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Figure from behind in tee-shirt and jeans, sitting on concrete wall and looking out at a body of water on which the sun is shining through clouds

Afflict my soul ~ As if this were something new, a commandment of some rarity! I picture a three-taloned scourge, held high in front of me, my hand clasped lightly, with comfort and all too familiar ease. The tips of those talons are bloodied. My soul is afflicted. It is a talent I have perfected. But I am to afflict my soul on that Day, To hunger, To thirst To bear my discomfort like a badge of unease, as if, on all those other days, I do not. As if on all the other days - new moon, full moon, sickle moons that have their own power to draw blood - on every other day I wear the day with...

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A mid-air figure in shadow with orange/yellow sunset, clouds, and water in the background

The central theme of the High Holiday season is t’shuvah (return, turn, response), a process that brings us back to our truest ourselves, our families, friends, community, the Jewish people, Torah, and God. T’shuvah is ultimately an expression of hope that the way we are today need not be who we remain tomorrow.

T’shuvah is a step-by-step process of re-engaging with our highest selves, of turning away from negative and destructive tendencies (i.e. yetzer hara – the evil inclination) and embracing that which is good in our nature (yetzer hatov – the good inclination), such as living...

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View of the Old City and the hills of Jerusalem at sunset

To say the High Holiday prayers are intense is an understatement. Throughout Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, we read texts that discuss sin and salvation, martyrdom and mortality. It is fitting that we call these days the Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe. We are required to engage in a full accounting of our souls and our actions, with divine judgment looming above our heads throughout this difficult...

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A smooth grey rock in sand surrounded by a swirl pattern in the sand

“Your days are like scrolls -- write on them what you want to be remembered.” - Bachya Ibn Pakuda

When I was a rabbi on a college campus, I regularly counseled students who were overwhelmed, stressed, and unhappy. They felt immense pressure from multiple forces: their parents encouraged them to take certain classes; their friends told them to participate in certain clubs; and the university repeatedly reminded them to “make the most” of their college experience. To help them prioritize and find meaning in the ways they were spending their time, I turned to Marie Kondo, the...

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Red cassette tape lightly unspooling

Long before I became a rabbi, I was a DJ and a hip-hop-head. Music always scored my life, and for years I've wondered, "How can the music that soundtracks my life be harnessed for religious practice?”

This summer, as I prepared for Rosh HaShanah, I began dreaming about an alternative High Holiday experience – a musical journey that would tap into ancient liturgical themes and refract them through the lens of hip-hop. Kind of like Rosh HaShanah: The Remix.

As I prepared to lead services, I realized that the...

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