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 baby-sit.
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 insurance company, but I did.”
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 powerful deeds no god in heaven or on earth can equal! Let me, I pray, cross over and see the good land on the other side of the Jordan, that good hill country, and the Lebanon’ ” (Deuteronomy 3:23-25).
He flopped down on the couch in my study, looking pale, upset. “What is it?” I asked, imagining a bad diagnosis.
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 us have walked behind a casket where lay the body of a relative or friend with whom we were still talking? Or, wrenchingly, with whom we never had the conversation we meant to have?
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.
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 managed, with the help of Gies, her husband and four co-workers, to evade capture by the Nazis until August 1944. Dispersed to various concentration camps, only Anne’s father returned alive. Upon hearing of his daughters’ deaths, Miep Gies handed Otto Frank Anne’s diary, which she had found and stashed in her desk drawer after the hiding place was discovered by the Nazis.
After their grandfather died, a friend and her brother sat with an attorney.
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?”
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.
Parshat Vayeshev (Genesis 37:1-40:23) How about, for starters -- crossed path by crossed path, person by person, angel by angel -- a rescued world?
We're goin' to the chuppa, and we're gonna get married . . . .
"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 Israel, Lebanon and Gaza.
In this week's double Torah portion, Tazria-Metzorah (Leviticus 13, in particular), God instructs Moses and Aaron on the role of priests when people take ill.
Amazingly, two-thirds of all the people who have ever lived past the age of 65 in the history of the world are alive today, according to Ken Dychtwald, author of "The Power Years: A User's Guide to the Rest of Your Life." This suggests that our way-beyond octogenarians in the Bible were the exception, not the rule.
I just spent the weekend with more than 125 people (including 50 children) who came together because they are Jews with widely varying ethnicities and skin colors. They stay together because the intention of Bechol Lashon (In Every Tongue) -- the initiative on ethnic and racial diversity in the Jewish community and the sponsor of the weekend -- is to provide a time of learning and play in a Jewish atmosphere offering more than welcome.
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 became second only to Massachusetts in seeking to extend the civil rights of its residents, and many members of the Los Angeles Jewish community, myself included, knew we finally had the legal protections in place that are so critically important to the security of our families.
In response to the three clerics who made the front page of The New York Times, in just one week several hundred clergy, mostly from the United States, signed on to a letter of support for WorldPride in Jerusalem, saying, among other things, that "Jerusalem, a living, holy city, a pilgrimage site for people of many faiths and many beliefs, increases in holiness when all are welcome within her walls."
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 them back together; it helped them refocus their priorities.
Torah Portion. "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
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.
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.