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Who you are in the field...

Several weeks ago I was teaching Torah to a group of students from around the country that has met weekly for several months. As the sessions meet in the evening time, it usually means that I’m occupied with bedtime routines for our three children right up until 6:59 PM, at which point I make a mad dash into the bedroom to start the class, and wish my wife godspeed for the remaining half hour (on a good night) of the various rituals, routines, and meltdowns that accompany bedtime. About 10 minutes into......

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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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Facing Our Past 

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayakheil, the master artisan Bezalel is putting together all the items for Mishkan, the dwelling-place for God. There are a whole host of materials listed – poles and pails, gratings and basins, fire pans, and fleshhooks, and most of them are presented simply as a list. But only one item has a backstory: “He made the laver of copper and its stand of copper, from the mirrors of the women who performed tasks at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.” (Ex. 38:8) Unlike everything else that......

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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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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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The Great Forgiving

This week’s Torah portion always gets me in the gut. It’s the story of Jacob returning to his long-estranged brother Esau, from whom he fled 20 years beforehand after betraying Esau by stealing his birthright and blessing. Now, so much time has passed, Jacob doesn’t even know Esau anymore. We can tell this because Jacob takes great pains to send gifts ahead, to prepare for Esau’s wrath but hope for his forgiveness, to plan for any eventual outcome. Jacob can’t anticipate Esau’s reaction. Despite Jacob’s worry that Esau’s still violently mad about......

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And I Did Not Know...

“I GOT ONE!” With the recent announcement by the CDC that the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for children ages 5-11, my wife Lizzie scrambled to find available appointments for our two oldest children. She refreshed the browser each time the search came up empty, going through the painstaking process of inputting their information multiple times until – finally – she landed appointments for both of them. I can’t quite explain how cathartic it felt to see the confirmation screen with their names on it, to know that we would soon reach......

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Esau and Zero-Sum Thinking

The first question most of us ask about elections is, “Who won?” Whether it’s for President or Town Clerk, Senator or Mayor, Congressperson or School Board member, we often have a preferred candidate going in, and feel either excited or disappointed, depending on the result. In short, we view elections as a zero-sum game: there’s a winner, and there’s a loser, and that’s it. But elections are not the same as politics — in the words of former Governor Mario Cuomo, politicians campaign in poetry, but govern in prose. The goal of......

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