Editorial & Opinion | Musings

07/26/2011 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

‘I shall not die but live and recount the deeds of God.” So reads Psalm 118. Is it redundant? Obviously if one does not die, one lives. Yet life is not living; people die while still alive. The point is not simply to draw breath, but to live. Stephen Vincent Benet wrote: “Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all the thousand small uncaring ways.”

07/19/2011 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

Jewish tradition is full of argument, but argument is not its essence. Judaism is a system devoted to the sacred deed.

Mitzvot in all their array — ritual, ethical, colorful, mundane, God-directed, human-centered -- mitzvot are the central stuff of Judaism. What cannot be said can be enacted. The meaning of Shabbat candles is ultimately inexpressible; lighting is the language of ritual, at once less articulate and yet deeper than any words.

07/12/2011 | | Musings

‘Prayer is made of attention. It is the direction towards God of all the attention that the soul is capable of. The quality of the attention makes for much of the quality of the prayer. It cannot be replaced by the heart’s warmth.” This comment by Simone Weil reminds us that prayer is not essentially request or routine, but kavanah, focus, intensity, intention. It is the soul’s upward climb.

07/05/2011 | | Musings

How do you win? Is it the patient accumulation of small advantages or the masterstroke? Singles or a home run? The daily performance of mitzvot or a last, heroic gesture that redeems a life?

06/28/2011 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

A man was circling an office building, late for a meeting that could change his life. But he could not find a place to park. He said “God, if you get me a parking place I promise I will keep kosher, I will be better to my wife and children, I will attend services on Shabbat, I will...” Just at that moment, a spot opened right in front of the building.

“Never mind” he said, “I’m good.”

06/21/2011 | | Musings

Perek Shira, “chapter of song,” is a beautiful Midrash. Attaching an appropriate verse to the elements of Creation, it recounts how everything in the world sings: the lion sings, and the stars, and the trees. The medieval Christian spiritualist Thomas à Kempis beautifully wrote: “If you cannot sing like the nightingale and the lark, then sing like the crows and the frog, which sing as God meant them to.” This is the lesson of Perek Shira — all of Creation bears a song.