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Tishah B'Av

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Last night, for the first time ever, I attended a Tishah B’Av study session – a joint venture between my own Temple Shaaray Tefila and Or Olam - The East 55th Street Synagogue, a neighboring Conservative congregation. Bookended by the singing of Hashiveinu, the hour-long gathering included beautiful chantings from Lamentations in both Hebrew and English, as well as a reading of Flavius Josephus’ eyewitness account of Jerusalem following its destruction by the Romans. The evening was rounded out by small group discussions in which we attempted to unravel the Talmudic tale of Kamza and Bar...

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My son’s birthday is in July. Last year, we sent out invitations to his bunkmates for a typical kindergartener’s birthday bash - pizza and ice cream cake at a moon-bounce place. One of the responses I got was from a parent who wanted to make sure I knew that we had scheduled Elishai’s birthday on Tishah B’Av, the 9th of Av, a major fast day commemorating the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. While I think there was good intention in that email, there was an element of "Gotcha!" in it as well. What rabbi would schedule a kid’s birthday party on Tishah B’av?  I replied that we did, in...

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In order to control the world around you, you must first be able to control yourself.

When everything seems to be spinning out of control, it is often not what is happening outside that is the root of the problem, but what is happening inside.

This concept not only applies to individuals, but also to groups.

This past week, the front page of my newspaper in Israel presented different variations of the same headline every day.

“Day after attack on soldier, ultra-Orthodox neighborhood unabashed”

“Two charged in attack on ultra-Orthodox soldier”

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I had a friend in college named Ray. He was a good guy. He had a lot of the qualities I thought I lacked when I was in college. Ray was good looking, athletic and charismatic. He was a running back on the school's football team. He loved to hang around with attractive women, and they seemed to love hanging around him, too. 

Ray also was smart and had a good heart. He and I were allies in student government. We worked together on a campaign to get our school to divest from companies that did business in South Africa. It was a strategy to put pressure on a racist, apartheid...

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We sat among the willows, and we wept, there by the river that flowed clear and cold and swift, --branches dancing, barely dancing-- as they swayed and swept the ground. We stood among the weeping trees, Prayers mixed with visions of ash. and smoke that rose and billowed, Black against purple-stained blue -- the blue of periwinkles and royalty-- and a sky smudged with soot and an absence of color and Light, and the altars we had left behind. How can we sing with no stone walls adorned with lapis and gold: -- the blue of royalty and the blaze of the sun-- How, before that pillar of fire,...

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