On Tu Bishvat we celebrated trees and a season of new growth. I've been doing lots of thinking about trees, as I frequently do, and the role they play in providing oxygen for the planet. At the Union of Reform Judaism, we provide oxygen to our communities by creating compassionate spaces for our participants to grow and thrive. We can respond to current and future challenges by fostering resilience that reflect our Jewish values.
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As I thought about what would be involved if we did our own Tu BiShvat seder, it seemed interesting and fun. Tasting lots of fruits? Marking a time to appreciate, mindfully and respectfully, trees and the earth? Drinking wines and grape juices? Yes, please.
New Year's Day and the traditional resolutions that accompany it invite us to take stock of our lives. Are we living our lives to the fullest? Can we imagine a future in which the commitments we make for ourselves (e.g., healthier habits around eating and exercise) actually come true? What will it take this year to really change?
From Covid and climate change to the erosion of democratic norms and the decline of a shared sense of truth (and the list could go on), two things are clear. First, are we living in an age that tests our ability to sustain hope. Second, if despair dominates hope, we will be unable to meet the challenges that beset us.
There are a lot of creative ways to make Hanukkah meaningful when we pause to ask ourselves a few good questions before automatically going into shopping mode.
Transgender Awareness Week is a chance to educate the public. It is important for people who are not part of the trans community to understand the oppression transgender and gender-expansive people face every day. While it is always important to affirm trans identities, Transgender Awareness Week provides an opportunity to center the voices of trans and gender-expansive people.
After services one Friday night, I was approached by a woman and child I had not seen before. The woman knew I was a rabbinical student, and said she had an important question to ask me. Then, slowly, trying to find the right words, she said, “Let’s say there was someone who was born female but realized they were male—a female to male transgender person. Would that person be able to have a bar mitzvah? Is that something Judaism would allow?”
Limiting the time we are on our devices and setting an intention about what we do there are small steps that can alter our relationship to the digital world. By committing to these changes in our day-to-day lives, we can more readily guide our kids to do the same.
Mussar represents what I have come to call “the Jewish Road to Character,” a Jewish path of study and spiritual practice focused on building the soul traits or the virtues that are at the core of our being.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters. God said: “Let there be light.” And there was light.