This Week In Wisdom


"Birah Doleket"

Monday night, I saw Ani DiFranco in concert. For those of you who don’t have lyrics from “If He Tries Anything” as your yearbook quote, she’s a folk rock singer-songwriter whose powerful lyrics about feminism, abortion rights, and fighting oppression have buoyed many Gen X and elder Millennial feminists. She was like a beloved older cousin who taught me that being fierce, feminist, and angry were a-okay – and, in fact, that anger was an appropriate response to the world around me. The last time I saw her live was in 2004......

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Sukkot and a New Ecosystem of Jewish Leadership

A teaching from Sukkot merits our attention. Amid the building of huts and the welcoming of guests, the gathering of four different flora offers a powerful image about Jewish community and its leadership today. Those who have shaken the Lulav and Etrog may remember the four species of plant celebrated during the harvest holiday: etrog, palm, myrtle, and willow. Each one is of symbolic significance, notably about the kinds of people who reside within Israel. According to the Midrashic commentary, Vayikra Rabbah, the etrog holds both flavor and scent, symbolically pointing to the......

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God, Our Mother Eagle

Bald eagles are everywhere in my Pacific Northwest region. On my street, brave eagles try (unsuccessfully) to eat baby crows. Just across the river, eagle couples nest in the high trees. In winter, migratory eagles feast on dying salmon. In summer, resident eagles party at the landfill. Still, I never get tired of eagles. When I see one soar, my own soul soars. My mood lifts, and I feel a hint of God’s presence. The Torah ends and begins with the image of God as an eagle. It’s there in Moses’ last......

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Knowing the Past to Build the Future

Both of my kids have bad allergies, so every time I see my daughter scrunch her nose and widen her eyes, I know she’s about to sneeze – even before she does. In fact, when I ask her to get a tissue in advance, she’ll often respond, “I don’t need one!”…and about five seconds later, it turns out that I’ve predicted the future. Seeing the future is an integral part of both this week’s portion, Vayeilech, as well as the yamim nora’im, the Days of Awe. In this week’s short portion (only one chapter),......

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Why do we need Moses to keep talking?

According to the commentator, Nachmanides, Moses finishes reviewing the commandments and stipulations of the Torah by Deuteronomy 26:16. This already comes most of the way through a book of the Torah that some commentators view as a recapitulation of the other four books – and which some contemporary scholars view as a later addition altogether. So why are we here, three chapters after the most generous reading of the Book of Deuteronomy indicates Moses has fully conveyed the content of the Torah? Why is Moses relating a review of a review within......

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How Long-Term Should Our Vision Be?

Recently, California announced that it will not sell gasoline-based cars starting in 2035. Like many political decisions surrounding climate change, it’s a decision that looks to help those that will come decades or centuries from now. So naturally, there is some pushback. Part of the reason addressing climate change is so hard is that we humans tend to focus on the challenges that are right in front of us, both physically and temporally – when real people are in danger or in need (or, to be honest, even just “in want”) right......

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