Clal nurtures new skills in leaders, helping them to prepare for the civic, spiritual, intellectual and ethical challenges in American life.
"...More than just encouraging them to continue their Jewish education and to get involved in the youth group, what are the most impactful words a rabbi can offer to a bar or bat mitzvah in the 21st century?
Here are the areas I think rabbis should talk about when offering wisdom to the bar or bat mitzvah:
"I love it when science proves what I already believed. And I say that with full awareness that by definition what science ‘proves’ today might just as well be ‘disproved’ tomorrow, only to be ‘reproved’ later still (hopefully in a more refined fashion). I am also aware that what we know by intuition and/or faith can be at least as true, and certainly as meaningful as what we know scientifically and empirically...."
"If you express compassion, you are ‘asserting a false moral equivalence’ between the good and evil sides. If you use humour but a humourless reader takes your words literally, ‘you are truly an evil person.’
How do I respond to such comments?
Politely: ‘Thank you for your kind note.’
Kindly: ‘I'm sorry. It was not my intent to harm anyone or to fail in empathy.’
"...Like so many Broadway musicals, Hamilton is the story of the American dream. For no other reason than being at the right place at the right time, Hamilton beat the immigrant odds. In another life, he would have died of the same disease that killed his mother. He would have abandoned his family like his father did. He would have been a nameless sugar cane trader in St. Croix. But fate had other plans for Hamilton.
"...Our spirituality might indeed help us along the path that physiology cannot. Many of us eat to fill our never-ending holes. We eat to compensate for guilt, jealousy, anger and resentment. We eat because we feel like we can control the uncontrollable. We eat to allay our fears and insecurities. My goodness, we eat for so many reasons other than simply being hungry...."
"...I want to give it to you straight and in doing so recover what it means to ‘graduate’ and also a deep Jewish truth. Think of the word ‘gradual’ – a slow progression. To ‘graduate’ means ‘to arrange in series or according to a scale’, like a graduated tax or a ‘graduated cup’ (a measuring cup). For some reason when using this word regarding people it has come to mean a person at the end of his or her studies.
"It is totally human to feel righteous indignation and even justified anger. And unless we were born as saints of some kind, anger is a very real part of our lives. We have probably been told, with some emphatic feeling: ‘Don't be so angry!’ – a suggestion to which we may have replied, maybe with full blown fury, that we are not angry, damn it!..."
"Do you believe in the notion of ‘pure evil’? I am not asking because yesterday was Israel's Holocaust Remembrance day, but it is especially interesting to raise the question today, as those are the kinds of words often used when describing Nazis in general, and Hitler in particular.
"...The show of God's force via epic calamities had been to convince Pharaoh to release the Jews from slavery. The plagues intensified along with Pharaoh's stubbornness, until they became so extreme he had no choice but to relent and let the Jews go. While not nearly as horrifying as an infestation of locusts, turning water into blood or the death of livestock and humans, my sampling of plagues tormented me: Redness. Unbearable Itchiness. Inflammation. Scaliness. Peeling. Puffiness. Splotchiness.
"...At some point our friendship starts to feel a lot more like therapy – at a firing range. We have sessions. They're clinical somehow, predictable. The hierarchy is clear. The scenario is presented: you bring the problem, I bring the solution. It's the same solution I've offered before, this time with added details that I fire off like rounds of ammunition. Every progressive story or emotion shared confirms my worldview, and I re-load. Shot down, you desist; we hug, say goodbye. Nothing solved.