Composed & Arranged by Billy Dreskin

the universe can always use more harmony

Fix the World – Try Not to Get Swallowed

“Death of Korah, Dathan and Abiram” by Gustav Dore (1832–1883)

“The ground under them burst asunder, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up with their households, all Korach’s people and all their possessions.” (Numbers 16:31-32)

Rebellion sure does get a bad rap in the Torah.

Perhaps the condemnation was well-deserved. After all, Korach gathered two hundred and fifty well-positioned leaders of the Israelite community to challenge Moses and Aaron’s leadership. “Why do you raise yourselves above God’s congregation?” they railed. (Num. 16:3)

Midrash Tanchuma (Korach 4) blames it on nepotism. “If you have taken royal rank for yourself, you should at least not have chosen the priesthood for your brother — it is not you alone who have heard at Sinai, ‘I am Adonai your God.’ All the congregation heard it!”

Sforno thinks Korach’s 250 followers infiltrated the crowds that awaited meetings with Moses, seeking to incite them. Then, when Korach besieged Moses and Aaron, he would have a sympathetic, if not outright zealous, entourage.

Ibn Ezra perceived Korach, in a lie worthy of Donald Trump, as accusing the brothers of political corruption and greed. Granted, we only know what we read in the Torah, but it sure seems to me that the Israelites would have been hard-pressed to find two more selfless servants of God.

But none of that is actually in the Torah. All we know is that Korach rebelled. So why don’t we sympathize with, rather than spurn, Korach? After all, we ourselves live in a nation that embraces the right, even the responsibility, of public protest. Is that not an important demonstration of the freedom of expression and dissent upon which this nation was founded? “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (1st Amendment, U.S. Constitution) If we value having the right to say what’s on our mind, why not accord this same right to Korach?

We are certainly living through (please, God, let it be “through” and not just “in”) an era of rampant rebellion. Here in the United States, we continue watching in embarrassment and disbelief and profound concern as Donald Trump twists the truth to his own ends, while his opportunist supporters of a stolen election continue to dismiss the hateful violence of January 6, 2021, in order to ride the populist wave to their own election victories. As distasteful a person as Trump is, what roils me even moreso is that he lies about it, and he lies so boisterously that people don’t think twice about believing him.

Now add to this equation Anti-Vaxxers, Pizzagate, the 9/11 Conspiracy, the Sandy Hook Elementary School Conspiracy, and The Great Replacement theory.

There is a widespread proliferation these days of made-up tales regarding myriad issues. And while such balderdash has been around throughout American history (think Salem witch trials, the Illuminati, and McCarthyism), it is perhaps cable television and social media that have made the ridiculous into truly frightening threats. As we all witnessed on January 6, 2021, the wide reach of conspiracy theorists enabled a gathering of like-minded, ill-informed people to break down the doors of the U.S. Capitol and place the integrity of our entire democracy at risk in their attempt to disrupt the election process.

The lesson is clear: People who are in a position that commands the respect and allegiance of a multitude, they have a particular responsibility to refrain from abusing that position.

While it’s difficult to get a complete and accurate read from the Torah of what exactly transpired when Korach stood against Moses and Aaron, it seems (in my opinion) as if Korach’s sin was not that he rebelled but that he used his position of considerable influence to manipulate and exploit those who looked up to him. Great Torah Study discussions often leave much unresolved but, in the end, we should walk away with a strengthened understanding of how we can help make the world a safer, kinder home for everybody.

So here’s what Korach’s story is saying to me: If you’re going to rebel, make sure you do so for the right reasons.

Andrée Geulen holding two of the children she saved

Which brings me to Andrée Geulen, who was a schoolteacher in Brussels, Belgium, during World War II.

Upon invading and occupying the country in 1940, the Nazis deported and murdered 25,000 of Belgium’s 65,000 Jews. Among the many laws imposed during the occupation, Jews were required to wear yellow stars on their clothing. Geulen, who was teaching primary-grade children in a boarding school at the time, distributed aprons to all of her students in order to cover the stars that had been forced upon her fearful Jewish students.

This was only the beginning for Andrée Geulen. Soon, she was enlisted and became one of very few non-Jewish members of the Committee for the Defense of Jews. From 1943 to 1944, she sought out Jewish families and pleaded with them to let her take their children and place them in hiding for the duration of the war. Amazingly, she was able to save the lives of three hundred Jewish children.

After the Holocaust, Geulen became involved with the relief organization Aid for Israelite Victims of the War, seeking to reunite with their families as many of these “hidden children” as possible.

In 2007, Andrée Geulen was awarded honorary Israeli citizenship. During the ceremony at Yad Vashem, Geulen said, “What I did was merely my duty. Disobeying the laws of the time was just the normal thing to do.” (“Woman Honored for Saving Kids from Nazis,” Associated Press, April 18, 2007)

This was the rebellion of Andrée Geulen.

People in positions of prominence and power usually don’t like rebels. They’re often a nuisance and, whether they’re correct in their grievances or not, they’re a threat to the status quo. In my own career as a rabbi, I was from time to time on the receiving end of a few rebellions having to do with our B’nai Mitzvah program, the temple budget, and even what was served at the Friday night Oneg. And if these don’t sound very significant to you, try to imagine what it might feel like to have someone publicly and forcefully excoriate you and your team. I actually preferred it when they were right and we could apologize and implement the proper corrections. That was far preferable to having to mount a campaign that would publicly and forcefully demonstrate our innocence.

In the end, public dissent is a vital ingredient to the preservation of freedom. And when freedom has been squashed, it’s a vital ingredient to the sacred work of restoring freedom. Amanda Gorman writes, “The point of protest isn’t winning — it’s holding fast to the promise of freedom, even when fast victory is not promised.” (“Fury and Faith,” Amanda Gorman, Call Us What We Carry, Viking Books, December 2021)

But there’s a fragile line between righteous protest and self-serving manipulation.

Donald Trump represents one of these. Andrée Geulen represents the other. She died just last month at the age of one hundred. Her memory and the legacy of her rebellion will always be for a blessing.

This piece was originally published online by the World Union for Progressive Judaism.

Thanksgiving Thoughts 2018

In these waning hours of Thanksgiving, I’d like to share some of what has made me feel grateful today.

Last Sunday afternoon, folks and their clergy of every denomination in my neighborhood joined together for a celebration of diversity, hope and faith. In a nation that has been jostled and bruised by words and acts of divisiveness and hate, I am poignantly reminded that our country is filled with hundreds of millions of good, kind souls, each one doing their part — large or small, every one of them important — to demonstrate what is truly magnificent and great about these United States.

This morning, I was honored to spend several hours with other families preparing Thanksgiving meals for those who had no family table around which to sit tonight. And while there are so many places where our country falls short, the goodness that these families displayed, goodness which lines the hearts of so many across this land, inspires me and gives me great hope for the future.

Lastly, Ellen and I spent our first Thanksgiving without our children present. Why? Because they have begun to fill their own homes with the love of friends and family who (we should all be so blessed) will fill their Thanksgiving tables every year from this time forward.

And one more thought:

In recent days, scores of people in our community have reached out to welcome a family that was granted a very rare visa to emigrate here from Afghanistan. What must it be like to leave everything behind, to move to a place where you know no one, cannot speak the language, don’t know how to put food on your family’s table let alone find a livelihood that will allow you to care for them in the years ahead?

I don’t know if that family can even set their worries aside long enough to be able to offer thanks on a holiday they’ve never known but that now belongs to them, but I do know that I’m exceedingly grateful that the community I am part of has been able to welcome them and to help them build a life for themselves here. I hope that next November, they will have reached a level of comfort and security that will allow them to gather around a table just as we have done this evening, and offer thanks for the many, many blessings that are theirs.

From our house to yours, may all your days be ones for giving thanks.


You Never Know What a Guest Might Bring!

This d’rash was presented on Fri, Oct 26, 2018, at Temple Sinai in Stamford, CT, when Woodlands Community Temple was invited to participate in a spiritual-cultural exchange, sharing with them the music of our service, “A Joyful Noise,” as well as being led by our clergy team. On Fri, Dec 21, 2018, Temple Sinai will come to Woodlands and lead a Shabbat service featuring their clergy team and the music of their “Ruach” ensemble. A great blessing for us all!


This exchange, besides being a wonderful experience for all of us, especially for the clergy (who almost never get to see the inside of another temple), is also symbolically very powerful. Houses of worship of any religion tend to operate in their own little universe. And yet, our message is frequently about how we’re part of a larger community but, all too often, we remain secluded in the day-to-day of our own lives.

But this evening, our two synagogues have actually bridged the twenty-five miles between our spiritual homes and have found ourselves meeting one another, enjoying Shabbat together, and exchanging ideas about the synagogues we love.

Judaism teaches us that hakhnasat orkhim, welcoming visitors, is a mitzvah. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” we learn in Leviticus 19. Whether those we welcome into our homes are simply weary travelers or strangers in need, we are encouraged to make room for others.

In this week’s parasha, Vayera, Abraham meets and welcomes into his home three travelers who turn out to be messengers from God. They bear important news: first, that Abraham and Sarah will soon be blessed with the birth of their son, Isaac; and second, that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is imminent, provoking Abraham to engage in the first act of Jewish social justice by lobbying God to spare the two cities.

Our lives are filled with routine. For most of us, we pretty much know what our days and our nights will look like even before our morning coffee. But hospitality – guests in our homes with whom we share what we have – can change up our routine. Granted, stories abound of house guests who are reminiscent of Michael Myers in Halloween but, hopefully, most such experiences become wonderful opportunities to meet interesting new people and hear about fascinating moments which we then either live vicariously or make plans to do ourselves.

I was thinking of times, growing up in Cincinnati, when my parents opened our home to guests. I remember when I was really little that they often hosted parties during which I was ordered to stay upstairs and out of sight. Later, in my early teens, I remember my older brothers welcoming traveling hippies who would regale me with stories of their having attended Woodstock in 1969. But besides that, our house was most frequently a shelter for myriad cats and dogs. I couldn’t find a photograph from frequent times when entire litters of cats filled our home, but here are some snapshots of me and my siblings and some of the guests who stayed and stayed and stayed, teaching me important lessons in hospitality, about offering food, a place to rest, opportunities to get outside and play, and, of course, lots of love.

Hospitality is on many of our minds these days. Our world has grown harsher, and crueler, in the past few years. Even now, we’re watching nervously as the United States Army is called to turn away thousands of Central Americans who have been labeled as terrorists and hardened criminals but who look far more like concerned moms and dads trying to bring their frightened, hungry, tired children to a place of safety. I understand that borders need to be protected, but it sure does sadden me that our nation’s leadership would portray these folks in such an unfavorable light.

Among my very favorite hasidic stories is one that is told about Rabbi Moshe Leib, the 18th century Tzaddik of Sassov (now in Ukraine). Rabbi Moshe Leib was best known for his love of humanity. One dark night, the story goes, with a heavy snow falling outside, he heard someone tap at his window. Moshe Leib looked out and saw a strange man dressed in tatters, with lacerations on his hands and face, and a gleam of madness in his eyes. The rebbe hesitated for only a moment whether to let such a person into his house, but then thought to himself, “If there is room for someone like this in God’s universe, surely there is room for him in my home.” And with that, he opened the door wide and invited the man in.

I’m hopelessly moved by the plight of abandoned animals. Charlie is a beagle, basset hound mix who came to us from a kill shelter in South Carolina, flew in a private plane to New York where, at Pets Alive in Elmsford, New York (now Paws Crossed), we fell for him and, eight years ago, brought him forever into our home and our lives. Even while I care for my little mutt, I also watch videos from Paws for Hope that catalog the adventures of Eldad Hagar who rescues cats and dogs barely surviving in the streets and neighborhoods of Los Angeles, obtaining medical care for them, and finding homes where they can live in safety and be loved for the rest of their lives. I sit in front of my computer monitor, stunned by this man’s unbounded generosity of heart and time and, through my tear-soaked eyes, write check after check to thank him for providing hospitality that exceeds all reasonable expectations.

Then I think about Albania’s Muslims who, during World War II, not only succeeded in rescuing all of Albania’s 200 Jews, but another 1800 Jewish men, women and children, as Albania was one of the very few countries that kept its doors open to Jewish refugees. When the Nazis occupied Albania in 1943, the response was a uniform one: Besa. Besa means “faith,” or “to keep the promise,” and it reflects the Albanian Muslim idea that when one has welcomed a guest into your home, that guest is accorded all kindnesses and honors, including, if need be, the protection of their lives. When the Nazis came hunting for Jews, the Albanian Muslims embarked upon an ambitious national project: hide every one of them (including the additional 1800). Two thousand Jewish men, woman and children who, except for a single family, all survived.

Now that’s hospitality!

America isn’t perfect. God knows, there are chapters in our history for which we should hang our heads in shame: the near-genocide of this nation’s indigenous peoples, the kidnapping and enslavement of millions of Africans, the mistreatment of non-whites, of women, of the LGBTQ community and, yes, antisemitism. But enshrined within our Constitution are words that convey hope for our one day getting this right: “Congress shall have power to establish a uniform rule of naturalization” (Article 1, Section 8). Throughout the 242 years of its existence, America has opened its doors to immigrant populations who, again and again, would provide the energy and the will that would transform our nation into the great land it is today.

But also enshrined in our laws was an insistence on welcoming those who are fleeing danger in their own lands. Since World War II, we can be proud that more refugees have been granted asylum in the United States than in any other nation. But today, applications for asylum are under siege, children are being taken from their parents, and deportations of current residents are occurring everywhere including, only eighteen miles from here, the caretaker of Temple Bet Torah in Mount Kisco where Armando Rugerio has worked for twenty years, raised two children, and now languishes in an Albany jail as he awaits a final determination of his fate.

Ours is a tradition that has always valued opening doors (or, if we’re Abraham and Sarah, opening tent flaps). When guests arrive, they may bring immediate blessing or complex challenge. It is our privilege to swing the door as widely open as we can, and respond as Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sassov did, “If there is room for someone like this in God’s universe, surely there is room for him in my home.”

Once again, we are so grateful you have welcomed us into your home. Not only is it a cherished blessing to spend this Shabbat with you, but it reminds us all how vital it is for us to welcome others whenever the need, or simply the opportunity, arises.

I once visited a synagogue in Italy and was asked by the rabbi to say a few words. I shared a funny anecdote about life in New York and, really digging into it, I embellished the story with lots of twists and turns before arriving to the punchline. The rabbi then translated it into Italian, but used only a few words to do so. Everyone laughed, so that was pretty great. After the service, I asked the rabbi how he managed to translate my lengthy story into such a compact retelling. “Well,” he said, “I didn’t think they’d get your point, so I just told them, ‘Our guest is trying to be funny. Everyone please laugh.’”

May we always be grateful for the opportunities life presents to meet new people and make new friends. We may not always understand each other, but we can always appreciate good intentions and the generosity of extending and of accepting invitations to share. Thank You for giving us abundant spirits and open minds, that we might always create spaces, both in our personal and our communal lives, to welcome both stranger and friend.

Eloheinu v’elohei avoteinu v’imoteinu … dear God and God of our ancestors, God of New York and God of Connecticut, God of the Jews and God of the Muslims, God of the comfortable and God of the afflicted, what goodness You have implanted in Your magnificent world! May we open our homes, our towns, our nation, to ensure that all life is honored and protected. Regardless of differences between ourselves and our neighbors, may we understand that we’re not so different that we can’t look into the eyes of another and see the faces of our sisters and our brothers. May the people of our two synagogues always be among the Righteous of the Nations who stand up and proclaim, “Besa.” My word is my promise. My faith is my honor. Humanity is to be cherished. I will do so for each and every one of them.

Shabbat shalom.

Living in the Wake of Tragedy

Yesterday, two neighborhood kids came riding by on bicycles. A few minutes later, they came back the other way. A short time after that, they passed by a third time. It wasn’t until the fourth pass that I noticed one of the kids was holding her phone out in front of her as she pedaled. At first, I thought she was speaking to someone but then it dawned on me — she’s playing Pokemon Go.

Pokemon Go is the new rage across the nation. It’s a phone app where the objective is to find and capture Pokemon that are out and about in the real world. Using your phone’s camera and GPS, this clever app has found a way to hide these mythical creatures everywhere. And the only way to find them is to go, well, anywhere, hold up your camera and see what’s around.

03242016-169Pokemon Go is a delightful summer distraction. It appears at just the right time when our kids have time, time to immerse themselves in mindless delight. But as we seem to do with everything else these days, it’s already become neccessary to teach them how to play Pokemon Go safely – not while walking in traffic (or riding their bicycle in the street!), and to not to go looking for Pokemon in dark alleys or other unsafe locations. But other than that,  it seems harmless enough.

Pokemon Go also comes at a time of great sadness and exhausting grief. On the heels of the bombing that killed 280 in Baghdad, the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and the five Dallas police officers, and now we add the 84 who died in Nice, France. Our hearts keep breaking as we struggle to keep up with bad news.

So no one should be surprised if distractions are valued this summer. I found us a few more.

An article appeared this week positing that we’re coming closer to realizing Einstein’s hypothesis that time travel ought to be possible. Researchers at the University of Queensland, Australia, say they have simulated the behavior of a single photon traveling through a wormhole and reappearing at another point in time. Talk about distraction – time-travel would be even more fun than Pokemon!

noahs-arkAnd did you read about the opening of Noah’s Ark in Williamstown, KY? I’m not sure what it measures in cubits, but this new tourist attraction is over 500 feet long, more than 80 feet wide and over 50 feet high. And best of all, because the creationists who built it believe the world is only 6000 years old, there’ll be dinosaurs on the Ark!

But wait! There’s a second ark. This one was built in the Netherlands, measures over 400 feet long, more than 90 feet wide and over 75 feet high. It has 5 decks and purports to hold more than 5000 people. I’m not sure why they felt it important to tell us how many people it can hold unless … well, listen to this:

Apparently, a giant asteroid could hit earth next week. It measures approximately 1 km across and, if it strikes a populated area, it could wipe out entire cities and potentially devastate an entire continent.

But that was all made up. The article was placed online to see how many people would repost it without even reading that it was bogus. Scientists theorize that 59% of all links shared on social media are never actually clicked, meaning that most people who share news on social media aren’t actually reading it first.

Someone, after reading the above-mentioned article, posted: “I was hoping for an asteroid that would cause a worldwide flood so the guy in Kentucky with the ark would be a hero!” Which is maybe why the Netherlands ark posted its human capacity.

None of this can make the tragedies of the past week go away. And there will be more, I’m fairly certain and sorry to say. ISIL won’t be going away anytime soon. Nor will we be able to make sure every police officer in America is safe or is able to respond sensitively and appropriately to every scenario unfolding before them.

And just to show you that crazy people won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, I read an article about the fear that Pokemon Go will be used by terrorists to hunt down people.  Rick Wiles, who hosts a Christian podcast, “Trunews,” has asked, “What if this technology is transferred to Islamic jihadists and Islamic jihadists have an app that shows them where Christians are located geographically?”

I don’t know if this should make you smile or cry.

Looking at the week’s events, it’s difficult to know what to say, how to offer comfort. This is a really scary time in America and around the world. But here are some ideas that keep me going.

The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt for hundreds of years. Their “miraculous redemption” required incredible dedication and bravery to change the status quo. And that’s what Moses and company did.

Further, we are a people that believes the day will come when nation will not lift up sword against nation, that the lion will lie down with the lamb, and that when asked if the Messianic Age has arrived, our answer is never “No,” but is always, “Not yet.”

We’ve cornered the market on hope.

Let me tell you story of guy named Franky Carrillo who, at age 16, was sentenced to life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Twenty years later, his case was overturned and he was released. Amidst it all, Franky never lost faith, not in others and not in himself. He speaks of how his father would restore other people’s discarded toasters and such, and make them shiny and like new. Franky always reminded himself of that, and of his hope that it would be able to happen for him, that he’d become and shiny and new again. And one day, it did.

And finally, Reb Nakhman of Bratzlav would tell his community, “Do not despair. A Jew may never despair.” All the world is very narrow bridge. How we get across it is puzzling and frightening. But we persist. Shaking perhaps. But continuing ever onward. No matter what, we hope and we act on our hope.

There’s a popular meme that has plastered the online world this week. It reads, “Things are not getting worse. They’re getting uncovered. We must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil.” Penned by African-American writer/activist Adrienne Maree Brown, these words, in my opinion, epitomize the determination to not despair, to see every moment as an opportunity, every step forward, no matter how small, as an important and potentially beneficial one.


Dallas protesters confront one another with hugs!

This past Monday, two simultaneous protests took place in Dallas after the shooting of the police officers. One group proclaimed that “Black Lives Matter,” holding placards that asked, “Will I be next?” The other group, stationed just across the street from the first, was protesting violence against police, arguing that we all matter. Police appeared in order to keep an eye on the protesters, and to be ready in the event of violence. But it never happened. The two groups crossed the street, and confronted one another with handshakes and hugs, proclaiming, “No more walls.” Praying together for Dallas, with even a police officer joining in, they called for unity and peace and, together, chose to start making it happen right then and there.

Ellen meets Charmander

Ellen meets Charmander

May this be where all our differences lead. To understanding that we can care about what’s important to us without not caring about others. We can tend to what moves our hearts, and still honor what moves others’ hearts as well. We can even disagree about what needs to be done, all the while loving our opponents and looking for places we can agree and can work together to move our communities forward.

While walking thru New York City this week, I opened up my phone and took a photograph of the first Pokemon I encountered. And guess what, contrary to what many are saying about how people are fixated on, and only see, these non-real storybook characters … the one I found, it turns out, was standing right next to the woman I love. And that made a beautiful picture!

When we look at the world — through whatever lens we care to bring to it — may we always see God’s creation and its infinite opportunities for us to bring new blessings to it.


Thanksgiving? or Apologiesgiving?

Thanksgiving has always been a quiet affair for my family. Chalk it up, I suppose, to how much time I spend around here and perhaps that sheds some light on it. Truth be told, Thanksgiving is always a three-pronged experience for me.

InterfaithUsually it begins with the Greenburgh Interfaith Caring Community’s Thanksgiving Service which, although I missed it this year due to my being in New Orleans for a wedding, always makes me feel grateful that I live in a world where being Jewish is part of a stunning tapestry of American identities where tolerance and brotherhood are, at the very least, part of our national dream and, at our best, part of our rivertowns’ actual definition. That service is a celebration of America at its best, all of us coming together for the purpose of giving thanks for the blessings we all share and, while we’re at it, to bring an offering of needed products to be distributed to the less fortunate in our community.

Thanksgiving Cooking

My 10th grade families prep Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless

The second Thanksgiving experience is meeting my Confirmation families in the vestibule just outside those sanctuary doors and spending Thanksgiving morning preparing a turkey dinner with all the requisite fixings that we then deliver to the VOA Shelter in Valhalla. In my opinion, there’s no better way to prepare for my Thanksgiving meal than by joining together with my temple family in assisting other families so that they can also celebrate Thanksgiving.

By the time I sit down to the third prong of my Thanksgiving experience – the Dreskin turkey dinner with the people I love most – my heart is already full and just waiting for my stomach to catch up. I go to sleep more spiritually satisfied on Thanksgiving than perhaps any other day of the year.

I share this with you because we’re living in an especially unsettling and disturbing time in history. And we should be disturbed. No one should celebrate this weekend without acknowledging the continuing injustices of American racism, American sexism, American homophobia, American economic inequality, and American diplomatic arrogance. Not to mention, the continuing American indifference to the Native American. Did you know that there has never been a public apology for our government’s murdering American Indians by the tens of thousands, stealing their land and booting the survivors onto reservations. This week marks the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre, in which 200 women, children and older men were killed by Union troops during the Civil War for no militarily justifiable reason. What we did to the American Indian is unconscionable. That no one in this country has ever said “We’re sorry” defies both my comprehension and every fibre of my being that thinks about and tries to do what’s right.


Jacob’s Ladder (Dennis C. De Mars)

In this week’s Torah parashah, Vayetzay, Jacob dreams his famous dream of a ladder that reached into heaven and which had angels moving up and down its rungs. Jacob’s understanding of the dream was that God was nearby, so Jacob offered to allow God to be his God if Jacob was able to safely return home from the journey upon which he had embarked. This wasn’t exactly Jacob’s most noble moment, although it was somewhat more impressive than his earlier demonstrations of selfishness and arrogance when he sold his starving brother a meal and stole that brother’s blessing from their dying dad.

Sometimes I’m so grateful that my ancestors were being persecuted and pummeled in Eastern Europe while the early American settlers were destroying this land’s indigenous peoples. But my being a descendant of Jacob the Deceiver doesn’t bode much better. The point here, I think, is that we humans bungle life a lot. We hurt and destroy, taking what we desire, with nary a pause to consider the dishonor of our actions.

The great irony of Thanksgiving is that it celebrates a moment in our American past that, even if such a meal really occurred, served as a prequel to a disaster of cruel and epic proportions. It’s just possible that Thanksgiving ought to be called Apologiesgiving, something akin to an American Yom Kippur.

But just as Jacob’s story doesn’t end with his shortcomings, but with a transformation that enables him to reconcile with, and finally offer love to, his brother Esau, and then to father Joseph who would shine as a leader not only of our people, but of the ancient Egyptian people as well … just as Jacob’s story turns to these finer values and better outcomes, so too can the American story, which in places already has.

Racism may not be gone, but America is a whole lot better place to be black than it used to be. Same with sexism and with homophobia too. There’s so much more work to be done, but we’ve made enough progress that we needn’t feel discouraged; we need merely to strengthen our resolve.

GivingThanks.02True thanks, of course, is not something that’s demonstrated by stuffing our gullets. There’s nothing at all wrong with a symbolic, ritual moment. Goodness knows, I’ve participated in more than a few of those myself. But what’s vital is that our symbolic acts become literal, hands-on endeavors to bring a fuller, more complete justice into our communities.

Ferguson, Missouri, is a moment teaching us that the work of the civil rights movement is not done, that beyond our legal system we still need to integrate values of tolerance and brotherhood into our daily lives. And I think we can do it. When I look at the transformation of this country vis-a-vis same-sex marriage, now legal in 35 states, I am so deeply hopeful. Things do get better. Life can and does improve, even if it sometimes takes a very long time. Always too much time. But we get there, don’t we?

And on this Thanksgiving weekend, that’s worth giving our heartfelt thanks.

Women of the Wall

GIFThere’s an uproar in the world today. If you’ve been watching “Mad Men,” you probably missed it. Oh, if you were doing anything with your life, you probably missed it. It took place at the Annual Webby Awards which honor excellence on the Internet. This year, one of the arguably coveted prizes (you know, by you and me) was given to Steve Wilhite, inventor of the G-I-F computer graphic file format (that oughta wake you up, eh!). For me, it’s actually a pretty cool and deserved award because I use the G-I-F format often during Visual Worship, when I want to put a picture up on the screens but make its background vanish, so that it appears as if a second image is floating on top of the first.

When Wilhite stepped forward to received his honor, his acceptance speech, which the award hosts limit to five words only, was flashed on the screen (because Wilhite had a stroke in 2001 and his speech is extremely limited). These were his five words: “It’s Pronounced ‘JIF’ not ‘GIF.’”

The uproar, of course, comes from the fact that most of the geek world pronounce Wilhite’s graphic format “GIF,” with a hard G, and not “JIF,” like the peanut butter, which Wilhite named it when he invented it.hite stepped forward to received his honor, his acceptance speech, which the award hosts limit to five words only, was flashed on the screen (because Wilhite had a stroke in 2001 and his speech is extremely limited). These were his five words: “It’s Pronounced ‘JIF’ not ‘GIF.’”

But just because you started something doesn’t mean you control it. That’s very true of language and even more true of human behavior.

When the State of Israel was reestablished back in 1948, leadership over religious matters was ceded to the Orthodox. The thinking was that internal, domestic matters would be solved once the new Israelis figured out how to survive the invading armies all around them. But since borders were never ever truly secured, matters pertaining to individual rights promised in Israel’s Declaration of Independence got put off and put off and put off. And for a very long time, even the progressive Jews “behaved” (and I put “behaved” in quotations marks).

Women of the Wall

But the day arrived when, much as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., could no longer wait for “a convenient time” (again, in quotes) to make his move for equal rights, Anat Hoffman of the Reform movement’s Israel Religious Action Center, and Rabbi Uri Regev, formerly of Israel’s Reform movement and now the head of Hiddush, a progressive advocacy group in Israel, are no longer willing to wait for peace along the borders. Demonstrations and civil disobedience – including women who refuse to sit at the back of the bus and who insist upon wearing tallit and tefillin at the Wall – have now become commonplace.

The civil rights movement has begun in earnest in Eretz Yisrael.

Jewish Agency for Israel chair Natan Sharansky’s proposed compromise at the Wall, to extend the Kotel and create an additional equally-sized prayer areas open to women, has been rejected by many and, in my opinion, ought to be. “Separate but equal” is an idea that failed here a long time ago. It solves nothing; most importantly, it encourages no close-minded racist or sexist to change their mind.

The news from the Jerusalem District Court, upholding an earlier decision that women who wear tallitot in the Western Wall Plaza are not contravening “local custom” or causing a public disturbance, and therefore should not be arrested, is historic and groundbreaking. Finally, some sanity in Israeli politics. A recognition that it’s fine for individual women to choose not to wear ritual garb, but that no one else can force such a decision upon them and that they are welcome to wear tallit and/or tefillin without fear of reprisal … this is a welcome action indeed!

But of course, the response is not only one of celebration. The ultra-Orthodox reaction is familiar to us all. Grafitti on the homes of women involved in the protests. Spitting at them, throwing water bottles, chairs, garbage and rocks in the Kotel plaza — we’ve seen it all before, haven’t we?

In this week’s parasha, Beha’alotkha (chapters 8-12 in Numbers) – words, by the way, that women may not read at the Kotel – includes the commandment to kindle in the Tabernacle a seven-branched menorah whose lights are specifically to be directed forward. While one may certainly interpret Torah many different ways, the image of using illumination to light the way before us, this is a powerful one for me. And it speaks powerfully of the need for good people to bring communal goodness to all.

The Women of the Wall have been shining a beacon of light on the injustices at the Kotel since 1988. It’s taken twenty-five years (!) for this decision to finally come down. While it’s understandable that their efforts have been opposed by the ultra-Orthodox, it’s unconscionable that the Israel political leadership has ducked the issue all these years.

Don’t expect the decision to resolve anything. Not for a while, anyway. First we have to see if the government has the courage to implement the decision, to back it with police protection, and to prosecute those who break the new law. It took Attorney General Robert Kennedy to send in federal troops so that American law would be implemented down south. Let’s hope the Knesset can take a lesson from American history on this one.

In the meantime, seven-branched menorahs can become very heavy. Our support – via letters, petitions and donations – can keep those lights shining where they’re most needed.

At about 6:00 am one morning in 1983, during my year of rabbinical study in Jerusalem, Ellen and I wandered into the Kotel plaza and noticed something amazing. A man on a ladder was reaching into all the crevices in the Wall and pulling out the hundreds (thousands!) of tiny notes left there as prayers to God. It made sense, of course, that eventually there’d be no room for more notes and that the Wall would have to be cleaned. Our jaws dropped just the same and I, equipped with camera, took a full series of photographs to record this stunning moment. But it was in the era of kodachrome film and mine, though installed, was not advancing. Not a single picture developed.

An act of God? A Divine message that you don’t mess with the Kotel? Or with the Orthodox establishment’s maintenance of practice there?

I’m sure there are plenty who would agree.

But not me. And thank God, not Anat Hoffman or Rabbi Uri Regev, or any of the Women of the Wall who will continue their efforts for another twenty-five years if that’s what it takes to secure not only their civil rights, but civil rights in general for all the people of Israel (including, by the way, her Arab citizens).

This week, here in America, the struggle for civil rights continues. The Boy Scouts of America agreed to allow young gay men to join its programs. But not to lead them. Which means there is a ways to go.

There is always a ways to go, isn’t there?

Dear God, Teacher of Mitzvot, Divine Instructor of Honor and Integrity, stop being so patient with us. Sear our hearts with a passion for kindness and welcome. Jolt our minds with understanding of openness and inclusion. There is no convenient time for justice. That time is now. It has always been now.

May we find the courage and the strength to join our hands, and our destinies, with those who have taken up the banner of these struggles. And may we live to see a world where no one must endure the sting of prejudice and discrimination.

Ken y’hi ratzon.



A woozle, a goozle and a foozle were spending an evening together. In the middle of their conversation, the lights went out. Undeterred, the woozle said, “Let us consider the nature of light and of darkness.” The goozle began to sing a hymn in honor of our Little Sister Darkness. But the foozle went down into the basement and replaced the fuse.

There is a time to consider life’s vicissitudes. There is a time to look that word up in the dictionary. And there’s a time to get to work. Whether it’s natural disaster in Oklahoma, homophobia in the Boy Scouts, sexism in Jerusalem, or any of countless injustices to be found the world over, and in our own backyard, may we each do our part to replace the fuse, and get the light back where it needs to be.

A Grocer’s Tale

CityGate.KoreaWhat’s the story you want your life to tell?

Each year, on Shavuot, we retell our people’s narrative of enslavement, liberation, desert wandering, and revelation at Mount Sinai. Whether we believe it really happened or not, it’s an extraordinary story. One that deeply affects the manner in which we live our lives.

God picks us out from among the suffering masses, saves us, and elevates us to Covenant status. Thousands of years later, we’re still telling that story! And here’s what I think it tells about us. About what’s important to us. Important as Jews. Important as human beings.

It says that slavery is a terrible thing, and that no human being should be made to endure it. Not just something we should avoid, but something we should endeavor to end in other people’s lives. That’s why we showed up for civil rights rallies and to end the genocide in Darfur.

It says that corrupt, destructive people can and should be stopped. They’re not just people who we keep away from, but tyrants we seek to topple even if it (merely!) helps others and not necessarily ourselves. That’s why large numbers of Jewish lawyers work as public defenders and for non-profits. That’s why large numbers of Jewish teachers help kids grow up to be selfless and kind. That’s why large numbers of moms and dads in Jewish families raise sweet kids.

And this narrative says something else. It asserts that, more often than not, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do things. In the quest for truth, our Jewish heritage is right up there with the best of the philosophical traditions – both secular and religious – that endeavor to figure out “the meaning of life” and help us discern what’s good and what’s not.

What story do you want your life to tell?

I have a friend who runs a small grocery store. It’s not an easy life. Long hours, low pay, always on the brink of going under. My friend wonders, “Why did I pick a grocer’s life? And how come I can’t seem to get out of it, even though I think I’d like to?”

This grocer then met someone who gives past-life readings. Now, like the story of Shavuot, which may or may not have happened but is still a story worth telling and learning from, so too with this one. I think there’s a great lesson here.

The “reader” said that in the lifetime just prior to this one, my grocer friend’s father had died young. The mother, unable to care for her two young children, sold one (the older sister) and abandoned the other (my friend) at the city gates, perishing there.

“What are city gates?” my friend asked.

Knowing a thing or two about ancient cities, like Jerusalem, I explained that where a city had a wall surrounding it, the city gates served not only as an entrance and exit point, but also where much local activity took place. Often including, I noted, a marketplace.

I theorized that my friend is a grocer today because, having been abandoned in the market place in a previous lifetime, is still in that marketplace today.

I was pretty proud of myself for coming up with this interpretation of the past-life reading. I was creative and realistic (I mean, to the extent that any wondering about past lives can be realistic).

But my grocer friend looked at me and said, “I don’t want that to be my story.”

I thought to myself, “You don’t necessarily get to make that choice.” Our lives are what they are. And most assuredly, our past is in the past. It’s over; there’s no going back and altering it.

But since no one knows what’s true and what isn’t here, just because my story has some poetic meaning to it doesn’t mean my friend wanted to own it. “Then why do you think you’re a grocer?” I asked.

My friend the grocer looked me in the eye and, with a powerful sense of conviction, told me the following. “Because my parents were not able to take care of me and abandoned me, I am a food seller today so that, no matter how difficult my work is, and no matter how precarious the world becomes around me, my children will always have food on the table.”

It didn’t take long at all for me to admit that my grocer friend was right. That’s a much better narrative. Rather than life being an ongoing act of mere survival, it becomes a commitment to bettering loved ones’ lives.

What is the story that you will write?

What will be the narrative for your life?

I hope it’s a question you’ll want to ask, and then ask again, and keep on asking. I hope you won’t allow others to be the only ones to respond, to decide what your life is all about. I hope you’ll share your ideas with people you love, with people you respect. And I hope you’ll hear some worthwhile possibilities in return.

But write your own story.

During Shavuot, we stand at Mt. Sinai. As fellow journeyers, we share the great tales of human experience. Some of those stories are ours; some belong to those we meet while on the road. None of our accounts are complete. No matter where we are in the adventure, as it says in our haggadah, it is a story “whose shining conclusion is yet to unfold.”

May yours be filled with beauty, with wonder, with purpose, and, most especially, with love.

Profound Wisdom from a Beautiful Lady and a Beautiful Song

Ellen and I were sitting at the piano, singing our way through an exquisite contemporary tune, entitled “Help Is on the Way.” We’d both fallen deeply for Nancy LaMott’s recording, and it was Ellen who contacted the composer, David Friedman, to see if we could get the music.

I’ve always been haunted by this song. It’s so optimistic about the future, even while acknowledging the difficulties we face. Nancy LaMott, for whom this was a signature piece, sang it with such conviction, even as her cancer-stricken life was ebbing away:


“Don’t give up the ship even when you think it’s sinking and you don’t know what to do. Don’t give up your dream even though you may be thinking it never will come true. Life has its own ideas of how things come about; and if you just hang in there life is gonna work it out. Help is on the way from places you don’t know about today. From friends you may not have met yet. Believe me when I say I know. Help is on the way.”

In the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, it’s taught, “There is hope if we let ourselves be helped.” I know what it’s like to feel alone, that there’s no one to turn to, to sense despair in the emptiness of it all. But I also know the strength that comes from a tender embrace, a compassionate ear, a helping hand, gradually replacing the night with a few resurrecting rays of hope-filled light.

In 1994, Nancy LaMott was rushed to the hospital where her loved ones learned she only had days to live. In those brief hours, she was embraced by her closest friends and family, phoned by her devoted fan, President Bill Clinton, and promised by the composer of “Help Is on the Way” that her voice would continue to be heard. Then, only an hour before her death, she married the love of her life. As her website tells it, “Nancy LaMott had it all, if only for 45 minutes.”

The secret to living (and I think Nancy LaMott understood this) … is to know long before the hour of our death just how rich we truly are. Neither money, fame nor power hold the tiniest candle to the sense of completeness that accompanies a life of giving and of receiving love.


P.S. You can listen to Nancy Lamott singing “Help Is On the Way” here …


Israel and Gaza

Thanksgiving weekend. An embarrassing overabundance of food, of football and of shopping. What’s not to be thankful for? Well, perhaps for one more gift: that Thanksgiving seems to be the most uncontroversial moment in America. Everybody celebrates it. Nobody complains about it. And even though there are, undoubtedly, differences from house to house in how it’s observed, we make ample room for all 315 million of us to share it.

In the Dreskin home, we’ve grown accustomed to Ellen’s expectation that, before we eat, we each share something for which we’re grateful this year. I never quite give enough thought to my response, but I try to hit all the right ones: family, shelter, and good health. But left off my list last night, I add this one now: I’m grateful the bombs have ceased flying from Gaza to Israel and vice-versa.

While the response from Israel lasted one week, the 2256 rockets launched from Gaza began last New Year’s Day and continued for 47 weeks. When Aiden arrived home this weekend, he mentioned to me that he’d seen a political cartoon in which the first three panels showed rockets fired at Israel, but not until the fourth panel, when a rocket is fired at Gaza, does the news media file a report, “Israel attacks Gaza.”

In no way do I mean to minimize the rain of destruction in Gaza from this past week’s retaliation. 162 Gazans died there. Roughly half were civilians. This should be unacceptable to Israel. Except that after 47 weeks and 2256 rockets, Israel’s patience had worn thin. I’m amazed it lasted as long as it did.

As of Wednesday, a cease-fire has begun and, thus far, is holding. The question, of course, is, “What now?” More than likely, it will be business as usual. Unsuccessful overtures of peace. Resumption of life in both Gaza and Israel. No success at shaping any lasting treaty. A begrudging quiet until the next violent action from within Gaza. And one sort of response or another from Israel.

But there’s always a possibility, isn’t there? Remote and unrealistic as it is, there does exist the slightest chance that the United States and Egypt and other parties of interest will push Israel and the Palestinians to finally settle this thing. Imagine that … a secure and lasting peace for all. No more rockets. No more occupation.

For the past four years, a small column has appeared each month in our temple bulletin, called “Just Israel.” The idea behind it has been to demonstrate to our liberal, unwilling-to-simply-serve-as-a-cheering-section-for-Israel selves to see that there is, and has been for a long time, movement toward normalization and peaceful relations between individuals in Israel and individuals in Gaza and the West Bank. We’ve written in this column about shared ventures between the two lands in the development of software, of music, of agriculture, of medical research, renewable energy and much more. While the conflict fills the headlines in our news media, we want to share and to applaud the truly important work which happens at non-governmental levels and demonstrates the profound yearning for peace that pervades both peoples despite sensationalist news reporting and political hand-wringing.

I’m an eternal idealist. Frankly, I’ve no interest in being anything else. There’s too much wrong with the world, and too many decent people who would unhesitatingly change everything in the name of peace, for me to be anything else. I’m not unrealistic. I fear for the cease-fire and what will follow it. But my heart won’t ever cease firing its own rockets of hope. I know that people are always capable of creating peace. And I know there are people of wealth and power who stand to lose much if peace breaks out. But I don’t know of any oppressive time in history, any bleak period of violence, that didn’t end with liberation and reconciliation. Sometimes — often — these are a long time in coming.

Arabs and Jews have been at each other’s throats for thousands of years. Our epic stories record this. Cain slays Abel. Jacob pursues Esau. Israel defeats Amalek.

But I’m ready to write a new story. I’m eager to begin teach a new generation of students how the old Bible stories seem so unrealistic because such enmity ended so long ago.

At our Thanksgiving Shabbat in this room one year ago, we discussed a hasidic story solely within the context of this holiday. Tonight, I again share that story with you, but from within the context of the Gazan-Israeli conflict:

Rabbi Israel Salanter, who lived and taught in 19th century Lithuania and Prussia, once noticed that a fancy restaurant was charging a huge price for a cup of coffee. He approached the owner and asked why the cup of java was so expensive. After all, some hot water, a few beans and a spoonful of sugar could not amount to more than a few cents.

The owner replied, “You are correct that for a few cents you could have this same coffee in your own home. But here in the restaurant, we provide the extras — exquisite decor, soft background music, professional waiters, and the finest china from which to drink your beverage.”

Rabbi Salanter’s face lit up. “Thank you so very much! I now understand the blessing which we recite before drinking water, Shehakol Nih’yeh Bid’varo – ‘Blessed are You, O God, for creating everything by Your word.’ You see, until now, when I recited this blessing, I had in mind only that I am thanking God for creating water. Now I understand the blessing much better. Everything includes not merely the water, but also the air we breathe, the beautiful world around us, the music of birds that exalt our spirits, the charming flowers with their marvelous hues, and the fresh breeze that cools us in the heat of the day. For all this, when we consume our beverage, we must also give thanks.”

It was a fearful time in both Gaza and Israel this past week. Sirens in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, usually a safe distance from hostilities, caught its residents with surprise and apprehension. The leaflets which Israel dropped over Gaza, warning its citizens that bombs were coming and that they should find shelter, could not have made the Gazans feel safe. But both sides celebrated the cease-fire. And while we here in America heard about the politicians’ satisfaction, you and I both know how comforting it must have been for mothers and fathers to be able to tuck their children into their own beds on Wednesday evening, and to have a quiet moment of rest and soft conversation outside of their homes, watching a sky that was lit up only by the moon and the gentle twinkling of stars. You can bet there were imaginings, and hopings, and prayers on both sides that evening, expressing how lovely it would be to have a lifetime of evenings like that one.

There is much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, with this cease-fire. For every life saved, acts that are implied by but not expressly indicated in the terms of the agreement, we offer our thanks. Just as there is more behind a cup of coffee than we immediately perceive, so too with a cease-fire. Tens of thousands of families (and all of their friends across the globe) breathe easier, both in Israel and in Gaza, because of it.

There is much hard work ahead. The people must push their representatives to become disciples of Aaron, and to pursue peace. This is a complicated, even dangerous, path for leadership to take. And so those who have the most to gain from peace – among the Gazans, among the Israelis, among Americans, and among us who yearn for such a seemingly impossible but cherished goal, we must not let up in our calls for peace, not until our leaders turn and follow us.

On Facebook, a statement, issued by a group in January 2011 called “Gaza Youth Breaks Out,” has gone viral, meaning it’s become wildly popular. Representatives of “Gaza Youth Breaks Out, write, “We are a group of young people living in Gaza facing different kinds of violence everyday. We are looking for change in our country and are trying to taste peace.”

Here is a brief excerpt from their statement.

We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community! We want to scream and break this wall of silence, injustice and indifference. We are sick of being caught in this political struggle; sick of coal dark nights with airplanes circling above our homes; sick of innocent farmers getting shot in the buffer zone because they are taking care of their lands; sick of bearded guys walking around with their guns abusing their power, beating up or incarcerating young people demonstrating for what they believe in; sick of the wall of shame that separates us from the rest of our country and keeps us imprisoned in a stamp-sized piece of land; sick of being portrayed as terrorists, homemade fanatics with explosives in our pockets and evil in our eyes; we are sick and tired of being kept in jail by Israel, beaten up by Hamas, and completely ignored by the rest of the world.

We are youth with heavy hearts.

We do not want to hate, we do not want to be victims anymore. Enough pain, enough tears, enough suffering, enough control, limitations, unjust justifications, terror, torture, excuses, bombings, sleepless nights, dead civilians, black memories, bleak future, heart-aching present, disturbed politics, fanatic politicians. This is not the future we want!

We want three things. We want to be free. We want to be able to live a normal life. We want peace.

This is the Gazan youth’s manifesto for change!

We will work day and night in order to change these miserable conditions we are living under. We will build dreams where we meet walls.

We want to be free, we want to live, we want peace.

Eloheinu v’elohei avoteinu v’imoteinu … our prayer on this Shabbat is a simple one. May these words — of young men and women who have been locked inside a cheerless parcel of land plagued forever by violence and captivity from cowardly leaders both inside and outside of their land — may these words, demanding a child’s right to grow up in a home that is safe and that prospers from joy and from love, may these words be on all our lips. May their prayer be our prayer. And may the day soon arrive, when we can embrace one another in celebration of an impossible dream … that has come true.

Into the Fold

I have a video Jonah made in which he (dramatically, and with a driving soundtrack, to boot) thanks a friend for teaching him how to fold t-shirts. We’ll not get into how he missed his parents’ instruction in that regard. The video ends with Jonah pointing to the mess in his t-shirt drawer and proclaiming, “This will end … <he pauses to consider what he’s saying> … next week. I will be putting your advice into effect come … <he again pauses> … whenever I get around to it.”

I’m not sure the t-shirt folding ever happened, but I know for a certainty that other folding did. Jonah was a big fan of origami and he was able to create some pretty fancy designs, including birds and elephants. I will treasure these forever.

Lots of stuff folds, of course. Flowers create exquisite designs when their petals fold. Mountains and valleys appear when earth folds. Sound is made as air folds. And solar power can be boosted when light folds.

Origami begins, simply and humbly, with a single piece of paper. Without scissors, tape or glue, astoundingly complicated designs “unfold.” What makes this such a fascinating art form is that no materials are added or subtracted. You end with what you began, only prettier.

At a macro level, all existence functions this way. Lavoisier’s 18th century discovery that matter is neither created nor destroyed suggests the universe isn’t so different from origami. Which means that you and I, in our eight or nine decades of life, also follow Lavoisier’s principle.

We change, but we stay the same. Our journey through life gives us folds, too. Wrinkles on our faces. Wrinkles on our souls. Same person, changed appearance and changed spirit. We fold, but that doesn’t mean we’re finished.

The Talmud relates a story of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Hananya and the daughter of the Roman Emperor, who asked him why God would place so much wisdom in such an ugly vessel. He instructed her to move her father’s finest wines into gold and silver vessels which, of course, spoiled the wine. When her father demanded an explanation, she told him what took place between her and Rabbi Yehoshua. The emperor summoned the rabbi and asked him, “Why did you tell her to do that?” Rabbi Yehoshua explained that he was simply answering her question. Just as wine is best preserved in humble vessels, so too is wisdom.

We may think our wrinkles, or other “imperfect” aspects of our bodies, detract from our value. But we mustn’t mistake the vessel for its contents. A person’s true worth resides within.

But it can take decades to acquire such wisdom. The book of Micah teaches us, “What is asked of you? To do justice, love goodness, and walk humbly with God.” Our vessels are superbly equipped to accomplish these tasks.

It takes various amounts of time to fold that into our lives. Even knowing it, we delay (like Jonah and his t-shirts), leaving the drawer a mess. While folding t-shirts has limited (though certainly not insignificant) value, the origami of our lives can have purpose and value without end, creating exquisite art to be admired by us all.


This piece expands upon one that appeared in Makom, the newsletter of Woodlands Community Temple (Nov 2012).