This Week In Wisdom


Inviting Kids To Make History By Reading About Hanukkah: A conversation with Emily Singer, author of Gilgul

Emily Singer is the author of a new book — one receiving good attention in many quarters, including a warm review in a recent edition of the Jerusalem Post. The book is called Gilgul, and while it’s intended for middle-school-age readers, and would make a great Hanukkah gift for same, it carries a message we could all use — one combining great pride in ethnic/national/religious identity and genuinely embracing the idea that each particularity must connect with something larger than itself. I had the opportunity to “sit down” with Emily, despite 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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No Bow Without Rain

The Covenant between God and Noah, as a representative of humanity, is often seen as a beacon of hope and a universal connection between the Divine and human beings. After the great flood, which destroyed most life, God rebuilds with the promise never to destroy the earth through a great flood again. Genesis 9:13-15, God solemnizes the promise: I have set My bow in the clouds, and it shall serve as a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears......

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Tears on the Digital Road to Jerusalem 

“If a picture paints a thousand words, then an experience paints 10,000.” “Stand where He stood. Walk where He walked. Discover it for yourself.” When we bring rising Christian leaders on pilgrimage to Israel, we emphasize that there is nothing like seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and feeling the complicated, beautiful, Holy Land that birthed their tradition and ours. Born out of necessity amid the pandemic, we began to experiment with digital pilgrimages to see if they could feel every bit as real as those that happened in person. We knew from the......

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Passing the Mantle

Torah is endless. We conclude our reading of Deuteronomy and begin anew with Genesis in the same breath each Simchat Torah. It is continuous, a blueprint for the world that unfolds before us. By contrast, the humans spoken of in the Torah are temporal beings, whose ends are sometimes of greater significance than their beginnings. In this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Chukat (Numbers 19:1 – 22:1), we read of the death of the original High Priest, Aaron. We know far more about it than we do of his birth, or even of......

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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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