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Jewish Journal

Rabbi Lisa Edwards

  • Torah portion: Lingering hopes

    November 12, 2014 | 10:27 am

    Parashat Chayei Sarah comes to us again this year in a time of wistfulness and worry, arriving as hostilities in Jerusalem and Hebron heat up. One would be hard-pressed to guess from the gentle stories told in Chayei Sarah of the deaths and burials of Sarah, Abraham and Ishmael...

  • Will Korthof, philanthropist, volunteer energy activist, 36

    October 14, 2014 | 9:49 am

    On erev Yom Kippur I received a phone call from the mother of a beloved congregant, Will Korthof, telling me that Will had been killed in a motorcycle accident. It was the day after his 36th birthday.

    Will was a man loved by countless people in many diverse communities — he was a...

  • Torah portion: Lean in

    September 17, 2014 | 11:16 am

    It’s been a rough few months worldwide. In addition to the violence and the threats, the tenuous cease-fires and seemingly insolvable problems, many people also find all this difficult to talk about. 

    I’m hearing from colleagues and congregants, friends and family — sad and...

  • Torah portion: Time flies

    June 25, 2014 | 10:44 am

    I attended a memorial for a beloved colleague recently, and his widow remembered how at funerals he would invite people not to look at the birth and death dates on memorial plaques and grave markers, but to focus on the dash between the dates — that’s the part that matters. 

    This...

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  • Not everyone, not yet

    April 23, 2014 | 10:41 am

    "Times have certainly changed,” someone said to me the other day. “We have a new generation of children growing up just with marriage — not gay marriage and straight marriage, but ‘just marriage.’ ”

    Nice pun, I thought, “just marriage.” The oft-quoted Torah verse, “justice,...

  • Giving Voice: Parashat Yitro (Exodus 18:1-20:23)

    January 16, 2014 | 2:16 pm

    Someone came to me in tears. “Too much yelling,” he said. “My boyfriend yells at me, my boss yells at me, even my father still yells at me.” 

    We talked about how yelling doesn’t achieve what the yellers want to achieve. We talked about the knot he gets in his stomach when the...

  • In the family way: Parashat Noach (Genesis 6:9-11:32)

    October 3, 2013 | 4:59 pm

    Word went out from the congregation that a longtime member was nearing the end of her life. She has no partner and no children, but, on the day after Yom Kippur, 17 friends from the congregation came to visit her, including current and former clergy, and grown children she used to...

  • Circumcise your heart: Parashat Ekev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25)

    July 24, 2013 | 4:09 pm

    A friend who works for the federal government wrote recently to say that because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), she was able to add her wife to the family’s insurance plan. “I never thought I would get emotional while on the phone with an...

  • Moving toward possibility

    August 1, 2012 | 12:03 pm

    Moses is 120 years old when, in this week’s Torah portion, Va’etchanan, he recalls his recent request of God: “I pleaded with the Eternal at that time, saying, ‘O Eternal God, You who let your servant see the first works of Your greatness and Your mighty hand, You whose...

  • When your brother will be low

    May 15, 2012 | 9:04 pm

    He flopped down on the couch in my study, looking pale, upset.

    “What is it?” I asked, imagining a bad diagnosis.

    “I had to lay off one of my workers today,” he said, fighting tears. “The poor guy says he only has two mortgage payments in his savings account.”

    “Any...

  • Unloading the emotional U-Haul

    January 4, 2012 | 1:02 pm

    A funeral director once said, “In all the funerals I’ve attended, I have yet to see a hearse with a U-Haul trailer attached.” But while it’s true that “you can’t take it with you,”meaning material possessions, I’m not so sure about emotional possessions. How many of...

  • A Moment to Focus

    March 29, 2010 | 4:45 pm

    I’ve taken to traveling light to avoid costly airline baggage charges. But my wife wisely reminds me that paying $25 to check luggage costs less than a chiropractor visit.

    My back already sore from a trip last week, I returned home in time to clean for Passover. I did what I do...

  • Unsung Heroes

    January 20, 2010 | 3:45 am

    Miep Gies died this month, weeks shy of her 101st birthday. Gies worked for Otto Frank’s Amsterdam pectin company and was the main caretaker of the Franks, including Anne, and the four other Jews who hid for 25 months in the business’ back rooms. Those hiding in the Secret Annex...

  • Esau’s Kiss

    December 2, 2009 | 12:05 am

    After their grandfather died, a friend and her brother sat with an attorney.

    “You never really know the strength of a sibling relationship until you inherit together,” the attorney said.

    The same can be true of other “inherited” and challenging situations and relationships...

  • Is It Sufficient?

    August 11, 2009 | 6:30 pm

    When I was a teenager, my friends and I used to laugh at the public service announcements that played nightly on television, back in the day of legal youth curfews: “It’s 11 p.m. Do you know where your children are?”

    As Shabbat Nachamu, the “Sabbath of Comfort,” drew to a...

  • Speak Up

    June 17, 2009 | 2:23 pm

    I recently had the privilege of listening to Rabbi Arik Ascherman, an American-born Israeli rabbi who, often at great physical risk to himself, advocates for others through the organization Rabbis for Human Rights. Ascherman mentioned this week’s Torah portion, Shelach-Lecha,...

  • Open Doors

    February 18, 2009 | 2:03 pm

    I’ve been a passionate admirer of Abraham Lincoln since third grade, when I read every biography I could grasp. My thoughts turn to Lincoln when I read the passage about slavery that begins this week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim, but more so now given the happy coincidence of the...

  • Crossing paths

    December 18, 2008 | 4:03 am

    A television comedy director on hiatus takes a brief journey to Eastern Europe to look for the birthplaces of her grandparents. While there, she meets a professor documenting the lives of the last remaining shtetl Jews. The professor encourages the director to visit a few of these...
  • Gay marriage ruling brings joy, faces fight

    May 22, 2008 | 11:00 am

    My phone has been ringing off the hook. My e-mail box is bulging. People are calling to get their wedding date on my calendar.

    "Rabbi, can we have you June 16?"

    "Rabbi, I'll be away until June 17, are you free that day?" "Hey, Lisa, can we plan a group ceremony down at the courthouse...

  • Commemorating Sorrows

    July 27, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    "Every head is ailing, and every heart is sad" (Isaiah 1.5). We read these words in this week's haftarah for Shabbat Khazon (Sabbath of Vision), the Shabbat before Tisha B'Av. The words seem especially poignant and true these past few weeks, as we watch in angst as events unfold in...

  • Life More Ordinary

    April 27, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    I recently visited a congregant in the hospital and was surprised to find a doctor crying in the hallway. I told her I was a rabbi and asked if I could help. The doctor immediately apologized for her tears.

    "It's been a hard week," she said, "I'll be OK."

    She told me she had just...

  • Wisdom of the Ages

    January 26, 2006 | 7:00 pm

    Ten years ago, when my parents, z"l, were 82 and 89, they traveled from Chicago to Los Angeles to be with my partner Tracy and me as we stood together under the chuppah. At the celebration of her daughter's lesbian wedding, my mother was heard to say quite matter-of-factly: "I guess...

  • The Many Faces

    October 27, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    "They both have dimples," Rachel's earnest classmate declared, "that's how you can tell they're sisters!"

    The explanation was simple enough -- no matter that 7-year-old Rachel has white skin and her 21-month-old sister, Angela, has black skin.

    I just spent the weekend with more...

  • Right the Wrongs

    August 4, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    Last January, I breathed a sigh of relief. The new domestic partnership law went into effect in the state of California, giving senior citizen and same-gender couples a range of state rights nearly equal to the rights given married couples in California.

    In so doing, California...

  • Why Scapegoat?

    April 21, 2005 | 8:00 pm

     

    On March 31, The New York Times ran an astonishing page: a photo showing Christian, Jewish and Muslim clerics gathered in what the newspaper called "a rare show of unity." What brought these sometime enemies together? The headline told the story: "Religious Chiefs Decry Gay Pride...

  • Another Chance

    March 3, 2005 | 7:00 pm

     

    With great sadness my friends decided to divorce in January 2001. They had given themselves one year into the new century to see if they could make it work, and it didn't seem as if they could. Then, in 2002, they happily reconciled. When asked why, they say Sept. 11 brought...

  • Right Words

    July 15, 2004 | 8:00 pm

    "Why do human fingers resemble pegs? So that if one hears something unseemly, one can plug one's fingers in one's ears." -- Babylonian Talmud Ketubot 5b

    Between political campaigns and summer weddings, we've been witnessing a lot of promises and vows lately. As a rule, I find...

  • Tend the Fire

    April 1, 2004 | 7:00 pm

    "Israel is not a people of definers but a people of witnesses." -- Abraham Joshua Heschel, "God in Search of Man" Among the several stunning memorials at Buchenwald concentration camp, designer Horst Hoheisel created a simple, flat steel square placed on the cold, hard ground and...

  • What’s in a Name?

    January 22, 2004 | 7:00 pm

    When Jews come across the biblical name for God -- spelled yod-hay-vav-hay in Hebrew -- custom teaches us to substitute the term Adonai ("my Lord"), for according to Jewish tradition those letters are the unpronounceable name of God. A rabbi professor of mine used to elicit nervous...

  • Permission to Grieve

    November 20, 2003 | 7:00 pm

    Years ago, one of my colleagues had the awesome task of officiating at the funeral of a 9-year-old girl killed by a car while riding her bicycle. My friend gathered the children from that small Jewish community and gently invited them to speak their true feelings.

    "I'm mad at my mom...

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