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Dome of the US Capitol Building against a blue sky with clouds

The High Holidays invite us to initiate both personal and communal change. During the ten Days of Awe between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, we reflect on our own choices as well as the actions of our broader community.

Most of the prayers we recite asking for forgiveness, like the Viddui and the Ashamnu, are written in the first-person plural. These prayers remind us that we are part of a community and responsible for shaping a...

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Woman in shadow facing away and holding a guitar overhead with both hands. Sunshine and clouds surround her shadow.

On Rosh HaShanah, we stand on the razor’s edge between two realities. This is the Day of Judgment, the day on which we are called to understand the impact each of us has had on others, the Jewish people, and the world. The good. The harm. In anticipation of atonement – of setting things right – we become uncompromisingly honest about ourselves.

At the very same moment we’re called to remember that this is HaYom Harat Olam, this is the birthday of the world. Legend...

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View of empty pews from pulpit with an open book (Bible) on it

Preaching from the pulpit is a real challenge these days. With few exceptions, rabbis have had to trim their sermonic sails, even during the High Holidays, sidestepping politics, throwing in autobiographical snippets and a joke or two, and ending gracefully, like docking a family boat.

In contrast, when I was growing up in the 1960s, sermons were among the most anticipated events in synagogue life, especially on the eve of Rosh HaShanah and Kol Nidre night. At Oheb...

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Time for change written in the sand with waves coming toward the words

Last week, a good friend of mine invited me to join them when they received their two-year coin at Alcoholics Anonymous. This is not a world that I typically inhabit, and I discovered during the meeting that world had a lot to teach me about building community, making meaning, and doing t’shuvah (repentance).

In the synagogue world, and especially in small congregations, it often feels like we are one step behind in the latest trends, one marketing campaign or social media strategy or new melody away from transforming our congregations.

It was fascinating to watch people...

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Four college students from behind talking and walking along the outside of an academic building

The Talmud (Shabbat 151b-152a) recognizes that people cry different types of tears. There are tears of sorrow and pain, of relief and catharsis. According to the Talmud, some kinds of weeping are beneficial, and some are not.

Today, as Heidi and I bring our oldest child to his first year of college, the Rabbis’ observation seems especially insightful. Of course, we are tearful. But we are well aware that there are many reasons parents may cry when their children leave for college.

Some parents may cry because they realize their family structure will now be different. Sure,...

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