God bless the inventors of Benadryl. My goodness – allergy season is in full gear, and you can see its wear and tear on the people around you. Swollen eyes, runny noses, and sluggish speech – these are the marks of those who suffer from seasonal allergies. So, what do you do if you are affected? You stay away from the outdoors, you keep your air conditioner on, and you take your medicine.
I looked out at their faces: some immensely excited, some already nervous, some obviously bored. I had asked each 12 year old in the room to turn to their parents and to discuss what the family was most looking forward to in the coming year, as they approached the celebration of becoming B’nai Mitzvah. We went around the room, and each family had a chance to answer: “seeing all of our family and friends in one place,” and “the party,” were the most common answers.
Spring is finally here; though, arguably, we never really had a satisfying winter. Sunlight and warmth enter through our windows, and every day feels like it holds new possibility and potential. Especially in New York, when the tables and chairs are set up outside local restaurants, and more people start to gather at the parks, it feels like the city comes alive again.
Oy, life gets hard sometimes, no? We ride the roller coaster of our daily lives, sometimes barely hanging on, and looking for moments of respite from the craziness. For those of us who are pet lovers (dogs, cats, birds, fish, iguanas, etc.), one of the sweetest times of the day is when we come home to our beloved animal companions. Our animals often seem to have a supernatural ability to “get us,” and to know when we need extra special love and attention.
It was a simple idea, really: a tear-off sheet, like the ones you always see advertising “Guitar Lessons” or “Housecleaning Services.” Instead, I was going to offer “Free Smiles.” I saw a posting for something similar on the new social media site, Pinterest, and I decided to make one of my own.
The Torah’s words were familiar: “V’asu Li mikdash, v’shachanti b’tocham.” And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them. This verse from Exodus 25:8 took on entirely new meaning as I sat, Shabbat morning, in a Reform service in Budapest, Hungary. I just returned from a powerful Rabbinic Mission with 28 other rabbis, sponsored by the Jewish Federations of North America, The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and the Jewish Agency for Israel.
As Tu B’Shevat approaches each year, and we prepare to celebrate the New Year of the Trees, many of us rabbis love to return to one of our most favorite stories: Honi the Circle-Maker and the Carob Trees. The story, which is first found in the Mishnah, begins with Honi walking down the road. He happens upon a person planting a carob tree, a tree known for taking a very long time (at least 75 years) to produce fruit.
This past Monday night, I sat in a circle with my 9th and 10th grade students. I asked them to give me an example of a way in which Judaism encourages us to take care of ourselves. They sat, thoughtfully, unsure of how to answer my question. I then asked, “How do you know that it is important to rest and recharge ourselves, at least once a week?” “SHABBAT!” They cried out. We discussed how lucky we are to be members of a tradition that not only values self-care, but also commands us to take a break once a week.
So, you know how there are tons of melodies for “Adon Olam?” You may not have ever thought about it before, but there are so many out there. Yes, each congregation may default to one or another, but the words to “Adon Olam” can be fit into many modern tunes. As rabbinical students in Jerusalem, we used to do a sing-down game where two teams would compete to see how many melodies to “Adon Olam” we could come up with (yes, this is what we did for fun).