"...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:
"...All of us have a unique mission, and yet all roads lead to the same destination. We are called upon to heal the world, individually and collectively, in our societies, communities, and souls.
"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.’
"...I see an elderly couple, stopped alongside me in the security line. The man is tall with thinning grey hair. As he turns to me I notice he’s got two large hearing aids and a cane. The woman is tall as well. She appears dignified even as she balances on a cane of her own. There is nothing particularly unusual about the two of them, yet on some subtle level I am struck by the concern they seem to have for one another...."
Brad Hirschfield discusses George Zimmerman's decision to put up for auction the gun he used to kill Trayvon Martin in 2012. This move elicited outrage, disbelief and a range of other emotions. Martin claimed the gun was “an American Firearm icon”.
Rabbi Hirschfield wonders if Zimmerman truly believes this, is crass commercialization the way to treat an “icon”?
View Rabbi Hirschfield's discussion below.
"...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.
"...the challenge of moving straight from Yom Hazikaron to Yom Ha’atzmaut. It is clearly a very powerful transition but how is it for those who sit with the sorrow of a loved one who has died protecting Israel? Is it not jarring to move straight into celebration?..."
"...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.
"...Precisely because I so cherish my certainties, I try to cultivate the spiritual practice of not grasping for them. There is value in not-knowing, and in being open to possibility. That kind of openness takes practice. A muscle that’s never used can atrophy. The same is true of our spiritual muscles, too. We need to use them regularly in order to keep them supple and responsive. And that includes the spiritual “muscle” of opening the heart to not-knowing.