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Rabbi Sara Y. Sapadin

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Close-up photo of young child examining butterfly resting on her index finger

Breathless, my son ran over to me, his eyes aglow.

“Did you know that hagfish digest food through their skin? Or that there are more than 1,000 kinds of mangoes?”

I shook my head no.

Ecstatic with my ignorance, my son continued with his barrage of bizarre facts. As he rattled off one outlandish statement after the next, I couldn’t help but smile at his fascination with the world around him.

Children tap into this sense of awe with incredible facility. They “oooh” and “aaah” with ease, peering out onto life with eyes hungry for amazement. Their ability to be...

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Stack of newspapers with one prominently proclaiming a scandal

In a world where idols fall faster than we can blink an eye, it is hard to explain how yesterday’s leaders become today’s objects of disdain. Our vast cultural reckoning continues as we witness more public figures dismantled by the revelation of ugly episodes from their past.

Included in this ignominious list: abhorrent acts of racist behavior, the spewing of racial epithets, the unrepentant identification with white supremacy, unabashed sexism, gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and so much more. Amid all of this ugliness, we parents must distill these events and their...

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In advance of the new year, people often ask rabbis, “Are you ready for the High Holidays?” I, for one, never know exactly how to answer. Is readiness measured in sermons written? In liturgy practiced and perfected? Or perhaps in High Holiday tickets ordered and received? What exactly does it mean to be “ready” for these days?

Our tradition guides us toward an answer by way of Elul, the Jewish month immediately preceding the new year. Elul is set aside as a time for reflection and renewal, a space to ready the mind and prepare the heart for the New Year to come. We call this...

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In the wee hours of the night, my 6-year-old son creeps to my bedside and begins to cry. When I reach out to hug him, he says, “I had a nightmare.” I take him in my arms, hold him close, and plant a kiss on his wet brow, then I scoop him up and bring him back to his room. As I brush the hair away from his eyes, I think about the worries and anxieties that occasionally haunt him at night. For now, I can ease his fears with a cuddle or a kiss or a song. For now, I can quiet the worry in his head.

My son isn’t old enough to read the news or catch the headlines on television. He doesn’...

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Our dinner began in a most unremarkable fashion, with the usual chatter about school, the requisite spills, and the endless requests for items already set out on the table. (“Can I have a fork please?” It’s right in front of you. “Can I have a napkin please?” On your lap, dear.) But the meal took a hard left as we tucked in to the main dish, when, in response to my most ordinary request for ketchup (“Pass the ketchup, please?”), my son threw down a theological gauntlet instead: “If God is indestructible, why can’t God stop all the bad guys in the world?” 

I responded with as much...

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