The death of Nelson Mandela has taught us to count the blessings a great leader brings his country. It was said that with whomever Mandela talked, he always spoke to the best in that person. He made everyone part of his vision.
For our Christian friends and neighbors, this is the period that commemorates the birth of their savior, Jesus Christ. But did you know that this week also recalls the birth of another savior -- that of Israel?
Waiting has been a powerful spiritual theme in my life, especially with regard to decades of delay in being able to live as a fully adult man, delayed for decades as a transgender person stalled by both doctors and religious mentors in a wilderness experience of confusion and falsehood.
Both traditions use prayer, gathering of family, and special foods to celebrate the miraculous providence of God to sustain a struggling community in a context of colonial oppression. Reflecting on how they differ may also help us overcome the ugly connotations of Thanksgiving.
The testimony of the Jewish people throughout their scriptures and history and in this season of Hanukkah reminds me, just as God told Moses in the wilderness, to stop crying and start moving forward in spite of moments of doubt, trusting in the continued light of God's presence.
We have a word for that exuberant, extravagant dreamer too. We call that person a human, because our species, throughout history, regularly accomplishes achievements that were never previously thought possible.
Who am I to call myself a Talmudist of any sort? Our Sages of blessed memory were not just gifted teachers, they were also tzaddiks -- righteous individuals who could be counted upon to do the right thing always, and to treat everyone with kindness.
The concurrence of this Torah portion and the 50th anniversary of the March serves as a compelling reminder of our ongoing, daily choice to build a society defined by blessing or by curse, and the clear command to "choose life."
God knows who came up with the notion that wisdom automatically comes with age but my guess is that the culprit was probably someone who felt the need to make aging seem like it had at least one benefit.
Because the human brain is wired for story, both Eastern and Western cultures are rife with examples of legendary characters enlivening and embodying the core teachings of a given sect, philosophy, or faith.
The Torah teaches at least three lessons about living on this planet -- three lessons that we must remember lest we devastate the "promised land" (wherever we may find ourselves geographically) and the hope and future of our children.
Long before Voldemort and Saruman uttered their first fictional curses, the Jewish people faced off against the real-life sorcerer, Bilam. Bilam's plan to curse the Jews failed when G-d turned his curses into blessings. But do coerced blessings ever take effect?
The Jews are bitten by snakes after complaining again in the desert. At G-d's instruction, Moses builds a copper snake so that the Jews can look at it and be healed. What message was G-d trying to send to them -- and to us -- and how can that message help keep us healthy?