The Fragrance of Life
Storytelling / April 4, 2016

Our senses are bound up with our emotions in some way I cannot explain. Many among the Chasidim use the senses to both enter and leave Shabbat: sight (candlelight), sound (the brachot, especially when sung), taste (wine or grape juice) and smell (fragrant spices), and in the Sefaradi tradition it also occupies our sense of touch, for the spices are often attached to the branch, and it is the Sefaradi wording I use here. I tell time one way when I go about our normal routine, another when I observe Shabbat, but what of time between them? This is a liminal time, a time when I am clearly not in my normal routine but not yet fully imbued with Shabbat. The use of my senses to enter Shabbat is as twilight, it goes by in the blink of my eye, and yet during this twilight I enter from routine to rest.

Children Who Build
Storytelling / April 3, 2016

I became learned of God because it’s otherwise impossible to recover from alcoholism and addiction. And no one learned of God, I think, engages in war. What about all the wars we fight, you ask? Well, what of them? Are they imposed by “children, learned of God?” Yes? Are you certain? The key word here is learned, and no one who is learned imposes war. Yes, yes, the Torah recounts battles and warfare — but read these passages carefully: the Torah less commands war than permits it in specific circumstances; even so, it’s impossible to refute that warfare is commanded, however, the Torah in doing so legislates laws of war. And pay special attention to Jacob, a man who previously never displays his temper, after Shimon and Lévi slaughter Sh’chem.

A Crisis To Oppress Me
Storytelling / April 1, 2016

Some human anger, far too much human anger, acts like a shroud before it acts like an acid, eating away at me. Imagine, however, this anger: a trusted, loved, admired caregiver expresses such disappointment in me that I feel it physically — this is what the Psalmist describes. The Hebrew word, actually, is not “anger” — it literally means “Your heat.” Heat? Heat is something we feel, and it this feeling the Psalmist wants us to somehow assimilate. Heat rises and dissipates. Anger becomes resentment as it rises and dissipates. I have room in my life for a Higher Power who motivates crisis, for from crisis I have acquired maturity. I do not, however, have room in my life for a Higher Power who motivates my resentments. Nor should anyone.