The Song of the Sea

The Dvar/article below is also available as a Podcast, simply click any of the following options: Apple, Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud,  &/or Youtube. ________________________________________________________ Our parashah of Beshalach opens with:  וַיְהִ֗י בְּשַׁלַּ֣ח פַּרְעֹה֮ אֶת־הָעָם֒ וְלֹא־נָחָ֣ם אֱלֹהִ֗ים דֶּ֚רֶךְ אֶ֣רֶץ פְּלִשְׁתִּ֔ים כִּ֥י קָר֖וֹב ה֑וּא כִּ֣י ׀ אָמַ֣ר אֱלֹהִ֗ים פֶּֽן־יִנָּחֵ֥ם הָעָ֛ם בִּרְאֹתָ֥ם מִלְחָמָ֖ה וְשָׁ֥בוּ מִצְרָֽיְמָה. וַיַּסֵּ֨ב אֱלֹהִ֧ים ׀ אֶת־הָעָ֛ם דֶּ֥רֶךְ הַמִּדְבָּ֖ר יַם־ס֑וּף וַחֲמֻשִׁ֛ים עָל֥וּ בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם. “When Pharaoh sent the people forth, Hashem did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although it was nearby. For Hashem said, “The people may reconsider when they see battle, and they will return to Egypt. So Hashem led the people roundabout by way of the desert to the Red Sea.” Introduction: Paths to Redemption The lesson that keeps coming up is that the path to the Promised Land – and to holiness – is fraught with …

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Sing to the Moon

The Dvar/article below is also available as a Podcast, simply click any of the following options: Apple, Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud,  &/or Youtube. ________________________________________________________ Hey there, you, shattered in a thousand pieces Weeping in the darkest nights Hey there, you, try to stand up on your own two feet And stumble into the sky When the lights go out and you’re on your own How’re you gonna make it through till the morning sun’ Sing to the moon and the stars will shine Over you, lead you to the other side Sing to the moon and the stars will shine Over you, heaven’s gonna turn the time These are the lyrics to the gorgeous song “Sing to the Moon” by Laura Mvulla. If music has the power to heal, then hers can resurrect the dead. Waxing and Waning: With Darkness Comes Light …

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From On High

The Dvar/article below is also available as a Podcast, simply click any of the following options: Apple, Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud,  &/or Youtube. ________________________________________________________ Introduction: There’s levels to this  This week’s parashah of Va’eira opens with Hashem saying, “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El Shaddai, but by My Name YHVH- ה׳, I did not make myself known to them.” We learn from this pasuk that there are levels to revelation. Hashem tells Moshe that he did not reveal the full vision of redemption to the Patriarchs. Rashi explains that even without seeing this full vision, the Avot (Patriarchs) did not question Hashem’s compassion and devoted themselves to Godliness.  Reb Natan of Breslov explains that Hashem is telling us to be like the Avot, not to despair when life’s challenges emerge, because we cannot see the full picture …

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MLK and paving the way

The article below is also available as a Podcast, simply click any of the following options: Apple, Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud,  &/or Youtube. ________________________________________________________ When Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. asked Rabbi Everett Gendler to help in Albany, GA., Gendler replied, “Even though my furniture had not yet arrived, I felt the need to respond to Rev. King’s prophetic appeal to conscience.” He walked hand in hand with MLK and the Torah in Selma joined by one of my favorite Theologian/Poet/Philosopher, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. When Heschel was asked upon his return from the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights march with Dr. Martin Luther King, “Did you find time to pray?” he famously answered, “I prayed with my feet.” Some of Heschel’s most famous philosophical works charge human beings to sanctify time and space and to rediscover the power of wonder. Heschel’s …

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Rescue The Needy

The Dvar/article below is also available as a Podcast, simply click any of the following options: Apple, Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud,  &/or Youtube. ________________________________________________________ I remember being a music director at WMUC, in Maryland. I was in college and record labels would send in their music with one sheets (accompanying pages with an elevator pitch), hoping their songs would make it into our radio station’s rotation. I saw one album named Pharaoh’s Daughter that caught my attention. It was released by Michael Dorf under his Jewish imprint via the Knitting Factory club(s) that he owned, which I first heard of because of the hip hop group The Roots and then more by some of the incredible New York free-jazz musicians I followed. I ended up performing at the Knitting Factory a bunch and befriending Michael Dorf, but while in college, it was …

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Take Your Broken Heart, Make It Into Art

The Dvar/article below is also available as a Podcast, simply click any of the following options: Apple, Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud,  &/or Youtube. ________________________________________________________ Carrie Fisher used to say, “take your broken heart, make it into art.” It’s incredible how we are able to turn tragedy into triumph and our own dark moments into light and hope for others. Last week, we spoke about our interconnectedness, and there’s nowhere we see this more than in art. The stories that are the most popular in films and literature play off the primary story arcs which include rises, falls and, oftentimes, navigating both over and over. A few examples: “Rags to Riches” (rise), “Riches to Rags” (fall), “Cinderella” (rise then fall then rise), “Oedipus” (fall then rise then fall). Most stories that resonate play off of this. And this is seen in the Torah, …

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every line that I’ve drawn that points back to you

The Dvar/article below is also available as a Podcast, simply click any of the following options: Apple, Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud,  &/or Youtube. ________________________________________________________ It seems that each of our lives is a string of struggles to feel aligned in the most elevated ways. Finding our purpose is certainly the first step to being able to tap into the elevated space, but because of how hard it is to maintain being in that space, we fall, we question, sometimes we rebel against the truth because of it’s seemingly transient feeling. What we don’t seem to tap into enough is our interconnectedness, and the fact that we are all part of the same being, elements of a whole Soul connected on high. In this parashah of Vayigash we read: כּל־הַנֶּ֧פֶשׁ לְבֵֽית־יַעֲקֹ֛ב הַבָּ֥אָה מִצְרַ֖יְמָה שִׁבְעִֽים “The entire soul (nefesh) of Yakov’s household who entered …

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Karma Came Quickly

The Dvar/article below is also available as a Podcast, simply click any of the following options: Apple, Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud,  &/or Youtube. ________________________________________________________ We saw last week that Yosef’s karma came quickly: everything that he reported to his father about his brothers came back to him. He shared how his brothers were eating flesh cut off from a living animal, and his brothers sold him, cutting him off from the family. He told Yakov how the brothers treated the sons of the handmaids with contempt and called them slaves, and then “Yosef was sold for a slave.” Because he shared with his father that his brothers were acting immorally, Yosef’s “master’s wife cast her eyes upon him,” and he landed in prison in Egypt for two years. In this week’s parashah, the same karma befalls the brothers: they are accused of …

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The Three Sided Story

The Dvar/article below is also available as a Podcast, simply click any of the following options: Apple, Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud,  &/or Youtube. ________________________________________________________ Blessings don’t come easily in this world. Everything of great value comes through hardship. Even peace itself comes from being diligent in bittul (self-transcendence), choosing how to navigate our reactions. The deeper and more meaningful a relationship is the better the chances are of having difficult elements to work through. If you want to go deep in a relationship, there will be work to get through so that each person feels that they are being heard and loved in the way that they need. It’s similar in relationships between parents and children: the amount of love a parent feels for their child is indescribable, but it comes from a constant giving of one’s emotional and physical faculties. In …

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Where Soul Meets Body

The Dvar/article below is also available as a Podcast, simply click any of the following options: Apple, Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud,  &/or Youtube. ________________________________________________________ We all have encountered Esavs in our lives, whether as a part of ourselves or manifested in various people we encounter. Yakov demonstrates through these parshiot the various ways to overcome Esav and the yetzer hara (evil inclination) he represents. In last week’s parashah, we see Yakov asking only for food and clothing. He’s a picture of the simple tzadik, “ish tam, yoshev ohalim” (a righteous man sitting in tents, learning Torah).  At this stage of his life, he was fearful of Lavan and Esav and would flee and run from his troubles. But in this week’s parashah of Vayishlach, we see a more mature Yakov: he has accumulated material wealth because he knows how to spiritualize it, …

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