of "blood and soil," "white lives matter," and "Jew will not replace us;" white men carrying torches or wielding swastika-emblazoned flags; the... [Community] [politics] [racism] [Tikkun olam]

August 11, 10AM

God says: face facts. The old year is ending. You’ve outgrown it. The flowerpot that used to be home isn’t big enough anymore. Once it was spacious. Now your roots push uncomfortably against the walls. It's time to stop contorting yourself to fit ... [Elul] [poetry]

August 10, 4PM

I was working a few days ago with a friend's daughter who's becoming bat mitzvah in a few weeks. I found myself remembering a moment shortly after my own celebration of bat mitzvah. Faced with the prospect of writing a mountain of thank-you notes. I took... [Prayer] [Torah]

August 7, 6PM

This coming weekend I'll be in New York city for two very different and very special Shabbat experiences. The first is Shabbat By the Sea with Temple Beth-El of City Island. You can read about it in the TBE newsletter. The short version is: 7pm on ... [Jewish Renewal] [Shabbat]

August 2, 5AM

There are seven weeks between Tisha b'Av and Rosh Hashanah. Forty-nine days between the spiritual low point of our year, and the newest of new beginnings.   Reb Zalman z"l taught that these 49 days parallel the 49 days of the Omer between Pesach and Sha... [Omer] [Seven Weeks of Consolation]

July 26, 9AM

It's Shabbat Shachor, the "Black Shabbat" that falls right before Tisha b'Av. Today our experience of the sweetness of Shabbat is tempered by awareness of what's broken, from our own ancient stories of destruction and becoming refugees to what we see and ... [9Av] [Shabbat] [The Three Weeks]

5AM

Somewhere in my first year or two of parenthood, it dawned on me -- through the haze of fatigue, laundry, diapers, and tantrums (Yonatan's and mine both) -- that I actually had access to a treasure trove of wisdom that could help me do the exhausting, fru... [Books] [parenting]

July 24, 10AM

To be fully alive and fully human, we need space, or room to breathe. This need is fundamental: it is rooted in our everyday experience. We all know what it is like to feel crowded, pressed, or overwhelmed. We know what it is to face deadlines, expectatio... [pastoral care] [spiritual direction]

July 18, 12 PM

...The Jewish calendar gives us these Three Weeks as a time for feeling the brokenness that characterizes every heart and every life. These weeks offer an invitation, and an opportunity to feel what hurts. Not because we’re going to stay in that brokenn... [pastoral care] [The Three Weeks]

July 17, 6PM

One day recently, two friends from completely different quadrants of my life sent me a gorgeous Rilke poem that Father Richard Rohr had posted on his website. I had run across the poem myself a few months before, and had already tacked it up over my des... [Books] [contemplative practice] [spiritual direction] [The Three Weeks]

July 11, 4AM

The Jewish calendar is filled with moadim. Usually that word is translated as "festivals," though it literally means "appointed times." Each year we have moadim of closeness to God, and also moadim of distance from God. The Days of Awe and Sukkot are moad... [The Three Weeks] [theology]

July 7, 7AM

When I come down to breakfast, I find two friends at the table enjoying coffee. It takes approximately five minutes for us to wind up in a halakhic conversation. It's about the psycho-spiritual, halakhic, and pastoral implications of seeking to speak trut... [halakha] [Jewish Renewal] [Mussar] [Torah]

June 29, 4AM

Renewing Judaism happens everywhere. That's one of the things that was affirmed for David and me during the Listening Tour: the renewing of Judaism is, and always has been, bigger than any organization. And that's exactly how it should be. The renewing of... [Jewish Renewal]

June 26, 6AM

A few days ago I mentioned spiritual bypassing in my commentary on a short Hasidic text. A few of you reached out to me after that post went out, asking for more about spiritual bypassing: what it it, how can you recognize it, why is it important.  For ... [Community] [gratitude] [pastoral care]

June 22, 9AM

Earlier this week, David and I studied a fabulous text from the Hasidic rabbi known as the Kedushat Levi (R' Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev), to whom I was first introduced by R' Elliot Ginsburg, my teacher of Hasidut in rabbinical school. It's a short comme... [Community] [Hasidut] [Torah]

4AM

"Not all women, trees, or ovens are identical." -- Mishna Pesachim 3:4, in the name of R' Akiva   Some women like winter. Some incubate babies and some have no uterus. Some wear eyeliner. Some are happiest in Israeli sandals flaunting our pedicured... [poetry]

June 16, 9AM

Dear One, you love me so much you give me your Torah for argument and play waltzing and conversation from one life to the next. Your Torah nourishes me, familiar as the womb. Wrap me tight in your Torah like a newborn. Laugh in delight when I learn to ... [poetry] [Prayer]

June 15, 4AM

Beloved, You are good and you wield goodness in shaping creation and every single day in Your goodness and with Your goodness You make us new with all created things. You make me new. I cling to yesterday (who would I be without the sorrows that have... [poetry] [Prayer]

June 14, 4AM

1. The CSA's first distribution week: the flower gardent nascent, not yet formed. The fields are all potential. No one knows what plagues or pleasures yet will come to pass. Who can say which plants will thrive this year? This week the share's all leaves... [divorce] [poetry]

June 11, 4AM

When I wrap the straps around my arm Shekhinah holds my hand. Her small brown fingers intertwine with mine. She holds on tight. She whispers courage in my ear. Says "don't hold up: be held." Kisses my forehead, a mother checking for fever or giving a ... [poetry] [tefillin]

June 8, 6PM

All through the long winter, I wait with eager anticipation for the long days of June. I have this in common with my mom, who also loves summertime's long days -- though at her latitude the winter days aren't as short, nor the summer days as long, as thos... [the daily round] [the solar year]

June 6, 4AM

Although this came out a month ago, it only last night reached my eyes: Judaism Shines Through All They Do: Ginsburg, Sandberg, Barenblat. Written by Haley Codron, this opinion piece ran last month in the Orlando Sentinel, and it puts me in some truly hum... [blogs] [speaking / teaching]

June 5, 4AM

Step one: we attuned ourselves to light. I don't mean the sun, but what came first. (Heavenly bodies were day four.) The fire of the burning bush, the glowing cloud that hovered over the mishkan, the presence of creation's supernal flame made us lift ou... [poetry] [sestina] [Torah]

June 2, 5AM

Isabella Freedman, where I just spent Shavuot. Back when I first started blogging, I used to write about every retreat I attended. I was so thirsty for connection with Jewish tradition and with God! I kept a paper journal tucked into my tallit bag, and I... [Jewish Renewal] [Shavuot]

May 31, 8AM

רבונו של עולם -- Master of the Universe שכינה, מקור חיינו -- Divine Presence, Source of our Lives: We come before You today in celebration And in gratitude. We come before You Bearing the first fruits of spring harvest Grown fro... [poetry] [Prayer] [Shavuot]

May 29, 6AM

A while back I was solicited to contribute an essay to a volume on modeh / modah ani, the morning prayer of gratitude, edited by David Birnbaum and Martin S. Cohen, to be published by Mesorah Matrix. Longtime readers of this blog know that modah ani is on... [gratitude] [Prayer]

4AM

When I think of my last Shavuot of rabbinical school, all I can remember are glimpses. Like the slide shows that I remember my parents used to project on the dining room wall. Most of my memories of my son's first year of life are like that. They're a pun... [memories] [parenting] [Shavuot]

May 26, 7AM

Earlier this year I was delighted to contribute a d'var Torah to My Jewish Learning for the first Torah portion in the book of Leviticus: Vayikra - What Silence Conceals and Reveals. They've asked me to write a few more commentaries for them, and one of t... [Torah]

May 25, 10AM

My latest essay has been published at The Wisdom Daily. It's about divorce, and life changes, and the difference between rebuilding and starting something entirely new. Here's a taste: ...From the matrix of community relationships into which I remain... [lifecycle]

May 21, 8AM

You think I'm not listening. You can't feel my hand on your shoulderblade, my lips pressed to your forehead my heart, ground down with yours into the dust of the earth. Sweet one, I feel your grief like a black hole inside my chest strong enough to swa... [poetry]

May 17, 1PM

In early 2015 it was announced that we would serve as the next co-chairs of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal.  Today we announce that we are stepping down. Our term will end in July. When we began, we saw four key goals.  First, to help steward ALEPH... [Jewish Renewal]

May 15, 4AM

I want with all my might to give you milk and honey aspire only to feed you (look: you're skin and bones, the Jewish mother in me aches to fill your plate) but not just nutrients: like manna that took on each person's yearned-for flavor I want my o... [poetry] [Shavuot] [Torah]

May 14, 4AM

In the United States today is Mother's Day. We're reminded of that in a million little ways: from television commercials for Hallmark cards, to ads for Mother's Day brunch deals, to countless social media postings about mothers and motherhood. I'm alway... [pastoral care]

May 12, 6AM

My breasts are full and tender: I ache to give to you. Say yes and I will bathe you in flowing milk and honey. Taste and see that I am good. How I yearn for you to know me! I want to quench the thirsts that keep your heart from resting. I crave your... [poetry] [Torah]

May 9, 7AM

In this week's Torah portion, Emor, we read that no one who has a defect may draw near to God through offering sacrifices on the altar. And then Torah goes into exquisite detail about all of the different kinds of physical defects that would disqualify a ... [Torah] [Williams]

May 5, 5PM

A d'var Torah offered at Congregation Bet Ha'Am in Portland, Maine. Offered aloud by me; jointly written by me and Rabbi David.   Welcome home. Why am I welcoming you home when you live here and I'm the visitor? I don't mean welcome home to Bet Ha'... [Jewish Renewal] [Torah]

6AM

For those who are interested... here's the welcome video we made to introduce ourselves to the community at Bet Ha'Am, where we'll be Bernstein scholars-in-residence this weekend. Over the course of three minutes, we talk a little bit about Jewish Renewal... [Jewish Renewal] [speaking / teaching]

May 4, 3PM

  Dear one, I left love notes for you everywhere today -- tucked into the petals of the tulip magnolia encoded in the braille of black willow bark, hidden in the patterns of rain on your windshield -- but you didn't notice.My missives remain unrea... [poetry]

May 2, 4AM

...When I accept that I can’t wholly know what my future will hold, I open myself to possibility. There are things I hope will happen. There are things I hope won’t happen. But I affirm that I don’t actually know what will be, and that there is a gi... [lifecycle]

May 1, 4AM

ואהבת לרעך כמוך: אני הוי׳׳ה Love your other as yourself: I am God. - Lev. 19:18   Because I am God I ache to give sweetness my cup spills over every time you need or hurt Because I carry your heart in mine Because you carry... [poetry] [Torah]

April 28, 7AM

A few days ago we entered into the new month of Iyar. Here's my favorite teaching about the month of Iyar: its name is an acronym for something beautiful. Torah teaches that after the children of Israel crossed through the Sea of Reeds and reached the f... [health] [Torah]

4AM

The month of May is almost upon us, and with it comes a weekend I've been looking forward to for some time: an opportunity to visit Congregation Bet Ha'Am in Portland, Maine with Rabbi David Evan Markus! We're honored to be this year's Bernstein Schola... [speaking / teaching]

April 26, 11AM

When a friend told me that she was reading a series of dialogues between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu on joy, my first thought was "I need to read that too." Their dialogues are published in a book attributed to the two luminari... [Books] [buddhism] [Christianity] [gratitude]

April 21, 2PM

When I say I love you I mean always: when you greet the day with exultation and when you wake with tears when you shine like the skies and when you're clenched in despair's grip, every drop of joy wrung out. Sometimes you're bare branches, then chartr... [poetry]

April 20, 5AM

If you are in the middle of your life, maybe some of your dreams of God have died hard under the weight of your experience. You have knocked on doors that have not opened. You have asked for bread and been given a stone. The job that once defined you has ... [Books] [pastoral care]

April 18, 7AM

"Is there something like havdalah for the end of Pesach?" That question was brought to me a few days ago by my friend and colleague Reverend Rick Spalding. Reverend Rick has, in the past, expressed to me his "holy envy" of havdalah. (In Krister Stendahl... [havdalah] [Omer] [pesach]

April 14, 4PM

This week we're taking a break from the regular cycle of Torah readings. Our special Torah reading for Shabbat Chol Ha-Moed Pesach, the Shabbat that comes in the midst of this festival, returns us to the book of Exodus. In this Torah portion, Moshe plead... [pesach] [Torah] [Williams]

April 11, 7PM

On the first morning of Pesach I took my pocket siddur onto my mirpesset (balcony) and davened the psalms of Hallel. I sang them quietly enough not to disturb my neighbors, but loud enough to hear myself singing. I hadn't really spent time on the mirpess... [pesach] [Prayer]

12 PM

One of the things I love about the Passover story is that every year the story is the same, and every year I hear it anew. (This is true of the whole Torah, too, but I knew and loved the Pesach story before I knew and loved the whole Torah.) Every year we... [Community] [Deep Ecumenism] [gratitude] [Jewish Renewal] [Williams]

April 10, 7AM

Pesach is almost upon us!  Many of you may be scurrying around today making final preparations for seder -- but on the off-chance that you're looking for some thematic reading, here are some posts I've shared on Pesach themes over the years: Passove...

April 8, 4AM

Deep thanks to the folks at Jewish Women International for the lovely write-up on the Velveteen Rabbi's Haggadah for Pesach! Here's a taste: “I know some people use my Haggadah whole cloth and some use excerpts with whatever Seder they are doing,” ... [pesach]

April 7, 4PM

It's Shabbat HaGadol, "The Great Shabbat" -- the Shabbat that comes right before Pesach. Traditionally, this is the day when rabbis are supposed to give lengthy sermons on the importance of properly cleaning one's house for Pesach and getting rid of every... [pesach] [Williams]

April 3, 9AM

A few weeks ago, on a Friday morning, I walked with a dear friend in the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Where we live the world was covered with a winter coat of snow, but in Georgia the first stirrings of spring were underway. There were daffodils blooming... [pastoral care] [pesach]

March 31, 4AM

There are so many things about my week in Alabama that I wish I could share with y'all. The preaching at 16th Street Church in Birmingham last Sunday. I had thought I would miss the service, but the Jewish student and I who flew in that morning both arri... [Deep Ecumenism] [Jewish-Muslim dialogue] [Tikkun olam] [Williams]

March 27, 4AM

...It’s easy to shy away from Leviticus. The middle book of the Torah, Leviticus is rife with the details of a sacrificial system we haven’t practiced in the better part of 2,000 years. (And most contemporary Jews have no interest in returning to pre... [Torah]

March 24, 4AM

At the blessed crack of well-before-dawn on Sunday I'm heading south for what promises to be a truly extraordinary week. Each year, the chaplains at Williams College partner with the Center for Learning in Action on an interfaith service trip to Tuscal... [Tikkun olam] [Travel] [Williams]

March 23, 6AM

I have loved Pesach since I was a kid. All my life it has been the brightest star in my firmament, the holiday I look forward to the most. And many of the things that I loved about it when I was a kid are still things that I love! But part of the joy of c... [Omer]

March 22, 4AM

"I think this might speak to you," said my friend Cate as she sent me a link to The Myth of Closure, a July 2016 episode of On Being featuring Dr. Pauline Boss. In interviewer Krista Tippett's words, the episode explores "complicated grief, the myth of... [lifecycle]

March 21, 8AM

I'm delighted to be able to announce this happy news: Ben Yehuda Press will be publishing my next collection of poems, Texts to the Holy! Many of the poems from Texts to the Holy have appeared on this blog over the last few years. It is my collection... [Books] [poetry] [Texts to the Holy]

March 20, 9AM

I'm honored to be today's featured poet at The Rise Up Review. The poem of mine that they're featuring today is the first poem I wrote during 2017: Here's the page containing my poem and bio; here's the index page, currently listing all featured poets... [poetry]

March 14, 4AM

  "I'm deeply distressed at the desecration of Jewish cemeteries," said my colleague Sharif at the weekly chaplains' staff meeting at our small liberal arts college. "I'm deeply distressed by the mosques set afire," I said to him in return. We both ... [Jewish-Muslim dialogue] [Prayer] [Williams]

March 13, 4AM

  I will keep   company with you     where you go       I will go when bitter exile   narrows your horizon     your tight straits       will be mine too let me lift you   from the ashes,     dress you in       nothing but light like...

March 10, 5PM

  I remember the first time I saw a boy in drag and found him beautiful. It was fall of my freshman year. My first boyfriend lived in the entry next to mine, and he dressed in my clothes for a dance party thrown in Currier Ballroom by the organization t... [embodiment] [feminism] [purim] [Williams]

March 7, 9AM

...What role does joy play in spiritual life? Some might claim that it’s a distraction from spiritual life, but that’s not the Jewish way. The psalms instruct us to serve God with joy (Psalm 100:2). The Talmud tells us that this is meant to be a joyfu... [purim]

March 5, 3PM

The festival of Purim (coming up this Saturday) is a holiday of concealment. At Purim we read the Scroll of Esther, a delightfully bawdy Persian court soap opera which doesn't appear, at first glance, to have much to do with spiritual life or with God. Je... [pesach] [purim] [Shavuot] [spiritual direction]

March 4, 9AM

This week's Torah portion, Terumah, contains exquisitely detailed instructions for the building of the mishkan, the portable dwelling-place for God that our ancestors created in the wilderness. But there's one element in the design that is intriguingly va... [Torah]

March 3, 5PM

This week's Torah portion, Terumah, contains one of my favorite verses in Torah: ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם -- usually translated as "Let them make for Me a sanctuary, that I might dwell in their midst." It comes as part of the instruc... [Torah] [Williams]

March 1, 7PM

In recent days, Jewish cemeteries have been vandalized and desecrated in St. Louis and in Philadelphia, and bomb threats at Jewish community centers and Jewish day schools are becoming commonplace. (There were 31 such threats on Monday; there have been m... [Community] [Islam] [Jewish-Muslim dialogue] [Tikkun olam] [Williams]

February 28, 6AM

I want to gaze at you     not through lowered lashes        protecting my tender places, but heart splayed wide     to everything I learn        when I let myself be seen. I want to gaze at you     without flinching, knowing        w... [poetry]

February 27, 9AM

This coming Sunday I'll be the featured poet at the eighth annual Jewish Poetry Festival at Temple Sinai. Temple Sinai is at 50 Sewall Avenue in Brookline, MA. I'll be sharing poems at 2pm, followed by Q-and-A. I'm planning to share some poems from Open ... [speaking / teaching]

February 22, 7AM

A few weeks ago I received a couple of photo albums in the mail from my parents. One of them contained photographs from the first months of my life, beginning with the weeks I spent at what they then called "the neonatal unit." (Today the standard name f... [parenting] [pastoral care]

February 17, 5PM

In this week's Torah portion, the children of Israel tell Moses, כל אשר דבר ה׳ נעשה / "All that God has spoken, we will do." After that, they receive the Ten Commandments. Wait. Doesn't that seem backwards? How could we accept the mitzvot, ... [Hasidut] [Torah] [Williams]

February 16, 7AM

Many years ago when I was in rabbinic school I used to daven one morning a week with a telephone minyan of rabbinic school friends. We were all in the eastern time zone, in states scattered across the country. We used a conference call phone line. We took... [Community] [Jewish Renewal] [Prayer]

February 11, 11AM

It's Tu BiShvat, the New Year of the Trees! A few people have asked for copies of the digital haggadah we used at our Tu BiShvat lunch seder. Here it is: Tu BiShvat Haggadah 5777 / 2017 from Rachel Barenblat   Enjoy! [TuBiShvat]

9AM

This morning we sang excerpts from the Song at the Sea. We sang my favorite line from that song: עָזִי וְזִמרָת יָה וַיְהִי–לִי לִישֻעָה. That line is often translated as "God is my strength and my might, and will be m... [Torah]

February 10, 5PM

Tonight is the full moon of the month of Shvat, which means that it's Tu BiShvat -- the new year of the trees. (I realize that here at WCJA you'll be celebrating Tu BiShvat next weekend. You get a week-long holiday! But tonight is the full moon -- on some... [TuBiShvat] [Williams]

February 9, 8AM

  "This is where I like to explore," my son tells me. To an adult eye, this is the smallish band of trees and underbrush between our condo development and the condo development down the road, but to him these are The Woods. I remember exploring the wo... [parenting] [the daily round] [TuBiShvat]

February 6, 7AM

I've been a fan of Dave Bonta's poetry for a long time. (I reviewed his chapbook Odes to Tools at the Best American Poetry blog some years ago.) So when I learned that his new collection was coming out from Phoenicia Publishing -- the same press that br... [Books] [poetry]

February 5, 5AM

One of the pieces of my work at Congregation Beth Israel for which I am most grateful is our Friday morning meditation minyan. We call it a "minyan" in recognition of the fact that the term can mean both the time of prayer ("I'm going to morning minyan") ... [congregation] [contemplative practice]

February 4, 9AM

Right now in our cycle of Torah readings (parashat Bo) we're reading about the plagues and the start of the Exodus. Looking for inspiration on this week's parsha, I turned to the Hasidic master known as the Me'or Eynayim, "The Light of the Eyes." (His giv... [Hasidut] [Torah]

6AM

Rabbi David Ingber's Friday night sermon from Romemu last night is some of the most powerful preaching I've ever seen. It's about doorways. I don't want to say any more, because I don't want to spoil it for you. Take 20 minutes and watch or listen to it ... [Tikkun olam] [Torah]

February 3, 5PM

In this week's Torah portion, Moses argues with Pharaoh about letting the people go. It's framed as "let the people go so they may worship Adonai." Torah doesn't speak in terms of freedom for its own sake. Moshe seeks his people's freedom from servitud... [Torah] [Williams]

4PM

I've been thinking this week about the Torah of new beginnings. It's a new semester, a new beginning for all of you and all of your professors. And tonight marks a new beginning for me, too, the beginning of a new chapter for me at Williams. The poet Ja... [Prayer] [Shabbat] [Williams]

5AM

  I'm not sure when I first went to Friday night services and dinner at the JRC -- the Jewish Religious Center -- at Williams. But I'm pretty sure it was the first Friday of my freshman year, fall of 1992, a few months short of 25 years ago. College w...

January 29, 7AM

I entered Shabbat and emerged from Shabbat heartsick at news of Trump's ban on Muslims and refugees entering this country. That he would issue such a ban at all is horrifying. That he did so on a day of remembrance of the wholesale slaughter of six milli... [Interfaith] [Islam] [Tikkun olam]

January 28, 3PM

A congregant asked me recently how I am managing. She meant both the circumstances of my life -- single parent, working one job and about to start a second -- and our national circumstances, as the new administration makes decisions that deeply distress m... [Shabbat]

January 23, 5AM

At the end of Shabbat, my son and I walked into the sanctuary of one of the synagogues in the bigger town south of here for a county-wide havdalah. He immediately noticed the ner tamid -- the eternal light -- hanging on its chain in front of the ark whe... [parenting] [theology]

January 21, 9AM

Did you ever watch "Mission Impossible"? At the start of each episode, a recorded voice would announce "Your mission, should you choose to accept it..." And then after explaining the mission, the voice would conclude "this tape will self-destruct in five... [Torah]

January 16, 8AM

Every year I struggle to figure out how to describe my week with this particular subset of my ALEPH / Jewish Renewal community, and every year my words come up short. This is even more true than it used to be now that with Rabbi David I am co-chair of AL... [Community] [Jewish Renewal] [OHALAH]

January 15, 5AM

These are the names of the daughters of IsraelWho came into the womb of narrow unknowingEach with her household, to be rebirthed anew, Called by name at the moment of becomingNo less than the stars that shine in their timeBy which to count a promised peo... [Jewish Renewal] [poetry]

January 10, 4AM

Eleven years ago at this season I made my way to Colorado for my first ALEPH Ordination Programs student Shabbaton and OHALAH conference. I experienced the ritual that welcomes incoming students and blesses outgoing students, on the Sunday morning of the ... [Jewish Renewal] [OHALAH]

January 9, 11AM

...On my scraps of paper, I jotted down phrases like “the sorrow of my divorce” and “tendency to diminish my own needs” and “feeling silenced.” I felt both humbled and hopeful: humbled by the recognition that there’s much I need to shed, and... [the daily round] [the solar year] [theology]

January 7, 9AM

וְלֹֽא־יָכֹ֨ל יוֹסֵ֜ף לְהִתְאַפֵּ֗ק לְכֹ֤ל הַנִּצָּבִים֙ עָלָ֔יו וַיִּקְרָ֕א הוֹצִ֥יאוּ כָל־אִ֖ישׁ מֵעָלָ֑י וְלֹא־עָ֤מַד אִישׁ֙ אִתּ֔... [Torah]

January 3, 12 PM

I had the profound pleasure recently of sitting down with Kate Abbott of BTW Berkshires, and with Rabbi David Evan Markus (my dear friend and ALEPH co-chair), for a conversation that was both wide-ranging and deep. Kate was interviewing us about ALEPH a... [Jewish Renewal] [podcasts]

December 31 2016, 9AM

רָנִּ֥י וְשִׂמְחִ֖י בַּת־צִיּ֑וֹן כִּ֧י הִנְנִי־בָ֛א וְשָׁכַנְתִּ֥י בְתוֹכֵ֖ךְ נְאֻם־יְה "Shout for joy, daughter of Zion! For behold, I come, and I will dwell within you, s... [chanukah] [Torah]

December 27, 5AM

At the end of the Jewish year, there are practices of introspection designed to help us re-align ourselves. The work of teshuvah (repentance / return / returning to our deepest and truest selves) calls us to look seriously at who we've been and who we wan... [the daily round] [the solar year]

December 26, 7AM

Receiving Torah from my grandfather Eppie, of blessed memory. ,  I never knew my father's parents. My siblings did, but I didn't. Nana and Papa died before I was born. I inherited my name from my Nana whom I never knew. But I knew my mother's parents we... [lifecycle]

December 23, 6AM

A friend asked me recently for suggestions of "good Chanukah music," aside from Peter, Paul & Mary's "Light One Candle" and the Stephen Colbert / Jon Stewart contemporary classic "Can I Interest You In Hanukkah?" The challenge, of course, is that Cha... [chanukah] [music]

December 19, 6AM

  I spent a lovely weekend at Camp Ramah at the National Havurah Committee's New England Retreat.  It was sweet to spend the weekend with people who are passionate about their Judaism. Everyone who comes to a weekend retreat like this one is investe... [Jewish Renewal] [speaking / teaching]

December 12, 12 PM

Mostly what I did during my first Williams College Jewish Association board meeting a few weeks ago was listen. I asked a couple of questions, but my purpose there was to begin learning: about who the students are, and what matters to them, and what they... [pesach]

11AM

At the shul where I serve, we don't usually read the haftarah, the reading from the Prophets that in more traditional synagogues is paired with the weekly Torah reading. This decision was made years ago, largely for reasons of attention span and time. Peo... [congregation] [music]

December 10, 9AM

In this week's Torah portion, our forebear Jacob is on the run from his twin brother Esau. He lies down with his head on a stone, and he has a dream, or a vision, of a ladder rooted in the earth with its top penetrating the very heavens. On that ladder he... [Community] [congregation] [Torah]

December 9, 5AM

    Immerse, my body bare as birth. Emerge with my skin tingling. Ascend the fifteen stairs to you singing love songs on every step. At the door to the holy of holies I vibrate like a struck bell. My fears rise up. What makes me think I'm good enou... [poetry]

December 7, 12 PM

  My seven year old is a huge fan of the Japanese cartoon series Pokémon. If you have never shared your life with a Pokémon fan, you might not know that Pokémon are animated creatures (many of them adorable) with varying skills and talents. On the ... [Torah]

10AM

Episode 22 of the Judaism Unbound podcast featured Rabbis Rachel Barenblat and David Evan Markus, co-chairs of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal. In this live talkback at 8:30pm EST on Monday December 12, join the co-chairs and the hosts of Judaism Unbo...

December 5, 12 PM

"I would be more spiritual if my circumstances were more perfect." That's the "first illusion" cited by Ward Bauman in "Letting God be God," an article in Presence about lessons learned from Meister Eckhart.  (And wow, is it a familiar illusion to me... [parenting] [spiritual direction]

December 2, 7AM

Reading this week's Torah portion Toldot, this year, my heart goes out to Esau.  His father Isaac senses that death is near, so he sends Esau out hunting so he can prepare some game and receive his father's innermost blessing. When he arrives at Isaac... [Torah]

November 29, 2PM

I was walking with my son at MASS MoCA on a recent rainy day. He was collecting Pokémon on my phone, and I was letting my mind wander with our footsteps. The asphalt of the pavement beneath my feet was cracked in several places. As in many places, the cr... [the daily round] [theology]

5AM

Exciting news: this spring, in addition to serving my congregation as their rabbi, I'll have the opportunity of another way to serve -- I'm going to be the interim Jewish chaplain to the College at Williams College, my alma mater! In 2017 it will be 25 y... [Community]

November 27, 6PM

Until I became a parent, I didn't think much about how every person's birthday can (or at least might) also mark a day of transition for the woman who brought that person into the world. I didn't think about how my birthday is a kind of anniversary for my... [parenting] [theology]

November 25, 6AM

Ever thought about attending a National Havurah Committee retreat? Next month they'll be holding their annual winter retreat in Palmer, MA from December 16-18.  This year’s retreat will feature a wide variety of ALEPH folks, including me and my co-chai... [speaking / teaching]

November 22, 5AM

When I was younger,I believed the mystical teachingscould erase sorrow. The mystical teachingsdo not erase sorrow.They say, here is your life.What will you do with it? — Yehoshua November, “Two Worlds Exist” These lines are from the opening poem o... [Hasidut] [poetry]

November 21, 8AM

What a gift it is to get to spend a Shabbes (and then some) the way I just did! On Friday night, Rabbi David and I went to Shir Tikvah in Troy, MI, to serve as the official ALEPH representatives at the installation of our dear friend and colleague (and ... [Jewish Renewal] [Prayer]

November 17, 11AM

I'm heading to Michigan today with my ALEPH co-chair Rabbi David Evan Markus. We have a few special things on our schedule for the weekend. Tonight we'll be at Shir Tikvah in Troy, MI, to serve as the official ALEPH representatives at the installation o... [Jewish Renewal] [speaking / teaching]

November 16, 1PM

I am proud and humbled to serve, with Rabbi David Evan Markus, as co-chair of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal which just put out this statement and petition. If the President-Elect were to require Muslims to register with the government, we encourage ... [Jewish Renewal] [Jewish-Muslim dialogue] [politics] [Tikkun olam]

November 14, 5AM

Hope, said Frances Moore Lappé, “is a stance, not an assessment.” But applied hope is not mere glandular optimism. The optimist treats the future as fate, not choice, and thus fails to take responsibility for making the world we want. Applied hope is... [politics] [teshuvah] [theology]

November 10, 5AM

Today mourning and celebration commingle.Jubilation and heartache are juxtaposedIn neighborhoods where lawns proclaimedSupport for different candidates, on Facebook wallsAnd Twitter streams where clashing viewpoints meet. Grant us awareness of each other... [Jewish Renewal] [poetry] [politics]

November 9, 11AM

This morning I presided over a funeral for a beloved member of my congregation. It was hard to shake the sense that many of us were mourning not only that loss, but also the loss of a vision of our nation as a place of hope and inclusion. Even those who a... [pastoral care] [politics] [Torah]

November 7, 5AM

I've shared these resources before, but they bear repeating, I think: A Prayer For Voting by Rabbi David Seidenberg A Prayer For Voting by Rabbi Sami Barth First Step: Lech Lecha -- a Torah poem written eight years ago on Election Day, when Electio... [politics] [Prayer]

November 6, 9AM

The American Psychological Association reports that the Presidential election is a source of "significant stress" for a majority of Americans. I'm not surprised to hear it. Everyone I know is surfing waves of anxiety right now. I don't ever remember an el... [pastoral care] [politics]

November 5, 8AM

This year as I read this week's Torah portion a three-word phrase leapt out at me. It comes after the part about how Noah built the ark, and all the animals that he collected inside it -- between all of those descriptions, and the Flood itself. ויסגו... [Torah]

November 1, 4AM

Today and tomorrow are Rosh Chodesh, new moon, the "head of the month" -- the beginning of a new lunar month. On the Jewish calendar, we're entering into the month of Cheshvan. Cheshvan is remarkable because it is empty: aside from Shabbat, which comes ev... [Cheshvan] [the daily round]

October 30, 10AM

Sometimes I think about the woman who used to live in the condo that now is mine. I bought this condo from the grown children of a woman named Sally, who died at 91. I never knew her, though this is a small town, and I have encountered many people who did... [the daily round]

October 28, 1PM

If you're in or near Detroit, meet you at the Well on November 19? The Well is an innovative community-building, education, and spirituality outreach program geared toward the needs of young adults and those who haven't connected with other more mainst... [havdalah] [Jewish Renewal] [speaking / teaching]

7AM

This week we begin again. The cycle of fall holidays is finally over: we have returned to ordinary time. I don't mean by that term precisely what my Christian cousins mean by it -- for them it has a more particular liturgical meaning than it does for us. ... [the daily round] [Torah]

October 26, 5PM

  How much of your life do you spend sleepwalking? How much of your life do you spend going through the motions, carried forward by force of habit rather than any particular consciousness or will? Most of us do this, much of the time. I wake in the morn... [Torah]

October 24, 6AM

A poem from Adrienne Rich:   Either you will go through this door or you will not go through. If you go through there is always the risk of remembering your name. Things look at you doubly and you must look back and let them happen. If you do not g... [poetry] [Shemini Atzeret]

October 23, 4AM

1. I feel for these willows, clipped from the tree they never imagined would stop being home. Packaged and moved, unpacked and shaken: blackening at the edges, shriveling and curling leaves bedraggled now, ready to come apart. We beat our branches... [Hoshanah Rabbah] [poetry]

October 20, 4AM

...That was the first part of my divorce ritual that became clear to me: we would pour wine from a single cup into two, symbolizing that our portions in life are now separate. We no longer drink from the same cup. We no longer share life’s joys and sorr... [lifecycle]

October 18, 12 PM

    Through the morning clouds a patch of blue sky beckonsover distant hills.     In the eveningthe hillside darkens, purple,framed by strings of light.   The Sukkot full moonpaints the clouds luminescent,almost within reach.     Early... [poetry] [Sukkot]

8AM

113. We who serve offer praise. We who serve by building flimsy houses out of sticks and string. We who serve by whisking together honey and coffee, chesed and gevurah, to make offerings we bring in cupped hands. By seeking to sweeten what's bitter. ... [poetry] [Prayer] [Sukkot]

October 14, 5PM

Mirpesset (balcony) sukkah, 5777. One of the things I knew I would miss about my old house was the sukkah I used to have there. My ex-husband built me a beautiful sukkah -- actually he built several of them, over the years, and he deserves kavod (honor)... [Sukkot]

6AM

At the end of the summer, not this past summer but the one before, I led davenen at my synagogue with Rabbi David Evan Markus. It was such a spectacular Shabbat morning that we decided to set up chairs outside, beside the little wall that extends beyond o... [Community] [Days of Awe] [parenting] [Prayer]

October 12, 4PM

The gates of this awesome day are closing. For twenty-four hours we have gathered together in song, in prayer, in contemplation. We have knocked on our hearts, imploring them to open. We have admitted to ourselves and to God where we habitually fall shor... [Days of Awe] [Sermons]

9AM

I don't know how many of you are MASS MoCA fans, but many of you have probably seen the building of LeWitt wall paintings -- yes? It will be on view until 2033, so if you haven't seen it, you still have time. My favorite floor is the middle floor. The gr... [Days of Awe] [Sermons]

October 11, 5PM

We're not here in this life to be small. Our souls yearn to expand, to live into the fullness of all of who we can become. Yom Kippur is here to help set us free. Tonight we let go of broken promises. "כָּל נִדְרֵי  / Kol nidrei..." All the ... [Days of Awe] [Sermons]

October 5, 7AM

In this week's Torah portion, Vayeilech, Moshe gives instructions to the children of Israel and to Joshua who will lead them into the land of promise. This year as I read this Torah portion, I was struck by a repeated phrase. חִזְק֣וּ וְאִמ... [Torah]

October 3, 9AM

Rosh Hashanah is often translated as "head of the year." That translation isn't incorrect. Of course rosh means head, and shanah means year. The headwaters of a river are where the river begins, and the head of the year is where the year begins. But Hebre... [Days of Awe] [Sermons]

October 2, 4AM

I turn again toward you. My eyes are clear and open. I keep you always before me. Your presence makes me glad. My eyes are clear, and open to the future I can't yet see. Your presence makes me glad I leap into the unknown. To the future I can't yet see... [Elul] [poetry]

October 1, 4AM

My poems are a dime a dozen. I write so many they must blur together even in your memory. I used to think I should keep silent, try to take up less room -- but I'm pretty sure you don't want me to shut off the spigot, keep my words from flowing... [Elul] [poetry]

September 30, 4AM

Your voice cascades     chains of blessing         washing over me             like mikvah waters                 awakening each nerve                     with sheer delight. I press fingers... [Elul] [poetry]

September 29, 4AM

In this new chapter I seek out bright colors. I make the bed every morning. I don't scoff at slow cookers. I like gentler, less tannic wines. I wear contact lenses now. From these thin threads the fabric of a life will emerge. Will the patterns be... [Elul] [poetry]

September 28, 4AM

To be aware in every moment of your hand on my shoulderblade and the earth beneath my feet. To notice the gleam of grass in late morning sun, highlighting the single reddened maple leaf. To be patient with myself when grief wells up. To wrap myself in ... [Elul] [poetry]

September 27, 4AM

I take hope in your presence like an arm around my shoulders, in your music that carries me as air currents carry seagulls. Hope says sweetness is coming.Trust that better days will arrive. Every day begins in sundown and opens into brightness, goi...

September 26, 4AM

With every ending, something new begins. The end of one chapter starts the next until the tale itself comes to a close. We write the book of life with our own hands. The end of one chapter starts the next unfolding. Every day that we're alive we write t... [Elul] [poetry]

September 25, 4AM

Ending a chapter is hard, especially not knowing what the next will hold. I write the book of my life with my deeds, it reads from itself and my signature is there plain as day, but I don't get to read ahead. The Jewish year is ending. There's plenty I ... [Elul] [poetry]

September 24, 4AM

Everything I write is a love letter to you. Some days I'm afraid you don't read them: that insidious voice whispers in my ear that even you couldn't possibly want my graphomanic tendencies. That in writing day after day I make unreasonable demands. That... [Elul] [poetry]

September 23, 4AM

When it comes to you, dearest one, I am profligate with promises: I will remember you everywhere I will open my eyes to you always the channel between your heart and mine will always be open, even when I ache because you are too far away or because... [Elul] [poetry]

September 22, 4AM

Your Honor, I don't need to tell you where I've fallen short: you've seen the times when I chose silence because I couldn't bear to stand up for myself... No one would blame you if you told me I'm not worth rehabilitating, not after all these years of... [Elul] [poetry]

September 21, 3PM

...No matter what I do, I can’t truly be ready to stand before God on Rosh Hashanah and face my own autobiography. I can’t truly be ready to stand before God on Yom Kippur and make complete teshuvah, re/turn myself in the right direction again and rel... [congregation] [Days of Awe]

4AM

Did you know all along that this is where I would be: sitting on a secondhand couch in a half-darkened room with laptop and glass of a crisp Oregon Pinot Gris writing poems after singing the kid's bedtime songs and closing his door behind me? Did you kno... [Elul] [poetry]

September 20, 4AM

Every day you open my eyes to my choices and my flaws. You wake me to my strength, to the earth beneath my feet. You wake me to the places where I've failed to remember you not to shame but to spark my heart's yearning to do better. Wake me up in eve... [Elul] [poetry]

September 19, 4AM

You are the first thought I want to have. Are you there this morning? Can I sense you? Have I thanked you yet today for the melody that twined through my dreaming, the one that sounded the way tzitzit feel when I remember how it feels to wind the strands... [Elul] [poetry]

September 18, 3PM

When a Jewish marriage has ended, there is an act that brings closure to the marriage -- the granting of a גט / a "get," a legal document of release. (Here's some basic information about how that usually works.) What follows here is a ritual intende... [lifecycle]

5AM

When the ground beneath my feet shifts like sand when I wake to unfamiliar views out foreign windows when the stories I once told about how my life would be unravel like a sweater whose loose thread is pulled when my thumb reaches again and again for m... [Elul] [poetry]

September 17, 4AM

How to feel you with me hand on my shoulderblade song in my ear how to share with you the surprise of wild mint, the blue of September sky how to let summer slip through my fingers without grieving its passing how to trust you'll be here with me even ... [Elul] [poetry]

September 16, 4AM

I know there was a moment when everything changed. When I opened a door and became aware of you. Since then you hover at the edge of my awareness like sunlight warming my face, like cinnamon or etrog peel spicing my senses. What I can't recall is how i... [Elul] [poetry]

September 15, 4AM

The most difficult, of course, is myself. No one else sees my failings half so clearly. Every word I should have said and didn't, or should have known better than to speak. And my heart that flows in ways not wanted. And the harsh decrees I ached so to s... [Elul] [poetry]

September 14, 11AM

In this week's Torah portion there is an intriguing passage (Deuteronomy 24: 1-4) about divorce. Torah says: when a man takes a wife and possesses her, and then finds something about her displeasing, he is to write her a bill of divorce and she is to le... [lifecycle] [Torah]

4AM

With my life. I place myself in your hands without fear. I know that to you I am precious cargo. With my fragility. You see my vulnerable places, my most wrenching tears. You would never shame me. With my strength. I don't have to hide my skill or my ... [Elul] [poetry]

September 13, 4AM

Things that have no limit in this world or any other: how often I can think of you and feel my sadness lessen the comfort that I find in you from eve to night to morning how many times I turn to you to see my best self reflected the gratitude I feel ... [Elul] [poetry]

September 12, 4AM

The exterior's a little shabby, could use a coat of paint. A bit worn after a hard year: not a lot of curb appeal. Most people walk right by. Not you: you see the mezuzah in the doorway, the light in the living room. You see my heart, tender and afra... [Elul] [poetry]

September 11, 4AM

I want to hear your voice every day of my life. Murmur in my ear a reminder: you knock on the door of my heart. Every day of my life you bring light to my eyes. You knock on the door of my heart. Sing me awake, don't stop. You bring light to my eyes a... [Elul] [poetry]

September 10, 4AM

Have you ever been asked the question "if you knew you were going to be marooned on a desert island, what five books would you take with you?" One of mine would be Rabbi Alan Lew's This Is Real And You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journ... [Elul] [teshuvah] [Torah]
To think of you when I wake and as I close my eyes. To orient myself toward you like a flower toward the sun. To steer by your promises steadfast as the stars. To trust that I bring you joy, rejoice at your trust in me.   I'm participating again t... [Elul] [poetry]

September 9, 4AM

That you love me. I could stop there: that one short clause fuels me day after day. That you don't want me to hide my heart. That grief will end and joy will flower. That you are with me even when I feel alone.   I'm participating again this year... [Elul] [poetry]

September 8, 4AM

This week's Torah portion contains one of the most famous justice-related verses in Torah: "צֶ֥דֶק צֶ֖דֶק תִּרְדֹּ֑ף, / tzedek tzedek tirdof" -- "Justice, justice shall you pursue!"    Although the parsha begins with the injuncti... [Torah]
You remind me I don't have to turn myself inside-out to be loved. I don't have to force my feet into shoes that don't fit or walk a path that isn't mine. You don't want me to hide any of who I am, not even my overflowing heart.   I'm participating... [Elul] [politics]

September 7, 4AM

Not why suffering, why grief why manipulation or unkindness -- but that you are with me that I am never truly alone: this I understand, this creates a filligreed cage of protection around my heart.     I'm participating again this year in #blogE... [Elul] [poetry]

September 6, 4AM

I know we're never apart, not really, but when I can't hear your voice I ache. I'd do anything to feel you here with me.   I'm participating again this year in #blogElul, an internet-wide carnival of themed posts aimed at waking the heart and soul... [Elul] [poetry]

September 5, 5AM

It's September, Elul: time to begin discerning who we want to be. Againlate summer cricketsong returns to the airwaves, reminding me anew the season is turning. I steep in hopethat grows stronger like tea. The old year has come due, the new year waits... [Elul] [poetry] [sestina]

4AM

Think of you with every action. If I knew you were watching would I change what I do? Will you nod, proud of me and my backbone or my kindness or sigh and shake your head that I caved when a bully pushed too hard, that I forgot my best intentions... [Elul] [poetry]

September 4, 4AM

Already I'm scrambling with print-outs and post-its. My mind ties itself in knots. That's no way to greet you. I want to be calm, my heart still as a glassy pond. I want my voice to be clear as a bell, clear as yours. Instead I'm frazzled, fragile. My ... [Elul] [poetry]

September 2, 9AM

Looking back on one's life is not always easy or comfortable. We all have places where we've missed the mark, relationships that fracture, missed opportunities and frustrations. But we also all have opportunities for gratitude, and we all have opportuni... [Elul] [lifecycle] [teshuvah]

August 25, 4PM

The folks at The Wisdom Daily have published my latest essay. It's about repetition, and patterns, and this time of year, and discovering who we really are.  Here's how it begins:   Sometimes life feels like a wilderness, wild and waste and inhosp... [Torah]

August 19, 6AM

If you live someplace where the sky was clear last night, you may have seen August's full moon glowing huge and luminous. On the Jewish calendar, that was the full moon of the lunar month of Av. Today is Tu B'Av (the 15th of Av -- Hebrew numbers double a... [Tu b'Av]

August 9, 11AM

It's always a joy to visit Temple Beth El of City Island. For years I've been wanting to attend their annual Shabbat by the Sea -- and this year, on August 26, I will! Weather permitting, we'll meet for Kabbalat Shabbat at the seaside home of two membe... [poetry] [Shabbat] [speaking / teaching]

August 7, 3PM

I want to wake to you. When my alarm pulls me (a silvered trout, struggling, from sleep's stream) you remind me I breathe air, can thrive. Your song calls forth my own. I'm a tuning fork, vibrating. When my walls crumble and fall, you show me what s... [poetry]

8AM

As Tisha b'Av approaches, I've been thinking about ענוה / anavah, humility. About this quality, my friend and colleague Rabbi Barry Block writes: The Mussar Institute’s recommended daily affirmation for ענוה (anavah – humility) is, “No ... [9Av] [Mussar]

August 5, 8AM

This isn't so much a "d'var Torah" as a "d'var calendar" -- the text I'm exploring this morning is the unfolding of our calendrical year. On Friday, just before Shabbat, we entered into the lunar month of Av. Av contains the low point on our communal ca... [9Av]

August 1, 5AM

In August of 2009, I went on a retreat for emerging Jewish and Muslim religious leaders organized by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. In June of 2014, I returned to that retreat as an alumna facilitator. This week I'll be spending a few days at a... [Jewish-Muslim dialogue]

July 29, 7AM

This is a short passage from Jewish With Feeling, co-written by Joel Segel and Reb Zalman z"l  -- I reviewed the book here back in 2005. We talked about this passage a couple of weeks ago on the final day of Joel's Big Sky Judaism: The Everyday Thought ... [Jewish Renewal] [Prayer]

July 21, 3PM

I'm honored to have a poem in Not By Might: Channeling the Power of Faith to End Gun Violence, edited by Rabbi Menachem Creditor with a forward by Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense.  Shannon Watts writes: "The emergence of Rabbis A... [Books] [Tikkun olam]

1PM

The folks at The Wisdom Daily have published my latest essay. It's about my sense that divorce happens in the imperfect tense. (The decision to end the marriage may now be in the past, but it's also always continuing in to the present.) And it's about how... [lifecycle] [The Three Weeks]

July 17, 6AM

The absolute highlight of my week: Kabbalat Shabbat with Nava Tehila. Photo by Brielle Page. My week at Kallah had a lot of highlights. Teaching was one of them -- getting to spend a week teaching some of my favorite classical midrashim (interpretive st... [ALEPH Kallah] [Prayer]

July 15, 7AM

A while back Rabbi David and I were interviewed for the Judaism Unbound podcast, wearing our ALEPH Alliance for Jewish Renewal co-chair kippot. Our episode is the first episode in a four-part series that will also feature The Kitchen (and its Hello Maze... [Jewish Renewal] [podcasts]

July 14, 10AM

I had work for a while. The women donated mirrors and I made the basin for the place where God's presence dwells. Since then I've tended goats. What else is there  for a coppersmith to do in this unsettled wilderness? I missed the work of forging bu... [ALEPH Kallah] [midrash] [poetry] [Torah]

July 13, 7AM

On the first day of Big Sky Judaism: The Everyday Thought of Reb Zalman z"l, Joel Segel took us into an imagined conversation with Reb Zalman about rationalism: "I hear where you're coming from. I understand the appeal of the intellectual. And: you'... [ALEPH Kallah] [Jewish Renewal]

July 11, 4AM

The 2016 ALEPH Kallah begins later today, and I can't wait. This week-long wonderland of learning, davenen, community, and togetherness has been in the works for a long time. Behind the scenes at ALEPH we've been working hard on this for a solid year. ... [ALEPH Kallah]

July 10, 9PM

Mincha in the mountains. 1. Unlike at last Kallah (when we were on a lake -- an easy natural mikvah), no formal mikvah experiences are scheduled for smicha week. But on Friday afternoon of my first week here, two friends and I decide to create our own.... [ALEPH Kallah] [havdalah] [Jewish Renewal] [mikvah] [Shabbat]

July 7, 12 PM

Thursday morning davenen. A rainbow of tallitot (prayer shawls); a rainbow of neshamot (souls). 1. On Monday morning, the Fourth of July, we daven in semicircles of chairs beneath the trees. It feels so good to be sitting beside some of my dearest belov... [Jewish Renewal]

July 3, 4AM

I'm on my way today back to Colorado for two weeks of ALEPH programming. The ALEPH Kallah begins on July 11, and of course I'll be there for that -- wouldn't miss it for the world. But I'm going to be there this week, too. During my years of rabbinic sc... [Jewish Renewal]

July 1, 5PM

In this week's Torah portion, Shlakh, ten scouts are sent to glimpse the land of promise. What they see there terrifies them. The grapes are so big that two men are required to carry a single bundle. They return to the community and report that entering t... [Torah]

June 28, 4AM

My latest essay for The Wisdom Daily is online. It's on what I call "spirituality on the run" -- on the challenge of maintaining spiritual practice or spiritual life at the frantic pace (and frequent multitasking) of ordinary life. Here's a taste: The... [Prayer]

June 25, 6PM

  You watch over my changes. I trust you: I am not afraid. I find strength in your song.I become more myself. Together we draw water in joy from the living well. We draw forth the changes with which you bless me. I'm not alone: you are with me, no m... [havdalah] [poetry]

June 23, 11AM

A while back I received a note from Rabbi Jack Riemer, author of one of my favorite revisionings of Unetaneh Tokef, and co-author with Sylvan Kamens of We Remember Them, which I use at every funeral. He had written a new review of 70 faces: Torah poems ... [70 faces]

June 17, 10AM

All week I've been thinking about what I might say here in shul this morning. Mere commentary on this week's Torah portion feels insufficient. How can I talk about the rituals of the nazir, one who makes promises to God -- or the ritual of the sotah, desi... [lifecycle] [Torah] [tragedy]

June 14, 11AM

I'm home from an extraordinary three day Shavuot retreat at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, about which I hope to write more soon. For now I am struggling, as are we all, to assimilate my fury and my grief at the horrific shooting at Pulse, a que... [tragedy]

7AM

For three glorious days I'm with you on the mountain. Face to face with your radiance I remember how to shine. I am seen. I open in places I didn't know had been closed. And then it's over. Even in a crowd I feel alone. I miss your voice so much my ow... [poetry] [Shavuot]

4AM

A d'var Torah written for the second day of Shavuot at Isabella Freedman, for after the bikkurim / first fruits parade. I wound up speaking extemporaneously, but what I said more or less followed this outline.    When we enter into the land we are t... [Shavuot] [Torah]

June 7, 4AM

  When I have the luxury of unhurried minutes with you hands wrapped around my morning mug of coffee (flowing with milk and honey because you are with me) the sky becomes clearer, my heart lighter, the road before me streaked with joy sings me a new... [poetry]

June 5, 10AM

Torah comes in many forms. There's written Torah and oral Torah and the Torah of lived human experience. Revelation comes in many forms, too. Maybe, like the poet Rainier Maria Rilke, you see a piece of art and realize what fades and what endures, and yo... [Shavuot] [Torah]

3AM

The last Torah portion in the book of Leviticus, Bechukotai, begins with an if/then: "If you follow My engraved-commandments and faithfully observe My connective-commandments..." If we allow God's commandments to be engraved upon our hearts, and if we g... [Torah]

May 31, 4AM

I have a new essay at The Wisdom Daily. Here's a glimpse: I’m in the process of moving through a divorce, and that means I’m in the process of moving. This summer I’ll leave the house that my partner and I shared, and move to a place of my own. R... [lifecycle]

May 29, 6AM

When I remember you my fingertips tingle. I'm a lilac, petals prickling to spring free. Yearning tangles my tongue. My words become fragrance. My heart overflows like a wadi after a storm. The thought of you nourishes me, dizzies me. Breathe into me ... [poetry]

May 27, 4AM

  I can't see you, can't touch you can't breathe, because without you -- but I'm never without you. Even when all I am is ache. Especially then. Press my fingers to the delicate bones of my wrist and there you are, accompanying me with every beat of ... [poetry]

May 25, 4AM

The ALEPH Kallah -- July 11-17 in Fort Collins, CO -- is coming up soon. Register by 11:59pm eastern time on June 3; starting at midnight on that night, a 10% late registration fee will be added. (Also, the longer you wait, the likelier it is that the c... [ALEPH Kallah]

May 24, 5AM

The ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour began in May of 2015 with a weekend in New York, co-hosted by Romemu and by Yeshivat Maharat. (I wrote about that right after it happened -- Sidewalk havdalah.) As it turned out, our final Listening Tour trip too... [Jewish Renewal Listening Tour]

May 23, 8AM

On our first morning in Colorado, Rabbi David and I are still on east coast time, so we're both awake by five-ish. Around six we tiptoe out of the house where we are staying, get into our rental car, and drive into the foothills.  The friend (and fellow... [Jewish Renewal Listening Tour] [Prayer] [Travel]

May 15, 10AM

I always enjoy the Forward's list of Most Inspiring Rabbis. I like that the focus is not on fame, but on inspiring others. In-spiring: infusing people with spirit, connecting people with God. That's a metric I admire. Each year when the Most Inspirin... [media]

8AM

Today I'm heading off, with Rabbi David and with our executive director Shoshanna Schechter-Shaffin, on the final trip of our yearlong international ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour. The idea for the Listening Tour came to David and me on the plane...

May 12, 3PM

I just learned about an artistic enterprise that I think is incredibly neat. An artist and graphic designer named Hillel Smith is creating parsha posters each week. Each Thursday he releases a poster inspired by that week's Torah portion, featuring inte...

May 11, 3AM

I have a new piece in The Wisdom Daily. Here's a taste: I’m happiest when I have made a choice and can act on it. The in-between phase, when I’m poised on the fulcrum of a decision and could fall either way, is frequently unsettling and uncomforta... [theology]

May 8, 4AM

In 2010, I was blessed to be able to spend Shavuot at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. (I wrote a little bit about the retreat: The Torah of Our Mothers, Reb Zalman Shavuot 5770, 4am, and Morning prayer, on retreat and after.)  This year the Sha... [Shavuot] [speaking / teaching]

May 7, 9AM

On the day that would become the first night of Pesach, I went to Mayyim Hayyim to immerse. Some people immerse before Shabbat; some people immerse before Pesach. This day was pre- both of those, but those weren't the reasons I was immersing. I was imm... [mikvah]

May 4, 8AM

  Coming through the sea was only the beginning. The giddiness of walking through walls of living water... But the story doesn't end there. Now it's desert, without a map. What if the next forty years are bone-dry and desolate? Maybe it wasn't so bad... [Omer] [poetry]

May 3, 4AM

What happens when one visits a rose garden on Shabbat afternoon with a group of rabbis, having already taken part in Shabbat morning services; when one takes menucha (rest / rejuvenation) time to enjoy nature, to enjoy friends, and to sit with the stil... [Hasidut] [Jewish Renewal Listening Tour] [Travel]

May 2, 10AM

  Because I could say your names tasting them on my tongue for hours and not grow tired. Because when you're with me I sparkle like water in the sun. Because I turn toward your light. Because when I remember you I shine like Moshe come down from the ... [poetry]

May 1, 3PM

Hey, want to spend a week writing contemporary midrash with me in beautiful Colorado this summer? There are just a few spots left in the class I'm teaching at the ALEPH Kallah this year. For those who are interested, here's the description of what I'll... [ALEPH Kallah]

April 29, 2PM

It was on the seventh day after the Exodus that our forebears made it to the shore of the Sea of Reeds. Behind them, the Egyptian army. Ahead of them, the sea. (At least, so teaches our tradition.) Midrash teaches that not until a man named Nachshon be... [pesach]

April 28, 4AM

I was interviewed recently by Michael A. Burstein for the Jewish Advocate, for an article about Doctor Who, role-playing, and summer camp. Speaking about the study, Rabbi Barenblat noted, “I love the idea of using Doctor Who to help kids battle depre... [media]

April 24, 4AM

Thanks to the Vancouver Jewish Independent for the lovely article about our recent visit to Vancouver as part of the ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour! (Though they magically transformed me from a Barenblat into a Rosenblatt.) Here's a taste: “Ev... [Jewish Renewal Listening Tour]

April 20, 5PM

I've been sitting with this Anaïs Nin quote for a while. "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was greater than the risk it took to bloom." It feels especially resonant to me as Pesach draws near. The Pesach story is one of risk-taking... [pesach]

April 19, 9AM

How can I begin to write about the sum total of ten days of ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour travel? This is our twelfth of thirteen trips over the course of a year. The others were weekends or conferences: deep and intense, but relatively brief. Thi...

April 13, 5AM

One of my dreams, for this week in California, was to manage to daven one morning on the beach. As it turns out, it's only about a block from the friend's house where I've been staying to the edge of the Pacific. As we walk down to the beach, the sun is... [Jewish Renewal] [Jewish Renewal Listening Tour] [Prayer]

April 10, 7AM

וַיְדַבֵּר יי אֶל-מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל-אַהֲרֹן לֵאמֹר אָדָם, כִּי-יִהְיֶה בְעוֹר-בְּשָׂרוֹ... "The Eternal spoke to Moses and Aaron saying: If a person has in the skin of the flesh a sore ...... [Hasidut] [Torah]

April 8, 3AM

When we were in Montréal last month on the ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour, Rabbi David and I -- along with Rabbi Jan Salzman, visiting from Burlington, and Rabbi Shalom Schachter, visiting from Toronto -- were interviewed by Leslie Lutsky for Radi... [Jewish Renewal] [Jewish Renewal Listening Tour]

April 4, 10AM

(A Listening Tour d'var Torah for Shabbat HaGadol and Shabbat Metzora at Kehilla Community Synagogue)   Shabbat Shalom.  I come bearing perhaps surprising news: Pesach is almost upon us. This is Shabbat haGadol, the "Great Shabbat" immediately be... [Jewish Renewal Listening Tour] [pesach] [Torah]

April 3, 4AM

The verse which leapt out at me this year when I sat down to study this week's parsha is this one (Leviticus 9:6):  ויאמר משה זה הדבר אשר צוה הויה תעשו וירא אליכם כבוד הויה The JPS translation renders th... [Torah]

March 31, 10AM

Every time I am called to do a funeral for someone who had grown children, I notice my own emotions arising in response to what I witness in the emotional landscape of the mourners. I'm blessed that my parents are still alive... and when I preside over... [death and mourning] [pastoral care]

March 29, 7AM

We're setting off today for the next stops on the ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour! Rabbi David and I are heading in different directions for a few days: I'm going to do a Shabbaton in Las Vegas, he's off to the Spiritual Directors International conf... [Jewish Renewal Listening Tour] [Open My Lips]

6AM

I could not be more delighted to announce this news: Open My Lips, my new collection of Jewish liturgical prayer, has just been published by Ben Yehuda Press! Here's how the publisher describes the book: This volume of contemporary liturgical poetry is ... [Books] [Open My Lips] [poetry]

March 27, 9PM

Every stop on the ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour is different, and every one has been amazing in its own way. But I suspect that our weekend in Vancouver may stand out in memory as one of the most memorable experiences in a year-plus of remarkable... [Jewish Renewal] [Jewish Renewal Listening Tour] [Travel]

March 25, 4AM

The first seder is four weeks from tonight, which means that four weeks from tomorrow night we'll begin counting the Omer -- mindfully marking the 49 days between Pesach and Shavuot, between liberation and revelation. The Omer is one of my favorite season... [Omer poems]

March 23, 4AM

Earlier this year, ALEPH released a new digital haggadah for Tu BiShvat, the New Year of the Trees. As a manifestation of our commitment to caring for our planet, we released it as a slideshow, designed to be projected on a screen rather than printed and... [pesach]

March 21, 8AM

(A Listening Tour d'var Torah for Shabbat morning at Or Shalom)   This week's Torah portion includes a description of the smicha (ordination) of Aaron and his sons -- the first ancient Israelite priests. The word smicha comes from a root meaning "to l... [Jewish Renewal] [Jewish Renewal Listening Tour] [Torah]

March 17, 1PM

I've just registered for this summer's ALEPH Kallah in Fort Collins, Colorado!  Kallah is ALEPH's (usually) biennial week-long gathering. (Last year we held the Getting It... Together retreat instead, so it has now been three years since the last Kall... [ALEPH Kallah] [midrash] [speaking / teaching]

4AM

Over the weekend of April 8-9 -- three weeks from this coming weekend -- I'll be the scholar-in-residence for a Shabbaton (a Shabbat retreat) hosted by Congregation P'nei Tikvah in Las Vegas, Nevada.  The weekend will feature a Friday night dinner as ... [Jewish Renewal Listening Tour] [speaking / teaching]

March 16, 1PM

If you pay attention to the emails you receive from the synagogue office, you may have noticed that this month some of us are engaging in an experiment with the mitzvah of blessing our food. We're making an extra effort, during this lunar month of Adar 2,... [Prayer] [Torah]

8AM

We're on the road again! The next stop on the ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour is the one for which we'll be traveling the furthest: Vancouver, British Columbia. Our weekend in Vancouver will be hosted by Or Shalom, Canada's Jewish Renewal community... [Jewish Renewal Listening Tour] [Travel]

March 14, 9AM

  How did I convince myself that distance from you didn't hurt? That I didn't need your song in my ear, melody expanding my heart? Worse: I told myself lies. That my absence didn't pain you, that I had nothing to give. If I forget you, beloved -- le...

6AM

Every stop on the ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour is different -- because every community we visit is unique. Every community has its own dynamics, its own history, its own needs and yearnings. And, of course, every stop on the ALEPH / Jewish Renewa... [Jewish Renewal] [Jewish Renewal Listening Tour]

March 9, 2PM

  The instant you depart I'm counting the days. When I'm wholly with you everything is sweeter. A simple swallow of wine reveals new flavors. My soul is doubled like manna in the desert. My laugh lines deepen. I am radiant as a bride. If only I co... [poetry] [Shabbat]

5AM

Because this year is a leap year on the Jewish calendar, we've had an extra month between Tu BiShvat and Purim... but Purim will be here soon, not long after the vernal equinox which marks the official first day of spring. I used to think Purim was just ... [purim] [theology]

March 8, 5AM

My latest post just went up at The Wisdom Daily. Here's a taste: Sometimes in difficult circumstances, the safest thing to do is to shut down awareness of one’s emotional or spiritual thirst. But like any other coping mechanism, this one can outlive... [contemplative practice] [pastoral care]

March 7, 5AM

  God is the doorman, the one you don't notice holding the heavy panel so you can go through. God is the hinge that swings the door, the joint and socket that make opening possible. God is the door through which you walk from one chapter to the n... [poetry] [Torah]

March 1, 8AM

When you hear the word "cherub," what do you imagine? I looked the word up in a dictionary, and found the following: "having the childlike innocence or plump prettiness of a cherub." Maybe you've seen Renaissance paintings adorned with little pudgy winge... [Torah]

February 29, 6PM

After pyjamas, tooth brushing, and reading a book (which lately means him reading Press Here to me), we turn off the lights. Beneath the glowing stars on the ceiling we say prayers and sing our bedtime songs. This always includes the one-line shema, sung ... [parenting] [pesach]

5PM

I'm at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center today for the inaugural gathering of participants in a new program called the New Paradigm Spiritual Community Initiative. This is an invitation-only gathering for about fifty people working in a vari... [Community]

February 26, 2PM

One of my very favorite pieces of Friday night liturgy is a medieval love poem by R' Eliezer Azkiri called Yedid Nefesh. (There's a gorgeous setting of this poem on Nava Tehila's second album Libi Er / Waking Heart.) Our mystics imagined God as the cosmic... [music] [Shabbat]

February 24, 8AM

One never knows when a blog post will go on to have currency and life, years after it was written. An essay of mine -- originally written for this blog -- has been adapted and reprinted in a beautiful new book called Jewish Rites of Death: Stories of Beau... [death and mourning]

February 23, 10AM

One of the surreal things about being a rabbi is that my work asks me to inhabit several different moments in time at once. Purim is one month away, so I'm poking at the script for this year's Purimspiel. Pesach is two months away, and I've been working ... [Holidays]

February 15, 3PM

I can't remember where I first heard the teaching from the Baal Shem Tov about lifting up the sparks of strange thoughts. Here's how that teaching goes: It's human nature for one's mind to wander, even at times of contemplation or prayer. This is just... [contemplative practice] [Hasidut] [Prayer]

February 10, 5PM

This winter's stops on the ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour have been at conferences. In January we held one focus group for ALEPH ordination program students, followed by two open mike sessions at the OHALAH conference of Jewish Renewal clergy. In ... [Jewish Renewal Listening Tour]

1PM

I belong to a small group of local Jewish clergy which meets once a week at a coffee shop to study together, and for the last year or so we've been slowly working our way through Heschel's encyclopedic masterwork Heavenly Torah. Recently we read something... [pastoral care] [Torah]

February 5, 2PM

In this week's Torah portion, Moshe and Joshua and 70 elders have a mystical experience together. They ascend the mountain and behold a vision of God, under Whose feet there is the likeness of a pavement of sapphire, as pure as the very sky itself. As if... [Torah]

February 4, 8AM

This week's Torah portion, Mishpatim, contains one of my favorite verses: כְּמַעֲשֵׂה לִבְנַת הַסַּפִּיר וּכְעֶצֶם הַשָּׁמַיִם לָטֹהַר. I love the verse (it's the second half of Exodus 24:10) because... [music] [Torah]

February 1, 6AM

  "Listen up, y'all," says Shekhinah who looks today like a teacher in corduroy dress and sedate boots. "Let the smartphone rest a bit, or learn how to hear My voice coming through its speaker. Let your love for Me well up like unexpected tears. Ever... [poetry] [Prayer]

January 31, 5AM

I'm heading south today for the annual gathering of Rabbis Without Borders fellows at Pearlstone, a Jewish retreat center outside of Baltimore. This will be my third annual retreat. It's always fun to reconnect with this group of colleagues in person. Li... [Jewish Renewal Listening Tour] [Rabbis Without Borders] [speaking / teaching]

January 27, 5AM

This winter, ALEPH is launching a new adult education program called Tikshoret: Contemporary Connections in Jewish Learning. (The name tikshoret comes from the Hebrew root which means connection -- the idea is that these classes will connect participants... [Jewish Renewal] [speaking / teaching]

January 26, 5AM

Tablet magazine ran an article last week about Jewish Renewal.  I'm honored to be quoted in that article along with several other people whose voices and perspectives I respect. Some of the material from our interview about which I was personally most ... [Jewish Renewal]

January 25, 9AM

Maybe you've noticed the full moon recently. (Where I live, it's been shining brilliantly the last few nights on a light layer of snow.) The full moon of this month is the holiday of Tu BiShvat, the New Year of the Trees. Other people have written smart... [TuBiShvat]

January 21, 5AM

  The devoted ones of old     would spend a whole hour         preparing to meet the Beloved  (a timeless time in union     rocking back and forth         crooning words of love) then an hour savoring     the encounter now ... [poetry]

January 19, 3PM

Late January can be a difficult time. It's cold outside: this morning my car's thermometer registered seven degrees. The world is mostly monochrome: white snow, brown and grey tree trunks, sky which is often clouded in shades of pearl and grey. Midwinte... [the daily round] [the solar year]

January 17, 5AM

This is the d'var Torah I offered yesterday at my shul.  In this week's Torah portion, we read the instructions which came before the Exodus from Egypt. Slaughter a lamb, the people are told, and mark the doorposts of your house with its blood as a ges... [Torah]

January 12, 11AM

I've been away from home for a week, in the Brigadoon of ALEPH-land. First there was an ALEPH board meeting; then a glorious Shabbaton (Shabbat weekend retreat); then the smicha (ordination) of new clergy; then the OHALAH conference of Jewish Renewal cler... [Community] [Jewish Renewal] [OHALAH]

January 10, 3AM

On January 10, 2016, ALEPH ordains nine new Jewish clergy – five rabbis, two cantors, and two rabbinic pastors – after having welcomed 24 new students, the largest incoming class in ALEPH history.  This poetic charge is dedicated to our newest cle... [Jewish Renewal] [poetry]

January 8, 4PM

Cross-posted from Kol ALEPH, the blog of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal. This year we (at ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal) rededicate ourselves to caring for our living planet as a place of holiness. Tu BiShvat, the New Year of the Trees (comi... [Jewish Renewal] [Prayer] [Tikkun olam] [TuBiShvat]

January 2, 2PM

I offered an extemporaneous d'var Torah at services yesterday. This is what I said, more or less. (Deep thanks to my hevruta partner, with whom I shared these thoughts afterwards, and who offered the insight about being unsteady on one's feet.)   ... [Torah]

December 30 2015, 8AM

My latest essay is up at The Wisdom Daily. Writing this essay was really meaningful for me; I hope that reading it is equally so for you. Here's how it begins -- with a story from the beginning of my hashpa'ah (spiritual direction) training with ALEPH sev... [pastoral care]

7AM

When I was admitted as a rabbinic student at ALEPH, the very first thing that happened was a phone call from ALEPH's head of hashpa'ah / spiritual direction. She interviewed me in order to discern who might be a good spiritual director for me. Every ALE... [Jewish Renewal]

December 28, 11AM

Jewish Women's Theatre, a Jewish women's theatre collective in California, is putting together a show called "Temptation," which will be a compilation of stories, poems, songs, and short plays, performed by professional actors to an audience of theatre s... [poetry]

December 27, 6AM

The Exodus from Egypt begins with the deeply-felt cry of the heart. That's what strikes me as I reread this week's Torah portion, Shemot. Torah teaches that the children of Israel, suffering harsh treatment, cried out."They sighed from their bondage, a... [Torah]

December 23, 3PM

In rabbinic school I learned to love the daily liturgy. I love all kinds of variations on that liturgy, and I also love the phrases and images of the liturgy as we've received it. One of the neat things about davening with a (somewhat) fixed liturgy ... [Prayer]

December 17, 7AM

  You are the one who sees me. See me in soft focus. This mirror shows only what's shameful, worthy of scorn: every flaw magnified and stripped of holiness. As imperfect as I am, how can I find favor in your eyes? Yet you watch over my planes as th... [poetry]

December 11, 7AM

  For the meadow, softened by the scrim of fog and for sun burning through. For the call of black-capped chickadees and for your voice sealed one lifetime to the next in the soft wax of my heart. For your name written in me, gleaming when I lift my... [poetry]

December 9, 9AM

At this time of year, every nonprofit organization I know of is hoping for end-of-year donations. A lot of people do their charitable giving during December so that they can get a tax write-off for the (secular) year now ending. ALEPH is exceptional in ma... [Jewish Renewal]

8AM

About a year ago, I had an audacious thought. I frequently aim to write daily poems during April, National Poetry Month in the United States. Over the last few years I've written daily poems during Elul (some of which are now collected as See Me: Elul P... [Books] [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

December 8, 5AM

The folks behind Darshan just put out a new single, with a stunning psychdelic animated video:   (If you can't see the embedded video, you can go directly to it at YouTube.) I wrote my undergraduate thesis on the Sefer Yetzirah and the Jewish mystic... [music]

December 7, 5AM

Those who follow me on Facebook may already have seen these links, but I wanted to share them here as well -- two of my favorite new posts on Chanukah this year, both written by dear friends, fellow ALEPHniks, and fellow Rabbis Without Borders. First is ... [chanukah]

December 6, 4AM

  The moon wanes and I ache. Kindle one flame against the dark. If I can say your name even to myself I'm not alone. You remind me that dwindling hope is the seed of hope reborn. Even down here where I've fallen -- look: your light is with me. Can ... [chanukah] [poetry]

December 4, 5AM

  The angels of San BernardinoWere busy on their appointed rounds: One hovering atop each blade of grassCalling forth its skyward stretch, One ready to tap the lip of each babyAbout to be born into holy amnesia, One giving directions to a lost passe... [Jewish Renewal] [poetry] [Prayer] [tragedy]

December 2, 10AM

My latest piece for The Wisdom Daily has gone live -- a short meditation on self-care. Here's a tiny taste: Fasten your own mask before tending to the child's... It makes sense. If I were traveling with a small child and there were a need for oxygen, a...

December 1, 5AM

Do you know the song "כל העולם כלו / Kol Ha'Olam Kulo"? It's a setting (by Baruch Chait) of a quote from the Hasidic master known as Reb Nachman of Breslov. Here are the words as I learned them many years ago:  כל העולם כולו גשר ... [Hasidut]

November 26, 6AM

In the United States today is Thanksgiving, a day for cultivating gratitude and giving thanks. I'm a big fan of both of those things. And I also know that there are times when I haven't been able to access gratitude -- and that feeling cut-off from gratit... [depression] [gratitude] [pastoral care] [Thanksgiving]

November 24, 9AM

My study at home doesn't have a door. It's part of a bigger room, walled off by standing bookshelves which face in both directions. Because my study doesn't have a door, it doesn't have a doorframe or doorposts. As a result, there's never been a mezuzah... [Prayer] [the daily round]

November 19, 5AM

I love this roadbecause it leads to you.Even when I'm footsoreand weary, the knowledgethat I'm pointedin your directionis enough to sweetenthese twists and curves.When I turn toward youjoy speeds my heart.Wherever you areis Eden.   This is another on... [poetry]

November 17, 6AM

At this time of year where we live, it's dark by the time the students and I pour forth from the synagogue at the end of Monday afternoon Hebrew school. And now that my son is in kindergarten, he comes to Monday Hebrew school just as the older kids do. So... [the daily round] [the solar year]

November 15, 5PM

In this week's Torah portion, Jacob goes forth from Beersheva. He lies down with his head on the stones of a particular place, and he dreams of a ladder planted in earth with its head in the heavens and angels flowing up and down. (When he wakes, he says... [Hasidut] [Torah]

November 13, 7AM

Yesterday afternoon I gave a talk as part of Colorado University's second biannual Embodied Judaism Symposium, "Freedom Seder: American Judaism and Social Justice." I spoke about how Rabbi Arthur Waskow's historic 1969 Freedom Seder helped to pave the way... [Jewish Renewal] [speaking / teaching]

November 11, 4AM

I'm traveling to Colorado today for a very brief visit (flying west today, and back east on Friday -- truly short and sweet!) in order to speak at a Colorado University Embodied Judaism Symposium on the Freedom Seder (about which I posted recently.) I've... [speaking / teaching]

November 10, 7AM

When grief has     splashed my fire out,          when my sanctuaryis dark, smeared    with boot prints          and wet asheswhen the holy of holies     inside my rib cage           is an aching voidIt is you who wip... [poetry]

November 9, 10AM

At the very beginning of this week's Torah portion, Rebecca feels her twins struggling for dominance in her womb. Her response is an existential question: "If this is so, then why am I?" Every year when we reach this parsha, this verse leaps out at me. An... [pastoral care] [Torah]

November 4, 5AM

Many months ago, my friend and publisher Beth Adams, of Phoenicia (which brought out my first two books, Waiting to Unfold and 70 faces: Torah poems), asked whether I had ever written a poem about Mary. She was exploring the idea of a collection of poems ... [Books] [Christianity] [poetry]

November 2, 4PM

If you've been reading this blog lately you know that my ALEPH co-chair Rabbi David Evan Markus and I are traveling around North America on the ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour. We're visiting congregations and communities, visiting rabbinic schools... [Jewish Renewal] [Jewish Renewal Listening Tour] [Prayer] [Shabbat]

October 29, 5PM

1. The year is 2005. I am at the old Elat Chayyim -- in its original campus, the Catskills hotel in Accord, NY. It is "smicha students' week"  and I am not yet a student. I'm spending the week with the ALEPH Ordinations Programs community: learning with... [Jewish Renewal] [parenting] [Prayer]

October 28, 7AM

My latest short piece for The Wisdom Daily is excerpted from a longer post I'm writing about Jay Michaelson's new book The Gate of Tears, which just came out this month from Ben Yehuda Press. Here's a taste: Sadness can feel like something shameful, es... [Books] [depression]

October 27, 8AM

The very first time I went on a Jewish Renewal retreat -- a week-long retreat at the Elat Chayyim Center for Jewish Spirituality, which was then in Accord, NY -- I spent my mornings studying Jewish meditation with Rabbi Jeff Roth (now of the Awakened Hear... [Jewish Renewal] [speaking / teaching]

5AM

Have you ever felt that a book's arrival in your life was a perfectly-timed gift? That's how I felt when I received my copy of Jay Michaelson's The Gate of Tears, new this month from Ben Yehuda Press. As I delved into the book, that sense deepened. This ... [Books] [buddhism] [contemplative practice] [depression] [gratitude]

October 24, 4AM

  I come to you tangled. I come to you hurting and afraid, my muscles in knots, my heart sore. You won't judge meeven if I cry myself ugly.Even if my circuits are wiredstrange. Even if I ache. Run your gentle fingers through me. Loosen the snarls, th... [poetry] [Prayer]

October 23, 4AM

I think of myself as pretty good at working with people remotely. I was a relatively early adopter, internet-wise. I've been online for well more than 20 years. I spent three years on the board of directors of a nonprofit organization with no physical add... [Jewish Renewal] [Jewish Renewal Listening Tour] [the daily round]

October 21, 6PM

This weekend, my co-chair Rabbi David and I are off to Philaldephia for the next stop on the ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour! (That link goes to our new webpage describing the listening tour -- what we're doing, why we're doing it, where we're doing... [Jewish Renewal Listening Tour]

October 20, 4AM

I want to plead "don't go!"    though I know you'll return.        I trust the future I can't see.My strength is in your song    even when I'm not certain        how to play all the chords.When you're with me    every channel opens, ... [havdalah] [poetry] [Shabbat]

October 19, 4AM

If you had been among the leaf-peepers in a particular small town in southern Berkshire county on Saturday afternoon, you might have seen two rabbis wearing peacoats and kippot, sitting on a stone bench in front of a shrine to Mary. You might have caught... [Prayer] [Shabbat]

October 18, 4AM

When our ancient ancestors saw rainbows, what must they have imagined? Today's Torah reading suggests that they saw rainbows as God's mnemonic device, a reminder of the promise that God would never again try to destroy all life.Today most of us would prob... [theology] [Torah]

October 16, 4AM

The Kenyon Institute has released a beautiful video about Beyond Walls, the spiritual writing program for clergy in which I was blessed to teach this past summer. If you can't see the embedded video, here's a link to the video on YouTube. Watching the... [speaking / teaching]

October 14, 6PM

Those who pay close attention to the Jewish calendar, or who pay close attention to the night sky, may have noticed that the moon has started waxing again -- which means we've entered a new lunar month. After the intense constancy of the month of Tishri -... [the daily round]

October 13, 8AM

Kabbalat Shabbat feels like coming home. Or it can -- and this past Friday night, it did. I was in Boston for the ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour (note the spiffy new webpage!) and was blessed to daven with a shtibl (home-based minyan) which met in ... [Jewish Renewal Listening Tour] [Shabbat]

October 7, 9AM

This weekend, my ALEPH co-chair Rabbi David Evan Markus and I are bringing the ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour to Boston! Via emails, video chats, phone calls, coffee dates, and weekend visits to a variety of places around North America, we're spend... [Jewish Renewal Listening Tour]

October 6, 8AM

The sanctuary is full of people. A voice calls out "Ana Adonai, hoshia na!" ("Please, God, bring salvation!") and the whole room echoes it. "Ana Adonai, hatzlicha na!" ("Please, God, help us!") and the whole room echoes it. And then the band strikes up an... [Jewish Renewal] [Simchat Torah]

October 1, 8AM

...Watching my son learn to navigate transitions has given me more compassion for myself as I navigate my own emotional landscape. I have more life experience than he does, so I should be able to face transitions with less anxiety and more grace. And freq... [havdalah] [parenting]

6AM

All I have is love. It doesn't feel like enough. What can I give you? I'm trying not to hide my light. It doesn't feel like enough. (I'm working on this, and trying not to hide my light.) What do you need? I'm working on this: can't I make offerings? ... [poetry]

September 28, 6AM

Sukkot is called זמן שמחתנו, zman simchateinu, which means "season of our rejoicing." But what does one do if one isn't able to rejoice at this season? If sorrow, or grief, are getting in the way of the ability to rejoice? What then? My answer ... [depression] [pastoral care] [Sukkot]

September 24, 8AM

We in North America are about to experience the fourth of four total lunar eclipses in a row which, incredibly, have coincided with Pesach and Sukkot. The full moon of this Sukkot will be eclipsed (on Sept. 28), as was the full moon of Pesach last spring ... [Sukkot]

September 23, 9AM

I'm doing something new with our b'nei mitzvah kids this year. (Credit where it's due: this is an idea I adapted from my friend and teacher Rabbi Burt Jacobson of Kehilla Community Synagogue in the Bay Area.) It's called Mitzvah Experimentation. I brough... [Days of Awe] [Sermons]

September 22, 4AM

Yom Kippur begins tonight at sundown. We'll wear white garments as a sign of purity, or as a reminder of our mortality. We'll eschew leather, choosing instead to symbolize our conscious vulnerability with soft canvas shoes. (More about both of those here ... [Days of Awe] [teshuvah]

September 20, 5AM

You have to judge every person generously. Even if you have reason to think that person is completely wicked, it's your job to look hard and seek out some bit of goodness, someplace in that person where he is not evil. When you find that bit of goodness, ... [Hasidut] [teshuvah]

September 18, 7AM

Return again, return again, return to the land of your soul... The Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shuvah, "the Shabbat of Return." This Shabbat invites us to come home to our deepest selves. To join together in that existe... [Days of Awe] [Shabbat] [teshuvah]

September 17, 7AM

Longtime readers know that I maintain a practice of rereading Rabbi Alan Lew's This Is Real And You Are Completely Unprepared: the Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation at this season. I begin reading it at Tisha b'Av, and finish reading it at the en... [Books] [Days of Awe]

September 16, 3PM

Back in 1988 Reb Zalman gave a talk about Yom Kippur at Fellowship Farm. That talk has been edited and remastered, and ALEPH has just released a 20-minute recording, broken into different tracks for easy listening. There's a sample track on YouTube; the r... [Jewish Renewal]

September 13, 4AM

I wouldn't be here without you.Because you read, I want to write;because you listen, I sing again.How can it already be a yearsince the holidays last called me home?Deep breath, get ready, time to turn.To everything, turn, turn, turn --the only thing that... [Elul] [poetry] [sestina]

September 12, 4AM

What can I give you,I ask, and you replydo the work you need to do,don't hide your light.Fine, I say; I hear you,I'm working on that, butwhat can I give to you?Can't I make offeringsto sweeten your day?I want to scatterrose petals in your path,to enrobe y... [Elul] [poetry]

September 11, 4AM

When I wake (to awareness of you)and am not alone: I bless.Bless the early lightgilding the birch leaves, blessthe peach I cup in my handas tenderly as I would touch your face. I seek your face.Bless even the yearning, eventhe ache. Bless the evening skyb... [Elul] [poetry]

September 10, 5AM

When the list of school supplies arrivesmy heart skips a beat. I'm not ready.How can I be surprised? I've known all alonghow one month follows the next, butkindergarten looms. (Not, though,for the five year old. Time renews itselfevery time he opens his e... [Days of Awe] [Elul] [parenting] [poetry]

4AM

"If you believe you can destroy, believe you can create." That's a quote from the Hasidic master Reb Nachman of Bratzlav. I've been thinking about his words a lot lately. One of our tradition's ways of imagining God is as the One Who speaks the world int... [Elul]

September 9, 4AM

Only to stretch out toward the sun; to bloom. To unfurl my tender heart like a banner billowing. To draw water in joy from the living well. To open a channel and let myself through. I'm participating again this year in #blogElul, an internet-wide ca... [Elul] [poetry]

September 8, 4AM

That after brokennesscomes repair.That you'll always beclose as my heartbeat.That those who sow in tearswill reap in joy.That I never stop knowing your beauty.That I can live upto your faith in me. The couplet about sowing in tears / reaping in joy is ... [Elul] [poetry]

September 7, 4AM

If I could ask the chrysaliscosy in her custom houseshe'd tell me how sweet it isto be surrounded by her life's work.And then one day she wakesaware the time has cometo reveal the tender wingsshe never knew she was growing.What changed? What made her read... [Elul] [poetry]

September 6, 4AM

The verses we just read instruct us that when we enter into the promised land, we are to offer the first fruits of the soil to God, and we are to recite before God "My father was a wandering Aramean..." -- the story of how we became slaves in Egypt and we... [Torah]
I'm the kidwho saved the last chocolateuntil it turned pale and chalkyrather than finish the boxand admit that something sweetwas over. I know every endis a beginning, butthe leap of faith terrifies.I have to trustthat this abundanceisn't all I'll ever ge... [Elul] [poetry]

September 4, 7AM

The Days of Awe begin at the next new moon. Our journey into those awesome days intensifies tomorrow night, and we'll kick off the "high holiday season" at my shul, with the service called Selichot.  Selichot means "pardons," and is the name our traditio... [Days of Awe] [Elul] [havdalah] [poetry] [Prayer] [selichot]

4AM

So much I've left unsaid.Not with you -- never with you --but with everyone else.If I stop self-censoringwhat might I lose?Who might I hurt?If I don't express my true hearthaven't I already lost? I'm participating again this year in #blogElul, an inter... [Elul] [poetry]

September 3, 10AM

When I was an MFA student at Bennington many years ago, I had a poetry mentor named Jason Shinder who used to say, "Whatever gets in the way of the work, is the work." He was talking about poetry, of course...Whatever is getting in the way of my creative... [speaking / teaching]

4AM

With my heart in my handsI approach the bench.No: my heartis in your hands.You read melike a book:what I've saidand left unsaidwhere I stumbledover my own tanglesand where I shonelike the light of creation.Only one thing do I ask,this alone do I seek:let ... [Elul] [poetry]

September 2, 4AM

Will it ever get easier?Some days a black holetakes up residencein my ribcageand swallows meuntil all that's leftis yearning for you.The ache threatensto wash me awaybut I can't hate itbecause it pointstoward you.My heart, incomplete --a piece of me is tu... [Elul] [poetry]

September 1, 11AM

Are you surprised to see prose today after so many days of poetry? I thought about writing a love poem. "Love" and "poetry" go together like apples and honey, right? But I think that all of the Elul poems I've written, this year and last, are at their ro... [Elul]

4AM

You are the shofarcalling me to risefrom my slumber.You are the voiceof my belovedknocking at my heart.You are lovewashing over melike bright moonlight.You are melodyexpanding my chestwith healing tears.You are summer dawn,the morning I craveall winter lo... [Elul] [poetry]

August 31, 10AM

1. We have set up a circle of chairs behind the synagogue, surrounded by mountains and wetland and field. At the beginning of morning prayer the air is chill, but by the time we reach the bar'chu, the formal call to prayer, some of our folks have scooted... [congregation] [Jewish Renewal] [Prayer] [Shabbat]

4AM

Sometimes I manageformal conversation,a love letter morningand evening and afternoonbut most of the timeI rely on the chat windowopen between us all day.I tell you everything.This month you are near.Walk with me in the fields.I want to take your handand n... [Elul] [poetry]

August 30, 4AM

You remind menot to fear change.Change is like breathing:without it, death(itself a changeI can't yet understand.) You remind mewhat stays the same:roots to ground me,hope to uplift me, my tender heart,my love for you. I'm participating again this year... [Elul] [poetry]

August 29, 3AM

What I'm here to learn:that it's okayto take up spacewith my ungainly heart.That I can lovewhat I loveand you will neverroll your eyes.That I deservea place at the tableand my mistakeswon't exile me.That when you promisedlove that transcendsall space and ... [Elul] [poetry]

August 28, 6AM

There's a lovely article by Rachel Kurland about the ALEPH Ordination Programs in the Jewish Exponent this week. Here's how it begins: California students call in at breakfast. East Coast students sign on during lunch. European students check in at din... [Jewish Renewal] [rabbinic school]

4AM

when I close my eyesand when I open them againwhen I'm sitting at homeand when I'm out and about(I know I'm not supposedto text and drivebut I send you notes anywayfull of emoji hearts)I find excuses to mention you because saying your name makes me smiley... [Elul] [poetry]

August 27, 4AM

Always alreadyyou've forgiven me.I failed you.I turned away.I convinced myselfI didn't need you.I made myself forgethow much sweetereverything iswith you in it.I was afraidI wasn't enough.And when I woke upto how I need youhow I'm a better mewhen I'm with... [Elul] [poetry]

August 26, 4AM

That you love mewithout reservation.That nothing I feelcould alienate you.That you don't want meto be someone I'm not.That if I wentto the ends of the earthyou'd be there tooholding me in your heart.That if I fallyou would catch me.That in your embraceI a... [Elul] [poetry]

August 25, 4AM

Times whenmy wrenching fearof disappointing youmade me close offour connection -- I remember every one.Times when you've been as close to meas my own heart,when I've beensuffused with gratitudeall day longbecause ofthe mere fact of you --too many to count... [Elul] [poetry]

August 24, 4AM

Being seen whollyis more intimatethan any embrace.Being knownbeyond any pretense,any veil I wear.Gift beyond measure:I don't have to hidefrom your loving eyes.   I'm participating again this year in #blogElul, an internet-wide carnival of themed post... [Elul] [poetry]

August 23, 4AM

  What's amazing isthat you hear me. You hear what I sayand what I leave unsaid.You hear the stirringsof my most hidden heart.What's amazing isno matter what I sayI'll never betoo much for you.I don't have to feardriving you away.Because you hear meI'... [Elul] [poetry]

August 22, 4AM

You make me wantto be better.In your eyesI become more.No one else sees methe way you do.I see myselfthrough your eyes and think: that's notthe me I know me to be.It's the me I becomewhen I'm with you.I want to bewhat you see in me.   I'm participati... [Elul] [poetry]

August 21, 4AM

  You know everythingthere is to know.Who I am, and who I was last time round.How I carry myself(eyes forward, head high)when there's a chasmgaping in my chestand how my voice waverswhen I'm overcome with joy.You know what I yearn foreven the parts I d... [Elul] [poetry]

August 20, 4AM

When someone I love is suffering, I don't want to accept it. When someone I love is navigating illness or depression: I don't want to accept it. When someone I love is hurting, I want to do everything I can to mitigate against it. My mind races, asking: ... [Elul]

August 19, 4AM

Sometimes our high holiday liturgy may be difficult to understand. There are a lot of words. There are extra prayers and poems and hymns. There are allusions to theology -- or more accurately, to theologies, plural, because our understanding of God has sh...

August 17, 4AM

One of the challenges of spiritual life is figuring out how to infuse mundane acts with spirit and heart. Can I train myself to wake in the morning and immediately put down the needle of my mental record player in the groove of gratitude? If I say a bles... [Elul]

August 16, 7AM

  show me your facein the face in front of meshow me your lightin familiar eyesshow me your heartin the overflowing of mineshow me how to be hollowso you can pour through meshow me your namewritten in the wheeling starsshow me my namewritten across life... [Elul] [music] [poetry]

4AM

A few nights ago a friend reminded us that the Perseid meteors were going to be visible. So around 9pm we turned off all of our lights and went outside and lay on our backs on the deck and stared up at the sky. I knew it would take a while for my eyes to ... [Elul] [teshuvah] [theology]

August 12, 7AM

Sometimes in the morning I find myself singing the words אין מספיק כפה בעולם / ein maspik cafe ba'olam -- "there's not enough coffee in the world" -- to the Rizhyner's melody for Ana B'Koach. (That's the first mp3 of the several on this N... [gratitude] [Prayer]

August 11, 8AM

This weekend we'll enter into the lunar month of Elul -- the four weeks leading up to the Days of Awe. This is the time to begin the journey of introspection and reflection which can deeply enrich your experiences of the High Holidays. Who have you been,... [Elul]

August 4, 7PM

Shechina is riding shotgun.Her toenails are purple.She's tapping at her smartphonesending texts to the KBH.What's it like, I ask her,being apart? Do you wake upmelancholy and gratefulall at once, and fall asleepthinking Shabbos can't comesoon enough, is a... [poetry] [Prayer]

August 3, 3PM

Jewish tradition contains the practice of reciting a confessional prayer daily, annually, and before death. Some years ago, while in the ALEPH Hashpa'ah (Spiritual Direction)  program, I was assigned the task of writing my own. After I was blessed recent... [death and mourning] [Jewish Renewal] [Prayer]

12 PM

Judaism believes in the particularity of time, that certain times have special spiritual properties: that Shabbat has an extra degree of holiness; that Pesach (Passover) is the time of our liberation; that Shavuot is a time unusually conducive to revelati... [Books] [contemplative practice] [Days of Awe] [Elul] [Jewish Renewal] [Shabbat]

July 31, 6AM

Last year I released a pilot edition of Days of Awe, a machzor (high holiday prayerbook) for the yamim nora'im (days of awe.) It was used in three communities that I know of, one of which is the community I am blessed to serve. The book had a team of pro... [Days of Awe] [Jewish Renewal] [machzor]

4AM

The Tabernacle at the Martha's Vineyard Camp Meeting Association, built 1879.   We took a ferry to Martha's Vineyard not knowing what exactly we wanted to see. Our friends with whom we were vacationing offered to watch our kid for the day, which meant ... [Travel]

July 28, 5AM

The summer I was fifteen, I spent a month as an exchange student in a small city in Brittany. The city was called Lannion, and it was adjacent to Perros-Guirec, which was the hometown of my middle school French teacher. Each summer he took a handful of hi... [memories] [Travel]

July 25, 2PM

Turn hereif your heart achesif someone you loveis out of reachif a belovedis sufferingand you wishmore than anything --Turn hereif you've wantedwhat you didn't haveor couldn't haveif love overflowslike an open faucetif yearning is as closeas you get to wh... [poetry]

July 22, 12 PM

Tisha b'Av is coming. On the ninth day of the lunar month of Av -- on the Gregorian / secular calendar, that date is coming up this Saturday -- Jews around the world will gather in mourning. We will mourn the fall of the first Temple, destroyed by Babylo... [9Av]

July 21, 11AM

One of my most consistent childhood memories is saying my prayers before I went to sleep. I can still remember the pattern of the wallpaper on the ceiling of my childhood bedroom, and the gentle dip of the bed from where my mom would sit next to me. I wo... [Community] [Days of Awe] [Jewish Renewal] [Prayer] [Sermons]
תשובה / Teshuvah is letting go of the dream of a better past. That's a riff off of a famous phrase. Originally the teaching was that forgiveness is letting go of the dream of a better past. Depending on who you ask, it either comes from the actor Li... [Days of Awe] [Sermons] [teshuvah]

4AM

One of the things I talked about last week at Kenyon, with my students who were there to learn how to blog, was the question of whether one is an external or an internal processor. Some people think and ponder and mull and then sit down to write and every... [congregation] [Days of Awe]

July 20, 4AM

Sun slides behind the concourse.It's still today, but the coming weekencroaches. My mind clicks throughobligations like prayer beads. Then the chat window opens.You type the first words of havdalah.Behold! The God of my redemption.I open to the week; I am... [havdalah] [poetry]

July 17, 11AM

Photo by Rabbi Jason Miller. On Friday morning at Beyond Walls I gave a talk about being a blogging rabbi. I talked about how I began Velveteen Rabbi, the journey through rabbinic school and becoming a congregational rabbi, the gifts and shadow sides of ... [blogs] [speaking / teaching]

July 16, 6AM

There has not been formal prayer at Beyond Walls, though each morning and evening someone leads a meditation which features some silence and some words or prayer or song. Midweek, one of the Jewish participants suggested that we gather to daven mincha, th... [Prayer]

July 15, 7AM

On Tuesday evening I was blessed with the opportunity to lead our evening meditation at Beyond Walls. I had planned to sing two prayers, with some silent meditation in between, and that's exactly what I did -- first the ma'ariv aravim prayer which blesses... [Prayer] [the daily round]

3AM

On the Jewish calendar we're in the period called bein ha-meitzarim, "between the narrows" or "in tight straits." This three-week journey began with 17 Tamuz, the day when we remembered the long-ago first breach of Jerusalem's city walls. It will end wit... [9Av] [The Three Weeks]

July 14, 5AM

Last night Marie Howe gave a poetry reading. I'm a longtime fan. I still remember a commencement address she gave at the Bennington Writing Seminars some years ago, and I read an excerpt from her poem "What the Living Do" every year during yizkor (memoria... [gratitude] [speaking / teaching]

July 12, 6PM

I'm spending this week at Kenyon College as faculty for the Kenyon Institute's first-ever weeklong writing workshop for clergy, spiritual directors, and seminarians, Beyond Walls. Last night at dinner I enjoyed a delightful dinner table conversation whic... [blogs] [speaking / teaching]

July 10, 10AM

Again the ache    floods my ribcage,        wets my face with salt.Missing you    wells up in me:        painful undertow.The water is wide    and I can't see you        on the distant shore. What use my hands    if I can't t... [poetry] [Prayer]

4AM

Someday I'll have time to write for Lilith magazine again. (Somehow between my congregation, our five year old, and ALEPH, I don't seem to pitch many articles to editors these days. Go figure.) But I'm honored to be quoted in the cover story for Lilith's ... [feminism]

July 9, 4AM

When I wakeyour name is honeyon my lips.All day longyou're with me.My heart restsin your hand.I am safein your embrace.You knowmy innermost parts.Nothing I saynothing I amcould drive youaway from me.Your voice knocks.Like a magnoliaI open.   This poe... [Jewish Renewal] [poetry] [Prayer]

July 6, 5AM

Leading Sunday morning prayer with a dear friend. (Gift #5.) 1. One of the blessings of my Shabbat morning was davening with Hazzan George Mordecai. He has a beautiful voice, of course. Also a beautiful presence. And he frequently brings melodies I've n... [Deep Ecumenism] [Jewish Renewal] [minor fast days]

4AM

In fall of 2014 I participated again in #blogElul, posting each day on themes relating to teshuvah (repentance / return) and inner growth during the month leading up to the Days of Awe. Last year, for the first time, I wrote poems in response to each of t... [Elul] [poetry] [teshuvah]

July 4, 8PM

The first gift of the "Getting It... Together" weekend came when I arrived in time to sit in on the last hour of a morning class. The week leading up to this celebratory weekend was "smicha students' week." The ALEPH ordination programs students, faculty,... [Community] [gratitude] [Jewish Renewal]

July 3, 2AM

The front seat of my car, piled with prayer gear, my guitar, and some printouts for Tuesday's stop (at Ruach ha'Aretz) on the ALEPH Listening Tour.   To those who will be joining us at Getting It... Together, I wish safe travels and look forward to see... [Jewish Renewal] [Jewish Renewal Listening Tour]

July 1, 4AM

Two years ago yesterday I wrote, "Anytime I enter a place where my Jewish Renewal community has gathered, it feels like coming home." Have you ever heard anyone say "Welcome home to a place where you've never been?" That was how it felt for me, the fir... [ALEPH Kallah] [Jewish Renewal]

June 30, 4AM

You know that feeling you get sometimes when you hear a piece of music and it makes your heart want to leap right out of your chest? Maybe it's because of what the words mean, or because of how the melody lifts you, or because of what the song represents ... [Shabbat]

June 29, 5AM

In preparation for Getting It... Together, the coming weekend's gathering celebrating the 25th anniversary of that historic trip taken by a group of rabbis and a poet to Dharamsala to meet with the Dalai Lama, I finally watched Laurel Chiten's film The Je... [buddhism] [film] [Jewish Renewal]

June 28, 4AM

In the verses we just read, Miriam has just died and the people have no water. God tells Moshe to speak to a rock so that it will yield water for the children of Israel. Moshe, instead, responds with snark: "Listen, you rebels -- shall I get water for you... [Torah]

June 26, 12 PM

Why do we break a glass at the end of every Jewish wedding? There are many answers, but one of the interpretations which resonates for me is this: we break a glass to remind ourselves that even in our moments of greatest joy, the world contains brokenness... [history] [lifecycle] [Tikkun olam]

June 25, 1PM

I've been trying to figure out how to write about Magda Kapa's All the Words (Phoenicia Publishing, 2015). This is not an ordinary volume of poems. These are brief aphorisms, glancing definitions, collected in groupings by month. They are periodically in... [Books] [poetry]

5AM

In the summer of 1989, I spent five weeks traveling the American West with a group called Man and His Land. The trip offered opportunities to taste a variety of different wilderness experiences: backpacking and canoeing in Yellowstone, a river-rafting tri... [memories] [the daily round] [Travel]

June 22, 7AM

On the eve of this year's first meeting with Randall, the student hazzan who will co-lead our high holiday services with me, I found myself humming the weekday evening liturgy...in the nusach, the melodic mode, of the Days of Awe. This is one of the ways ... [Days of Awe] [machzor] [poetry] [Prayer]

June 21, 1PM

ALEPH's Getting It... Together weekend is coming up soon. The Shabbaton (Shabbat retreat) is now sold out, but it's still possible to join us just for Friday night or just for Sunday's event: Living the Legacy Tracing Reb Zalman's vision, from Dharams... [Jewish Renewal]

10AM

I remember, many years ago at the first retreat I ever attended with Reb Zalman z"l, hearing him talk about prayer* -- specifically about the sense one might have, at a certain point, that the words have all already been said. If one is taking on a daily ... [Prayer]

June 19, 4AM

Summer twilight, Williamstown, close to 9pm. I love breathing the air here during the summer. The fresh green scent of cut grass, whether newly-mown lawns or newly-shorn hayfields. From lilac blooms in late May to wisteria blooms in August. Right now the... [the daily round] [the solar year]

June 18, 8AM

Once again, horrific violence. A white gunman named Dylann Roof entered a Black church in Charleston, SC, and killed nine, including a pastor who was also a state senator. (New York Times: Charleston Church Shooting Leaves 9 Dead; New Yorker, Murders in ... [racism] [tragedy]

June 17, 8AM

In 2004 I wrote an article for Bitch Magazine about women in what some of us were then calling the godblogosphere. It ran in their fall 2004 issue. I titled it "Women Who Blog Faithfully." They titled it "Blog is my co-pilot: the rise of religion online."... [blogs] [history]

June 13, 1PM

25 years is a long time. Some of the things I loved 25 years ago -- the books, the ideas, the certainties -- don't necessarily speak to me now. Then again, some of the things which were formative for me two-plus decades ago are every bit as central in my ... [Books] [buddhism] [Jewish Renewal]

June 12, 4AM

This is the second post in a series of short meditations on morning prayers.(See Part 1: Gratitude.)   When I asked colleagues for their suggestions of morning prayers which start the day on the right foot, several of them mentioned Elohai Neshama -- "... [Prayer] [the daily round]

June 11, 6PM

This is the third post in a series of short meditations on morning prayers. (See Part 1: Gratitude and Part 2: Soul.)   I always say that my favorite prayer is modah ani, the blessing for gratitude. And it is. But the asher yatzar, the blessing for t... [embodiment] [Prayer]

6AM

After I posted about afternoon prayer recently, my mom wrote back to tell me that she liked the post and the prayer, and to ask whether I could share a brief morning prayer, too. It seemed likely to me that if she were interested, someone else might be to... [gratitude] [Prayer] [the daily round]

June 10, 4AM

Has anyone told you today that you are beautiful? Not because of what you're wearing. Not because they like your jewelry or your tie, though maybe they do. But your clothes aren't the point. Not now. Not because they want something from you and are tryi... [pastoral care] [theology]

June 9, 6AM

I've trained myself to begin and end each day with what my ALEPH teachers would call prayerful consciousness. I begin the day with modah ani, sung silently in my head if not aloud; I end the day with the shema and blessing those who are dear to me. Even t... [Prayer] [the daily round]

June 4, 4AM

At this time of year, one of the things I most love about where we live is watching the shifting shades of green. This year the trees leafed out while we were in Texas visiting family. When we left the branches were still bare. When we returned, everythin... [the daily round] [the solar year]

June 2, 9AM

In the verses we just read from Beha’alot’kha, God takes the spirit which was upon Moses and places it on seventy elders, and all of them begin to prophesy. Then two other men, Eldad and Medad, also begin to prophesy. Joshua, who will be Moses' succes... [Jewish Renewal] [Torah]

June 1, 6AM

There are so many moments which stand out from me from this weekend in New York city, the first stop on the ALEPH / Jewish Renewal listening tour. Moments from our davenen at Romemu. Moments from our meals together. Moments from our amazing afternoon and ... [havdalah] [Jewish Renewal] [Jewish Renewal Listening Tour] [Prayer]

May 28, 12 PM

One of the first ideas which came to David and me as we began preparing to take on the role of co-chairs of ALEPH (see A new chapter in my life with Jewish Renewal) was a listening tour. We want to spend our first year as co-chairs doing a lot of listenin... [Jewish Renewal]

May 27, 9AM

There's a rhythm to the Jewish year. Our major seasons of spiritual work and celebration come in the fall and in the spring, and after each of those seasons comes a lull. It's as though the year were set up to give us spiritual downtime, an opportunity to... [the daily round] [the solar year]

May 24, 4AM

  MY TORAHis a tall drink of wateron a thirsty daythe longer I know himthe more beautiful he becomesI want to hold him closeand press my lips to his shoulderto unfasten his gartelwith unsteady handsto trace every letterI find on his skinHe is milk and h... [poetry] [Shavuot] [Torah]

May 23, 4AM

DAY 49: BACK TO THE SUMMITThe first seder, he said, is likean airlift to the top of the mountain.The matzah, the singing, the eggdipped in salt water—all mnemonicsfor the journey you haven't yet taken.When you wake the next morningyou're miles away, clo... [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

May 22, 1PM

You've probably heard the aphorism that being a parent is like having a piece of one's heart walking around outside of one's chest. Being a parent means being vulnerable to everything that can go wrong in the world. It means (or should mean) being intimat... [parenting] [pastoral care] [theology]

4AM

  DAY 48: THE WEDDINGThe wedding's in two daysand all the guests are arriving. Look,there's your best friendand your great-auntand the grandparent you haven't seenin half of your lifetime.If you squint you might catch a glimpseof your descendants.Everyo... [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

May 21, 4AM

On the third new moon after leaving Egypt    we entered the wilderness at Sinai and camped        by the mountain. God called us a holy nationand claimed us for Her own. Enraptured     we promised we'd do anything, as lovers do.        A... [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

May 20, 4AM

DAY 46: FOUR DAYSImagine a four-day calendar.Four empty rectangles waiting.Now add an overlay blazonedwith the four letters of the Namewe never pronounce, or maybewe whisper it with every breath.Make the letters bold, greatcalligraphc slashes of ink.Today... [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

May 19, 8AM

I have long been a fan of Ritualwell, an online resource center where one can learn about Jewish rituals and practice, browse a large bank of new and innovative Jewish prayers and rituals, and find resources and materials to enhance one's own spiritual pr... [Jewish Renewal] [lifecycle] [Prayer]

4AM

DAY 45: INTERCESSIONToday's a good day to intercede with God.Don't let sheepishness hold you back.When the Holy One grew furiousthat we'd dallied with idols, Rachelput her hands on her hips, pointed outthat when Jacob married Leah(whose veil hid her true ... [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

May 18, 4AM

DAY 44: SONG OF THE WETLANDDon't bend down like the willowtrailing her fingertips in the pool.Cup your hands, gather the watersthat flow around the reeds.Rejoice in the sedge and bulrush, the pussywillows and red-winged blackbirds: small precious things i... [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

May 17, 4AM

Here's the d'var Torah I offered yesterday at my shul. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.) This week's Torah portion, Behar-Bechukotai, teaches that every seventh year we must give the land a rest. Every seventh day we get Shabbat, a time to rest a... [Hasidut] [theology] [Torah]
DAY 43: BEYOND NUMBERThank God for the gift of another day.Check the mile marker: what's the number?We're almost there. One more weekof sifting days like grains to measurehow they fall, and then -- Torahpouring in like raindrops, too many to count.The cha... [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry] [sestina]

May 16, 9AM

A few years ago I posted about two little boys who were fighting cancer, named Gus and Sam. At the time, Gus was four and had recently undergone brain surgery to remove a tumor; Sam was six and was undergoing treatment for leukemia. Sam -- a.k.a. Superman... [health] [parenting]

4AM

DAY 42: TORAH IS HER NAMETorah quenches thirst on a hot day.In space there's no oxygen, but there is Torah.Remember hearing lightning, seeing thunder?God invited Moshe ben Amram to climb Horebto taste and see that Torah is good, sweetas honey smeared on p... [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

May 15, 4AM

DAY 41: FOUNDATIONWhether slab or basementor crawlspace's neither/norin-between, fit intentionto where you'll be rooted.Know how deep you need to sink your pilingshow broad a base will holdwhat you yearn for.Imagine the gilded spans,the dazzling skyscrape... [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

May 14, 4AM

DAY 40: TERUMAH after the Degel Machaneh Efraim When Torah saystell the Israelites to bring Megifts for cobbling togetherMy patchwork residence(gold, silver, and coppercrimson and cerulean yarnsacacia wood, bolts of linentanned leather and dolphin skins... [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

May 13, 4AM

  DAY 39: REOPENING THE WELLThe well won't run dry. You might have to scoop chalky dustwith your hands, removethe rock that's wedged in the channelbut the water is there.The water wants to flow.Can you feel it beatingagainst your breastbone, urgingyou t... [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

May 12, 4AM

DAY 38: BURDEN a psalm of comfort Set down your pack. Wrap your arms around your chest. Let your shoulderblades unfurl like wings. Let me rub the knots from your palms,smooth the shadows from under your eyes.Lean back: my hands are here.Your fragile gla... [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

May 11, 7AM

Many thanks to the editors at the Berkshire Jewish Voice  for running such a lovely article! You can read the May 1 to May 31 2015 edition of the Berkshire Jewish Voice at their website [pdf], or -- for those who have difficulty accessing the pdf file --... [Jewish Renewal]

4AM

DAY 37: PRAIRIE WEDDINGDriving west from Massachusettsto Seattle, I noticeda shift midway through Minnesota.The beginning of prairie. The skies opened uplike my memories of Texas, sunseta great splash of watercolorsacross the most immense canvas. There's ... [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

May 10, 4AM

DAY 36: SIXSix days of         creation before pausing.Work-day, week        -day, ordinary time.Incomplete without the         capstone, the adornment:silver candlesticks and         braided egg bread,six sweet psalms       ... [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

May 9, 4AM

DAY 35: SACHIA MATASand in the air.A battered white Ambassadordrove through scrubpast gabbling cranes.The driver pulled over.With a steady stream of pilgrims.we took flightafter flight of exterior stairspassing ornate archwaysfestooned with marigolds. Ben... [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

May 8, 4AM

DAY 34: UNSPOKEN At the edge of the soundwind flaps our coats like sails.Sand shifts beneathour inappropriate shoes.Your shoulder touches minethere and then gone.We don't have to tryto match our strides.Our hearts beat in tuneleaping like lambs.God is in... [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

May 7, 4AM

33: GOODThe thirty-third word in the Torahis "good." After each actof speaking the universe into beingGod paused and saw the good.Light is good. Darkness: good. Also the balance between the two.Every geological feature. Every seed and spore and fern.The d... [Lag B'Omer] [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

May 6, 4AM

DAY 32: SING PRAISELet the gurgle of the coffee potas it approaches completion sing praise.Let the percussive pop of the toasterrevealing the rough and craggy surfacesof English muffins sing praise.The jangle of silverware in the sink.The glide and click ... [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry] [Prayer]

May 5, 4AM

DAY 31: SEVEN STOPSThe Zohar saysafter death each soul is judgedseven times. Pallbearers makeseven stopson the wayto the gravewhich meansour progressshambles, pausesbegins againas thoughwe were reluctantto reachthat destination.Seven: the daysof the week,... [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

May 4, 4AM

DAY 30: WHAT THE CREATOR CREATESA gazelle, sprinting. The graceful neckof the giraffe. Seahorses bobbing gently,fluorescent in their tank. Theseare easier to love than the spiny echidna,the scorpion, the swarm of carpenter ants.Can I cultivate care for th... [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

May 3, 3AM

DAY 29: LOVE GODTo love God -- that's a tall order. Does the Milky Way notice me?The Horsehead Nebula? If I'm a speckof dust compared with their grandeurhow much smaller I must seemto the One Who made them. And yet --the mystics say the world was bornbeca... [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

May 2, 4AM

DAY 28: MAGNETIC NORTHThe beacon at the mountaintopsending in perpetuity: the original number station, thoughthese numbers made up words once,from "when God was beginning"to "in the sight of all Israel." But the letters are still streaming, the fountain u... [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

May 1, 6AM

My reflections on the death of Freddie Gray and the situation in Baltimore, read through the lens of this week's Torah portion, have been published in The Wisdom Daily. (This piece is excerpted from a longer sermon which I'll be giving tomorrow morning at...

4AM

DAY 27: LABYRINTHDo you know your way through?Did you remember your spindle of string?    Are you watching your own footsteps carefully?    Is it difficult to keep your pace slow?        Why are you walking this path?        Do you reali... [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

April 30, 5AM

This is the d'var Torah I offered yesterday at my shul. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.) An abbreviated version of these reflections were published on Friday in The Wisdom Daily. "Y'all shall be holy, for I -- Adonai your God -- am holy."At firs... [racism] [Sermons] [Tikkun olam] [Torah]

4AM

DAY 26: FOR THE BONESFor the bones we carry along the way,   the stories our grandparents told us, impressed      like a seal on the wax of our hearts: give thanks.For the taste of haroset which lingers for weeks.   The rhythm of footsteps, the p... [NaPoWriMo2015] [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

April 29, 4AM

DAY 25: EVEN IFEven if this is the path you're meant to walkno one promised pedicures and crumpets.Don't you think the children of Israel struggledunder the weight of not-knowing what lay ahead?Resting when the cloud of glory paused,and marching when it l... [NaPoWriMo2015] [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

April 28, 4AM

DAY 24: STONE WORK            The only rule I know:two stones on one,             one stone on two.                 Fit them snugso they won't topple             after the first cycle                of freeze and t... [NaPoWriMo2015] [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

April 27, 4AM

DAY 23: EVENING PRAYERAfternoon's flat hot whitegives way to the electric greenof minarets against evening's blur.Old city divides: herecrosses, there metal crescents.Judaism's in the paving stones.I press against the wallto let the Land Rover pass,the bi... [israel] [NaPoWriMo2015] [Omer] [Omer poems] [Palestine] [poetry]

April 26, 4AM

22: ENDURANCEThey steamed south until pack ice closed in.Faith in the journey kept spirits high.Always knew they'd reach the promised land.They'd trek across the expanse of white.Faith in the journey kept spirits high.The continent was a blank page before... [NaPoWriMo2015] [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

April 25, 4AM

21: GOOD HEARTFive roads diverged. Eliezer chose the pathof vision. Yehoshua chased friendship.Yossi wanted to be a good neighbor. Shimon sought to think ahead. But Elazarcraved a good heart, and their teacher saidI prefer the words of Elazarbecause his c... [NaPoWriMo2015] [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

3AM

Once there was a stuffed rabbit who yearned to be Real. His Boy loved him so dearly that he became Real in the eyes of the Boy -- but when living bunnies caught sight of him, they laughed, because they knew he was only a toy, unable to run and play with t... [Torah]

April 24, 4AM

DAY 20: WINDOWS ON THE WORLDImagine a housewhere every windowshows a different world.This one revealsthe root systemof an ancient tree.This one, a motherrocking her infantback down to sleep.A young man balancesa pallet of green coconutson his head.A child... [NaPoWriMo2015] [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

April 23, 11AM

Last summer it occurred to some of us in the Jewish Renewal world that this year, 2015, would mark the 25th anniversary of the trip to Dharamsala chronicled in Rodger Kamenetz's The Jew in the Lotus. Wouldn't it be neat, we thought, if we could bring toge... [buddhism] [Christianity] [Community] [Deep Ecumenism] [Islam] [Jewish Renewal] [Jewish-Muslim dialogue]

4AM

DAY 19: SEASIDEIn a town by the sea, where the air is sweet withdune-growing roses and licked lips taste likesalt, where the wind whips your prayer shawl intothe air like wings with a mind of their own, whereat dawn machines groom the abandoned beach,read... [NaPoWriMo2015] [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

3AM

This coming Shabbat I'll be the keynote speaker at the fifth annual Westchester Reform Temple women's retreat. The theme for the retreat is "Celebrating Ourselves: Bringing Wellness and Wisdom into Everyday Life," and I'll be offering a talk titled Reveal... [speaking / teaching]

April 22, 7AM

One of the neat things about Ethan running the Center for Civic Media at MIT is that sometimes I get the opportunity to play with cool new technology before it's released to the public. Today's the official launch day for FOLD, a really neat platform for... [Jewish Renewal]

4AM

DAY 18: SECRET PRAYERSEighteen days nowwe've broken in our walking shoes.The world is scribedwith secret prayers. Tucked in today's pockets:slips of paper which read to life!This eighteenth dayis a shiny pewter spigot, waiting.The waters above yearnto joi... [NaPoWriMo2015] [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

April 21, 4AM

  DAY 17: TASTE AND SEERemember the first slice of breadafter seven days of matzah -- how the sawtoothed knife cut throughthe airy crumb against the dragof crust, steam risingfrom the newly-baked loaf:manna after a week of hardtack.What will Torah taste... [NaPoWriMo2015] [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

April 20, 4AM

DAY 16 - SHOE SEEKERHow much of your life will you spend seeking shoes?Hunting the keys you're certain you left in a pocket,sunglasses resting unnoticed on top of your head?Meanwhile the Holy One hides in plain sight.Practice moderation even in your boot ... [NaPoWriMo2015] [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

April 19, 4AM

DAY 15: FIFTEENA hidden name of God.    Steps ascending to the Temple,        each with its own psalm.Words in the blessing    which places God's Name        on the people, opening channels.Morning thank-yous, each     hinting at the ... [NaPoWriMo2015] [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

April 18, 4AM

DAY 14: FORTNIGHTTwo weeks out of Egypt, were our ancestorsfootsore? First, the jubilation of skipping townwithout even a sourdough starter --then sandal-blisters, manna, and fear.We don't know where this invisible Godwill take us. We don't know how long ... [NaPoWriMo2015] [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

April 17, 4AM

DAY 13: GENERATIONOf all the outbuildingsthe loneliest is the workshop.The round stone barn remainssweet with hay, the meetinghousepatiently awaits the next meetingbut the woodworking tools miss the touch of weathered hands.They're still bound in concert,... [NaPoWriMo2015] [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

April 16, 4AM

DAY 12: MEDITATE ON THEMRun your fingers along red leather spinesembossed in gold. Read their titles like Braille.Cradle the mantled scroll in your arms like a sleeping child, more preciousthan gold. Weigh the silver breastplatein your hands, engraved pom... [NaPoWriMo2015] [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

April 15, 1PM

Here's the d'var Torah I offered at my shul yesterday morning.   Every year I struggle with the story of Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aaron who brought forth "strange fire" and who were immediately consumed by a fire which came from God. On its surface... [Torah] [tragedy]

4AM

  DAY 11: TREE POSEThe way to hold tree pose:focus on a still pointand let your eyes go soft.Slow your breathing.Grow roots from heel and toe.The redwoods endure.Imagine the cross-section:here's the fall of the Temple,the writing of the mishna,the 20th ... [NaPoWriMo2015] [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

April 13, 5AM

  DAY 9: SONG AT THE SEA a psalm of transformation. Can you still hear the song at the sea?Remember the melody, soaring.We all walked together, my hand on your shoulder.You gained a new name in the journey.Remember the melody, soaring?You carried your... [NaPoWriMo2015] [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

April 12, 4AM

  DAY 8: WHAT IT MEANS TO PRAY The judge sees through you like an X-ray.Let your heart give up its secrets.This is what it means to pray:to discern the subtle workings of—let's call it soul, although the wordis imprecise, and may evokeincense and cry... [NaPoWriMo2015] [Omer] [Omer poems] [tefillin]

April 11, 4AM

  DAY 7 - BLESSINGWhen I say that we're blessed -- I mean we're loved the way we are,but what do those words mean to you?(How do you feel when I say Adonai?)Do the prayers actually describe ourrelationship with the One we call God,whether source or forc... [NaPoWriMo2015] [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

April 10, 10AM

The seventh day of Pesach is considered to be the day when our ancestors passed through the Sea of Reeds. Each of us is called to experience the Exodus from Egypt in our own lives, and this is the day when we too experience the sea parting and our arrival... [pesach]

4AM

DAY 6 - ROOTSPlant your feet and burrow rootlets downthrough the carpet. Find reservoirs,water permeating the bed of an ancient sea.Plant your flag in this moment, claiming hereand now: they are yours to clutch in your fist.And who planted you? Who shaped... [NaPoWriMo2015] [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

April 9, 4AM

  DAY 5 - MEASURE1.  עמר (omer), noun, masc.: ancient Israelite unit of dry measureA harvested sheaf large enoughto bundle with rope.The amount of mannaa person could eat in a day.What an Israelite man owed to God,gratitude measured in grain...But h... [NaPoWriMo2015] [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

April 8, 4AM

  DAY 4 - WHERE AND WHENWhere are we going now?    To Sinai: not a place        but a moment. Yank the leverand whoop as we take off.    You'll know we've arrived        when you see a symphonysplashed across desert sky,    clarion ... [NaPoWriMo2015] [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

April 7, 4AM

  DAY 3 - THIRD GENERATIONI.Abraham was a softie:tent open on all sides,offering kisses on both cheeks.Always handing out thimbles of cardamom-scented coffee.He listened to everyoneincluding his wife who saidget that woman's son out of hereincluding tha... [NaPoWriMo2015] [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

April 6, 4AM

  DAY 2 - IN THE BEGINNINGLet Me be known! God said,and amino acids bloomedin the amniotic sea.A semi-permeable membranedivided waters outsidefrom waters inside.The ribosomes receivedtheir names and tasksand it was good.But restive creationhungered for ... [NaPoWriMo2015] [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

April 5, 4AM

  DAY 1: ONE STEPThe Egyptian sky    was a goddess        doing a backbend.Once we crossed    the watery barrier        she gave wayand the heavens    became sapphire floor        beneath the throne.And we stood    by the s... [NaPoWriMo2015] [Omer] [Omer poems] [poetry]

April 4, 9AM

  RIVERAll winter            I went on my waybeneath            thick ice.Then life            upended,great plates        meltingand now            I overflow my banks.How did            I forgethow strong      ... [NaPoWriMo2015] [poetry]

April 3, 4AM

PRAISECan I offer it with all that I am?Not despite my fears that those around my seder tablewill be checking their watches,the nagging sense that I presumesimply by being as Jewish as I am simply by being -- -- but with those shadows kindle a lightto ... [blogExodus] [NaPoWriMo2015] [poetry]

April 2, 6AM

CONSTELLATION  Tonight's moon obscures most stars from view, butI want to rename the ones that remain: turnthe huntsman into the man who stood up to Pharoaheven when his syllables faltered, the dipperinto a mikveh for washing away what hurts.The great wh... [blogExodus] [NaPoWriMo2015]

April 1, 5AM

FINDIf I had any pull with God, everything you needwould appear right now in front of you.A door would open and inside ita rose-strewn path, the yearned-for embrace.I'd take the broken pieces of the afikomenand restore them as if by magic. But that isn't ... [blogExodus] [NaPoWriMo2015] [poetry]

March 31, 7AM

On the first day of Pesach we change one line in our daily prayers: instead of asking God for rain, we ask God for dew. It's also traditional to recite a prayer specifically for dew. A few years ago I wrote a d'var tefilah ("word about prayer") on the pra... [pesach] [Prayer]

4AM

Spring is an easy time for me to celebrate. I love the longer days which are beginning to come. I love the promise of tender living green -- for now just a promise, since it's still too cold here anything to grow outside, but I know it's coming. I love P... [blogExodus]

March 30, 4AM

One of my favorite teachings about the Exodus from Egypt is that we didn't leave Mitzrayim, that Narrow Place, by ourselves. A mixed multitude -- in Hebrew, an ערב רב –– came with us. (That's from Exodus 12:38.) One interpretation holds that tho... [blogExodus]

March 29, 5AM

Bitter as in bitter herbs: the beet-stained horseradish of my childhood, magenta and pungent, dotting globes of gefilte fish. Bitter herbs as in horseradish root, and the way that nibbling its slices can make the sinuses and the back of the throat burn. ... [blogExodus]

March 28, 4AM

Years ago I attended an Easter morning service at my friend Peter's church in Williamstown. I went with our friend Bernard, visiting from Ghana. (I wrote an essay about it: A field trip into Easter.) One of the moments which has stayed with me is Reveren... [blogExodus]

March 27, 4AM

Every night before bed I sit with our son and we say our prayers (asking God to bless everyone we know and love, "and everybody else, amen" and the shema) and then we sing a handful of songs. There's a lullaby we've been singing to him all his life which... [blogExodus] [parenting]

March 26, 6AM

I'm honored to be the subject of the Faculty Spotlight in the latest issue of Beyond Walls, the online journal dedicated to the program of the same name in which I'm teaching this summer. Here's a taste: I think of Velveteen Rabbi as akin to an intimat... [blogs] [speaking / teaching]

4AM

At the center of the seder experience is the step in the seder known as Maggid -- "telling the story." (The word maggid shares a root with haggadah; the Haggadah is the book which tells the tale.) We are helped, in our storytelling, by the materials we h... [media] [pesach]

March 25, 4AM

At Purim, God hides. The Name of God appears nowhere in the Megillah -- though divine presence is woven through the story for those with eyes to see. At Pesach, God is everywhere in the story. "And the Holy One of Blessing brought us out from there with ... [blogExodus]

March 24, 4AM

These are hostia shoots, photographed outside our house one year in early May. I look forward to their return -- though I know it will be several weeks before I see any such thing. The snows fell high and thick this year. It's going to be a while before a... [blogExodus]

March 23, 12 PM

I am thoroughly delighted that Zeek just published my Q and A with Shulem Deen, the man who used to blog as Hasidic Rebel -- now author of All Who Go Do Not Return, new this week from Greywolf Press. You can find my interview at Zeek:  Euphoria, Curios... [blogs] [Hasidut]

4AM

A few weeks ago Ethan misplaced his wedding ring. We realized on a Monday morning, and searched all week with increasing urgency. We hunted everywhere in the kitchen, even moving the stove to make sure it hadn't fallen behind. We opened up the baseboard ... [blogExodus]

March 22, 5AM

The seder unfolds over the course of fifteen steps. The Hebrew word סדר / seder means "order," and this is a ritual with a distinct order. In our house, we sing the fifteen steps in the order of the seder every time we come to a new step, a new stop, a... [blogExodus] [pesach]

4AM

Here's the d'var Torah I offered yesterday at my shul for parashat Vayikra. In cheder, the Hebrew elementary school of late 19th and early 20th-century eastern Europe, boys began learning Torah at the age of five. They began with Vayikra, which we call... [Torah]

March 21, 4AM

Today I will have the inestimable joy of leading davenen at my shul alongside my friend (and ALEPH partner) Rabbi David Markus. I can't think of a sweeter way to begin my 40th birthday. Perhaps this is a good day to reread the poem I wrote a few years ag... [blogExodus] [the solar year]

March 19, 4AM

At 1pm on Thursday, March 26, I'll be sharing some poetry at Knesset Israel synagogue (16 Colt Road) in Pittsfield. (Some of you may remember that I was supposed to give this reading back in the fall; it was postponed because I had to turn my attention in... [speaking / teaching]

March 15, 4AM

I had a lovely time teaching psalm-writing a few days ago. Eight people participated in the class, including some of my former students from the Inkberry days! Now I'm gearing up for the other Berkshire Festival of Women Writers event in which I'm parti... [speaking / teaching]

March 12, 4AM

    For the sunrise at seven this morning for our son bounding into the bedroom for Mommy look at the sunrise come see the beautiful sunrise for the sleep I rubbed from my eyes and the slumber from my eyelids for my dry throat croaking of course I... [gratitude] [poetry] [Prayer]

March 11, 9AM

The Passover Haggadah -- with which I have spent a fair amount of time, in its variety of forms -- teaches us that the Exodus from Egypt is not something which happened "once upon a time" to "them" back "then," but something which continues to happen righ... [pesach] [science fiction & fantasy]

March 9, 12 PM

In some ways I first encountered Jewish Renewal in 1994, when I read Rodger Kamenetz's The Jew in the Lotus. In other ways, my first encounter with Jewish Renewal came in 2002 when I gathered up my courage and went to my first week-long retreat at Elat Ch... [Jewish Renewal]

March 8, 4AM

Here's the short d'var Torah I offered at my shul yesterday for parashat Ki Tisa.   In the verses we just read, Torah tells us God has filled the craftsman Bezalel son of Uri with ruach elohim, "spirit of God" or "breath of God." In the very beginning ... [Torah]

March 6, 7AM

My short meditation for the Shalom Center's Purim to Pesach project is now on their website. It's called Shmita and interconnection. (Shmita is the Hebrew word usually rendered in English as "Sabbatical" -- it means the year of rest which Torah mandates w... [pesach]

March 5, 5AM

  Today is Purim -- the full moon of the lunar month of Adar. Pesach (Passover) begins in one month, at the full moon of Nissan. There's a traditional teaching (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 429:1) which holds that "One must begin studying the laws of Pa... [pesach] [purim] [Tikkun olam]

March 4, 8AM

I had the opportunity to do something really neat last night -- to participate in a livestreamed Torah discussion with two colleagues, organized as part of 9 Adar: the Jewish Day of Constructive Conflict. What's 9 Adar? Glad you asked: The 9 Adar proje... [israel] [speaking / teaching] [Torah]

5AM

Purim begins tonight at sundown. I used to not really get the appeal of this holiday, but over the years I've grown fonder of Purim. Yes, for kids it's a fun opportunity to dress up and to make noise in the synagogue (drowning out the name of the wicked ... [purim]

March 2, 9AM

This Thursday evening I'll be participating in a panel discussion featuring female religious leaders, moderated by my friend Reverend Rick Spalding (the head of chaplaincy at Williams College, my alma mater.) The discussion will be at 7pm on March 5 in Th... [speaking / teaching]

March 1, 5AM

The Berkshire Festival of Women Writers begins today. It's a pretty extraordinary month-long festival; there will be an event every day this month showcasing the voices and words of women here in Berkshire county. (In fact there will be 53 events at 33 ve... [speaking / teaching]

February 25, 10AM

I snapped this photograph out of our bedroom window yesterday morning. The giant mass of ice at the right of the frame is a series of icicles -- some of which are far taller than I am! -- which have begun to merge into a rippling wall of ice since we've h... [the daily round] [the solar year]

February 24, 8AM

When I hear news of a death, I feel as though I'm clicking into a higher gear. Life gets faster, details sharper. Everything extraneous falls away. On a practical level (in the world of assiyah) there are so many things which need to be decided: when will... [death and mourning] [Jewish Renewal]

February 21, 10AM

When I arrived at the nursing home with my guitar and a pile of prayerbooks, they kindly gave me a bellhop's cart. Better yet, they provided a staff person who could lead me through the labyrinth to the right elevator which would take me to the hallway ne... [Community] [congregation] [Prayer] [Shabbat]

February 19, 1PM

The world is full of terrible news, including news about inter-religious mistrust, hatred, and violence. And since it's Adar and we're supposed to be joyful, I thought I'd signal-boost a few hopeful things which have come across my transom recently. First... [Community] [Jewish-Muslim dialogue]

5AM

Chodesh tov -- happy new month of Adar! This is the month of which our sages said, "When Adar enters, joy increases." In light of that, here's a setting of the c. 11th century hymn "Adon Olam," which is part of traditional daily prayer and which we sing ... [music] [rosh chodesh]

February 18, 9AM

I wonder sometimes how it came to pass that so many cultures have celebrations / carnivals / festivals around this time of year. Christians have Mardi Gras, the "Fat Tuesday" carnival which precedes the Lenten season; Hindus have Holi, the festival of col... [purim]

5AM

Here's the d'var Torah I had intended to offer yesterday at my shul. As it turned out, I touched on a few of these ideas and then went in a different direction, as we were davening at the local nursing home, but I hope you'll read the prepared text anyway... [Hasidut] [Torah]

February 16, 1PM

The Christian season of Lent is almost here. I know that many of the Christians I know online choose to use this season as a time to "fast" from particular qualities or forms of internet use -- fasting from Facebook or Twitter, for instance, and using the... [contemplative practice] [media]

6AM

I awoke recently in the night and saw the enormous icicles hanging down from our bedroom windows limned by moonlight. All I could think in my sleep-muddled state was that we were surrounded by an icicle forest! But the moonlight shining on our icicles has... [rosh chodesh] [the daily round]

February 15, 5AM

Here's the brief d'var Torah I offered at my shul yesterday morning. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.) In this week's Torah portion we receive a wealth of ethical commandments. For instance: When an ox gores someone to death, kill the ox, but ... [Tikkun olam] [Torah] [tragedy]

February 13, 1PM

This has been a week with more than its share of heartache. And I know that every week fits that bill for someone, somewhere. Shabbat is supposed to offer us a taste of the world to come. A drink from the fountain of eternity. A stroll through the orchar... [Shabbat]

February 12, 10AM

The most heartfelt -- and heartbreaking -- piece I've read about the Chapel Hill shootings is this one: My best friend was killed and I don't know why. I commend it to you, along with this NPR piece -- 'We're All One,' Chapel Hill Shooting Victim Said in ... [Islam] [racism] [Tikkun olam] [tragedy]

February 10, 2PM

One of the things I frequently love about science fiction and fantasy is that it opens up the possibilities of worlds other than our own. In that sense it's a very redemptive genre, because it holds out hope that the way things are is not necessarily the ... [Books] [science fiction & fantasy]

February 9, 8AM

"Its energy surrounds us and binds us," says Yoda to Luke Skywalker, describing the Force. "Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter!" We've had a lot of snow days recently in New England. Snow days mean playing outside, sledding, hot cocoa, buildin... [science fiction]

February 6, 9AM

This morning I sat in our sanctuary, put on my tallit and tefillin, and quietly played guitar for a while. This was one of those days when no one showed up for Friday morning meditation -- which was not a surprise to me; the thermometer in my car read -7 ... [Prayer] [tefillin] [the daily round]

February 5, 9AM

I've come to love celebrating Tu BiShvat in the snow. I know that in the Mediterranean, where this festival originates, this time of year means blooming fruit trees. In south Texas, which has a very Mediterranean-like climate, things are beginning to bloo... [the solar year] [TuBiShvat]

February 4, 5AM

The full moon of the month of Shvat was last night. (Happy Tu BiShvat!) A month from now, at the next full moon, we'll celebrate Purim. And a month after that, at the next full moon, we'll celebrate Pesach! Okay, so most of you probably aren't thinking a... [pesach] [Prayer]

February 2, 5AM

Those of you who subscribe to this blog via email received a draft post yesterday which was not at all intended to go live. The post contained a poem for the tenth day of the Omer, the journey of 49 days which we count between Pesach and Shavuot, between ...
  On March 10 from 3-4:30pm I'm going to be teaching a workshop on writing one's own psalms. The workshop is being offered as part of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, and will be free and open to the public. Here's the official description of th... [poetry] [Prayer] [speaking / teaching]

February 1, 10AM

  DAY 10: JOURNEYThe tenth day:fortune cookie says, find balancewithin constraint. Even boundto the count, you're freeto stargaze while you wait.Are we thereyet? Do we even know where thereis? Once a cloud by day,a fire by night showed us when to waitan...

5AM

I'm returning today to the Pearlstone retreat center outside of Baltimore for the Rabbis Without Borders Fellows alumni retreat. This will be my second year attending the alumni fellows retreat (fellows alumni? alumni fellows?  people who've completed th... [Rabbis Without Borders]

January 29, 8AM

One of the great pleasures for me of last year's Days of Awe was getting to co-lead davenen (with the fabulous student hazzan Randall Miller) using a pilot edition of Days of Awe, the machzor which I created building on the wonderful work of Rabbi Jeff Go... [Days of Awe]

January 28, 1PM

Woodpecker, snacking.   I love our bird feeder. Okay, in fairness, it's not the feeder itself that I love -- that's just a tube of plexiglass with some little bird rests attached. It's the birds who come to the feeder. The juncos and chickadees and sp... [the daily round]

5AM

For those who don't live locally -- here's the Rabbi Reflections column I wrote for the Jan/Feb 2015 issue of the Berkshire Jewish Voice. (I didn't come up with the title, though I quite like it.) Every winter, as we turn the page on the secular calend... [the solar year] [TuBiShvat]

January 26, 5AM

Today I was supposed to be heading to Gambier, Ohio for a very quick visit. Gambier is a town of about 2300 people and is home to Kenyon College. Kenyon College, in turn, hosts the Kenyon Institute where I will be teaching next summer. I was meant to go t... [speaking / teaching]

January 22, 1PM

Winter in the city is unlovely, all slush and grit. But even here in the country it's not always a picture postcard. Snow which was soft and fluffy when it fell has thawed and refrozen. Driveways are uneven hockey rinks of lumpy ice. Hillsides which had b... [the daily round] [the solar year]

8AM

I sat down this morning wanting to do some writing, and when I let my mind clear, what emerged was this subject. Even as I was writing this post, I had the sneaking feeling I had written something similar before -- but I intentionally didn't seek out that... [embodiment] [gratitude] [Prayer]

January 20, 5AM

Donating to Kickstarter campaigns is like giving a gift to one's future self. I didn't come up with that idea myself -- it's Ethan's -- but I thought of it a few days ago when I received a copy of a book I had helped to fund, but had forgotten would be a... [Books] [comics]

January 15, 8AM

The very first class I took, when I was in the process of preparing to apply to the ALEPH rabbinic ordination program, was Deep Ecumenism. (It's a required class for all students in the ALEPH ordination programs.) Deep Ecumenism was one of the pillars of ... [Christianity] [Deep Ecumenism] [Islam] [Jewish Renewal] [Jewish-Muslim dialogue]
Here's the d'var Torah I offered yesterday at my shul for parashat Va'era. (At least, this is the script from which I spoke. Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.) God spoke to Moshe saying: go and tell Pharaoh, King of Egypt, to let the Israelites... [racism] [Torah]

January 14, 11AM

I wrote recently about three ineffable moments from late last week -- visiting the prayer space where Reb Zalman z"l used to daven, leading prayer with my friend Rabbi Evan Krame, and savoring the davenen on Shabbat morning at the Shabbaton (Shabbat retre... [Jewish Renewal]

January 13, 9AM

The theme of this year's OHALAH conference is "Integral Tikkun Olam." One of the keynote speakers is Ruth Messinger, the head of the American Jewish World Service. Here are some glimpses of the latter part of her Monday morning keynote. As I enter the ro...

January 11, 5AM

Today is ordination day. I'm remembering the first smicha ceremony I ever witnessed, nine years ago, when I was new to the ALEPH ordination programs. And I'm especially remembering my own ordination, four years ago: ...And then the seven rabbinic can...

January 10, 5PM

1. Thursday   It is difficult to describe the experience of entering into Reb Zalman (z"l)'s prayer room. Parting the curtains, entering a little cave filled with prayer books and holy items and meaningful photographs. Sitting in one of the chairs fac... [Jewish Renewal] [Prayer]

January 7, 5AM

I'm on my way today to Colorado. I've been going there at this time of year since I started the ALEPH rabbinic program, which is when I became a student member of OHALAH (the association of Jewish Renewal clergy) and began attending the OHALAH conference ... [Jewish Renewal]

January 6, 9AM

It really wasn't my intention to base multiple Hebrew school lessons this year around repurposed undergarments. But sometimes this rabbinic life takes me into places I didn't exactly expect to go. Case in point: yesterday I found myself preparing for my f... [congregation] [Shabbat]

January 1, 5AM

Happy Gregorian new year! I'm delighted to be able to begin the year with news that I have an essay in a new anthology of Jewish voices on prayer. It's called Shma Koleinu: A Jewish People's Commentary on the Siddur, edited by Rabbi Steven Schwarzman, and... [Books] [Prayer]

December 31 2014, 10AM

I've been honored to be a part of Zeek magazine for many years -- as a contributor, a contributing editor, and now a board member. What began as a Jewish journal of thought and culture is now one of the strongest voices speaking the Jewish progressive cal...

December 29, 11AM

Here's the d'var Torah I offered at my shul yesterday. Jacob, on his deathbed, places his hands on his grandsons Ephraim and Menashe. And he says: The angel who rescued me from all harm -- bless these boys! May they carry on my name and thus name of... [Prayer] [Torah]

December 25, 5AM

My teacher Reb Zalman (Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z"l) frequently told the story of how, when he began studying religion at Boston University, he used to enter the chapel each morning to pray shacharit, Jewish morning prayers. But he found that the cr... [Christianity]

December 20, 3PM

Here's the d'var Torah I offered at my shul this morning. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.) The first thing Joseph does, when summoned from Pharaoh's dungeon, is shave and change his clothes. Presumably he does this because it's not appropriate... [chanukah] [Torah]

December 19, 5AM

We are all of us afraid of the dark. At night, anxieties suppressed or repressed come swimming to the surface of consciousness: am I safe? Am I loved? Am I needed? Is there meaning in the world, or is it all, ultimately, just a swirl of chaos?... Judaism... [chanukah]

December 18, 5AM

For #throwbackthursday, here are three old Chanukah photos. The first two of these are photographs of me with my middle brother. This one's about 30 years old. If you look closely you can see my homemade Chanukah decorations taped to the framed Calder ... [chanukah]

December 16, 5AM

Tonight at sundown we'll enter into the Festival of Lights, also known as the Festival of Rededication, also known as Chanukah. (Or Hanukkah. Whatever. It's a Hebrew word. Its real spelling is חנוכה -- I think the English variant with the "ch" comes ... [chanukah]

December 15, 4PM

I have an essay in the Beyond Walls digital magazine this week. My essay is about how writing can be transformative (in the personal / spiritual sense, not the fannish sense), and it's called Transformative Work. Here's a taste: Writing can transform....

1PM

Human beings have been paying attention to the ebb and flow of daylight for a very, very long time. Stonehenge, that iconic circle of stone slabs in Great Britain, was built sometime between 3000 BCE and 2000 BCE. Its central sight-lines point to the loca... [chanukah] [Christianity] [the solar year]

December 12, 6AM

I'm delighted to be able to announce that I have an essay in a new volume called Keeping Faith in Rabbis: A Community Conversation on Rabbinical Education, edited by Ellie Roscher and Rabbi Hayyim Herring, new this month from Avenida Books. Here's how the... [Books] [Community] [Jewish Renewal]

5AM

1. Thumbnail punctures peel:the reproachful catleaps off of my desk.2. Juncos, chickadeesflitting from roof to feedera quick minuet.3. Red boots, purple coat:vivid colors bright againstsnow and trunk and slush.4. Crumpled tissues restlike soft misshapen s... [poetry] [the solar year]

December 11, 1PM

Over the course of 2014 I've spent countless hours writing the material which appears on this blog. Some of my posts come together quickly; others take days or weeks to polish and prepare. Either way, they move off the front page and they tend to disappea...

12 PM

In this post: another handful of excerpts from, and links to, my favorite posts from 2014. This is the third and final installment in the series. Enjoy!   These are rocky shoals and unfamiliar waters, and there is no lighthouse guiding the way. Nothin...
Recently I shared excerpts from, and links to, a handful of my favorite posts from early in 2014. Here's the next installment in that series. Ethan makes the case that homophily -- listening only to people like ourselves; that phenomenon referenced in...

5AM

Midwinter means a world of white outside my window. Fine lines of white limn every branch and twig. The distant hills vanish beneath a scrim of snow. Midwinter means fragrant clementines like tiny hand-held suns. When I puncture the peel with my thumbnai... [gratitude] [the daily round] [the solar year]

December 10, 5AM

Winter funeral.A forest of old coatstransports meto my grandparents' closet,waxy marbles underfoot.In the world to comethere are no mothballs.No resplendent lynx peltsfrom the era beforeanyone objected to furs.No housecoats or slipperscardigan sweatersseq... [poetry]

December 8, 9AM

Almost every time I'm humbled and honored to preside over a funeral, someone asks me why we make seven stops.  It's Jewish tradition to pause seven times while carrying the casket to the grave. I lead the pallbearers a few steps, then stop and hold up a ... [death and mourning]

5AM

I place before you the assertion that Buzz Lightyear, the fictional toy astronaut, is relevant to this week's Torah portion. (This is a classical technique of Torah exploration: begin with an assertion or a verse from somewhere else in Torah, then relate ... [Torah]

December 7, 5AM

Here's the d'var Torah I offered yesterday morning at my shul for parashat Vayishlach. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.) "Jacob was alone, and a man wrestled with him until dawn." Torah just told us that Jacob was levado, solitary, alone. And ...

December 5, 9AM

  Nishmat Kol Chai / Breath of All Life: Your breath enlivened the first man, You breathe the breath of life in each of us. Today our breath is shortened as we remember Eric Garner gasping "I can't breathe," an elbow pressed around his neck. Breathe ... [poetry] [Prayer] [racism] [Tikkun olam]

December 4, 5AM

We have three-strikes laws for petty crimes but when the justice system fails over and over again nothing happens to change it. — kaya oakes (@kayaoakes) December 3, 2014 I know that I do not understand the American legal system as well as I cou... [racism] [Tikkun olam]

December 3, 9AM

  Breath comes slow. Behind the curtain a gurgling: fish tank? Medical equipment? I don't part the veil. Snatches of liturgy wash over me and are gone. My God, the soul You placed in me is pure. Shelter her beneath Your wings. Now and forever. Now is... [pastoral care] [poetry]

December 1, 5AM

We're well into the lunar month of Kislev (which contains Chanukah), and on the Gregorian calendar today is the first day of the month of December. I remembered that I'd written something about this season which had to do with gentleness to oneself, so I ... [chanukah]

November 27, 5AM

A still from "This Is America, Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers," 1973. Today we remember a long-ago feast of gratitude. Perhaps that feast was held by Pilgrims along with their Wampanoag neighbors, who had helped the colonists survive the hardships... [gratitude] [Holidays]

November 26, 10AM

What does it mean to cultivate hope when the doctors say "there's nothing more we can do"? Hopes for a cure have to be set aside. There will be no miracle, no Hail Mary pass, no eleventh-hour wonder. Every specialist has been seen, every possible avenue o... [health] [pastoral care]

November 25, 9AM

I'm mostly offline this week, but I just saw the news that officer Darren Wilson, who shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown on August 9, will not face trial. (See Ferguson police officer won’t be charged in fatal shooting and Ferguson smolders day after g... [racism] [Tikkun olam]

November 24, 3PM

I'm deeply delighted that the folks at The Wisdom Daily, a publication which I greatly admire, wanted to reprint a version of a blog post which first appeared here. They reposted my piece about Toni Bernhard's book How to Be Sick as Dealing With Chronic ... [health]

November 21, 5AM

Earlier this fall I was honored by the invitation to offer some words of Torah as part of the Peace Parsha series at Americans for Peace Now. You can read my commentary on parashat Toldot at APN: If this is so, then why am I? I'm also archiving it below.... [israel] [Palestine] [Torah]

November 20, 5AM

We hesitate at the unlit stairwellbut two men sitting in the darknod and point us upwards. Four flights up we reach al-Sendebad: open on all sides,Abraham’s tent in concrete.We sit on plastic chairsoverlooking streets, square, park,noisy with people in ... [memories] [poetry] [Travel]

November 19, 10AM

You, standing in line at the coffee shop or shivering at the gas pump -- what phone call do you dread in the back of your mind from the moment you wake up? I don't know what grief lurks in your dark corners or what kind word would settle around you ... [pastoral care] [poetry]

November 18, 1PM

Today's news out of Jerusalem rends my heart. The mere fact of being alive being means that each of us will experience suffering: sickness, pain, grief. These come with being human. Being human means we experience love and joy and connection, and it mean... [israel] [Palestine] [tragedy]

November 17, 5AM

Chanukah begins in mid-December, and perhaps you are looking for Chanukah gifts for someone in your life who loves poetry. (Hey, I can hope, right?) I hope you'll consider clicking through to Phoenicia Publishing, the wonderful independent press in Montre... [Books]

November 16, 5AM

Here's the d'var Torah I offered yesterday at my shul. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.)   For me the most striking feature of this parsha -- which contains Sarah's death, Avraham's purchase of the Cave of Machpelah, Eliezer his servant going f... [death and mourning] [Torah]

November 14, 12 PM

I was writing an email to a dear friend recently and acknowledged, somewhat ruefully, that my mind has been spinning in circles lately. By way of illustration, I typed out the several things at the top of my mind. When I saw it all written down, I started... [contemplative practice]

5AM

Several years ago, composer Michael Veloso set two of the poems from the manuscript which would become Waiting to Unfold to music. I had the extraordinary experience of being able to hear them in concert, performed by the Boston-based ensemble Cantilena, ... [70 faces] [music]

November 12, 5AM

This handwritten copy of one of my poems was shared at morning davenen at the Reconstructionist Rabbinic College yesterday: (The image was sent to me by a friend and colleague who was there.) I am so gratified and humbled that someone loved this poem ... [70 faces] [Torah]

November 11, 8AM

Two years ago this week Ethan and I went to Spain, where I had never been before. He had been engaged to speak at a conference in Barcelona, and we took advantage of that fact to snatch a tiny little vacation. The conference put us up at a hotel we would ... [Travel]

November 10, 8AM

There is something satisfying about the tangibility of the beads. I like the way they feel in my hands, the smoothness of them beneath my fingers. I like the feel of one clicking against the next. They sit in a coil on my desk. Every so often I pick them... [buddhism] [contemplative practice] [Prayer]

November 7, 2PM

This book is written for people who are ill and aren't going to get better, and also for their caregivers, people who love them and suffer along with them in wishing that things were different. It speaks most specifically about physical illness. In the la... [Books] [buddhism] [contemplative practice] [health]

November 6, 6AM

Many thanks to Kate Abbott of Berkshires Week, the weekly magazine which is part of The Berkshire Eagle, for the lovely article about Jewish Book Month happenings in Berkshire County. The article begins with a quote from one of the poems in my first book ... [Books]

5AM

No one knows who these men are or why their photograph has been handed down in our family. If I had to guess, I would say that this photo is probably from Belarus, childhood home to my grandfather Isaac, a.k.a. Eppie (may his memory be a blessing). It is ... [history] [memories]

November 5, 1PM

Looking for a printable shiva minyan liturgy? There's one at the end of this post.   I almost always begin a shiva minyan by telling a story about what we're doing and why we're doing it. (Shiva means seven and minyan means the group of at-least-ten wh... [death and mourning] [lifecycle] [Prayer]

5AM

It's lovely to be the Jewish Renewal voice quoted in this Moment magazine article about cultured meat and its putative kashrut. (Science fiction future, here we come?) Here's how it begins: In Genesis, God granted humans dominion over animals. In moder... [food] [science fiction]

November 4, 8AM

I posted yesterday about a poetry reading I was scheduled to give this Thursday. That reading has been canceled because I will be doing a funeral at that time. Please join me in holding the bereaved family in our hearts and in our prayers.

November 3, 1PM

This post talks about violence against women. If that is likely to be triggering for you, please guard your own boundaries and read with care.   What can I say in response to the many awful things wrong in the world? The endless news ticker of atrociti... [feminism] [Tikkun olam]

5AM

November is Jewish Book Month. Jewish Book Month is an annual event of the Jewish Book Council dedicated to the celebration of (what else?) Jewish books. The Jewish Federation of the Berkshires is sponsoring a variety of Jewish Book Month events around th... [70 faces] [poetry] [Waiting to Unfold]

November 2, 5AM

Here's the d'var Torah I offered yesterday at my shul. (Cross-posted to my congregational From the Rabbi blog.) In this week's Torah portion God calls to Avram with the words "lech-lecha" -- "go forth!" or "go you forth!" or perhaps even "go forth into... [Torah]

October 31, 12 PM

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before. [Source] If you're a Star Trek fa... [media] [Torah]

October 29, 10AM

This is the work: remembering reasons for gratitude before I even get out of bed. There is always something for which I could be saying thank You. This is the work: balancing brisk ("c'mon, we've got to get out of the house, I'm going to be late") with g... [parenting] [the daily round]

October 28, 8AM

After the party    the trees reveal         their elegant bones.         When winds blow    they flirt, naked        branches touching.        The hills unveiled    show off their hips,        put on new clothes.  ... [poetry]

October 27, 6AM

I always forget that once the leaves fall, the trees reveal their elegant bones. So do the mountains. With branches bare, the contours of every hillside come clear. I can see houses, hills, horizon through what used to be a solid wall of leaves. The hill... [the daily round] [the solar year]

October 26, 5AM

Last week we read parashat Noach -- the Torah portion which tells the story of Noah, the flood, the ark, and the rainbow. One of my favorite teachings about this story turns it into something else entirely. It hinges on the Hebrew word teva, "ark," which ... [Hasidut] [Prayer] [Torah]

October 24, 4AM

Tonight at sundown, when we enter into Shabbat, we will also enter into a new lunar month. On the Jewish calendar, we're about to begin the month of Cheshvan. Cheshvan is an empty month. A blank slate. An open expanse. It is the only month which contai... [rosh chodesh] [the daily round]

October 23, 2PM

For #throwbackthursday: a few photos from 1998, illustrating a short essay of that same vintage. As far as I can recall, this one was never published anywhere.   Lonely Planet is my favorite series of travel guides. The guidebooks focus on exciting pla... [memories] [Travel]

4AM

When I traveled to San Antonio over the summer I brought back a bag of old photographs, which I am slowly digitizing, a few at a time. Many of the photos are undated, so I have to guess at when they were taken. This one, though, says "1977" on the back. ... [memories]

October 22, 8AM

I've taken to posting a message on my congregational blog at this time each year, entitled a greeting from the rabbi before Christmas. I wrote it and shared it there last year, and received a lot of response from people with whom it resonated. It seemed w... [Christianity]

October 21, 7AM

SECRET NAMENo one knows the name I was givenby the one who taught me Torahin my mother's womb. The tapon my philtrum hid it from mealong with the mysteries of splendorthe secret of mixing fire and waterthe spiced air of Eden.When this deployment is throug... [poetry]

October 17, 7AM

"This Shabbat is Shabbat Bereshit," I say, "the Shabbat when we begin the cycle of Torah readings again with 'In the beginning...' -- or 'With beginnings...' -- or perhaps 'As God was beginning...'" I'm speaking aloud to those who've come for Friday morn... [contemplative practice]

October 16, 5PM

It's a good thing my rabbinic smicha wasn't contingent on my sewing skills. That was the thought which kept going through my head as I struggled with carefully snipping seams (without snipping fabric), placing careful stitches to keep the seams from unrav... [congregation] [Prayer]

7AM

Today is Shemini Atzeret, 'The Pause of the Eighth Day.' Sukkot is a seven-day holiday. Today is day eight. Shemini Atzeret has various customs, including reciting the memorial prayers of Yizkor. And the tradition offers beautiful supplicatory prayers to... [Shemini Atzeret]

October 15, 8AM

Grief is a funny thing. A peculiar thing, I mean, not an entertaining one. It creeps in unexpectedly when everything seems fine, silent as Carl Sandburg's fog which "comes / on little cat feet." It does not listen to reason. It pays no attention to any li... [health] [pastoral care] [Yizkor]

7AM

All the world feels redolent with apples and honey at this time of year. I've taken our son apple-picking twice since Rosh Hashanah. We go to a local orchard, only a few minutes away from our house. I love the palpable abundance of apple trees laden with ... [Hoshanah Rabbah] [Sukkot]

October 14, 4AM

  Start with two-by-fours and bolts. Fashion a rectangle. Add crossbeams. Then attach four posts sticking up like the frame of an old-fashioned bed. You'll need another pair of hands to invert it, a wobbly table higher than you are tall. Lattices br... [poetry] [Sukkot]

October 11, 9AM

My maternal grandmother; her two daughters; three of their daughters, including me. Sometimes I wonder: what stories will our son tell about his growing-up, in years to come? How will he remember his childhood? What memories will he seize onto and hold f... [memories] [parenting]

October 9, 11AM

On the festival's first night I carried a tray out to the sukkah bearing dinner, kiddush cups, wine and juice, a lighter for the candle I encased in a many-pointed glass star so that the wind wouldn't blow it out. Our son complained that he couldn't see t... [Holidays] [Sukkot] [the daily round]

7AM

There's a Jewish custom of inviting ushpizin, holy guests, into the sukkah each night. In the most traditional paradigm one invites seven (male) Biblical figures; in a more contemporary paradigm one invites Biblical figures of both genders. Each of the in... [media] [Sukkot]

October 8, 9AM

At this time of year I want to take photographs all the time. Everywhere I look, fall colors blaze. The hillsides are a slowly-shifting tweed of late-summer green, orange, yellow, rust, and bright flares of pure red. Every day the color balance is differe... [the daily round] [the solar year]

October 7, 12 PM

Sometimes it's a little bit difficult for me to wind down after the holidays. There's so much to do in preparation for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The most important parts for me are liturgical (practicing parts of the service with my hazzan, talking t... [Sukkot] [the daily round]

October 6, 10AM

The stars are shining on the top of my head, the wind is in my hair; a few drops of rain are falling into my soup, but the soup is still warm. I am sitting in a sukkah, a booth with branches draped over the top, which I have erected in my backyard. A deep... [Sukkot]

October 5, 6AM

I've been remiss in not mentioning this (though perhaps I can be forgiven for that, given the intensity of the High Holiday season), but The Poetry Storehouse is having its first anniversary and is celebrating that with a contest. The Poetry Storehouse i... [media] [poetry] [video]

October 4, 9AM

The 20th-century American writer Dorothy Parker famously said, "Writing is the art of applying the tush to the seat." (She didn't say "tush," but the word she used isn't exactly appropriate to the bimah; you can extrapolate.) This is one of my favorite a... [Days of Awe] [depression] [Prayer]

October 3, 5PM

  Do you know what it's like to feel out-of-place? Have you ever walked into a room and felt uncomfortable? Or maybe you can remember, or imagine, standing with a cafeteria tray in your hands and realizing you have no idea which table to sit down at. Ma... [Days of Awe] [Sermons]

4AM

Prayer Before Yom KippurI now prepareto unify my whole self—heartmindconsciousnessbodypassionswith this holy communitywith the Jewish people everywherewith all people everywherewith all life and beingto commune with the Source of all being.May I find th... [Days of Awe] [Prayer]

October 2, 7AM

6. Sit down, master, on this rude chair of praises, and rule my nervous heart with your great decrees of freedom. Out of time you have taken me to do my daily task. Out of mist and dust you have fashioned me to know the numberless worlds between the crow... [Days of Awe] [poetry]

4AM

I experienced my first Jewish Renewal Yom Kippur at the old Elat Chayyim in Accord, New York ten years ago. One of the practices which moved me most was a practice of collaboratively writing our own Al Chet prayer. The Al Chet prayer -- "For the Sins (Wh... [Days of Awe] [Jewish Renewal] [Prayer]

September 30, 1PM

For ten days, the gates are open and the world is fluid. We are finally awake, if only in fits and starts, if only to toss and turn. For ten days, transformation is within our grasp. For ten days, we can imagine ourselves not as fixed and immutable beings... [Days of Awe] [teshuvah]

7AM

This coming weekend, when my community will be observing the solemn-yet-joyful fast of Yom Kippur, the Muslim community will be celebrating Eid al-Adha, "the feast of the sacrifice," commemorating the story of how Abraham was ready to sacrifice his son an... [Days of Awe] [Islam] [Jewish-Muslim dialogue]

4AM

I've just shared a post about Yizkor on my congregational blog. It's sparked by the fact that we'll recite the prayers of Yizkor, our memorial service, twice in the span of two weeks: once at Yom Kippur, and again at Shemini Atzeret. But what is Yizkor, a... [Yizkor]

September 29, 9AM

I wonder how many of y'all reading this blog now were reading ten years ago when I attended my first Yom Kippur retreat at Elat Chayyim? I had felt for years as though Yom Kippur were eluding me. I could tell that it was supposed to be transformational, b... [Days of Awe] [Elat Chayyim] [Jewish Renewal]

September 27, 8AM

As a child, I loved being able to drizzle my Rosh Hashanah challah with honey. I remember eating leftover challah toast with honey on the mornings right after the holiday. The golden honey pooling on the rich white bread always seemed deliciously decadent... [Days of Awe] [Shemini Atzeret] [teshuvah]

September 25, 9AM

  The story I want to tell you begins on the final day of a retreat for spiritual leaders. We'd been asked to pair up and share a favorite spiritual practice. My partner and I sat facing each other, our knees almost touching. I told her about my favori... [Days of Awe] [Islam] [Jewish-Muslim dialogue] [Sermons]

8AM

On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, our haftarah reading -- the assigned reading from the later books of the Hebrew scriptures -- is the story of Chanah, from the book of First Samuel. For the last few years I've offered the haftarah as a storyteller telli... [Days of Awe] [poetry]

September 24, 4AM

RETURN (ELUL 29)This month is all about return.Take stock of who you are and start again.You can always turn overa new leaf. Nothing's writtenin stone, no lock is sealed.The important thing is to begin.The habit may seem strange when you begin.Pausing eac... [Elul] [poetry] [sestina]

September 23, 4AM

GIVE (ELUL 28)Another chance. Is that so muchto ask? Give me a do-over.Let me erase these wild formulaefrom the blackboard and writelove letters instead. Hand methat screwdriver; I want to fixthe things I cobbled togetherin haste, the hinges between ushan... [Elul] [poetry]

September 22, 4AM

INTEND (ELUL 27)And what did I intend, after all?To uncover beauty everywhere.To travel eveninto the heart of an enemyand unlock the rusted gate.To walk beside someonefor a time; to sharea simple sunrise as spectacularas a nebula unfolding.To act as thoug... [Elul] [poetry]

September 21, 1PM

My congregation, like many communities, has a custom of holding a short memorial service in our cemetery on the Sunday afternoon just before Rosh Hashanah. It is usually an intimate affair. Those who attend tend to be our oldest members, who frequently ha... [lifecycle]

4AM

Here's the brief d'var Torah I offered at yesterday morning's Shabbat service at my shul. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.)   If you only take one thing away from this morning's Torah reading, let it be this: that teshuvah is a two-partner danc... [teshuvah] [Torah]
HOPE (ELUL 26)For the heat-cracked soil of our heartsto receive gentle rain. For the winds which fan our blazesto still themselves. For the stains on the cobblestonesto be only pomegranate juice.For every parent to wake joyfulbecause their child is safe.F... [Elul] [poetry]

September 20, 4AM

BEGIN (ELUL 25)Of course it isn't easy.You'll wobble on your feetlike an unsteady calf.Colors will taste different.Old comforts will be strange.Everyone you thought you knewwill look unfamiliarthrough your remade eyes.Dreaming, you'll mutterin the oldest ... [Elul] [poetry]

September 19, 9AM

I've received some lovely feedback on Days of Awe: the Velveteen Rabbi's Machzor for the Yamim Nora'im. One of the most generous responses has come from reviewer Susan Katz Miller, who writes: Meanwhile, many of the most progressive Jewish communities ... [Days of Awe] [machzor]

7AM

We're approaching the doorway between the old year and the new. Just as Jewish tradition teaches us to put a mezuzah on our doorposts, to make us mindful as we transition from one place to the next, the holidays act as mezuzot on the doorposts of our yea... [selichot] [the solar year]

4AM

END (ELUL 24)And every ending is a beginning.Rolling back light before darknessand darkness before light. Makingone year pass away and bringing onthe next. And when my life endsyou'll go on to a chapter without meand I'll go on to -- I'll knowwhen I get t... [Elul] [poetry]

September 18, 4AM

LOVE (ELUL 23)Four tiny books in a printed cardboard box.A handprint, undated—maybe he was two?An autograph-keeper with faded pagesinscribed in spidery curlicues of Czech.The onesie and pants and booties we chosefor the cautious drive home from the hosp... [Elul] [poetry]

September 17, 4AM

DARE (ELUL 22)To cross the thresholdbetween familiar and unknown.To stop hiding. To danceeven if you feellike an ungainly giraffe.To let the tears come.To throw your arms outand pour light on the world.To start over, relearningeverything. To noticewhat yo... [Elul] [poetry]

September 16, 1PM

I love Selichot. The word "selichot" means "pardons," and can refer to the series of teshuvah-related (repentance / return - related) prayers which we recite during the Days of Awe. It can also refer -- as it does in this instance -- to the service which ... [selichot]

4AM

CHANGE (ELUL 21)The only constantexcept for your loneliness.You've always needed someoneto talk with, to show youyour own reflection.(It is not good for Godto be alone.) But you'remercurial. You've changedmasks: from sternto sweet and back again,old white... [Elul] [poetry]

September 15, 4AM

I'm delighted to be able to announce that a new essay of mine has been published in the Symposium section of Transformative Works and Cultures, the fan studies journal published by the Organization for Transformative Works. The essay is called Fan fictio... [media] [midrash]
JUDGE (ELUL 20)My name is four-dimensional.You couldn't say it if you tried.Call me the true judge, the onewho sees through your obfuscations.Further out than Pluto,deeper than Earth's corethe one who enwombs the worldand shines like a supernova.The one w... [Elul] [poetry]

September 14, 4AM

ASK (ELUL 19)And what if no one's listening,if I'm truly alone?Do I really get to start over?What if I can't forgive myself?When did I stop believingin impossible stories?Can you hear me now,will you answer my call?Can you imagine wantingto see inside my ... [Elul] [poetry]

September 13, 4AM

PRAY (ELUL 18)What does the deepest mirror show?Thank you for this moment; I'm alive.Who I'm speaking to I'll never know. What does the deepest mirror show?My soul the ocean where I daily dive.Yield into the moment and let go.What does the deepest mirror ...

September 12, 4AM

AWAKEN (ELUL 17)Suddenly everything is new.And these eyescan't widen far enoughto take in the universecontained in your heartspanned with your hands.There is no wordwhich means red and greenat the same timebut the apple cupped in this palmsings it joyousl... [Elul] [poetry]

September 11, 4AM

UNDERSTAND (ELUL 16)Why sickness, why childrencringing from a blowor broken by bombs, thesewill never make sense.Why cruelty. Why baranyone from the common table.The sages say the worldwas broken from the get-go,too fragile a vessel for God's infinite lig... [Elul] [poetry] [politics]

September 10, 4AM

LEARN (ELUL 15)Sun, can you teach me to gildeverything I see? Leaves,how to flutter with awe?Ground beneath my feetdon't let me go yetI want to learn gravity.Lenses in frames, I wantto learn not to mistake glassfor the view.And you: convince methat trying... [Elul] [poetry]

September 9, 4AM

REMEMBER (ELUL 14)And what if I can't rememberwho I've been, what other facesI've worn beneath the wheeling stars?Then make up a true story.Look at who you are nowand work backwards. Every choicea course correctionfrom how you once went astray.Set aside c... [Elul] [poetry]

September 8, 4AM

FORGIVE (ELUL 13)All my excuses.Acting as thoughI mattered morethan you do.The times whenI pretended Icouldn't see you.The days whenI didn't botherwrapping my handin the memoryof our connection.Not my changes --we both knowstanding still isn'ta real optio...

September 7, 4AM

TRUST (ELUL 12)How to trustthe one whoholds the universegluons to galaxieswho can speakcreation's own language,past present futureall at once?It's almost laughablemy bounded mindreaching out totouch bright infinity.Can I believenone of usis ever insignifi... [Elul] [poetry]
Here's the d'var Torah I offered at my shul yesterday. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.)   This week's Torah portion is filled with instructions. Here are some of them which speak most to me this year: If someone works for you, pay them ri... [teshuvah] [Torah]

September 6, 4AM

COUNT (ELUL 11)September ticks by. Countyour way through. It's timeto get the year's bill, measurewhat the soul has spent. Turnover your hands, see each daymarked on your palms anew.Remember sharpened pencils, newbackpacks, how you would countthe hours of... [Elul] [poetry] [sestina] [teshuvah]

September 5, 4AM

SEE (ELUL 10)beyond brand labelsbeyond the face I've learnedto cultivatebeyond the words I driplike honey from an apple wedgeI want you to see mesee my misstepsand love me anywayfiercely as the earthloves the star it circlesinexorably as the tidethat rise... [Elul] [poetry]

September 4, 4AM

HEAR (ELUL 9)The sound that meanschange is coming.The shout of triumph.The broken plea.The cry of the heartcracked open at last.The rise and fallof every breath.The future I haven't livedknocking at the door. Tradition teaches that we should hear the s... [Elul] [poetry]

September 3, 4AM

BELIEVE (8 ELUL)That I am morethan the stories I tell.That some core of selfremains though old photosare no longer mirrors.That the goodI've tried to domatters.That you see me.That I will find mercyin your eyes. la I'm participating again this year in... [Elul] [poetry]

September 2, 6AM

Last spring, just before Shavuot, I brought two classical midrash about the giving of the Torah at Sinai to my Hebrew school class, and one of my students made some fannish connections. Rabbi Yochanan said: When God’s voice came forth at Mount Sinai,... [lifecycle] [media] [midrash] [teshuvah]

4AM

BE (7 ELUL)Time to decidewho I wantto bethis timearound the wheel.Look:goldenrod sparksand fizzeslike gold dustby the roadside.A new yeara new morninga new lifetimejust aroundthe bend.Will I beplayful todayor severe?What in meenduresno matter howI dresswh... [Elul] [poetry]

September 1, 4AM

SEARCH (6 ELUL)I want you to see meeven when I'm unlovely.Lost on familiar roads.Who's in the mirror?My feet are confusedbut I know I don't wantto be a mechanical rabbiton a greyhound track.Is it safe to showmy true colors, flashmy most hidden heart?Will ... [Elul] [poetry]

August 31, 4AM

KNOW (ELUL 5)It's time to wake up. The shofar is sounding.This is real:open your eyes.The shofar is soundinga call to remember.Open your eyes.Who have you become?A call to rememberyou could have been kinder.Who have you becomesince last we gathered?You co...

August 29, 4AM

ACCEPT (ELUL 4)The leaves will turnthen let go.The days will flickerlike candle stubs.The woman tetheredto a toxic dripwill get betteror she won't.The child in me shoutsit isn't fair --as though I could changeGod's mind, rewindthe fallen leavesto spring c... [Elul] [poetry]
BLESS (ELUL 3)What         do we blessI ask        and you point:first flames    then gobletsthen bread        braided smoothmy lips        brush your forehead d'var acher        another view:Blessed is        the On... [Elul] [poetry]

August 28, 4AM

ACT (ELUL 2)   Remember standing in the wings chest full of butterflies listening for the cue to step forward and speak? You could look at scuffed wood and remember the masking tape that told you where to stand. And when you said your piece you kne...

August 27, 4AM

DO (ELUL 1)   I didn't have perfect faith. I didn't trust the world with my eggshell heart. I didn't notice each miraculous instant. I cut sandwiches into small triangles. I read about the little blue truck and the friendly tractor. I sang every nigh... [Elul] [poetry]

August 26, 6AM

Last night I went to hear Rabbi Haviva Ner-David speak in Pittsfield at an event co-presented by Congregation Beth Israel (my shul), Knesset Israel, Hevreh, and and Rimon Center for Jewish Spirituality. Here's how we described the event on the flyers: ... [feminism] [halakha] [mikvah]

August 21, 8AM

Lately I've been working on finding the right balance between paying attention to the world and its many injustices, and cultivating an internal sense of peacefulness and compassion. Against this backdrop, a friend recently shared with me a teaching from ... [contemplative practice] [Tikkun olam]
Over coffee this morning, my friend Colin showed me a video which I found pretty extraordinary. It's about an endeavor called Project Daniel: The video isn't new, but it was new to me. Here's how the project's creators describe it: Just before Thank... [Tikkun olam]

August 19, 7AM

Thanks, Slate, for linking to my poem about the "next highest turnpike elevation" sign in What Does This Beloved Road Sign on the Massachusetts Turnpike Actually Mean? (The poem is one I wrote in 2007, spurred by a prompt which invited the writing of poe...

August 18, 10AM

1. Arriving back at this OMNI gives me a peculiar sort of Brigadoon feeling. Even though I know that my hevre (beloved study-friends) have been geographically scattered since we last met, when I return here and they are here too, it feels as though this ... [Interfaith] [Jewish Renewal] [Prayer]

August 14, 8AM

I've watched with grief and horror this week as stories have emerged of police shooting unarmed black men. Michael Brown was shot by police in Ferguson, Missouri. Ezell Ford was shot by police in Los Angeles. Both of these deaths come on the heels of the ... [racism] [Tikkun olam]

6AM

I've packed white linen skirt, white linen shirt, white kippah. When we welcome the Shabbat bride our whole community will be resplendent in white. I've packed my little jar of glitter so that I can sparkle for Shabbos not only metaphorically but literall... [Jewish Renewal] [Travel]

August 13, 11AM

DEAR GOD Spiritual life unfolds    in staccato bursts of prayer:        @God thanks, help, please.Do You miss the measured curves    of pen and ink on cardstock,         our prescribed correspondenceeach morning, picture postcard    e... [Days of Awe] [Elul] [poetry] [Prayer]

8AM

At this weekend's Remembering Reb Zalman Shabbaton in Colorado a variety of my friends and colleagues will be collaborating on leading Shabbat davenen. I am humbled and honored to have the chance to leyn Torah on Shabbat morning. I was given the opportuni... [theology] [Torah]

August 11, 6AM

On Friday morning I'm going to wake up shortly before 4am (ouch) and drive to the airport for a long-awaited trip to Colorado. I go there every January for the ALEPH smicha (ordination) ceremony and for the conference given by OHALAH, the association of J... [Jewish Renewal]

August 8, 4AM

I've been fortunate enough to receive a copy of Tom Montag's new collection In This Place: Selected Poems 1982-2013. It merits an actual review, though I may not manage that until after the high holidays. (And I'm not sure I can do a better job than Peter... [poetry] [Prayer]

August 7, 4AM

A few days ago we marked Tisha b'Av, the most sorrowful day on the Jewish calendar. And a few days from now, when the moon is full, we'll reach Tu b'Av, which was once one of the most joyful days of our year. According to Talmud, Tu B'Av was a day when wo... [Tu b'Av]

August 6, 4AM

Last week, while I was traveling, I received an email from A Way In / Mishkan Shalom which included a link to an interpretive translation, by Rabbi Yael Levy, of the traditional t'fillat ha derech, the Prayer for the Journey. It resonated with me not onl... [Prayer] [Travel]

August 5, 12 PM

This concatenation of ritual -- this dance that begins on Tisha b'Av and ends on Sukkot, that begins with the mournful collapse of a house and ends with the joyful collapse of a house, this intentional spasm that awakens us and carries us through death an... [9Av] [health] [Sukkot]

August 4, 4AM

This is a time of unusually polarized and polarizing discourse in the Jewish community. The situation in Israel and in Gaza is devastating. And so is the way I've seen people reacting to different beliefs and opinions regarding that devastation: who's at ... [9Av] [Community] [israel] [Palestine]

August 2, 8AM

Here's the d'var Torah I offered this morning at my shul. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.) שָׁמֹ֤עַ בֵּין־אֲחֵיכֶם֙ וּשְׁפַטְתֶ֣ם צֶ֔דֶק בֵּין־אִ֥ישׁ וּבֵין־אָחִ֖יו וּבֵ... [The Three Weeks] [Torah]

August 1, 4AM

  It's good to pause to praise the Lord and notice all you have with Sabbath eyes to take the sofa off your back and sit to start the morning sing the dawn and see the work of God to slow the pace of time to wonder at the colors and the fragrance of... [poetry] [Shabbat]

July 31, 3PM

I've written half a dozen different openings to this post, but none of them feel as honest as beginning with this truth: sometimes it's hard to be far away when a loved one is sick. As a rabbi I've bumped into this truth frequently, ministering to people ... [health] [The Three Weeks]

July 29, 5AM

It's funny how memories come back at unexpected moments. The feeling of bobbing in the warm waters of the Guadalupe, lifejacket and waterskis keeping me afloat, with the bright woven ski rope threading through my hands as the boat idled forward. The big p... [memories] [the daily round] [Travel]

July 28, 12 PM

Tisha b'Av is almost upon us -- that painful day when we remember the fall of the first Temple in 586 BCE, and the fall of the second Temple in 70 CE. The anniversary, tradition teaches, of all kinds of other atrocities, from Crusades to the Expulsion fro... [9Av] [Prayer] [The Three Weeks]

6AM

Today is Rosh Chodesh Av, the first day of the lunar month of Av. One month from now we'll enter Elul, the month immediately preceding the Days of Awe. Many of us strive to make Elul a month of introspection and spiritual preparation for the powerful holi... [Books] [Elul]

July 18, 4AM

I'm taking a break from the internet for a week or so. May the Shabbat which begins tonight bring peace to our hearts and to our troubled earth. May the week which follows be one in which kindness and compassion can flourish. Be well, everyone.   ...

July 17, 7AM

Lately I've been talking with rabbinic colleagues about how best to minister to our congregants who are struggling with the news out of Israel/Palestine. We're hearing from people who are unable to fall asleep because they can't stop thinking about the im... [health] [israel] [Palestine] [pastoral care]

July 15, 7AM

I don't usually fast on the 17th of Tamuz. For that matter, I didn't even take on the practice of fasting for Tisha b'Av until a few years ago. (See This year's wrestle with Tisha b'Av, 2011.) I didn't grow up observing the minor fasts, and I've never ta... [israel] [minor fast days] [Palestine] [The Three Weeks]

July 14, 8AM

Not long ago I posted a prayer co-written with Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb in remembrance of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Sha'ar, Eyal Yifrah, and Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir. (It's here: A prayer in remembrance.) Rabbi Lila Veissid, who serves Kibbutz Ha-Ma'apil in ... [israel] [Palestine] [Prayer]

July 13, 4AM

I have been watching the news (and reading blog posts and tweets and Facebook updates) out of Israel and the Palestinian territories with a sense of unbearable heartbreak. It brings me to the brink of something like a panic attack: my chest tightening, my... [israel] [Palestine] [Prayer]

July 12, 6AM

July 11, 4AM

Shekhina, I need to recharge    help me find a dock    with the right number of pins.I'll send You every gratitude    every blessing, spoken and unspoken    every yearning.Install Your presence on my heart    install comfort    install f... [poetry] [Prayer]

July 9, 7AM

On Tuesday, July 15, many Jews will observe Tzom Tamuz, "the fast of Tamuz" -- one of Judaism's minor fast days, commemorating the breach of Jerusalem's city walls which led (three weeks later) to the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 C... [Islam] [israel] [minor fast days] [Palestine] [The Three Weeks]

6AM

When I announced the publication of Days of Awe: the Velveteen Rabbi's Machzor for the Yamim Nora'im, several people emailed to find out whether the prayerbook is available in a hardcover edition. It wasn't then, but it is now! That original post -- whic... [Books] [Days of Awe] [machzor]

July 7, 8AM

How can I begin to write about Reb Zalman? So many others knew him longer than I did. And so many others have written, and will write, about how his extraordinary life and work have shaped Jewish life today. I only knew his work for the last twenty years... [Elat Chayyim] [Jewish Renewal]

July 3, 2PM

My beloved teacher, rebbe, and zaide ("grandfather") Rabbi Zalman Shachter-Shalomi, z"l (may his memory be a blessing) died this morning in his sleep. He was 89. Here is a seven-minute video in which he explains and explores psalm 23 -- which seems like... [Jewish Renewal] [lifecycle]

8AM

by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat and Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb May the memories of our boys killed in senseless hatredbe for a blessing.May their spirits be lifted upand comforted in the close embraceof God's motherly presence. May our precious children be safe from ... [Prayer] [tragedy]

6AM

Ten years ago when I first heard Reb Zalman (zichrono livracha / may his memory be a blessing!) teach in person, he sighed that the Fourth of July had once been an important yontif  (holiday), but seemed no longer to be so for many American Jews. He was... [Community] [Holidays]

4AM

WAKING I will wake in the morning -- will my breath remember me, will my spirit be returned back from the rooms' shell, caverns echoing and empty?-- Seon Joon, "the quiet"   Because You grant it    I will emerge from sleep        not once... [poetry] [Prayer]

July 1, 7AM

A while back I ran across a quotation from Audre Lorde which really struck me, so I copied it into the to-do list file which is always open on my computer, as a reminder that self-care is always on the to-do list. Lorde wrote: "Caring for myself is not... [pastoral care] [tragedy]

4AM

There is only one of me; I can only be in one place at one time. And yet my job calls me to inhabit several moments in time simultaneously. This is the nature of rabbinic work. On the one hand:  today. This is the day that God has made; let us rejoice a... [congregation] [the daily round]

June 29, 4PM

An afternoon at a friend's house. The scent of sunscreen, the feel of water lapping against my body, the excited squeals of several little boys wearing floaties and splashing around the pool clutching pool noodles and kickboards emblazoned with superheroe... [parenting] [the daily round]

June 27, 10AM

“If you have parents who went to college, take a step forward.” “If when you walk into a store, the workers sometimes suspect you are going to steal something because of your race, take one step back.” “If you see people who share your identit... [Jewish-Muslim dialogue] [racism] [Tikkun olam]
Several years ago, at an ALEPH Kallah in California, I was blessed to take a week-long sacred storytelling class taught by master storyteller Debra (a.k.a. Dvorah) Zaslow. The class was wonderful, not least because Dvorah's way of telling stories, and tea... [Books] [lifecycle]

June 24, 7AM

Bless us and guide us in living with awe and singing, shouting with joy. -Psalm 67: 7,8,5 What inspires our awe? How can we cultivate joy? — A Way In @ Mishkan (@awayinms) June 22, 2014 I retweeted that message a few days ago. It comes from my fri... [contemplative practice]

6AM

A recent post at the Cassandra Pages -- Bonjour, summer -- moved and delighted me. Those photographs of berries, mushrooms, radishes -- holy wow! Summer's abundance in living color. I've walked through some of Montréal's markets, though not at this time ... [Community] [the daily round]

June 23, 6AM

Five holy books are treasured in the innermost heart of my tradition: Beginning. Or "in the beginning" or "as God was beginning." The beginning of creation. The beginning of our tradition. The beginning of our story. The beginning of our ancestry. How ... [Books] [Torah]

June 22, 11AM

I learned from a recent episode of Cosmos that the entire planet inhales and exhales over the course of a year. In this season of northern-hemisphere summer, our planet inhales carbon dioxide and the vegetation breathes out oxygen; at the other end of the... [Jewish Renewal] [Prayer]

June 21, 12 PM

Leading services on a Shabbat when one of our kids is called to the Torah as a bar or bat mitzvah can be an interesting challenge. For one thing, our numbers swell -- from our usual 15-20 to 60, 80, even 100. For another, the people who've gathered for a ... [congregation] [lifecycle]

June 20, 7AM

Day Before the Solstice a psalm of thanksgiving   For sky as implausibly blue as a plastic kiddie pool, scrawled with the white streaksof self-erasing contrails. For grass stretching up, for the rustle of oak and birch, for sumac spreading its canopy... [the solar year]

June 19, 4AM

Longtime readers know that I go to Colorado every January for the ordination of new ALEPH rabbis, cantors, and rabbinic pastors, and for the OHALAH conference of Jewish Renewal clergy. (That's where I was ordained.) The reason we meet in Colorado is not ... [Jewish Renewal]

June 18, 9AM

I've been given a gift this week -- the opportunity to open the door for someone who wanted to reconnect with Judaism. I know what it's like to be spiritually thirsty. I know what it's like to feel "on the outside," in galut -- exile -- from community an... [Community] [Jewish Renewal]

4AM

You've probably read by now about the three Israeli teens who were kidnapped while hitchhiking home from their yeshiva in the West Bank. (If not, here's a recent article from TIME: Israel holds breath over three teens kidnapped onWest Bank.) CNN reports ... [israel] [Palestine]

June 17, 6AM

Introducing... Days of Awe a machzor / high holiday prayerbook for the Yamim Nora'im (Days of Awe / High Holidays) edited and assembled in the transdenominational spirit of Jewish Renewal Featuring liturgy both classical and innovative; translations ... [Books] [Days of Awe]

June 16, 8AM

  For my iPad with its velvety cover. For bringing forth a world of praise with the tap of a finger. For the crush of my tefillin bag. For little houses filled with words. For places where I am exposed and where I'm held safe. For the choir of angels ... [Jewish-Muslim dialogue] [poetry] [Prayer] [tefillin]

June 15, 7PM

Peter, Rachel, James: three bloggers in person! Some years ago -- it was longer ago than I realized until I went to dig up the link; it was way back in 2008! -- I posted A minister and a rabbi walk into a coffee shop, about meeting UCC pastor and blogger... [blogs]

June 13, 6AM

At my two most recent poetry readings, during the Q-and-A session, someone has asked me what it's like to live my life so publicly and to expose my heart in my poetry as I do. The truth is, writing poems of miscarriage and healing, or poems of postpartum ... [congregation] [health] [pastoral care]

June 12, 5PM

I've seen some concern lately in the Jewish community about the conversation which some of our Christian cousins -- specifically the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America (PCUSA) -- are having about divestment and Israel. I think it's possib... [Christianity] [israel] [Palestine] [Tikkun olam]

4AM

My mind was jangling. The first full day of this retreat for Jewish and Muslim emerging religious leaders was intense and busy. From morning prayer to conversations over breakfast to beginning to guide my small group through our group project to an "intr... [contemplative practice] [Jewish-Muslim dialogue]

June 11, 3AM

My cellphone sings me a gentle song at 4:30 in the morning and I roll out of bed. Ever since our son was born I have maintained that the 4am hour is the hardest time for me to be awake. When we used to have feedings at all hours, the 4am one was the one ... [Interfaith] [Islam] [Jewish-Muslim dialogue] [Prayer]

June 10, 4AM

It is morning at the Guest House, a beautiful retreat center which describes its mission as "[creating] opportunities for transformational work and [providing] a nurturing environment for those seeking to develop human potential and enrich the world." I w... [feminism] [Islam] [Prayer]

June 6, 4AM

Several years ago, when I was still in rabbinic school, I participated in the first Retreat for Emerging Jewish and Muslim Religious Leaders, organized by RRC's office of multifaith initiatives. I blogged about the experience a bit as it was unfolding, a... [Community] [Islam]

June 4, 4AM

It is here that these classics come to life. They are not dry texts; they speak to us. Each is the opening voice of a conversation which we are invited to join -- a voice that expects reply. So in India we say that the meaning of the scriptures is only co... [Jewish Renewal] [Shavuot] [Torah]

June 3, 4AM

SEASIDE PSALMFor the asphalt which received my blue sandals.For the homeowner who planted two palms    and a banana tree despite the latitude.For the piles of broken seashells    at the base of the mailbox.For robins puffing out their medaled chests... [gratitude] [poetry]

June 2, 4AM

I have a new essay in Zeek. In this piece I draw on classical midrash and on Rabbis Without Borders thinking (as I did last year in the essay Being Meir) to make the argument that Torah belongs to all of us, no matter who we are -- and that God calls us t... [Rabbis Without Borders] [Shavuot] [Tikkun olam] [Torah]

June 1, 5AM

First, a "City Island mojito" on Friday night: Then, sweet davenen with "your band by the sea" at "your shul by the sea:" A message imprinted as I lit the Shabbat candles: A Shabbat morning walk by the water before services:  ...and then more... [Shabbat]

May 30, 6AM

I'm off this weekend to Temple Beth-El of City Island, where I will be their scholar-in-residence as they celebrate their 80th anniversary with a Shabbaton of delicious practice, teaching, and togetherness! (I posted about this a while back.) It's going ... [70 faces] [Waiting to Unfold]

May 29, 9AM

I want to call your attention to a remarkable essay published last week in the Atlantic, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, called The Case for Reparations. It is long, and it is tremendously worthwhile. Here is one very brief quote, to pique your interest: ... [racism] [teshuvah]

May 27, 6AM

From God's high vantage    -- spacetime spread out        like an endless scroll --         every trip I've taken    between these two places        is happening right now.I'm passing myself     at 30,000 feet: seventeen    ... [poetry] [Travel]

May 25, 4AM

Next weekend I'll be the scholar-in-residence at a Shabbaton at Temple Beth El of City Island. In anticipation of my visit, they graciously invited me to post a d'var Torah at their rabbinic blog. For the sake of completeness, I'm also archiving it here. ... [Shavuot] [Torah]

May 21, 8AM

Valley of fruit trees: before and after. [Source.] Several years ago, during the summer when I was living in Jerusalem, I had the opportunity to spend an evening with a group called the All Nations Café. (I blogged about it at the time, and also spoke a...
I'd never encountered lilacs until the end of my first year of college. That was my first year living in New England, and my first Berkshire spring. Suddenly, as exams approached and the end of the year loomed, the tall bushes alongside the President's ho... [gratitude] [the daily round]

May 20, 4AM

Some weeks ago, I wrote a poem inspired by Paul Salopek's Out of Eden walk, his seven-year quest to cover -- on foot -- the original migratory journey of humankind. (You can find my poem on the Out of Eden blog -- Couplets and kilometers -- and it's now a... [israel] [Palestine] [Travel]

May 18, 4AM

Hey, did you know that today is a Jewish holiday? Today is the 33rd day of the Omer. Since Hebrew numerals are also letters, today is called Lag B'Omer -- the letters for 33 spell out the word לג or lag. Today is the yahrzeit, the death-anniversary, of... [Lag B'Omer]
"If you follow My laws and faithfully observe My commandments..." These are the opening words of this week's Torah portion, Bechukkotai, as rendered in the standard Jewish Publication Society translation. Why mention both "laws" and "commandments" -- isn... [Torah]

May 16, 8AM

Sometimes when I look at my Twitter stream, and see the wide (and passionate) diversity of opinion which my friends express about Israel and Palestine, I despair of common ground ever being forged. If I can't imagine my friends on the one side really hear... [israel] [Palestine] [pastoral care] [politics] [Tikkun olam]

May 15, 7AM

    What do you miss?    asked the interviewer--            -- Luisa A. Igloria, "What do you miss?"My mother's gathered blue silkbeneath my fingers. Sun hatsketching a floppy bow. Pearlsheavy as an Olympic medal.Scratchy gold ribbon twinin... [poetry]

May 14, 10AM

How do you tell children the story of the friend of God (Abraham) & his neighborliness in an era of "stranger danger", @velveteenrabbi? — Ayesha Mattu (@Ayesha_Mattu) May 14, 2014 My dear friend Ayesha Mattu tweeted this to me, and my mind start... [parenting]

May 13, 7AM

Wanderer, your footsteps are the road, and nothing more; wanderer, there is no road, the road is made by walking. By walking one makes the road, and upon glancing behind one sees the path that never will be trod again. Wanderer, there is no road-- o... [halakha] [poetry] [theology]

May 9, 2PM

One of my readers asked me recently, "Are you going to publish your National Poetry Writing Month poems? Because otherwise, we're going to have to resort to just printing them out." My mother said the same thing to me last year. In both cases, I promised ... [Books] [NaPoWriMo2013] [NaPoWriMo2014] [poetry]

May 7, 10AM

A while back, one of my friends posted something on Facebook which resonated with me -- a quote which suggested that we never know when someone is facing something difficult or painful, or carrying some hidden grief, and so the most important thing is to ... [pastoral care] [theology]

May 6, 1PM

After reading Rabbi Robyn Fryer Bodzin's poignant and courageous essay Can We Please Tone Down Mother's Day This Year?, about facing Mother's Day after repeated miscarriage, I wanted to post here to offer a reminder of a small resource which is free to sh... [Books] [embodiment] [pastoral care] [poetry]

11AM

NOT THERE YETWhen Moshiach comes    everyone will celebrate        interdependence day.We'll line the streets    for a parade of children        leading lion cubs and lambs, wave flags emblazoned    with our blue-green earth     ... [poetry] [Tikkun olam]

4AM

I haven't been blogging the counting of the Omer this year. I wish I had been able to commit to a practice of writing something inspired by the themes and teachings of each of the 49 days, but there was just no way -- it was either daily poems during Apri... [Omer]

May 5, 10AM

You have no idea how strange I feel lately - almost as if I've started seeing things differently -- through your eyes. Maybe this is normal, because we know each other relatively well now, and of course this has an effect. I keep finding myself explaining... [Books] [israel] [Palestine]

7AM

This week's Torah portion, Behar, tells us that when we enter into the land we may farm for six years but the seventh year should be a Shabbat for the land. During that year we should neither sow nor reap; it is a chance for the earth to experience the sa... [Tikkun olam] [Torah]

6AM

A quick shout-out to a few places where my work has been cited or linked lately: First -- over the weekend, Rabbi Amy Ehrlich quoted my commentary on last week's Torah portion, Emor, in her at sermon at Temple Emanu-El in New York! Temple Emanu-El was th...

May 4, 4AM

I live in two universes when I work in the Middle East. One is a universe where peoples are divided by bitter and violent sorrows, old resentments, understandable suspicions, and completely polarized affiliations. It is a world of great injustices and pas... [Books] [israel] [Palestine] [Tikkun olam]

May 3, 4PM

Looking for a Mother's Day gift for someone in your life? Allow me to suggest Waiting to Unfold, published by Phoenicia last year. Here's how the publisher describes the collection: Poet and rabbi Rachel Barenblat wrote one poem during each week of her...

May 2, 4AM

Our son has been really excited about the slow unfolding of spring. Never mind that it's been in the forties and raining. Ever the optimist, he asks every morning if today's the day he can wear short sleeves. He literally jumps for joy at the sight of daf... [gratitude] [parenting] [Prayer]

April 30, 7AM

    TRANSITIONIn through the double glass doorswith secondhand bathrobe in hand.I leave sovereignty in the trunk.I don't know what I'm losingcan't imagine new stars in the sky.Once I start saying I can'tsure hands thread my spine.I gaze at foam ceiling... [NaPoWriMo2014] [poetry]

April 29, 7AM

EVENING IN THE OLD CITY At sunset the city walls are on fire.No one whose eyes take in that pink stonewill ever be the same. Pomegranate juice,tart, stains the cobbled streets.Cheap cigarettes and sweet smoking coalsduel for ascendance. The man dressedli... [israel] [NaPoWriMo2014] [Palestine] [poetry]

April 28, 6AM

REMEMBRANCEThe narrow bridge of mourningspans generations.Overnight every dream shows destruction. Ashes and bones.Remembrance wells up.Not only at the cemeterybut when planting, orlistening to the radio.The moment of silencelasts forever. Today's NaPo... [NaPoWriMo2014] [poetry] [Shoah] [tragedy]

April 27, 7AM

WAHCONAH PARKThe wooden stands creak. A forest of ballcaps and barrettes.Teenagers text with T-1 thumbs. Boys toss and catch, toss and catch effortlessly eighteentheir calves limned with high socks. During the sunset delay the lights flare painting the di... [NaPoWriMo2014] [poetry]

April 26, 7AM

DREAMFor what endures. For old soles worn    until a toe peeks through. For hands        that press dough flat; for the griddle, hot.For the Western Union sign behind glass,    the sparse shelves of masa and gari        give thanks. It's... [NaPoWriMo2014] [poetry]

April 25, 11AM

Some of you may have read the recent essay by Sara Davidson in the Huffington Post titled Passover Asks: Are You Ready to Go? Here's an excerpt from near the beginning of the piece: When I arrived that morning at his home in Boulder, CO, the rabbi's wi... [Books] [embodiment] [Jewish Renewal] [lifecycle] [teshuvah]

8AM

COUNT THE DAYSsince the last time you told the storysince the children crossed the billowing seasince you left that narrow corridorsince you craved the tastes of home    since the last time, last chance, last changesince the last cigarette you stubbed-... [NaPoWriMo2014] [poetry]

April 24, 7AM

CAESARIA MARITIMA The vaults of the sky arched overhead.Beneath, men on scaffolding tucked blocks of sandstone tight. Once the keystone took its placethey hauled the wooden bolster freeand the stones stayed taut.Pressure makes them motionlesseven after tw... [israel] [NaPoWriMo2014] [poetry]

4AM

One of my Israeli friends on Facebook alerted me to a recent AP article: In West Bank, teen offenders face different fates. Here's how it begins: BEIT UMAR, West Bank (AP) - The boys were both 15, with the crackly voices and awkward peach fuzz of adole... [israel] [Palestine]

April 23, 7AM

Many years ago I wrote a post about new translations of psalms, and one of the translations I referenced was from my teacher Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, a.k.a. Reb Zalman. His creative, heartfelt, pray-able, earth-conscious renderings of psalms weren'... [Jewish Renewal] [Prayer]

5AM

MAP AND TERRITORY   Draw the lines firm: give no doubt where the boundaries between us and them. Your choice of alphabet will locate you on one side or the other. Think of the man walking for seven years from where the human story began. "I forget t... [israel] [NaPoWriMo2014] [Palestine] [poetry]

April 22, 1PM

ELIJAH WAITSElijah walks the streetswith Moshiach's phone numberprogrammed into his cellphone.In his messenger baggift cards and cigaretteshe hands out to the homeless.He always buys roses and gumfrom the kids who peddleat busy intersections.He doesn't vi... [NaPoWriMo2014] [pesach] [poetry] [Tikkun olam]

April 21, 10AM

NOT EXACTLY NEW YORK SCHOOL   It's the twenty-first of April (and the same in Nisan, though more than three thousand years separate the Gregorian calendar from the Jewish one) also the seventh day of Passover, sixth day of the Omer, Patriot's Day thoug... [NaPoWriMo2014] [poetry]

April 20, 2PM

BRIDGE OF FLOWERS, EASTER MORNING   Because we had to hurry to go through the river and our bread fell off our backs. I was an Israelite. I love the daffodils best. They're all growing. That's what spring is. Matzah is a kind of bread. There's wate... [NaPoWriMo2014] [poetry]

4AM

Six years ago, I attended Easter services in Williamstown for the first time. Our friend Bernard was here that year and needed a place to worship. He was far away from his home church of St. Kizito's in Nima, Accra, and he'd had a rough Holy Week, which h... [Christianity]

April 19, 9AM

INCISED MOONOnce I would have woken at threeto see our planet's shadow carving a black crescent.To watch her face disappearonly to return, round and redas though hiding aroused her.But after the yearof night wakings,breasts full as the moonI don't want to... [NaPoWriMo2014] [poetry]

April 18, 11AM

I'm about to begin teaching a weekly Omer spiritual study group at my synagogue, and as a result, I've been collecting materials to share. We'll be working sometimes with the kabbalistic paradigm which assigns to each week of the Omer, and to each day wi... [Omer]

9AM

ATTRIBUTES   God, do You ever grow weary, snap at Your children, say things you regret once they leave Your mouth and we shrink away? Slice the words off before they're spoken. Revise Yourself into lovingkindness. Be the One we call on when we pray. ... [NaPoWriMo2014] [poetry] [Torah]

April 17, 5AM

HOW I KNOW I'M HOMEcold coffee splashesover half-moons of icescattering splendainto the morning air-- far from the thick mudscented with cardamomwhich I drank from thimblesbeneath vaulted ceilings --this is sweet and milkythin as a rain puddleice knocking... [NaPoWriMo2014] [poetry]

April 16, 6AM

TEN SEDER LIESWe didn't open the door for Elijah last night.Miriam's Cup wasn't full of living waters.The hidden matzah languished, unlooked-for.Costumes for the pageant never left their box.No one asked about the seder plate stowaways.We decided to skip ... [NaPoWriMo2014] [pesach] [poetry]

April 15, 6AM

  GIFTYou stand beside and sing the words with me.I did the same in Texas years ago.How is this night different? Come and see.My childhood seders aren't for you to know.You draw an orange on your seder plate.What will you remember as you grow?You're ble... [NaPoWriMo2014] [parenting] [pesach] [poetry]

4AM

Chag sameach - happy Pesach! Tonight at our second-night seders we'll begin the tradition of Counting the Omer. "Omer" means measures. When the Temple still stood, it was customary to bring harvest offerings three times a year, at Sukkot, Pesach, and Sha... [Omer]

April 14, 4AM

BE What do you want to be?Have you always known?Can you imagine the becoming?What would it feel like?Would you carry your body differently?How would you walk in the world?Will you be at a seder tonight?Will you pay attention to your heart?Do you know to w... [blogExodus] [NaPoWriMo2014] [poetry]
Tonight at the seder we will read or sing the psalms of Hallel. (At my house we'll do some reading, some Hebrew, some English poetry of praise. Tomorrow night at the synagogue's community seder we'll probably sing excerpts from the psalms in Hebrew.) It'... [poetry] [Prayer]

April 13, 11AM

This morning my co-teacher and I hid scraps of chametz -- leaven -- around the synagogue. Not because we wanted to give our cleaning crew an extra challenge tomorrow, but because we wanted to teach some of our youngest members -- and their families -- abo... [pesach]

5AM

CHANGE slavery into freedommidwives into dissidentsbasket into arkHebrew into princebabbler into stuttererboy into manoverseer into corpsebush into flamewas into will-befugitive into emissarystaffs into snakesNile into blooddarkness into lightPharaoh's h... [blogExodus] [NaPoWriMo2014] [poetry]

April 12, 6AM

REDEMPTION IS Redemption is the sensory impressionof leaving slavery, throngs shovingtoward the parted seas.The redemption project was originally created  by Malachi's promise to turn parents' heartsto their children, children to their parents.What do th... [blogExodus] [NaPoWriMo2014] [poetry]

April 11, 11AM

A Jewish Renewal perspective on the tetrad of lunar eclipses, by rabbinic student David Markus and Rabbi Rachel Barenblat. We in North America are about to experience four total lunar eclipses in a row which, incredibly, will coincide with Pesach (15 A... [Jewish Renewal] [pesach] [planet earth] [Sukkot]

4AM

COUNTSoon we'll start to count each daythe weeks until first harvest.Not grain; instead, discernment.Refine away the heart's drosson this labyrinth's curved path.When we get to forty-nine will we be poised to receive? Since today's #blogExodus prompt w... [blogExodus] [NaPoWriMo2014] [poetry]

April 10, 5AM

LEAVE As though it were easy.Just sling my jacketover my shoulderand head out the door.As though it didn't meanwalking away from every awful certaintyI've ever known.I didn't want to belongto power, instrumentof an unknown agenda.Forgot how to be anything... [blogExodus] [NaPoWriMo2014] [poetry]

April 9, 6AM

ASK Why is this night different from all other nights?    Don't we know the answer to that already?    Why are they called "the four questions"    when it's really one question with four answers?Do you believe we were slaves to a Pharaoh in Egypt... [blogExodus] [NaPoWriMo2014] [poetry]

April 8, 6AM

ALWAYS MORE TO LEARN It's time to unearth the haggadot again.Scour the countertops before the nightwe'll gather around the table, allears to hear the story our people tell:once were slaves, now we're free -- that's whythe songs and foods and prayers: co... [blogExodus] [NaPoWriMo2014] [pesach] [poetry] [sestina]

April 7, 6AM

TO MY HAGGADAH Over the years your staples have slippedand pages loosened. Here a faded purple crescentof ancient wine, there a smudgefrom bricks of date paste. But when you speak I swoon. Tell me againhow we were slaves to a Pharaoh in Egyptbut the Holy... [NaPoWriMo2014] [pesach] [poetry]

April 6, 2PM

I'm going to Temple Beth-El of City Island at the end of this month as a Scholar-In-Residence! While I'm there, I'll be participating in Shabbat services (both evening and morning), offering some teaching, reading poetry, and teaching a class. Below is so... [70 faces] [Waiting to Unfold]

10AM

SUNDAY AFTERNOONBare branches splay across egshell skyinviting the tiny caress of squirrel feet,the sharp peck of a bird, seeking.Parked cars rest, awaiting orders.Electricity races invisiblythrough unmoving power lines.Rooftops have shed their winter coa... [NaPoWriMo2014] [poetry] [the daily round]

9AM

This past Shabbat was my first Shabbat home from my trip to Israel and the West Bank, and I settled back into our usual Friday evening traditions. Step one is a trip to the A-Frame bakery for a challah and a cookie. We go there on our way home from presc... [blogExodus] [parenting] [Shabbat]

4AM

Here's the d'var Torah I offered at my shul yesterday morning for parashat Metzora. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.) I'm also posting this as a contribution to #blogExodus, for today's prompt "Clean." In this week's Torah portion we read instr... [blogExodus] [pesach] [Torah]

April 5, 11AM

AT THE WALLThe same molded plastic chairs, there as everywhere: in this way it is like the nearby market stalls, though nothing is bought or sold. We come to pray, to pour out our hearts. Look,on the men's side they leap for joy, at ease with their voices... [israel] [NaPoWriMo2014] [poetry]

4AM

At this time of year a lot of energy goes toward preparations. At my synagogue, emails are flying fast and furious about our second-night community seder: do we have enough flatware? How about coffee urns? Who's going to take care of the synagogue's movab... [blogExodus]

April 4, 10AM

We're one day closer to Pesach. One day closer to celebrating our freedom from slavery in Mitzrayim. Usually that name is rendered as "Egypt," but it means "The Narrow Place." What are the narrow places from which you need to be freed? The narrow place... [blogExodus]

6AM

WAKE-UP CALLFour-thirteen AM: the call to prayer glides into my ear.God is greatest!Another voice joins the songpoint and counterpoint.I bear witnessthat there is no otherGod but God!Handful of stonesthrown into a still pondmake intersecting ripples.In my... [Islam] [israel] [NaPoWriMo2014] [Palestine] [poetry]

April 3, 10AM

My friends and colleagues at Romemu made the news recently for their publicly-announced decision to spend the days of Pesach free from the hametz of email. Hametz means leaven. In one popular Hasidic understanding the idea of cleansing one's home of liter... [blogExodus]

7AM

STRANGERhe doesn't meet my glance, the manwhose tallit is draped like wingson his way to morning prayeron my first day back when I walk round-eyed into the old neighborhood, greetingthe grandkittens of the feral catsthe three-year-old used to feedthese li... [israel] [NaPoWriMo2014] [poetry]

4AM

Pesach is approaching! If you're looking for a haggadah, allow me to humbly recommend the Velveteen Rabbi's Haggadah for Pesach, which exists in two versions: one which is 48 pages long, one which is 84 pages long. You can find both versions (downloadabl... [pesach]

April 2, 1PM

Every year at the seder we retell our central story: once we were slaves to a Pharaoh in Egypt, and now we are free. Once we were trapped in the constriction of terrible circumstance, and now we can breathe and stretch and shape our own choices. Once we w... [blogExodus]

6AM

LEVIATHANVaster than any known creature who lives in the deep!Prayers encircle your horns. Light shines from your eyes.Most of all you are lonely: God reconsidered your powerand killed your companion, salting away her fleshas a feast for the righteous at ... [israel] [NaPoWriMo2014] [Palestine] [poetry]

4AM

I'm delighted to be able to let y'all know that I am the featured poet in the current issue of Soul-Lit, a journal of spiritual poetry. One of the magazine's editors, Wayne-Daniel Berard, interviewed me for the issue's central feature story. Here's one q... [poetry]

April 1, 5PM

HEBRON    How much is us? Why shall we not    in such burning place live out our allotments?    nothing looks good on paper    if you can tame it, you can have it    -- from "Not This Mouth" by Jasper Bernesthe heart hot with shrapnelwhere ... [blogExodus] [poetry]

March 31, 11AM

One of the things I knew I wanted to do, upon returning to Israel for the first time in many years, was to go with Eliyahu McLean to Hebron on his Hebron Dual Narrative Tour. I had heard about the trip from a rabbi friend, who wrote to me: Eliyahu's tr... [israel] [Palestine] [Tikkun olam] [tragedy] [Travel]

March 30, 2AM

At my first Jewish Renewal Shabbat services, back at the old Elat Chayyim in 2002, I felt as though my soul had come home. Every time I have davened with Nava Tehila, the Jewish Renewal community of Jerusalem, I have felt the same way. When I saw that N... [israel] [Jewish Renewal] [Shabbat]

March 29, 10AM

I walked to Ben Yehuda street toward the end of Shabbat, thinking that I was going to wait on a park bench until Shabbat ended and the stores opened, in order to try to buy a Spiderman kippah for our son. (I should've just bought one in Tzfat when I first... [israel] [Prayer]

12 AM

One of the joys of being a longtime blogger is having the chance to meet people whose words one has read for years. I've had the opportunity to meet three bloggers while I've been in Jerusalem. First I had lunch with Chaviva (of Just Call Me Chaviva); the... [blogs] [israel]

March 26, 2AM

View from the roof of the Ecce Homo, twilight. Below: intersection with minaret, shopkeeper's wares. I've never stayed in the Old City before. The moment I walk out of the convent guesthouse where I am staying, I'm on the cobblestones of the Via Dolorosa... [israel] [Palestine] [Travel]

March 24, 8AM

After a wonderful morning of davening the morning service with my family and celebrating my nephew as he became bar mitzvah, and a delicious lunch at the Bar-El guesthouse, our guide Kobi took us to visit two historic synagogues before setting us loose to... [Hasidut] [israel]

4AM

Seven years ago I had the honor of leading my family in prayer as we celebrated my niece's bat mitzvah. It was my first time leading services for my family, which was an incredibly meaningful experience for me. I had also never led a service by myself for... [lifecycle] [Prayer]

March 23, 1PM

Another new-to-me destination on my family's travels was Akko -- one of the oldest continuously-inhabited sites in the region. (Bet She'an has evidence of habitation for about 6000 years; Akko, about 4000 years.) From the city's Wikipedia page I learned t... [history] [Islam] [israel] [Palestine]

March 22, 10AM

On Shabbat morning I woke up in Jerusalem and, with nearly twenty members of my extended family, boarded a bus heading north. The first place we visited together was Caesaria (קֵיסָרְיָה / قيسارية‎). Before our visit, the name mostly e... [food] [israel] [Palestine] [Travel]

March 20, 4AM

Mark Twain wrote that "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness[.]" I don't know about fatal, but anyone who travels with open eyes and an open heart can't help but be moved. By the things we have in common across the earth's wide expa... [israel] [Palestine] [Travel]

March 19, 11AM

I'm thoroughly delighted to be able to announce that I'll be giving a talk and poetry reading in the Baka neighborhood of Jerusalem next week! Here's the event description: Thursday, March 27, 8pm: Rachel Barenblat on motherhood, poetry, and spiritual ... [70 faces] [Books] [israel] [Palestine] [Waiting to Unfold]

9AM

Passport: check. Prescription medication: check. Jeans, skirts, shirts, sweater: check. Boarding passes: check. Books loaded on my Kindle. Charging cables. Plug converters. Camera and charger. Tallit. (Small, blue, silky, portable.) Siddurim (two in pri... [Travel]

7AM

As I prepare for my own departure tomorrow, I've paused in my packing to read two essays written by respected rabbinic colleagues, both published this week in Al-Jazeera. In one essay, Rabbi Ari Hart writes about why he is a Zionist. In the other, Rabbi B... [israel] [Palestine]

March 18, 6AM

LIMESTONETexas doesn't have the Mediterranean but any native knows the similarities.The sabra is prickly on the outside, sweet on the inside, like cactus fruit.Texas has cactus, and we're also not short on attitude.Variations: Israeli ranchers areBedouins... [israel] [poetry]

March 16, 4AM

Here's the very short d'var Torah I offered at my shul yesterday for last week's Torah portion, parashat Tzav. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.) We read in this week's portion that one who offers a korban for the purpose of thanksgiving must ea... [Prayer] [Torah]

March 14, 3AM

I had the recent pleasure of participating in a video interview with Shmuel Rosner, the man behind the section of the Jewish Journal called Rosner's Domain. The interview is part of his weekly Torah talk series. Shmuel has hosted several of my friends and... [Torah] [video]

March 13, 6PM

My thanks go to the editors at the Reform Judaism blog for reprinting my post Why I love havdalah. I serve a Reform shul and I'm delighted to have that post circulating to the broad Reform community. And my thanks also go to the editors at Kol ALEPH, the... [blogs]

9AM

People ask me sometimes what rabbinic school was like. My short answer is "amazing -- really hard -- and one of the best things I've ever done." But maybe a longer answer would be interesting to those who read this blog. Disclaimer: this may not be cha... [Jewish Renewal] [rabbinic school]

March 12, 12 PM

Purim is almost upon us! The full moon falls this weekend, and Purim begins on Saturday evening at sundown. In honor of the coming holiday, here's an adaptation of a teaching from the Hasidic master known as the Sfat Emet. (You can read it at greater leng... [Hasidut] [purim]

March 7, 10AM

Earlier this week I had the privilege of interviewing Jen Marlowe for Zeek magazine. We spoke about her new book, I Am Troy Davis, co-authored with Martina Davis-Correia, which tells the story of Troy Davis who was executed by the state of Georgia. We als... [Books] [Tikkun olam]

7AM

    MORNING PRAYER Leaves an echo on my arm, a spiral fading. I hope the imprint on my heart stays.     This little poem is a cinquain, a five-line poem. I've posted this kind of poem here before -- see last year's Daily April poem: a cinquain... [poetry] [Prayer] [tefillin]

March 6, 4AM

I recently finished Joshua Prager's Half-Life: Reflections from Jerusalem on a Broken Neck. Prager was a young man of nineteen studying in Jerusalem when the bus he was riding in was slammed by another vehicle -- not an act of terrorism, as one might have... [Books] [health] [israel]

March 5, 7AM

I just shared a post about prayer and parenthood. (Which has garnered some lovely comments, by the way; thanks, y'all!) Next up, I wanted to offer something different. Variety being the spice of life, and all that. But apparently the writing I'm doing thi... [parenting] [poetry] [Prayer]

March 2, 5AM

Here's the d'var Torah which I offered yesterday at my shul. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.) At the end of this week's Torah portion, Pekudei, we read about Moshe setting up the mishkan, the place where the Shekhinah would dwell -- in English... [Torah]

March 1, 1PM

There's a teaching from the Maggid of Mezritch about morning prayer. I love this teaching -- and I also struggle with it. Here it is: Take special care to guard your tongue   before the morning prayer. Even greeting your fellow, we are told,    ca... [parenting] [Prayer]

February 28, 7AM

"Take a moment to settle in to being here," I say aloud. My eyes are closed but I know there are three other people in the room this morning; I heard them walk in, each to their own place in the sanctuary, and I waited until the sounds of their arrival ha... [contemplative practice]

February 27, 9AM

There's a particular energy which comes from the momentum of a big creative project approaching fruition. It's a combination of excitement, anticipation, glee, eager nervousness, hope. Above all, hope. Hope that this prayerbook reaches the people who need... [Books] [machzor]

February 26, 12 PM

Carved cornices perch at roof's edge. Plows heap mountains in every driveway. Finger drifts skitter across cracked asphalt. Penitents, thin snow spikes reach skyward marking off these hills, feather beds for giants drowsing beneath cold eide... [poetry] [the daily round]

February 24, 8AM

On a recent Saturday at my shul, we paused in an evening program to make havdalah. Afterwards, someone emailed me asking to learn more, pointing out that havdalah was entirely new to them, and perhaps to others as well. Probably you know we begin Shabbat... [havdalah] [Shabbat]

February 21, 5AM

Our practice of Shabbat restores primordial wholeness to the cosmos. It has the capacity to irrigate the thirsty world. Shabbat is a transformation inside of God in which we are actors. So teaches Rabbi Marcia Prager, the dean of the ALEPH rabbinic ordi... [Jewish Renewal] [Shabbat]

February 20, 9AM

I always try to hold on to the both/and. To see things from both sides. To celebrate what is wonderful without ignoring what's problematic: in Torah, in the literary sources I read, in my relationships, in my life. This is one of my central life-values. A... [israel] [Palestine]

February 19, 9AM

Longtime readers may recall that I have been blessed for many years to serve on my community's chevra kadisha (volunteer burial society). We are the group of community members who, before burial, lovingly wash, dress, pray over, and care for the body of e... [halakha] [Jewish Renewal] [lifecycle] [pastoral care]

February 16, 5AM

Here's the d'var Torah I offered yesterday at my shul. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.) This week's Torah portion begins with Moshe atop Mount Sinai, communing with God. The last thing God says to Moshe is a set of verses we now know as V'sham... [Torah]

February 13, 2PM

Tonight at sundown we enter into Purim Katan, "Little Purim." At the full moon of Adar, we celebrate Purim, our festival of masks and merriment. We read from the Megillah of Esther, we eat hamentaschen and give gift baskets to friends and to the needy, w... [purim]

February 10, 7AM

"Would you consider teaching or writing something about Jewish meditation?" a congregant asked me recently. "I think people wonder sometimes whether it's really Jewish." Contemplative practice in Judaism has taken a variety of forms, and bears a variety ...

February 8, 7AM

I can't remember how I first heard about Leah Vincent's memoir Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation After my Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood. I suspect I read an excerpt, probably at Unpious.com, and on the strength of that excerpt pre-ordered the Kindle edition long ... [Books] [Hasidut]

February 7, 8AM

Here's the short teaching I offered during our meditation minyan at my shul today. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.)   I learned from my teacher Rabbi Jeff Roth -- who learned from our teacher Reb Zalman (Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi) -- that... [contemplative practice]

February 5, 12 PM

"What does it mean to be a rabbi without borders?" people ask. "Is it like Doctors Without Borders? Do you travel the world?" Not in the sense of accruing more stamps on my passport. The travel is between perspectives and viewpoints, not between nations. ... [Jewish Renewal] [Rabbis Without Borders]

February 3, 7PM

Seeing friends from my RWB cohort again. Meeting people from the other rabbinic cohorts. Putting faces with Twitter handles and email addresses. At an icebreaker, "outing" myself as a reader of speculative fiction. (Also as a congregational rabbi and... [Community] [Rabbis Without Borders]

February 2, 1PM

The last time I was at Pearlstone, I was still a rabbinic student, and I was here for two weeks of ALEPH rabbinic program intensive study. It was my first rabbinic school residency as a mom, and our son was less than a year old -- which meant that first E... [parenting] [Rabbis Without Borders]

5AM

Here's the short d'var Torah I offered yesterday at my shul for parashat Terumah. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.) This Torah portion contains one of my favorite verses in Torah, a verse I choose to preach on every year: "Let them make Me a sa... [Torah]

February 1, 5AM

THE FIRST ADAR   The first Adar takes its name from the letter who tells no tales. Contains "little Purim" which is just like big Purim except we don't read the megillah or send gift baskets we just cultivate joy. The first Adar's mitzvot are invisi...

January 31, 7AM

There's something poignant about leading meditation on a morning which will contain a funeral. Following our breath as it comes and goes, knowing that soon we will turn our attention to someone whose breath no longer enlivens. In Genesis 2 we read that G... [contemplative practice] [lifecycle]

January 28, 6AM

At OHALAH, I learn about The December Project, a collaboration between author Sara Davidson and Reb Zalman in which they speak honestly and candidly about aging, death and dying, and the afterlife. I promptly pre-order a copy. Upon my return home, a woma... [lifecycle] [pastoral care]

January 27, 5AM

Maybe because I'm anticipating (and preparing for) a family celebration of bar mitzvah this spring, I've been on the look-out for poems and prayers for that lifecycle moment. At the OHALAH conference, I picked up a display copy of a new siddur which one... [lifecycle] [Prayer]

January 26, 6AM

Chickadees jostle for space at the feeder. The coffeepot murmurs its finishing song. Steam rises from the oatmeal bowl, inscribing unfamiliar alphabets on the air.     For Seon Joon. (About small stones.) [poetry] [the daily round]

January 24, 5AM

Everyone says that motherhood changes you. That you see things differently once you become a mom. You relate to your own parents differently. You understand things differently. That made sense to me; I expected motherhood to change my outlook. But I didn'... [parenting] [poetry]

January 23, 5AM

I posted last week about Helene Wecker's The Golem and the Jinni, which I had the opportunity to finish on my way home from the OHALAH conference of Jewish Renewal clergy. The other book I read on my way home was Phoebe North's YA novel Starglass. It's ... [blogs]

January 22, 9AM

This morning I met again with my usual cohort of Jewish clergy who study sacred texts together each week in the coffee shop. This week, one of our conversations about Heschel's Heavenly Torah went in a direction I didn't expect. We were talking about a pa... [Shabbat] [the daily round]

January 20, 5AM

I want to say something to honor Martin Luther King Day, but I don't know that I have words meaningful enough for the occasion. And as a white woman, I don't want to co-opt the memory of a great African American leader. But one of my rabbinic and civil r... [blogs] [Tikkun olam]

January 19, 5AM

May I kvell? This is so neat. Writer and filmmaker Othniel Smith has created a videopoem based on one of my poems -- combining public domain footage, Peg Duthie's audio recording, and my words ("Ethics of the Mothers," which appears in April Daily.) I pu... [poetry]

4AM

Here's the very tiny d'var Torah I offered during Shabbat morning services at my shul yesterday. (I kept it brief because I wanted plenty of spacious time for our Tu BiShvat seder after services!) (cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.) In today's pa... [Torah] [TuBiShvat]

January 18, 4PM

Fruits with peels / shells, representing assiyah / action; fruits with pits, representing yetzirah / emotion; Fruits edible throughout, representing briyah / thought; etrogcello, representing atzilut / spirit.   After services and our (slightly bel... [TuBiShvat]

January 16, 11AM

When I started this blog in 2003, it never occurred to me that I might wind up with a sideline in recommending religion-related speculative fiction. But here I am, having written about Saladin Ahmed's delightful Throne of the Crescent Moon last month, and... [Books]

5AM

It’s fun to teach a 4-year-old about Tu B’Shvat. We’ll probably sing happy birthday to the trees in the backyard, and bless and eat a variety of tree fruits and nuts at a kiddie Tu B’Shvat seder at the synagogue. Maybe we’ll try to connect trees... [parenting] [planet earth] [TuBiShvat]

January 15, 4PM

I've been thinking lately about how to love something while acknowledging its flaws. A few years ago I read a thought-provoking speech by Wendy Doniger which touches on this. Here's an excerpt. (She's talking here about hermeneutics, which means "a way of... [Tikkun olam] [Torah]

6AM

Taste and see Psalm 34, verse 8: "Taste and see that God is good." We make our way into the woods at the edge of our land, trees webbed with plastic tubing, clear and pale green against the snow. Down to the beaver dam, pond punctuated with cattails, g... [poetry] [TuBiShvat]

5AM

In the haftarah (prophetic) reading assigned to this week's Torah portion, Isaiah has a vision of God. In his vision, God asks, whom shall I send, who will go for us? And Isaiah says, "Hineni, here I am! Send me!" This has been one of the themes of our t... [Jewish Renewal] [OHALAH]

January 14, 1PM

This morning brought another program I was really excited about -- a plenary panel called Real World Halachic Issues in a Time of Paradigm Shift, introduced and facilitated by my dear friend and teacher Rabbi Daniel Siegel. Last year's session Halakha : H... [halakha] [Jewish Renewal] [OHALAH]

January 13, 2PM

My Monday morning at the OHALAH conference began with the most glorious and extraordinary service led by my dear friend Rabbi Chava Bahle. Her service interwove poetry, mikvah meditation, water, song and prayer in a way which created (for me) a deep sense... [Jewish Renewal] [mikvah] [OHALAH] [Prayer]

11AM

This morning I attend a keynote address by Rabbi Sid Schwarz, whom I have known since that PANIM interdenominational rabbinic student retreat I was blessed to attend all those years ago. He's now involved with Clal (the Center for Learning and Leadership,... [Community] [Jewish Renewal] [OHALAH]

January 12, 10PM

I always forget how glorious it is to daven with this community. A room full of people, all of us already connected with the liturgy, connected with God, connected with each other. The way weekday nusach interweaves with new melodies and we all just roll ... [Jewish Renewal] [OHALAH]

7AM

SEU'DAH SHLISHIT AT THE ATLANTA AIRPORT   Two thousand miles away as evening cloaks the rockies you gather to dine on song as the angels do. My holy third meal will be local beer and collard greens at the airport food court. You sing psalm 23 with f... [OHALAH] [poetry] [Shabbat]

January 10, 12 PM

I am thoroughly delighted to be able to announce that my next book-length poetry collection, Open My Lips, will be published by Ben Yehuda Press, publishers of books of interest to the American Jewish community since 2005! Open My Lips is a collection of... [Books] [Open My Lips] [poetry] [Prayer]

January 9, 8AM

Yesterday when my son and I arrived home after preschool, I could see my shadow against the driveway's thin layer of snow. Night falls early at this season, and the sun had long since set. The shadow came from the half-moon suspended over our rooftop. "L... [TuBiShvat]

January 7, 7AM

The first creative act of the new year: I find an empty manila folder, uncap a blue pen with a thick nib, and inscribe the tab with "POEMS 2014." It's the first poetry-related creative act, anyway. I wrote a d'var Torah last week, beginning 2014 not with... [the daily round]

January 4, 5AM

Here's the d'var Torah I meant to offer today at my shul, until services were cancelled on account of dangerously low temperatures. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.) Stay warm and safe, y'all! This week's Torah portion, Bo, contains one of my fav... [Torah]

January 3, 8AM

Funny story: I went to prepare this Torah portion for services, and gravitated toward these verses. I had these thoughts. I thought, "hm, this seems familiar, have I written about this before?" but I searched my divrei Torah index and there was no d'var T... [feminism] [Torah]

December 29 2013, 5AM

A couple of days ago I posted links to my ten favorite prose posts of the (secular) year now ending. Today I'm sharing links to my ten favorite poems which I posted here this year. They're shared chronologically, starting with a sestina written early in t...

December 25, 5AM

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate! May your day be merry and bright.   (Photo source: my flickr photostream.) [Christianity]

December 23, 12 PM

The Swarthmore chapter of Hillel made headlines recently for declaring itself an "open Hillel," open to diversity of opinion on Israel. They have linked themselves with Open Hillel, a student-run campagn to encourage inclusivity and open discourse at camp... [Community] [israel] [Palestine]

December 22, 5AM

Here's the d'var Torah for parashat Shemot which I offered at my shul yesteray morning. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.) Talmud teaches (Sotah 12a) that when Moses was born, the house was filled with light. In this week's Torah portion we read... [Hasidut] [Torah]

December 20, 5AM

THE LONGEST NIGHT for Phyllis and Michael Sommer We all tell ourselves stories about grief to come. Anticipating the darkwe think, how can I live without the sun I turn toward? We wrest what gifts we can from the dying days. One morning we wake and the ... [poetry] [the solar year]

December 18, 5AM

I'm reading in bed when I hear a cry from your room. I put down my book, tilt my head, and hold perfectly still -- as though any of those would help me hear. When the cry comes again, I head toward it. "Hey, hey, honey, I'm here, what's the matter?" You ... [parenting]

December 17, 1PM

For the last several years, I've taken the time at the end of the (secular / Gregorian calendar) year to reread what I've written here, and chosen ten favorite posts as a retrospective of where the year took me. Here are my prose picks from 2013; in a cou...

9AM

EIGHT LINES OF WINTER, I Snow drops a scrim over the lake, softens every outline. The roads become sepia-tone caked with dirt and salt. Behind glass, a small white cat watches flutters of grey and black juncos and chickadees at their perennial cocktail ... [poetry] [the daily round]

December 15, 8AM

I don't remember when I first learned the story of my birth. As long as I can remember, I've known that I was born ten weeks early, weighing 3 lbs 1 oz, in a hospital which had no neonatal unit; that I was rushed across town in an ambulance and lost half ... [health]

December 11, 5AM

In this week's portion, Vayechi, we begin with the death of Jacob and end with the death of Joseph. Jacob blesses Joseph's sons with sweet words, and then he offers parting words to all of his own sons. Some of those parting words are more like curses tha... [Torah]

December 8, 4AM

Here's the d'var Torah I offered yesterday at my shul for Human Rights Shabbat / parashat Vayigash, crossposted to my From the Rabbi blog. Today we're observing Human Rights Shabbat. Human rights are woven into the fabric of our tradition. They've been... [Tikkun olam] [Torah]

December 7, 12 PM

On my first day of hospital chaplaincy training, I was surprised to discover that one needn't be Christian in order to baptize a baby. One need only say the words with intention. Those of us in my chaplaincy cohort who were Jewish, or Muslim, or came fro... [lifecycle] [Prayer]
"There is a mantra in our heads which says to us that we are no good and we need to change." "Like erasing a tape by using a high pitched sound, beyond audibility, which then allows the new stuff to be recorded, we need a newer, more positive mantra so t... [gratitude] [Jewish Renewal] [Prayer]

December 5, 5AM

This week we are reading parashat Vayigash.   When Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, they are stunned into silence. He draws them close, and urges them not to be troubled or upset by having sold him into slavery. Not they, he says, but God is th... [Torah]

December 3, 7AM

My friend Satya Robyn of Writing Our Way Home did a really neat thing to celebrate the launch of her newest book, Afterwards: she invited a variety of writers and artists to create new works on the theme "afterwards," and created an online gallery of that... [Books] [poetry]

December 2, 9AM

The Bnei Yissaschar (Rabbi Zvi Elimelech of Dinov) teaches: On Chanukah, we are given part of the or ha-ganuz, the primordial light which has been hidden-away since the moment of Creation and which is preserved for the righteous in the world to come. (Thi... [chanukah] [Hasidut]

5AM

One of the customs of Chanukah is to sing a couple of hymns after we light Chanukah candles. One of them is Maoz Tzur, "Rock of Ages." (Here's an abbreviation of the traditional version. Here's Reb Zalman's version, which is singable to the same tune but ... [chanukah] [contemplative practice] [music] [Prayer]

November 28, 5AM

This holiday greeting card comes courtesy of A Way In | Mishkan Shalom. Wishing a joyous pair of holidays today to all who celebrate!

November 27, 5PM

Longtime readers know that I'm a fan of speculative fiction. For those among y'all who share that interest, I'm here to recommend Saladin Ahmed's Throne of the Crescent Moon, the first book in the Crescent Moon Kingdoms series. I loved pretty much everyt... [Books] [Islam] [media]

5AM

In ten years of blogging at Velveteen Rabbi, I've shared a fair number of Chanukah posts. As the holiday approaches (tonight at sundown!), I thought I'd highlight a few of my favorites: Chanukah has sparked a few poems, among them Excavating the Herodi... [chanukah]

November 25, 9AM

It's always surprising to me -- though it probably shouldn't be -- how easily the mind becomes accustomed to a thought pattern, and gets stuck there. Our repeated thoughts carve grooves on the soft clay of our consciousness, and soon a thought process goe... [contemplative practice] [gratitude] [Prayer]

7AM

Thanksgiving (and Chanukah) (and Thanksgivukkah) are almost upon us! In light of that, here's a revised version of the blessing before the Thanksgiving meal which I first posted last year.   A Prayer Before the Thanksgiving Meal We thank You for thi... [gratitude] [Prayer] [Thanksgiving]

November 22, 5AM

It is a tremendous blessing to me every time I am able to walk alongside someone who is on the mourner's path. To sit down in someone's kitchen or living room and let them tell me stories. To give them a safe space in which to open the faucet and let th... [congregation] [lifecycle]

November 21, 5AM

I am delighted to be able to share the news that one of my poems, "The Permeable World" (which first appeared in Waiting to Unfold, Phoenicia, 2013) has been reprinted in a wonderful anthology -- The Heart of All That Is: Reflections on Home, edited by Ji... [Books] [poetry]

November 19, 2PM

This week we're in parashat Vayeshev. This Torah portion brings us into one of the richest narratives in Torah: the beginning of the Joseph novella. But just as the Joseph story is getting rolling, we pause for an interlude which contains an entirely diff... [Torah]

5AM

Once again, T'ruah: the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights is encouraging the observance of Human Rights Shabbat in early December -- a Shabbat dedicated to learning about, and rededicating ourselves to, the work of human rights in our world. They've just pu... [poetry] [prison ministry] [Torah]

November 18, 9AM

A surprise arrived for me in the mail this morning: a complimentary copy of Time and Relative Dimensions in Faith, a new anthology which explores the role of religion in Doctor Who, coedited by Andrew Crome and James McGrath, newly released by Darton, Lon... [blogs] [media] [midrash]

November 17, 5AM

Here's the d'var Torah which I offered yesterday at my shul. Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog. At the start of this week's Torah portion, Vayishlach, Jacob prepares to meet his twin brother Esau. This will be their first meeting since Jacob tri... [Torah]

November 15, 7AM

In this week's Torah portion, Vayishlach, Jacob wrestles with a stranger all night until dawn and receives a new name as a blessing. I'll say more about that in the d'var Torah I'm offering on Shabbat at my shul (which will be posted here on Sunday, as us... [Hasidut] [Torah]

November 13, 8AM

Whoops! I missed my tenth blogiversary. It was sometime in October. I meant to make a post celebrating ten years of Velveteen Rabbi, and I just...forgot. Maybe that's appropriate, since I'm not sure what day I actually started. (This blog was briefly hos... [blogs]

November 12, 7AM

I posted last week about being interviewed by the readers of Rachel Held Evans' prominent Christian blog. As is her custom, Rachel posted a short bio and then opened the floor for her readers to ask questions. Out of the questions they asked, Rachel chose... [blogs] [Christianity] [Jewish Renewal]

November 11, 1PM

This post focuses on an act of Biblical rape, and on silencing and rape in our own world. If that is likely to be triggering for you, please feel free to skip it.   That same night, he got up, took his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven ... [feminism] [Tikkun olam] [Torah]

November 7, 8AM

Christian writer (author of A Year of Biblical Womanhood) and blogger Rachel Held Evans does a lot of interesting things with her blog. Last year, for instance, she ran a series of posts exploring the Biblical figure of Esther through a variety of lenses,... [blogs]

November 6, 5AM

At the start of this week's Torah portion, Vayetzei, Jacob camps for the night and rests his head on a stone. He dreams of a ladder planted in the earth stretching up to heaven, with angels ascending and descending constantly. I like to read the angels a... [Torah]

November 5, 5AM

Back when I first took 70 faces on the road, I met a woman named Marilyn, in Montreal. She wanted to interview me and my spouse together for a forthcoming book on rabbinic marriages. The interview never took place, for a variety of reasons (mostly our lac... [Books]

November 4, 6AM

I'm not sure when I started reading Heather Caliri of A Little Yes, though I think it was around the time that she moved with her kids to Argentina for six months. I've enjoyed vicariously sharing her adventures and looking through her window on the world... [blogs] [Interfaith] [theology]

November 3, 5AM

A new Torah poem of mine has been published at Palestinian Talmud. It arises out of the Torah portion we just completed, parashat Toldot, and it's called "Looking for Water." Here's how it starts:   1. Isaac dug his father’s wells anew. This doesn... [israel] [poetry] [Torah]
Here's the short d'var Torah I offered yesterday morning during the contemplative Shabbat service at my shul. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.) וַיִּתְרֹצֲצוּ הַבָּנִים בְּקִרְבָּהּ וַתֹּאמֶר אִם... [contemplative practice] [Torah]

November 1, 6AM

  Slit the packing tape. Lift the inner box. Slide a knife again and listen to muted rainfall: styrofoam pebbles pouring down. The stand emerges first, round and heavy. Then nine swaddled packages, light as birds' bones, sized to fit in... [chanukah] [israel] [poetry] [the solar year]

October 31, 4AM

The children grappled with each other inside her, and she thought to herself, if this is so, why do I exist? So she went to ask that of Adonai. And God said to her: two nations are inside you; / two will branch off from each other, as they emerge from yo... [Hasidut] [Torah]

October 30, 4AM

I could not be more delighted to be able to share the news that I have two poems in The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry, edited by Deborah Ager and M.E. Silverman. Here's a glimpse of how the book describes itself: "With works ... [Books] [poetry]

October 29, 6AM

In 2003, as I approached my seventieth birthday, I decided to be bat torah. The Torah portion I received to live with for that year was Toldot: Generations. I spent the year deep in study, reading many sources that informed me and inspired me. This study ... [Books] [poetry] [Torah]

October 27, 12 PM

I still remember the moment when I opened up my pocket Koren siddur (prayerbook) for the first time. It had been assigned to us by Rabbi Sami Barth, who was teaching my ALEPH rabbinic program class on the liturgy of weekday and Shabbat. He wanted all of u... [poetry] [Prayer]

October 25, 11AM

I've just finished Susan Katz Miller's Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family. This is a book which pushed some of my buttons, nudged against some of my boundaries, and left me with a lot to ponder. Miller writes: "[T]he majority ... [Books] [Christianity] [Community] [Interfaith] [parenting]

8AM

In this week's parsha (Chayei Sarah), Avraham sends his servant Eliezer forth to find a wife for Isaac. He offers little instruction aside from " go back to where I came from, and get a wife from there." Eliezer -- whose name means something like "My God... [Torah]

4AM

Things which have no limit        in this world or the next:a parent's tender worry            cartoons in syndicationthe world glinting and shattered        hot tea to soothe our sorrowssunrise following on the heels        of ... [poetry]

October 24, 4AM

Someone asked me recently how to maintain hope when depression is dogging one's heels. The first thing I want to say is: no matter how isolating depression feels, you are not alone. Others have been where you are. We recognize the terrain and we recogniz... [depression] [health]

October 21, 5PM

In the first line of this week's Torah portion (Chayei Sarah) the matriarch Sarah dies, and Avraham negotiates to buy a burial place for her: the cave of Machpelah in what is now Hebron. Our first record of ownership of any of the land of Canaan is thus t... [israel] [Palestine] [Torah]

7AM

Autumn Nightfall   You mix the watercolors of the evening like my son, swishing his brush until the waters are black with paint. The sky is streaked and dimming. The sun wheels over the horizon like a glowing penny falling into its slot. Da... [poetry] [Prayer] [the daily round]

October 18, 7AM

  In this week's parsha we encounter some of our tradition's most compelling -- and most complicated -- family stories. Here are the angelic beings announcing the upcoming conception of Isaac; Sarah's jealousy, and the casting-out of Hagar and Ishmael; A... [Torah]

October 16, 12 PM

 "And God said, let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters." -- Genesis 1:6   Our sages teach: read not "firmanent" but "rupture." Swap two sounds in the original Hebrew and the vastness o... [midrash] [poetry]

October 15, 3PM

Earlier this month I put up a post at the Best American Poetry blog called Collaboration and remix, in which I aimed to explore some of the new and exciting things happening online where poetry is concerned: creative collaborations, the flowering of remix... [poetry]

October 14, 4AM

A latte the size of my head (okay, not really, but it comes in a bowl, which I can't help but admire): Interesting graffiti (a form of art which I've photographed in this city before, though not this specific piece of it): Windows filled with fascin... [Travel]

October 13, 10AM

This is the sermon I offered this morning at the Unitarian Church of Montreal. Thanks so much for welcoming me, UU community of Montreal! On Gratitude and Thanks מֹודה אֲנִי לְפָנֶיָך, מֶלְֶך חַי וְַקּיָם, ... [gratitude] [poetry] [Prayer] [Sermons]

October 12, 4AM

When I left home it was a beautiful afternoon: I decided to take route 43 all the way to the Northway, and it was stunning: I caught sight of Albany from a distance as I drove by: The Adirondacks were pretty glorious, too: But then the hills w... [Shabbat] [Travel]

October 11, 7AM

וְיַחֵד לְבָבֵנוּ לְאַהֲבָה וּלְיִרְאָה אֶת שְׁמֶךָ. V’yached l’vavenu, l’ahavah u-l’yirah et sh’mecha. Unify our hearts in love and awe of Your name! Unify our hearts. Perhaps that means the hear... [contemplative practice] [Prayer]

4AM

This morning, after I lead meditation at my synagogue, I'll pack my things and get ready to head up the Northway and across the border. If you are in or near Montreal, I hope you'll join me for one or the other (or both!) of these two author events -- fi... [70 faces] [Waiting to Unfold]

October 10, 4AM

I had the good fortune to be asked to contribute a "blurb" for Rick Black's beautiful new poetry chapbook Star of David, winner of the 2012 Poetica Magazine Contemporary Jewish Writing Chapbook Contest, published by Turtle Light Press, 2013. My paper copy... [Books] [poetry] [theology]

October 9, 7AM

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am El Shaddai. Walk in My ways and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will make you exceedingly numerous." Abram threw himself on his f... [Torah]

October 7, 6PM

In the wake of the recent Pew study on Jews in America today, I can't help wondering: how many "Jews in the pew" jokes can reasonably be made in the span of a week? Okay, that's not really the question. But the editors at Religion Dispatches asked a provo... [Community] [Jewish Renewal] [Rabbis Without Borders]

October 6, 4AM

This is the d'var Torah I offered at my shul yesterday during Shabbat services. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.) Deep Waters "Postpartum depression caused the Flood..." That's the first line of the first poem in 70 faces (Phoenicia, 20... [depression] [dreams] [Torah]

October 4, 5AM

  1. In Reb Shlomo's parable the rabbi stands at the edge of a sea of tears and refuses heaven until all are shed. You have drifted on that sea, trailed your fingers in its salt waters wondering why no one on shore notices you're gone.... [dreams] [poetry] [Torah]

4AM

And then, tucked into the end of the Torah portion -- after the Flood -- there's an entirely different story, the wild parable of the Tower of Babel. Judy Klitsner makes a compelling case that the sin of the people building that tower was a kind of ... [blogs]

October 3, 9AM

Earlier today I posted to the Best American Poetry blog about collaboration and remix. My post includes discussion of and links to some amazing collaborative art and remix / transformative work that's happening in the poetry world today. (If you haven't r... [poetry] [Torah]

4AM

I love the age of the remix. Remix, transformative work, videos which build on poetry, composers who borrow our lines for their music, poems inspired by other poems -- these are my idea of a good time. I've been talking with the publisher of my next...

October 2, 4AM

It's the very opposite of romantic or adventuresome, this parade of toaster waffles and endless PB&J sandwiches. (Of course there are orthodoxies. In our house the only acceptable option uses whole wheat bread and is cut in triangles, featuring ... [blogs]

October 1, 4AM

Today I'm thinking about these lines from John Berryman: "Fall is grievy, brisk. / Tears behind the eyes // almost fall. / Fall comes to us as a prize / to rouse us toward our fate." (From his Dream Song 385, which someone has put online here.) I'v... [blogs]

September 30, 5AM

I'm delighted to be able to say that I'm guest blogging at The Best American Poetry blog again this week. I won't be posting poetry there -- their guest-blogger guidelines haven't allowed that in some years, though the ones I posted long before that guide... [blogs] [poetry] [the daily round]

September 29, 4AM

A kind of emptiness comes at the end of this long cycle of holidays. After challah and honey, feasting and fasting, services upon services upon services. Just listing the names of all of the observances of the last few weeks tires me out again. Sometimes... [Cheshvan] [Days of Awe] [the daily round]

September 26, 4AM

Shemini Atzeret: "the pause of the 8th day." The day after Sukkot, when the Holy Blessed One murmurs in our ear, "Don't go just yet. Don't leave this bower where we've spent this past week. Linger a little longer with Me." Shemini Atzeret: the day when ... [Shemini Atzeret] [Yizkor]

September 25, 11AM

The rainbow foil garlands broke on the night of heavy rain. Slivers of color adorn the lawn. Your tears fell like willow leaves. You insisted we find the decoration store. This slow disintegration is part of the point, each sukkah as fra... [Hoshanah Rabbah] [parenting] [poetry] [Sukkot]

September 24, 4AM

Judah the son of Tema would say: Be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, fleeting as a deer and mighty as a lion to do the will of your Father in heaven. -- Pirkei Avot 5:20 Be bold as brass, polished until you gleam. Be fearless and daring; cou... [poetry]

September 23, 10AM

"The Western world is on the cusp of a major transformation around how we understand the mind, the brain, and what to do about them. Meditation and other forms of contemplative practice, once the provenance of religion, then later of 'spirituality,' are n... [Books] [buddhism] [contemplative practice]

4AM

Our sages have asked: what is a sukkah? Some have said: it’s a remembrance of the tents we lived in during the exodus from Egypt. As we read in Torah, "You shall dwell in sukkot seven days, that your generations may know that the children of Israel dw... [Sukkot]

September 22, 4AM

Here's the d'var Torah I offered yesterday morning at my shul. (Crossposted to my From the Rabbi blog.)   This Shabbat falls during chol ha-moed, the intermediate days in the midst of the festival of Sukkot. The appointed reading for today (Exodus 33:1... [Torah]

September 21, 4AM

Maybe today's the day it won't warm up. Goldenrod burns fall's first fire. Doorways and front stoops sing pumpkins and mums, pumpkins and mums. The woodchuck waddles low across driveway from grass to grass. Everything's green, though yellow... [poetry] [the solar year]

September 20, 7AM

I'm delighted to be able to announce that I'll be returning to Montréal in about three weeks (over the weekend of Canadian Thanksgiving) for a pair of author events. The first will be on a Saturday afternoon at the Anglican church in Montréal, Ch... [70 faces] [Waiting to Unfold]

September 19, 6AM

I wake to the sound of feet on the stairs, but keep my eyes closed so that I can pretend to be startled when our son shouts "boo!" from the bedroom door. This is how mornings begin, these days. We cuddle for a while, and then he says -- as he does every d... [parenting] [Sukkot]

September 18, 6AM

There are four days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot. In the old Pesach counting song I learned as a child, four are the matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah. These days I tend to count six matriarchs, including Bilhah and Zilpah, the other two hand... [Jewish Renewal] [Sukkot]

September 17, 6AM

Poetry and drawing are brothers that emerge from the dark of sleep holding hands -- bringing fresh images out of the vividness of dreams, giving birth to strange monsters who may be saviors, and charging words and paint with electricity which streams from... [Books] [politics]

September 15, 1PM

1. Marveling at how the evening's storms gave way to an incredible glow of post-storm late-evening light.  Making havdalah and then singing the songs of Selichot with my community on the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah. With my mother present, too -... [Days of Awe]

4AM

Prayer Before Building the Sukkah for the sturdiness of my house and for the willingness to leave it for this chance to build a temporary home, to remember nomad desert wandering and harvest houses: thank You. Connect me, God, with a... [Prayer] [Sukkot]

September 14, 9AM

Several weeks ago, on the Shabbat morning immediately before Tisha b'Av, I sat down at the table in our social hall to study Torah with those who had joined us for services. We studied the haftarah reading assigned to that particular Shabbat, which comes ... [Days of Awe] [racism] [Sermons] [Tikkun olam]

September 13, 4PM

This summer, for the first time, our son has been afraid of thunder and lightning. I can't blame him for that. Thunder and lightning can be scary. Especially when you are small, and you don't remember ever having experienced them before. At times like tho... [Days of Awe] [Hasidut] [Sermons] [Shabbat] [teshuvah]

10AM

As our congregational administrator and I were setting up a table for tonight with a bunch of memorial candles, little folded index cards where people can write the names of those they're remembering, and boxes of matches, it occurred to me that not every... [Days of Awe] [Yizkor]

4AM

This late afternoon / early evening we'll enter into Yom Kippur and into Shabbat. These aseret y'mei teshuvah (Ten Days of Re/Turning) have been chock-full of preparations in every realm: from the physical (setting up chairs, preparing for tomorrow night... [Days of Awe] [teshuvah]

September 12, 4AM

My first Jewish Renewal Yom Kippur was at the old Elat Chayyim in Accord, New York in 2004. The retreat was led by Rabbi Jeff Roth (of the Awakened Heart Project) and Rabbi Elliot Ginsburg (who was an utter joy to learn with in rabbinic school -- his clas... [congregation] [Days of Awe] [Prayer]

September 11, 7AM

I'm immersed this week in preparing -- logistically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually -- for Yom Kippur, which begins at sundown on Friday night. I'm also working on what has been the project of my heart for the last many months, a new machzor f... [Days of Awe] [poetry]

September 9, 7AM

This morning I was asked a question about the Unetaneh Tokef prayer which we pray on Rosh Hashanah. How do we make sense of "on Rosh Hashanah it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed" when something truly awful happens? For instance: a teenager is ki... [Days of Awe] [Prayer] [theology]

September 6, 4AM

In lieu of a sermon last night, I shared a handful of Rosh Hashanah poems. One of them is brand-new, and here it is. It is inspired by (or perhaps is a remix / adaptation of) Rabbi Margaret Moers Wenig's sermon God is a Woman and She Is Growing Older.  ... [Days of Awe] [poetry]

September 5, 9AM

For the building will be constructed from various parts, and the truth of the light of the world will be built from various dimensions, from various approaches, for these and those are the words of the living God... It is the precisely the multiplicity of... [congregation] [Days of Awe] [Mussar] [Prayer] [Sermons]

September 4, 4AM

RETURN   How to make it new: each year the same missing of the same marks, the same petitions and apologies. We were impatient, unkind. We let ego rule the day and forgot to be thankful. We allowed our fears to distance us. But every year the ascent ... [Elul]

September 3, 1PM

Pretty much every rabbi I know is either working on a sermon about Syria, or wondering whether we ought to be frantically scrapping an existing Rosh Hashanah sermon in order to preach about Syria, or reading voraciously to try to cultivate an informed opi... [poetry] [Prayer] [Tikkun olam]

4AM

To make a present of:I give my son a toy.To place in the hands of:please give me the challah.Give in. Give away.Give off. Give back.To accord or yieldsomething to someone else.From the Old Norse.From proto-Germanic.From Proto-Indo-European:"to take, hold,... [Elul] [poetry]

September 2, 4AM

Does intent matter? My inclination is to say yes, intent matters a lot. If someone steps on my foot by accident, that's different from doing so maliciously and on purpose. If someone tramples on my emotions by accident, that's different from doing so mal... [Elul]
This is the Elul card / approaching-new-years' card which my family sent to friends and loved ones this year. I'm sending it now to each of you. May your transition into the new year be sweet! At three and a half, your glee at stomping on a san... [Elul] [politics]

September 1, 4AM

I live in hope. I always hope that a better world is possible; that we can change and grow; that we can make better decisions tomorrow than we made yesterday. I always hope that peace is possible, even in the most entrenched conflicts. I always hope for s... [Elul]

August 31, 4AM

I love that this is the time of year when my religious tradition tells me we are beginning again. In the northern hemisphere where I live, we are at the height of harvest. Already the nights are cooler than they were, the days noticeably shorter than in ...

August 30, 4AM

I'm rarely ready for things to end. I get attached to what is. Especially if it's something I'm enjoying (a weekend with dear friends, a stunning sunset over a lake, a cuddle with my child), though I'm capable of getting attached to even something I'm no... [Elul]

August 29, 4AM

Connecting with God is all about love. I know that assertion seems strange to some of us, but I really believe that it's true. Every morning we sing that God loves us with a great love -- ahavah rabbah ahavtanu. "You have loved us with a great love." Y... [Elul] [theology]

August 28, 7AM

Earlier this week I attended a screening of the short (25 minute) documentary film My Neighbourhood at The Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield. The filmmakers describe the film as being about "a remarkable nonviolent struggle in the heart of the world's most c... [film] [israel] [Palestine] [Tikkun olam]

4AM

"As we bless the source of life, so we are blessed As we bless the source of life, so we are blessed and the blessings give us strength, and make our visions clear And the blessings give us peace, and the courage to dare As we bless the source of life, ... [Elul]

August 27, 4AM

Sometimes, when I'm leading Shabbat morning services, I pause during P'sukei D'zimrah, the series of poems and psalms which come after the morning blessings but before the formal service begins with the Bar'chu, and I say a word about all of these praises... [Elul]

August 26, 4AM

One of the predominant images in our High Holiday liturgy is God-as-judge. One of the most challenging images (for me) in our High Holiday liturgy is God-as-judge. It's so easy to think of the human judges who have not ruled justly, and to project our a... [Elul] [theology]

August 25, 4AM

This is the d'var Torah I offered yesterday at my shul for parashat Ki Tavo, last week's Torah portion. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.) When you enter into the land, Torah tells us, be conscious of where you are and what you're doing. Bring... [Torah]
One thing I ask, I ask of You, I earnestly pray for... It's traditional to read psalm 27 every day during the month of Elul. I don't always manage to daven the full psalm in Hebrew, but I try to include the psalm in every day of this month somehow. Ove... [Elul]

August 23, 7AM

Waiting August: my mind changes. I want to think swimming, grapefruit sorbet dripping down a sugar cone, berries behind the house, but I can't. I'm cleaning, humming the song my father loves the way Barbra sings it, looking for my bobby p... [Elul] [poetry]

4AM

My friend and teacher Rabbi Hanna Tiferet Siegel has an album called Awaken, Arise!. The title track begins, "Awaken, arise to the wholeness of your being / Awaken, arise to the beauty of your soul..." This is one of the side effects of regular prayer p... [Elul] [teshuvah]

August 22, 4AM

"To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven..." Many of us sing that song (in its setting by The Byrds) during Sukkot, the festival of harvest and impermanence, which begins four days after Yom Kippur. The megillah (scro... [Elul] [theology]

August 21, 4AM

There's always so much to learn. There's Torah, and Torah is limitless. Not just the Five Books of Moses, not just the Tanakh (Torah, Prophets, Writings), not just Written Torah + Oral Torah, but the sum total of every text and commentary and insight rel... [Elul]

August 20, 5AM

When I look back now, I can’t believe it took me so long to recognize the postpartum depression for what it was. Sure, I felt hopeless and overwhelmed and I cried a lot, but I was a new mother, sleeping in 45-minute increments; surely that was how every... [blogs] [depression] [poetry] [Waiting to Unfold]

4AM

There's an exercise I like to do during meditation on Friday mornings. I invite us to look back on the week now ending, starting with the first day of the week -- on the Jewish calendar, Sunday. What was Sunday like? What happened on that day? What was bi... [Elul]

August 19, 4AM

Please be aware that this post mentions a parent mistreating a child, and makes references to addiction and infidelity. If that's likely to be triggering for you, please read with care. I have a memory from my chaplaincy training at Albany Medical Cent... [Elul] [teshuvah]

August 18, 4AM

After the sutures   Everyone falls down. No one enjoys the aftermath. But the real test comes after the sutures -- the chance to thank the surgeon who did his quiet work despite the imprecations and the thrashing. Sometimes whe... [Elul] [parenting] [poetry]

August 17, 4AM

Our tradition gives us two seasons of counting. In the (northern hemisphere) spring we count the 49 days between Pesach and Shavuot, also known as the Omer. As we count the Omer, we connect our festival of liberation with our festival of revelation. It's ... [Elul]

August 15, 4AM

I try to really hear the voice of my child. Sometimes he has things to tell me -- about his day at preschool, about Curious George or Diego, about a favorite songs. Sometimes he has sorrows to pour forth, as when he's not allowed a snack right before dinn... [Elul] [parenting]

August 12, 4PM

One of the things I love about Selichot services, which we hold in my shul (as in many shuls) on the Saturday night closest to Rosh Hashanah, is the chance to immerse in the melodies and themes of the Days of Awe again. For those who recite the prayers o... [Elul] [Prayer]

4AM

When God gave us the Torah at Sinai -- so says our tradition -- we responded with na'aseh v'nishmah, "We will do and we will hear." Sounds kind of backwards, doesn't it? How can we follow instructions if we don't hear them first? But Torah isn't just abo... [Elul] [Torah]

August 11, 4AM

Here are some things I know. I know that there is meaning in this life. I know that I can keep striving to be the person I mean to be, to live up to my hopes for who I can become. I know I'll make mistakes. I'll miss the mark. I'll fall short. I know ... [Elul]

August 10, 4AM

Accepting what is. It sounds so simple, doesn't it? Just -- accept. Experience whatever life gives you. And when life, or the universe, or God -- however you understand it -- gives you something pleasurable, it's easy to accept. A lunch date with a frien... [Elul] [teshuvah]

August 9, 4AM

Bless, O my soul, the transcendent and immanent One ! My Holy One, You are great beyond measure. Splendor and beauty You put on; You don light like a garment Spreading the heavens like a curtain. How precious is Your love, Holy One! Humankind takes ... [Elul] [music] [Prayer]

August 8, 6AM

Beluga   When we entered the aquarium         you flew to the glass wall. Behind it: sunlit aqua water as though we were standing in the parted Sea of Reeds. A sleek white shape swam past spinning gracefully. "Look," you shouted... [Elul] [parenting]

4AM

There's a famous passage in the Talmud (Talmud Bavli /Kiddushin 40b) in which the sages of our tradition debated, "Which is greater -- study or or action?" Rabbi Akiva's answer was, "Study -- if it leads to action." Learning and doing are always two ... [Elul]

August 7, 4AM

If you pay attention to the moon, you may have noticed that it's been waning in recent weeks. The full moon of Av (on the Jewish calendar), the full moon of Ramadan (on the Muslim calendar), has been steadily shrinking. As surely as waves roll out and the... [Elul]

August 6, 9AM

I look at today's theme: "Believe." And I'm washed in memory: my dear friend Evan, at the ALEPH Kallah this summer, warbling, "I believe the children are our future..." Thanks a lot for the earworm, Evan. (And my apologies to everyone else with whom I've...

7AM

When I look at the one-word prompt for today's #BlogElul challenge, I find myself humming an old Doris Day tune: "When I was just a little girl I asked my mother, 'What will I be? Will I be pretty, will I be rich?' Here's what she said to me" 'Que sera,... [Elul]

August 2, 4AM

אלי, אלי, שלא יגמר לעולם החול והים רשרוש של המים ברק השמים תפילת האדם My God, my God, may it be that these things never end: the sand and the sea the rush of the waters the... [poetry] [Prayer] [Travel]

July 28, 2PM

Stepping inside the Touro Synagogue feels a little bit like stepping inside an Old World Sefardic shul. There's a good reason for that. All of the oldest congregations in the New World were founded by Sefardic Jews, including this one. There's no mechitz... [history] [politics] [Travel]

July 26, 4AM

  Drew and mama make motzi. Photo by David Curiel. Every Friday, I post on my synagogue's Facebook page, "Shabbat is coming! Get ready for that extra soul to descend and enliven you..." I love the idea that we each receive a second portion of soul, a... [parenting] [Shabbat]

July 24, 4AM

FUNERAL AFTER TISHA B'AV The windshield wipers sway from side to side like whip-thin Hasidim shuckeling in prayer. I traverse Silver and Old Orebed, roads named after gashes in the flesh of the earth. When the clouds relent, I lead the pallbeare... [lifecycle] [poetry]

July 23, 4AM

Blessed source of all time and space in every generation You are faithful. Be compassionate, life-giving, home. Bring joy to our hearts. Let us not be misled. You have promised light. Thank You for remembrance than... [poetry] [Prayer]

July 22, 6AM

Today is the fifteenth of the lunar month of Av. The beautiful moon is round and full. And in Jewish tradition, this date -- 15 Av, or Tu B'Av -- is a day of rejoicing. The Gemara (Taanit 30b-31a) offers six reasons why Tu B'Av is a joyous day. Of those ... [Tu b'Av]

July 19, 11AM

Erev Shabbas by Danny Siegel It's so stupid, Wednesday afternoon, soaked in the idiotica of errands and all those "things to do" that steal a man's minutes, his years -- I forgot the Queen. Her Majesty was due at four-eighteen on Friday, not a ... [poetry] [Shabbat]

July 17, 12 PM

It's always a little bit hard to come home from the ALEPH Kallah. I love home! I love my family; I love my little shul; I love my smalltown life. But there is always a pang, a twinge, at leaving a community of hundreds of dedicated Jewish Renewalniks who ... [congregation] [Shabbat]

9AM

WATER FROM THE SOURCE No blessing is so fervent as the one over water fresh from the faucet adorned with ice cubes and a quarter of a lemon at the end of Tisha b'Av. The crunch of snap peas cold from the fridge and sweet as sugar ... [9Av] [poetry] [Seven Weeks of Consolation] [Tikkun olam]

July 16, 12 PM

When one person is unkind to another, a whole world can be destroyed. Once there was a woman who belonged to an intimate and dedicated online community, where for many years people had congregated to share their writing and to support each other through ... [9Av] [Community]

July 15, 5AM

Tonight at sundown we enter into Tisha b'Av, a communal day of mourning. On Tisha b'Av we remember the fall of the First Temple in 586 BCE, and the fall of the Second Temple in 70 CE; we remember pogroms and tragedies throughout our history; we remember h... [9Av]

July 14, 4AM

Here's the d'var Torah I offered for last week's Torah portion yesterday at my shul. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.) The book of Dvarim, also known as Deuteronomy, begins on the far side of the Jordan River. Most of us don't speak Greek, so... [Torah]

July 10, 5AM

As Shabbat approaches, here's one final post about the ALEPH Kallah -- a mikveh story from last Friday... Mikveh spot, Kallah 2013. Photo by Miriam Charney. There are few things I love more in this world than a Jewish Renewal pre-Shabbat mikveh,... [ALEPH Kallah] [mikvah] [Shabbat]

July 8, 7AM

Chodesh tov: a good new (lunar) month to all. Today's new moon brings us into the month of Av on the Jewish calendar. We're moving further into our journey toward the Days of Awe. One week from tonight/tomorrow we'll observe Tisha b'Av, remembering the fa... [9Av] [Islam]

July 5, 11AM

  Lake; Fourth of July. 1. The Fourth of July. I choose the morning service which is described as "You've heard of downward dog? This is Upward God! Bring your inner Mahalia Jackson." It's led by two dear friends of mine, Rabbi Jan Salzman and Rabbi... [ALEPH Kallah] [Jewish Renewal]

4AM

 PSALM OF WONDER upon studying kabbalah and quantum physics   I boast I grew a baby from component cells. Big deal: You built the cosmos from component atoms, and those have moving parts which shift, performing particle or wave. ... [ALEPH Kallah] [poetry]

July 4, 4AM

In many communities, including mine, there is a tradition of reading a pair of prayers toward the end of services: one prayer for our own nation, and one prayer for Israel. At my small shul we don't do this every week, though we do maintain the tradition ... [Prayer]

July 3, 2PM

In my Kallah class on Writing the Psalms of Your Heart, we spent our first day on psalms of praise. We brainstormed a bit about what psalms are and how they work, read some psalms of praise (both classical and contemporary), and spent some time in class ... [ALEPH Kallah] [poetry] [Prayer]

10AM

My morning class at Kallah this year can be summed up (so far) as: I feel like I'm trying to pack the time vortex of a TARDIS into my head! The morning class I'm taking at Kallah this year is "Infinity, Nothingness, and Being: Running and Returning, An Ex... [ALEPH Kallah]

July 2, 2PM

1. A faculty meeting. The evening before everything formally begins. It takes about ten minutes to get everyone in the room, to arrange the chairs the way we want them, that kind of thing. In a lot of contexts, we would have spent those ten minute... [ALEPH Kallah] [Community]

June 30, 2PM

Anytime I enter a place where my Jewish Renewal community has gathered, it feels like coming home. Part of that is the experience of seeing old friends and beloved teachers (many of whom are now old friends, too!) And that makes sense. I spent a few ... [ALEPH Kallah] [Jewish Renewal]

June 27, 7AM

The ALEPH Kallah is almost here! I can't wait. First and foremost, I'm thrilled to be teaching a class. My materials are prepared and I'm looking forward to meeting the students who are new to me and re-meeting the folks who I already know. I'm also d... [ALEPH Kallah]

June 26, 8AM

What a rollercoaster of a week. Yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a ruling which gutted the Voting Rights Act. That ruling was a major blow to minority voters in this country, and to all who recognize that voters of color in man... [politics] [Tikkun olam]

June 25, 9AM

Today is 17 Tammuz, a minor fast day in Jewish tradition. Today we enter into the Three Weeks, also called Bein Ha-Meitzarim, "In the Narrows." On this day, we remember the first breach in the walls of Jerusalem during a long-ago siege of that holy city,... [The Three Weeks] [Tikkun olam]

5AM

Five daughters of Zelophechad by Sheila Orysiek. [Source] A fascinating thing happens in this week's Torah portion, which is called Pinhas. The daughters of Zelophechad -- Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah -- come before Moshe. And they say: ... [Tikkun olam] [Torah]

June 23, 10AM

I'm always honored and delighted when my work appears in the Jewish Women's Literary Annual. This year I have a poem -- Mother Psalm 9 -- in Volume 9, which is the 2013 edition. (That poem is also available in my new collection Waiting to Unfold (Phoenici... [poetry]

June 21, 6AM

The Shabbat bride is on her way and she'll be here at sundown tonight! In the understanding of our sages and mystics, Shabbat isn't just a day off from work. It's a day of cosmic alignment, a day when creation is irrigated with blessing. And we have a ro... [Shabbat]

4AM

Join me this coming Sunday at the Book Loft bookstore in Great Barrington for a south county reading from my new collection of poems. I'm happy to answer questions and share some conversation, as well as to sign books. I hope you'll join us! Sunday Jun... [Waiting to Unfold]

June 20, 12 PM

Many thanks to Nichole Dupont at Berkshires Week for writing, and to the editors at the Berkshire Eagle for assigning, this very gracious and thoughtful article about my work! It appears in Berkshires Week today, both in print and online; I'm reprinting i... [Waiting to Unfold]

10AM

Day Before the Solstice a psalm of thanksgiving For sky as implausibly blue as a plastic kiddie pool, scrawled with the white streaksof self-erasing contrails. For grass stretching up, for the rustle of oak and birch, for sumac spreadi... [poetry] [the solar year]

June 17, 6AM

"How good are your tents, O Jacob; your dwelling-places, O Israel!" We sing these words at the beginning of morning prayer as part of Mah Tovu. This is a quotation from this week's Torah portion, Balak; the words come from the foreign prophet Balaam, who ... [Prayer] [Torah]

June 16, 4AM

Here's the d'var Torah I offered yesterday morning at my shul for parashat Chukat. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi Blog.) In this week's Torah portion, God tells Moses and Aaron how to cleanse the tum'ah, the "ritual impurity," which comes from con...

June 13, 7PM

"All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well." -- Julian of Norwich Even when the rains fall sheeting down the windows for days without end. Even when factories explode, when gun deaths rise like flood wa... [poetry] [Tikkun olam]

June 11, 11AM

I didn't expect some 25 people to show up at the synagogue on Sunday for a celebratory reading from Waiting to Unfold. It was a beautiful sunny day; I had braced myself for the possibility that only my parents (visiting from Texas) and one or two congrega... [Waiting to Unfold]

June 8, 5PM

It's not something I often do, by myself. I don't know why not. It only takes a few moments. At this season and at this latitude, of course, it happens well after putting our son to bed; in deepest midwinter it happens in the afternoon, well before even h... [havdalah] [Shabbat]

June 7, 4AM

Pardon me for a moment while I kvell. My husband Ethan Zuckerman has a new book out: Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection, published by WW Norton. Here's how Norton describes it: We live in an age of connection, one that is acc... [Books] [Tikkun olam]

3AM

This past Monday I gave my first public reading from Waiting to Unfold, at Knesset Israel synagogue in Pittsfield after their kosher hot lunch. I read to an avid and interested group of about 25 people, and then took questions about everything from Torah ... [Waiting to Unfold]

June 6, 3AM

By the time we find the right room, it feels as though we've taken every elevator in the hospital complex. Though once we go down the right one, and exit on floor G, I realize in a flash that I have been in this place before -- this is the floor where we ... [parenting] [poetry] [Waiting to Unfold]

June 5, 8AM

When Rabbi Akiva found difficult or strange language in the Torah, his ears would widen, for in his view strangeness in the text was a gateway to the discovery of the Torah's secrets. Rabbi Ishmael's goal was the integrity of the text. The Torah speaks in... [Books] [Torah]

June 4, 4AM

The story of Korach is a fascinating one. Right on the heels of last week's portion (the scouts, their negative report, the declaration that this generation would wander in the wilderness for forty years), Korach decides it's a good time to foment rebel... [Tikkun olam] [Torah]

June 3, 7AM

There's always something surreal about reading from a published book of poems. Once these were fragments of language and image which I snatched out of my consciousness and wrote down. Once these were drafts, going through revision, shifting and changing. ... [Waiting to Unfold]

June 2, 4AM

Here's the d'var Torah I offered yesterday at my shul for parashat Shlakh-lekha. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.) Ten scouts were sent by Moshe into the Land of Canaan to find out what sort of land it might be. This group of ten is called an... [Torah]

3AM

Monday June 3, 12pmPoetry reading and conversation / signing / Q-and-A / plus kosher lunch! $3at the Older Adult Kosher Hot Meal Program sponsored by Jewish Federation of the BerkshiresKnesset Israel, 16 Colt Road, Pittsfield Join Rabbi Rachel Barenbla... [Waiting to Unfold]

June 1, 5PM

I'm not sure when I first tasted arak. Wikipedia tells me that it's the traditional alcoholic beverage across Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Iraq. It turns out that arak is typically made from the distillation of fermented grapes and/or vin... [israel] [Palestine] [Travel]

May 31, 7AM

In this week's Torah portion, Moshe sends the scouts into the land to investigate it. They come back with two reports. It flows with milk and honey. But, the inhabitants made the scouts feel as puny as grasshoppers. There's a teaching here for u... [Torah]

4AM

Waiting to Unfold is the first book in the Ask Moxie Summer Readalong this year. Magda has posted some opening reflections on the book, as well as questions to spark conversation: I chose this book because I loved how intimate and raw her poems are. I ... [Waiting to Unfold]

May 30, 4AM

One of my greatest regrets about my summer in Jerusalem, some five years ago now, is that I did not manage to join Women of the Wall to pray together at the Kotel (the Western Wall) on Rosh Chodesh. I'd had every intention of doing so, but when new moon r... [Community] [israel] [Prayer] [Tikkun olam]

May 27, 3PM

One of my earliest memories of shopping with my mother is a memory of looking for what we called "footie" pyjamas -- PJs with the feet attached. I must have had the same habit my son now has, of toeing off socks during the night and waking up with ice-col... [parenting] [the daily round]

May 26, 1PM

On the evening of the Boston marathon bombing, I wrote a post called God is in the helpers, in which I cited the Reverend Kate Braestrup's articulation that God is not in the disaster: rather, we find God in our response to disaster. God, I wrote, is not ... [Jewish Renewal] [theology] [Tikkun olam] [tragedy]

4AM

The question was posed on Twitter: what does self-care really mean for clergy? For those of us who dedicate ourselves to taking care of others, it's not always an easy question to answer. But the work of caring for others is never done, and if we allow ou... [congregation] [the daily round]

May 25, 11AM

This post was written earlier this spring, and for some reason languished in my drafts folder for a few months. I can no longer remember why I didn't post it when I first wrote it, so I'm sharing it now. Sweet boy, One of the things I admire most abou... [parenting]

May 24, 9AM

MONKEY MIND Monkey mind looks like Curious George: hopping and screeching, animated with exaggerated expression. It swings from idea to idea: Doctor Who, the Arctic, the Iraqi psalm melody from last night's dream. Listen to the birdsong! How d... [contemplative practice] [poetry]

May 23, 5AM

The assignment was to "Select a text, any text, and any type of text, that makes you happy," and to bring it to our Rabbis Without Borders Fellows gathering, and to teach it to one person. Since this was a rabbinic gathering, and we can generally assume t... [podcasts] [Rabbis Without Borders]

May 21, 7PM

"Happiness is something more than simply the absence of neurosis or sickness," said Emilia Zhivotovskaya. "To build a flourishing life, you want to minimize -- not eliminate! -- the negative and build the positive." Emiliya spoke with my cohort of Rabbis ... [Rabbis Without Borders]

4AM

One of the things I'll miss about this Rabbis Without Borders Fellowship, when it formally ends after this week, is the routine I developed this year of driving to the train station and taking Amtrak into the city, then walking to the hotel where RWB puts... [Rabbis Without Borders] [Travel]

May 20, 4AM

A paper-flower crown for Shavuot, featuring three of our son's four names. A Shabbat service where my community's students -- from first grade through seventh grade -- sang the prayers and songs we'd been practicing, to their parents' obvious delight. ... [parenting] [the daily round]

May 19, 4AM

We can always be happier; no person experiences perfect bliss at all times and has nothing more to which he can aspire. Therefore, rather than asking myself whether I am happy or not, a more helpful question is, "How can I become happier?" This question a... [Books] [congregation] [Rabbis Without Borders]

May 18, 11AM

This blog's first incarnation, in early October of 2003, was on blogspot. I moved to Typepad by late October of that year, and even the Internet Archive / Wayback Machine doesn't have a screencap of what this blog looked like in its very earliest days. Th... [blogs]

May 17, 7AM

Psalm of parenthood Mother of all, remake me in Your image. Make me as noble as the daffodils nodding graciously. Root me in my generations. Help me hold on to the splendor my son sees when he runs toward me at the end of a schoolday. Give m... [mother poems] [poetry]

May 16, 9AM

To my amazement, my class at this summer's ALEPH Kallah -- "Writing the Psalms of Your Heart" -- has filled up entirely. I set an enrollment cap at 20 people, never imagining for a moment that 20 would actually register for my class -- and they did. Holy ... [ALEPH Kallah]

May 15, 4AM

This is the teaching I offered late last night at our Tikkun Leyl Shavuot. It's loosely adapted from the Netivot Shalom, a.k.a. the Slonimer Rebbe, a.k.a. R' Shalom Noach Berezovsky. I originally translated it for a Hasidut class taught by R' Elliot Ginsb... [Hasidut] [Omer] [Shavuot] [Torah]

May 14, 7AM

Photo, sunbeams at Sinai, by flickr user jacobwod.   Tonight and tomorrow are the anniversary of the revelation of Torah. The anniversary. One of my favorite teachings holds that tonight, Shavuot, is the Jewish people's wedding anniversary with Go... [Shavuot]

May 13, 5AM

Many of us think of prayer as a religious duty. Some take this seriously, loping smoothly through the well-worn formulas as a daily obligation. Others draw the line at an hour or two of synagogue on High Holidays. Both approaches have lost contact with th... [congregation] [Prayer]

May 11, 4AM

Saturday Afternoon Request Help me to silence my mind's aggravation alarm, to quiet the voice which says the to-do list matters, to temporarily eschew continuous partial attention. Open me to long slow conversations on the sunlit grass, to ... [Jewish Renewal] [poetry] [Shabbat]

May 10, 4PM

Just in time for Mother's Day (in the US, anyway), I have a new essay out in Zeek. The essay tells the story of what becoming a mother was like for me. Here's where it begins: My memories of the earliest months of parenthood are blurred by that perfect... [parenting] [Waiting to Unfold]

12 PM

Despite major life-happenings -- a cross-country move in just a few weeks! -- Kristen of the fabulous blog Motherese has taken a few moments to say kind things about Waiting to Unfold. She writes: Rachel’s collection records her first year of new mot... [Waiting to Unfold]

3AM

Poet Kristin Berkey-Abbott has published an incredibly gracious and glowing review of Waiting to Unfold at her blog. Here's a taste: I'm not a mother, but I know a lot of mothers, and I imagine that this book reminds them of both the joys and the terro... [Waiting to Unfold]

May 9, 1PM

In the end we're like children:we thrive on distinctionsbetween me and you, us and them. Made in Your imagewe separate light from darkness,family from stranger, weekdayfrom that fleeting taste of Paradise.Wax drips from the braided candle.Cinnamon tingles... [poetry] [Shabbat]

May 7, 5PM

The last pink rays of afternoon light are coloring the very lip of the distant mountains. Everything else is already in shadow. Wind rustles the dragonfly chime, a periodic descant over the quiet song of spring peepers, a distant car, a barking dog. Our s... [parenting]

11AM

Deep thanks to Hugo Schwyzer for sharing one of the poems from my new collection, Waiting to Unfold, on his blog. Hugo writes: I don’t often put up poetry any more, but I want to make an exception this week to promote the new book from my friend Rach... [Waiting to Unfold]

May 6, 9AM

My thanks are due to the editors at Love, InshAllah who have published an interview with me along with some very kind words about Waiting to Unfold! Love, InshAllah is the blog associated with the book by the same name, Love, InshAllah: the Secret Love... [Waiting to Unfold]

May 5, 11AM

First I was distracted because I didn't have a cemetery map. There's a custom in Jewish tradition of having an unveiling of the matzevah, the grave marker / headstone, usually a year after burial. I was privileged to do an unveiling this weekend -- m... [congregation] [lifecycle] [music]

May 4, 4PM

I love the excited buzz in the synagogue before Shabbat morning services when one of our kids is going to be called to the Torah as b'nei mitzvah. I love the eager, nervous energy I feel emanating from the family. The parents, caught between the mund... [congregation] [lifecycle]

May 3, 4AM

Why is it so difficult to do what is good? What is the relationship between living a religious life and an ethical one? How can religion fortify an ethical life? To these questions we will add one more: In a cultural milieu in which personal satisfaction ... [Hasidut] [Mussar]

May 2, 10AM

I've been reading Ask Moxie for years -- certainly since our son was a newborn, if not before. I can't tell you how many times I turned to Moxie for calm, understanding wisdom and perspective when I was struggling during that first year. (Thank God for he... [70 faces]

8AM

National Poetry (Writing) Month was fun this year. Over the course of April I wrote 30 poems: about parenthood, morning prayer, a rooftop New York city bar, a walk to the beaver dam, Iron Man and the golem of Prague, and more. The vast majority are poems ... [Books] [poetry]

April 29, 7AM

Beth Adams, who is a dear and longtime friend and is also my publisher at Phoenicia, has shared an incredibly generous and gracious post about Waiting to Unfold on her blog The Cassandra Pages. Here's part of that post: These are poems about pregnancy,... [Waiting to Unfold]

April 22, 10AM

Readers of the North Adams Transcript know that I have a new book out and that readings are planned around the county next month -- thanks, Transcript, for Congregation Beth Israel Rabbi Rachel Barenblat Publishes Second Book of Poetry! I'll be sharing p... [Waiting to Unfold]