Trust the Jews to begin the holiest moment of the year on Yom Kippur not with a prayer, but with an ambiguous declaration. The Kol Nidre is not a prayer; it is a text that
In my new capacity as the son of an Alzheimer's victim, I have many questions. Some of them are Jewish questions. One kept me up for hours the other night, leading me to my bookshelf at 3 a.m., combing through volumes to see what insights I might glean. What happens to the soul during Alzheimer's?
Rabbi Friedman was talking about the human soul as if it had a mind of its own, a very confident mind.
The date was going really well. The conversation was flowing. We were practically finishing each other's sentences.
Elul is traditionally a month for polishing the soul. During this time, we search ourselves for blemishes. Then, through the process of teshuvah, we polish and refine ourselves. The culmination of this refinement is the fast of Yom Kippur, from which we hope to emerge shining and radiant.
It's been two years this week since my mother, Betty Switkes, died, and we still haven't had the unveiling. Jewish custom dictates that you unveil the headstone a year after the person dies, but my father has not found the right stone or the right words to inscribe on that stone, so she rests in this unmarked grave. People who pass by this spot might suspect the person buried here is a forgotten soul, but nothing could be further from the truth. She is the focus of his obsession.
I worry about children who are told they must get every answer correct. I worry about kids told there's no room for second best. I worry about the child who must always be the star. If we demand success each time, and leave no room for failure, our children's dreams will shrink to fit their certainties. They will play it safe and never try too hard, never reach too far, never put too much of themselves into any pursuit. It is entirely possible to exalt the mind while crushing the soul.
Exploring the stack of old Jewish cookbooks and family recipes my mother brought to me when she visited from Atlanta, I found a note. On the top of a small white paper, in her handwriting, were the words Rosh Hashanah, and then the list; Apple Charlie, Challah, Kugel, Green Bean Salad, Brisket.
Summer is over, now the real work starts.
Israeli politics is always a mix of high drama and low comedy, but the current fight within Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's divided government is anything but entertaining for Jewish leaders here.
Israeli commentators have noted that it is a struggle for the soul of the Likud party. How that turns out will have consequences for the U.S.-Israel relationship and on Israel's already-low standing around the world.
"Love is a fine thing," the Yiddish saying goes, "but love with noodles is even tastier."
There are stories that one needs to hear many times in order to remember them, in order to file them in a manner that they can be retrieved when needed.
Joseph's life is linked to dreams from his youth, and the way in which he responds to dreams reflects the level of his maturity.
This week, we break the linear reading of Torah to honor the holy day of Shemini Atzeret, the eighth day of assembly, a day added to the seven days of Sukkot.