Workshops, seminars and courses that inspire full-hearted living

Teachings

Korach: Demagogue

Dear Friends, I composed this piece a year ago, highlighting Judaism’s insistent and insightful understanding of the dangers of demagoguery. A year later, sadly, tragically, dangerously, the demagogue who was …

The Quiet Eminence of My Being

Dear Friends, In May I had the privilege of teaching a class on the writing of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel of blessed memory. His words resonate with relevance across the …

LISTEN: Parshat Hashavua Beha’alotcha – Spiritual Boot Camp

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/parshat-hashavua-behaalotcha-060817mp3-spiritual-boot-camp

Your People Shall Be My People, and Your God My God

Ruth replied, “Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your …

LISTEN: Parshat Hashavua Bamidbar – The First Born

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/parshat-hashavua-bamidbar-052517mp3-the-first-born

LISTEN: The Rise of AntiSemitism and Ways To Combat It

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/the-rise-of-antisemitism-and-ways-to-combat-it-052317mp3

LISTEN: Abraham Joshua Heschel – A Prophet for Our Times #5

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/abraham-joshua-heschel-a-prophet-for-our-times-5-052317mp3

LISTEN: Parshat Hashavua Behar Bechukotai – The Profound Meaning of the Sabbatical Year

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/parshat-hashavua-behar-bechukotai-051817mp3-the-profound-meaning-of-the-sabbatical-year?fb_action_ids=10155041260379473&fb_action_types=soundcloud%3Apublish

The Fire-Keeper

Dear Friends, I find it disorienting but also amazing how the landscape of American Jewish life has changed in my lifetime. When I was a kid, if you married “out”, …

Kedoshim: Core Jewish Values

V’ahavta l’re’echa kamocha Love your fellow human being as yourself (Leviticus 19:18) “This is the central principle of the Torah” (Rabbi Akiva, 2nd C C.E.) “The rest is commentary – …

LISTEN: Parshat Hashavua Acharei Mot/Kedoshim “Core Jewish Values”

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/parshat-hashavua-acharei-mot-kedoshim-050417mp3-core-jewish-values

LISTEN: Abraham Joshua Heschel, A Prophet for Our Times #2 “To Grow in Wisdom”

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/abraham-joshua-heschel-a-prophet-for-our-times-2-050217mp3

LISTEN: Parshat Hashavua Tazria-Metzora: Losing Integrity

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/parshat-hashavua-tazria-metzora-042717mp3-losing-integrity

LISTEN: Abraham Joshua Heschel, A Prophet for Our Times Class 1 Religion and Racism

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/abraham-joshua-heschel-a-prophet-for-our-times-1-042517mp3

On Tyranny: A Passover Message

My dear friend and esteemed colleague Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum recommended a little book for me to read, and now I want to recommend it to all of you. The book …

LISTEN: Parshat Hashavua – Vayakhel/Pekudei

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/parshat-hashavua-vayachel-03232017mp3

LISTEN: Parshat Ki Tisa – The Golden Calf

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/parshat-hashavua-ki-tisa-031617

Passover Is Coming!

Dear Members and Friends of Kehillat Lev Shalem, As spring arrives (in fits and starts!), with it another Passover approaches. As much as I thrill at the promise of spring, …

Join Special Guest Rabbi Miriam Margles and Rabbi Jonathan Kligler for this very special weekend, “Going Deep: Tapping the Wellsprings of Love and Courage”

U’vayom hashvi’i shavat vayinafash And on the seventh day [God] paused from labor and [God’s] spirit was restored. (Exodus 33:17) This famous passage appears in this week’s Torah portion, Ki …

LISTEN: Parshat Hashavua Tetzaveh: Light in the Darkness

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/parshat-hashavua-tetzaveh-030917-lighting-your-light-in-the-darkness-mp3mp3

LISTEN: Parshat Hashavua -Terumah

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/parshat-hashavua-terumah-030217mp3

Combating Anti-Semitism

Dear Friends, You are likely aware that anti-Semitic incidents are on a dangerous rise around the United States. Most prominently there have been dozens of bomb threats against Jewish Community …

Meetings with Remarkable People in Israel

Dear Friends, Our tour of Israel, “Meetings with Remarkable People”, has come to an end, and it exceeded all of our expectations. I know I can speak for everyone in …

Shabbat Shalom from Kibbutz Ketura

Dear Friends, While the snow continues to fall in the Hudson Valley, we have arrived in the very south of Israel, a desert landscape of beige and brown. The climate …

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem!

Dear Friends, Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem! I am in the midst of an incredibly stimulating and well-planned tour of Israel with a great group of 33 individuals ranging in age …

LISTEN: Parshat Hashavua – Va’era: How To Confront a Pharaoh

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/parshat-hashavua-vaera-012617mp3-how-to-confront-a-pharaoh

Inspiration from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel z”l

Dear Friends, I am preparing to lead the Woodstock Jewish Congregation’s trip to Israel, “Meetings with Remarkable People.” I fly out this Saturday night, and our group convenes in Jerusalem …

An Inauguration Day Message: George Washington’s Letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport

Dear Friends, In August of 1790, George Washington visited Newport, Rhode Island as a good will gesture, Rhode Island having recently ratified the U.S. Constitution after a contentious delay and …

Martin Luther King Is My Rabbi

Dear Friends, I am sharing with you the piece I wrote a year ago for the Shabbat preceding our national holiday celebrating the birthday of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, …

LISTEN: Parshat Hashavua, Vayechi: Jacob on His Deathbed

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/parshat-hashavua-vayechi-011217mp3-jacob-on-his-deathbed

LISTEN: In the Tent of Abraham: The Mystical Heart of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, Class 8 – “The Divine Feminine, and the Emerging Role of Women”

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/in-the-tent-of-abraham-011017mp3-the-divine-feminine-and-the-emerging-role-of-women

LISTEN: Vayigash: Serach bat Asher, the Memory Keeper

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/parshat-hashavua-vayigash-010517-mp3-serach-bat-asher-the-memory-keeper

Remembering the Words of Rev. Martin Niemoller

The column below appears in the print version of the WJC Winter Program Guide. A number of readers asked if they could also have these words in electronic form so …

LISTEN: In the Tent of Abraham: The Mystical Heart of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, Class 7 – “The Purpose of Prayer”

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/tent-of-abraham-010317-the-purpose-of-prayermp3

Miketz: Sparks of Light in a Broken World – In Memory of Leonard Cohen

Va’yar Ya’akov ki yesh shever b’mitzrayim And Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt (Genesis 42:1) We lost a sage of our era with Leonard Cohen’s passing last month. …

LISTEN: Parshat Hashavua 12/22/16 Vayeshev: Tamar and Judah

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/parshat-hashavua-vayeshev-122216mp3-tamar-and-judah

LISTEN: In the Tent of Abraham: The Mystical Heart of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, Class 6 “Into the Mystical Heart”

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/in-the-tent-of-abraham-122016-the-mystical-heart-of-religionmp3

LISTEN: Parshat Hashavua 12/15/16 Vayishlach “In what ways was Jacob responsible for the rape of Dina, his daughter?”

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/parshat-hashavuah-121516-vayishlachmp3

A Chanukah Message from the White House

Dear Friends, On Wednesday, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted an early Hanukkah ceremony and reception at the White House. I found President Obama’s remarks so clear …

LISTEN: In the Tent of Abraham: the Mystical Heart of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, class 5 – Islam Grapples with Modernity

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/in-the-tent-of-abraham-121316-islam-and-modernitymp3

Our Muslim Brothers and Sisters

On the top of the front page of this past Tuesday’s New York Times print edition, there is a beautiful photo of two women embracing. One of the women is …

LISTEN: Parshat Hashavua 12.09.16 Vayetze – A Fresh Look at Leah

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/parshat-hashavua-120916-vayetze-a-fresh-look-at-leahmp3

LISTEN: In the Tent of Abraham – the Mystical Heart of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, Class 4: The Life of Muhammad

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/in-the-tent-of-abraham-120616-the-life-of-muhammadmp3

LISTEN: Reclaiming the centrality of Rebecca in Genesis

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/parshat-hashavua-120116-toldot-rebeccamp3

LISTEN: “In The Tent of Abraham: The Mystical Heart of Islam, Christianity and Judaism”, Class 3 What is Sufism?

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/tent-of-abraham-112916-what-is-sufismmp3

LISTEN: In the Tent of Abraham – The Mystical Heart of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, Class 2 “Islam 101”

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/in-the-tent-of-abraham-112216-islam-101mp3

Vayera: Doing What is Right and Just

Well, this is going to be the strangest Thanksgiving in my memory, as we confront an incoming U.S. administration that is trafficking in messages of unprecedented intolerance, division and fear. …

LISTEN: Parshat Hashavua Class with Rabbi Jonathan – Vayera (Genesis ch. 18-22)

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/parshat-hashavua-vayera-111716mp3

LISTEN: In the Tent of Abraham: The Mystical Heart of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/in-the-tent-of-abraham-the-mystical-heart-of-islam-christianity-and-judaism-class-1-111516mp3

A Harvest from the High Holy Days

Dear Friends, I am writing on the day after Simchat Torah – a roomful of happy people of all ages danced with the Torah scrolls and each other, lifted up …

LISTEN: Parshat Hashavua Introduction – How To Look at Torah 102016

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/parshat-hashavua-introduction-how-to-look-at-torah-102016mp3-1

Aliyot and Blessings, High Holy Days at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation 5777/2016

Dear Friends, It is our custom at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation to choose themes when we call people up to the Torah, and all who feel moved by that theme …

“Why Do We Read the Story of Jonah on Yom Kippur?” A Yom Kippur Teaching

The Hebrew Bible is an anthology of writings. It not only includes the Five Books of Moses, which are contained in our Torah scroll, but also the many books of …

Seven Is the Magic Number: A Rosh Hashanah Teaching for 5777

As a lover of numbers, I am greatly intrigued by this new Jewish year, 5777. We’ll see it only once a millennium, and I think it is worthy of our …

Nitzavim: Choose Life!

Ha’edoti va’chem ha’yom et ha’shamayim v’et ha’aretz: ha’chayim v’ha’mavet natati l’fanecha, ha’bracha v’ha’klala. u’vacharta ba’chayim, l’ma’an tichyeh atah v’zarecha. I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day: …

Ki Tavo: The Inner Witness

Arur makeh re’ehu ba’sateir – v’amar kol ha’am “Amen” Cursed be the one who strikes down their fellow in secret – and all the people shall say, “Amen”. (Deuteronomy 27:24) …

LISTEN: Spiritual Preparation for the High Holy Days (2) with Rabbi Jonathan

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/spiritual-preparation-for-the-high-holy-days-2-091516mp3

LISTEN: Spiritual Preparation for the High Holy Days with Rabbi Jonathan Kligler

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/spiritual-preparation-for-high-holy-days-090816mp3

Re’eh: Open Your Hand

Pato’ach tiftach et yadcha l’achicha, l’aniyecha u’le’evyoncha b’artzecha You must open, open your hand to the poor and to the needy in your land. (Deuteronomy 15:11) Sometimes the Torah reveals …

D’varim: Finding Your Voice

B’ever ha’Yarden b’eretz Moav ho’il Moshe be’er et hatorah hazot On the far side of the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to explain this Torah (Deuteronomy 1:5) …

Matot-Mas’ei: The Inner Journey

Eileh mas’ei V’nei Yisrael asher yatz’u me’eretz Mitzrayim These are the journeys of the Children of Israel after leaving the Land of Egypt (B’Midbar 33:1) As we reach the end …

Pinchas: The Daughters of Tzelofechad Step Forward

Dear Friends, I could not help but feel stirred last night as I watched Hillary Clinton become the first woman ever to be nominated by a major political party for …

Balak: Mah Tovu – How Good It Is

Mah tovu ohalecha Ya’akov, mishkenotecha Yisrael How goodly are your tents, Jacob, your dwelling places, Israel (Numbers 24:5) The Israelites are journeying toward the Jordan River, and pass through the …

Chukat: Confronting Mortality

Va’yavo’u B’nei Yisrael kol ha’edah Midbar Tzin bachodesh harishon vayeshev ha’am b’Kadesh. Vatamot sham Miriam vatikaver sham. V’lo haya mayim la’edah. And all the Children of Israel arrived at the …

Korach: Demagogue

Vayikhalu al Moshe v’Aharon vayomru aleihem: “Rav lachem, ki chol ha’edah kulam kedoshim u’v’tocham YHVH – u’madua titnas’u al k’hal YHVH?” And [Korach and his followers] gathered against Moses and …

Shlach Lecha: Healing the Crushed Spirit

Va’nehi b’eineinu kachagavim, v’chen hayinu b’eineihem We looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, so we certainly must have looked that way to them. (B’midbar 13:33) The Children of Israel are preparing …

Beha’alotcha: Are We There Yet?

Va’yehi ha’am k’mit’onenim ra b’oznei YHVH. The people took to complaining bitterly before YHVH (B’midbar 11:1) After more than a year encamped at Mount Sinai, the time has come for …

A Message from Rabbi Jonathan

Dear Friends, I pause from my weekly Torah commentary, compelled to speak about pressing matters, locally and nationally. Locally, here at our beloved Kehillat Lev Shalem, we learned this week …

B’Midbar: Everyone Counts

Se’u et rosh kol adat B’nei Yisrael… Take a head-count of the entire community of the Children of Israel… (B’midbar 1:2) Sefer B’Midbar, the fourth book of the Torah, begins …

Watch this video about “Judaism and Christianity: Shared Origins, Different Paths”

This year, Reverend Matthew Wright and I led an incredibly enlightening series of classes in which we explored the connections and differences between Judaism and Christianity. Rev. Susan Auchincloss had …

B’chukotai: Fear Itself

V’radaf otam kol aleh nidaf…V’chashlu ish b’achiv mipnei cherev v’rodef ayin The mere sound of a wind-driven leaf will put them to flight…even though no one is pursuing them, they …

Behar: We Do Not Own the Earth

V’ha’aretz lo timacher l’tzmitut, ki li ha’aretz, ki gerim v’toshavim atem imadi The land cannot be sold in perpetuity, for the land belongs to Me, and you are but temporary …

Emor: An Eye for an Eye?

V’ish ki yiten mum ba’amito, ka’asher asah ken ya’aseh lo: shever tachat shever, ayin tachat ayin, shen tachat shen. Ka’asher yiten mum ba’adam, ken yinaten bo.  A person who inflicts …

LISTEN: The Spring Jewish Holidays – Yom Hashoah

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/spring-jewish-holidays-050416-yom-hashoahmp3

The Mitzvah of Tochecha: Tough Love

Lo tisna et achicha bilvavecha; hochei’ach tochi’ach et amitecha v’lo tisa alav chet. Do not hate your brother or sister in your heart; you must admonish, yes, admonish them or …

Acharei Mot: The First Yom Kippur

V’hayta la’chem l’chukat olam: ba’chodesh ha’shvi’I be’asor lachodesh t’anu et nafshoteichem, v’chol m’lacha lo ta’asu, ha’ezrach v’hager hagar b’tochechem. Ki va’yom hazeh y’chaper aleichem l’taher etchem mikol chatoteichem… And this …

Passover: Our Season of Love and Liberation

This weekend my dear friend, colleague, author, composer and pioneer in Jewish spirituality Rabbi Shefa Gold will be leading a workshop under the auspices of the Lev Shalem Institute of …

In Praise of “The New Haggadah”

V’chol ha’marbeh l’saper b’yetziat Mitzrayim harei zeh meshubach. And whoever expands upon the story of the Exodus from Egypt is worthy of praise (from the Passover Haggadah) As is my …

LISTEN: The Spring Jewish Holidays – more inspiration for Passover!

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/the-spring-jewish-holidays-passover-041416mp3

LISTEN: The Spring Jewish Holidays: The History of Passover and the Haggadah

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/the-spring-jewish-holidays-passover-040716mp3

Shmini: What Happened to Nadav and Avihu?

Va’yikchu v’nei Aharon, Nadav v’Avihu, ish machtato va’yitnu va’hen esh va’yasimu aleha ketoret va’yakrivu lifnei YHVH esh zarah asher lo tziva otam. Va’tetzei esh milifnei YHVH va’tochal otam va’yamutu lifnei …

LISTEN: The Spring Jewish Holidays 033116 – More Deep Teachings About Purim

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/the-spring-jewish-holidays-033116mp3

Tzav: The Haftarah as Commentary and Critique

Va’yedaber YHVH el Moshe leimor: Tzav et Aharon v’et banav leimor: Zot torat ha’olah… And YHVH spoke to Moses, saying: Command Aaron and his sons thus: These are the instructions …

Shabbat Zachor: The Origins of Amalek

Zachor et asher asah lecha Amalek ba’derech b’tzeitchem miMitzrayim, asher korcha ba’derech va’yezanev b’cha kol ha’necheshalim acharecha, v’atah ayef v’yageia v’lo yarei Elohim. Remember what Amalek did to you on …

LISTEN: The Spring Jewish Holidays 031716 Purim 02

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/spring-jewish-holidays-031716mp3

Pekudei: A Happy Ending

Va’y’chal Moshe et ham’lach, va’y’chas he’anan et ohel mo’ed uch’vod YHVH malei et hamishkan… ki anan YHVH al hamishkan yomam v’esh tih’yeh laila bo l’einei chol beit Yisrael b’chol mas’eihem. …

LISTEN: The Spring Jewish Holidays 031016 Purim 01

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/the-spring-jewish-holidays-purim-031016mp3

Vayakhel: When Enough Is Enough

V’ham’lacha hai’ta day’am l’chol ham’lacha la’asot otah v’hoter And their efforts had been more than enough for all the tasks to be done. (Exodus 36:7) Moses has descended once again …

Ki Tisa: Encountering God

V’atah, im na matzati chen b’einecha, hodi’eni na et d’rachecha, v’eida’acha [Moses said,] “And now, please, if I have found favor in your eyes, please let me know your ways, …

Tetzaveh: Brothers’ Keepers

V’asita vigday kodesh l’Aharon achicha l’chavod u’l’tifaret. You shall make sacred garments for your brother Aaron, to give him honor and splendor. (Exodus 28:2) Curiously, this week’s Torah portion, Tetzaveh, …

LISTEN: Judaism And Christianity: Shared Origins, Different Paths 02/18/16

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/judaism-and-christianity-shared-origins-different-paths-021816mp3

LISTEN to “Judaism and Christianity: Shared Origins, Different Paths” with Rabbi Jonathan Kligler and Reverend Matthew Wright, 2/11/16

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/judaism-and-christianity-shared-origins-different-paths-021116mp3

Mishpatim: YHVH, Protector of the Powerless

Kol almanah v’yatom lo t’anun. Im aneh ta’aneh oto ki im tza’ok yitz’ak eilai shamo’a esh’ma tza’akato. You are not to mistreat any widow or orphan. Oh, if you mistreat, …

LISTEN: Judaism and Christianity: Shared Origins, Different Paths 2/4/16

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/judaism-and-christianity-shared-origins-different-paths-020416mp3

Yitro: Learning How To Lead

Vayishma Yitro, cohen Midian, choten Moshe, et kol asher asah Elohim l’Moshe ul’Yisrael amo, ki hotzi YHVH et Yisrael miMitzrayim. Jethro, priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard all that God …

B’Shallach: Wade in the Water

Vayomer YHVH el Moshe: “Ma titz’ak ei’lai? Da’ber el B’nai Yisrael v’yisa’u!” Then YHVH said to Moses: “Why are you crying out to me? Speak to the Children of Israel, …

Bo: Martin Luther King Is My Rabbi

Va’yavo Moshe v’Aharon el Par’oh va’yomru eilav, “Ko amar YHVH, Elohei ha’Ivrim: ad matai may’anta lay’anot mipanai? shalach ami vaya’avduni!”  So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to …

And Here Is the Shabbat Morning Service!

Broadway Siddur Shacharit

Here is the “Torah of Broadway” Friday Evening Service

Carol Fox Prescott and I had such a fabulous time sorting through so many wise and deeply meaningful songs that emerged from the musical theater. The vast majority of these songs …

Listen to the final installment of Judaism and Christianity: Shared Origins, Different Paths

Learn about the origins and meanings of Chanukah and Christmas: https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/judaism-and-christianity-shared-origins-different-paths-121715mp3

Listen to more of Judaism and Christianity: Shared Origins, Different Paths

On the origins of anti-Semitism: https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/judaism-and-christianity-shared-origins-different-paths-121015mp3

Pathways into Prayer

Dear Friends, The Lev Shalem Institute just completed a six-week series called Pathways into Jewish Prayer, coordinated by Pauline Tamari with sensitivity and skill. A wonderful group gathered who were …

Listen to “Demystifying Jewish Mysticism”

Listen to two sessions on “Demystifying Jewish Mysticism” offered by Rabbi Jonathan Kligler at Temple Israel, Albany NY https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/sets/demystifying-mysticism

Listen to “Judaism and Christianity: Shared Origins, Different Paths”

Reverend Matthew Wright and I, with great assistance from Reverend Suzanne Guthrie and Reverend Susan Auchincloss, have had the exciting privilege of teaching this course together this fall. Here you …

A River Flows Forth from Eden

I am currently enjoying teaching a series of classes at Temple Israel in Albany, NY titled “Demystifying Jewish Mysticism”. Here are some thoughts from this week’s class. A river flows …

Rabbi Jesus?

Dear Friends, Reverend Matthew Wright of Woodstock’s St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church and I are currently teaching a class for the Lev Shalem Institute called “Judaism and Christianity: Shared Origins, Different …

Come with Me to Israel!

It is 20 years since the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin. It was the 12th of Heshvan, November 4, 1995. The Oslo accords had led to a heady, fraught and also …

Just a Brief Word…

Sometimes a single phrase can impact us as deeply as a long essay. Barbara Sarah sent me a statement by psychotherapist Francis Weller that I have been rolling around on …

A Eulogy for Maya Gold

This past Sunday I had the sorrowful task of officiating at the funeral of WJC member Maya Gold, age 15. After the service, many attendees asked if I could share …

V’zot Ha’bracha: Moses Teaches Us How To Die

(This piece is adapted from a talk I delivered on Yom Kippur, 1997) V’zot ha’bracha asher berach Moshe, ish ha’elohim, et B’nai Yisrael lifnei moto. This is the blessing with …

When Torah and Life Intersect: A Yizkor Remembrance

(I posted an earlier version of this piece on January 1, 2015, my father’s yahrzeit. I shared it again prior to the Yizkor service during Yom Kippur earlier this week, …

A Teshuvah Lexicon

The central mitzvah and activity of the High Holy Days is תשובה teshuvah, the task of realigning ourselves with our highest values and taking the steps we need to manifest …

Gematria for the New Year 5776

There are no numerals in ancient Hebrew. Hebrew predates the invention of the decimal system that we know of as Arabic numerals. Therefore, numerical values were represented by Hebrew letters. …

Thoughts on the Iran Deal

As of this moment, it appears that the United States will participate in the JCPOA, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran to limit its nuclear program. The United …

I Pledge Allegiance to Planet Earth

When Neil Armstrong passed away in August, 2012, I felt moved to honor his memory with these words as we sounded the shofar a few weeks later. I find this …

Justice, Justice

This week’s Parsha, Shoftim, begins with this famous declaration: Tzedek, tzedek tirdof — Justice, justice thou shalt pursue. Deuteronomy 16:20 This is one of the central declarations of the Torah, echoed …

The Month of Elul: Calling Us Back to Love

Dear Friends, Tonight is the New Moon of Elul, the month that precedes Rosh Hashanah. Elul calls us to prepare our hearts for the New Year. This weekend I am …

Now I Have a Story to Tell

[Last weekend my daughter was off enjoying the annual Ulster County Fair. It reminded me of this story from several years ago. Enjoy, and Shabbat Shalom! -JK] In July, I …

The Shma — Attention, Please

(This week’s Torah portion contains the Shma Yisrael and the paragraph that immediately follows, V’ahavta (“You shall love…). Following is a teaching about these passages that I originally offered during …

Parshat Hashavua – Audio Recordings of Rabbi Jonathan’s Weekly Torah Study Class

Listen to Rabbi Jonathan’s teachings anytime!

Hillel and Shammai: How to Disagree

Dear Friends, The Ninth of Av arrives tomorrow evening, and with it the remembrance of Jerusalem’s destruction almost 2,000 years ago. Our Sages, searching for the causes of this catastrophe, …

The Month of Av: Exile and Return

Dear Friends, Today is Rosh Hodesh Av, the new moon of the month of Av. In “Jewish time”, we are in the midst of the period known as the Three …

Pinchas: The Daughters of Tzelofechad

Vatikravnah B’not Tzelofechad… The daughters of Tzelofechad came forward… (Numbers 27:1 We encounter a remarkable passage as Sefer B’Midbar, the Book of Numbers, draws near its conclusion. The forty years …

The Year of the Happy Jew

Gematria is a Hebrew word borrowed from the Greek language many centuries ago. “Geometry” has a similar source. Gematria is the art or science, depending on one’s orientation, of equating …

Tending to Our Inner Lives

Dear Friends, I am blessed to have spent this week on a hiking vacation with my wife Ellen, slowing down and drinking in the beautiful summer world. I have therefore …

“On Care for Our Common Home”: The Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis

Dear Friends, This seems to be my season for interfaith exploration, and my horizons are expanding. I just spent an hour perusing Pope Francis’ remarkable and inspiring letter addressing the …

Beha’alotcha: The Anti-Militarism of the Rabbis

The following essay is gently adapted from A Yom Kippur sermon entitled “Living To Tell the Tale: The Anti-Militarism of the Rabbis” that I offered in 2007. You can find …

Naso: Be a Channel of Blessing

Yevarechecha Adonai v’yishmerecha May the Source of Life bless you and protect you. (Numbers 6:24) The most ancient Jewish prayer that we still know and recite today appears in this …

B’midbar: In the Wilderness

Va’yedaber YHVH el Moshe b’midbar Sinai b’ohel mo’ed b’echad la’chodesh ha’sheni bashanah ha’shenit l’tzeitam me’eretz Mitzrayim.  YHVH spoke to Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai in the Tent of Meeting …

LISTEN: Refining our Attributes Through the Wisdom of the Sages 1

https://soundcloud.com/rjksc/01-refining-attributes-41415mp3

An Unexpected Trip to Israel, Part 2: Music Everywhere

Dear Friends, Last Friday I shared with you in detail about the Catholic-Jewish Conference that brought me to Israel last week. In this installment I would like to share another …

Acharei Mot–Kedoshim: Love Your Fellow Jew as Yourself

V’ahavta l’re’echa kamocha. Ani YHVH. Love your fellow Jew as yourself. I am YHVH. (Leviticus 19:18) These verses are the climax of what is commonly known as the Holiness Code, …

Tazria-Metzora: Body as Temple

Va’yedaber YHVH el Moshe leimor: zot tih’yeh torat ha’metzora b’yom tohorato. YHVH said to Moses: “This is the Torah (instruction) for a person with the skin affliction Metzora so that …

Why Pray? The Purposes of Prayer in a Skeptical Age

 (This talk was delivered at Temple Israel, Albany NY on April 17, 2015)                     We do not refuse to pray; we abstain …

On the Purpose of Prayer

Growing up in a religious Jewish home, I went to synagogue every Saturday for Sabbath services. I learned the traditional liturgy by rote. This wasn’t a bad thing – it …

More Good Questions For Your Passover Seder

On Tuesday, March 31 I led a class called “Spiritual Preparation for Passover.” One of Passover’s traditional names is Z’man Cheruteinu, the Season of Our Liberation. I suggested that one …

Shabbat Hagadol: Preparing for Passover

The Shabbat that precedes the beginning of Passover is known in our tradition as Shabbat Hagadol – The Great Sabbath. The first night of Passover this year falls next Friday …

Vayikra: Leviticus as Literature

Vayikra el Moshe va’yedaber YHVH eilav me’ohel moed YHVH called to Moses, and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting (Leviticus 1:1) For the modern reader, the Book of …

Vayakhel-Pekudei: Realizing Our True Nature

Va’yomer Moshe el B’nei Yisrael: “Re’u, kara YHVH b’shem Betzalel, ben Uri, ben Hur, l’mateh Yehudah, va’yemaleh oto ru’ach Elohim b’chochmah bi’t’vunah u’v’da’at u’v’chol melacha.” And Moses said to the …

Ki Tisa: The Golden Calf

Vayikahel ha’am al Aharon vayomru eilav: “Kum aseh lanu elohim asher yelchu lefaneinu, ki zeh Moshe, ha’ish asher he’elunun me’eretz Mitzrayim, lo yadanu meh hayah lo!” The people gathered against …

Purim Down Under

Dear Friends, I am approaching the last few days of my journey in New Zealand, and it has been an absolutely marvelous trip both as a teacher and as a …

Trumah: Creating Holy Moments

Daber el B’nai Yisrael v’yikchu li trumah me’et kol ish asher yidvenu libo tikchu et trumati…V’asu li Mikdash v’shachanti b’tocham. Tell the Children of Israel to bring Me gifts – …

Mishpatim: The Fine Print

I write now from Auckland, the largest city and commercial center of New Zealand. I will be offering a version of this d’var Torah during services this Shabbat at Beth …

Yitro: Listening for the Aleph

Anochi YHVH Elohecha asher hotzeiticha me’eretz Mitzrayim mi’beit avadim. I am Life Unfolding who brought you out of constriction and enslavement. (Exodus 20:2) I have the incredible good fortune this …

Beshallach: Spiritual Boot Camp

Va’yilonu kol adat B’nei Yisrael al Moshe v’al Aharon bamidbar In the wilderness, the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. (Exodus 16:2) Beshallach is a momentous Torah portion. …

Bo: Teach Your Children

V’hayah ki yishalcha vincha machar laymor “Mah zot?” And when, in times to come, a child of yours asks you, “What is this?” (Exodus 13:14) As we enter Parshat Bo …

Va’era: I Will Be With You

Vayedaber Moshe lifnay YHVH leimor: “Hen B’nai Yisrael lo sham’u eilai v’eich yishm’eini Phar’o, va’ani arel sfatayim!” And Moses spoke to YHVH, saying: “Look, the Children of Israel would not …

Shemot: The Long Walk to Freedom

Vayomer melech Mitzrayim lameyaldot ha’ivriyot asher shem ha’achat Shifrah v’shem ha’shenit Pu’ah vayomer b’yaldechen et ha’ivriyot ur’item al ha’ovnayim im ben hu v’hamiten oto v’im bat hi v’chaya. The king …

Vayechi: When Torah and Life Intersect

Vayik’revu y’mei Yisrael lamut… When Israel’s time to die drew near… (Parshat Vayechi, Gen. 47:29) Vayik’revu y’mei David lamut… When David’s time to die drew near… (Haftarah of Vayechi, I …

Vayigash: Judah and Joseph

Vayigash eilav Yehudah vayomer “Bi Adoni…” And Judah approached him and said, “By your leave, my lord…” (Gen 44:18) This may be the most dramatic moment in the entire Book …

Chanukah: Let Your Little Light Shine

I pause from the weekly cycle of Torah readings and take note of the procession of the seasons and of the holidays: we have reached Chanukah, the Festival of Lights. …

Vayeshev: What goes down must come up!

Vayeshev Ya’akov b’eretz m’gurei aviv b’eretz kna’an. Eleh toldot Ya’akov: Yosef ben sh’va esrei shana hayah ro’eh et achiv batzon. Jacob now settled in the land of his father’s sojourning, …

Vayishlach: What’s in a Name?

Vayomer, “Lo Ya’akov ye’amer od shimcha, ki im Yisrael, ki sarita im Elohim v’im anashim vatuchal.” And he said, “No more shall you be called Jacob, but Israel, for you …

Audio Recordings of “Let It Go—The Personal, Environmental, and Spiritual Practice of Shmita”

Listen to this 6-part class series (October 21 – November 25, 2014) on the profound Jewish wisdom of living in sacred balance with the earth and with each other.

Vayetze: This Is The Place

Vayetze Ya’akov miBe’er Shava vayelech Harana. Vayifga bamakom vayalen sham… And Jacob left Be’er Sheva and set out for Haran. He encountered The Place, and he spent the night there… …

Toldot: Isaac Digs His Father’s Wells Anew

V’eleh toldot Yitzchak ben Avraham: Avraham holid et Yitzchak These are the generations of Isaac son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac. (Gen. 25:19) In our marvelous Torah study class yesterday …

Chayei Sarah: Equanimity in the Face of Uncertainty

And the life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. (Gen 22:1) Our portion this week …

Vayera: A Visionary Journey

At the conclusion of last week’s portion Lech Lecha, “Go To Yourself”, Abram has expanded into Abraham, and has circumcised himself – meaning, as I described last week, that Abraham …

Lech Lecha, Go To Yourself: Abraham and the Spiritual Journey

And YHVH said to Abram, “Lech Lecha (go forth, but literally go to yourself) from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that …

Was Noah a Righteous Man? This Week’s Torah Commentary

Just as I focused on the very first verse of last week’s portion Breishit, I would like to do the same with this week’s portion Noach (Noah), Genesis 6:9-11:32. But …

Playing with Fire: Sukkot’s Ancient, Shamanic Roots

I spent last weekend at a joyous and inspiring Sukkot retreat at the new Lev Shalem Institute with master teachers Rabbi Jonathan Kligler and acting coach Carol Fox Prescott. On …

Rabbi Jonathan’s Weekly Torah Commentary – Breishit: “Interpret Me!”

In the late 11th century C.E., in the town of Troyes in Northern France, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki – universally known by the acronym RASHI – composed the most widely read …

In the Holy of Holies: a Teaching for Yom Kippur, 5775

Following is the teaching I offered under the tent on Kol Nidre Eve, October 3, 2014 at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation: I wrestled this year with all of the subjects …

Gematriot for the New Year 5775 גמטריות תשע’ה

There are no numerals in ancient Hebrew. Therefore, numerical values are represented by letters. (This is similar to Roman numerals, which use letters instead of numerical symbols to express numbers.) …

Preparing for Joy

I am often asked the question, “Why does Yom Kippur come after Rosh Hashanah? Shouldn’t this holy day of fasting and confession and cleansing come before the celebration of the …

The Year of the Happy Jew

Gematria is a Hebrew word borrowed from the Greek language many centuries ago. “Geometry” has a similar source. Gematria is the art or science, depending on one’s orientation, of equating …

If You Only Say One Blessing…

There is a Jewish blessing – a bracha – for just about every occasion and experience: blessings of gratitude before and after eating, before washing your hands, for putting on …

Internalized Anti-Semitism

In this season of cheshbon nefesh, self-examination, I want to examine with you some of the messages and attitudes we Jews carry around as a result of our history. We …

Being There

When Hagar is cast out in the desert with her son Ishmael, and they run out of water, and, in despair, she leaves her weeping son under a bush, expecting …