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A Bisl Torah

Yellow Roses


My Nana insisted on the presence of yellow roses at her funeral. When I asked my aunts, uncle, and dad why she loved yellow roses, the answer wasn’t particularly significant. She liked cheery, vibrant colors. She thought yellow brightened everything around you. And somehow, yellow roses have followed me since the day of her funeral.

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Teaching Spontaneity


A friend was describing her experience in chaplaincy. The other chaplains-in-training felt very comfortable formulating their own spontaneous prayer. But she realized that even as a knowledgeable Jew, spontaneous prayer wasn’t something she felt trained in. Give her a siddur, no problem. But to pause in the middle of the day and start offering prayer felt foreign. And as I reflected on our conversation, I wondered if the point of a Jewish ritual structure is to make room for spontaneity.

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Deep Breath In


In relationships, most of us are stuck in a typical behavioral pattern: we withdraw, or we pursue. When engaged in conflict, one of us (the pursuer) might push, nudge, prod, and poke until we get a reaction out of our partner. The other person (the withdrawer) proceeds to move inward, grow silent, sometimes choosing to flee, leaving the argument by leaving the room. There are moments where we find two pursuers face to face and other times, tensions rise as two withdrawers can’t bear to open dialogue.

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Open This


A friend shared with me a story in which a rabbi was giving a blessing to the bar mitzvah boy in front of the congregation. The senior rabbi gave the child two gifts: a siddur and an umbrella. An assistant rabbi looked at the senior rabbi with confusion. “Why the umbrella?” The senior rabbi looked at the assistant rabbi with a perceptive look, “At least I know the umbrella will get opened!”

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A Godly Check In


I recently came across a paper I wrote in rabbinical school. My theology professor Rabbi Neil Gillman, may his memory be a blessing, would ask each senior rabbinical student to describe the God they believe in. As I reread my paper, I realized that while I experience a development in each of my relationships (family, friends, community members), how little attention I have given to my evolving relationship with God. Perhaps it is time for me to revisit that assignment. How many of us take the time to evaluate our relationship with God?

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Come Home


On Saturday night, I told my daughter, “It is ok to be afraid.” I couldn’t entirely shield her from the hostage situation at a Texas synagogue. She is old enough to know when her parents are worried and brushing off her fears would be akin to dismissing her. She wanted to know everything about the gunman. His name, his motives, his reasons for wanting to visit a synagogue. It became clear to her that although “Texas” feels far away, this was a person that came very close to harming a rabbi and his congregants. She has two parents as rabbis….

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A Lingering Darkness


This week, we set our wake-up alarms earlier than usual. The scene outside of the windows was shockingly frightening. Pitch-black, a thick darkness in which we couldn’t see the hint of sunrise. And while we knew it was too early for the sun’s majestic rays to filter into the kitchen, our minds began to race. Why did the darkness feel so heavy? The light seemed trapped. And for a bewildering moment, I thought to myself, is there a chance the darkness is choosing to linger? Why won’t it go away?

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The Magic of the New Year


One of my favorite traditions during the secular new year is a semi-annual deep organizing of my home. I go through my children’s closets and take out clothing now a size too small. I throw out old spice jars and check out the expiration dates on condiments in the pantry. Nothing escapes my scrutiny: linens, the refrigerator, desk drawers and kitchen cabinets. The purging of the “old” gives me mental space to allow for the emergence of the “new”.

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Secrets of the New Year


I used to make an effort to stay up until midnight to watch the ball drop in New York City. It was one of my favorite nights of the year. Usually a festive party, delicious food and drink and surrounded by family and friends. But as the years go by, I realize that while there is nothing wrong with a good party, I am more focused on time well spent; less about the guest list on December 31st and more about the guest list every other day of the year.

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