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Idle, not Idol

Recently I was asked by a member of the congregation about how we understand Exodus 31. She was asked by a neighbor about the Jewish understanding of this text and wanted to check about what she understood it to mean. The relevant text (v. 14-15) reads, "You shall keep the sabbath, for it is holy ...

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Lincoln, Spielberg, Kushner and Strouse

While much of the post-Oscars buzz is about host Seth MacFarlane and charges of racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-Semitism in his shtick—about what is subverting stereotypes and what is upholding them—there was another moment during the awards show that also got me thinking. When Daniel Day-Lewis won Best Actor for his monumental portrayal of Abraham ...

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Banana Joe, why were you not Banana Joe?

Any doggie (as in "foodie") would know that last week was the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the premier dog show in the country. Hundreds of purebred dogs compete to be named Best in Show, the highest honor for a show dog. This year's winner was an Affenpinscher named Banana Joe. I hadn't heard of ...

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Shifts in Meaning

One of our quests as individuals is to make meaning within our lives. That is one of the purposes of religion, to frame moments of time and infuse them with the understanding that we are part of something greater than ourselves, that what happens to us is a part of who we are as individuals, ...

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Suffering is Precious

When I was preparing for a text study on the closing chapters of 2 Kings, I came across the following midrash (found in the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 101a-b): Our masters taught: When R. Eliezer fell sick, four elders--R. Tarfon, R. Joshua, R. Eleazar ben Azariah, and R. Akiva--came to visit him. R. Akiva spoke up ...

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Awake, Calm and Stable

I'm back. Or, at least, getting there. I thank you for your patience, readers of this column, as I took the past month off from writing as part of my unexpected medical leave. As you may have heard, in the beginning of January I came down with bacterial meningitis. So what happened? After a difficult ...

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Be a Mentsch

There is a nice confluence this year with the end of the Gregorian calendar coinciding with parashat Vayehi, the last Torah portion of the Book of Genesis. As we say goodbye to 2013, we are also turning the page on our weekly Torah reading cycle. The Jewish liturgical cycle has us read the entire Torah ...

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Newtown and Our Town

We are all still reeling from the events last week in Newtown, Connecticut. The brutal killing of 27 people, including 20 young children, is heart breaking. That day I had spent the morning in my son's kindergarten classroom as he was honored as the week's VIP. We shared pictures, I made latkes and his teacher ...

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Welcome to my blog

Third time is a charm, they say. This is my third attempt at a blog. It is an opportunity to share my thoughts, musings, links, etc.--but you already know what a blog is. I am a rabbi serving the Jewish community of Olympia, Washington and environs, hence the title of this blog. 360 is the ...