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Rabbi Billy Dreskin


Small brown bird standing on grey stone

I have a story to tell you. It’s about a tiny bird. But I’ll come back to that.

Tishah B’Av has been set aside as a day for the Jewish community to remember the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple two thousand years ago. Traditionally, this day is observed with fasting, prayers of lament and rituals of mourning. Two thousands years is a very  long time, however, and grief abates.

So if Tishah B’Av no longer compels, what’s to be done with it?

Earlier this week, while I was trying to figure this out, I took my dog for a walk. Not 10 feet outside the front door, we...

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Gabe and his family at his bar mitzvah

Makom shelibi oheyv – sham raglai molikhot otee, a passage from the Mishnah, can be translated as, “The place that my heart holds dear, there my feet will bring me near.” It’s a beloved text at Woodlands Community Temple near White Plains, NY, where a powerful feeling persists. You may recognize it from your own synagogue, a place that’s so warm, welcoming, and loving, you find yourself drawn there. It’s a place you simply want to be. Sometimes, however, you receive more than you could ever have imagined.

Let me tell you a story, from my makom (place) to your makom.

On a...

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Five smiling individuals including the author and his wife wearing conference name tags and posing outdoors with their arms around one anothers shoulders

I’m very fortunate to have recently attended the summer retreat program Hevreh: A Community of Adult Jewish Learners. For five days, participants from Reform and Reconstructionist backgrounds joined together in Jewish learning, worship, and just enjoying one another’s company.

Held at the very beautiful and comfortable Capital Camps retreat facility in Waynesboro, PA, Hevreh is co-directed by Rabbi Joan Farber, founding editor of the URJ’s Ten Minutes of Torah, and Marilyn Price, a Jewish educator who specializes in puppeteering and storytelling.

Here’s what I found to be...

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Author Rabbi Billy Dreskin and his mentee Rabbi Jason Fenster smiling with their arms around one another in celebration of Rabbi Fensters ordination

Woodlands Community Temple has been part of the HUC-JIR rabbinic fieldwork program since 1976. I didn’t start it, but I did benefit from it, having served as Woodlands’ intern from 1985-1987. During my time as one of Woodlands’ rabbis, we have welcomed seven interns, plus another nine summer interns, and even two “pre-rabbinic” interns. Some spend a year, most spend two, occasionally three.

We have high expectations for each intern during their time with us. We want them to serve as powerful role models and mentors for our teens. We also want the intern to spend time with our...

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Three pre-teen girls in colorful hats and feathered boas

“Dimorphous expression” is the simultaneous display of contrasting emotions: for example, crying upon seeing an adorable baby or a cute puppy, screaming when a favorite performer is onstage, and at Purim, laughing in the face of tragedy.

Dimorphous expression is something at which we Jews excel.

Purim commemorates the rescue of Jews in the Persian city of Shushan. It’s unlikely this event ever took place, but it recalls too many times in our history when Jews have been persecuted for their religious identity. Whoever authored the Book of Esther felt it was time for us...

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