“Life and death are in the power of the tongue,” declared our ancestors in Proverbs 18:21. Furthermore they went on to say, “In the multitude of words, there is no lack of sin.” Proverbs 19:10 because they realized how easy it is to talk our way into trouble. In fact, we live in two civilizations […]
Archive for category: Deuteronomy
One of my favorite things to do is write children’s songs. Over the years I have written lots of innocuous little ditties for kids as a way of teaching them about Jewish holidays and rituals, ethics and values, and how to treat families and friends. Long ago when I was just starting out as a teacher in religious school I realized that singing a song was an easy and relatively painless way to learn important Jewish lessons about life. So I wrote songs about everything I could think of – from “Hands Hold the Torah Way Up High,” and “Shabbat Shalom Comes to Our Home” to “Kibbutz is Not the Last Car on a Railroad Train.” Kids seemed to like them, and in the process of singing they learn some of the most important lessons about Jewish life.
Three thousand years ago Moses had pretty much the same idea. As he led that bedraggled band of ex-slaves out of four hundred years of Egyptian slavery, he sang them across the sea of reeds to quell their fears, bolster their spirits and teach them that what this invisible God of the Hebrews demanded perhaps more than anything else, was that people be free. Moses’s “Song of the Sea” became the first number one hit song in Jewish history, and we still sing some of its lyrics at every single service in the form of the Mi Hamoha.
It’s never easy to let go. Whether it’s letting go of a bad relationship, getting fired from a job or walking away from a lifetime of meaningful work to retire. Letting go is difficult. So imagine how Moses must have felt in this week’s Torah portion.
I was startled out of my sleep at 6:15 AM Tuesday morning by a phone call from my daughter, Gable, who is living just a ten-minute walk from the World Trade Center in New York. “Oh my God,” she cried into the phone, “I’ve just witnessed the most horrible scene of my life.” With those […]
This week’s Torah portion is every rabbi’s dream – particularly at this time of year. Because every year as the High Holy Days grow near, almost every rabbi I know struggles with the spiritual dilemma of whether or not to use this rare opportunity when almost the entire congregation stands before them, to openly solicit […]
When we are lucky, there are unexpected moments in life that suddenly present us with the opportunity to find out who we really are. This week was such a moment for 22-year-old Ascension Franco Gonzales, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who came to this country from Hidalgo with one goal in mind: to send back […]
We have begun the month of Elul and I can feel the spiritual pressure building already. Traditional Jews go to synagogue every day to pray, and every day they hear the sound of the shofar reminding them that this entire month leading up to Rosh Hashana and the ushering in of the most sacred season […]
I just got back last week from an adventure tour of Costa Rica that I took with my wife, Didi and my daughter, Gable. Over an intense four day period we crossed the country challenging the elements and stretching our own boundaries -flying a tiny plane to the Nicaraguan border; traveling in a small motor […]
This week we discover one of the most powerful Biblical lessons in personal motivation and success ever written. It is also the source for the idea known as “free will.” God tells us, at the very beginning of the portion, “See I set before you blessing and curse – blessing if you obey the commandments […]
Sometimes all of life seems like a test. Friendships drift away, loved ones die, we find ourselves fighting a serious illness or falling victim to corporate “downsizing” and either having our salaries cut or losing our jobs altogether. It’s remarkable how quickly even the most positive of people can suddenly find themselves haunted by questions […]
If the entire Torah consisted of only this week’s portion, we would have all that is necessary to learn the most important spiritual and ethical laws of the entire Torah. For this week we are presented once again with the entire Ten Commandments (with a couple of slight changes from the original in Exodus) along […]
I was sitting in my study this week with a couple who have been members of my synagogue for over 35 years. They were recounting a recent experience they had when celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and it made me think about this week’s Torah portion.