This Week In Wisdom


Once-in-a-Decade Revelations

Every year at Shavuot, Jewish communities all around the world celebrate the giving of Torah with raucous gatherings, enormous slabs of cheesecake, and Torah learning from dusk to dawn. Of the many fond memories I have of my time living in Jerusalem a decade ago, house-hopping throughout the night of Shavuot sits comfortably atop the list. I learned provocative, inspiring Torah from complete strangers, danced with folks from Haredi to Hiloni (strictly Orthodox to strictly secular), and emerged from my last learning session to feel the rising sun on my face while I prayed at the......

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Derek Chauvin, Justice and Deuteronomy 16:20

Closing arguments in Derek Chauvin’s trial for the murder of George Floyd are unfolding as I write. The voices of protestors, speculators, and commentators rise, along with the voices of attorneys for both the state and for Mr. Chauvin, all calling for “Justice,” in these final hours before the case is handed to the jury. There is no shortage of stridently held opinions about what should happen here — not from the lawyers, the protestors, the commentators or the speculators — most notably, from Rep. Maxine Waters, whose words both inspire and......

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Deeper Intentions and the Life of Daunte Wright

At the very same time the trial against Derek Chauvin is unfolding in Minneapolis, another Black man, Daunte Wright, has been killed by a police officer in nearby Brooklyn Center.  George Floyd, as is well known and viscerally horrifying, was killed by Chauvin as the now-former officer pressed down on his neck for nine and one-half minutes, ignoring pleas for mercy and for justice.  The intention to use force was clear. The trial will determine if nine and a half minutes of application of such force can be equated to murderous intent......

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Night Words, A Midrash For The Holocaust

The Meaning of this Day, January 27, 2021 In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly designated January 27–the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau–as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this annual day of commemoration, the UN urges the world community to honor the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and millions of other victims of Nazism. The theme guiding Holocaust remembrance in 2021 is Facing the Aftermath: Recovery and Reconstitution After The Holocaust. The never-ending process of recovery and reconstitution of individuals, communities, and systems of justice includes: accurately recording the......

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Reckoning or Reconciliation?  How About Both?

To impeach or not to impeach. That is the question. Or is it? Perhaps the more important question at this moment is not a question of what to do, but of why we do it. That has certainly been my approach, as I am asked if there are any spiritual or religious responses to the cresting chorus of those who are ready to explain the “right answer” to the question of impeachment — Focusing on the “why” more than the “what.” The question of whether or not the President should be impeached,......

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An Interview with Rabbi Avram Mlotek

Kohelet / Ecclesiastes 12:12 warns us that “to the making of books, there is no end,” suggesting that maybe it’s enough already with the book, and that was over 2,000 years ago! So, let me start by asking you — one author to another — why another book, and what, if any, of Kohelet’s concerns accompanied you in the making of this one? What would our libraries look like if the Jewish canon ended with Ecclesiastes’ nihilistic, subversive, depressive charge? The people of the book deserve as many books as there are......

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A Riot Runs Through It: Where we have been and where we are going

Rabbi Tarfon taught: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work , but you are not free to desist from it either.” Pirkei Avot 2:16 Aspirational, that has always been the word I have used to describe America — its beauty and its potential — and the framework I have used to see the world. How have the last four years, and more particularly the last few days, impacted that framework of faith? A timeline will help to begin parsing that question. Inauguration Day 2017. A speech is......

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