Nervousness and Amazement

Basically, everything about caring for a baby is brand new to me. Diapers, “onesies,” late-night feedings, you name it. Chloe is Deborah and my first child. I am the youngest child in my family and did not spend much time around babies. I have had practically no experience around children this age. I am finding the whole experience…

Learning to be Children

When reading the Torah portion Vayigash, we often focus on Joseph and his ability to forgive his brothers. Joseph suggests that their selling him into slavery had been intended by God as a way of saving lives. His reasoning is that, if he had not been sold into slavery by the brothers, he would not…

A Hopeful Attitude

How would you complete the sentence: Jewish people ______ really well? I think it may be easy to jokingly fill in the blank with words like kvetch or argue. However, I would use the word “hope” instead. The Torah portion Eikev contains the following quotation: “He (God) subjected you to the hardship of hunger and…

Why a rabbi feels at home at Christmas

Guest Column Published in the Des Moines Register December 22, 2015 A cashier at a store rings up a customer’s order, hands the customer his or her purchase, and wishes the person a “Merry Christmas.” The cashier has done these same actions for a hundred previous customers. But this customer pauses a moment, shuffles his…

Losing a World

Losing a World- Yom Kippur 2015 There is an idea in Judaism that the loss of a person is like the loss of a world. The Mishnah states: “Therefore was a single man [first] created to teach thee that if anyone destroys a single soul from the children of man, Scripture charges him as though…

How We Talk

How We Talk-Kol Nidre 2015 A famous passage from the Talmud discusses a debate between the school of Rabbi Hillel and the school of Rabbi Shammai. One side says that the law is according to its view, while the other says that its view is the correct one. Something amazing happens. A voice comes down from…

Self-definition

Defining Ourselves-Rosh Hashanah Day 2 2015 Why Weren’t You Zusia? adapted by Doug Lipman Once, the great Hassidic leader, Zusia, came to his followers. His eyes were red with tears, and his face was pale with fear. “Zusia, what’s the matter? You look frightened!” “The other day, I had a vision. In it, I learned…

Others Defining Us

Being Defined by Others-Rosh Hashanah Day 1 2015 A boy walks into the circle of combat. All he has are sticks and a small puny weapon in his hand. His opponent is more than twice his size, maybe three times his size. He looks like a giant able to crush the boy with no effort….

Individuality

Why Madonna was Wrong-Rosh Hashanah Day 2, 2014 We are going to continue our discussion about why many of us feel disconnected from Judaism as a religion. We may embrace “Jewishness” as an ethnicity or even a culture, but generally only show limited interest in the religious elements of Judaism. We seem to prefer to…

A Bad Trick

Erev Rosh Hashanah Sermon 2015 You have all seen it before. The magician, dressed in a sharp tuxedo, reaches his hand into the black top hat. The one that he just showed us had nothing in it. He pulls his hand out, and what does he have in it? A cute, fluffy bunny with a pink…

Vulnerable

Yom Kippur Sermon 2014 I would like to continue our discussion from last week about the factors that may help make it a challenge for many of us to connect to Judaism as a religious tradition and to tend to gravitate to more ethnic or cultural forms of Jewish identity. As I mentioned last week,…