"Exodus: Movement of Jah people! Oh-oh-oh, yea-eah!" chants Bob Marley. In his rousing three-minute song "Exodus" he presents a more spiritual feel for Moses than Ridley Scott's 154-minute, whitewashed sword-and-sandals epic.
Reading Tamar's story in light of recent events in Ferguson and Staten Island, as thousands of people take to the streets to demand changes in our justice system, the Torah poses to us today this question: What happens when those in power fail to acknowledge their errors?
Though society might condemn the actions of the alleged perpetrators, victims are not simply victims -- their behavior is scrutinized and questioned in ways that imply that the violence against them was justified.
Vayishlach begins with our hero on the run. Recall that Jacob emerges from his mother Rebekah just moments after his twin brother Esau; in adulthood, with his mother's help, he tricks his blind father Isaac into giving him the blessing intended for the firstborn.
The Judaism recovery program used to be in nine other prisons but lost the funding. It is hard to raise money to help Jewish inmates transform their lives when there are puppies and sick children that are more appealing.
This week, we celebrate Thanksgiving -- which for many of us is less about gratitude and more about consumption, consumerism and perhaps some family discord. Dedicating time to be grateful is hard; American culture doesn't help us much.
I spent too long on Twitter trying to get CBC News to apologize over the "Jerusalem Police fatally shoot 2 after apparent synagogue attack" headline on their website. Looking back, that time could have been spent much more productively.
Reading this week's Torah reading is almost physically painful. The parasha (Torah reading) -- named after "Sarah's life," but beginning with her death -- begins with the elaborately described process of Abraham's acquiring a burial place for his wife.
We are not afraid to stand up and speak out; in fact, we know that because of Abraham, in this Torah portion, we are obligated to stand up and speak out. We might not win every fight, as we know Sodom was eventually destroyed, but we don't shy away from the debate.
The Maggid would ask us to apply this way of thinking to the world around us as well, and to our own lives. His teaching calls us to examine even seemingly ordinary moments, and to sense how holiness and The Divine dwell within them.
As a professor who studies attitudes toward death among a wide populace, I ask myself, "Are my Jewish friends in denial?" After all, if death really is our destination, then we cease to exist when we die.
As descendants of Abraham and Sarah, both wanderers and welcomers, may our individual and communal homes be open to strangers, and may our hearts be open to the possibilities that strangeness can awaken within us -- wherever we go, wherever we find ourselves.
If Ebola continued as confined outbreaks for a limited time, a patent for a drug to treat it, or a vaccine to prevent it, might not feed the corporate bottom line. So we have waited for a desperate crisis when a cure might bring enough profit to light up the bottom line.
In order for there to be a second Creation, the first one is undone: The skies darken to hide the light, the waters come together to cover the land, the plants and animals -- except for those lucky enough to be on the ark -- perish.
We have parents, spouses, teachers, critics, publicists and therapists. And most important, we have each other, to be supportively critical, and to help us ask ourselves the really hard and thus the really important questions.
My sukkah, is up. A few of my students came by today, pulled the old wooden frame with its lattice-work sides out of the garage, and put it together. The whole construction job took about 15 minutes, but created a moment of great significance and joy.
The shofar blasts on Rosh Hashanah are designed to wake us up. How do we avoid hitting the snooze button, rolling over and going back to sleep once the holiday passes? That is the goal of Yom Kippur -- to keep us spiritually awake.
Where are we now? Income disparity soars, student loans threaten to be the next subprime mortgages, and millions of Americans struggle daily to make ends meet. Unmanageable, crippling debt is still harming millions of American families.
Every time we hear the shofar, it offers us a moment when we can, if we choose, reflect on what we are doing to this land and the Earth as a whole, our home and our womb -- all the more so this year, the Sabbatical Year. What will we conceive this year as we listen?
Let's make this Rosh Hashanah, and this Shmitah, the year when all of that changes. Let's get our institutions and portfolios to divest from Big Oil. Let's get our synagogues and communities to stand up for the Earth.