The story of Jonah is how a mortal man tried to run away from the mission his Creator had gifted to him. He was subsequently swallowed by an enormous fish which spit him out onto dry land only when he resolved to return to his true mission in life.
The question emerges: What kind of God meets Moses on this mountain? Is this the God who prescribes commands, one who sets an agenda for people to follow? Is this a comforting God, one who enfolds Moses in the arms of divine love?
While these moments of heat and escalation capture the most press and attention, they obscure and distract us from at least two far more common, subtle and systemic obstacles to breaking through our stuck conversation on Israel.
In this week's Torah portion, Parshat Beshalach, it's time to leave Egypt. But while the Jews are busy collecting reparations for their years of slave labor, their leader, Moses, is out searching for Joseph's bones.
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."