Honorable Mensch-ion

The Chanukah Miracle

On Sunday evening, we will light the first Chanukah candle on one of the shortest nights of the year. Every single morning and evening of Chanukah, we add a prayer to our amidah. Al hanisim–we thank God for the miracles and for redemption. The words are simple, but for them to come alive, we must look at the actions the Talmud proscribes. The Rabbis debate in the Jerusalem Talmud how many candles shall be lit. One Rabbi says a single candle for the entire house, while another says a single candle for each person in the house. The argument continues with the famous Rabbinic pair. Shammai tells us to light eight candles the first night, and reduce to one on the last night. Hillel gives us the tradition of our day: light one candle the first night, and eight on the last, for we must only go up in holiness and not down.

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Our Voice

A few weeks ago, my son looked at the moon as we were driving and said, “Abba, Rosh Chodesh is here.” While the rest of the world would simply say, “Look at the new moon,” this young child put it in perspective of his Jewish identity.

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Pray and Play

My mother always reminds me that a synagogue should be a place to pray and to play. A sacred space may not be only filled with serious moments of introspection and soul searching. Inversely, the places we frequent in our everyday lives garner the opportunity to bring the holy into the ordinary. This morning, I visited a young family who put up their first mezuzah in their home. As I showed them the shema on the parchment that was put into the mezuzah, the parents told their young daughter—this is the prayer that we say when we ask God to keep us safe.

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Radical Amazement

This week, I am visiting family in Philadelphia. While sitting in a café, the table next to ours was engaged in a conversation that I could not ignore. The first person said, “When you give a sermon, it must not be for an imaginary audience. A sermon must be given for the real world.” My father and I, both rabbis, smiled at each other and continued eating.

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A World of Faith

A journalist recently told me that she was in conversation with a friend who refused to bring children into this broken world. She felt it would be ethically irresponsible. She then asked me, “Rabbi, what should I tell my friend?”

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