Yom Kippur sermon 2018, about my visit to my great-great-grandfather’s grave in Baden-Württemberg, and what it taught me about teshuvah.Read More
In fifteen minutes, or for some of us less, we left it all behind. For the sake of life, for the sake of survival, we left it all behind. Most of us, but not all of us, were able to go back to our smoke-steeped houses in a week or ten days. But on that first night it was the same for all of us: we didn't know if we would have a home to go home to. On that first night, we experienced letting go and leaving behind. With lech lecha in our ears, we grabbed those few things, threw them in the car, and hit the gas pedal into the Unknown.Read More
I ran into the Shechinah in an art museum. It was the Art Institute of Chicago. Maybe not the way it is now, but the way it was when I was a kid. She was in one of the Impressionist rooms. In front of Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of la Grande Jatte. (Audio Podcast.)Read More
Audio feed of this fantasy about making perfume for the tabernacle.Read More
Dreams brought me to Germany, and ultimately to a graveyard in Waibstadt, to meet the ancestors. My first reflection on the experience.
The flood was terrible. But what about the days, weeks, 350 years to follow? Noah's story doesn't just end with a rainbow. Every disaster requires recovery.
Dedicated to Rita and Terry Rowan.
The angel's suggestion that behind transformation lies language – that should mean something to us. If we want to mend the field, we start with language; we start with our words. Our words conjure a world. And we want it to be a world that we want to live in.Read More
How does our biblical Creation story set us up for binaries, oppositions, hierarchies? And how does it also call us to see the fullness of the Universe? And how does that affect who we are and how we get along? Rosh Hashanah Drash 5778 –– AUDIO VERSION.Read More
It sounds nice to talk about hate this way; it's nice to convey your values in three words. But hate isn't a thing out there in the world that we can fight. When someone says, "Fight hate," I am really at a loss for what it is I am supposed to do, other than repost the meme.Read More
Angels, nazirites and the Paris Accords. AUDIO version.Read More
I bit in, and everything in me suddenly said, "Why yes, Grandma Minnie." A few bites later, it was again just a delicious thing and now sentimental too. But for that first moment, I had the unmistakable sensation of my grandmother next to me, our hearts turned toward each other in a way that hasn't been possible for nearly half a century.Read More
Now beware. There are risks associated with stirring the waters, as any activist knows. The thing is, when you stir the waters, the waters get stirred. There are ripples; and the consequences can be unpredictable. Other activists might be stirred up or stirring up in different ways, and the hulls of your ships might bang up against each other – the hulls of your friendships, your partnerships, colliding. This happens. And so it is important to remember that someone stirring the water differently is not necessarily your enemy. And that there is room on these waves for all of us to ride.Read More
So how do you create monumental Iron Age architecture without axes, hammers or iron tools? Yes, it could just mean that the milling happened at the quarry, many miles away where the ringing and clanging would not bother anybody. But that's too easy an answer for us Jews. Instead, our midrash, our vast array of legend, goes wild here. How did whole stones come to be so regular and perfectly shaped if iron chisels were forbidden? How were they transported if iron crowbars couldn't pry them onto wagons? One midrash suggests that the stones, once uncovered in the quarry, perfectly shaped, would hoist themselves up in the air and levitate to Jerusalem.Read More
We are living in dark times. At least that's what people keep saying. So how can we use our mythic imagination of darkness to guide us on the difficult road ahead? Torah and Midrash might have an idea worth considering.
This story, this exodus story, is our master story for this moment. We know it well. We retell it every year. We have digested it along with so much parsley and saltwater. It is in our cells. We know it starts with enslavement. And we know it ends with freedom.
Recorded at Congregation Ner Shalom, Cotati, CA. Re-Auguration Shabbat, January 20, 2017.
How anxiety can become fear if we don't do something better with it. Based on a teaching of Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. And with a detour into a road trip. Recorded January 6, 2017 at Congregation Ner Shalom, Cotati, CA.
I've tried to imagine what it will take to create something of beauty and sweetness in this country. I've tried to observe and absorb what people are saying. Where the attention is going. I've wondered what kind of work each of us now needs to take on to face the future. And it's hard to know exactly, because so many different things could happen, and the landscape changes a little every day... So here is my first draft of a Recipe for the Coming Era. Modify at will. No specific measurements. Just shit arayn.Read More
The sukkah is a practice of impermanence. Our homes, our bodies, our lives – they are all sukkot. They are temporary. Flimsy. They bend with the wind. They get soaked with rain. We decorate them with the harvest – with our own harvests. All of our best features: qualities, talents, learnings. These adorn the sukkot of our lives. They are beautiful. But even they, like the gourds and apples and palm fronds on a backyard sukkah, eventually compost.Read More
On Yom Kippur this year, I was unhappy with the drash (sermon) I had written, and grew more unhappy with it during the service in anticipation of delivering it. Finally when it came time, I couldn't do it. So I scratched it and just spoke from my heart (and some elements of what I'd written ended up coming back in more organically). The question I arrived at: might we be more self-loving and less dispirited if we see the world and ourselves as unfinished, as works-in-progress? (Kinda like this drash.)
But just to appease you, in case you're not happy about extemporaneous, here's a treat. Danny Maseng's gorgeous Elohai N'tzor, sung by Ner Shalom singers, Rachel Friedman, Annemarie Goslow, and my brother-in-law Doron Hovav, accompanied by Lorenzo Valensi on guitar.
Starting the new year with the first podcast of Itzik's Well. Rosh Hashanah drash, recorded at Congregation Ner Shalom, October 2, 2016. Just hit play to listen to it on your device. Or read the text version by clicking here.