|Oct 26, 2016
||A Little Life
||A few months ago, I finished a novel that I had been living with for quite some time. Weighing in at 720 pages, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara was both of sufficient length and sufficient intensity – a meditation on one man’s ability (or lack thereof) to overcome serious trauma and abuse – that the story had really gotten into my soul and settled there. When I eventually turned the final page, Continue reading
|Oct 26, 2016
||Higher and Higher
||There is a wonderful story about the Ba’al Shem Tov, the founder of Chasidism and one of the most passionate and unhurried daveners (pray-ers) that Eastern Europe had ever seen. Especially on Shabbat mornings as he recited the silent prayers of the Amidah, the Ba’al Shem Tov’s private dialogue with the Divine would extend sometimes even for hours, leaving the rest of the congregation to wait patiently for their beloved rabbi to finish. Continue reading
|Sep 28, 2016
||Disconnect. Reconnect. Retreat.
||Perhaps it was the five year old and the eighty year old playing a game of softball together on Shabbat afternoon. Or maybe it was davening outside, in the round, where services somehow just feel more prayerful with a lake in the distance. If I had to pick one favorite part of last weekend’s retreat in Oconomowoc, WI, it would have to be our rockin’ Saturday night havdalah and campfire where we belted out everything from the Beatles to Bob Dylan, Od Yavo to HaKova Sheli. Disconnect. Reconnect. Retreat. Our 2016 BHCBE Kallah really lived up to its promise. Continue reading
|Sep 16, 2016
||Clays and Congregations
||Never would I have imagined that I would write one, let alone two, Erev Shabbat messages about trap shooting! But when a good friend read of my adventures last summer and asked if I would introduce him to the fine art of firing at clay birdies, I suddenly found myself back in the saddle so to speak. This time, unfortunately, I was not vacationing at the cushy Kohler resort with its adjacent wildlife preserve and was left to scout out a venue for our outing all on my own. This, it turns out, was far more difficult than I might have expected. Continue reading
|Sep 16, 2016
||Flunking the Shofar
||Blowing the shofar nearly prevented me from graduating from rabbinical school. Or actually, it was not being able to blow shofar that almost cost me my rabbinic career if I’m being precise. Continue reading
|Sep 7, 2016
||I always feel like the first Erev Shabbat Message of the year is sort of a take on those “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” essays back from grade school, but a terrific summer it has been for me! I took a road trip through Western Michigan, visited family back in Boston, and cruised the Inside Passage of Alaska with a few days in Vancouver at the end. Here in Chicago, I walked the 606, biked the Forest Preserve, and soaked in the mellow strains of James Taylor playing at Wrigley. I ate a lot of ice-cream. I hosted a lot of visitors. I had a beautiful new kitchen put in. I played a bunch of tennis. Continue reading
|Jun 15, 2016
||10 Good Rules
||Don’t judge someone by the color of their skin.
No punching in the head.
Do not be mean or stare at people with disabilities.
Feed everyone and eat together.
No bombing just for the heck of it.
Plant a tree.
Listen to God. Continue reading
|Jun 3, 2016
||Let’s March for Pride
||When I was ordained from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 2006, the majority of my classmates and I wore rainbow buttons pinned to our gowns. While, to my knowledge, not a single member of my graduating class identified as gay or lesbian, many of us had made our peace with the fact that we were choosing to attend a rabbinical school that would not ordain openly homosexual students by committing ourselves to work towards change from the inside. We convened symposia to explore thehalakha (Jewish law) of LGBT issues, invited individuals to share their stories at lunch-and-learns, circulated petitions, and organized demonstrations of solidarity. We accepted our diplomas with pride tinged with not a little bit of guilt, wondering if there wasn't something incongruous about becoming teachers of a tradition that didn't yet represent our highest moral aspirations. Continue reading
|May 27, 2016
||Many years ago, my friend Becky and I began planning a very special dinner. Both of just weeks into long graduate programs – she trudging through medical school and me working slowly towards rabbinic ordination – we decided that when we finally received our degrees we would fete ourselves at a fancy restaurant with reservations made in advance for Dr. Berman and Rabbi Tucker. Continue reading
|May 10, 2016
||This week I am pleased to turn my Erev Shabbat message over to three very special guest columnists! Jenna Chiet, Marina Foss, and Elai Spector are members of the Kitah Chet (8th grade) class here at BHCBE and returned just a few months ago from a trip to Israel with our local Ta’am Yisrael program. As we prepare to celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day) this coming Thursday, I can think of no better tribute to our incredible homeland than reading their beautiful and passionate words. I will be sharing reflections of my own tomorrow morning at sermon time. Continue reading