Compassion and Empathy


Don't Try To Be the Hero of Your Story 

With two elementary-school-aged kids, we hear a fair amount of sibling fighting, with only some of it unprovoked. When one of them is getting a little too wild, and, say, someone’s limbs smack into someone else’s body, their first reaction is to say, “I didn’t mean to do it!” And while my wife and I do draw a distinction between purposeful versus accidental actions, we try to focus more on the consequences and how to make it right afterward. That’s what’s so striking about this week’s Torah portion, Vayikra. It outlines the......

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Moral Leadership

The last few weeks have been strange in Canada. A convoy of angry citizens has taken their tractors, semi-trucks, and construction vehicles and established illegal blockades of border crossings in Ontario and other provinces and occupations of the entire neighborhood outside Parliament in Ottawa, as well as protests in other major Canadian cities. This development is anathema to much of what Canadians think of themselves – nice, friendly, reasonable people governed by prudence and shared responsibility. It seems like a sudden shock to many. Where did this come from? In this week’s......

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We Have Returned...

 …even though we never physically left our homes. As in my other post, I want to offer in the same-immediacy-writing commitment a glimpse of where I am now sitting, how I am now sitting, and the hope I feel while being here in this fragmented and polarizing era we find ourselves in, in reconsidering citizenship. I honor that it will be, at some level, incomprehensible or easy-to-dismiss from outside the experience. I honor that only a percentage of the 24 students who engaged in this trip will share in what I have......

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Freedom to Give

“A contract is a transaction. A covenant is a relationship. A contract is about interests. A covenant is about identity. That is why contracts benefit, but covenants transform.“ In these terse words of enduring wisdom, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks draws our attention to the covenants we might long have overlooked and the contracts that we mistook for something more (see Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times for additional wisdom). Such was certainly the case for the Israelites, as becomes evident in this week’s Torah portion, T’rumah (Exodus 25:1 – 27:19). It......

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Seeing the Unseen

Over the last few weeks, the astronomy world watched each step of the James Webb Space Telescope unfold. Aside from all the usual nervousness surrounding a rocket launch, there were 344 single-point failures as it tried to help us see farther, deeper, and more clearly into the reaches of deep space. Miraculously, each step worked exactly as planned – NASA was hoping things would go smoothly, but with rocket science, a lot can go wrong even if the mission is well-planned and designed. There was a palpable sense of relief as the......

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When Faith Preempts Facts

Our Torah is filled with stories of remarkable courage, leaps of faith, and ventures into the unknown. From Abraham leaving his homeland at God’s behest to his near-sacrifice of his son, we learn from our very first patriarch the ways that faith – often of the “blind” variety – is central to our collective story. But for all the dramatic leaps taken by our ancestors in scripture, one of them stands out among the rest. One of them, in fact, that isn’t even explicitly mentioned in Torah! After a treacherous race out......

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The Plague of Uncertainty

Throughout Moses’ showdown with Pharaoh, there is one overarching, emotional plague that God wreaks upon the Egyptians: uncertainty. They do not know when the litany of discomforts, outrages, upsets, frustrations, pains, and fears will end. We gain insight into the Egyptian mindset just after Moses pronounces that God will bring locusts to eat whatever remains of the crops after the hail. Moses departs Pharaoh’s court and then we read (Exodus 10:7): “Pharaoh’s courtiers said to him, ‘How long shall this one be a snare to us? Let the people go to worship......

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