Book Club

The Chosen-MI decided to do a search on the texts used in undergraduate Jewish Study programs. I bought several of the books and have just had time to start reading.

The first book is The Chosen, by Chaim Potok. It’s listed as a top historical fiction books by goodreads, so I feel confident that the history in it is accurate. I’m anxious to discuss this book with others and hoped we might have a discussion here – or in a chat I can open off the site. At the very least, I’ll be putting up a synopsis by theme and relationship over the next few weeks. I hope you’ll join me!


Peeping Rabbi

Mikvah Chabad PotomacA local Rabbi has recently been accused of secretly observing women as they prepared for the Mikvah. My first reaction was to feel defiled and betrayed, not because he might have seen me naked, but because anyone might have intruded into a moment that was so intensely personal.

I checked to see if it was the Mikvah I had used at a Conservative synagogue. It was not. I felt sick to discover it was a well-respected Orthodox Rabbi at an Orthodox Mikvah–and one who had been a Rabbi for 25 years at that. It’s not that I expect Conservative and Reform Rabbis to be voyeuristic perverts. It’s that I never expected an Orthodox Rabbi to be a voyeuristic pervert.

Upon reflection, I’d have to say I hold an Orthodox Rabbi to a higher level for two reasons. One is just plain moral decency. The other is that anyone espousing that level of religious observance had better do more than talk the talk. Until now, it was not within my scope of possibilities for any Rabbi, let alone an Orthodox Rabbi, to behave in this way, just as it was not within the scope of possibilies for a Pope to resign.

I was stunned to see a woman defending this Rabbi on a news report. As far as I remember, she said we must remember that he is a genius and an inspired leader. Really? That makes it okay? It certainly doesn’t for me.

My time at the Mikvah was integral to a moment that remains one of them most significant and personal moments of my life. That anyone would ever dare to intrude on such a moment is beneath contempt.

Oy Vey

UncertaintyOne of my children is being evaluated for a fairly serious medical condition. It’s not fatal. It is treatable. But it is going to cause some changes in how we do things. All in all, it’s something we can handle. The part that’s been difficult is hanging in there while we go through the diagnostic phase.

I’m a person who is not thrilled with unplanned events – unless they are parties. Those are definitely okay with me. So – having a perfectly healthy child suddenly frequenting Children’s Hospital is not something I’m comfortable with – but then, who is? The good news is that the staff and our doctors have been wonderful. They definitely get it that it’s a stressful situation for all involved, and they work to keep it all pretty low key.

Continue reading

Torah Exploration – Va-Yetse’

This Torah portion, Va-Yetse’ [Genesis 28.10 – 28.22] is one that I find intriguing. I hope you will, too. Take some time to consider what you would do differently if you knew the Lord was present in a place. Then ask yourself why you don’t do that any way.

10Jacob left Beer-sheba, and set out for Haran. 11He came upon a certain place and stopped there for the night, for the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of that place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12He had a dream; a stairway was set on the ground and its top reached to the sky, and angels of God were going up and down on it. 13And the Lord was standing beside him and He said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac: the ground on which you are lying I will assign to you and to your offspring. 14Your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you and your descendants. 15Remember, I am with you: I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

16Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is present in this place, and I did not know it!”17Shaken, he said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the abode of God, and that is the gateway to heaven.” 18Early in the morning, Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19He named that site Bethel; but previously the name of the city had been Luz.

20Jacob then made a vow, saying, “If God remains with me, if He protects me on this journey that I am making, and gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear, 21and if I return safe to my father’s house—the Lord shall be my God. 22And this stone, which I have set up as a pillar, shall be God’s abode; and of all that You give me, I will set aside a tithe for You.”

SOURCE: JPS Tagged Tanakh

Chapter One

Working on the sample chapter for my book on enhancing your Jewish identity. It’s amazing how many times a sentence can be tweaked before it “sings.” But once it does… I guess that’s the moment writers live for – that moment when it just sounds right

I don’t know about you, but for me, once the first section is set, it all falls into place. I know that’s supposedly because my vision is clear then, but it’s more than that. I can have a detailed outline that tells me each thing to cover in sequence, along with a killer topic sentence, but that’s still not the same as when the first section takes on a life of its own. 

Here’s to a great week for us all!


A Day of Jewish Learning

Routes-Logo-w-Tagline-no-sessions-e1360703616897What are you up to this Sunday? The Partnership for Jewish Life & Learning is holding Routes: A Day of Jewish Learning at the American University Campus in Washington, DC. The program runs from 10am to 5pm and features speakers and performers on a number of topics covered during 60 sessions.

Routes is designed to provide a “welcoming, accessible and exciting learning experience for the diverse Jewish population of Greater Washington.” For some this will be an introduction to Judaism. For others it will be a way to renew ties to Judaism or to explore new options. This year the program will include sessions on everything from managing stress and religion in the newsroom to discussions of tzedakah and the history of Jews and chocolate. Check out the schedule.

Food is available for purchase on campus, as well as at nearby restaurants. Kosher lunch boxes can be pre-ordered when you register – or – bring food from home. Yes. You can eat during sessions.

Register in advance and the cost is $18. It’s $25 at the door. High school and undergraduate students can enter FREE with a valid student ID.

Directions and parking info here.

See you there!

Shabbat 04/06/13

Shabbat Candles

Passover is over. The matzoh balls were what they were. And I have to say, they were spectacular. It took way too long but I can finally say I’ve mastered the matzoh ball!

Spring break is over. The house has been quiet. Our regular routine makes me appreciate the moments of special time we create and fit into the cracks between school, homework, work, and sleep.

For Shabbat this evening we’ll talk about the Book of Job. I’m interested to hear what my kids have to say on the subject. I’m usually amazed at what they bring to the table. If that’s a no-go, we’ll discuss the Torah portion for this week or use the guide from Family Shabbat Torah Talk. Either way we’ll have some quiet family time.

Shabbat Shalom!

Related Posts:
Keeping Shabbat

Job as Everyman

If it’s possible to have a favorite Biblical entity, mine is definitely Job. To me, Job is a particularly virtuous Everyman. He is living his life, loving G’d, and just a generally happy guy. Next thing he knows, the G’d he loves and trusts enters into a wager with none other than Satan. The wager? That even when Satan torments Job, Job will not renounce the L’rd. (more)

Family Shabbat Table Talk – URJ

You want to talk Torah at Shabbat dinner but you’re not sure where to start? The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) has a site with everything you need to get you started and keep you going. Family Shabbat Table Talk  has all the portions with comments, possible questions, and materials for additional study. (On their site, click on the name of the book of the Torah in the sidebar on the left to see the portions.) It’s an easy way to get you started.

The site says, “For each week, Family Shabbat Table Talk includes: 1] the title of the parasha and a citation so that you may find the full text in your own copy of the Torah; 2] a couple of sentences about the theme for the sefer; 3] an excerpt from the Torah text that will be the focus of discussion; 4] a short d’rash (teaching) on the text; 5] two or three questions each for children ages 3-5 and children ages 6-8; and 6] a suggestion for deeper study geared toward sophisticated learners and those who wish to spend more time on the topic.”

There are also tips for leading the discussion each week.

I’ve used this with my own children. At first it seemed a bit awkward, but they soon got the idea that we would be talking about Torah at dinner. Once they took to it, it was fun. It was definitely worth the small amount of effort it took to get it all started.

Shabbat Shalom!


Function of Religion: Analysis

Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines a function as “the normal or characteristic action of anything.” They list several definitions for religion. For our purposes we’ll use the second definition. It states, “religion is any specific system of belief and worship, often involving a code of ethics and a philosophy.” You’ll note that this definition does not include a belief in a creator, ruler, or Divine Being. This is because for some of us, that is not a function of religion. Wait! There’s more!

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