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This is not going to be a sad story, I promise. But it does start out with the process of going through my parents’ condo after their passing.
This Elul, what comes to mind as I think about my own growth and what empowers me towards religious action is the work of Northeastern University’s Community Fridge.
Meet 88-year-old Murray, an astounding man. Quiet, sometimes reserved, Murray became my father-in-law 31 years ago, when God softly whispered to me, “Don’t wait.” I confess I didn’t appreciate him fully until recently.
It’s a long-standing custom for Jews to wish one another a “sweet new year” on Rosh Hashanah; to hope that this coming year will be one filled with joy, fulfillment, and an abundance of blessings. However, Judaism isn’t a path focused simply on wishing for good things; if our goal is to make each year “sweeter” than the last, we must work to make it happen.
Tashlich was my chance to rectify my wrongs, so it had to be done right: I'd go to Ocean Beach and purge my sins in the Pacific. But before that, I read up on the ritual to make certain I did not err again.
As I boarded the plane to Israel in the summer of 2002 for my first year of rabbinical school at HUC in Jerusalem, my mother said, "Please, just don't meet an Israeli." As soon as the plane touched down at Ben Gurion airport, I knew that I was home. A few months later, I met that Israeli. From our first conversation, he understood that I was studying to be a rabbi, and I understood that he wanted to live only in Israel.
Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur worship services are among the most-attended services of the year. That can be a challenge when those worship experiences are not the easiest entry points to Judaism, especially compared to the joyousness of Simchat Torah, the food and rituals of Hanukkah, or the sensory stimulation of Passover.
This time of year, we hear again and again about how much emphasis Judaism places on the nuances of how to address harm of all kinds. I am convinced that the steps of repentance and repair outlined by the medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides make sense not only in our individual lives when we harm our coworkers, friends, family, and intimate partners, but also in reference to the communal, cultural, and national levels.
I am vegan because I am Jewish. Everything that led me to a vegan practice came from my childhood where I kept kosher, learned by asking thoughtful questions, and practiced daily rituals like hand washing and reciting brachot that brought intention to aspects of daily life.