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God spoke from the fire Sounds were heard, but no shape seen Nothing but a voice


Deuteronomy 4:12:

God spoke to you out of the fire; you heard the sound of words but perceived no shape - nothing but a voice.

As he prepares to recite the Ten Commandments to the Israelites, Moses describes the scene at the foot of the mountain 40 years earlier - in the weeks after the people had left Egypt. The words are similar to those in First Kings which describe an encounter Elijah has with God, and from which we can learn something:


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The weather is warm, the ground is green, and you long ago shed your heavy coats and sweaters for more fluid and arm-revealing clothing. But if you're still trying to shed a few pounds to fit comfortably into last summer's shorts, I have a suggestion: Why not try "the Jewish diet"?

Ha!, you're saying. Brisket and bagels and kugel aren't going to help me. But wait a minute. Who said that's what constitutes Jewish food? Not me. If I had said "the Mediterranean diet," you would have thought of ...

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Not your burning question upon awakening this morning? I understand. But I would imagine that some might ask this upon learning that I, a rabbi, recently returned from a four-day long canoe trip with a group of Jewish summer campers from URJ Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute. For while I am indeed a water-loving, former-lifeguarding adult, I’m certainly no pro at canoeing or camping - and while it’s always great to have more hands on a camp tiyul (trip), one could argue that there were already four competent counselors accompanying the 17 teenagers...

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Thirty summers ago, I visited Universal Studios on a family vacation. My favorite part of the back-lot tour was the 1970s van sitting in an empty parking lot. Although it appeared to be a standard seventies junk-mobile, the van was made of Styrofoam, making it possible for me to lift the entire “vehicle” with just one hand and hold the rear bumper high over my head. Somewhere, I have a photo of my dad “rescuing” me from under the van. It always reminds me of how much I wanted to grow up and save the day, just like my dad.

Two other, more famous photos – taken 50 summers ago –...

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Since celebrating my 50th birthday, I have enjoyed attaining many milestones: half a century of life, 25 years of marriage, the graduation of all three of our children, and the publication of my wife’s and my first book. Each has had bittersweet moments, including the most recent milestone, the completion of my first colonoscopy.

Most people cringe at the mention of this invasive procedure. Most everybody seems uncomfortable discussing...

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