2015 / 5775

Elul 29: Thinking “Ought” ~ Rabbi Harold Schulweis

Think ought.

Not what is a Jew, but what ought a Jew to be.

Not what is a synagogue, but what ought a synagogue to be.

Not what prayer is, but what prayer ought to be.

Not what ritual is, but what ritual ought to be.

Focus from is READ MORE

Elul 28: Spiritual Light ~ Mary J. Blige

The seeking of spiritual light is gained through having faith and trust in God. Prayer provides the path, leading to inner strength and pushing us toward greater honesty with ourselves.

With honesty comes clarity, as we come to see the truth of our condition. We can then change what we can and accept what we READ MORE

Elul 27: Godsong ~ Cantor Ellen Dreskin

Midrash tells us that our name, Yisrael, when vocalized differently, can become “Yashir Eil” – “God will sing.” We are God’s song in this world. Full of potential for harmony – tension, joy, sorrow, anger, comfort, pain, and majesty – God sings through each of us. Elul is the time to focus and question: what READ MORE

Elul 26: Discover Hope ~ Rabbi Maurice Lamm

There is an enormous, untouched potential inside every one of us. It is hope. And hope’s incredible power enables us to survive.

Hope contains spectacular power, a power that seems as though it captured bits of the bursting energy of creation. Psychologists at major universities are now discovering that hope is potent and that it READ MORE

Elul 25: Everything In Its Right Place ~ Ruth Andrew Ellenson

For a long time, I thought that things – people, experiences, relationships, myself – could be fixed. I’ve since come to believe that while improvement, transformation, and growth are possible, and even desirable, fixing something is not.

To fix something implies that you can make it what it once was – restore it to its READ MORE

Elul 24: The Gift ~ Peter Yarrow

I have gained perspective on the art of aging over the last decade of my 74 years. The gift of perspective is, in a word, “gratitude” – the conceit that my cup is half full, and each day more and more so.

Years ago, my life was filled with excitement, wonderment, and adventure, but also READ MORE

Elul 23: Invaluable Lesson ~ Rabbi Naomi Levy

“The smoothest path is full of stones.” Yiddish Proverb

One day my daughter, Noa, who has physical disabilities, asked me if she could have a rock climbing party for her twelfth birthday. I froze. I’d always been so careful to protect Noa from disappointment. I’d gone to great lengths to create parties where she wouldn’t READ MORE

Elul 22: Other Than Photographs ~ Jill Soloway

I used to think that every person on the street held a secret, every storefront a story

now I drive past them without wondering what they know. My life has changed in ways I never could have prepared for.

I only get whiffs of what has changed: a glimpse of a memory

of how we READ MORE

Elul 21: That’s How The Light Gets In ~  Rabbi Rick Jacobs

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen

Once again Moses is wearing himself out carrying the burden of the Jewish people on his shoulders. God intervenes by taking some of the spirit that is in Moses and sharing it with others. How can this happen without READ MORE

Elul 20: The Letter ~ Rabbi Ed Feinstein

Write a letter. Address it to those you love – your spouse, your children and grandchildren, your friends. Put into this letter everything life has taught you: what you learned from childhood, from growing up, from your education. What you learned from marriage and raising children. What you learned from work, from your triumphs and READ MORE

Elul 19: The Music Of Darkness ~ Rabbi Karyn Kedar

It was early September. My husband and I went on a high-speed car chase around the valleys and mountains of the Grand Tetons to capture a glimpse of the setting sun. With five minutes to spare before the spray of light turned dark, we found a spot nestled in a valley on the side of READ MORE

Elul 18: Helping Others ~ Sarah Lefton

The great thing about the world of the spirit is that gravity doesn’t apply. Inertia can be overcome. Our secular culture teaches us to focus on ourselves when we have problems – whether through healthful things like self-help books and therapy, or through numbing things like comfort food, self-medication and complaining to friends.

A teacher READ MORE

Elul 17: The Road To “Yes” ~ Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson

As someone who fell in love with God and Torah as a collegian, I dreamed I would have a child with whom I would share my newfound passion. At my rabbinical school, I would see professors and their children swaying together in prayer or over a text, and I would imagine the thrill of sharing READ MORE

Elul 16: Pushing The Limits ~ Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

I learned in bodybuilding that the best way to gain strength was to take my muscles to their absolute limit – to the point of failure – where they were so out of energy that they couldn’t even lift a small amount of weight. Then, after a few day’s rest, they would not only be READ MORE

Elul 15: Focus on Joy ~ Anita Diamant

As the new year approaches, I resolve to focus on joy. This has been my kavannah every year since September 11th.

It isn’t easy for me. I’m good at worrying. I’m good at crossing things off my to-do list. Hey, I am the daughter of Holocaust survivors. Don’t talk to me about joy; it’s not READ MORE

Elul 14: Allow God To Change Your Mind ~ Pastor Rick Warren

Imagine riding in a speedboat on a lake with an automatic pilot set to go east. If you decide to reverse and head west, you have two possible ways to change the boat’s direction. One way is to grab the steering wheel and physically force it to head in the opposite direction. By sheer willpower READ MORE

Elul 13: A Lesson from LGBTQ Teens ~ Idit Klein

Last summer, I met a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Jewish teens at a Shabbaton for LGBTQ youth. Each teen described the experience as “the first place I’ve felt like I could be both queer and Jewish, like it was a normal thing.” I will never forget their expressions of joy READ MORE

Elul 12: Facing Tragedy ~ Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish

The l6th of January, 2009, is the day when my three precious daughters and niece were killed by Israeli shells. I do not want anyone in this world to see what I have seen.

What I have lost will never come back. I need to go forward and be motivated literally by the spirit of READ MORE

Elul 11: Answered Prayers ~ Rev. Cecil L. “Chip” Murray

Where can we who walk in darkness find brighter light? I suggest we look no further than to the preacher/poet, John Newton. He was a former slave trader who saw the light. Today he is best known as the composer of the hymn, Amazing Grace!

Again and again in the Bible, we read the invocation, READ MORE

Elul 10: The Return Home ~ Dr. Afshine Emrani

1978-2014. My younger self awaits me in that old home. He stares at the future that would be me; I ponder the past that was him. We connect on a bridge made of yearning and nostalgia. Hesitantly, we embrace. We fall to our knees and sob.

I ask if he ever told dad about how READ MORE

Elul 9: And Yet ~ Cantor Marshall Portnoy

What makes us different from or better than God’s other creatures? A cheetah is faster, a butterfly more beautiful, and a lion mightier by far. Scientists tell us that dolphins can laugh, elephants can exhibit altruism, and malamutes can love. Animals procreate and they protect; they grow ill and they die. But we alone know READ MORE

Elul 8: Head Changing Day ~ Rabbi Rami Shapiro

Rosh Hashanah is “Head (rosh) Changing (shenah) Day.” You can’t have a new year with an old head. So if you want a new year, you are going to need to get a new head.A new head is a story-free head. Your stories define you. If your stories are positive and loving, then you are READ MORE

Elul 7: Poppy ~ Sarah Kay

Poppy is four years old. The only shelf in the cabinet she can reach is the one with the plastic Tupperware. She has started filling containers with water, snapping on lids, and placing them about the house. It is her new favorite game. One for Mama, one for Papa, one for Tessa, one for Ollie. READ MORE

Elul 6: Universal Joke ~ David Kohan

There is much I have learned in a journey that has taken me from Beverly Hills all the way to the Beverly Hills Post Office with a brief sojourn in the Fairfax district. I have learned that no sojourn in the Fairfax district is too brief, and that by cutting through Loma Vista, I can READ MORE

Elul 5: Rabbi Zalman Hiyyah Schachter-Shalomi ~ December Days

Recently I had a conversation with someone who said to me, “You wrote a very beautiful book; it’s very uplifting and encouraging. However, isn’t there a dark side to aging?” And he is right, there is a more somber side.

I find myself now in my December days. In my book I spent READ MORE

Elul 4: Mohini ~ Rabba Sara Hurwitz

As we age, our brains are hardwired to reject change. We are conditioned to resist new challenges and remain within our comfort zones. However, growing older should not mean that we must exist within self-imposed boundaries.

In the 1960s, President Eisenhower received the gift of a rare, white tiger named Mohini. For years, READ MORE

Elul 3: Blu and Rabbi Yitz Greenberg ~ Choose Life

Judaism is all about life – love of life, reverence for life, building new life. But life also brings death. The pessimist says, “You begin dying the moment you are born,” not only referring to the steady decline of our own lives but also the universe around us. We consume resources to clothe, feed, READ MORE

Elul 2: Learning How to Dance ~ Jessica Leigh Lebos

My mother-in-law’s mind is full of holes. She spends most of the day in a placid fog, a place where there’s nothing left to do but walk the dog and wonder what’s for dinner. Every time it’s chicken, she rolls her eyes and kvetches, “We had this last night!” No one argues with her READ MORE

Elul 1: Rabbi Sharon Brous ~ My First Roommate

I was young and earnest with a dream summer internship at the Justice Department, living in dorms crowded with college kids from around the country. My roommate was coming a week late and I anxiously awaited her arrival, certain we’d be best friends forever. Way too early one morning, there was a knock on my READ MORE

Introduction ~ Rabbi David Wolpe

We think of self-examination during the month of Elul as a path to repentance. But it is more fundamental than a step toward something else: We examine ourselves to know who we are. Our darkness and our sins are part of us, stitched into our soul. Without coming to grips with what you have READ MORE

A Note from Craig Taubman

How do you measure 10 years of life?

10 years is a fifth of my adult life, a third of my marriage.

10 years is a third of my children’s lives, a decade in which they moved out and became independent adults.

10 years marks my transition from leading Friday Night Live at Sinai, READ MORE