An Additional Fast Day, Israel’s Crisis, and a Conversation on Monday

On Wednesday, many Israelis observed a Yom Kippur Katan, a day-long fast at the urging of Rabbi David Stav of the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization. Tzohar has been an interesting and moderating religious force in Israel. While an Orthodox organization, they have maintained a broad view of Israeli society, reaching out and serving countless secular Israeli Jews.

A Thousand Little Sanctuaries

This week, congregations around the globe will complete the Book of Exodus as we read from the final two parshiot of Vayakhel-Pekudei. The latter half of Exodus concerns itself with the plans for building the Mishkan, our ancient Tabernacle where communal offerings were brought.

The Robot Rabbi and the Human Pupil

Fifteen years ago, my freshman roommate from college, Eric, and I had a spirited conversation. Eric was a translator, versed in several languages, and when I proposed that pretty soon, machines would make his work obsolete, he scoffed at the notion. At that point, Google Translate was only a couple of years old, and its work product left something to be desired. In the years since, as machine translation improved, Eric had to reconcile himself to a new reality—there was no more money to be had in translation.

What Is Democracy? A Call to Action

Last Friday evening, I mapped out the issues at stake with the judicial reforms that are being considered by the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. While a great many Israelis have understood that judicial reform has been needed for many years, I reviewed how the current measures, if they all passed as is, would completely gut the balance of powers that are so essential to a functioning democracy.

Bird at a Feeder

It’s the mirror-smooth, pristine surface of freshly fallen snow, so pure and untouched, that makes all of life feel new and fresh. Just a day later, the marks of messy life are everywhere.

One Hat at a Time

The rectangular, slim-profile mailing boxes had been sitting in my office for a few months, clamoring for attention while I waited for the weather to turn cold. Within them rested seventy or so cozy hats that were hand-knit by Martha Decherd's sister-in-law. I had committed to distributing these to the heads of homeless Portlanders. With Mom’s death, the project was put on hold until this past Wednesday when my twelfth grade class and I drove down Naito.

Peak Moments and Rules

An old congregant from Cleveland wrote me this past week, sharing a davar torah she had penned for last week’s Torah reading on the topic of the mi-khamokha line in our liturgy, which comes straight out of the Torah. She explored why the word mi-kamokha first appears without a dagesh, the little dot inside of certain Hebrew letters, while just three words later, it is written with a dot. This obscure grammatical question is one I asked Rabbi Stuart Kelman the year before I began rabbinical studies.