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An angel of God Seen by the talking donkey But not by Balaam             Torah stories don't get much stranger than this week's tale of Balak, King of Moab, who calls upon Balaam, a non-Jewish prophet, to curse the Israelites. This one includes a talking donkey, a prophet unable to see an angel of God, and a blessing where a curse was requested.   God tells Balaam not to go with Balak (Num. 22:12), but the prophet asks again. God relents, but with the warning that "whatever I command you, that you shall do." (Num. 22:20), and we are told "God was incensed at his... Read More

Every year on the Fourth of July, my mother and stepfather host about 50 people, newborns to retirees, at a multigenerational backyard party at their home in suburban New Jersey. We schmooze around the grill, cool off in the pool or with a beer, and shuck corn on the cob. My sister Barrie makes an American flag berry cake, and my sister Cheryl makes a cake that looks like a hamburger. Fireworks light the night sky. It’s all typical Independence Day stuff.

But we also do something unique that I wish were more universal: We mindfully read aloud the...

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Last Shabbat, I was excited to attend services at my home congregation with our participants in the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism's Machon Kaplan work/study program. During the sermon remarks, Rabbi Danny Zemel (who I’m lucky to call my dad) reflected on a piece of Temple Micah’s mission statement as part of a discussion about events in the last two weeks in Charleston, S.C., and the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality: “[At Temple Micah] we...

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What do we read when there are no good words? As I thought about the text to teach following the tragedy at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, my mind fixed on the nine murdered. Murdered in their church, a holy sanctuary of God. Murdered because of who they were – because of the color of their skin.

I turned not to the five scrolls of Torah, but to the book of Lamentations, called in Hebrew simply Eicha. Alas! Lament!

It is a text full of sorrow and outrage and pain. While the text itself was written in response to the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem in 586...

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“It’s almost like being home.”

This was the response of a young soldier at Forward Operating Base Taji, Iraq, following the Passover seder in 2005. As I traveled throughout the country, seder participants were amazed and touched that a rabbi would reach out to them in their remote locations to create a small island of familiar and comforting ritual. Privates sitting next to captains, it didn’t matter. Singing "Dayenu" together transcended the usual barriers of rank and assignment.

Two thousand and five was...

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