The bimah is the heart of a temple's sanctuary – a gathering place for life cycle events, the focus of our High Holiday worship rituals, and the site that draws us together when we seek comfort from pain.
In 2007, I was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis. In my case, it has lived up to its name, and has progressively weakened my body from the waist down, leaving me wheelchair bound. With the loss of my mobility, I also lost the ability to be called for an aliyah, to see the open Torah scroll, to participate in Selichot services, and to join with family and friends for birthday and anniversary blessings. For those of us unable to be on the bimah because of a physical disability, it is easy to feel left out of the Jewish community.
As a teenager, I would sit on my bedroom floor listening to old records of Belgian singer-songwriter, poet, and performer Jacques Brel. I didn’t need to keep a journal, because his lyrics wove together everything I felt at the time. Brel had a fire within, and his anger, longing, passion, and truth blazed through every word he sang. His music, raw and real, transformed and fed my soul; it informed and shaped who I am today.
Snow days can be fun; not so this kind of cold. It was colder in Chicago this week than it was in the North Pole.
As we witness public figures dismantled by the revelation of ugly episodes from their pasts, we parents must distill these events and their aftermath for our children.
He shall be dressed in a sacral linen tunic, with linen breeches next to his flesh, and be girt with a linen sash, and he shall wear a linen turban. They are sacral vestments; he shall bathe his body in water and then put them on. (Leviticus 16:4)
A few years ago, I was in Jerusalem in a Chasidic neighborhood, surrounded by stores carrying tallitot, kippot, and all sorts of Judaica. To my utter shock, prominently displayed in one store's window was a bright pink tallis! I went inside and started talking to the owner, a Chasid in full regalia: black coat, knickers, side curls, and fur-trimmed shtreimel hat. "Who would buy a pink tallit?" I asked. "A bat mitzvah girl of course," this Chasid said, with no hesitation. ". . . no, not the girls in my community," he added, "but in yours, sure, why not?"
The poet Yehuda Amichai writes: I don’t want an invisible god... I want a god who is seen... , so I can lead him around and tell him what he doesn’t see… ... In this week’s portion, Ki Tisa, we reconnect with this unfinished storyline at the beginning of Exodus 32. While Moses tarries atop Mount Sinai, the people down below are losing their patience:
According to Ramban (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, or Nachmanides; 1194-1270), this week’s Torah portion, Vayak’heil, is properly understood as the necessary reconciliation between the Israelite people, on one side, and God and Moses, on the other, after the devastation of the Golden Calf episode. Ramban reads the opening phrase, “Moses then convoked the whole Israelite community (Ex. 35:1), as Moses rebuilding and healing the community through the inclusion and involvement of all ...