Category Archives: Life

Closing Days of 5770

As 5770 draws to close, I look back on a year of personal change, growth and many blessings. The year was largely positive personally, yet so many people in the world faced (and continue to face) challenges – war, unemployment, natural disaster, disconnection, abuse, fear and hate.

The shofar, a ram's horn blown during the High Holy Days to call us action, to introspection, to teshuvah.

There is much work to do in our world – many lives to help, many people who yearn for meaning, for connection, for hope. I pray that I can contribute a bit of my part in the days, weeks and months to come. May our world be more peaceful and better in 5771 than in 5770.

Friendship Gets Us Through

I just got off the phone with a dear and close friend. Since I spoke with her last week she has gone through some major changes: moving, helping her kids through changing to new schools, a new commute and a huge personal change. Our conversation was full of all of the stress, joy, anxiety and hope she is feeling. Why blog about this?

The changes she is living seem to be part and parcel of the kind of self-reflection of this time of year. Who are we, what choices do we make? When do we make them? How do we use our support systems?

During these last days of Elul we reflect on our lives and our choices.  I pray that my friend continues to feel the support, hope, courage and strength that continue to sustain her.

Shavuah Tov

Shavuah tov – a good new week to you and yours.  I hope that you had a good Shabbat.

I am beginning my week by making some blog changes that I’ve been considering for some time.  You may have noticed that I edited the title of this blog from “Thoughts from a Rabbi” to “Amelah’s Blog (Thoughts from a Rabbi.)”  I’ve done as part of the transition from keeping this blog on to making it part of my personal website.  I have also added my twitter feed in the side bar.  The site will continue to evolve over the coming days and I welcome feedback.

I hope that this week will be a good one for you and yours.

Blessings of Life in My Corner of the World

Yesterday I experienced one of the blessings of life in my little corner of the world. I rent the house in which I live, and while downstairs in the (wonderfully cool) basement cleaning and doing laundry yesterday, I noticed a pool of water under the furnance/blower. I called the landlord and they sent over a tech. He showed me what to do if/when the drain hose clogs in the future, how to clean the filter in the air cleaner (I have the equivalent of one of those air cleaners through the whole house when using the heat/ac/fan) and gave me advice on one other little problem. What a nice guy.

After he finished the repair we stood on the front porch chatting and it turns out that he knows one of my colleagues. We chatted, shared some stories (while staying away from lashon hara) and wished each other a good holiday weekend.

This morning while running errands (dry cleaning – the local one runs 40% off pre-pay orders on national holidays), I saw him while pumping gas and we took our conversation a new direction. Such a nice guy. It is nice to have routine contact with folks, seeing people more than just when they do something for us or we do something for them.
Such is one of the nice things about where I live.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

[The following is for bloglines – feel free to ignore it.]

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Official Vatican Homophobia

NPR reported today that Gay men will not be accepted to study for the priesthood nor become priests. More legislation of bigotry.

Two of the liberal streams of Judaism, Reform and Reconstructionist, ordain out-of-the-closet rabbis who are gay and lesbian. The conservative movement is struggling over this issue – has been for years.

Too many people get hurt by hatred and close-mindedness.

May all find courage and hope even in the face of discrimination.

A Thought or Two on Wild Weather

Wild weather – tropical storms, hurricanes, tornados, fire-storms, blizzards, floods are sadly all too common around the world. We here in the USA were focused on Hurricane (now tropical storm) Dennis for the past few days (and those who are and will get flooding rains from the storm will continue to be focused on it).

Such weather can prompt questions of “why does G-d do this to us” or “why to those on the gulf coast again, so soon after Ivan” or “why do we have such violent weather?” Clearly there is no definitive answer. Many things seem to factor in – how we treat the planet (weather cycles have a GREAT deal to do with what we put into the atmosphere, ground water and etc [remember the rain cycle from elementary school?]), the long-term time schedule of our planet (human time, earth time and Divine time are clearly not the same), and G-d G-dself.

We find many stories in biblical and rabbinic literature related to weather – the flood at the time of Noah, the prayers for rain by Akiva during drought (which are directly connected to the format of some High Holy Day prayers) and other stories. In both the story of Noah and Akiva (let me know if you want more details of either), humans interact with the planet and with G-d and there are consequences. Just as G-d long ago promised not to flood the entire earth all at once, we humans have our own end of the promise – to not be absorbed in blood, warfare and base human instincts and to take care of the earth.

Can we control the weather, of course not. Do our actions contribute? I belive that both science and Judaism say yes.

May all of those affected by violent weather find strength, courage and hope in a difficult time.
May each of us learn to take responsibility for the world’s physical (and spiritual) health.

Loss of a Great Scholar of Our Time

Shavuah tov. I just returned home from a wedding and teaching – a day full of joy, love and the promise of goodness in what is often a challenging world. The chatan and kallah (groom and bride) beamed, soaked up the love and joy surrounding them and had a great time. The party is problably still going on at the house. (This chatan and kallah decided that after the formal reception, they would invite people back to her (now their) home and enjoy their out-of-town and in-town friends and family. A wonderful, beautiful, joyous day.

Then, I come home, turn on the computer and look at the New York Times for the first time all day. It is my custom to look at the obituaries and thus I learned of the death of a great scholar and teacher, Rabbi Dr. Nahum Sarna. He was a great man, a learned scholar and one whose mind, writings and teachings opened up worlds for many. Amongst his accomplishments is the Jewish Publication Society translation of the Tanach. What a loss for the world. The New York Times obituary includes the following:

Dr. Sarna’s writings, commentaries and translations sought to bring the meaning of ancient texts closer to today’s lay reader. Some of his most important contributions were made through the Jewish Publication Society, based in Philadelphia, for which he was principal translator and editor of “Torah (New Translation).” First published in 1985, it remains in print.

Some of his other books published by the society were “Genesis: The Traditional Hebrew Text with New JPS Translation” (1989); “JPS: The Americanization of Jewish Culture 1888-1988″ (1989); “Exodus: The Traditional Hebrew Text With the New JPS Translation” (1991); and “Studies in Biblical Interpretation” (2000).

Dr. Sarna’s work reflected a 19th-century movement devoted to the scientific study of Jewish civilization and a more accessible, modern approach to the Hebrew Bible. His commentaries sought to shed light on the narrative, give meaning to archeological finds, add historical and cultural background and present the Bible’s teachings in a spiritual and moral context.

Read the entire obituary here.

May his soul be with the Holy One of Blessing.
May G-d comfort his family among all who mourn.