The House and First Fruits

The Mishnah reports that Psalm 30, or at least its opening verse, was recited by the Levites when worshippers brought First Fruits: THE FLUTE WAS PLAYING BEFORE THEM TILL THEY REACHED THE TEMPLE MOUNT; AND WHEN THEY REACHED THE TEMPLE MOUNT EVEN KING AGRIPPA WOULD TAKE THE BASKET AND PLACE IT ON HIS SHOULDER AND […]

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Monsters, Exile, and Storytelling

UPDATE: The event described here, including the brief interview with Díaz, took place on March 15, 2018. The piece below was posted on April 1. The New Yorker article, “The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma” — which has a LOT to say about monsters and trauma — was not published until April 16. See […]

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Oved with an Ayin

Confusion sometimes arises from the similarity, in English transliteration and in pronunciation, between two prominent words in the haggadah: ‘oved‘ meaning ‘slave’ and ‘oved‘ in the phrase “Arami oved avi,” from Deuteronomy 26:5. The previous post provided a little background on “‘oved‘ with an aleph.” And here, as promised, are a few examples of the […]

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Why is This ‘Oved’ Different from The Other Seder ‘Oved’?

“When do we eat?” is often identified as the fifth question at the Passover seder, after the prescribed four about dipping and reclining, bitter herbs and unleavened bread. Just as often, in my experience, people are asking about two Hebrew words that look identical in English transliteration: ‘oved‘ meaning ‘slave’ and ‘oved‘ in the phrase […]

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April 22: 1968 and 2016

Who can say we’ve actually left Egypt? April 22, 1968 was the original launch date for the Poor People’s Campaign. As we approach the beginning of Passover, on April 22, 2016, the very basic demands of 1968 have yet to materialize. Can your seder, or your Passover week, include some moments to reflect on how […]

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Racism: Congenital Deformity, Sickness Unto Death

It is time to re-order our national priorities. All those who now speak of good will and praise the work of such groups as the President’s Commission* now have the responsibility to stand up and act for the social changes that are necessary to conquer racism in America. If we as a society fail, I […]

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Moral State of Emergency (Beyond 34)

“God has declared a state of moral emergency,” writes Rabbi David Kasher in his commentary on this week’s Torah portion. Kasher points out that a command to care for the poor suddenly appears in the midst of a portion otherwise dedicated to ritual matters stressing holiday observances, and comments: Mind you, everybody agrees that charity […]

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In Touch with the Source (Beyond 10)

Three days into the wilderness journey, the promise of freedom seems to fade — וְלֹא יָכְלוּ לִשְׁתֹּת מַיִם מִמָּרָה כִּי מָרִים הֵם they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter [the waters? or the People?] — Exodus 15:23 Despite their recent experiences of leaving bondage and the miraculous, sea-splitting escape […]

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The Facts of Jewish Diversity (Beyond 2)

Continuing the theme of “not knowing” as a form of callous, insensitive “moral deficiency,” one we seek to leave behind this Passover season, let’s explore some facts about diversity in the Jewish community. Upwards of 435,000 Jews — possibly as many as 400,000 in the New York City area alone — identify (also) as African […]

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