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A Carrot or a Stick

08/31/2023 04:31:57 PM


Moses says to the people: after you have crossed the Jordan river, half of you will stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people, and half of you will stand for the curse on Mount Ebal. So half the tribes go up one mountain, and half up the other, and the Levites, from Mountain Gerizim, will shout a series of blessings and curses to all. To each curse the people respond “Amen”. Presumably the pronouncement is something like an Alpine...Read more...

God of Contracts and Kindness

08/03/2023 08:58:35 AM


I don’t know much about crypto currency. I’m not a banker or in tech and I don’t have any interest in bitcoin (though I do have a dear friend who wrote a Modern Love column on it once, which clearly I recommend and is the closest I’ve gotten to the subject). To be honest, I thought crypto was “over” — like bell bottoms or Furbies, a fad we hope not to return again. But then I was informed that crypto companies do other things,...Read more...

Words with Friends

07/13/2023 09:26:29 AM


My favorite thing about Judaism is the arguing. Now I don’t mean screaming or insulting or winning or losing. I mean the arguing, when one person says to another, “Here’s a really interesting question!” And the other replies, “Oh yeah that is interesting!” And then someone says, “I think the answer is this”; and another says, “It is the opposite.” And off we go.

I love it because in this process we have a purpose...Read more...

The Things We Carry

06/01/2023 04:59:39 PM


The Israelites donated vehicles (carts and oxen) to the Levites to transport the elements of the mishkan, the tabernacle. Moses then divided the carts and oxen up among the three Levite families. But to the Kohathites he gave none “because theirs was the service of the [most] sacred objects, their porterage was by shoulder” (Numbers 7:9).

And so the Israelites moved the miskhan, our most holy structure and God’s home,...Read more...

Doing Everything All At Once

05/18/2023 03:47:36 PM


What is the danger in discombobulation? Discombobulation is a modern word of fanciful mock Latin origin that roughly means  “confusion”. But it also implies to me a sense that all your parts are out of order, as if you woke up one morning assembled backwards or, as my grandfather used to joke, “Your feet smell and your nose runs.” If I am feeling discombobulated, I can’t make heads or tails of a situation, everything...Read more...

Here, You Do It

04/20/2023 01:33:17 PM


This Shabbat is Earth Day, so here is a lesson from my twenties spent exploring earth.

When I led cycling trips around the globe we had a number of pre-trip tasks to do that I did not particularly like: calling the posh French hotels to confirm our particular American reservations; adjusting and cleaning all the derailleurs so the bikes shifted just right; filling mysterious fluids in the huge boxy Fiat’s engine.

Like most,...

This and Next Year in Jerusalem

03/30/2023 02:49:51 PM


The first matzahs just hit the shelves in Tel Aviv as I was packing up to leave Israel this past Wednesday. My Passover preparation this year was to spend the past two weeks as the rabbi for a group of 20 young couples from Atlanta on a trip with Honeymoon Israel. They traveled to Israel to build Jewish community in Atlanta and to strengthen their relationship to each other, to Judaism, and to the Jewish people.    Our people...Read more...

Belonging in a Big Community

02/09/2023 10:49:02 AM


There’s a mathematical limit to how many people you can know well. Well, there’s a theory of one anyway. A British anthropologist, Robin Dunbar, suggests it’s 150. Beyond that size, any social group starts to lose coherence and splinter. Dunbar’s number is based on our cognitive capacity as understood by human brain size and structure. Our ability to know people well and feel comfortable with them takes brain space and time. We learn...Read more...

There is No Right Way

01/05/2023 01:36:06 PM


When it comes to doing things I don’t really know how to do, I like to wait for some sort of “sign” to begin. Maybe that is to find the perfect snack, or most aesthetic room arrangement, or research the task itself over-thoroughly before considering starting. There is something in the mystery of doing things well which can paralyze me. Especially if I don’t really know how I did it well a previous time. I try to ritualize the...Read more...

One Hand Clapping

12/15/2022 11:50:39 AM


As a child someone gave me a book of zen koans. Yes this is a little strange, but let’s just accept that it happened. A koan is a stumper question, one asked by a teacher of enlightenment to a student. It’s meant to provoke such advanced meditative reflection that one might gain insight into the deepest reality of existence. You might have heard the more popular, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” A koan may or may not have an...Read more...

All Good Things

10/27/2022 10:08:59 AM


My dog does not excel at long term strategizing. I imagine his inner monologue going something like, “Oh here is my favorite toy! I am so very excited. I shall DESTROY IT!” His love language seems to be chewing. And whatever is most beloved shall be torn to shreds. I have no way of knowing if he misses the objects, or if at night, when his little paws are dream-running through fields, the lost toys haunt him as happy ghosts of his...Read more...

Never Going Back Again

09/01/2022 10:05:54 AM


A dear friend of mine wants to go back to his pre-Covid self. He feels he has lost a part of himself, the part that socialized easily and fluently, charming new friends without effort. “How can I go back to that me?” he asked me in sadness, “Something of me has been lost”. He is not alone. I imagine that each of us has been, at one time or another, caught in such a riptide of wanting to go back, searching for a past...Read more...

Sat, September 30 2023 15 Tishrei 5784