A Rabbi's World

08/30/2013 | | Jewish Week Online Columnist | A Rabbi's World

I’ve always loved the story in First Kings about Elijah and his triumph over the priests of Baal.  Like so much of the literature of the Early Prophets, this episode reads like an action adventure novel.  The Israelite prophets waged a long and taxing battle against the powerful allure of the indigenous Canaanite cultic life that the Israelites discovered when they conquered the land.  Elijah’s victory was a great moment in that struggle.

Spiritually, the appearance of God to Elijah in a kol d’mammah dakkah– a still, small voice– is particularly rich.  After all the sturm und drang of the story itself, the fact that God’s “voice,” as it were, became audible to Elijah is the quietest of ways, as opposed to via the loudness of the natural events that preceded the revelation, has always been meaningful to me.  God is in the quiet as much as the noise… maybe more.

08/23/2013 | | Jewish Week Correspondent | A Rabbi's World

Since being posted to a United States Marine battalion in Okinawa almost two years ago, my son-in-law, Rabbi Yonatan Warren, a lieutenant in the United States Navy Chaplaincy Corp, has worked hard–- along with my daughter Leora -– to build a community of meaning for the Jewish personnel in Okinawa and its surroundings, as well as for all those men and women who might need his counseling and services. 

08/15/2013 | | A Rabbi's World

That I spend a lot of time thinking about community should hardly come as a surprise, since being a congregational rabbi is all about fostering a sense of community.  I want the members of my congregation to feel that their synagogue is a second home for them.  And, of course, the synagogue itself needs to relate to the larger community as a whole. 

When all is said and done, this is my work– my professional responsibility.  Yes, of course I teach, and preach, officiate at weddings and funerals, and do all the other things that pulpit rabbis do.  That, too, is my work.  But it all flows from a larger sense of “belonging” that hopefully is what binds my members to our particular synagogue setting.

08/09/2013 | | Jewish Week Online Columnist | A Rabbi's World

Although those who daven (pray) regularly rarely think of it in these terms because they take it so for granted, music plays an irreducibly crucial role in Jewish prayer 

On the most basic level, if the proper nusach, or musical mode, is being used by a Hazzan or other prayer leader, a knowledgeable Jew will, immediately upon entering a synagogue prayer service, be able to tell whether it is a Shabbat, holiday, or weekday, or, for that matter, one of the High Holidays.  The words that make up our prayer book are not “said,” per se, but chanted, according to traditional customs and melodies that often date back thousands of years.

08/02/2013 | | Jewish Week Online Columnist | A Rabbi's World

I've been on the road a lot lately. In addition to traveling to Israel for the Rabbinical Assembly convention in late June, I've spent at few days at the Jersey shore, and as I write this late on Thursday night, I'm actually in Buenos Aires for the second time this year, participating in an international conference of the Masorti/Conservative movement.  And while I'm here– the conference was scheduled around this other event– it was my great privilege this evening to participate in the Tekkes Hasmachah, the rabbinical ordination ceremony, of the graduating rabbis at the Seminario Rabbinico Latino Americano, the Conservative Movement's sister seminary in Argentina.

07/26/2013 | | Jewish Week Correspondent | A Rabbi's World

For those who came of age in America during the sixties and seventies of the twentieth century– yes, even rabbis– Bob Dylan was, and is, an iconic figure.